A cold day in November, 2004.Â Dasher and I were supposed to be filming an episode of Transcendent Television. But it was dificult to maintain focus. During the filiming of me casting my vote in that year’s presidential elections, I had commented to a camera man, on camera no less,Â who i thought would win. I casually replied “C’mon man.” “WellÂ what if Bush wins?” he asked me. “It’s not going to happen,”Â I responded. How could it? I mean, serioulsy. How could it even be close? Didn’t most of the country watch the debates? Certainly that would have beenÂ the final nail in the coffin of this dark season of Howdy Doody goneÂ mad, this shameless lame duck masquerading as a president. Reputation andÂ even actions aside, surely the debates showedÂ how close to mentally challenged the man was, how insincere, how incompetent, how utterly incapable; and more than that certainlyÂ it wasÂ clearÂ from that point on how sold out he was to the higher powers that be — and not those that reside somewhere near the pearly gates through which at someÂ point we all must pass, but theÂ greedy and sinister dark powers thatÂ rest right here on planet earthÂ lurking behind corners, barking orders at men like GW as if they wereÂ dogs or children.Â The results of theirÂ demands all in the name of money or oil or other natural resources, or simply more corporate power, and sadlyÂ many at the expense of much innocent life, more losses of civil rights and liberties, and far less happiness than we are used to in this great great country of ours.
Â Surely the debates told the story clearly enough to most american people that Kerry, despite his constant flip-flopping and teetering, would win by a landslide. There was simply no way the people, the people, who are the people? would vote Bush and Cheney back into office again. Perhaps another CEO job for Cheney with some giant insensitive multi-national of avarice. Bush could run another baseball team perhaps or continue his record-setting executionsÂ in the great old state of texas for all we cared. We’re Manhattanites. If Texans want to kill each other in record numbers proving once again that the old adage “two wrong don’t make a right” does not apply to the barbarian classes, let them. But for God and Country’s sake get these men out of American government before they destroy every last bit of progress we have made over the last two-hundred years. Â
And so it was thought.Â So it was hoped. “So what are you going to do if Bush IS re-elected?” the cameraman continued to chide me. I didn’t see it as a possiblity. I had greatly over-estimated the perceptual abilities and the intelligence of my fellow citizens. But i hadn’t a clue. Yet. “I dont know. Probably move to France.” What else could we do? Endure? We had just endured four miserable years. And they were much worse than we ever could have imagined. The Bush Cheney regime had already murdered over three-hundred thousand Iraqi people in cold bloodÂ by inititatingÂ a fake warÂ on “terror” by attacking an innocent country in broad daylight for all the world to see. IÂ toured the streets of many cities and towns all over the world during those years and was constantly reminded of how truly hated this man was by the people of the world. I was ashamed to be an American when i travelled abroad; not because of anything we did… and surely we have done a lot to be ashamed of over the last five hundred years, but because of what we didn’t do. We allowed a corporate-controlled puppet regime to steal the most sacred office in our government right under our noses and we did nothing about it. Many of the most civilized nations on the earth were more than merely frightened of America now. They were downright disgusted. At its arrogance, its apathy, its insensitivity to the crises it was causing in the middle east; and the potential crises it could cause the rest of the world who lived along its borders.
America that three-hundred million headed monster that looks right into theÂ lens of the world camera and says ‘fuck me, eat me, drink me, buy me’ and without batting an eyelash ends its shallow greedy sexist sales-pitch by saying ‘or I’ll kill you.’ That became the new slogan of the red white and blue. “If you’re not with us then you’re with them.” I believe that was the way GW put it on international television to make it clear that we had all gone truly mad or we’re being held by force against our will, prisoners within the walls of our own once-proud nation. Held captive by a band of renegade theives and killers who looked an awful lot like mainstream middle-american corporate hustlers and used car salesmen. In each and every country that i visited in those four years the first question that i was always asked when i was introduced as an american was inevitably “How do you feel about Bush? How do you deal with Bush being your president? Do a alot of people like him there? How did he become your president?”
What intrigued me the most was how quickly the sentiment changedÂ during those four short years. Travelling abroad as an american once meant being greeted with open arms, with adulation, with envy, with giant smiles and anticipated high fives. Now people in foreign lands seemed to feel sorry for us. We appeared enigmatic to them. Sad, beaten down, defeated, to be pitied. We have an alleged democracy. And yet it was clear to the rest of the civilized world that our democracy had failed us miserably in the stolen election of 2000. “Why didn’t they count all the votes?” people would ask me referring to the cluster-fuck of Florida that sealed our fate. “How can you have a Supervisor of Elections in one of your States who is clearly partisan and who worked as one candidate’s election campaign? Shouldn’t that be illegal?Â Why did you all allow all those black voters to be denied their right to vote? Shouldn’t you have a revote? We would here,” they would tell me in a cafe or restaurant or bar.
