Dear Diary – Jason Mosheim (Slain Thought)

We asked Slain Thought’s Jason Mosheim to describe his experience of turning to music during the lockdown of 2020 after sustaining a running injury. He hadn’t touched a musical instrument in a decade, so it’s no surprise that his bass-heavy experimental metal sounds like nothing in the underground in 2022.

We turned the clocks ahead yesterday. I guess I’m now one hour further away from March 2020. The pandemic drove a spike through my creative drive almost immediately. I stop revising my book, bag up my paints and knives. I fall behind on my reading. I work from home. I run, steadily upping the mileage. The air feels tarnished for some reason, even out here on the edge of nowhere. Friday nights we eat Chipotle in the car and listen to Hollywood Crime Scene. The weeks bleed into one another. I try not to watch the funerals across the street.

My latest running injury comes swift and brutal. September ends, the dull and humid days roll on, I don’t get used to the crutches, I’d like another season of What We Do in the Shadows, please. Inspiration to make music blindsides me. Moor Mother: Anthologia01. Lingua Ignota: Caligula, “O Ruthless Great Divine Director.” Dreamcrusher: Another Country. Sounds of the Caribbean with Selecta Jerry on 103.3 WPRB. I haven’t thought of making music in years. It takes artists who work far outside the confines of rock music to make me curious again. I can’t let it go. Am I Chazz from Airheads? “It’s like, death is stalking me.” Yeah, sure, true. But really, it’s the voice inside my head that keeps saying get off. the phone.

I pick up the bass for the first time in ten years. I find the pick, an indestructible, apparently un-lose-able Dunlop Jazz III lying amongst the knick-knacks and tchotchkes on a shelf. The instrument is out of tune, the notes lack punch, the chords are ugly. I have never felt more confident or powerful playing the thing, and it’s not even plugged in. I want to ask the cashier at the Dunkin Donuts drive-thru if she would be open to learning more about the healing power of bass chords.

The need to “learn a process” without assistance (except for YouTube). Recording in a proper studio seems quaint and outdated. Recording in a spare room is free and comes with the guaranteed bonus of a favourite past time, social distancing. Plus—everybody’s doing it these days! On the desk, an audio interface, the drum machine, a laptop with a digital audio workspace, an external hard drive, a notebook and a pen (I’m wearing the headphones). On the floor, a chain of pedals, a couple of mics (one designed for bass drum), cables, the 15W Fender combo bass amp I bought in 2000. It’s almost comical how heavy this all sounds. I record, mix, fix, repeat. It feels good, temporarily crushes my many shortcomings. So, I stay in this room for as long as I can (within reason, on nights and weekends).

I play the bass acoustically. It’s like drinking coffee black, liquor straight, running without a phone—best experienced in its purest form. What I lose out on, often for long stretches, is the thrill (and fear) of exploring new territory for the first time on foot instead of in a car. I make up for it by experiencing the thrill (and fear) of exploring new territory in sound. I think of this triptych of long runs I did in August 2020. I will likely never run them again. But I did, once, and they are uniquely mine forever. As the soles of my feet soften, the callouses on my fingertips harden. Most routes, running or otherwise, are loops, starting and ending at the same point. In a way, never-ending, although everything is ending all the time. Chin up.

I force the guitar, that entitled champion of rock music, to the No. 3 spot, after the bass, after the beats. It is The Critical Decorator, a painter of moods and atmospheres that puts the heartache, insanity, and tension on the Christmas tree, the exhaustion and dread on the cake. It replaces original bass parts, makes a song shine. Yet I rebel against it, ignore it, exclude it until I can’t anymore. Here’s where I come clean. This bass-first thing is simply the reality of my limitations on display: I never learned how to write bass parts to guitar parts. I probably never will. And I’m grateful for that choice.

*** Slain Thought self-released A Failed Exorcism EP on 25 February 2022. You can read the original SBR review here.