Author's Note: Well, here is my contribution to the Beck fandom. It does contain OCs, some intentional, some random but such is to be expected with Chiba's uncanny ability to find fights everywhere he goes. Regardless I hope you enjoy this. The first chapter is in Taira's point of view and I made sure to have a little bit of fun with his mind since I find the most serious people on the outside turn out to be completely different on the inside if you know what I mean. Have fun. Laugh a little.
EDIT: Originally this story was called Nothing Says Love Like a Dead Mouse. It is now and will stay as Gigs from Hell.
Story Summary: Taira never thought he'd change his opinions just by joining a band. For the longest time Taira thought close friends weren't needed to be happy. Now in Beck he sees things a little differently. But a significant other? Until she came around it was the last thing on his mind. Does she have the power to influence his opinion?
Disclaimer: I only own the plot of this story and the unrecognizable characters. I write to entertain random people.
Warnings: Um, Chiba is in this story (no duh) so there will be a bit of swearing and otherwise profane scenes involving...well, you'll just have to see.
Gigs from Hell
Chapter 1 – An Endless Sea of Complaints
It's not often that I become annoyed or even silently infuriated. But, when I am I tend to continuously play with my bleached blonde hair, twisting and turning the short locks in my fingers like a high school girl. I can swear that some of it is actually falling out due to stress. I blame it partly on myself but mostly on Ryusuke.
Especially since Ryusuke, being his high and mighty self, had decided it would be a good idea to dump noodles on the vocalist for one of the most violent bands in our district.
Yeah. He actually thought it was a good idea.
What I am referring to is an incident involving my band mate that happened less than an hour ago. The band I'm in as the ever funky bassist had tried unsuccessfully to score a gig opening for this metal band called 'Hype'. That little meeting in a backwash restaurant with the band members of Hype had not gone well in my opinion. Ryusuke, lead guitarist and primary songwriter for our band, had gotten aggravated by Hype's singer and stated in his annoyingly calm monotone voice that the noodles on the menu tasted delicious…before dumping a bowl on the guy's shaved head.
Needless to say everyone wasn't expecting that little mishap. Hype's men were absolutely flabbergasted. One even started choking and turning blue. Chiba, our punk vocalist who coincidentally named the band after Ryusuke's less than normal dog Beck, started snickering. All anarchy broke loose after that. I tried to salvage the situation with peaceful words up until the point where Koyuki, our innocent and warm-hearted rhythm guitarist and backing vocalist, got a blow to the face by a guy two or three times his size. Luckily he was the only casualty. Ryusuke got off without a scratch on his perfectly unmarred face. He owes Koyuki big time since it was Yukio who rashly pushed him aside and took the hit. My respect for the little guy went up tenfold after that.
I make like a city transit bus and take Chiba, Ryusuke and Koyuki home before parking our band's junky van on the street outside my apartment building. Only it isn't really just my apartment anymore. Ever since Saku ran away from his parents on the other side of Japan to play in the band he has stayed with me as a roommate who paid half the rent. He's said numerous times that it's only temporary but I don't mind the company or the fact that I only have to pay half the bill every month.
Saku, which is short for Sakurai, is about to get out of our van when I toss the keys onto his lap. He looks at me questionably and I announce that I'm going for a walk. "Don't wait up for me to come back if you need to do something."
"Okay, so how do I know if you've been mugged?" Saku jokes, grinning despite the events of the last hour or so. He had gotten over the disappointment on the way back by saying that while Hype has a lot of followers they aren't really all that great musicians and wouldn't go far in the long run. He is pretty darn analytic like that.
I rummage through the front pockets of my cargo pants and, after throwing a wad of crumpled receipts on the dash, produce my dinged up cell phone many models out of date. Then I wave it in front of Saku's face to make my point clear and exit the vehicle. Through the window Saku smiles and takes the keys knowing that sometimes I need a bit of time to calm myself down even if it doesn't show on the surface.
Zigzagging my way through streets full of afternoon crowds I come to the neighbourhood's park, a quiet little grove of trees with several scattered benches. There is a bus stop covered in graffiti at the far end of the park and beyond that is more urban sprawl. The park is more or less disserted save for a couple walking hand in hand with their backs to me.
