posted on Feb 09, 2017
Tonight at Minnesota State University, my keynote to the students was VERY well received: 120 students attended and then afterwards I held a three hour question and answer session informally which let students ask direct questions about how to put their thoughts and passions into action.
The basic idea is that we all have the capacity to change the world if we just start to see cluelessness as a virtue rather than as a detriment. We can all start somewhere if we just choose to make it happen.
COLLEGES: Inquire about how to bring this keynote and discussion to your campus!
posted on Sep 23, 2016
I just had a truly genuine human interaction. I was walking from my loft to the train, about a mile or so. I usually take a back way, along the tracks, by some spray painted walls and broken chain link fences. Just now as I was walking that path, about fifty yards ahead I saw a guy in tattered clothes climbing out of the bushes. He was collecting his things on the ground. My brain went into ‚Äúself protection‚Äù mode as I got close. I knew the pitch was coming. I was a few feet away when he stopped me. ‚ÄúExcuse me,‚Äù he said, launching into what I assumed was the pitch for money, ‚ÄúCan I ask you something?‚Äù I stopped and turned to him, ‚ÄúYes?‚Äù
He immediately started in with the pitch, with the rushed cadence of someone who has been denied so many times and who knows they need to get all the important words out as quickly as they can. ‚ÄúWell I‚Äôve been having a hard time and I‚Äôve been staying out here and I am wondering‚Ä¶I don‚Äôt know what to do‚Ä¶ if you could help because I need help and I was wondering‚Ä¶‚Äù
I cut him off, slightly impatient for him to get to the point so that I could catch my train. I was ready for him to finish the pitch so I could say, ‚ÄúNo‚Ä¶I don‚Äôt have any cash on me, sorry my friend‚Äù and walk on. I said, ‚ÄúI do need to get to the train‚Ä¶is there something specific you needed?‚Äù I was trying to prompt the end of the interaction.
He took a deep breath and said, ‚ÄúWell I‚Äôm not sure if I should just stay out here again and walk around for a few days, or just go to jail and turn myself in because the drug of my addiction makes it hard to be around people when I try and stop. And maybe it‚Äôs not safe for them and I think I should just turn myself in at the jail or else just walk around and try to avoid people for the next couple days‚Ä¶‚Ä¶.what would you do?‚Äù
There was no money pitch. He was literally just asking for advice. The look on his face was truly desperate, sad, exhausted. I took a deep breath too and my whole tone changed. My whole world changed. I told him, so I could establish common ground, that someone very close to me was an addict and that I wanted to hear more. The look on his face in that moment. I don‚Äôt have words for it. He realized he was being listened to.
He told me about his addiction and where he was in his life. We talked about options. We talked about staying away from jail because the police are not friends of African American men, the homeless, or the drug addicted. We talked about how he was doing everything right by considering the safety of those around him. We talked about how good it was that he was trying to get sober even if the path seemed impossible. We talked about places he could walk to downtown to ask about safe places to detox and hopefully sleep safely. It was one of the most genuine conversations I‚Äôve been a part of in forever. I just hope it was helpful.
At the end of our talk I told him again that he was doing everything right by trying to get sober and to keep himself and those around him safe. He looked at me and said thanks and added, ‚ÄúI‚Äôm trying. I can‚Äôt do it alone.‚Äù
As I turned and walked away he was looking out across the tracks, considering his options.
This isn‚Äôt a post about me. It‚Äôs a post about all of us. Its a post about being so wrapped up in getting to a train, one that runs every five minutes, that I would have been willing to ignore and deny another human being who was in a desperate place, before he even had a chance to finish his first sentence and connect. How jaded have I become, and how self absorbed. I think about the greeting one encounters in Africa when a person will greet another by saying, ‚ÄúI see you‚Äù and the response to having that said to you is, ‚ÄúI am here‚Äù. Connection, at the most basic level. Seeing one another. Being here. And how simple it can be to reach across the closest of distances‚Ä¶that is‚Ä¶if we don‚Äôt make those distances so far by being wrapped up in our own seemingly-so-important absolute bullshit.
I see you. I am here.
