“K-ROCK Lives!”

Intro from Jay Allison: Jen Trynin is a rock star. Sort of. Almost. In "K-Rock Lives," she tells about her flirtations with fame, her strategic errors, and her adventures in bad-ass commercial rock radio studios too early in the morning. It’s radio about radio, words about music with music amid the words. Jen came to Transom (via our friend Jonathan Katz) because she’s interested in words and music. In fact, she organizes a Boston music/reading event called Earfull where writers have to take turns reading stories on the same stage with rockers playing energetically and somehow hold everyone’s attention. In a bar. It’s an even tougher crowd than you Internet streaming audio types. This piece was recorded on a very nice vintage Neumann microphone in the excellent studios of QDivision, and mixed by me on one of the humble Transom ProTools workstations.

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Listen to “K-ROCK Lives!”

Notes From Jen Trynin

I’ve been working, on and off, for the past three years on a book about my experiences in the music business. I’m going to call it “Everything I’m Cracked Up to Be” or “How to Fail in the Music Business and Still Walk Away with a Million Dollars” or “Sleeping My Way to the Top (and I Do Mean Sleeping).”

Photo by Steve Latham
Photo: Steve Latham

It was 1994, the days of Pearl Jam and Nirvana, used corduroys, and T-shirts with strange logos. It was post-Liz Phair, mid-Courtney Love, and just shy of Alanis Morissette. After seven long years of slogging it out in the Boston music scene, I suddenly became the object of one of the most heated major label bidding wars of the year. One day I was playing opening slots at local clubs; the next I was “taking meetings” with the heads of every major label I’d ever heard of. One minute I was a waitressing-desktop-publisher, dropping knives and deleting commas; the next I was signed to Warner Bros. Records, on the radio, on TV, in Rolling Stone, and on the cover of Billboard magazine. My future was set, they told me. I was about to become a big star. But that didn’t happen.

The book I’m working on is the story of what did happen during my brief life in the music business: my success and subsequent failure, and why I left after three short years. This isn’t a music biz “kiss-and-tell” book. It’s just a story about a girl who got what she asked for.

What you’re hearing here on Transom is an edited excerpt from my story.

Additional support for this work provided by

Open Studio Project

with funding from the

Corporation for Public Broadcasting

Jen Trynin

About
Jen Trynin

Jen Trynin received her degree in creative writing from Oberlin College. She then embarked on a career in Rock 'N' Roll, releasing two records on Warner Bros. (Cockamamie and Gun Shy Trigger Happy) which culminated in a near collision with full-on Rock Super Stardom. After taking some time off, she's currently playing guitar in the rock band Loveless and has recently returned to writing prose. Her short story "Pants on Fire" appears in the Spring 2001 edition of the Charles River Review and she has read two of her essays on WBUR/NPR's "Here and Now." Jen is also working hard on a memoir of her wacky days in the music business. A native of New Jersey, Jen now lives in the Boston area.

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  • Jay Allison

    5.08.03

    Reply
    K-Rock Lives!

    Jen Trynin is a rock star. Sort of. Almost. In "K-Rock Lives," she tells about her flirtations with fame, her strategic errors, and her adventures in bad-ass commercial rock radio studios too early in the morning. It’s radio about radio, words about music with music amid the words.

    Jen came to Transom (via our friend Jonathan Katz) because she’s interested in words and music. In fact, she organizes a Boston music/reading event called Earfull where writers have to take turns reading stories on the same stage with rockers playing energetically and somehow hold everyone’s attention. In a bar. It’s an even tougher crowd than you Internet streaming audio types.

    This piece was recorded on a very nice vintage Neumann microphone in the excellent studios of QDivision, and mixed by me on one of the humble Transom ProTools workstations.

  • helen woodward

    5.12.03

    Reply
    hello jen

    Thanks for this insight into the pop star part of your life to date. Did you expect this kind of episode when it all began? were the other 40 + cities and pr scenarios as trying as the one you described? do you think differently now about the music biz? or if the same thing happened tomorrow with the band Loveless would you leap at it. In other words, apart from the money (which I hope there was lots of) what was good about the experience?
    thanks

  • helen woodward

    5.13.03

    Reply
    Tell me helen…?

    May I call you Helen?
    Only if I can call you helen, helen?
    Sure you can, great, knock yourself out.
    I will; Ok then So Helen, what’s the name of that little jewel you just posted on the discussion boards?
    It’s called "Im feeling lonely"….

