Sister Dawn 

Sister Dawn

I made an album called ‘The Family’ 

Actually it was the last album I’ve put out. 
Well unless you count the album I’m promoting now. But that album is 15 years old. 
‘Redemption’s Son’
Don’t think that correlation has been lost on me. 
The son of redemption. 
More synchronicity 

Obviously I have written about troubled family dynamics quite a lot 

But I always shrouded it to a degree. 
You ever read ‘Ham on Rye’ by Charles Bukowski?
If not you should. 
It’s his book about his abusive past. 

Another John Lennon to me

In that I was jealous of his ability to just write what happened. 

I guess I don’t have to be jealous anymore
‘The Family’
I think ‘The Family’ might have been like those cold tears I had with the walking meditations. 
A kind of leak. 

Where I was getting more of my story out and still trying to hold onto a civil scene with my actual family. 
They did not respond well to that album at all. 
It’s where this war started actually. 
I guess I started it. But I didn’t mean too. 
I actually thought of that album as a love letter to them. 
I thought I was celebrating some of the kooky narratives 
And extreme personalities. 
I think they’re interesting people. 
And I was trying, I guess, to build my life story thru music. 
Make it real enough

But it keep it vague enough. 
I was trying to make ‘ham on rye’ 

Or ‘ the plastic ono band’ without being ostracized. 
I failed at that. 

The ostracized part I mean. 
I think the albums pretty damn good. 
If you listen to ‘with your life’

It describes my dads abuse. 

The protagonist in that song. The voice. The perspective of the person is supposed to be my father. Singing to me. 

Whenever it was my father in the album, for some reason I chose falsetto. 

They called him Lightning ⛈ 

Is another example. 
I don’t know why I made that falsetto choice. But I like that choice. 

I like the evil being falsetto. 

Or as one of my old friends whose very much no longer my friend would say

“Falsetto is the sign of the pimp” 

(More on that nincompoop later. That’s right, you’re going down Charlie Brown, along with you half wit sister. Writing shit/smears on my Facebook wall. You stupid fucks. Hope you’re both gonna enjoy burning in hell….. ok calm down boy calm down. Is somebody getting triggered? Let’s go back to our scheduled program) 
Falsetto. My dad. It’s deeper than that. 

It has to do with gender confusion. 

Which I certainly have. 

Not really confusion so much as 

I just comfortably identify myself as a large part female. Not mostly female. I think I’m actually quite masculine. And enjoy both sides of my nature. Wouldn’t want to change it. 

It’s just like that inside of me. 

I’m not really confused or conflicted about it. I’d say I’m still mostly heterosexual but I’m certainly not straight. 
Anyway let’s just say and say nothing more about it for now. That choice of giving him the falsetto voice had a profound implication to me. Perhaps it did to him as well. I’ve got no idea. He never said one thing about the album accept that he was surprised it got good reviews. 
I had the album done for a long time before I could agree to let it get released. I actually shut the release down at one point as my family let me know in their way that if I put it out, that would be it. And it was. I did put it out. And now this. 
‘ Sister Dawn’ was the real menace here. 
I played the album for a friend of mine in Portland. Still a very good friend. A true friend. They are out there. But the numbers of the toxic types compared to the not toxic types are lying in my opinion. 

What do they say? 20 percent? I don’t know. 

In my opinion. This shit is like 50/50
But I realize due to my programming and extreme nature of my upbringing that my perspective here is certainly skewed. Get back to me in a year. Actually make it two. And I’ll be able to really give you the numbers. I got a lot of healing to do first. 

But anyway

‘Sister Dawn ‘ 
It’s a beautiful song. And my A and R guy at Vanguard Records 

(Who not only put out my Lou tribute album but asked me to make it in the first place )

Thought ‘Sister Dawn’ was the single. 
My friend in Portland after I played the album to him asked

“Has your family heard this? ”

I said not yet.

“I think I’m just gonna put it out and let it be what it is. What do you think? ” I asked

He said 

“You should at least let them hear it first”
He meant well. He just thought I had a more functional family than I did. 
But his words

“You should let them hear it first”

Sunk in

Went into the computer program of guilt in my head 

And after a long while. I think it was another year. 

I sent it to them thru a link in an email. 

With a note that said something like 
Hey guys

Just wanted you to hear my new album as it has some personal stuff in it 

But (I quickly went onto explain) is largely fictional and is gonna be presented that way. I hope you guys don’t have any problems with it and I hope you like it. Love Joe. 

The response. 

Dear god. 

Not good. 

So not good. And ‘sister Dawn’ was the main point of contention. 
My dad just stayed silent about all of it. Not one nice word. Not one. 

