I first met Mike Ladd while hungover, stumbling to the shop, hoping my memory would soon come back, hoping the blank spaces held nothing too shameful. On the corner of the street a grey bearded doomsayer was setting up stall, standing on a milk carton and clearing his throat.
I say fuck doing the school run! he shouted. Run away instead! Run, take your kids to Alton Towers. Take them every day until they get bored. Take them until one day they say, no mum and dad, no more Alton Towers! Can we please go somewhere quiet and we can read and maybe have a sandwich and watch birds hop amongst daisies and lie on our backs and make pictures from the forms of clouds? Please, mum and dad, please? And, you say, no! No, we are going to Alton Towers, forever! You must enjoy the rides. It is your destiny. Here's your fun tokens, enjoy the rides, forever. And, mum and dad keep taking them to Alton Towers, forcing them to enjoy Nemesis for the thousandth time. Forcing them to eat overpriced burgers and queue for hours to ride Oblivion. Keep going to Alton Towers. Keep going until your children are insane with Alton Towers. Just like you are, and your parents before you, and their parents, and their parents parents, back when the only rides were the train going in, and the train going out. Let them move in. Let your children maintain the rides. Let them plummet at G-force. Let them get sick on their own adrenaline and endorphins. Let them do it day after day after day. Let them ask questions when it is too late. Where's daddy, mommy? He works at the soap box factory now. Do they make soap there mommy? No dear, just the boxes. They never make the soap at the same place they make the boxes. And, your children will cry at your funeral, and then they will ride the Runaway Mine Train in your honour, and then they will forget you and have children of their own and their children will go to Alton Towers, and there will be new rides, and then your children will die, and there will be new rides and new rides, on and on, forever, until the heat death of the universe. And then, only then, will we ever be happy.
I started clapping as he finished. The need for water had evaporated on hearing the doomsayer’s speech. I felt invigorated, renewed. Fuck the rides, I thought. Fuck them all to Hell.
You liked that guy?
I looked to a man dressed in rags picking his teeth with a comb. It made so much sense, I said. Alton Towers is a metaphor for our capitalist system. The rides are the rules and regulations and limits on our freedom that we choose to accept. We’re sentencing our kids to death by the same madness we accept only because our parents accepted it. I felt like the scales had been lifted from my eyes.
You are thinking too deep, said the man in rags. That guy really does hate Alton Towers. He used to work there until he was fired for taking bribes from people who wanted to jump the queues. He lost his wife, his kids, his house, everything. He blames Alton Towers, and his next door neighbour Jeff who works at the soap box factory, that’s who his wife left him for.
How do you know all this? I asked.
He’s my opening act, he said.
You’re a doomsayer? I asked.
No, he said. I’m Mike Ladd. Now, excuse me, the crowd is getting restless.
I looked around, there was only me stood there.
Mike Ladd stood on the milk crate and performed I’m Building A Bodacious Bodega For The Race War from his album Easy Listening 4 Armageddon(1997). When he finished, my hangover had returned. I felt awful, memories from the night before were flooding back, so much bad behaviour. I’d stolen drinks, groped women, threatened men, I’d ran from the taxi without paying after puking on the driver, I'd woken my neighbours swearing at my front door, and I'd tried masturbating to a La Roux music video. I felt like a monster.
Powerful stuff, said Mike Ladd. looks like it hit you hard.
More than you know, I said.
I wanted to do something good, if only for the selfish reason of clearing my conscience.
Mike, I said, I want to buy you breakfast.
I have breakfast, he said, pulling a sandwich from a bin.
A decent breakfast, I said.
Can we get bacon and cream waffles? He asked.
You can get anything you like, I said, and bring your friend.
You mean Jean de La Fontaine?
If that’s his name, I said.
I’d rather not, he said.
Why’s that? I asked.
He chews with his mouth open.
It’s your call, I said.
We took off together in search of a hearty breakfast, found one, and we’ve been friends ever since.
If you want to hear the story of how I met a particular music maker, comment with their name below and I will make it a priority to tell that story.