My only regret is that I didn‚Äôt ask his name, the guy by the side of the tracks who is trying to get sober in a way that keeps those around him safe, and who was at the point where he was willing to ask for help from a total stranger. What a hero.
posted on Jan 11, 2016
David Bowie was a constant presence and challenge for me. Twister of reality, exposer of awe. A true creative revolutionary. I‚Äôve always thought that an artist is at their best when they cause us to take pause and reflect on the world, seeing it in a new way as a result of their influence. Bowie was that artist. Any time I encountered his work I was always left mystified.
I only saw him twice. Once on ‚ÄòThe Glass Spider‚Äô tour in 1987, with Peter Frampton on guitar, a tour that saw him onstage roving over a multi-layered detailed set which was criticized as self-indulgent at the time by reviewers. For me, that set served as a metaphor for the many ways he existed in my mind. No one could pin down David Bowie. He was here and not here at the same time. There was no space and moment specific to him. To see Bowie was to feel as though you had experienced a transcendent encounter, something larger than life. The presence of someone who had thousands of aspects to his personality yet was constantly himself no matter what aspect was shining through at that one moment. Bowie was relentless, unavoidable, untouchable. Just when you thought you might know him or that you were onto his true persona, he shifted gears and left you in wonder once again.
I saw him a second time on the ‚ÄòOutside‚Äô tour he did with Nine Inch Nails in 1995. It was the first night of the tour in Connecticut, and while I heard the show got better as the tour went on, Bowie wasn’t at his best this night (though he did play some very obscure songs and covers: ‚ÄúJoe the Lion‚Äù and a Jacques Brel cover of ‚ÄúMy Death‚Äù). I remember walking out with my friend Al past the sound board, and a group of well dressed men in suits and ties stood there beaming with pride. Everything about them said that they were the financiers or producers of the tour. As we passed, one looked directly at Al and asked “How’d you like the show?” Al, not wanting to offend, said softly “It was very nice”. We joked for years that had he said “Well…it wasn’t quite Bowie’s best night” that the entire tour plan would have been altered within minutes, maybe including the firing of NIN and giving Bowie the run of the night in every city he visited (which would have been a terrible choice, as the best part of the night was Bowie and Trent Reznor onstage together).
But it was exactly that, the choice to tour with NIN, regardless of how that particular show went, which makes the night stick out in my mind. I’ve thought about it for years now. Here was Bowie, almost 50, taking the risk to introduce himself to a much younger demographic by having the foresight to tour with Trent Reznor. And that’s what made Bowie so incredible. Foresight. Vision. It was like he could see into the future and make choices that we would realize decades later were so ahead of the time in which they had taken place.
Every step of the way, David Bowie challenged us. He was always one – or ten – steps ahead of us in terms of image, fashion, style, sexuality, creativity. He had an entire generation asking if he was a man, a woman, and alien, neither, none, or all of the above? He twisted and toyed with time and space when we were in the midst of wanting to root ourselves in the here and now. He constantly made choices which made us reflect not only on what had been, but what might be in the moment, or what might come next if we were willing to take the risk along with him.
A constant presence in so many ways. My world looks different having encountered David Bowie throughout my life. There was no way it could not. His vision and genius was a challenge for each of us which forced us to reconsider how we experienced life when we stepped into his version of reality along with him.
And what a reality it was. I hope we all hold onto even a little bit of the magnitude of creativity, the depth of risk, and the expanse of wonder that David Bowie brought into the world.
Rest in peace, truly, to one of the all time greats.
posted on Jan 11, 2016
In this video, recorded just before the 6th anniversary of the earthquake, Greg takes some time to explain the work that his organization One Hundred For Haiti does in Haiti and the difference between RELIEF and DEVELOPMENT. This video explains the core behind the work being done in Haiti and WHY he and the team do it. With a local focus and support people on the ground for The Rural Water Project, and partners “Little Footprints, Big Steps” and “Kay Tita”, initiatives like the anti-sexual assault GTPE trainings come to life in a major way and impact lives all over Haiti. Four and a half minutes is all you need to devote to hear the whole story!
posted on Jan 01, 2016
Note to self in the early hours of 2016. Let every moment of this new year be a call or response to the need for revolution in my heart and mind. A devotion to writing, speaking and sharing about the upending and transformation of old patterns within…and from there to the world beyond the self.