I snort; I can't understand how love works since I'd never met someone whom shares my fondness for the bass guitar and who also understood that it isn't just a hobby but a lifestyle. It's like Ryusuke always says, 'Girls are great except when they make moves to tie you down.' Now I knew exactly what he was implying, however, all the times I'd heard Ryusuke say it I'd always find myself sniggering because that meant he'd been bitch slapped earlier in the day. One could always tell. If the words weren't enough of a conviction the ugly red hand mark on one, sometimes both of his cheeks were the giveaway.
By the time I had sat down on a bench and breathed deeply for the first time since 'the incident' I had realized I'd forgotten my cigarettes in the van. Damn it. Why did I have to be born so scatterbrained when it came to simple things? Complicated things were fine like plotting how to get the band gigs or increase our popularity but silly no-brainer things like remembering to water the one cactus plant Saku brought home months ago or doing the laundry were always getting me. How the hell do you remember when to give a cactus water when two thirds of the year the damn thing doesn't even need it? More importantly, why the hell did we even keep the cactus? Oh, yeah, because Saku got it for free and we are cheap people who don't spend money on frivolous things. That's right.
All this stressed out thinking actually serves to bring out the devil inside of me. Not like Naruto's fox thing on that anime show that Saku sometimes watches but the little voice that everyone has that influences their worst decisions. That little heathen devil, the one that gives out unwanted opinions. Right now the peculiarly monotonous voice is saying something along the lines of: 'Did you make a mistake joining Beck? You guys try your best all the time but Lady Luck apparently doesn't favour you boys.'
"No kidding," I mumble.
My devil prods me further, 'Especially Koyuki and Ryusuke, those guys seem to have a multitude of problems…you've been screwed over one too many times. Are you okay with that? Wouldn't it have been easier to stick with NC-17? At least they didn't have a psycho bunch of enemies. Right, Taira?'
I sigh and cradle my head in my hands. I rub my temples whenever this voice chooses to make itself known and right now I'm rubbing away double time seeing as I'm so distraught. Stupid little voice, shut up!
Yelling internally at a figment of my imagination wears me out. So much so that I don't feel like moving from my bench despite the buttons on my cargo pants digging into my butt. People pass me by without a second glance. A few stop to use the benches around me to rest or eat. Some admire the birds flying overhead chattering an endless sea of complaints to their companions. A lot like people, I figure.
I continue to sit there thinking about all the rough times Beck has gone through in the past year or so. That is without doubt a lot of crap I don't particularly like thinking about but my brain (or the voice/devil) circulates it anyway. Like an incessant rotation of shit where the more I thought about it the more down I got.
I feel slightly drowsy the more I sit there, but maybe the all-night marathon practice in the studio the night before is finally catching up to me. Rubbing my eyes I will myself to stand up. I'm fumbling in my pocket for my cell phone to remind Saku to do the dishes when a voice cuts through the raucous park air.
"Ahh, I was almost finished too."
I look around and meet the hazel eyes of the speaker. She holds a coil-bound sketchbook in her hand with a pencil sitting inside the coils. Her smile is bright and more of a considerate half smile than a full out grin.
"Are you talking to me?" I could've smacked myself as I realize with a quick glance that I am the only one around. Of course she's talking to me.
She laughs my moment of bêtise off lightly, "I seem to be now."
Slightly smiling I find myself walking over to see what see what she'd been drawing. I am a curious cat so I take the liberty of sitting down next to her to peer at the drawing in her hands. I almost burst out laughing when I see it is a sketch of me, sitting on the bench looking very sorry for myself. I hold it in though by turning away but when I take in the picture with another glance I realize the picture is honestly first-class and realistic. Except for the trees surrounding me I note with a smile. They are unfinished and mere outlines still.
"Do I come across as a brooding individual?" I ask her cheekily as I read the title of the piece that had been scribbled on the bottom of the page, 'Sad Man'. She has yet to date and sign it.