When i hadn’t a reply except to sit there lookingÂ dejected and helpless and saddened by our sorry state of electoral affairs they came to quickly realize that we now, American’s of every race color age and religion, are finally experiencing what most of the other great nations of the world haveÂ at one point or anotherÂ in their own countriesÂ dueÂ toÂ their much longer histories. A totalitarian, nearly facist government thinly disguised as a democratic republic, one without ethics or morals or regard for its people. One without respect for laws,Â world opinion, human rights, or theÂ seeing eye of the international community. Worse for everyone, one without respect for the truth or concern for human life. Not even the environment got away. So we endured.
But good news and better times were on the horizon. Kerry was certainly still a “company man.” Sold out long ago.Â But the fact that he was both a war heroÂ and then aÂ warÂ protestor spoke volumes about his character.Â Could you ask for a better manÂ as president of such a rich and powerful nation? Probably not. At least not then. And we didn’t have timeÂ to do so. We needed to get him in regardless of his shaky stand onÂ many of the issues.Â In time, his character had already proven, he would settle into the issues and make the right decisions. OnceÂ all the campaign consultants and yes men and pollsters cashed their checks and fled for the hills, he would start setting things right again. If anything he would make a damn good bandage on the open wound that America had turned into till we found a good surgeon.
Or so we thought.Â But something insideous transpired that fateful evening. The guerilla regimeÂ that had overtaken the white house had run a nasty campaign of childish pranks, hate-filled and jingoistic, sexist, arrogant,Â deceptive, and most of all ignorant. These thugs were white bread. All the calories withoutÂ any taste or nutritive value. Instead of showing respect and honor to the man who should be king and then debating him intelligently about the issues, as any real president would do,Â GW and his frightfully senselessÂ cabal of liars and theivesÂ mercilously attackedÂ the quiet contemplative war hero and congressman called Kerry. They chose not to speak of issues, but only of fear and terror.
They used what in philsophy, logic,Â and debate is known asÂ fallacies of consequence — appealing to false consequences of fear rather thanÂ proving any particular point. If their campaign were a doctoral thesis they would have received an F. In a debate they wouldÂ have been booed by the audience and docked a point and warned not to make the same mistake again. But they did it over and over and over again. To the point where the only issue seemed to be terror. How much terror can we as american people inflict on the world around us so as not to have the same done to us. Let us kill for you so we will not be killed. We will terrorize every country who gets in our way in the name of fighting terror. We cannot tell you who the enemy is, but we will kill every last standing man woman or child until we are sure that they are dead and we are safe. Let us rape this land beforeÂ our enemies do it first.Â Fuck the envirmonent, we need the money. Fuck healthcare. If you aren’t wealthy enough to afford it, you’re better off dead. Education? Who needs it? Look at us! We barely speak english and we’re ruling the most poweful nation in the world.
WithÂ the flesh and guts of recent victims dangling from their jaws and fresh blood smeared across their smarmy dogged faces they appeared on countless news programs spitting out lies so obvious andÂ blatant that many newsÂ shows would ask them to thier faces why they kept lying and then run short segmentsÂ highlighting them repeating the sameÂ words of deceit over and over again to show them how many times they lied: “we beleive Iraq isÂ harboring weapons of mass destruction and terrorists and if we don’t continueÂ our crusade to conquer that land and its people we will be unsafe here in america.” Cheney would stare coldly back into the eyes of the journalists interviewing him and report that he neverÂ said anything about Iraq harboring weapons of mass destruction. And then theÂ journalist would replay five to ten different scenes where on differentÂ episodes he said just that.Â As if to say,Â ’Sir you are the vice president of the united states and thereforeÂ out of respect for this office i will not aruge with you about this but rather i will let you argue with yourself. The peopleÂ have clearly seen that you either have no respect for the truth, or youÂ are simply ignorant of the concept itself. But either way you are a liar and worse yet you are using these lies to kill innocent people in ourÂ name.
On and on it went. And by election day 2004 the good kind working people of this great land who huddle in the safe center portion of its belly were so confused that many did indeed cast a vote forÂ theÂ warpig butchers and henchmen of the giant corporate monoliths whose intention it was to eat these same poor people’s children for breakfast or maybe just keep sending them off to fight their battles for them in some foreign country undeserving of yet another attack by the wicked american imperialists. Frightened or just confused?Â In the end who knows.Â Â ButÂ it happened. And america went from pitiable to pitifulÂ to despicableÂ in the eyes of the world community. Â Â Â Â Â Â
So instead of working that day following the election Dasher and I sat in the park. We were speechless. Shocked beyond words. A freind stopped by who was doing a piece about how New Yorkers were responding to the news for a local paper. We spent an hour or so together in mourning. Our camraderie in that moment founded upon a rather sorrowful state of affairs. Less than a year later my friends and I would hear news that one of our own from the high school days had been killed in action in Iraq. He told his family and friends that he volunteered for the marines after the US government announced that there was a clear connection between Iraq and the attacks on 9/11. Even though we tried to explain to him that there was no connection between Iraq and 9/11 he didn’t believeÂ us because he had seen them say it on TV countless times. He felt it was the least he could do.Â His mother spoke at the funeral and said that theÂ best way for us to “support the troops was to get them the hell outÂ of there because they have no business being there in the first place.” It was the first timeÂ I heard applause at a funeral.
