2016 was a year of milestones. On a financial level, I paid off my motorcycle and a tax debt that I’d been chipping at for years. On the professional front, I launched and toured American Murder Song, a bold and ambitious project that’s given me a new creative lease on life. On the personal frontier, I turned 40 and got my first tattoo, a permanent cockroach on my left forearm. But perhaps the biggest turn of 2016 is one that I haven’t yet shared.
I’ve had long hair since I was a teenager. I’m not sure where this shaggy impulse began, but I suppose it stemmed from highschooler rock ‘n’ roll dreams. When I was 16, I playing in a metal band (which thank god was before the YouTube era), and haven’t really cut my hair since.
I like to think that in the twenty-four years since the above photo was snapped, that my music has gotten a touch better… but my long-haired, adolescent spirit is harder to kick than Zydrate.
Although perhaps there was a devil in me yearning for a more shorn look?
In November, I completed a six-week tour with American Murder Song. While on the road, my body—and rock ‘n’ roll determination—was tested. On tour, we performed a couple of smoking venues, not factoring in that this would cause throat irritations and singing obstacles that lasted for weeks.
I was also eaten alive one night in a hotel room that apparently came with a bunch of tiny roommates. These crawly guests seemed to find my face especially tasty as I woke up one morning to a jaw and chin that was so swollen and red that BB—our roadie, tour photographer and moonlight makeup artist—had to beat me up a bit with her makeup brushes before our Boise show to make the swelling look purposeful.
I also developed a case of Alopecia areata.
Alopecia areata is an attack on a body’s hair follicles by its immune system, which results in sudden hair loss. And by sudden, I mean sudden. Like with the unsightly bug bites, I woke one morning to circular patches of missing hair all over my chin and head. The missing patches looked like those Alien crop circles of redneck fantasy. I even had a stranger at a coffee shop ask me if I’d purposefully shaved the face of a skull into the back of my melon. Unfortunately, the look was nothing this cool.
Aside from being shocking, the overnight hair loss was embarrassing. On tour, I found myself attempting unsuccessful comb-overs to try and hide the barren areas of my scalp, cleaving desperately to my longstanding, long-hair-ed persona.
After much consideration, I decided that this balding battle was something that I was no longer interested in fighting. Shortly after dismounting the American Murder Song tour van, I marched into a hipster barber shop, took a shot of whiskey, and bid farewell to what was left of my mane.
Tomorrow, I’ll be playing my first show without hair at The Edwardian Ball in San Francisco. So, if you live near the Bay Area, come out and say hi to my new head (you can even rub it for luck, if you’d like), and experience a live performance of American Murder Song.
If you can’t make it to the show, don’t fret; the entire American Murder Song experience (including TZ with and without hair) is available on DVD and CD in a comprehensive box set, which you can order here.
Apparently, Alopecia areata is a temporary condition, and lost hair often eventually regrows. I’ll cross that bridge if and when it comes. ‘Til then, here’s the new me: same ‘tude, new dome.