For Patrick

I walked into the Earache offices in the fall of 1997 mere months after moving to New York. I had just joined a band and John, my friend and guitar-player in this band-that-would-become-Scar-Culture had gotten me an interview to intern at Earache records.

I didn’t know what to expect. I was 18, just out of high school, just starting to find my identity within monstrous vortex that is New York City. I wore my coveted hoodie decorated with crusty band patches, most of whom were Earache bands: Napalm Death, Morbid Angel, At The Gates, Pulkas*. My world revolved around music and here I was, not only in a band with dudes who were better and older than me, but about to step into the offices of one of the music labels that had shaped my adolescence.

Jorge, who I would be interning for, greeted me with handshake, a smile, and a soft-toned, lackadaisical voice that belied intense intelligence behind his eyes. He showed me around, introduced me to people at the office as the new intern  - which I was jazzed about, I thought I was there just to interview - and started going over what he did and everyone’s roles within the office with the kindness and heart of a mentor.

Some of the folks in the office introduced themselves as he showed me around, some waved, some asked questions, some ignored me.

One person gave me an intense side eye, whipped out a smirk I would come to love, and said “Good fucking luck.”

Those were the first words Patrick Dalton ever said to me.

The first time I really met him, though, was several months later when we ran into each other on the street. We talked about music for a bit and agreed we should get a drink at some point. He invited me out for St. Patrick’s day - to paraphrase him - “the real shit, like a real fucking mick does it up, not this fake green beer bullshit”.

I went.

We became friends.

Eventually we started playing music together. I learned he was a great, unique, drummer and a brilliant lyricist. He helped me see that I could do more than scream into a microphone, which was something I was growing tired of.

We spent nearly a decade making music, egging each other on, inspiring each other, ragging on each other, hating each other, loving each other, making fun of each other, complimenting each other. Tearing each other apart, sewing each other back together.

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He helped shape my moodiness, and stubborn - oft-times perfectionist - approach to creativity into confidence. I learned to do the same with his sudden, angry, outbursts and near-crippling anxiety about his playing.

We became brothers.

And in doing so, we made each other better people. A process that was usually painful and frustrating for both of us.

I remember being amazed when I saw his art. Man, could that asshole create some astoundingly deep and unique pieces of artwork. Just look at that butterfly.

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He would have appreciated me calling him an asshole right then. And he would have appreciated me including the shitty Pulkas as a joke in the second paragraph above.*

He would write lyrics then get mad that I would have to edit or rewrite some of them to make them fit a melody. I would write lyrics and then get mad that he thought they didn’t fit the style of the band.

He had my back in nearly every way.

We bonded over how we each basically raised ourselves through emotionally despondent families and home-life. How we had both overcome our past and paths to be better people than anyone ever thought we could be.

We confided in each other. He told me how much it bothered him that people thought he was angry, that they’d call him ‘Angry Pat’, or ‘King of Rage’, and never bother to scratch past the surface.

 In growing and exploring music together we forced each other to confront our past. Deep, scarred parts of us that we never wished to talk about; my history with child abuse and his with shit he wouldn't want me to write about.

When I went through the process of getting a specialized visa to work in the USA as a musician, an O-1 visa, I had to get recommendations from citizens who had worked with me. Patrick wrote one of these recs. My lawyer read it, removed his glasses and said “Wow. Do not lose this person in your life.”

Well, I did.

The first time, I was the catalyst. I left the band we were in. Patrick took it as abandonment.

I explained I needed to do this for myself. A certain fire was gone in the music we were making together. I needed to forge my own relationship with it.

Part of it was the we had outgrown the music. We needed something else.

Part of it was that we had also grown complacent with our roles. For some reason we weren’t pushing each other as much. And we still needed that dynamic in our lives.

Part of it was also that I was depressed and near suicidal. And I didn’t want to be around anyone.

And he knew. He knew it all. He was mad. But he left me alone. And I left him alone.

It took years to reconnect. But we did. And we had both gone through so much. New lives had been fought for, shaped, and won. And we bonded over how we had each done that again.

Oddly enough, we had both started writing long-form work. His was memoir based. Mine was fantasy based. We exchanged each other’s writing and then met to talk about it.

His writing was deep, unique, completely from the heart. Took several reads to really sink in. It was everything Patrick was. I remember telling him that I just wanted to see him write, that it was always his forte. His strength. And that he was great at it. Just keep it doing it, man, fuck the noises in your head that say you’re not good enough or you can’t finish it. You are and you can.

Just fucking get it done, brother.

That was the last time we really saw each other. A year or so later I moved to California and, while I know I meant to see him before I left, I didn’t. That probably pissed him off. But we would’ve connected again at some point and appreciated each other’s lives again.

But now we won’t.

Last night, after hearing that Patrick had died earlier that day, I picked up a guitar and searched my memory for the songs we had written together. Chords and notes under my fingers. His lyrics that I had the privilege to sing several times a week for years, flickering in my mind’s light. As though he were fanning the flame.

Patrick. I don’t know how you died or why.

But I know how and why you lived. And I love you for that.

Rest in the peace you strove for when you were here.


 

Badluck Sunshine

Beneath death inside

Ribcage the rabbit’s mouth can’t hide

Searing moonlight in the night

Drink your eyes to sleep this time

Away from the searing shine

 

Through my window pane

Waiting dawn is creeping

Just as these stillborn dreams start breathing

 

Bloodshot highway beyond the wheel

Buried secrets blisters reveal

altars where the shadows kneel

This will all burn away

Drink your eyes to sleep this time

Swallow pain this time

 

Through my window pane

Restless dawn is creeping

Just as these stillborn dreams start breathing

 

I can feel the sun rising

As it swallows the horizon

I just want to keep the sun from shining

 

I can feel the sun rising

As it swallows the horizon

I just want to keep the sun

 

Through my window pane

Wasting dawn is creeping

Just as these stillborn dreams start breathing

Lyrics by Patrick J. Dalton

 

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