Original Article by Lee Zimmerman
Originally published in New Times Magazine: November 4, 2004
Indian summer can be lovely in New York City, but for Ed Hale there was little time to savor the sights. He and his band Transcendence were in town for the annual CMJ Music Marathon. And that found Hale talking up more record industry players than a Jehovah’s Witness who’s been handed a quota.
“New York was amazing for us,” he reports a few days after the show, during a brief respite at the Manhattan apartment where he now resides when he’s not in Miami.
Indeed, it was a busy weekend. On Friday, October 15, Transcendence performed on a seven-band bill at the Acme Underground, playing just before headliner (and comparatively unknown) New Jersey hardcore band Start the End. “We spent most of our time rehearsing … then we played the show and had a bunch of labels there, and we spent another day doing photo shoots and having meetings,” Hale recalls, citing Atlantic, Epic, and Geffen among the companies that came calling.
This routine isn’t new for Hale. Since founding Transcendence in 1999, the band’s chief singer and songwriter has relentlessly multi-tasked on its behalf, gigging by night alongside rotating drummers Ricky Mazzi and Bill Sommer, guitarist Fernando Perdomo, bassist Roger Houdaille, and new pianist Allan Gabay, while taking care of business by day. He also runs the record label TMG that has released Transcendence’s three albums — 2002’s Rise And Shine, last year’s Sleep With You, and the brand new Nothing Is Cohesive. His persistence has resulted in a substantial amount of national attention without any major label backing.
“We decided to start our own label and stop trying to depend on getting a record deal … since we didn’t know if that was ever going to really happen,” explains Hale. “We have indie radio promoters around the country who picked us up after the Sleep With You album charted at number 23 on Billboard’s U.S. Alternative Specialty Show chart. They started calling us.
“Same thing with publicists. They would call up and say, öHey what’s up with this band?’ and then I would pretend to be some big time record company guy on the other end of the phone and cut deals with them on the band’s behalf. They never knew they were speaking to a member of the group.”
“Ed’s a smart guy,” says Sommer. “He treats the business side of the band as a business, which most bands fail to do. He’s on the phone all the time, making contacts, and putting our music into the hands of people that need to hear it.”
Those that have heard Transcendence have taken notice. Two years ago, Rise And Shine helped them win “Best Unsigned Artist of 2002″ in the notable South Florida music competition Big Time Talent Show.
Transcendence, from left: Bill Sommer, Allan Gabay, Roger Houdaille, Ed Hale, and Fernando Perdomo
But it was Sleep With You that proved to be the Transcendence album that caught the ears of the rest of the country. “Yes, it’s deluded and occluded, but it still rocks like nothing else out there,” noted the review. The lead single from the album, “Superhero Girl,” received airplay on more than 400 college radio stations, and was featured on the sampler CD in the February issue of CMJ New Music Monthly magazine. The accolades led to a national distribution deal and management contract with Xtreme Music Group, an entertainment company in Indianapolis, Indiana. It is lining up a European tour for Transcendence tentatively scheduled to begin next spring.
Transcendence has long boasted a strong fan base in South Florida, even before its first album was released. “Our CD release party for the Rise And Shine album had over 400 people there,” says Hale. Still, he admits that South Florida’s relatively small rock market frustrates the band.
“The fact that Transcendence is more popular in places like Gainesville and Long Island than their hometown Miami is personally not too surprising,” says Houdaille. “With South Florida’s radio not interested in spinning our single öSuperhero Girl’ and a local music scene which has yet to find audiences, I think the smartest way to go about things is what we are doing … focusing on the rest of the world.”
“Miami has an amazing group of world-class rock talent … but unless a band gets the hell out of there and plays for audiences in the rest of the country, it just isn’t going to happen,” adds Hale. “This was one of the first things the major labels started telling us when they would meet with us. They would tell us that, number one, we weren’t going to find a big enough audience in Miami making the kind of music we wanted to make, and two, that Miami is too far south to be a good touring base … that we needed to get our music out nationally.”
Hale also admits that Transcendence’s musical reach may have thwarted their attempts to connect with a major label. Sleep With You had its quirky Brit rock swagger, revealing a taste for glam-era David Bowie and T. Rex. Then there’s the mind-boggling mix summed up by the title of the new opus, Nothing Is Cohesive, a stunning collision of anthems that cull from Pink Floyd and Supertramp to U2, Coldplay, and Radiohead.
“In Transcendence, you have got a band of five very hyperactive, entirely obsessive, relatively insane guys with a severe case of ADD and an extreme passion for music all running around trying to make sense of everything they are listening to and wanting to create their own personal artistic statements. And so the chances of that translating into any two albums sounding remotely similar is going to be pretty slim,” says Hale.
Undeterred, Transcendence recently hunkered down at Miami’s famed Criteria Studios, laying down tracks for an album targeted for release next year. While Hale claims it will have more focus and even commercial appeal than their previous work, he insists the group will remain true to their muse. Or, as Perdomo puts it, “Look good and sound great.”