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KG sits back from the computer and sighs. 6 months of work equals 2 stars. If this anonymous punk even knew how much KG had literally taken out of the mix in order to achieve the balance that he wanted...“uninspired and uninspiring”. Jesus. He scrolls down to the comments, and unfortunately there are few fans of “The Narrow Way” to be found there either. In fact, most of the comments are about how a review this negative shouldn’t get two stars – “I mean, that’s a one-star review if I ever read one!” Seething, KG begins to post a comment of this own and realizes after about a minute and a half of composing how pointless and sad this endeavor is, how embarrassing it would be to see his bitter response to his own bad review. Better judgment kicks in, and KG erases what he has written, clicks off Ambient Wavelength and over to the anxiety/depression boards.
KG pokes around for a bit and doesn’t find anything new except for an entry headed “Anyone Heard Anything About Comaxyn?” when the phone rings. KG sighs, looks over at the ID which reads “Matthew Stokes”. He closes his eyes, grits his teeth, lets the phone ring two more times before he picks it up.
“What’s up, Cage? Matty here."
“Hi, Matty. How are you.”
“Good, man, good! Just got back in from Rome.”
KG rolls his eyes, plays his part. “Really. How was it."
“The food, man, the food! Amazing – you would’ve loved it. The calamari’s like nothing you can get in the States.”
“Hmm. I’ll have to get over there sometime.”
Matty chuckles. “Yeah.” He pauses, the false bonhomie weighing on them both. “So, uh...have you been reading any of the reviews of ‘Narrow Way’?”
KG sighs. “Yeah. In fact, I just read one.”
“So how do you think it’s being received?” Way too formally phrased.
“Okay, I guess.”
“As good as you were hoping?”
KG takes a moment before answering. “Um, are you trying to ask me something else, Matty? Something that you’re...like...not actually asking me?”
“No, Cage, not at all. Just trying to get the lay of the land, you know.”
“See, the thing is, and I’ve talked to Bill and Sandra about this, you know they love ‘Narrow Way’, I love ‘Narrow Way’...hell, Elliott loves ‘Narrow Way’ and you know how competitive he is!” Pauses. “But it has not been selling. You know this. When you removed the rhythmic underpinning, the shit just sort of...floated out into space. It doesn’t come across on the edits satellite has been playing, and the New Age stores are complaining that when they play it it’s putting the customers to sleep.”
KG grits his teeth. “Matt, this isn’t Muzak. You have to pay attention. That was the whole idea of ‘The Narrow Way’. To get people to really listen.”
“You’re preaching to the converted here, Cage. But if we can set something up, nothing serious, a couple high-profile DJ gigs, maybe something at the Float On festival, or the electronic day at Seamless, you might be able to get people in a setting where they could really listen. Now that might do something to even out the sales situation. It certainly wouldn’t hurt your back catalog either.”
KG shakes his head in disbelief. “Wow, Matt, you know touring isn’t an option for me. We discussed this, Bill and Sandra and I discussed this, before you even joined Abstrakt. I make this kind of music so I don’t have to tour. That’s my deal.”
Matty exhales. “Okay. That’s okay. But if we can’t generate more revenue from touring for ‘Narrow Way’, we’re going to have to think about moving a hell of a lot more units of the next product.”
“Meaning, basically, that it might be time to think about ‘Desert Music III’.”
KG exhales. “Jesus Christ.”
“Cage, I know you can’t make too much money because it’ll endanger your insurance setup, but Abstrakt needs to make more money to stay afloat. Abstrakt needs to make more money to continue to allow you the artistic freedom that produces something...majestic, like ‘Narrow Way’. And I just happen to think that revisiting your greatest artistic peak would be a great way to...purchase yourself the kind of...creative currency that would allow you some leeway, some room to make more work that is as...challenging as ‘Narrow Way’.”
KG has barely heard the last half of what Matty said. He is shaking with rage, nearly speechless. “Why are we...why would you even bring up my ‘insurance setup’? What the fuck does that have to do with ‘Narrow Way’ or my future with Abstrakt or anything?”
In the ensuing silence, KG can almost hear Matty wince. “Cage, I just meant I know it’s important, for...you know...”
KG stands up, begins pacing. “No, Matt. I’m not sure what you’re talking about. Be specific.”
Matty sighs. “I know you need to keep the SSD and the SSI because it keeps you eligible for the health insurance. And I know that you need to limit your income from Abstrakt or it endangers your SSD and SSI.”
KG waits. “And? What else, Matty?”
“There is nothing else, Cage. I feel stupid for bringing it up.”
“Yeah? Well, here’s what makes me feel stupid.” KG is so angry he is losing track of what he is saying. He doesn’t have a follow-up for the last remark, but then suddenly it comes back to him. “That I can’t get through a conversation with my record label without them making snide comments about my mental health.”
“Cage, you know I didn’t mean anything by that...”
KG couldn’t stop himself now if he wanted to. His blood pressure is raised, skin hot and prickly, the anxiety on him like a thing alive. “No, I don’t know that Matty. I started doing this kind of work to help myself, to heal myself. And now you’re using my honesty against me? What the fuck is that about?” He is almost shouting now.
“Cage! Jesus! I just meant that...some commercial potential in the music isn’t a bad thing. I didn’t mean to imply anything about your...we’ve been friends awhile now, KG...”
“Have we, Matt? Have we really?” And then he slams the phone down. He raises his fists to either side of his head and presses them hard against his temples. He stands like this for several minutes until his breathing slows, until he is able to think clearly.
Then the self-recriminations begin. Did Matty really deserve that? Was he really making unfair reference to the anxiety/depression stuff? Or were you completely on edge because you just read that shitty review of ‘Narrow Way’ and some of the stuff that Matty was saying about the sales of it were true, and it hurt? KG sighs sadly, sits back down.
He feels immature, pathetically out of control. Considers calling Matty back immediately, then thinks better of it. Considers an apologetic e-mail, then nearly jumps out of his skin when a car horn blasts twice outside. KG looks at his watch - it’s the cab he called earlier, for his appointment with the new doctor. He laughs to himself - at least he’ll have something to tell him if he has any questions about the intensity of the anxiety or the waning effects of the Paxil.
Go to Chapter Six