I met Marty Violence in Richmond in 1994. A decade later, Marty moved to New York during a weird period in my life when all my friends from different parts of the country converged in one city and started forming odd interregional alliances. In the middle of this period, Marty - a Virginia friend - started playing bass for Ted Leo - a New Jersey friend. Ted Leo's band got a slot opening for Pearl Jam, and the long and short of it is that Marty wound up playing on stage at Madison Square Garden.
So our friendship has been colored by this new inequality. At the end of your life there are, after all, only a handful of things that you can regret having missed: seeing the pyramids, climbing Everest, swimming the English Channel, writing the Great American Novel, playing onstage at Madison Square Garden. Marty has now been denied one of these items. It's weird. I caught up with him last May, at a Brooklyn back yard gathering in which I suspect some drinking had just transpired.
Sam: I read somewhere that you gave me credit for the name "Marty Violence". But I didn't come up with that!
Marty: I'm pretty sure you did.
Marty: I'm positive you came up with it.
Sam: It sounds like something I'd do. But I don't remember doing it.
Marty: I know you did it. There was a time when you were like, 'you need a name'. And that's what you came up with....
Sam: I don't like that I have a whole period of my life where I'm the equivalent of a blackout drunk. Why can't I remember this?
Marty: Maybe it was you and Adam? But I'm pretty sure it was just you and then Adam kept calling me that. And that's why it stuck. I didn't really want to call myself that...
[discussion of time Marty fought a possum in the bathroom of the apartment below Sam's]
Marty, 2nd from right, in a Steve Bruleish moment
Sam: We've both lived twice at 514 W. Clay Street in Richmond. After you moved out of the downstairs apartment and I moved out of the upstairs apartment, I moved back in to the upstairs, and then you took over my lease after I left the city in 1998. Did you have any problems with the downstairs neighbors?
Marty: Oh, yeah....
Sam: I need you to clarify something. The day I left, I thought this is incorrect. I can't cede this apartment to Marty without a zinger. So I did a walkthrough as you. I walked through the entire apartment pretending I was a buzzed Marty; smiling, holding a bottle in my right hand - you're a right hand beer holder, always have been - halting in the doorway of the back bedroom. I thought, Marty wouldn't look to the right. That's not his style. Marty is the kind of guy who would look left. And then, drunk and content, Marty would further tilt his head up. That's where I wrote 'Marty Sucks' on the inside of the door frame. This worked, right?
Marty: Nyeeeeah..... I remember that.
Sam: And thus you were zinged? Sorry, dude. Gotcha.
[drunken third party laughter]
Marty: No, I actually don't remember any of that.
Sam: Seriously! You don't remember this.
Sam: I've told this story for years! You never noticed that someone had written your name, with the word 'sucks', on the wall of your house, where you lived?
Marty: I don't recall that at all.
Nappy: I'm timing this interview. You guys have two and a quarter minutes left.
[drunken chortling and guffaws pick up volume]
Sam: From my perspective, there's been a jump cut. It goes from Young Man Marty - good time mascot Marty - to boom! Man Marty; bearded, married, Madison Square Garden Marty. Was there a very specific moment when you thought 'Hey, I'm the new Marty'?
Marty: Hm. (strokes meager beard)
Sam: I'm going to call it 'The Change'.
Marty: Well, I don't want to be too clichéd, but I guess it would be, well, the day I got married...
Sam: That's very nice. And very clichéd.
Marty: OK.... Madison Square Garden?
Sam: Right. About that. You played two nights there?
Sam: OK. This is how I picture it. Either A) you have total clarity and you're like, wow, I'm playing at Madison Square Garden, as Steve Martin described being on the Tonight Show for the first time. Or B) it's so terrifying that you have to force your body to do every movement, step by step, like a giant meat marionette. Which one was it?
Marty: Definitely A. Our sets were 25 or 30 minutes. What really helped was that it was so dark. You could barely see people's heads in the audience. But you could tell they were out there. It was totally different from being on Jimmy Fallon, where I got really wasted before I went on. And then it happened, and then I was like, "Oh, that's over." And I barely remember it. But I was completely sober at Madison Square Garden.
Sam: In either of these appearances, at any point, did my face pop into your mind as someone who should have shared in your experience?
Sam: If you're on stage at Madison Square Garden and you break a bass string do you just, like, fart and die? What happens?
Marty: Well, if you're opening up for Pearl Jam, what you do is you break a string, and you go, [makes unintelligible gesture] then you put your own bass string back on.
Sam: In front of everyone.
Marty: In front of everyone.
Sam: Now, do you actually have to tune on stage at Madison Square Garden?
Marty: Yeah. You do that. In front of the 500 people that are there before the 25,000 or so that will show up.
[explosion of drunken hoots and hollers from increasingly belligerent partygoers]
Sam: This is MY interview! Woodward and Bernstein didn't have to put up with this! Christ almighty!!