Patrick J. Dalton sought stability in a life
that required pure chaos to maintain.
Dedicated to Jorge Orsovay
Each one of us may view our lives differently in hindsight as we age. The chronology may not be that smooth linear tarmac we had once so enthusiastically envisioned in our youth. Instead, when we look back at where we’ve been or rather who we were at one point or another, “smooth” isn’t an honest way of describing any of it.
Eighteen years ago, I ceased the pursuit of my second college degree for employment at a record label via a brief internship here in NYC. From mortuary school to death metal seemed an expedited transition for morbid profitability but that wasn’t the logic behind my decision. Logic, in those days, was an incompetent understudy that wouldn’t see the stage for another decade or so.
This was more than just a fragment of my lifelong dream of “making it” in the music industry, it was a tangible opportunity to see how dreams such as my own were made. What actually happened was more than I wanted, needed, or could have prepared myself for, as I was fixated on the surface while plummeting ten fathoms per second each day, way above my head and perpetually drowning.
As an obsessive drummer in a band that I formed with two coworkers, practicing five to seven days a week with the bassist, attending shows two to four nights every week, all the while working as a sub-adequate Director of Sales at the label Monday through Friday, all I knew was music and music related shit. Time, energy, creativity, and reality; I was entirely consumed. People, references, alcohol, drugs, venues, all stemmed from the music. Aside from my girlfriend at the time and my former “brother”, I’d abandoned every trace of myself prior to this immersion. There was no exit strategy as I was convinced I’d found Atlantis or someshit. Just as there’s no irrefutable proof of the mythical continent, what I discovered was as equally superficial as those who believe in its existence; out of their fucking minds and incapable of accepting that the quest is futile.
When 1999 came around, my hair crept down once again well past my shoulders, and in that metallic microcosm I had reached the inner circle where paying for CDs and shows was a fading memory. During the day it was Morbid Angel, Napalm Death, and The Haunted, after work it was ESG (my own band), at night it was Nebula, Chrome Locust, Queens of the Stone Age, and The Atomic Bitchwax. However, in my headphones it was Tom Waits, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, The Pogues, Down, C.O.C., Soundgarden, Mad Season, and a plethora of other artists spanning the aural spectrum that didn’t fit the mandatory mold. I thought getting off on some dude incessantly yelling at you wore off with puberty, but I was getting paid to think otherwise.
To the casual observer, these are just band names or poorly thought out t-shirt images designed by an angry imp. However, to the insider, these are conflicts of interest that required some ad-lib skills and borderline alcoholism for me to maintain my role as an insider. Music is culture, however heavy metal is religion and I was among the faithful with a half measure of belief. I’ve bled music from my earliest memories and my passion wasn’t up for questioning, so I adapted with open ears and walking hangovers.
Each period of the day required a different mask, although it was well known at work that I was illiterate in “extreme” metal, relying on my mentor turned big brother Jorge for guidance. Not only to assist me with the job, the genre, but growing up. He still does, but that’s for another time. What Jorge did teach me to do, the most important fucking lesson I’ve learned as an adult, as a man, is never lose sight of who you really are. He would often point out that no matter how cool all of the perks were, how alluring and grandiose the scene appeared to be, it was all bullshit.
Jorge is a more accomplished, way more brilliant version of myself, a giant, caring guy who would give you his last drop of blood without thinking twice about it. I was the lucky one to be taken under his wing. “What’s mine is yours” wasn’t an adage with Jorge, it was law. He was him, a rough cut diamond in a sea of cubic zirconia, genuine and indestructible. Yeah, of course he played the game, Mr. Nice Guy when it came to business, but crossing that dude would land a motherfucker in an ambulance. Everyone has a threshold, but just because his is wider, didn’t make him vulnerable. It made him real. Surrounded by fake and insincere jackasses with no substance for eighteen hours a day, takes an indescribable toll that tests one’s fight or flight response. We fought and fought well.
No flying fists in that arena (on most occasions), the weapons were knowledge, actions, and accomplishments. I never reinvented the wheel, I steered it in better directions by knowing better people in better bands, playing better music, in better venues. I moved onto a better label, with bands I loved and believed in. However, this was an industry on the eve of its execution and unless you had another skill, your options were to take the bullet, play “pretend” by steering a sinking ship, or adapt to the mutilated incarnation of heavy metal in the digital age.
I sought stability in a life that required pure chaos to maintain, which meant severing all ties merely by doing so. I realized that I’ve lived 30+ years making false starts in search of linear perfection. These weren’t in vain. Although I’ve taken many, many risks, I’ve always appreciated substance, admired passion. I believe that era where I was a musician or working at a label was the most amazing time of my life where I fucked up, fell down, got back up and moved on. Learning life’s ways didn’t come from an app, it came at the risk of soul-crushing disappointment, sidestepping self-destruction, and even addiction.
Jorge and I have survived as we’ve both mastered the art of shared tragedies, as he still remains a beacon in my life this very day. I’ve never forgotten who I am, though at times I admit it’s been blurry. Many people tell me I’ve had an “interesting” life to say the least and I’m always quick to ask “why?” until I realize that it’s because of the risks, the open eyes, and not looking for straight lines in the past. When you view your life at 42 and it resembles a heart monitor, those ups are victories, those downs are learning how to get back up. As long as I’m not seeing flatlines, I’m doing something right.