Same with my Mom, tho the title track is an obvious love letter to her/our family in WVA 


Not one nice word from her either 
And as far as my sister. The beast. (Don’t mean to insult beasts, sorry beasts) 

Oh god. She went in. And went nuts

And started a war which is still going on now. 
My mom came at me. 

They do this multiplayer attack thing. 

It’s them versus me and always has been. 

She said

” can’t you just take sister dawn off the record, it’s gonna be bad if you don’t. ”

” no mom, I can’t , it’s part of a piece and an important part, not only that it’s what my A and R guy (I was still working with Vanguard then. I’ve been signed and dropped from just about every record label. I’m signing up with real world again now. Going back in to be signed and dropped again. Just kidding) 
It’s what my A and R guy thinks is the single

” can’t you just change it to brother dawn?”

She went onto say
Brother Dawn?
My family is so fucking crazy. It’s unreal. I’m so fucking glad I’m away from them. They’re really some fucked up evil mitherfuckers. I hate to say it but it’s just the truth. My sisters jealousy of me or hatred or whatever just got too much for her to take I guess. 

Those last moves she made. They were over the top. 
(Susan you took the fucking gloves off you Fucking idiot. 

Didn’t you know who I am. Didn’t you know that I’m the smartest one in this family by a very comfortable margin. Why did you kill yourself? Why did you put a gun to your head and pull the trigger you pulled? And how does this very slow bullet feel? How does this slow bullet feel going into your brain and exploding all over the wall of you ignorance and toxic shame. I bet it feels none too good at all. 

You really didn’t know I’d fight back? You thought you were just gonna walk in my soul and shit and piss everywhere and I was just gonna stay a meek little bitch. Cause let’s face it( and I’ll own it) I have been the bitch, haven’t I? You talentless scum bag. I’m sorry your paintings suck. I’m sorry you are a nothing. I tried to elevate you. I tried to help you. I tried to protect you. And all you did was try and end me. Fuck you. Fuck you all the way. ) 
Calm down. Is somebody getting triggered again? 
That’s what the rage is like. I leave it in because. I want you to know the whole story. 
It’s not just namaste this and namaste that. 
I mean when healing from this, you certainly need to find and cultivate your “namaste. ”
But rage?

Can’t live without it. 

Not in a narc vortex of fear and cheap shots. 

Rage is the only thing we had to protect us. The codependent kind I mean. 
That’s how it works when you’re not allowed to express your basic emotions. They well up

And like a zit again. Explode. 

The narcs love this too

Cause it makes you look “crazy”

And then they have the explosive texts or phone call messages 

Or may even record an argument so they can show others just how “crazy” you are. 
Right around the same time your programming will be making you feel tremendous guilt for your aggressive display. However that guilt will be lying to you. 

But it’s doubly crazy making because a war is then created internally in you. 
It’s not like me to call someone “talentless” for instance. 

That’s the opposite of my core values. 

And I don’t even believe it. 

I think my sister has real talent. 

She just doesn’t cultivate it. Instead she plays games like these. 

There’s only so many hours in a day. 

To make stuff. To make really good stuff. You have to put those hours into the stuff you are making. 

Yesterday, I probably wrote for ten hours and played a show. 
But there’s no one on earth I’m currently trying to manipulate and control. 
A narc can never say that. NEVER. and that takes a lot of time and energy. Energy my sister should be putting into painting if she ever wants to get any good at it. 
But I digress 
Because you are cut off from your emotions and are programmed to never be able to express them in a healthy way. 
These (actually) somewhat healthy explosions (healthy in that at least the anger is getting out and it must go somewhere or else it will make disease) are really your soul and bodies way of finding a perverse equilibrium. 
But because they come out only when you’ve been pushed all the way to the brink

You invariably over reach. 

Over protect. Over insult. Yadda yadda yadda 

And then the guilt chip in your programming engages. 

And they know and even you know

It’s only a matter of time, before you go back and have to apologize to them for abusing you. 
Sorry Susan I said that shit about the slow bullet and all the other ugly things. You know that’s not really how I feel. It’s reflection of how you feel. And you are making me say it to you. That’s how this works. 

It’s sick like that. 

These are not good people. Don’t get it twisted. I’m writing about snakes now. 
You took the gloves off Susan. 
I’m not proud to say that I probably woulda stayed y’alls little bitch until dooms day, if you didn’t see your chance and take your shot. 
And hey

You can take this slow bullet and your plan to get me disowned right before they kick the bucket. Nice one. High five. You did it. 

