As it turns out, you’re going to have to wait until next week to find out how the voting went last week. I can assure you, this was not my intention—but you know—pesky characters who won’t do what you want them to do when you want them to do it!
Do not despair.
There’s still plenty of action to keep you entertained and intrigued in this thrilling instalment.
Enjoy this week’s chapter and—DON’T FORGET TO VOTE!
Love Toni xx
It was our second day in the studio.
The first had been taken up largely by set up and making sure that we were getting the sound that the engineer was looking for.
Jesse and I had been here and done this before.
Marty and Dylan, however, were having the equivalent of Christmas morning every hour of every day. Even me, the jaded muso, had to admit that their infectious enthusiasm brought something to the studio that had been sorely lacking the last time I’d stood in this kind of space with a band.
Calvin had booked the established Pentland studios for our first recording sessions.
A small, boutique studio in the central city suburbs—it looked for all intents and purposes like an established suburban Auckland villa from the outside.
Stan had backed the truck down the straight driveway lined with standard Iceberg roses. At this time of the year they were showing the first blush of new growth. They looked like tall wooden stakes with a mop of almost red foliage on the top.
Lines of daffodils that looked as if they were way past their best were giving way to the lush green of the herbaceous borders that were springing up in their wake.
No doubt the entire entranceway to the studios would be a riot of colour in the coming months.
We’d concentrated on getting the gear into the lift at the back of the garage and then into the studio proper inside.
The entire two floors above had been gutted and turned into an assortment of practice rooms, with a large, central recording space taking up the vast majority of the first floor.
Presently we were on a break and Jesse and Marty were battling it out on the ping-pong table that sat in what must have been the old formal dining room.
Dylan almost lay across one of the many large couches that hugged the dark walls of the recreational suite, a guitar propped casually by his side. I sat on one of the tall stools by the oversized bar that marked where the kitchen finished and the recreational space began.
The adjacent and open-plan kitchen looked as if the owners had simply wheeled in a stainless steel commercial kitchen.
A catering team had been brought in and we wanted for nothing while we were working here. Except for the fact that Calvin’s pub was so close, it wouldn’t have surprised me if we were all told that we were going to be living upstairs for the next eight days.
Nothing was left to chance and every single one of our needs would be met in the days that we were working here.
There was simply no need for us to leave the building, except to go back to the pub to sleep.
I couldn’t imagine the sound proofing that must have been installed in the walls when the makeover occurred.
My drums had been set up in the middle of the recording studio proper and the engineer had taken an extraordinary amount of time ensuring that every microphone was in the exact right place for him to get the sound that he wanted.
The next two days were slotted for the guide tracks.
We’d all play together.
Make a track that we were all happy with and then we’d begin the arduous and methodical work involved in laying each instrument over the last.
The years that Jesse and I had worked together made this easier for us than for Dylan and Marty.
Jesse and I were a tight rhythm section.
That’s why Calvin had hired us in the first place.
After the disaster that was the last band we’d played in, I was more than surprised that he’d agreed to keep us on.
We were good.
But talent only took you so far in this industry.
Turning up, doing your job and keeping your nose clean spoke more about you as a person than anything else.
That was something that I’d learned years ago in the back blocks of Palmerston North and something I wasn’t about to forget too soon.
I’d always been a loner.
Unable to run with the rest of my extended family and whanau. The only time I found peace and a sense of belonging was when I sat behind the drums.
I’d tried to look at it logically, but all I’d ever been able to put that sense of disconnection down to was the fact that I was of mixed race.
I loved my mum, Pearl. In fact, I worshiped the ground that she walked on, but it had taken me years to forgive her for allowing herself to be seduced by my father.
I barely remembered my Dad—but from the countless stories that Pearl had told me on the Marae he’d walked into town and she’d become obsessed with him.
I guess she’d become obsessed with a British Professor in the same kind of way that I’d become obsessed with the drums. Even to this day, I can still remember the way they made me feel the first time I experienced the sound flowing through me.
I couldn’t have been more than seven years old when Lion Heart played the Southern Summer Festival in Palmerston.
The entire town turned out for the show.
We’d looked forward to it for weeks.
The closer the day came—the higher the anticipation ramped up.
Pearl and the Aunties had packed a large lunch for the whanau. Excitement hovered in the air like some unseen force that hot summer’s day as we all climbed in the old station wagon and headed into town.
All these years later, I can still remember the smell of the parched summer grass under our mats as we staked our claim in the crowded field in front of the sound shell.
We were there early.
The band were still doing a sound check.
Like the rest of the kids who ran around like out-of-control natives, I found myself standing at the front of the stage as the drummer took his seat behind the vast array of skins and steel.
As the booming thud of the drums echoed through my body, something inside of me shifted.
I no longer felt disconnected from my whanau.
The sound dragged the spirits of my ancestors through me in a way that I’d never experienced before.
No longer did I feel displaced because of the fine European bone structure that I’d inherited from my father mixed with Pearl’s dark, Maori skin tones.
No longer could the taunts from the other kids that I was different and too smart touch me.
The tribal sounds coming from the stage connected me with something that day that had never left me.
All my frustration, hatred, despair and displacement disappeared when I sat behind my drums.
I’d eventually found my tribe on stage and, no matter what happened, I was never letting them go.
It had been an unusually quiet shift at the bar tonight.
