Roger Duncan is a West Australian writer currently completing a Master's
of Creative Arts degree at Curtin University. He has been published in the online journals:
Gangway, Dotlit, Hackwriters, Madswirl, Surfaceonline, Blank-magazine, Eclectica, The
Harrow, and Australianreader. "P.V.S" forms the basis for a novel in progress.
No one else I have ever known learnt what they are by
dictionary definition. I first heard my name used in a sentence on a British sitcom. It might
have been The Good Life. The key sentence went something like, "you really are bland." I
was probably five or six. I knocked the dictionary off of a high shelf above Dad's record player
and looked it up:
Bland - a mannerism. Of suave character, flattering,
pleasant, smooth and soothing, without emotion, purposefully agreeable and charming. To be
boring, of no interest, insipid, unoriginal, unattractive, unable to excite, without flavour,
colour or taste. A person whose life is without meaning.
I looked up mannerism - relating to manner. Manner -
behaviour. I looked up suave, it said polite. I was feeling good, using the dictionary,
discovering who I was and would be. I wasn't sure about without emotion, or what the book
meant by purposefully agreeable, but I knew what charming was, like prince charming, and
when mum's friends said, "he's gonna grow up to be a charmer." Up to that point I was feeling
really good about who I would grow up to be.
Back to bland, with sweaty little hands. Boring… insipid…
unattractive… life is without meaning. I looked up from the book, and frowned at my face
reflected in the TV screen, behind the rolling credits. Names superimposed onto my scrunched
face, head tilted like a confused animal. I yelled out for mum,
clues to my identity everywhere. Drop the S from Slaughter and its one big joke. Take the
tape, rewind and re-record over the past. Take the word Bland and re-invent it."
kept yelling until she came
into the lounge room, until she came into the lounge angry, angry until I asked, "mum, what's
insipid?" She told me to look it up; I read the meaning out to her.
"Am I insipid mum? It says bland means good stuff, but
then makes them bad."
"Tony, bland is just a word. But Bland is your father's
family name, it is our family name, it is your name. The name and the meaning are two different
things. You have the power to make your name mean anything, it's who you are, you make
, it doesn't make you. Pronounce it however you like, you can say, my name is Tony
Blarnd in a posh accent. Or like a secret spy, Blond… Tony Blond." Mum knew how to make me laugh
back then, make me feel like I could conquer the world.
For as long as I have known myself I have been the only
Tony Bland. I say it with a broad Aussie accent, Tunny Blaynd.
Until twenty years later, when I met him.
A still image. The pale face reticent of individual
features. Bandaged head, sealed eyes, breath mist appearing and fading on the oxygen mask. Body
sealed in a peppermint-green sheet. Imprisoned by metal railings. Trapped. Subject to the full
screen image. Bold white letters stamped upon the blank face, merging via osmosis,
The voice-over droned, "A sad end to the Tony Bland tragedy
today, the court sentence not endorsing euthanasia, but forbidding the hospital to continue
caring for the patient. Mister Bland, who was crushed during this year's after Christmas sale
stampede, has been in a Persistent Vegetative State for almost 3 months since his life-altering
rush for a bargain. Hospital staff expect Mister Bland to die from starvation and dehydration
within the week. Back to you Prue."
"Thanks Dick, and on a happier note, stay tuned everyone,
your lucky number could be up next in tonight's lotto results after the break."
One day, when I was very young, about five years old,
dancing Elvis style at the Holiday-Inn Tunisia, surrounded by drunk tourists, I realised that
you could steal fame, you could garner acclaim through someone else's aura.
This wasn't like that. I already was Tony Bland. He was me,
I him. Both of us barely alive. At our lowest. Able to feel, sense, and understand our sentence
to life insignificance.
Judges of the law sentenced Tony to death by starvation and
dehydration, labelling him a Persistent Vegetative State. The judges of What It Takes!
sentenced me to the same, labelled me useless, talentless
, and laughed at me.
I've found clues to my identity everywhere.
Drop the S from Slaughter and its one big joke.
Take the tape, rewind and re-record over the past.
Take the word Bland and re-invent it.
* * *
If you pause the What It Takes! video between the
close-up on Clive Johns' stubby, wire-haired-hand, and my turn to stage left you can catch it.
Shame. Head tilts down, eyelids half-mast, eyes move lower left, shoulders relax, brow clears
of lines, and cheeks fall.