"Just someone who's had a bad day, that's all," she replies with a humouring smile, sliding the pencil out of the coils and dropping it into the open backpack beside her. She flips her sketchbook to a random page with a picture of a girl smiling, also sketched in vivid detail. I stare down; my mouth open in what would've been an embarrassing moment only my mind is blank with awe. Sure I'd never been heavily into visual arts but I can tell this person has a talent for making pictures appear like they were photographs. "And this would be someone who had a good day." She laughs again, a cheerful breezy sound.
I can't help but laugh too, the expression of innocence and joy on that girl's face reminds me of Koyuki when Ryusuke first announced that he would be part of Beck. I have to hand it to her, she's good at capturing others' expressions.
It then occurs to me that she's a complete stranger I know nothing about. But, unlike the people I exchange snippets of conversation with like a clerk or an old lady that I happen to be crossing the road beside and would forget about forever this girl had become subjective to me. She had drawn a picture of me and that is a tiny bit too personal to let slip away into the back of my mind into obscurity to feed the devil.
"My name's Yoshiyuki Taira by the way," I tell her, truly taking her in for the first time. She has wavy brown hair that flips upwards in arcs (only slightly longer than Ryusuke's I observe) and when she stands up a second later I agnize that she is just a scant few inches shorter than me. She isn't particularly skinny but she is by no means fat either. All in all average I conclude happily. Secretly – or not so secretly depending on how you look at it – I dislike the groupies that Ryusuke covets. In my opinion they are extremely annoying to be around. It's almost impossible to have a normal conversation with any of them.
She drops her sketchbook into the backpack and zips the main pouch up. "Well, it's nice to meet you Taira." Then she slings the backpack over her shoulder and with a slight scowl stares at the bus coming up the road in the distance. "Could that…? Oh shit, I think that's my bus! I'm so sorry, see ya around, Taira!"
I stand stalk-still and watch her sprint to the bus stop on the other side of the park. I perceive she could certainly run fairly fast when she wants to. She is half way there and the bus is just stopping to pick up people when I witness something shiny, catching the afternoon sun's rays fall from her bouncing backpack. Being intent on making the bus she doesn't notice this minor disturbance.
"Hey! Hey, uh, girl whose name I don't know! You dropped something!" I shout. The girl shows no signs of having heard me. In an instant she's boarding the bus with several others and by the time I'd reached the item on the ground the bus is speeding out of sight bound for downtown.
I stoop to pick the object out of the dirt, turning it over in my hands. It's a red iPod, road worn and scratched with one lone deep gouge in the middle of the screen. I instantly feel bad for the girl, she's probably going to freak out when she realizes she's lost it. I knew if it were me I'd be really depressed. Music is my life.
Her headphones aren't attached to the iPod; I figure they're still half in her backpack, dangling, and would be quite an unpleasant surprise when she found out that her headphones had made it but the iPod holding her wealth of music had not.
As I walk back to my apartment I turn on the music player and begin to browse through her songs expecting to be hit with the top 40 J-pop tunes. But, as my eyes scan the list of artists it turns out she listens to everything from rap, heavy metal and classic rock to soul, R&B and blues. Heck, I browse down to the near bottom of the list and spot that a couple 'artist names' were in fact serving as categories for random material. There were 'Various Artists', 'Various Guitarists' and even 'Various Bassists'. I'd never really gone through someone's iPod before (it's actually kind of an invasion of privacy for me) but even I can tell she is really into music. As much as I am…okay, maybe not.
She has far fewer songs on her iPod than I do, only around 1,600, but I guess that is to be expected since it's only an 8GB iPod. Amide the mix I tend to notice that there were not many Japanese songs but instead bands I have never heard of until now. I will have to grab my headphones and listen to a few when I get back.
Sakurai is instantaneously suspicious when I come through the door, "Talk about a transformation. What's got you so happy?" He squints at me in suspicion, "Don't tell me that you scored with someone! And in the middle of the day too!"
I start to laugh but the sound quickly dies in my throat when I spot the towering pile of dishes in the sink. Saku follows my gaze and I catch him taking a huge gulp of air. I had done the dishes for the past week since he would eat and then run off to see his girlfriend. He leaves a mess everywhere. That or I'm just overly clean and organized.
