If you are reading this, I would like to thank you dearly for being a part of something very special to us. Welcome to the magical world of Madina Lake. This book was written in tandem with each of our 3 major releases. This marks the entirety of the Madina trilogy that we mapped out 7 years ago and finally reached the end.
It has been a dream of Nathan’s and mine to pull such a ridiculously, naively, grandiose idea. We were seduced by music at a very early age. The mystique was captivating. It shifted our imaginations into high gear to round out the experience as it applied to us individually. We simply could not get enough. What did that lyric mean, what is that obscure image in the artwork, what’s that muffled distorted voice trailing off at the end say?
After we started playing it and creating it, we found ourselves in the fortuned position to intertwine cosmic strings with, soon to be, best friends and band mates Dan and Mateo. On a night towards the end of the summer 2004, the four of us, as the agenda menu commonly featured for dessert, resided on our deck. We were ensconced with enjoying beverages and conversation, into the very late, or early hours of the day.
At that time, we would all have naively claimed that we were miserable. In two different bands, competing no less, in Chicago, with a shady manager, and no record deals in sight. Between each band we ground hog day’d the scene in “Back to the Future,” when Marty auditions for the enchantment under the sea dance.
As Marty, Michael J Fox, shreds ahead of his time, the judge barks through his megaphone, “woah woah woah fellas, sorry, I’m afraid you’re just too darn loud. Next please…can we have the next band please?”
Or in Revenge of the Nerds when the nerds were applying to open start a fraternity branch at Adams University, home of the Atoms. “We’ve gone over your application and it wasn’t even close.”
It was a desperate time, as we’d been trying to make careers for ourselves for over a decade and the clock was ticking.
On this particular night, we were doing our routine bitch fest, basking in the company of each other’s misery. This A&R guy passed and that manager won’t call back, and this band got signed and that band that got a single on the radio, and we had nothing.
An interesting conversation spawned from that session. We went around and each described our ultimate fantasy musical career. We learned that what we all had in common, beyond an eclectic and expansive taste in music, was that extra element of mystique that our favorite artists had. We were insatiable. The articulate, brilliantly designed metaphors of Smashing Pumpkins, or NIN or Tom Wait lyrics and interviews. Also, it could never get loud enough. Well, maybe once, row 5, center stage at Metallica’s Black Album tour. That one gave me IBS.
We aspired Madina Lake to be as robust and encompassing of an entity as a fan wanted it to be. We aimed to challenge the depth of the listener’s interest by creating a platform for boundless imagination to supplement the music. We asserted that we are all connected and if we could string together a community of friends, we would be deeply fulfilled.
What has continually frustrated Nathan and me about art is the built-in ambiguity clause. It has decidedly become protocol for an artist to not explain his or her creation. While that argument has merit, and I largely prefer it, we simply chose to present ours with transparency. Anyone can usurp accountability for their string of obscure, cool sounding words that they read from a street sign or restaurant menu. Those arbitrary words are cloaked in eccentricity and creativity, and subsequently, insulates the artist from having to stand behind their work. Obviously, that’s nowhere near a blanket statement, but I think everyone can name a few.
This approach leaves the door open for imposters. For an appreciator of art, this poses a problem. You invest your time and energy into something that promises a compelling vocation or perspective, or idea to uncover. Art yields countless ways of enriching one’s life, from offering new perspective, evoking passion and thought, companionship, to sheer beauty. It requires energy and an emotional investment to unlock its wealth. That said, the thought of hunting for the treasure in an illusory piece of art is maddening.
Our approach was to lay it all out there. We wanted to establish trust right from the start with our audience. From day one, seven years ago, we stated our mission. Our debut album “From Them, Through Us, To You,” was the first installment of a trilogy that would conclude with our third record, “World War III.” With each record we released another section of the mystery behind Adalia’s disappearance in the mystical town of Madina Lake. It’s a complex and multi dimensional tale that finishes with a bold and perhaps aggressive assertion about what life actually is.
When we formed the band we were appalled with the things that were happening in America and pop culture. Paris Hilton was revered as a rich and sexy socialite who had it all. Rewarded with adulation, fame and fortune for no merit of any value. American Idol was churning out superstars by simply having them sing along to other artist’s works. Nathan, Dan and I talked at great lengths about how our culture’s obsession and materialism, celebrity, vanity, and narcissism, could possibly play out. What is the result of a society slowly eroding as it succumbed to the ego and entitlement?
Art suffered immensely. Take American Idol for example. The word “idol” implicates it right off the bat. A country erupts into obsession over the idea of being idolized. It obliterates art. The show decrees, and America obliges, that anyone can become an artist, a superstar celebrity with fame and fortune. Using art as its vehicle is a disgrace. This tells a new generation that to be an artist you don’t have to create anything. You don’t have to challenge yourself, face adversity, overcome hurdles; experience life, pain struggle, hardship, sacrifice, and most of all work and be creative. In fact, it is just handed to you and you are entitled to it. And that’s art.
This inspired us to create Madina Lake and have it embody each of our declared ideal careers.
As we portended the end game of enacting this lifestyle and value system, the town and the characters came to life. I created Madina Lake as a microcosm of America to unroll my theory.
What I loved about the mythological town is that it allowed for the narrative of life to play its course within the framework of Madina Lake. Nathan and I thought that coming up with a backdrop to unfold our theory on what life is, enabled our real lives to unfold in tandem with our theory. It was like we were testing out our theory as we were living it. The most bewildering thing about it was how the narrative would wind up weaving in and out of our lives. When I got hurt in 2010, what we had portended as the perilous fate of our culture enacting such a lifestyle, had manifested into our real life.
I encountered a man, if you can call him that, who is so obsessed with making money, power, vanity and being perceived as a perfect success, that he was crippled by his failures.
This couple had a brand new million-dollar condo in Chicago, SUVs and the rest of the perfect life uniform. He desperately craved attention and adulation and when his wife cheated on him, he tried to kill her. When I stepped in to rescue her, his blind rage lead him to try to kill me.
This was exemplary of exactly the statement we were making in part 1, the Auspice.
I want to state here that we have made good on our promise. For all the devoted River People and friends, who’ve followed this adventure with us, investing your time, energy, passion and imagination, I assure you we have delivered.
For every clue we hid in the artwork, on the records and at the live shows, they are all tied together and bare significance. We left no stone unturned, and no story line unanswered.
We hope you are entertained, affected by it in any positive regard. At the very least, we aimed to incite enthusiasm and provoke ideas.
To those legions of friends who did catch on, we could never have imagined being so lucky to connect with you and for you to connect with each other.
Thank you for existing. We love you like mad.
Nothing matters in life except right now, and love.
Madina Lake is:
Mateo Camargo – the chemist
Dan Torelli – the philospher
Nathan Leone – the creator
Matthew Leone – the ghost
The River People all over the Universe, thank you for making the globe spin.
Nathan…as he gracefully dictated the truth needs no explaining! Thank goodness. Mateo and Dan…thanks for Madina.