I've been neglecting the running portion of this blog for too long, so here's a long overdue update. My training has been solid since early March, averaging 25-30 miles on 4 workouts per week with a decided, dare I say Bannister-like specific focus on the 5K. A typical week now is one easy 60 minute run, one easy 30 minute run and two hard efforts. Workout A is a track session -- my favorite at the moment is 10 x 400 w/ brief 100 meter jog recoveries. I learned about this workout from an article by renowned Portuguese coach Antonio Cabral. I find this to be a perfect 5K simulation. In fact, it adds up to exactly 5K on the track. On paper ten 400's doesn't look too difficult but if you do the first few reps too fast, you'll suffer due to the brief recoveries. It really teaches even pacing. Workout B is either a short, hard tempo run of 3-4 miles or a 5K race. Speaking of, I've done two in the past few weeks. On April 18 I ran 18:51 (6:04 pace) and found it to be a good rustbuster. Today I ran far better, hitting 18:18 (5:53 pace) with some solid negative splits (last mile was 5:48). My goal for the Spring is to get as close to 18:00 as I can before ramping it up again for some fast races in the fall. A long shot goal is 17:40 which is the USATF All-American standard for the 50-54 age group. Next up are 5Ks on May 23 and June 6; both on flat, fast courses, so we'll see what I can do.
Just got back from two weeks in Los Angeles and Palm Springs. Arabella and I had a blast catching up with old friends, making new friends, seeing a couple of concerts, and just enjoying the weather. God, do I miss nice weather.
The book signing event at La Luz De Jesus was a lot of fun. Arabella took some great photos.
Not from the reading, but this one of me and Dan from the excellent LA band Flaamingos is taken at our friends Charity and Hunters house.
Photo shoot in Joshua Tree!
Lots have been written about life-changing bands -- especially the Smiths and Morrissey -- usually in the context of some shy suburban boy whose life was saved by rock 'n' roll. Much as I love the Smiths, I know that countless people have been inspired by less mainstream bands and records that haven't been discussed to death. Heartworm is my story.
Initially, I pitched Heartworm as a submission to 33 1/3. While I didn't make the short list, I finished writing the book and found another publisher. Most of the books in the 33 1/3 series are in the rock criticism format, but I was inspired by two that were written as fiction: Joe Pernice's Meat Is Murder (perhaps, the best Smiths-inspired book I've read) and, especially, John Niven's Music From Big Pink. In the latter, members of The Band are actually characters in the book, who hang out with the drug dealer protagonist.
I lived in Ireland in 1992-1994 and while I wasn't friends with Whipping Boy, I would later interview their guitarist Paul Page for my fanzine Vendetta. This gave me a starting point; I would attempt to write a novel about an expat American journalist living in Dublin, who's part of the scene that spawned bands like Whipping Boy and Into Paradise.
I wanted to develop on this idea by having my character and some of his friends go through some of the issues and emotions found in the lyrics on Heartworm, the album, including addiction, betrayal, infidelity, anger, and outright violence. Heartworm was an album that saved my life when it needed saving. I was thirty and suddenly single after having been married for eight years. Most of my friends who were my age were just starting their adult lives, getting married, having kids, working serious jobs. I was back at square zero, thirty going on twenty. I was living in a small flat, working temp jobs, drinking far too much, and dating girls six to eight years younger than me.
While writing the novel, I was able to lock myself into that head space and relive many painful experiences, while creating new, slightly different ones for my protagonist.
When people ask me to describe Heartworm the album, I tell them that it's a very male record. I remember an interview where Whipping Boy vocalist Fearghal McKee talked about the record in those terms, adding that it's very hard for men to express themselves. Not that Heartworm is for men only -- plenty of women I know like it as well -- it's just that it captures the male psyche far better than anything I've ever listened to. The Afghan Whigs' masterpiece Gentlemen is the closest I can think of to Heartworm to in capturing the damaged male psyche, but their singer/songwriter Geg Dulli displays far more bravado and swagger than what's found on Heartworm.
Heartworm and other Whipping Boy records were played on loop as I wrote the novel. What I find most amazing as time has gone by is how timeless it still sounds. The orchestrated arrangements still amaze me, the lyrics still pack the same guttural punch. Most albums sound very much like products of their time, whereas Heartworm falls much more in the 'where the fuck did that come from?' category like Psychocandy or Wire's 154.
Ben Vendetta is the author of Wivenhoe Park (2013) and Heartworm (forthcoming 2015). Wivenhoe Park is available on Kindle and paperback via Amazon. Signed paperbacks can be purchased from Elephant Stone Records.
Here's a little something I did for Flexipop magazine. Like them on Facebook!They're a great resource if you dig eighties music.
I'm sure I'm missing some things that I just plain forgot about, but here are ten records that I liked an awful lot in 2014.
1. Vaniish - Memory Work: A simply astounding debut by this San Francisco band. Echoes of so many cool postpunk bands from the '80s (Cure, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Joy Division etc.) with their own unique twist. Essential.
2. Singapore Sling - The Tower of Foronicity: Singapore Sling is more or less the brainchild of Henrik Bjornsson and the Icelandic genius shows no signs of let down on his seventh album, an intoxicating mix of JAMC fuzz and assorted '60s garage and surf influences.
3. Brian Jonestown Massacre - Revelation: Revelation lives up to its name, my favorite BJM record since Bravery Repetition and Noise, encompassing everything from impeccable '60s-inspired songwriting to postpunk, shoegaze, and other experimental sounds.
4. The Raveonettes -Pe'ahi: Along with Singapore Sling, Denmark's Raveonettes are my favorite band of the 21st century, always finding new ways to make the most out of their unique sound.
5. Ceremony: Distance. Like some of the other artists on this list, Ceremony is more or less a solo deal for John Fedowitz (ex-Skywave). Fans of his former group, JAMC, and assorted '80s noise pop will dig this record immensely.
6. Pete Fij and Terry Bickers - Broken Heart Surgery: Ex-Adorable vocalist Pete Fij and House of Love guitarist Terry Bickers collaborate on this achingly beautiful concept album that documents the breakdown of a relationship. The duo incorporate everything from country pop to John Barry-esque arrangements on this dynamite recording.
7. Comet Gain: Paperback Ghosts. Criminally ignored in the Britpop era, London's Comet Gain are still relevant two decades later appealing to all us lost souls who love punk, soul, and damaged rock 'n' roll.
8. Interpol - El Pintor. NYC's Interpol are back in form with their best album since the first two. Easily the comeback of the year.
9. Ringo Deathstarr - God's Dream. As you can tell from this list, I prefer bands on the noisier side of the pop spectrum. Austin's Ringo Deathstarr fall into that category for sure. While not as immediate as their first two long players, God's Dream is pretty killer just the same.
10. David Long - Water Has Memory. While this came out in Ireland only in 2013, I did not learn about this record until earlier this year. Long fronted Into Paradise, one of the best Irish bands ever in the late '80s - early '90s. This is his first new music in close to two decades and has a similar punch to his finest work.
My second novel Heartworm will be published next year (right now the target date is August/September). It's a sequel to Wivenhoe Park, set mainly in mid-'90s Dublin and Boston. The real life Irish band Whipping Boy plays a major role in the book. Charlie Burke, an intern for my publisher, Cooperative Trade, conducted this short interview with me.