“No illusion, sacred or deconsecrated, collective or individual, can hide the poverty of our daily actions any longer….Nothing is so valuable that it need not be started afresh, nothing is so rich that it need not be enriched constantly.”
– The Revolution of Everyday Life; Raoul Vaneigem
posted on Dec 07, 2015
In the early 2000’s I was actively involved in the fair/festival industry as a performer. I removed myself from that industry because I found myself frustrated at my own frustration with it. Its a strange business, because often times the people making booking decisions are not experienced business people, and its easy to get confused about how to approach them with integrity. I met some lifelong friends in the industry but needed to get back to my core as I felt out of balance with greed and self centeredness while I was aggressively pursuing contracts and profits.
This last month, I was invited back into the industry by the Rocky Mountain Association of Fairs to be their first ever speaker to their service members in the 90 year history of the organization. I did a keynote speech about “Managing the Unexpected” for the entire convention and also did the educational session below for a closed, packed room full of people specifically who service the fair/festival industry and were wondering how to do business. The session was about how to market yourself with integrity to the fair industry.
I am posting this here largely for attendees that day to review, but recommend that anyone involved in sales consider the ideas in it: without integrity you are nothing. With it, you can establish and build genuine relationships. Let those relationships be real and genuine. Bookings and profits can come later. Without your core passion, integrity, and focus intact though, honestly, shouldn’t you be doing something else with your life? Just sayin’.
posted on Aug 20, 2015
I am in Prague, at my gate at the airport about to fly home from Europe after a couple extra days here and just wanted to say thank you.
Thank you Europe. Thank you every single person who came to every single show. Thank you to the promoters who took a risk booking us, to the drivers who gave their energy to¬†keep us safe and arrive at the venues on time, to the tour bookers who took their time to create the experience, and to everyone involved with the tour in the bands and otherwise.
But mostly thank you to the people who came to the shows. Thank you, all of you, for supporting us (and for supporting your local scene).
I am thankful that there was never a night where no one showed up. To be half a world away from home and have anyone at all show up for an artistic event is a gift. And not just¬†show up, but engage and connect in different ways. It is a great honor. I’ve been reflecting on connection and how people connected on this tour. Some nights had the sing along¬†dancing craziness, and others had focused attention. Every night, during the song “Are These Our Lives?” I take time to try and make eye contact with every member of the¬†audience that night. That’s when I can tell who is with us in the moment, and even on the “off” nights on this tour, the connection was always there. It might not look like the¬†hardcore photos we all admire sometimes, but that is irrelevant. Life is not supposed to be a caricature of itself. It is supposed to be as it is, in moments.
No band or artist deserves anything. Not us, not anyone (not even Rush). No one HAS to come to a show. That they might WANT to is incredible. When I wrote the lyrics to the¬†Trial album, my goal – and I wrote about this in my journal at the time – was to write lyrics that I would still believe in and fully stand behind even as a 95 year old and even if we¬†never recorded anything else. It didn’t matter if time passed. It still doesn’t.
When writing the Trial LP I was writing for a lifetime, not for a record and certainly not for popularity. I still stand by that. If we wanted popularity the topics certainly wouldn’t have¬†been the ones that ended up on the record. I stand by the lyrics as if I wrote them yesterday. As I said on this tour onstage at the show in London (in regards to refugees), even¬†the topics in the lyrics themselves are unfortunately still relevant. The world‚Äôs issues and our personal psychology are ongoing. The sixteen years since we recorded the record is¬†just a blip in time ultimately. It might be twenty generations in hardcore and feel like a lifetime. But hardcore isn’t life. Life is life. Hardcore is a means by which we interpret life. I am¬†thankful for all those who came out to the shows to share in this artistic interpretation.
Ultimately the deepest point in any performer’s bow should come when the audience is leaving, not when they are arriving. I’ve been on stages for my entire life, as a speaker, as a¬†singer, as an entertainer. And oftentimes performers think that the audience is there for the performer. They are not. The audience is there for their own experience. The¬†performer/presenter‚Äôs duty and obligation is to serve them, whether there is one person in the audience or a hundred, and regardless of how they respond. If a small audience¬†stands and stares instead of cheering, then that, quite simply, is that night’s dynamic. If a large audience shows less energy than a single person, that too is how the proverbial¬†vegan cookie crumbles.
