“REMEMBERING KRISTOV” Part 2: “Kristov – 1, Cancer – 0″
In thinking about my times with Kristov over the course of the last 8 years this is what comes to mind. I thank you for understanding a random missed detail during a time of mourning.
I wrote this for myself. To make sure I would not forget. But I also wrote it for Kris. To make sure noone else would forget what he meant to me and to the band MARAZENE.
I miss my friend.
I found out Kris had cancer on May, 17th of 2006 at a HIM concert at Congress Theater. Nikk had slowed down to take a phone call while we were walking up to the entrance of the venue and I would later find out it was Kris who was relaying to us the awful news. It was extremely serious. He required immediate surgery. He would need further treatment with follow up chemotherapy.
This was also the same night our video for the song ‘XecuTe’ was making it’s Chicagoland area debut on JBTV. The ‘XecuTe’ video had been a major project for me not only as a band member but as my first significant producer credit. For the band, the video was our big introduction to fans who were outside the Chicago area that we had met online through various social networking sites. It was a teaser for the eventual touring we would do in ’06 and ’07. The celebration fell a little flat and the whole evening seemed a bit out of place.
Needless to say, cancer was a difficult thing to wrap the brain around. I had no real personal experience with the disease. Kris was far too young to have developed such a bitch of a diagnosis. I would find out later on that Kris had suffered from mild symptoms of his condition as far back as the 2002 tour with BILE that he was a part of. So he basically started fighting the disease properly well into the onset. It would prove to be a very difficult thing to manage with the cancer having that much of a headstart.
What I do remember about all of this very clearly is that one minute I’m up to my eyeballs in deadlines for album mixes, album artwork, CD tour dates, phone calls, emails, follow up phone calls, lining up press for the album – all very typical for an independent band – and then *KA-BOOM* Kris all of a sudden gets dragged off (literally) for major surgery that he has to do without a second thought or choice just to survive. Head-spinning doesn’t begin to describe the situation. It was a split second requirement for Kris and we (the band) had all of ten fukking days to figure out wtf we were going to do about our ‘MachiNation’ CD show which was scheduled for May 27th at Kinetic Playground in Chicago.
The first time I actually visited Kris in the hospital after the surgery was a very stressful time. I distinctly remember the feeling while we were on the way that I was just going to freak out. I think I hid that well but inside the thoughts were a chaotic jumble. You have to consider that over the years of playing shows with him and rehearsing and hanging out that Kris was a given. He was a rock to me. He always had my back and I didn’t even have to think about it. Even through hard times there was respect. So I knew I would have to brace myself for whatever came my way that night. I know I had a beer on the way to the hospital just to calm my nerves. I had a beer in the hospital room with me tucked away in my coat. At the least I needed something to take the edge off and something to do with my hands. It was a very sad moment watching my friend struggle in a weakened state I never thought possible. There was no logic to it whatsoever. Here was a key change I had no note to cover.
Cancelling the CD shows seemed the obvious thing to do – but nothing was ever really that obvious in those days. It would have destroyed the momentum we had built up for our album and I don’t see how the math would have added up to us taking part on the National tours in ’07. We definitely would not have been prepared for them. Odds are we would never have left Chicago and we would have always been remembered as the band that could have been. Our detractors would have loved that.
For the most part, Kris and the band received a tremendous outpouring of support from our friends in the Chicagoland area but there were a couple of notable local nitpickers and naysayers that had been doing their best to derail the bands overall progress that we had been making by stirring up the pot about “leaving Kris behind” and all sorts of nonsense. But these people never had the bands best interests in mind. These were just a few people voicing an invalid opinion about a band and a collaboration that they never really fully understood. Kris, Nikk, and myself were determined to make a musical statement the likes of which the city of Chicago would always remember.
There had to be another way and Kris and I spoke about the pros and cons of cancelling or postponing this event or that event at one of my hospital visits. Our focus was always on building for the future but that didn’t mean we weren’t keen to the possibility of obstacles along the way.
What we eventually decided to do was to turn our CD show in to a sort of tribute to Kris’s struggle and with Kris’s blessing we agreed to play the out of town shows with a sub drummer. Kris believed in our album. And he was determined to fight like hell to rejoin us as soon as he could to help push it. So with the bands complete understanding and unified from the get-go we set our sites like we wrote our music – with a bigger picture in mind.
Marazene always planned for the future – and Kris was always a part of that plan.
On the night of our CD show I suggested that our videographer for the evening tape well wishes for Kris who was still recovering. Our MC for the evening made sure to dedicate the evening to Kris and there were many many toasts in the name our struggling friend that night. He wasn’t present but Kris was certainly on everyones minds.
Kris underwent an intense chemotherapy regimen in Spring 2006 following his surgery and determined fukk that he was, still managed to join us on the road for most of our shows. Despite all the hardships involving logistics I knew I wanted him there rather than have somebody else. And contrary to what many people think (including myself in the beginning) the doctors favored his staying involved with the band when it came to shows. They thought it was good to keep Kris active and involved. To keep things positive, etc.
Toward the end of 2006 I was able to land some really cool shows for MARAZENE with OTEP in Minneapolis, MN, and MUSHROOMHEAD in Flint, MI, and Chicago’s House of Blues through some of my connections. It was an especially optimistic time for the band which would end up leading to our first National tour with Mushroomhead the following year in March of 2007. I was able to confirm a tour with Deadstar Assembly about a week later for April of 2007. With the band at full strength and ready to promote the ‘MachiNation’ album it was nothing but shows, shows and more shows.
It was every bands dream to be able to tour in support of the music they created. And by not putting the brakes on in 2006 Kris, Nikk, and myself were able to capitalize on the momentum and do even cooler things in 2007. This completely invalidated the whole “leaving Kris behind” nonsense and consequently confounded both our local critics and our local competitors who – for the most part – have yet to acknowledge Kris’s struggle and the bands achievements that were borne in the shadow of incredibly negative odds and faced completely on our own.
Kris’s chemo regimen wrapped up long before we did the National tours but the after effects were still present. We wore the battle scars of a nasty fight for survival (his hair [dreadlocks] had fallen out) but it didn’t matter to him. I don’t know if I would’ve made the same decision to leave the house while still recuperating from an illness such as his and I think that gives you a good idea of how Kris – through thick and thin – managed to live his life to the limit no matter what was thrown at him. It’s what I admired about him. The never-say-die, middle-finger-in-the-air-mentality. It’s one thing to rock out with your cock out. It’s quite another thing altogether to undergo rigorous surgery, chemotherapy, and travel to do shows to rock out with your cock out. I’d be willing to bet that most people (myself included) wouldn’t leave the house until they were 100%.
Kris won the first battle with cancer. And he was able to join us on our tour dates and two National tours because of it. That’s quite an accomplishment and a victory for Kris and the band he helped found, however you want to look at it, by any measure of success.
to be continued…