Enjoy the whole kit and caboodle. You can have it. It ain’t much anyway. Chump change. Enjoy it. Sitting in a room by yourself with no one or nothing, cause that’s where your karma is gonna take you. 
She went in on me in the response to ‘The Family’ 

I could find the actual email but then this day would be triggered and shot. I ain’t doing that. Allow me to paraphrase from memory. 

I won’t add anything I promise. If anything I’ll soften it. The softy that I am. 
She wrote 

“I do have a problem with this. This is totally unfair and you were even unfair to Ethel. 

Ethel was my dads mom

The thing about Ethel


You can’t be unfair to Ethel. Ethel wasn’t kind. 

And how was I unfair to her ?

In ‘Lightning’ 

I guess it was the line

‘His wife was drunk but she still needed him

He brought her money and another bottle of gin’
My dad learned how to guzzle those manhattans into flurries of abuse from Ethel. 
The line my sister had a problem was beyond a soft ball considering. 

Ethel was abusive as hell to me when I was a kid. When it would be family dinner with her. She would get to go in on me all drunk. Took over for my dad. 

My dad would rage at her sometimes. Not in defense of me of course. Not ever from that. They’d be talking and he’d say

” I was a fat piece of shit. I felt like a gob of spit ”

Ethel was hard as a rock and as cold as one. 

She’d make fun of him. She’d make fun of us all. 

She was tough. She lived to 92 and just dropped dead one day. 
“You’re being unfair to Ethel. ”
And what was the line in Sister Dawn that made it enough to bring down my family?
‘Sister dawn

Last night you were wrong

When you grabbed him

By his arm

He hid away hid away hid away.’
It was a song I wrote directly from life

But in the context of that album

Where the narrators in the songs kept changing. Like a cast of characters in a stage play. And where at one point I’m a fighter pilot in ww 2 and the next I’m a mother singing to her son as with ‘when I look at you’ 

I explained that I’d say the whole thing was a work of fiction and what parent hasn’t grabbed their kids arm? I mean come on, it was hardly that edgy and in no way was it damning in the context of everything. But that wasn’t good enough for them. 
I guess I can say now that that album is pretty direct and fact based. 
I mean I made up the shit about my grandfather killing someone in Scotland and fleeing to america. You have to spice with excess drama. I mean look at Shakespeare for instance. 
But beyond a few things like that, it was really taken directly from stories I had heard told since time began. And stories that happened to me such as ‘with your life’ 

 I was shocked I guess at their reaction. 
But had no idea of what I was actually dealing with. How much they actually could still control me. 
Here’s how you know I’m not lying. 

Who would say they’ve been controlled by others when they haven’t? 

Unless someone was trying to get off in case against them, no one would. That’s who. 

It’s the epitome of losing your pride to accept and admit that to yourself , let alone others. 

I’m aware of the fact that by someone such as me admitting this, there could be quite a lot of benefit in that for quite a lot of other victims of this. 
I stopped the release. 

It was an unprecedented thing for me to do. 
I was pretty broken by then anyway

And not only by my family and “friends”

But by the music business and my ability to take another beating. Which for me looks like this. 

The total dismissal of my efforts from the culture. 

I mean I get good reviews but not in the big publications (not regularly anyway)

I get support from some great stations but not many and not enough to move the dial, or provoke a shift. Not yet anyway. 
With my family’s threat looming, combined with the intrinsic fear of putting any new creative work, and then the history of my albums largely being ignored, it wasn’t hard for my brain to say this to me. 
” I’m not gonna put out an album which will be ignored and then will destroy my relationship with my family, not now anyway. I need to build my strength first”
And like that. 

They won. 
But their victory wasn’t permanent 

I talked to Tchad 

And told him of my family’s concerns

He was confused by that I think. 

I understand how and why

If you don’t come from a narc family then it wouldn’t really make sense. 
I told my mom

“Imagine if susan had an art show and we all went to it, and there was a painting there about me somehow and I didn’t like it and then threw a temper tantrum and so then made her entire art show all about me. How fair would that be?”

