A shout-out of solidarity (and thanks) for those suffering through life’s not-so-cool fits of shrieking fuzz.

This year has been pretty brutal for me. Last December our (previous) vet failed to diagnose our sweet Great Dane, Evey, with cancer, and for a month and a half the attendant nausea caused Evey to refuse most food and waste away before our very eyes. We put her down the same day I got an ultrasound on what my doc thought might also be cancer (luckily, it wasn’t).

Eighteen days later, an idiotic driver pulled in front of me from a side road at the last second while I was doing 35. Tires screeched, metal crunched, and an airbag exploded in my face as I T-boned an SUV. My car was totaled. Luckily ER scans again revealed no permanent damage for myself.

A week later, on Valentine’s Day, my mom had three strokes. She was in five different facilities over the next three months. A few times I made the 1,200-mile trip back home to visit for a couple of days and try to encourage her through rehab and advancing kidney and lung failure, but dealing with it all from afar, powerless to help and barely able to communicate with Mom over the phone, was devastating. On May 23, my siblings and I watched as life support was removed and the smart, loving, beautiful woman who’d always been there for us—the Tom Cruise-besotted former 2nd-grade teacher who’d taken me to see Van Halen when I was 12, who’d defied Dad to get me my first electric guitar when I was 13, who’d videotaped all my old bands’ gigs and done a zillion other things she never got enough thanks for, the woman who looked forward to nothing more than spending time with her kids and grandkids—passed away within the hour. I can’t begin to describe the agony of those moments. Mom may have been on morphine, but it wasn’t peaceful. It was the most horrific thing I’ve ever witnessed.

I have many friends and loved ones who struggle with depression and anxiety, and I’m sure you do, too … I thought I got it. I did … but I didn’t.

Interspersed with it all were other dramas big and small … having to rip out basement carpet due to flooding (first-world problem) … consulting with school officials and the police about how to stop one very disturbed young person from incessantly harassing my son (a pretty effing big deal) … and so on. Shit was/is heavy.

I tried to take comfort in having my health, a loving, supportive wife and kids, a great job … all the necessities of life, really. But the year’s buildup of bullshit has nevertheless taken its toll. It’s affected my outlook on life, my moods, my sleep. It’s affected my drive to create music and made me suck at band practice often enough to cancel recording dates. If I had to choose a soundtrack song to match my mood as the grieving process has unfolded, it’d probably be Sonic Youth’s “Unmade Bed” [from 2004’s Sonic Nurse]. Maybe the exact lyrics aren’t quite apt, but the prevailing mood—plodding melancholy punctuated/punctured by fuzz-screaming squalls—is about right. I’ve felt like an unmade bed.

I am not the first person to experience this. I have many friends and loved ones who struggle with depression and anxiety, and I’m sure you do, too. More than both of us probably realize. Before all this, I didn’t suffer from it myself, but it was part of my world enough that I thought I got it. I did … but I didn’t. Something had to be done—I couldn’t keep pretending things would get better if I just stuck it out a little longer. I couldn’t be who I need to be, do what I need to do, as a denier.

Being open about it, talking candidly to trusted loved ones and friends, was key, as were being more self-aware and self-sympathetic, and shrugging off the ridiculous shame of seeking help—shame we’d never feel for getting treatment for purely physical ailments. Medication has helped, too, though it obviously doesn’t make reality recede into cotton-candy clouds and happily-ever-afters.

The pain will fade though. I know that. In the meantime, I want to say thank you to those who’ve been there for me, who’ve been patient with me. I also want to extend good vibes and encouragement to anyone else out there feeling like an unmade bed (not that I actually have anything against unmade beds—I never make mine). Love wins. Love yourself and love each other. Do what it takes to beat this shit and get back to creating fuzz-screaming squalls rather than feeling like one.

A bone nut being back-filed for proper string placement and correct action height.

It doesn’t have to cost a lot to change your acoustic guitar’s tone and playability.

In my early days, all the guitars I played (which all happened to be pre-1950s) used bone nuts and saddles. I took this for granted, and so did my musician friends. With the exception of the ebony nuts on some turn-of-the-century parlors and the occasional use of ivory, the use of bone was a simple fact of our guitar playing lives, and alternative materials were simply uncommon to us.

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While Monolord has no shortage of the dark and heavy, guitarist and vocalist Thomas V Jäger comes at it from a perspective more common to pop songsmiths.

Photo by Chad Kelco

Melodies, hooks, clean tones, and no guitar solos. Are we sure this Elliott Smith fan fronts a doom-metal band? (We’re sure!)

Legend has it the name Monolord refers to a friend of the band with the same moniker who lost hearing in his left ear, and later said it didn’t matter if the band recorded anything in stereo, because he could not hear it anyway. It’s a funny, though slightly tragic, bit of backstory, but that handle is befitting in yet another, perhaps even more profound, way. Doom and stoner metal are arguably the torch-bearing subgenres for hard rock guitar players, and if any band seems to hold the keys to the castle at this moment, it’s Monolord.

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