What the hell is this?

I Can't Stand [Meeting] You is a collection of all the ridiculous things I've written to and about drummer and composer Stewart Copeland.

I actually did meet him for about five crazy seconds in 2007, again for a few exciting moments in August 2009, and my most recent (and most thrilling!) encounter took place in October 2009, where I proved myself capable of being, yet again, a total dork in the man's presence.

I can't believe what I get up to. And neither should you.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Dear Stewart @copelandmusic,

Hello!

So, I was wondering... is it weird to write these letters? Is someone close to you saying, "Dude. That chick with the blog is strange?" (Do you allow your friends to call you "dude"?) Are you thinking that (not the dude part)? I'm just asking; I don't really expect an answer.

Something weird happened to me the other day, and a couple of friends were advising me to think one way about it, but in my heart and in my head (the important part? Or do I have that backward?) I decided that I was just going to believe what I wanted to believe based on the information I had, and stop questioning it.

Maybe it's not a great thing to be believing in, and maybe I'll be disappointed in the end, but at least right now, I'm open, and convex about it.

That last part means nothing to anybody but me, and that's fine.

So, last night I had a dream. I woke up at 2 a.m. and I had been dreaming about being at a party at someone's house. I don't really recall who the other guests were... there were people milling about but not too many. It wasn't a loud or crazy party, just people sitting and standing around, having conversations. You were there, as well as a friend of mine from high school (and now Facebook). Her name is Deb, and she's lovely. She's the piccolo player who, when I was a freshman and she was a junior or senior, took me under her wing in band. You and Deb were sitting, facing each other, in the living room. You were on a white couch and she was seated in a chair by you, and the two of you were talking, talking, talking. I was hovering, I guess, and annoying you, maybe, because after a while, you said to me, "Hey, Irene. Why don't you go and get us all some cake?"

I went into the kitchen, and stood at the counter and cut up some pieces of really pretty tiramisu for the three of us. And then I woke up.

I stayed up for about an hour and a half, and ended up shoe shopping (I need some new black pumps). I didn't buy anything, I guess I'm feeling very indecisive about shoes right now.

Anyway, the dream was fun, though, next time, maybe Deb can get the cake.

Love you,
Irene

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Would you read the rest of this story?

It’s been awhile since we checked in with Irene Casarez and Stewart Copeland, and after a long series of phone messages and emails, I finally caught up with her at Groundwork Coffee in Venice.

She was sitting outside on a bench, sipping her cup of freshly brewed Black Gold. Ms. Casarez was wearing skinny black jeans, tall brown boots (“Frye,” she said. “I splurged.”), and a navy blue turtleneck. She wore a red and brown beaded bracelet. “It’s a gift from a friend who was traveling," she said. "Supposedly bought at the base of Machu Pichu, but it could just as well have come from the airport. Or the San Diego Zoo gift store.” She said this with a smile that showed that this bracelet, wherever it was from, pleased her.

She handed me her iPhone, and cued up a track on Sound Cloud. As she handed me a particularly mangled pair of ear buds (“There’s a story there, but isn’t there a story for everything? It’s not that interesting"), she hit play before I had a chance to put them to my ears. “Always check the volume first. You don’t want to mess up your ears! Take it from a piccolo player!"

The song, already in process by the time I got the ear buds in place, turned out to be a very strange version of “Telephone Line” by E.L.O. Ms. Casarez’ singing voice, which I wouldn’t ever have described as strong live, sounded deeper and more viable than I remembered. Originally a fluffy pop song with strings, Ms. Casarez seems to have filled out the orchestration with industrial noise and a bit of impressive double bass drumming.

“That’s not Stewart Copeland on drums, is it?” I asked.

“Hell, no,” she replied. “That’s Patrick Palma. Perhaps you’ve heard of him.”

Patrick Palma is her once estranged husband. When Ms. Casarez and Mr. Copeland were running around LA, Mr. Palma had been relegated to driving the car and carrying gear. Obviously a new arrangement had been made.

“And the rest of the band is…?” I asked.

“That’s Suffering Luna, my husband’s doom band. They did me a favor. I needed a band, and they showed up. Those motherfuckers can play.”

“Clearly,” I said.

I listened to the rest of the track, and was surprised when I heard the opening from "Panama," by Van Halen. I pressed pause.

"What are you, a cover band now?" I asked.

"Wasn't I always a cover band?"

She had a point. I hit play and continued listening. Something very strange was going on.

"Hey. Are those, what, like, flutes, I'm hearing?"

The sound was bleeding out of the tiny, jacked up ear buds. I watched her tap her hands on her thighs along with the music, and I realized that this woman had arranged, or hired someone to arrange, "Panama" for flutes. The voice singing along wasn't hers; it was a man, possibly David Frank, a singer she'd worked with before. There were drums, cymbals, bass, and flutes. The tempo was up there, maybe even a tad faster than the original.

"If you're not singing, what are you doing?" I asked.

And then it was time for the guitar solo, and I figured it out.

Somehow, the music was layered, and everything was there: the guitars, bass... and the flute, playing that silly, amazing, tongue-twister guitar solo. Even the harmonics were there. I started smiling.

Irene was looking at me, and she smiled at me, and said, "I'm also playing the drums."

"You're playing the drums. And the flute? At the same time?"

