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Headlights: Stranger’s Epilogue

There was a song on Fahrenheit called “I Know What I Did To You”. In the story of Fahrenheit, The Man in the Mask murders our main character's partner. Seething with rage, the main character pursues the Man in the Mask for the remainder of the story. The city surrounding them is obliterated in the process. Later on in the plot, the chase eventually leads our main character through this massive field textured with tall grass. The path of destruction he's laid down to get there catches up to him. The song would play over this moment. It evokes a sense of remorse. The song captures that moment in that field, and whenever I play that song in practice that fictional scene comes to mind.

I was 18 years old when I wrote it. In my personal life at the time, I was worried about my wellbeing. My life felt wasted being in the closet for so long and I was watching myself become a terrifying person because of it. I hear this song now at 26 and I can only think of my younger self. I always had music to turn to. Fahrenheit was to capture that frustration I felt. The insanity of feeling like you’re never going to get out. The yearning, and the feeling of being worn down. I think The Man in the Mask is symbolic of the closet, maybe of the angry parts of me I had festered back then that I didn't like. I had days I didn't feel like myself. I felt like a hollow shell of myself, my heart was broken, and I put it all into Fahrenheit. The main character had a partner he was in love with. The lyricism would play a subtle game of double entendre between being directed towards The Man in the Mask and the romantic interest of the story. It could've been heard both ways.

When I sat down years later in the creative period that birthed Sliding Sideways, Sometimes and Never Doing That Again, I did remember The Thing and Fahrenheit. I recognized I knew how to make music, but I didn’t know how to get to that specific idea I craved yet. I remembered my plan about everything. But at 26, I recognize Fahrenheit and all the other projects as set in stone in my teenage years. Those demos I made were the project, whether I liked it or not. Those projects I only could’ve made at 18. I am in such a different place now. There is no going back, and I don't want to go back. But I was right at heart holding onto those projects.

I think looking back, I wish I had started off sharing material where I was doing something I knew I was confident in. Though it wouldn't have been that deeper ambition I had, songs that "played it more safe" would've been better material to share publicly in that time. It was important for me to make Songs for the Millennium. But I think keeping that to myself while I still figured out that idea it was trying to do would've been a smarter move. I could've rolled it all out better.

 I'm sad I will never watch the Fahrenheit animated movie I wanted. I will never watch the Man in the Mask or hear the album explode on screen like I dreamed it would. I don't see The Thing and Fahrenheit ever getting the recorded project treatment I wanted to give them. Though I had my plan, a part of me wishes I had worked on those in college instead and shared those first. I’ve played those songs live before, and I’d still do that of course, but it’s not the same as having that perfectly recorded version. A part of me is content I moved on to greater things, a part of me is sad that the plan didn’t play out and that these projects got lost in time. I have felt both for a while, wrapped in a complex web of emotions that only writing this has helped me process. I feel like I lost a part of me in some ways, even though I never really lost anything. Maybe this was the line I’ve been trying to draw for so long, only I didn't know how to articulate the layers I weaved for myself.

The period after college was really rough. Songs for the Millennium made my life very difficult. I became obsessive about it. The original plans I had fizzled out mid way, and I felt like I was left hanging to some degree in that time. People treated me differently all of a sudden. I couldn’t admit it to myself at the time, and I still struggle to some degree, but I felt misunderstood. I find that to usually be a dangerous claim, but it was how I felt.

But at the exact same time, I regret nothing. I had an idea I wanted to thread that went against what people usually liked, what I usually liked. While I envisioned it landing accessible, some people just may not get it even if I do. Even I came up short and didn't get it sometimes. Maybe I didn't mentally prepare myself for something "different", even though that was the exact thing I claimed I wanted. There’s always a little part of you that cares about what other people think. That’s only human. And that’s okay, as long as it’s not the bigger part of you. At large, I don’t care what other people think. But I do care about what I think and how I feel about what I'm doing. I’ve wrestled with this anger for a while now. I told myself that perseverance in making music, and consistency, would cancel out anything I worried about.

At the end of Fahrenheit, there’s a scene where our main character wakes up from being unconscious with a familiar mask stapled to his face. The Man in the Mask never existed. He realizes he is The Man in the Mask and that he killed his own partner. It was just him the whole time. Remembering his mission to take The Man in the Mask out, he ends up swimming out into the ocean, away from life, until the tides pull him under. The Man in the Mask was visualized to the main character as a separate person from himself in the story, either due to him imagining the character or as a reflection of his damaged subconscious. While the story was not original, I think I get what I was trying to get across. This is a character who lost himself in his suffering. And sometimes in life, you want to blame your shortcomings, your bad moments, on how you "didn't feel like yourself". You want to blame The Man in the Mask. But The Man in the Mask isn't real. It's all you. Though you may not be your worst moments, it's still on you. Back then, in my personal life, I didn't like the person I had become from keeping my sexuality a complete secret and never expressing anything of how I felt. But that's just who I was. That's who I became.

The process of making Never Doing That Again became introspective quickly, and that challenging period of my life when I made Fahrenheit I looked very closely at. I sat down and started writing a blog post where I opened up about being queer. I don't usually talk about this stuff as it's no ones business, but I wanted to talk about it publicly just once. It was the real thing to do. It was talking about the challenges I faced and how much it impacted my life on my own terms. I think I wrote a lot of good in that post. But I also read a lot of despair. It was me holding my head in my hands. I doubted everything, cause I felt like I had to in that moment. It was taking stock in what was real. I talked about what I need to talk about and I think that's all that matters. I'm glad I did.

I was a numb person for years. And on top of that I think I got lost in the mission I set for myself with music. And it scares me to admit that, but that was a long time ago. And there were good things to keep. The songs I wrote I take with me. I don't feel who I am has changed. I'm just older now.

Fahrenheit, the album and its story, was from an old life of mine. I will always love that album. Though it never came to light, it served its purpose. All that experience, and a whole lot more, went into the making of Never Doing That Again, which is the album I think Fahrenheit wanted to be in ways. The arts are where you vent those thoughts and emotions you can't call out in everyday life. I love the catharsis. And I care. I want something specific out of this. This is personal for me.

Never Doing That Again was a beginning. It's the beginning I wanted to find for years.

I remember writing about how I wondered if I ever had music in the first place. I doubted everything at one point; myself, my ideas, my objectives, the music from college and all the older songs. My ability. I do think there were things to question. But I think now I can say that I did have music. It was the decision I always ended up making. I believe in the music. In songwriting. In albums. I believed in most of the things I made (you’re gonna have a few duds). And while I wanted to believe in myself, there were times I didn’t.

But I do believe in myself. You have to believe in yourself. You have to express yourself, to hold onto inspiration and chase those ideas you have. Embrace your craft. Understand that other people have lives to lead like yours, too. We hear about having dreams and being gifted and all this stuff about people doing things they’re “meant to be doing”. And quite frankly, I think it comes down to this: in life, there are things you decide to do and things you decide not to do. It’s up to you. It’s all up to you.

So I leave you with this: a lyric from “I Know What I Did To You".

“Before the earth explodes,

I thought that you should know

that my mind's been racing around.

And I know.”

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