  • bw

    5.14.03

    Reply
    drum stop drum stop drum stop

    the pacing of this piece is really really incredible.. did it come naturally? or did you two experiment..

  • Joshua Barlow

    5.14.03

    Reply
    I am a DJ and I’ve Got Believers…

    I enjoyed the story, and think you have a good voice for storytelling. But, since we are here to critique as well as applaud, here’s my 2 cents.

    This piece reminds me of radio interview i did for a dance piece I wrote in the mid-nineties. Though the dance company had sent plenty of advance material to give the DJ something to talk about, somehow he had found out and was fixated on the fact my old band used to open for the GOO-GOO Dolls in Buffalo. He refused to shut up about it.

    "What were they like?"
    "Were they cool before the big hit?"
    "You keep in touch?"
    "Do you think the Goo Goo Dolls have influenced your music at all?"

    Keep in mind, I was there to promote a new ballet concert and, most importantly, I really-really-really hate the Goo-Goo Dolls. Really. They suck. Big time. For sure…

    Anyhoo, to sum up, DJs are not consistently intelligent, well-prepared, or insightful – even in public radio – AND the Goo Goo Dolls suck. DJs Dumb, Goo Goo Dolls Suck. Chant it like a mantra.

    But what about you? As the piece began, you confessed to being more than a little bit hungover and ill prepared for an early morning interview. You were, it seems, at least for that morning, the stereotypical Rockstar that all the DJs joke about when you leave the building.

    I’m not a glutton for other people’s self effacement, and I know you continued to touch upon this as the piece progressed, but I wanted to hear more about how easy it is to become a stereotype in the music industry. Or perhaps, how hard it is NOT to become one. How, on occasion, you are just as bad as the neanderthal DJ who left the studio mid performance.

    OK, maybe not that bad. But I felt, since this piece seemed to be about disillusion and rude awakenings to the reality of being in the business of popular entertainment – there needed to be a little more self examination to make it earnest in the way you intended.

    I could also be full of crap. You tell me.

  • Jen Trynin

    5.15.03

    Reply
    hey from Jen
  • Jen Trynin

    5.15.03

    Reply
    so this is how this thing works

    I’ve never done one of these online things before. Let’s see if this works. Thanks for those who wrote in about my piece. I can’t address all of the good questions at this moment because I have to take care of a (crying, usually) baby in a matter of minutes. However, Josh makes a great point about how, in that particular scene, I was kinda being stereotypical. And, in fact, a large portion of and perspective of the book I’m working on looks at just that: who are we, just as ourselves, in a vacuum, opposed to who we are when others are watching. IE, if a "rock star" falls in the forest but no one hears her fall, does she really exist? In many ways, this is kinda at the heart of the whole book.
    Just before I sign off for now, I actually kinda love your riff, Josh, about being interviewed by someone who’s really interested in someone else, someone you know. I actually was interviewed once by someone who thought I was completely someone else. Again, in the context of the whole book I’m working on, the actual scene that this K-rock peice was taken from addresses a lot of things to do with the music industry (like the record company spending all this money to promote a single but then, at these important and relatively "free" moments, the DJ (in this case) completely blows a chance to really help out the artist.
    I’m not being particularly articulate this morning. I hope you get my meaning. I’ll try to address the other comments later on.
    thanks for writing and thinking about the piece.
    PS: as far as "earnestness," I’m certainly never trying to be that.

  • chelsea

    5.15.03

    Reply
    Round two

    Hi Jen,

    Thank you for your energetic and entertaining story.

    Are you ready to start this all over again? I imagine once you hit the publicity trail for your memoir you will once again find yourself in similar situations. It’ll be interesting though to distinguish how the media treats writers from rock stars.

    As a writer do you feel in any way that you are risking your memoir by excerpting a passage and adapting it to radio? Do you think that this experience will in some way affect your writing process? Or since this is really just a sliver cut away from a panoramic shot–in terms of writing –will you be able to remain immune from whatever feedback you will get on this piece?

  • Jen Trynin

    5.15.03

    Reply
    wow

    Another thoughtful comment/question.

    I’ve done a number of readings here in Boston which are excerpted specifically to be read aloud (obviously) as this piece was. Because I’m not the most experienced writer and because I’ve never tried to write a book before, I’ve really appreciated receiving the kind of immediate feedback I’ve gotten from the readings (and workshops I’ve been involved in).

    However, yes. I do feel I’m risking something by doing this. It’s hard not to become kind of self-conscious sometimes. Also, in the carving up of the excerpted pieces, sometimes I lose or change the thread of the "scene" which confuses me later when I put the whole thing back together again for the "real scene" in the book.

