Jerry's Lament

"I'm in a band. Maybe you've heard of us?

"See, we all grew up listening to Skinny Puppy, Nine Inch Nails, Ministry and the more obscure stuff. Lots of the obscure stuff. So it wasn't like we ever wanted to do anything else, ever.

"We spent ten years at this and I still had to work at the fucking 7-Eleven just to pay the rent. Ten years of malnutrition, sleep deprivation, hearing loss and assholes shouting out Marilyn Manson lyrics.

"Finally, we get the deal. Some clueless A&R guy has finally figured out that stadium rock is dead, so in an orgy of self congratulation, decides to break new ground and give these kids a helping hand.

"But we went for it anyway, 'cause it's a deal and the contract looked pretty decent. Recorded the album in two weeks in a real studio, and it turned out pretty good.

"Then, the A&R guy started getting cold feet. Seems somebody told him that industrial was on the way out. But a contract is a contract, and in any case, the master had already been sent off the plant, so the album got made and shipped. I'm told it did decently in college towns.

"We were about to start touring, when the A&R guy called. He said that Wal-Mart wouldn't carry the album unless we changed some things. I tried to dissuade him--I told him it would mean going back into the studio--but he said sure, no problem, the check's on its way, and just get that puppy cleaned up, or we violate our contract and he's rid of us.

"So we went back into the studio, hating ourselves for it, and looked over the list of things to change. It was a really fucking long list. Tony said that what they really wanted was a country album, so I fired up the computer and did a few search-and-replaces on the MIDI data, and voila, instant country beat.

"We all laughed about it, and then Jim left for a minute and came back with a dusty steel guitar. We all laughed some more, and decided then that since they wanted a syrupy, bad country album, that was what they'd get.

"So I edited the sequences and replaced most of the harsh, grating samples with pleasant mello ones. And Jim started laying down squeak-clean guitar tracks while Tony recorded new vocals in his best Garth Brooks voice. The cleaned-up lyrics were hilarious--stuff like, 'I want to love you from behind'--and none of us could keep a straight face the whole time.

"We sent off the new masters and started the tour the next day.

"A month later, I got a call from our manager. He said the Wal-Mart version had sold over a hundred-thousand copies, and he wanted to know if he could authorize releasing that version to other distribution channels. I wasn't drunk at the time--I wish I had been--but I thought he was joking, so I said sure.

"I forgot about it 'til a couple of weeks later, when the first royalty check got FedEx'd to us. It was for two hundred thousand dollars. We all thought it was a misprint, but the check cleared. Then, all these weasel types started sending us video concepts, usually involving cowboy hats and monster trucks, and it began to dawn on me that our manager hadn't been joking.

"The money kept pouring in, but we decided to finish the tour anyway, although we did take two breaks to shoot videos. Lots of cowboy hats and monster trucks.

"Next week, we start touring again, this time opening for Alan Jackson.

"I hate myself.

"So, if you'd be so kind, I'd appreciate it if you'd turn off that fucking new country video channel and get me another beer before I lose my temper and buy this place just to have the pleasure of firing your ass."

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