"Oh, er, yeah, those, well, I'll get right on those, no need to crash your mood," he stutters, springing to the sink like he's some kind of wind-up bunny rabbit. Why rabbits are crossing my thoughts is beyond me. Must be Saku's comment lurking in the back of my mind.
Continuing to the next room in the tiny apartment I step around Saku's gangly drum set carefully to get to my bass sitting in all its glory in its guitar holder stand thing. Once again I'm glad Saku only plays with one kick drum. If he had another we would not have had space for it anywhere inside my dingy apartment.
I pick my bass up and eye it hungrily. I haven't touched my baby since early this morning. Most guys have a car that they lust over but not me. I have a bass which in my opinion is many times cooler than any polluting-the-environment car. It's like my girl, my bass. Like Jimmy Page once said, "You can caress a guitar like a woman. Only the guitar won't ask you alimony after you divorce."
I sit on the ancient fake leather couch that has rips in it too numerous to count. Neither of us who inhabit the apartment had bought it. It had been left behind by the last person to rent the apartment out since it is such a worthless piece of crap. Too much work to haul outside to take to the dump it has survived in relative peace, enriching the lives of the colony of dust bunnies living under it. I don't dare disturb this peace.
My headphones (really expensive, really bulky, and in my opinion really great) sit on the window ledge behind me with my green iPod. I unjack the headphones from it and insert them into the girl's iPod, flip the hold switch and set the little device to shuffle to see what would randomly come up.
Saku made it known he had heard random curse words coming from the living room over the clacking of dishes in the sink, "Taira, you okay man?"
"Y-Yeah. Just, uh, yeah, I'm good!" I shout back to him. Often times I blast my own music but it still came as an unpleasant surprise when the first song to play was a screamo band I'd never heard of. I skip that song. Now it's country. 'Taylor Swift' it says on the artist's label, I know her. So I skip that one too. I don't know what I'm looking for exactly, possibly something new and surprising, but after flipping through another ten to twenty songs I come across one that gives me an answer.
I strum notes on my bass in time to the song's tempo. It's a funk rock melody with an almost punk feel to it. It almost reminds me of the Red Hot Chili Peppers in their early days but it's totally different because the vocalist's edgy dark voice gives the entire arrangement a grungy sound. I kept stopping the song and rewinding it to retry parts of the bassline that were tricky to figure out. Since I figure things out by ear it's sometimes a lengthy process.
I must've sat there on the couch like a bump on a log for an hour or more because before I know it Saku is done the dishes and well on his way to his girlfriend Hiromi's house. He's planning on taking her out on a date in the scrap metal van. I can imagine the looks on the girl's parent's faces, horrified that their daughter is going out with a low-income musician. I could have howled with laughter but instead I silently said a prayer for Saku hoping to bring him some good luck for once.
I always find time passes me by more quickly when I'm alone. Sitting there, practising first all of Beck's songs and then trying my hand on some songs that were on the girl's iPod I find I have developed a ludicrously sore back. So I spend the remainder of the evening on non-prescription drugs to try and get myself up to full speed again. But, by the time they kicked in and the agony is over Saku has returned and I am faced with additional practise with him. After all, the rhythm section is the foundation of the band and without a solid core…it would be sloppy like Ryusuke's hair-do after forgetting to shower for several days.
Later on I phone the studio to reserve more band time. I'm always the one who organizes things. Without me there would be utter chaos.
During practise at the studio the next day Ryusuke decides that he just absolutely has to go get a certain foot pedal at the end of practice, which usually means that I have to go with him to the music store downtown. I also have to pick up bass strings too, so it's something I can't avoid even if I want to. See, when you're on a tight budget you go where the discounts are. The discounts just happen to be where Ryusuke thrives.
But at the moment, sitting there in that music store watching Ryusuke noodle on some random vintage Fender, I realize I'm kind of bored out of my skull. In fact, I'm hungry and craving something deep fried with chocolate or ice cream, something so full of carbs that I would feel bad about eating it later. It never occurs to me that I have rather feminine cravings at times. Hmm, I have to admit that I'm leaning towards the ice cream. Chocolate ice cream to be precise. It's the way to go for sure. I must have licked my lips in thought because I garnish weird glances from a kid and his mother who steers her child away from me in an awful hurry.