    However, when I was writing songs before, I used to play out all the time, often performing new songs the very day I completed them (initially completed them) and I appreciated being able to immediately feel if a song was working or wasn’t – and if it wasn’t, sometimes I could figure out why. In the same way, a friend of mine read a piece of mine the other night at a reading and I was able to watch/listen to audience reactions and I realized where a turn in a scene really wasn’t working at all. I think you have to be a genius or something to be immune to feedback, and, well, ‘nough said on that.

    I hope I’ve at least partially answered your questions.

  • Jen Trynin

    5.15.03

    Reply
    to make a long story short

    Thanks for your questions. Basically, the answers are long and complicated and that’s basically why I’ve ended up writing this book (ehh, I mean AM writing this book…). Honestly, I think I was ridiculously naive about a lot of things going into that whole experience, esp about the music business. I really didn’t know a whole lot more than your average person who wasn’t in music at all. I knew plenty about doing stuff locally. But once it went onto the next level, once I lost everyday control of the whole thing, I felt pretty lost and overwhelmed. There was plenty of great stuff about the experience – even the "bad stuff" was great because everything felt so thoroughly engrossing. I learned a lot about myself (both things I did and did not want to know). I love playing with Loveless. I love not being the boss or having all the responsibility. It’s fun to just show up, turn up, and play, drink a few beers, and go home. That’s the best I can do right now. Please, if you’re interested in all this stuff, if/when my book comes out, buy it. Thanks.

  • Jen Trynin

    5.15.03

    Reply
    pacing

    I wrote the excerpt but Jay Allison is the one who put the whole thing together; he produced the piece. I’m glad you like it. You’d have to ask him about the specifics of the pacing.

  • nancy robins

    5.16.03

    Reply
    cockamamie’s baby

    hey, Jen, you’re rocking in the chat room and rocking the baby – [she] should be proud. So are we. Don Giaavanni and Leporello.

  • Sydney Lewis

    5.16.03

    Reply

    Hello, Jen-
    Curious as to whether your song and book writing process is the same in terms of what you’re paying attention to at what point — flow, coherence, arc, etc. Do you write many drafts of small sections or go for broke and then come back for a second go-round?

    Did the pacing of this piece match what you heard in your head when you selected the excerpt?

  • Jay Allison

    5.16.03

    Reply
    Pacing

    I’m glad anybody noticed the mix. It was fun to do. The limitation — always nice to have limitations — was that there could really be only one element other than Jen’s writing. Her song. So, the trick was to get it in different forms. One is from the CD. Another other is just drum and guitar tracks from her multi-track master. The last version is one she recorded acoustically for our friend Jonathan Katz who put us in touch to begin with. Plus, she did some simple guitar bumpers over drums, which were recorded at QDivision in Boston, where we also recorded Jen’s tracks which sound awfully nice, don’t they? At Transom, we often get narration recorded in the apartment building hallway on a Radio Shack lavalier. Jen was recorded in a pefectly baffled studio on a vintage Neumann U-47.

    So, the pacing… I tend toward elegant cross-fades and subtle backtimes. The choice for this one was to make it abrupt and jumpy, like the wrong side of bed. I like the way it came out. The first mix was even more choppy — e.g. I left in Jen’s singing breath leading straight to her following spoken sentence — and maybe a little over the top. Jen had suggestions for smoothing it out , which was probably smart since it was drawing too much attention to itself. But it was fun.

  • Jen Trynin

    5.22.03

    Reply
    Sydney Lewis response

    Good questions. I’ve always kind of followed my nose in both areas, for better and for worse, depending. I’ve always felt a strong and obvious relationship between pop song writing and the writing of short stories, arc-wise especially. Hard to articulate exactly what I mean. But concerning book writing, I have no idea. That’s been one of the biggest obstacles to my finishing/writing the book I’ve been working on. I feel pretty comfortable writing individual scenes, but 200 pages that hang together and SAY something? Yikes.

    And I do both: write drafts of small sections and do the go for broke thing. You get different perspectives if you engage in each.

    As far as the pacing of the piece matching what was in my head, I’d read this particular excerpt out loud before (as in during public readings) so I had a pretty good idea of the whole thing. However, Jay Allison (who produced the piece) edited it and gave me some direction that was different from what I’d originally done. It’s not way way different but I think some of the new things we did together made the piece much stronger.

    Hope these things answer your questions and thanks for writing in.

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