I’d shown the last of the punters out the door and drawn the large, copper bolts across the doors, before turning the more modern deadlock.
I turned around and looked at the messy scene in front of me. Was there nothing more depressing than a dark bar absent of people, I wondered?
Even the kitchen had seemed quieter than usual tonight. Maybe because the boys were still over at the recording studio and half the catering team were there with them.
They’d only been back just under a month from their tour, but I’d grown accustomed to the tom-foolery that seemed to follow them everywhere like a cloud.
I told myself that this was how it would be when the band went away on tour again. I didn’t want to admit it, but the thought of them going away again upset me—it upset me in a way that I wasn’t expecting.
This time they weren’t coming back.
It wasn’t just a matter of waiting it out until the four of them would be bouncing around the building again like musical jumping beans.
I’d grown accustomed to hearing their bullshit banter in the dining room late at night.
I enjoyed the idea of coming across Liam in the garden when I arrived at work.
Sitting there with the blue buddha.
Los Angeles—it seemed such a long way away from the bottom of the world.
In fact, a twelve hour flight from New Zealand.
Half way between here and my homeland in Ireland.
I had little desire to return to the cold climate of my youth. But I’d heard that the sun always shone in California. Maybe it was time for me to curtail my working holiday in New Zealand and see if I couldn’t get myself a working visa of some kind in LA.
“Listen to yourself, Alannah Walsh” I said to the tray of dirty glasses in my hand that waited for me to rinse them and put them through the stainless steel steriliser.
“Fantasising about running away after a rockstar.”
I shook my head.
Clearly, I hadn’t learned my lesson.
I thought about the last time I’d seen Steve.
An emaciated, trembling wreck of a man. For his own safety, he’d been admitted to a secure mental facility. The doors had locked behind me the day that I walked out of there.
I swore on the sound of the bolt securing those doors that I’d never have anything to do with another musician as long as I lived.
And here I found myself.
Fantasising over a man who’d been through the same hell as me.
Liam wasn’t just a rock of a man—he had been a rock-solid friend for Steve and me and all Steve had done was throw it all back in our faces.
I shuddered at the memory of the man I’d last seen in that mental hospital. A shadow of the rockstar that he’d formerly been.
My heart broke when I thought about how close Steve had come to taking his own life.
If Liam hadn’t have seen him that day when he stepped off the bed, a leather guitar strap around his throat, I hate to think what would have happened.
It took almost a week for the ligature mark around his neck to fade.
When I closed my eyes at night—sometimes I still saw it. An angry, red and purple rash that peppered one side of this throat.
I couldn’t go there again.
Musicians were too volatile.
With their creativity came great beauty—but for some, it also brought great pain and suffering.
I’d gotten to know Liam pretty well over the precarious period I’d been dating Steve.
Liam was dark.
He had an anger that ran through him.
Threatened to break him.
I couldn’t go there.
No matter how tempting the gentle giant who sat meditating in the garden with the blue buddha.
We’d had dinner at the studio and managed to work our way through another guide track after dinner, before the engineer called it a night and broke out the beer.
It was after 10pm.
Being in the studio was akin to walking into the vortex.
I swear the windows were blocked out with soundproofing material so we never saw the daylight. It was like being in a casino in Vegas.
No idea how long you’d been standing at the slot machines.
Music felt like that for me.
It obliterated everything.
I had no idea how long we’d been working until someone else called a halt to what was going on.
The edge of enthusiasm had been knocked off Dylan and Marty.
They were tired and they didn’t even know why they were tired.
“Coming down the bar for a roader?” I asked the rest of the band as we disembarked from the van.
Dylan looked at me as if I was asking him to run a marathon.
“Mate, I’m fucked,” he replied, “if we’re doing that all over again tomorrow I’m hitting the sack.”
“Me too,” Marty agreed.
I tilted my chin in the direction of Jesse.
“Not tonight,” he shook his head.
The three of them headed upstairs and I made my way towards the quiet interior of the bar.
The kitchen was eerily quiet and the only sound came from behind the bar where I found the lovely Alannah humming to herself as she loaded glasses into the steriliser.
“You’ll join me for a good Irish whiskey won’t you?”
At the sound of my voice, Alannah jumped.
“You’re back, how was it?” she asked as she loaded the last of the glasses and then pulled two fresh whiskey tumblers from under the counter. I watched with fascination as she expertly filled the two of them and pushed one in my direction.
“Interesting,” I said as I took a sip of the sharp, warming liquid.
“In what way?” Alannah asked as she left her post and came and sat with me on the table closest to the bar.
“In a, I wish I still had Dylan and Marty’s enthusiasm for the process, kind of way.”
Alannah wrapped her fingers around the thick glass of the whiskey tumbler and stared at the amber contents within. “You know you can’t let what happened with Steve colour your future, don’t you?”
I slugged the whiskey back in one shot. It burned as it went down and then spread tendrils of fire through my body.
“Why not,” I asked as I dropped the tumbler back on the wooden expanse of the table that separated us, “you do.”
“No I don’t.” Alannah’s eyes shot up pinning me with those emerald green eyes of hers.
I leaned forward, close enough to touch Alannah. She didn’t flinch, just kept staring at me.
“He’s the elephant in the room with you and me. The only thing that stands between us. I know how much you feel for me. I know what we’ve been through together. Why won’t you just give in to your feelings for once?”
* * *
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