I always pictured this moment. The moment I would be
recognised. Discovered. Even now I can still picture it. Even though it has happened I can
imagine it. And even when I'm my own stranger, irrational, spoon-fed, incontinent, I will still
envision it. The day the world celebrates me:
Tony Bland: P.V.S. Conscious-awareness unknown. Crushed
into a coma by stampeding post-Christmas shoppers. Not dead. Not murdered. Medical treatment
withdrawn. Starved and dehydrated by courts and hospitals. His was deemed a life not worth
Right now I'm sitting
in front of the television. Toxic light pulses from the screen. Bathes and drowns me, leaving
a catatonic shell. Fluorescent beats pump and illuminate. Images from the light reflect upon
high-sheen walls. Depthless and deathless, the screen is immortal. If I can make it there I
will be indelible.
Over five million CD's have been released. Five singles. Recorded,
mastered, remixed, formatted. The video clips compiled, edited, and over-budgeted. All of them
hits because the publicity is inescapable. I have waited, prepared, planned, dreamt for twelve
years, afraid that I would never succeed. Music never mattered as much as publicity. I am my
own machine. I own Hikikomori records.
If you play the What It Takes! video through the
pubic-hair-hand, my turn of shame, and hit pause just after Clive Johns shouts in a
dehydrated-phlegm-crow, "...great stage name. Ha. Ha. Ha. I'm not joking, ummm. Get Off!"
and then forward frame by frame through my exit you can catch the glance. Betrayal. Eyelids
raise, neck folds, lips tighten.
I never pictured this moment. The moment I would fail. Even
now I can still conjure the rage that makes my palms and armpits and feet flood with venom,
jaw and knuckles crack like an avalanche, eyes and brain itch like a burn.
Right now I'm bathing in the TV UV, shuffling through the
photo's I took. Francis' dismembered hands. Jeff kneeling in the knocker pen head bowed. A
close up of the knife stuck in Wilson's cortex. Luke's headless naked corpse hanging upside
down. Sick, inhumane, repulsive pictures. Screened, filtered, artistic-realism. I saved those
dead fools from never realising their dreams. Made them in my image.
The band has been designed. Shot, reframed, analysed,
tested, marketed, printed. CD covers, posters, t-shirts, fan books, web sites. Images flashed
for an indelible second. They don't matter, never did. Creations of Hikikomori, managed and
owned by me, the real Tony Bland, say it with a broad Australian accent, Tunny Blaynd.
If you play the What It Takes! video through the frame of
shame, the frame of betrayal, and the frames of spit flying from Clive's mouth you will catch
the look. Vilified hatred. Press play and you will see Clive captured like a moth in a glass
case, frozen-white, life-like. Clive the bastard judge, the one the audience loves to be
tactless. You can catch the evil. Clive shuts up, knowing there's a thousand more dreamers
he will have to annihilate in the name of entertainment. And that one of those dreamers may
be dangerous. Eyes crease, cheeks rise, nostrils flare, head turns, skin pulls back.
Hikikomori: Japanese social disorder. One million teenage
Japanese have become virtual modern hermits, bedroom recluses. Pressure to succeed, a mix of
desire and inability to lead a normal life result in anti-social reclusion.
I always pictured
this moment before it happened, and when I'm dead and indelible I'll picture it. Something
I created, achieved, thought, said, did will be discovered, reified, broadcast over satellites
for the entire world to recognise. This great person. A dream even when realised remains a
dream. A dream of revenge on the television studio; the panel of three judges, the lights, the
cameras, the stage, the microphone. A dream of time reversal, me slicing Clive's throat with a
steel blade. The other two judges pleading me to go through to the next round in Sydney where
the finals will be held, all expenses paid.
Right now I'm reading an invitation to the MTV awards, and
an offer for an exclusive interview as owner, manager, and sole employee of Hikikomori
Records. In the interview I will divulge details on my killing spree that created The
Bland Band. Tunny Blaynd the stage name that spoke to me the first time I heard it on the
morning news before school. Joining us live via Satellite musical entrepreneur, and hero,
Tony Bland. I always pictured it.
Tony Bland: Tony Bland never finished in the Top Ten in
any major category. Tony Bland never finished in the Top Fifty in any minor category. Tony
Bland is in a state of unconsciousness, between deep sleep and death. Tony Bland needed others
to accept his reality, but they just imposed theirs upon him.
