(Last week Adrian shared his current passion for Tuvan throat singing and his past love of death metal. What’s in store for this week? Who knows, but the conversation continues.)
Why It Matters: So your death metal phase — it sounds like you had some pretty challenging teenaged years.
Yeah. I was a troubled youth, to say the least.
WIM: Where did you grow up?
AB: In Elk Grove (a suburb just south of Sacramento). My parents tried doing the suburban house thing, and it drove them crazy. When my grandfather passed away they had enough money to look for a house and…
It’s actually really interesting. I was punk rock back then. I had my torn up leather jacket with the studs and the liberty spikes, and the mohawk, all that stuff. When I was thirteen I used to run away from my parents’ house — I was already ditching school, smoking cigarettes, I was such a bad kid — and I used to run down here (downtown Sacramento) to sleep on the River Walk with my punk rock bum friends, drinking beer.
So one day my parents told me that they bought a house and that we were moving. I didn’t care — just tell me when it’s time to move, you know? Moving day comes and we move into the house that I used to run away and party at here in downtown.
AB: This old lady we called The Professor, she was in her late eighties or early nineties. She was hooked up to a tank, she couldn’t really do much. I met a little punk rock kid whose mom lived there and took care of her in return for a room, and he lived in this little spa house in the back with stained glass windows and all that. He emptied out the spa and put blankets in there and we used to smoke and drink and party. I think the first time I smoked pot was there.
I couldn’t believe it when we pulled up to the same house on moving day.
WIM: A new start in an old house.
AB: That’s when I started going to a continuation high school , but it didn’t work out.
WIM: Why not?
AB: They lost my transcripts between transferring school districts, so they told me in my junior year that I was going to have to start over again with credit one if I wanted to finish high school.
AB: I met with the board, there was nothing they could do. Literally everything got lost. I would’ve had to personally meet with all of my teachers for the last three years. So, at the time I was going to City College already. They started me in the early advanced education program because my teacher (at the continuation school) was an old classical guitarist who became a Medieval lutist because he didn’t believe in anything after Bach because he changed the tunings. He made G-sharp and A-flat the same note.
WIM: Bach did?
AB: That’s what he told me. This guy was a really interesting cat. He was a classical guitarist for twenty years, a total hippie, Deadhead, acid rocker. One day he decided he wanted to change his life and went to India with nothing but clothes and became a monk for seven years. Then he realized he was gay, came back home, met his life mate, and realized that he wanted to teach troubled youth.
WIM Sounds like quite a guy.
AB: I gave him hell, but if I got my work done he’d let me play guitar for the rest of the day. He always used to tell me, “Just keep playing guitar. You have a gift.” I could always hear stuff and play it, and I didn’t think much about it but he told me, “No, people have to train that and you have it. You’re lucky.”
I never paid attention to it, but he got me started at City College. He said, “I’ll keep signing you in here so that you don’t have any attendance problems, and all I want you to do is get a job, get an apartment, and keep playing guitar at City College for another year.”
AB: That’s what got me on the classical route. My teacher at City College would always get on me — “Quit noodling! Quit noodling! That’s wrong technique!” and that kind of stuff, which is when it hit me that classical training wasn’t what I wanted to do. But I finished my AA there before I left.
WIM: Are you parents still together?
AB: Yeah; well, it’s my step dad. That’s a whole other thing. I never knew my real dad, so I thought my step dad was my real dad until I was about twelve. That’s when all the rebellion started — when I found out. That’s when I turned into the shithead.
WIM: That’s what I was wondering. What you’re describing is a pattern of finding surrogate dads — your karate teacher, your music teachers…
AB: Yeah, that makes complete sense. We never had much connection besides he’s the head of the household, do what he says. We never really connected — no one in my family plays music. My grandmother played piano when she was young, but she can only play if there is sheet music in front of her, so I never really knew where the musical influence came from. And quite frankly my family couldn’t stand my interest because it started with death metal.
AB: But anyway, ever since I found out that they kept that from me for all of those years I kind of developed this animosity toward letting them get to know me. I think we didn’t talk for about two years, between seventeen and nineteen. I got really into drugs, unfortunately, and I was dating a girl, and that’s kind of when the martial arts happened and everything changed and I started getting close to my parents again.
Next Week: More conversation, more revelations.