The musician Jason Molina died this weekend, with supposedly nothing more than a cell phone in his pocket containing only his grandmother's number. His desperate battle with alcohol had become public knowledge in recent years and the last word we had was that Jason was spending time on a family farm rearing chickens, and slowly but surely getting better. But he didn't make it, he slipped and the world is very much a poorer place.
I can't confess to have known Jason well at all, but he absolutely touched and influenced my life and - as I'm being stunned to see as grief and sorrow floods Facebook etc. - the lives of many others. I don't think I've noticed the passing of a small independent musician reverberating so much.
When we went to make our first record it was a Songs:Ohia album that enchanted us and sent us to Scotland to try and capture some of the mystery and elegance we heard in its grooves. We sent him the pre-release tapes of it and received the most wonderful note back, full of joy and encouragement and kind words, traits that all those grieving for him immediately recall, rather than the despair that must have been always coring away at him inside.
I first met Jason back in 2000/2001 when he played Dublin and my fledgling band was starting to operate. As best I remember it the association actually began when his Songs:Ohia band mates came to see us play and we ended up hammered, arm in arm on the dance floor roaring along to The Song Remains the Same. Jason wasn't there as such hard partying didn't appear to be his style. He preferred to retire to his room and write. He was the calm one, the sensible one, the hard worker getting up at 4am to pour out more songs. We didn't know all the raging of the storm was contained within.
We met him properly the next day, where much to the mortification of his band mates he, with great delight, told us of the drunken chaos they got up to in the hotel room while he pretended to sleep. I'm not telling.
A plan was hatched for Jason, his band mate Dan Sullivan, our drummer Joss and myself to retire to a house in the Dublin mountains and play some music. Memories are vague, but I can picture Jason breaking out a bottle of Knob Creek, us four stupid young men throwing out a thousand "who wants to sup from the knob?" jokes, dressing up in stupid clothes, christening ourselves the 'Pink Pirates' and trying, very badly, to invent new Thin Lizzy riffs until dawn. We'd been friends a day, but in those hours had been friends for a hundred years.
On our first US tour in 2002, he personally booked us a show in Bloomington, Indiana, under the guise of a Songs:Ohia show and refused to take any payment to make sure we got as much money from the show as possible. Just decent.
We spent a beautiful night sitting on his porch batting away every moth and mosquito trying to crash the party, talking nonsense and just revelling in the company of this wonderful man, and thinking what a spectacular home and wife he had, a seemingly idyllic life. Seemingly.
After that, I didn't hear from him again for over a decade, and was shocked as the news broke how troubled and how much trouble he was in. We waited and assumed. Out of the blue last year I got a message just saying "Big hugs from Indianapolis" and the relief was great. Jason was on the way back.
Pink Pirate down...
Jason Molina 1973 - 2013