* * *
People in Traffic
I hired Sand Stone Studios out for six hours and recorded
five songs. Lenin, the board operator turned out to be perfect for all purposes. Lenin's been
an addict his entire life. His main addiction sugar, closely followed by glam rock. He also
had an addiction to not bathing, or wearing any footwear, closely followed by pot, and speed.
"I'm Lenin, the engineer.
Crushed into a Persistent Vegetative State by bargain hunters. Able to breathe, vital organs
function normally, response to pain with reflex movements. Able to open eyes but not focus on
I'm called Lenin because since I
was a youngster my teachers would say there goes young Lenin. I'm addicted to red cordial. I
strongly suggest anything you record today be in the style of Glam Rock, it's the only revival
left--study Twisted Sister. I believe in organics, naturalness, I haven't had a bath since I
was seven, although I was thrown into a pool at a party two years ago. I suggest removal of
footwear for the best musical expression, the feet are the path to the spirit of the self, as
is marijuana and amphetamine use."
He recorded the basic instrument tracks, and left me to
remix and add the vocal samples. No records of my time at the studio, only one master which
I kept, and no memory of the day due to his sitting in the back room getting high and drinking
coffee in between lifting weights and watching Sally-Jesse, Jerry, Ricki, and Oprah. I crept
out at 5am, Lenin slumped in the back room. Spliff, powder, and undiluted red cordial.
A piano (Luke), drums (Wilson), guitar (Jeff), and bass
(Francis). All of them me. Track one begins with a low piano holding a straight four-four
rhythm: CCCC, AAAA, DDDD, EEEE. This continues throughout. Except for the one empty bar
between each sequence in the chorus.
The piano intro is accompanied after two bars by sloppy
drumming. No high-hat or cymbals. Bass, snare, bass-bass, snare. This continues through
out. Except for the empty chorus bar. Guitar comes in after eight bars, out of tune wails,
distorted, warm, heavy reverb, double speed EEEEEEEE, EEEEEEEE, FFFFFFFF, FFFFGGGG. This
fades in and out every twelve bars. It announces the chorus, fades and lingers in the silence
after every sequence of C, A, D, E.
Bass comes in with the drums, high pitched bass, same notes
as piano but holding the notes and bending them out of tune and back into tune. C (bends up
then down), A (bends up and down), D (bends), E (bends). This stops after each sequence for
one bar in the chorus. Monotony. All of it me.
Hikikomori: a hidden portion of a population, a
social element simmering, raging beneath a sense of incompetence, impotence, explosion
I play these parts
one by one over each other onto the 48-track recorder. And when the guitar isn't playing and
it's just the piano, drums, guitar, and bass you can hear samples of Francis' rhythmic
whimpers, soft, alluring "where. are the gerrrrls. why would you. cut off my hands, cut off
my hands, don't cut off. my hands." This sample from Francis at the Slaughterhouse repeats
throughout, each time modulated with a different effect, it only stops when the guitar enters.
Drop the "S" from Slaughter and its one big joke.
The screaming textured tone of the guitar brings in the
selling point of the song. After one repetition of the repetitive riff an empty silence is
fuelled by a desperate crying scream, "KNOWWWWWW.. uh", from Jeff. A raw emotion, effeminate,
horrific, beautiful, masculine, disgusting, sexy and catchy. People in traffic jams will be
This is how I record the other songs. They're all bland,
comatose, in a persistent vegetative state, the life crushed out of the music.
Tony Bland: his bone flesh yells, pleas, screams.
Crushed by thousands stampeding upon his body before the department store doors. Unnoticed,
Track one: Tarot Singer. Track two: Reason Whore. Track
three: Japanese Tales. Track four: Version Of Me. Track five: Diary Stain. Five songs. Each
single will have at least two remixes on it. The album will be full with other mixes, video
clips, web links, gallery etc. What matters is that my killing gets worldwide coverage.
* * *
Screaming girls slam hands on the car. Barking boys shout,
and pound notepads onto the back windows. The two identical large muscle-fat bald men wedge
themselves out the back limousine door and keep guard as they usher Amira and I out. Another
bald headed man is saying things like, "keep passage clear, merchandise has arrived, stay
alert". The two identical large bald men put their padded-bar arms around Amira and I, and
act as battering rams against the crowd.