"Taira, are you listening to me?" Ryusuke hold up the Fender and points to one of the strings, "I asked if the B string sounded flat to you."
With a snort I roll my eyes at him, "I thought we were here for a pedal, not a guitar."
"Nothing ever goes as plan," states Ryusuke sagely, putting the guitar back on the shelf. His hand lingers like he's going to stroke the guitar but all he does is take the cable out and look about the shelves. He's about to select another when something comes to him out of the blue judging by his droll facial expression, "You know, we need a new T-shirt design sometime. You know, like a design that people will recognize and say, 'Hey that's a Beck, Mongolian Chop Squad' tee. Maybe we should talk to Mitchan about it. He has that 'in' with some kind of designer friend, right?"
Sighing I wedge myself behind Ryusuke, (which is actually hard to do with the narrow aisle), and push him forward and out the door. "You got your pedal, I got my strings, and we're going to leave now." I turn and give a slight wave to the shopkeeper, an eccentric guy who plays trumpet. We'd jammed a few times, funk mostly. It got me discounts in the shop which is the reason Ryusuke always dragged me along. The cheap bastard.
Ryusuke follows behind me at a good distance, complaining that I'm doing a good job of breaking the friggin' sound barrier with the speed at which I walk. For the most part I ignore him, focusing instead on finding the ice cream parlour I know is around here somewhere. Or is it back the other way? I slow down enough for Ryusuke to catch up, who's now complaining that we were going to get mugged and his effect pedal, a brand new DigiTech Whammy that he bought with someone else's credit card, stolen.
"Ice cream," I say simply, "Was it back that way or up ahead?"
Ryusuke's entire body twitches, a violent seizure-like shake, "Why is it that every time we go here you forget that the ice cream place closed down?"
I stop and stare hard at Ryusuke for a minute then say, my voice exasperated, "I try to block out depressing things like that. Well," I think for a second while Ryusuke winks at some girl with a short skirt (she stomps off). "Alright, fine, I'm going to the super market. If I leave you alone are you going to do something stupid?"
"More than likely," Ryusuke replies with a half smile.
Afternoon practise on Saturday turned into an all night marathon in which Chiba fell asleep on the floor and Saku downed a record breaking four water bottles in just over one minute. Nonetheless I felt that we were getting better as a band. Even Ryusuke and Chiba seemed to be accepting each other's presence which is more than I had originally hoped for ever since they had that little spat at Gratefull Sound 5.
Koyuki's wolfing down a cup of instant ramen when he asks me why I've been in a trance like state ever since arriving. Moreover he goes on to mention Saku telling him that I was having weird moments as of late. Those two are like Siamese twins or something; I swear they know everything about each other.
I look at Koyuki and say heatedly, "Do I look weird right now? Because, really, I'm not the one passed out," I gesture wildly to Chiba who's sprawled out on the floor, "and singing the lyrics to 'Stay Away' by Nirvana! He's ruining one of my favourite songs!"
Koyuki pauses to listen, "Actually, now it seems like Chiba is singing 'Rape Me'…"
Needless to say I feel like smacking my head on the coffee table in front of me. But then I'd get brain damage and the band would have one less person to count on, so I don't.
"Anyway, what should I get Maho for her birthday? Ryusuke says that it's on the 19th and that's only a week away!" Koyuki exclaims, rubbing the sleep dirt from his eyes. It's around three in the morning and there is still no sign of the studio manager so we haven't packed up our stuff yet. We like to wait until the last possible moment, rather to get kicked out than leave early. The old, 'we lost track of time' works on the guy so there's no fear of being permanently put on a black list. Not that the shitty studio has a black list; the manager takes anyone's money.
I hand Saku my untouched water bottle that had been sitting beside me turning mouldy and watch him go outside to talk to Ryusuke who's smoking and leaning against a telephone booth. Then I turn to Koyuki and slowly reply so as not to repeat things later, "Well, she does like to shop, doesn't she? If it were me I'd start talking about clothes and then discreetly ask what her favourite clothing store is. You could then just get her a gift card for that store."
"Hey, that's a good idea! Thanks Taira!"