And we have options in the case of disconnectedness. We can complain about it (and sometimes I have though it’s immature and futile), we can do something about it (by¬†engaging the audience more or playing far more passionately – and i have done both in various ways on stage) but ultimately every night is a unique experience never to be¬†repeated and we have to embrace it as it is. I see this on my spoken word tours. The same story told in one night might bring laughs, and on another night, tears. My responsibility¬†is to be present here and now in those moments with the audience regardless. The bow at the end of any performance is a “thank you” to them, not a recognition of applause. The¬†performer’s bow is deeper depending on the depths of a willingness to thank their audience for their time, and also for their attention and receptiveness, however they might have¬†expressed it. Deep and humble thanks.
I don’t need pile ons and sing-alongs. I only ever hope for connection. I’ve had more than my share of Burning Fight crazy sing-along hardcore moments. That is all icing on the¬†(yes vegan) cake. For me the foundation is and always has been about the people and the connection. And this tour had that at every single show. Even the one or two shows that¬†we didn‚Äôt “like” due to this or that reason, or due to how the audience seemed to not be engaged. That’s irrelevant. It‚Äôs ego. And would be short-sighted of me to ever think that an¬†audience didn‚Äôt care. Even at those shows there were people who connected afterwards with words to share about what the night or the band had meant to them. I am deeply¬†thankful for everyone who shared thoughts and emotions and everyone who took the risk to connect.
The conversations I was able to be a part of and the intricacies and intimacies that people shared meant the world to me. Hardcore to me is and always will be about connection¬†first and foremost. I don’t care what band I am in or with, or without. Trial has had some incredible experiences and impact both on us and on people who have experienced us. But¬†in the end the vocals and music are simply a vehicle for connection. That I have had a chance to listen to hundreds of people share their thoughts and emotions on this tour means¬†so much to me.
When all is said and done, I tour for connection. Not for profit. Not for glory. Not for anything other than face to face contact with people around the world. That’s the mission¬†always.
On this tour, even the nights I wanted to cancel I am thankful for. I for example pushed to cancel London. I was tired and acting like a privileged baby. So I didn’t get sleep. Who¬†cares. So I didn’t get enough food. Again cry me a river. Tell the people of Haiti that the worst part of my day was that the clean water i was drinking was slightly warm, and that i¬†was drinking it while being driven to a room to play a musical show in a vehicle without air conditioning. The ones without homes will ask, “what’s a room?‚Äù The ones with homes will¬†ask “What do you mean someone drove YOU around? And in a car?” I am wealthy with experience and privilege.
I’m so glad we didn’t cancel any shows London or otherwise (other than the one where we were stranded in the side of the highways be couldn’t get to Leipzig Germany). But even¬†then let’s be realistic. We broke down at a rest area with a restaurant that made us custom vegan meals, and had a hotel where we could afford if we chose to sleep comfortably. It¬†was SO difficult. My god. I had to carry a bag from the van to my room before sleeping for nine hours without anyone trying to break in or murder me past the locked door and¬†hot shower. It’s shocking that I survived! My tour journal makes it sound like it was a mess. But really it was the slightest inconvenience at worst. If only that day was the worst thing¬†that will ever happen to me in life…
I apologize to anyone with whom I didn’t have enough time to speak one-on-one or to anyone to whom I might have said the wrong thing at times. And I apologize too if in a¬†moment I didn‚Äôt remember meeting you before. Tour gets chaotic. There were many moments doing merch when I was very rushed. A guy offered me a granola bar at the merch¬†table in London and i was so rushed to set up after we had arrived late that I didn’t thank him nearly enough. He had read online that the drive had been long and offered that food¬†as a gesture of kindness as soon as we arrived. I hope you’re reading this, granola human. I appreciate you.
The most consistent criticism in my life is that I spread myself too thin and that sometimes individuals might feel as though I am not present with them in moments. For anyone who¬†found that to be true, my apologies. My heart was with you even if my body or mind were failing me in the moment, which does happen from time to time on any tour.
