This music video from 16 Volt is really poignant, which is very fitting for such a melancholy song. I like that they explain the story behind their art here with the video. I also like that the video tells the same story as the song, instead of some weird unrelated visuals like too many music videos. Metropolis is re-releasing 16 Volt’s excellent LetDownCrush, which I think we covered in Blue Blood in print, next week and I recommend checking it out.
Produced by: Eric Powell, Mike Peoples, Paul Peterson
Directed by: Paul Peterson
Cinematography & Editing: Paul Peterson
Visual FX: Chris Herrick
michelle Carter Damis
Eric Powell – vocals
Mike Peoples – bass
Andy Gerold – guitar
Galen Waling – drums
Styling for Greg James: Cameron Long-Tel
Warehouse Grip: Rob Fitch
Raven Ink Tattoo
This is the story of Burn.
My father apparently started out as a good man. At least that is what I have been told. I am not sure if I am told that for sympathetic reasons, to lessen the impact of a broken home, or if it is to alleviate the remnants of unnecessary guilt my Mother feels. In either case, he grew up in a home with an absentee father too. My Father’s Father was a Florida business man who spent much of his time in Cuba. This was often used as an excuse by my relatives to relieve my Father of his duty to care for the children he brought into this world, “He doesn’t know any better”. He graduated from USC with a law degree. He never passed the bar exam, I recall at times asking him to play with me and he would shoo me out of his office, he was always too busy. It’s one of the few early memories I have of him.
When I was born, by all accounts, he was a good father. Attentive, helpful, kind, present. By the time I was three we moved from Miami to Southern California to chase one of his dreams. A dream that would become just one in a long line of dreams that he couldn’t see through. He became a habitual dreamer/failure. In his mind he deserved to be at the top, whether it was in government in Oxnard, or as a Real Estate Broker in Mission Viejo, or a famous country songwriter in Nashville, he was the man and wanted to be recognized as such.
He walked into those jobs and dreams thinking he deserved to be at the top, never thinking he had to pay his dues. He never thought he had to climb the ladders. Call it entitlement I guess. I don’t know the clinical diagnosis but as a side benefit to me, I have learned in my own experience that the ladders are the essence of living. If you don’t climb the ladder, you are missing the steps. And the steps are the fun parts.
Anyway, sometime in his struggle jumping from job to job, career to career, dream to dream and around the age of my turning seven, his social drinking started to progress. Rapidly it went from a drink or two with the fellow “company men” to having to pour a screwdriver in the morning to get out the door. Another of the few memories I have of him is the smell of that coming off his breath in the morning.
He became a drunk. It came over him like cancer. This was a different time – The 70’s. Men were expected to drink at the office, It went well with a cigarette.,It went well with a tie, and not unlike the cocaine of the 80’s it went well with career advancement. He never finished what he started though. He would exaggerate his experience, his resume, his life. He’d get a new job and the charade would carry on until someone would start to see through it and he would walk out or be fired. A con man? A sociopath? A narcissist? I don’t know the answer but I do know that within a few months sometime in those years he was a full blown alcoholic. And the home life was starting to unravel. I was never physically abused. But I was the subject of many nights of mental torment. He would come home and start in on me. I was all of eight years old. He would have me at the point of tears before my Mother would step in and the fireworks would begin. It’s not a new story. It’s not unique. Most of the people I know have a similar one. It’s a story that relates to most people in some form.
I remember the morning like it was a few days ago. He came home after being gone on a several day bender and my parents got into an argument. I was sent up to my room to hear the muffled sound of parents fighting and divorcing. My Father came into my room and asked my brother and I downstairs. He sat us up on the washer and dryer in the garage of our middle-class townhouse in Anaheim Hills, California and told us that he was leaving. That they were divorcing. My Mom had told him to leave. He told me that it was my job now to watch over the family and take care of my Brother. Heavy burdens for an eight year old.
He immediately absorbed a new life. As if it was trained and ready. It was an instant personality and lifestyle change. He moved in (gigolo style) with some woman. It was into a condo at the beach. He somehow bought a new Porsche and assumed the personality of a SoCal playboy.
It’s almost become a typical western culture childhood. Father skips out on child support, never pays it. Promises to pay for Christmas gifts, Mom advances the money for it and out of guilt and love they cover for him. The part I just can’t comprehend, and the part that I struggle with to this day, especially being a Dad myself, is what kind of person can just walk away from their children? How can you go from one day to the next and just let it go. Like a job you were fired from. Like a job you had to flee because your lies were exposed, because your experience was vetted out and discovered as less than you boasted. It’s almost as if the family was just another thing he had to leave behind so he could move onto the next acting job.
There were times he would call us. He would call when he was drunk. He would apologize, make promises to try and hook us into believing he was just a victim of circumstance. These calls, as a youth were confusing, hard and damaging. I remember once when we went to visit him (a rare occasion), he was now living in a multi-million dollar house in Dana Point, California fronting to the world that it was his place. In truth he was just house sitting for a few months but had assumed the identity of ownership. Within a few hours of being there he started to attack my Mother. To blame everything on her. On this occasion I said I didn’t want to talk about that. I asked to leave the next morning and fly home. He was drunk and drove us to the airport.
Another time he came up to Lake Tahoe where we were living at the time. At this point in his life he had decided he was now a country western songwriter and was going to move to Nashville. He wanted to see us before he left to become a star. He got there and came over to our house, within about 10 minutes of surface chat he asked my Mom if there was a bar close by and headed off. I saw him for lunch the next day and that was it.
Through the years, I tried to forgive him. To forget him. To move on. At the occasional urging of his sisters (my Aunt’s), we would try to reconcile and talk. These phone calls would usually last about 2 minutes. I would call, he would immediately start in about how my Mom ruined his life and I would slam down the phone and walk out, usually smashing something in the process as angsty teenagers usually do.
I came to the conclusion at some point in my twenties that this man was unreachable. His life was in the bottle. This person was not my Father. He taught me nothing but remnants of accidental lessons in what not to do. How not to be a man, how not to live. So I let him go. I lost his number. I committed to never talk to him again. He was utterly and totally not a part of my life. I would not, could not, should not ever speak to him again.
In late 2010 I received a phone call from my Aunt that my Father was sick and in the hospital. I imagine a call like this would normally shake the foundation of a son. It was as impact-full as hearing the weather in Guam though. I honestly lost ability to care, it was so far removed from my life that it just didn’t matter to me. Sure, it was sad. As sad as seeing anyone being sick. As sad as anyone dying. But it stopped there and I guess I feel a little guilty for that. I was told that he didn’t have long to live, if I wanted to talk to him it could be my last chance. I made the decision that I had no reason to. I didn’t know this person anymore. My whole life, the hope and natural need for a child to depend on a Father figure was erased. I owed him nothing. It was all on his conscience, not mine. This person was a stranger to me. The next morning I got a call that he had died that night from kidney failure. He literally drank himself to death. He was 73 or so years old. He had gone from a man with a lot of potential, a USC law graduate, a man with a supportive family, to a man living in a broken down, nicotine stained tow along trailer in rural Texas. He litteraly had nothing left.
Naturally, when someone dies there is a will.
I was curious to see what, if anything, was said or left to me. I learned that there was literally a line in his will stating. “If my son’s come and ask for anything, give them a dollar and turn them away” – A final attempt at diverting his guilt onto us I guess. I look at this as another lesson in life. I am fortunate to have seen what can happen to a person with an illness. Not only the illness of alcoholism, but clearly a metal illness. The alcohol was self-medication, as it often is. Those were different times, men didn’t go to therapists, they didn’t get help. I learned a lot from my “Father”. What it means to be a man and the lesson (taught by example) of what it means to not be a man. I don’t thank him for the lessons. I just have them. I am not angry anymore. I use it all as something I can draw from in my own life and and turn into something positive. Whether it be how to handle my own kids, or to use it as part of my art.
The song was written very shortly after his death and after the reading of his will. I really wanted to express something not only for myself but for others who have a similar past. The video is a mixture of fact and fiction and a story about emotions and bringing a feeling to life. Do I wish I would have killed him? No. He did that himself. But even in the end of his life, it was his anger, his choices, emotions and illnesses that killed him and in a sense that comes full circle back to me.
It’s nearly impossible to transfer decades of life into a video, a song or a handful of paragraphs on a band website, but at the end of the day, it paints a picture of what a part of my life is and a story that I know I share with most people. This song and this video are probably the most exposed I have ever let myself be with 16volt, it’s a ver personal thing and bit scary but I want to thank you for taking the time to listen, watch, read and hopefully relate to it, in some way get something from it.
I want to thank everyone involved in this video, especially Mike Peoples who not only co-wrote the song with me but is also one of my best friends and band mate. And to Paul Peterson from Empte Films who saw our vision and brought it to reality.
- July 2011 / Eric Powell
If you know anyone who needs help or are yourself in need, please go to AlcoholicsAnonymous.com and find some answers. Don’t ever give up. You are not alone.