“Now there comes a time for a man to walk away…”
When do you know that enough is enough? That something is over, a chapter of your life is coming to an end and that it’s time to let go and move on? When do you know that the end is nigh? For me, it happened on a Sunday evening in May, when I’d normally have been stuck in band practice, drenched in sweat, screaming into a microphone while being deafened by a wall of incredibly fast Hardcore noise. But this particular Sunday, for some real-life, adult reason that I’ve since forgotten, I wasn’t trapped in the sweat lodge running through the band’s set list at Mach 10. There was no practice and I was making the most of it.
The days were getting longer and the sun’s heat was gradually diminishing; I was savouring a bottle of Jones Soda while watching The Legacy of Arrow Development and it suddenly hit me. I didn’t want to do it anymore. I was happy where I was, doing what I was doing and my days of playing punk rock were over. And at that moment, I realised that I was completely and totally, forever and ever amen, done with the band thing.
According to tenets of long held wisdom, the truth will set you free and the truth was that I just wasn’t enjoying playing punk rock. My heart wasn’t it, I’d lost my focus, forgotten why I’d thought it would be fun to go back and do it all over again after a double decade hiatus and the reasons I was doing it, from a personal perspective, had become increasingly blurred. Originally, I’d wanted to play Hardcore again simply to prove that I still could. That I had enough gas left in my tank to take one more swing at it before stepping off the stage and turning the amplifiers off for good.
And I’d made myself, and Gav who I formed AxTxOxTx (otherwise known as All Time Old Time) with, a promise before we even started to seriously think about it. We’d do it for twelve months, record some songs, play some shows and then get the heck out of Hardcore Town before most folks even knew we’d arrived. It had, at the time, seemed like a good plan.
The thing with plans though is that they change. They don’t mean to, they just do. Blame it on whatever you like, circumstance, fate, the divergent destinies of the souls involved or just the way things happen to pan out on any given Sunday, the rules that govern such things are malleable and as such, even the best laid plans of punks and men swiftly disappear down unforeseen rabbit holes almost as soon as they’re, well, you know, planned.
The first mistake I made was writing a set of lyrics that were directed at a specific individual and his behaviour; words that highlighted what I and others saw as the rank hypocrisy of someone who’d elevated himself to a self-elected position of “power” and had adopted, and started living by the mantra, “Do what I say, not what I do”.
At first I thought it was sort of funny, that I was just poking the bear and that maybe he’d see it the same way and laugh at the ridiculousness of the whole thing with me and the rest of the band. But he didn’t. And when face to face at a show we played, I sang / screamed/ shouted the words straight at him, I saw something in his eyes that I’ll never forget. Hurt. It had never even occurred to me that by writing those lyrics, I’d tried to force my ideas on someone else through mockery and by belittling the choices and decisions that they’d made. There’s a word for that kind of behaviour, it’s called bullying. For the sake of a cheap pop and an easy laugh, I’d become a bully and after being gut punched by that realisation, every single time I sang that song, live or in practice, a little part of my soul died because I knew I’d become one of the things that I loathed most in the world. The worst thing about it though, was that I lost a friend. He blamed me for that song. And you know what? He was right. It was my fault. I’m sorry.
My second mistake was not taking the passage of time into account and adjusting to it accordingly. The last time I’d fronted a band, I was in my early twenties and I’d been able to jump around, bounce up and down and take a kicking and keep on ticking. But that was then and this was now, and the intervening years had, physically at least, not been kind. Middle aged spread and old injuries that were mostly the result of a misspent youth had finally caught up me and didn’t just gently nag me anymore, they screamed, shouted and cajoled me at every, and any, given chance. And while I had Devon Morf and Ray Cappo inspired visions of flying through the sky like some aerial superhero and interacting with the audience, in actuality I could maybe get a foot or so off the ground at best and large groups of people are not exactly my forte, which made any sort of interaction with the folks who came to see us somewhat difficult. Although, given the number of people who actually came to our shows or turned out to see us, I really shouldn’t have worried about the crowd thing. It was never a problem.
My third mistake was the worst though. I forgot about Ohana. I let the band come before my family. One of the last shows that we played, an afternoon matinee was on the same day as a cheer competition that my daughter was competing in. I chose to play the show and I hated every second of it. I knew I shouldn’t have been there, I knew I should have been perched on cramped, plastic seating in an arena that had seen better days applauding my daughter and her friends and cheering them on to victory instead of playing fast songs about rollercoasters, Dungeons and Dragons and Ric Flair to the usual miscreants and a smattering of strangers. Ohana means family. Ohana means that nobody gets left behind. And that day, I left myself and my daughter behind to try and prove a self-indulgent, way past it’s sell by date point and I swore I would never let that happen again. It was the beginning of the end. I just hadn’t realised it.
Three really is a magic number, as it was the culmination of those factors (and a multitude of other less important things) that on a Sunday in late May while watching a documentary about the company who helped build Disneyland made me realise that my days of playing punk rock had, at long last, come to a close. So I hung up my microphone, turned off the stage lights and walked away. It was both the hardest, and easiest, decision that I’ve ever made. And I’ve never been happier. Tim Cundle
If, for whatever reason, you’d like to check out AxTxOxTx out and download everything that we ever recorded for absolutely nothing, then hit this link