"Sort of," she said. "I have a bass drum, hi-hats, and pedals. Lots of pedals. That shit took forever to orchestrate. And then Patrick is playing everything else that I can't do, filling in, making it right. I had to take six months of drum lessons. The double bass drum, which would be simple for a real drummer, and it's what? 2 seconds long? Took forever. Getting the flute part right was hell, too - I'd just ended the longest period of time where I didn't play my flute at all, between my son's second and third birthdays. I mean, let's be honest, I'm not the world's greatest flutist, but to let it go that long was the worst possible thing I could've done. It really messed me up. I mean, even in my head. My confidence was killed."

"How did you deal with that?"

"Dude. Practice. Lots of playing, lots of long tones, lots of exercises and listening and sight-reading. I took flute lessons again, which I haven't done in years, and I was at my flute teacher's house every day for a couple hours for a few months. Luckily she loves to play - Patty Sikorski would rather play her flute than eat. It's the best thing for me, too, and I don't know why I wasn't doing it more on my own. I'd hit the flute, then I'd hit the drums, then I'd pick my son up from daycare, with my ears ringing and sore hands. I had two recitals in the time before we even started working on these songs, and I'm really proud: I played the Poulenc flute sonata, which I'd played in high school, but never all at once."

"Why 'Panama'?"

"Oh my god," she said. "That's one of those crazy songs that you know is so good it's horrible, and you can't help but love it. I mean, what's it even about? A car? A woman? Who knows? Because I'm a woman, maybe I'm not really supposed to get the content of the lyrics. I don't know. But it's sexy and a little stupid, and then Eddie Van Halen plays that guitar solo, and David Lee Roth kills me with his perfect voice: it makes me laugh. I just love it. That song got me to work in rush hour traffic - I'd listen to it over and over, as loud as possible. Turned the bass up. Air drummed on the steering wheel. Looked like a maniac, I'm sure, but it's just a great song."

"And for flute, it's a great song?"

She laughs. And over her shoulder, in the distance, coming down Rose Avenue, I think I see - I mean, I'm not sure at first, it could be anyone, right? But I think I see, getting closer to us, strolling at a leisurely pace, in dark pants and a light shirt, wearing sunglasses, a blondish/gray head, a man who if he isn't Stewart Copeland, looks remarkably like him.

She's talking about the flute, again, and I'm half listening ("I'm not the only flutist there, either. My teacher is playing bass flute, and my friend Paula is on piccolo, and Judy and Julie are there, on regular C flutes...") and I'm just watching the approach of this man. He sees us. Irene takes a sip of coffee, and I wonder: I know they broke up, or ended their partnership, or whatever they want to call it, but what I don't know is why, how, or what the status of all that is, now. He's probably not involved musically with her, because there is no sign of him on any of the songs I've listened to so far. She's still talking. "My friend Allison Johnson made the arrangement of 'Panama' for me. I've been wanting to do this for so long, but I didn't know how to make it work. I've seen myself playing it, this way, for years, but I needed help. My Walter Mitty-esque daydreams were kind of beyond my actual skills, you know?"

And then, there he is.


Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Dear Stewart, @copelandmusic

Hey, man,

So it's been several months since I've written you, and a long while, since I've written consistently. Life. It gets busy, sometimes. As I'm sure you know! My stuff these days consists of trying to play the flute at least once a week, having time with my boy, attempts at adult conversation with my husband, visiting my mom and dad, trying to watch something on TV not necessarily just for toddlers, work (which is unfortunately unpleasant a lot of the time now), satisfying my insatiable need for new shoes without going broke, and once again, the theater.

I signed on to do the light/sound booth for the next play at City Garage, even though a couple of years ago I put in my retirement notice when I had my son. The director over there is incredibly persuasive. It's just really hard to tell her "no." I think, though, more than wanting to help her out, I like doing it. I like getting out of the house and seeing a play every weekend. I like the mental exercise that's involved in actually running the booth. No: it's not rocket science (and thank god, because I would be terrible at rocket science), but it's fun. Of course this means I had to take a break from flute choir, which was disappointing for me and my friends (especially because they might be playing something called "The Nutcracker in 5 Minutes," and when I got to look at it last time, that piece has me written all over it - the first part was so much fun! My friend Javier is probably going to play first, and he will KILL it. I'll just be jealous, but it'll be lovely), but seriously, I can't be everywhere.

This past Saturday, I went to my first cue-to-cue in a couple of years, and I think it was the longest cue-to-cue I've ever been in. I've been to lots of cue-to-cues, and lots of them were long and tedious. This one was long but also a lot of fun. Charles, the designer of the lighting and sound, kept things simple for me (the last show, which I obviously didn't do, involved 5 live cameras and some other craziness), though, it's still going to be beautiful. This show is BIG: big cast, big set, big ideas, so I think that's why he's keeping the tech relatively low-key. I'll have to wait and see a run-through of the whole thing to really know, though.

When we got started, the director introduced me this way to the cast: "Say hello to Irene! She is the goddess of light and sound." With an introduction like that, could you say no to her? I think not.

Anyway, if you're interested in what we're doing (a play called Moskva, by Steven Leigh Morris of the LA Weekly, based on the novel The Master and Margarita, by Mikhail Bulgakov), you can find out more, here: www.citygarage.org. As always, I will be saving a seat for you with me in the booth. You're tall; it'll be a great place to see the show. The beat of my heart will make it all that much more exciting. We open on October 18th. See you there?

Love you,
Irene