Tony Bland: Crushed into a Persistent Vegetative State
by bargain hunters. Able to breathe, vital organs function normally, response to pain with
reflex movements. Able to open eyes but not focus on solid forms. Non-responsive to
communication. A screen existed between Tony and the world he was in.
The distribution company and their sponsors want me to
wear a suit. Respectable. Professional innocent. Free. We arrive at The Big Mall at around
noon, one of the larger shopping centres in Western Australia, home of the Trinity Killer, my
home. This is control.
Hikikomori: Japanese youth phenomenon. After self-imposed
long-term reclusion, many turn to violent crime. One hi-jacked a bus and killed the
passengers; another kidnapped a young girl, returned to bedroom-reclusion and kept her
prisoner for nine years.
Amira, the last of the Trinity Killer's girls. The last
of Francis' "gerrrls". What I have or have not done, or who I was or am, she could not care
less. She knows I saved her, killed her captor, the other three, Jeff, Wilson, and Luke are
invisible to her and the majority of the population. Francis, the Trinity killer was the one
they were all after. Jeff, Luke and Wilson go unreported. The rest of my entourage are there
to look impressive. Identical baldness was a personal request, hairless equals faceless, equals
nameless, equals invisible.
The scene resembles previous appearances. I have appeared
on a platform before The Big Golden Guitar in Tamworth, on a small stage beneath the Big Banana
at Coff's Harbour, at The Big Ned Kelly in Glen Rowan, The Big Boxing Croc at Humpty Doo, The
Big Gum Boot in Nelly, The Big Pineapple in Nambour, The Big Cigar, The Big Peanut, The Big
Potato, The Big Milkshake, The Big Ant, Big Rolling Pin, Big Santa, Big Stubby Beer bottle.
Australia, The Big Country.
Tony Bland: when the world has crushed you, you crush the
The Big Mall. All arteries pump the public through to the
stage area, away from Big Brand Sales, Big Mac's, Big W, and Big Sliding Doors. Big Posters of
The Bland Band in every window, on magazines, t-shirts, CD covers, fan books, caps, on special
displays. Big Banners announcing: TONY BLAND APPEARING TODAY.
Waiting in a corridor, secured off from straying consumers
by two Big Identical Bald Men, Amira whispers to me, "I love you, my killer hero." One of the
bald guys passes me my costume, neatly folded Orange overalls, handcuffs glistening on top.
Hikikomori: self-imprisonment as self-discovery, the
desire to be successful and free.
The crowd sounds like a human fireworks display, booming,
fading, echoing and re-igniting, over and over. The bodyguards leave the stage. I stand, a
condemned man, a hero unjustly condemned. Prisoner stance in the centre of the stage, beneath
The Big "H" of Hikikomori. Thirty seconds seems like five minutes in captive pose in front of
a microphone. Silent, surrounded by thousands of exploding people. I raise my head. Lift my
bonded hands above my head and yell, AMEEEERAAAAH! I break the plastic toy handcuffs, Amira
rushes out, clings to my torso, the only survivor of the Trinity Killer; they all know her face
from the TV, the papers, the Internet, the posters. The crowd cheers, whistles, pumps fists
victoriously in the air and shout Tun-neee, Tun-neee, Tun-neeee. I move closer to the
microphone, my voice echoes throughout The Big Mall:
"People of The Big mall, some say I am a killer, some say
I am a hero, some say I am a con artist, some say I am an entrepreneur. It's true I am a hero
because I have killed, I am an entrepreneur because I have conned. I have been small to become
big. Look at you all gathered here. Gathered to see me, Tunny Blaynd, here to see one who
ended the Trinity killer's capture of this community. Tunny Blaynd has awakened from a
persistent vegetative state, I have made you celebrate who I am on my terms."
Pyrotechnic flashes flame up from the stage. Shop windows
tremble. The Big Mall sounds like a prison riot. Bald heads clear a path. Hands and arms
brush me, hoping some of my celebrity will rub off. A team of big identical bald men rush me
through fire-exit door and into a limousine. My body sealed in the sleek coffin. Imprisoned by
tinted windows. Trapped. Subject to my own image. I can feel the bold white letters stamped
upon my face, merging via osmosis: T-o-n-y-B-l-a-n-d!