photo & text by nacrowe
the severe TRAUMA and PAIN involved with sustaining a major LOSS, along with the GRIEVING PROCESS thereafter, can be a seemingly ALL-ENCOMPASSING and an immeasurably TORTUROUS experience. i cant even begin to imagine or empathize with the sheer depths of SORROW that musician ALAIN JOHANNES went through when he lost his wife and CREATIVE collaborator NATASHA SHNEIDER to CANCER in 2008.
if you are unfamiliar with the name JOHANNES, you may be more familiar with his work writing and supporting ALTERNATIVE ROCK juggernaut QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE as well as THEM CROOKED VULTURES, MARK LANEGAN, PJ HARVEY, ARCTIC MONKEYS and CHRIS CORNELL's early solo career among other NOTABLE projects. interestingly, while still in high school in LOS ANGELES he led an INFLUENTIAL group called WHAT IS THIS? that had fellow classmates and future RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS musicians HILLEL SLOVAK, JACK IRONS and FLEA as members. after meeting SHNEIDER, he started a new duo called WALK THE MOON and then later, after the PASSING of SLOVAK from a HEROIN OVERDOSE a few years later, IRONS left the RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS and joined JOHANNES and SHNEIDER in a new group called ELEVEN. more so than his high profile gigs, ELEVEN is the DEFINITIVE project of his career as a musician given the deep TELEPATHIC and almost ALCHEMICAL INTIMACY that he shared with his wife on a PERSONAL, EMOTIONAL and MUSICAL LEVEL. that INTENSE RAPPORT is understandably why he felt so severely BEREAVED and spiritually ISOLATED from the world and his formerly whole self.
having lived an extremely PERIPATETIC existence myself as a child moving from hemisphere to hemisphere, there is something about being a THIRD CULTURE KID that makes you extremely ADAPTABLE with the uncanny ability to make HOME anywhere. yet at the same there is a ROOTLESSNESS that takes hold, the idea that you may be a citizen of everywhere but in reality NOWHERE. i implicitly understand that perspective and how finding such a POWERFUL partner intrinsically grounds you on so many levels, many unspoken and unconscious. JOHANNES being a polyglot and having lived in eight countries growing up while not knowing his birth father feels even to me like a heavy BURDEN to bear. it makes sense that he grew to be such an EMPATHETIC songwriter and sought after musical collaborator. its all very in keeping with truly being a THIRD CULTURE KID.
the documentary UNFINISHED PLAN: THE PATH OF ALAIN JOHANNES (GRAVITAS VENTURES, 2016) is very much centered around that AGONY and his road to finding SOLACE and MEANING anew in the world, even after the DEATHS of his partner, his mother and his birth father. participants in this film include close friends and collaborators including every member of SOUNDGARDEN (i.e. CHRIS CORNELL, KIM THAYIL, BEN SHEPHERD and MATT CAMERON) as well as JOSH HOMME (KYUSS, QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE, THEM CROOKED VULTURES), MARK LANEGAN (SCREAMING TREES), DAVE CATCHING (EARTHLINGS?, RANCHO DE LA LUNA recording studio) and ALEX TURNER (ARCTIC MONKEYS). what i found interesting was that JOHANNES discovering CHILEAN roots and being immediately embraced by their artistic and musical communities was both grounding and a REJUVENATING wellspring of HOPE, OPTIMISM and INSPIRATION in his life during what was undoubtedly a BLEAK PERIOD. that warm embrace of a country he had no connection to outside of being born there and speaking the language provided a sense of CONNECTION when i can only imagine his instinct was to RETREAT and ISOLATE himself. its all very moving and in keeping with what i have experienced about the people having lived in SOUTH AMERICA.
ultimately music is about CREATION and CONNECTION. its such a uniquely human enterprise in that regard. the greater community that supports such endeavors (musicians, recording engineers, concert promoters, independent radio, fans) at least provide a framework for REINTEGRATING oneself not only with a global audience, but with themselves and their own emotions. this film in my opinion is more about that search for CONNECTION and MEANING in spite of tremendous GRIEF and PAIN, rather than the TRAUMA itself.
music can do that. or at least start the conversation.
RIP NATASHA SCHNEIDER, HILLEL SLOVAL, MARK LANEGAN & CHRIS CORNELL