John Andrew Fredrick has spent the last three decades as the sole constant in one of music’s most perfect and unheralded rock outfits, the black watch. Using the Beatles as a tracing template, Fredrick has applied a kitchen-sink approach to the album at hand since his 1988 debut, St. Valentine, the opening volley in a catalog that would ultimately encompass 15 albums and five EPs, all of which inspired varying levels of critical halleleujahs and a deafening chorus of crickets at the nation’s cash registers. Fredrick will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our band new feature with him.
I had a mini-stroke two years ago now, after a simply disastrous national tour. Two former TBW members rejoined the band on account of bassist Chris Rackard and other guitarist Tyson Cornell were: a) sane and knew what we were up against; b) busy working real jobs and couldn’t go. The ironic thing is that the tour would have been great had they been able to ruin their lives a little by going, but instead these two former members ruined mine, and the tour, by bitching and backbiting and generally behaving like petulant children and talking unreal smack behind my back the entire tour—they even brawled onstage at this one gig in Austin where our poor label head Luann Williams was so looking forward to showing us off to what turned out to be a great crowd that was treated to a real show, as it were. We turned round at the East Coast and drove back across country rather than enduring any more abuse from said former members, who, in all fairness, I asked too much of and never should have expected them to do something they could never in million years do. Another of our former label heads, who knows them both very well, said to me, “John, what did you expect with those two? I know you love those guys, but get through a tour? They’ve never finished anything in their lives. Not even breakfast!” Weird thing is, we were all of us, for 20-years-plus, the best of best friends. Best friends, horrible bandmates. And the price I paid for trying to make it work was, two days after the nightmare had ended, a new one began and I woke up feeling dizzy and hungover after a night of not-drinking and went to hospital and the opthalmalogist said, upon examining me, “Hey, it’s not your eyes, it’s in your brain,” and they sent me to emergency, and as it happened I’d had an occluded nerve in the back of my head that occasioned a stroke and had to go on all manner of medication, wear an eye patch in order to see (what fun that was—driving in L.A. with one eye!), not read for four months (that was killing) and not drink at all. Now, I love beer and scotch and tequila. I mean, I love drinking. Daydrinking. And I still do. But now I only get one or maybe two pints a day or a finger or two of whiskey and I’ll tell you—it tastes so good, feels so good when you only get a rumor as it were of something. It’s sort of hampered me in terms of my fiction writing because I am used to having a fat glass of something in order to unlock the vaults where my characters live. Now I do it with Earl Grey tea. I sort of get a serous tea buzz going and start dreaming up sentences and scenarios. Daydrinking’s sort of like going to matinees: You feel like you’re getting away with something while all the world’s at work. Writing and recording is intensely hard work—ask any artist—but it doesn’t feel like it because you lose yourself in it so often. I can’t imagine life without making songs and stories. Or drinking beer and scotch and tequila … in snippets and slowly, savoring every sip.