And this tour, with some longer than normal drives to faraway places certainly had its share of challenging moments. No sleep, no air conditioning‚Ä¶in retrospect: whatever, who¬†cares. It was all amazing. Someone asked me how hard the tour was. My answer to her then and my feeling now: we had food, shelter, companionship, no war, no terrorism,¬†no death, no poverty. And that means our “hellish” tour as I have referred to it previously in posts was a privileged heaven compared to a vast majority of the world population’s¬†experiences over the last three weeks. I was stoked out of my mind to play those faraway places and meet people I never would have otherwise had the honor to meet. Getting to¬†and from Serbia for example brought us to the limit of our sanity but it was so worth it. I am so deeply thankful that we got to play there.
In the end, I can’t wait to go out again. Spoken word in 2016, hopefully Between Earth & Sky in 2017 after completing our LP, and also potentially with a new musical project in the¬†works as well.
I am spending the rest of this year finally writing a number of projects, hardcore related and otherwise, and also working on One Hundred For Haiti. I will be thinking about this tour¬†and its lessons about connection and how to bring those lessons to other situations worldwide. Ultimately – after two decades – shows still have me feeling humbled and deeply¬†thankful every night and every tour, this one included.
Until next time, and there will be many more next times in whatever form they happen to take…
posted on Jun 26, 2015
On one of my early trips to Haiti, after the earthquake, I decided to start juggling for the people in the village of Madan Beliz√©.
Madan Beliz√© is so poor that when aid workers first arrived, many of the people did not even have clothes. There was no clean water source, no immediate local food source, and the lake nearby had been completely fished out. The people were living by subsistence however they could.
Yet in the midst of all that, it only took five rocks flying aloft to bring a smile to their faces. Epic performing win, where it mattered the most.
(Photo by Brandon Vedder).
posted on Jun 23, 2015
Life goal accomplished. This is Leonardo. He is 90 years old. For years, on random days, he has walked around Green Lake in Seattle wearing a homemade shirt that simply says “SPANISH LESSONS”. I first saw him over a decade ago. I stopped him then and asked about his lessons. He immediately started teaching me words in Spanish for things around me. He finally pointed at the lake and said in English, “This…is my classroom”. I looked for him again for years but never saw him until yesterday when there he was resting on a bench. I asked him if I could study with him even though I had no immediate need to study Spanish. He said he has no students anymore because everyone learns from computers now. Today was our first lesson. We walked very slowly around the lake for two hours and he pointed out details of things around us and translated each of them into Spanish and had me repeat each one. “Most people,” he said, “come here and see nothing. They don’t take the time to really look at anything. I teach you more than just Spanish.” Indeed.
How many of us would take the risk to walk around in public stating to the world “I offer something…you might not want it but I am offering it” the way Leonardo did? And even after his student base vanished? He just kept walking, waiting, hoping. Incredible tenacity, and courage, especially in an era of quick response and immediate validation.
He is a symbol for me of defining your OWN path through what matters most to you, rather than waiting for others to do it for you. He was out there walking, for years. We just didn’t run into one another until yesterday. Number of pupils: 1.
posted on Jun 03, 2015
NPR ran a story yesterday about the recent spike in cholera cases in Haiti. This was a follow up to their story last week about cholera being on the rise. Then today, a major story on ProPublica broke about the Red Cross wasting hundreds of millions of dollars in Haiti since the quake.
As I travel the world, the thing I hear most often is “I want to do something but I just don’t know what”. One Hundred For Haiti’s Rural Water Project saves lives. And we can only make that happen over the next five years with help from people, organizations, businesses, schools, bands, and so on who step up and spread the word and also donate. We are as DIY as can possibly be. All labor for the projects is Haitian. No one makes money from One Hundred For Haiti and no money is wasted. We do what we can, when we can, with the resources we have. We do not have million dollar donors like the Red Cross and other inflated organizations. Our budget is small and bare bones. But we make things happen while others waste time and money on bureaucracy.
In the next few weeks, in addition to the water project, we want to launch a major anti-rape initiative to educate people about child sexual assault in rural communities throughout the south of Haiti where child assaults are on the rise. We can only do these things when people step up and help. If you want to be involved, and make a real change in the world in a place most people have forgotten about, the time is now. Check out our website at: http://www.onehundredforhaiti.org. Be in touch with ideas, and more importantly action, anytime.
Yesterday’s story: http://tinyurl.com/npr-cholera1
Last week’s story: http://tinyurl.com/npr-cholera2
ProPublica expos√© on Red Cross: