I just read the tribute Bob Mould wrote on Grant Hart's passing a few years back and I guess I got to thinking about my own weird relationship with the drummer I shared a van with for a dozen or so years. I don't talk to Chad anymore. I'm not angry and I doubt he is. Maybe, I guess. We sure disagreed about plenty. It just never comes up. I'm not sure where he lives, though his family that was often my family are off of the family plot that was the home base for Five Year Jacket and to the mowing company that kept a bunch of us employed when no one else would. Chad started that with his brother in High School, too.
I don't think Chad started 5YJ, but I don't know that I can say he didn't. It was Pat and Chad and I in a room. So If I started it or if Pat started it, Chad did, too. I always think of it as being Pat. He and I played together and then he got Chad involved, but really, none of it existed until we three actually played together.
And I can't romanticize that. I can't make some quote like you'd read in a music biography about how it was magical or anything like that. I'd played with less than 7 drummers at that point. I was 17 years old. I'd written a half a dozen songs and been in a few high school bands. There was barely hair on my nuts and I just didn't know a damn thing. What the fuck did I know about Magic?
So I can't claim magic. I'm pretty sure we weren't even all that good at first. We screwed around for a bit then I went to Minnesota for a year and then Pat did the year after. We tried. We gigged a little. We recorded a sort of an EP in a guy's garage. We sat by the pool. We drank some cheap beer. We played pool. We weren't a band like we became, but we became friends.
Man. Right about now I'm seriously jealous of Bob Mould's brevity. The other thing is that I seem to keep walking a whole fucking lot but somehow moving farther and farther away from what I'm trying to say.
What I mean to say I should say simply:
I have probably spent more time with Chad than anyone in the world besides my wife and kids. For over ten years we drove around, played music and hung out together. We worked together and ate together and drank a lot together. For very short stints we lived together. He didn't always tell me he was pissed at me, but I always knew. He may have told me 4 or 5 times that he cared for me or was proud of me or liked what I brought to his life. I doubt I told him ever.
Once I broke up with a girl and Woodsy came to me and said he would like to date her. I said I was fine with that. I was fine with it, but Chad saw that as a challenge to loyalty. He was done with Woodsy. I think that meant love to Chad. I understood that then, but it's fuzzier now for me. Woodsy married that girl. They're still married. My step-daughter plays their daughter in Volleyball a few times a season.
Chad was the only full time member of 5YJ. Pat and I held down restaurant jobs. Jay was a Teacher. Still is. I have no idea what Todd did all day. At the time Matt and RD worked with Vern mowing while RD started a real estate business.
Chad was a drummer.
There has been resentments over that, but all I care to say is that when I made the fiduciary discovery that you can borrow money to buy a car but not to fix one and ended up broke and ca-rless over a simple repair I just couldn't afford to fix . . . Chad just handed me the money to buy a truck. Once when Matt played a gig in incredible pain from a toothache Chad handed him a handful of cash and told him to get it fixed. He made sure the Van was gassed, the gigs were booked, accommodations were made, gear was fixed, amps were bought. He carried the risk and when things were tight he financed it. I'm not mad. I could not have made it work. I don't think anyone else would have been able to care so much.
In movies there's always the character who serves as conscience and the heart of the story. Chad wasn't that. To be honest - we didn't have that. There was no angel on anyone's shoulder.
But Chad was the glue.
He was calm. He was adult. He represented us professionally and I'm fairly certain that with perhaps the sort of slight oversights & missteps that can be expected in any job he represented us competently and with dignity. I always received my K-1 and he always insured we showed a loss. Chad did everything we didn't want to do so that we could show up and just be musicians. And we hated him for it.
No good deed goes unpunished.
But, while we may not have had a conscience, Chad would stop me and tell me I was fucking up when no one else would. I'd pick songs and he'd push back. When I was an asshole he told me. When I was dating everyone who let me he was the one who let me know I wasn't treating them well. He has a moral center. It was rigid and rugged. We resented him for that, too. Yes, sometimes he was wrong, sometimes that compass was off, but that's true for everyone, yes? And the problem is that if you speak up you put a target on yourself.
I guess what I'm trying to get at is that I can't possibly approach what Chad is to me. The miles in the van; hours on a fishing boat; days in the pool; the time between shows just talking; planning; practicing; partying. It's a lot more time than most people ever get with a platonic friend and we had 14 years together. Very few friendships ever get tested by so much time.
After all that time all I can say is that I'm grateful and I love him. No love the length of ours can live without caveat: It's super tempting - probably for both of us - to do a full accounting and carefully number all of the debits. I think we do that as a proof. To show that we have looked at each other and really seen the other. Chad and I have seen each other happy and heartbroken, irrationally angry, desperate, triumphant, drunk, crabby, funny, hung-over, freshly in love and gutted by life. We've seen each other win and we've seen each other fuck everything up. We know the shitty things we've said, sometimes to each other. We know the careless ways we've loved and the thoughtless things we've done to other people. We've watched each other carefully build something we knew would fail and we've watched each other throw it down the shitter.
No matter what I've seen and no matter what we've said: I love you, Chad.