My mom could duck and dive comments like that with the greatest of ease. 
And what I was hoping for when I sent them the record, was for them to love it. And support me in it. As it was certainly “responsible” and sensitive to them. 
But the question of whether they liked it or not was dissolved completely in the upheaval of family drama it enlisted.   
And so then there I was ignored on that front. 
Their knives were out but i didn’t really see them then. I didn’t understand planet narc yet, tho I certainly should have by then. I mean I was raised in the eye of that particular hurricane. 
In narc terms 

Any criticism 

Even an assumed one is enough for them to justify the harshest action and response. 
I was trying to reason with them. I was being reasonable. That falls on deaf ears in Narcland. 
It wasn’t just for that reason that I held the album back tho. Let me be honest here. 
I hadn’t really gotten the reaction from anyone that I wanted for that album. 
I thought it was really special and I figured people would respond more enthusiastically than they did. So when I called Tchad and explained my predicament I also told him of my concerns about how people were responding. Tchad said

“It’s been awhile since I listened to it. Let me live with it a few days and get back to you”

Tchad is very generous. Very. 
I said

” can you do to it what you did to ‘junkyard hearts”. Can you make the running order, I think you’re better at that than me”

“And can you edit it and make it more punchy” I went on. 
And that’s what he did. He sent it back as you hear it now. 
The process of that album was just between me and him apart from a session I did at Sheldon’s awesome studio in Silverlake. Where I then played drums on all the songs as well. 

I played every instrument on that album. And did all the singing. Tchad mixed it in between his other jobs and would send me one track every few weeks. Sometimes it would be two in a row real quick. 

Whenever I got a mix from Tchad. (Who is the greatest mixing engineer/producer the world knows. Up there with anybody and beyond. (How lucky I’ve been. Not lost on me at all) 
Those tracks he would send would be like Christmas morning every time. 

I would listen to each one countless times and each one I loved more than the last. 

I think I gave Tchad like one mix note

“Do you think that guitar could be a little louder. ” it was the funk guitar in ‘machines of war’

“Yeah that’s a good idea” he said was all. 

It was that easy. 
But Tchad was doing me a massive favor mixing this album. He was way out of my pay grade at that point. 
When I made’ the family ‘

I intended it to be a solo piano album or there abouts. 
But I ended up cutting it with a drum machine and I liked the grooves. 

And after Tchad agreed to mix it, I realized that all I would have to do is go into a good studio and lay down real drums over top the whole thing, to give him those textures to play with as well. And then I’d be back in the zone of making seriously well produced and advanced albums again. 
Tchad was doing me a solid. And worked as hard on it as he would a U2 record (which he also mixed along with The Black Keys, Peter Gabriel, Tom Waits. The list goes on for a country mile. Sheryl Crow. On and on. Telling you)
“Cant you change it to brother dawn”
“No mom I can’t. For one that’s a horrible title, for two I can’t ask Tchad to remix something to make it way worse. ”
And so eventually 

My strength gained. The album got the reaction. I was looking for after that. People flipped. 

I mean the culture never did

But then now knowing what I know. 

I blame myself for all of that. 
When I toured that record I was a truly lost soul. Truly lost. 

By then

The psychopath was in my life

And my family was my family

And I was heading for catastrophe. 

2 Comments on “Sister Dawn 

  1. I kept wondering how that album figured in all of this; an album called Family with a recurring theme of families getting disrupted, seemingly released before you figured things out – couldn’t be coincidence.

    I spoke to you last year after one of your Family shows, I had no idea how lost you were, which shocks me to realize now. Anyway, I told you then that I thought the album was incredibly strong, but that it sometimes hit me unexpectedly heavy. Having become a father earlier last year, I can get very sad from the mere thought of anything getting in the way of a child’s happiness, or loving upbringing. The song ‘Daddy, the War Machine’ is incredible (and the music rocks massively) but the lyrics always made me want to run to that protagonist boy and hug him and tell him everything’s going to be alright and there’s lots of love for him in the world.
    (don’t get me wrong, I think the album’s excellent, actually I liken it to Lou Reed’s ‘Berlin.’ And I don’t even think it’s all as dark, ‘Wishing Well’ comes across as a beautiful reminiscence to me.)
    Before you started with this blog, I would never have expected how you had been (and still are) treated and just how personal all of this is. The album was indeed presented as largely fictional and that is how I’ve always heard it. It didn’t even ever seem to make sense to me to read Sister Dawn as an actual account of events surrounding your own sister (who isn’t even called Dawn).

    Reading your blog I now kinda feel like giving your inner child that hug that I had in stock for the kid in the song – hope that’s not too weird a thing to say.

    It’s a privilege to read your posts and even if I’m not a victim of NPD, I hope that your posts will help me identify signs and ensure that this shit will not ever affect me or my loved ones.
    Thank you.


  2. The first and everytime after I have listened to your beautifully multi-layered album I have thought to myself how proud your family must be of you. I imagined your parents beaming with pride, specifically Susan (who has been honored in other past songs). Your love letter to family (imagined or real) was just that to me. I was thinking here is a boy who loves and appreciates the idiosyncrasies of his family and past generations, and what an honor it was for your family to have this creative collection of songs loosely based on your clan.


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