"Just don't go picking out any clothes to give her; it'll just make things complicated."
Koyuki squints at me, the splitting image of Saku. Undeniably Siamese twins. "Why's that?" he asks, genuinely enquiring.
Rolling my eyes discreetly I consider even replying to his naïve question, "Well, for one thing she has her own taste in clothing, different from yours," Koyuki tugs at his baggy shirt in a discomfited manner, "Plus what you get her might not fit her. If you get her something too small she'll have to return it, which is a pain in the ass. But then what if you get her something that's too big? Chances are good that Maho would freak on you, thinking that you think she's fat or whatever goes on in that girl's crazy head."
As the information known as my reasoning sinks in Koyuki seems to feel the need to ask, "Do you have a girlfriend or something Taira?"
The swaggering snort that stirs Chiba in his sleep comes from me, the older more experienced guy. "No, the band is first priority, besides; I've yet to meet a girl who can stand hours of the pulsing frequencies of a bass guitar and not get a headache."
Koyuki gave a slight 'oh' and went into the instrument room to retrieve his Telecaster. He's probably planning on leaving soon. I personally want to go sleep in my apartment and miss work. But I really couldn't do that. After all, the band needs funding and whether or not the money comes out of my pocket is important. I can't mess up. There are no freeloaders in Beck. How Ryusuke provides band money is beyond me but even he does so I am no exception.
I take out the red iPod from my pocket. I'd been carrying it with me all day. There were just so many interesting songs on it! I position my headphones and put it on shuffle hoping to discover a new song that I just have to learn to play.
Ryusuke and Saku come inside. Beck's lead guitarist stares at the iPod sitting on my lap while I tap a rhythm on the top of an amplifier with the tips of my fingers. Ryusuke continues to stare: he has a thing for music players. A fetish if you will. In fact, he has a small collection of mp3 players that sit on top of a shelf at the fish pond, his home. So naturally he sidles up to me and, since I would not acknowledge his presence, gives me a light elbow in the side.
"Taira, when did you get that? Looks like one of those limited edition models," Ryusuke says with his dark eyes fixed firmly on the music player. Saku just shrugs, not sharing the fetish, and goes into the sound room to talk to Koyuki. He emerges carrying one of his drums, which to me signals packing up time.
A hand enters my line of vision and I swat it away, starting to get a tad annoyed with my band mate. "Ryusuke, it's not even mine. Therefore it's off limits to you." It's sometimes best to just lay down the truth. "I picked it up after some girl dropped it, but she caught a bus and left before I could return it."
Koyuki overhears the conversation, "Are you going to return it to her?" Always up for helping people, he's so selfless at times. Actually, that would be most of the time. Okay, all the time.
"Dropped it? I'll bet the chick gave it to you after you rolled in the hay with her," Ryusuke butts in with his useless two cents. I shoot him a glare but choose to ignore him by answering Koyuki instead.
"I would if I could but I don't know her name or anything about her. She was just in the park by my apartment and caught a bus… that was Tuesday I think, maybe Wednesday."
Smiling like he'd gotten the winning ticket to the lottery Koyuki says animatedly, "If she was there to catch a bus maybe she'll be there again the same day next week! It would make sense if she lived on the other side of town or something. She probably uses it to get to work. You could run into her by waiting at the bus stop."
What a genius. It's hard to believe that just came out of Koyuki's mouth but it did.
"Why the hell would he give back such an awesome iPod? Koyuki, you really piss me off sometimes!" Ryusuke shouts waving his arms in the air to emphasize his point. Rage seems to be written on his forehead as he freaks out all over the younger guitarist, bringing up all of the flaws in his performance during practise earlier.
I watch the two argue, prepared to step in if things get ugly, but eventually I leave to get the shitty piece of crap loaded with Saku's help. When I lift my amp into the back I think I hear a strange wheeze coming from the van as it sags in the back with the weight of our band's combined equipment. We really need to get funding for a new van. Woohoo, more issues.
Meanwhile all Chiba does is mutter in his sleep, currently oblivious to the hearts drawn on his cheeks with black Sharpie marker. It's the epitome of the way us band men treat each other.
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