It was all going so well. A week at home. I was happily working on mixing Mimi Schell‘s album, I’d gotten to the last day, and was trying to mix a song so well I wouldn’t need the morning after to listen to it. The house was empty, on Thursday — I was looking forward to having a night where I could make noise and do whatever til the wee hours, to catch up. Dominique was in Paris for various appointments and projects. Aden was sleeping over at a friend’s.
The phone rang around 7.30, 8pm. I’d just gotten off the phone with Dominique, and I was downstairs listening back to a mix. My cell phone rang up in my room right after I hung up with Dom. I thought maybe she’d forgotten to tell me something. It rang again, straight away. Now, normally, my phone is off. People just don’t reach me on my French phone, for the most part. Folks in the US email me. Folks in Europe email me. Days go by where the phone isn’t even on, I turn it on when I’ll be carrying it around away from Dom and she might need to reach me. It was on, that night. I don’t remember ever giving my new number (I changed phone numbers here in France about 3 years ago) to Mike Squires but maybe he was coming to France on tour at some point recently and I gave it to him. The fact is, the chance that he had my number and that my phone was on, both, was really slim.
Anyway, it was Mike Squires, who rented the upstairs room in my Seattle house in the early 2000s. And it was he who told me the news. Our friend, one of our closest friends, and drummer in the Posies for the last 15 years, Darius Minwalla, was dead. My brain walked in circles while he spoke. What was he even talking about?
My heart rate immediately went through the roof, as the shock hit me. As I struggled with the news, even as I dialed Jon’s number, I was reasonably sure this was a huge prank being played, a sick one–it’s not nice to wind people up like that. Like a robot, I delivered the news to Jon, even though the human part of me didn’t believe it.
About an hour later, Darius’ girlfriend, Danielle, called me. It wasn’t a joke.
We still don’t have answers, there’s an autopsy being done. What we know — in the last weeks he had stomach problems and if I understood correctly, chest pains. He had a traumatic fall last year, we almost had to find a replacement for him for some shows, when he was still working at the Biltmore Cabaret, in Vancouver where he’s been living for the last…5 years? 6? We all think of Darius as a Seattle guy, still, by reflex. Even though he’s from Boise, and North Carolina by birth. Anyway, he put his foot in a leg-sized hole in the basement there, and fell, breaking two ribs on the edge of the hole. Was there further internal damage that wasn’t seen at the time? We don’t know. We know that Darius was home, from what I knew he was no longer working at the Biltmore, if I understood correctly. Danielle went to work. She texted with him about 11am (this would be Wednesday). She had urged him to see a doctor about the various symptoms he had been showing since coming home from Japan (touring with Hugh Cornwell) a couple weeks before; scheduled to do another tour with Hugh, she urged him to get a checkup before going. He agreed. He had spoken to his mom between 11 and noon. In the afternoon, Danielle texted to say she’d be working late, and was puzzled when he didn’t reply. She came home that night and found him unresponsive, in fact, he was already in rigor mortis. The paramedics on the phone asked her to do CPR, but he was cold, she couldn’t even unfold him to lay him down. He’d probably been gone since about midday. His laptop was open; he had been looking up a doctor to make an appointment with.
What to do with the news? I was fighting with its veracity. It had to be joke, or a mistake. At the same time, the adrenalin was shooting through me. I couldn’t sit, I couldn’t be in one place. Alone. No one to talk to. I opened and drank a bottle of vouvray (sparkling wine from our region here). Then another. The news started to go around the internet. People started to get in touch. I tried to work on Mimi’s last mix, or listen to other things…mostly I got extremely drunk and just felt awful. I think I went to bed at 5.30, finally.
at 9 I had to be up, again. I made an announcement on Facebook as the rumors were shooting every which way. I don’t remember even posting the announcement. At 10, Olivier, the singer of Popincourt, arrived and we did the second half of the vocals for his album; we’d done the first half in March. I was so glad to have something in front of me to do. We don’t have wifi at home so while working, the internet and all its bad news was out of sight, out of mind. I shut the idea of Darius off from my conscious mind. Aden was delivered after school by her grandma, and Olivier took a train home around 8. I cooked for Aden. When Olivier left, I opened up the computer, saw all the posts, all the reactions to my post. I’d IM’d with Sean Nelson for his Stranger piece at some point, in the middle of the night, I don’t even remember doing that. The feelings came flooding back. I was so sad. I went back and worked on Mimi’s mix, just to have something to do. Aden went to bed, Dom got home that night around 11.
Yesterday, the same feeling. Dread when I woke up, after the escape of dreams. I went to the market with Dom, the post office, a coffee. Little routines. At midday Liisa came, we were going to spend a half day touching up her mixes, seeing to small details, on the album we’ve been working on since 2010. Again, good to have someone there to distract me. The work with Olivier and Liisa was pleasant, engaging, not stressful. Then, at the end of the day, the internet gets plugged in to my computer, and I see all the messages– hundreds a day, from friends and strangers — and the reality comes back.
As Liisa was heading back to Paris, I joined her on the tram, went downtown, met Dom & Aden, and we had barbecue and vouvray at the guinguette. A guinguette is an outdoor drinking & gathering place. The city of Tours has established an elaborate outdoor space with food, drinks, a play area for the kids on the banks of the Loire. Dom and I stayed for hours, and I drank too much. Right now, I can’t be trusted, the pain is too great. I need to calm myself and accept Darius’ loss, and accept that life is here for the rest of us, it’s OK to be alive.
Jon met Darius, presumably when he was working the coffee cart on Capitol Hill in the late 90s. Just a kid, really. Something odd about the Posies drummers– they all lost their fathers to illness as teenagers. Mike, Brian and Darius. Jon, at this time, was a lost soul, I believe. He’d divorced his first wife, and announced he wanted to quit the band. We did our farewell album, Success. I was devastated by that, but I moved on — quickly. A few weeks after the Posies farewell show in San Francisco, I was on tour with REM, playing with Neil Young. Jon didn’t have such a warm place to go. He joined the band Lucky Me, which did a major label album, that as far as I know, never got released. He needed someone to show him that life was a good thing, he was pretty dark. Darius was all positive, looked up to Jon, really nurtured him. And he was young and strong — they partied together, a lot. Jon and Darius and Mike Squires and other friends toured behind Jon’s nascent solo catalogue (Jon’s album came some years down the road).
Three years after splitting up, our friends at Houston Party in Spain offered us a tour in Spain for their label anniversary, in February of 2001. We decided to do it, having already done some acoustic duo shows. Joe Bass was in, but Brian Young, by this time busy with Fountains of Wayne, declined. Who to get? Mike Musburger and we hadn’t really repaired our friendship from his quitting after a physical confrontation between himself and myself that was the final blow to years of tension.
Jon proposed Darius. I’m sure glad he did. Darius’ enthusiasm and the fun and warmth he brought to the band extended to life outside the band. He became our buddy. His inexperience, relative to Brian and Mike, behind the kit, toughened up quickly. By the time we toured with the Pernice Brothers & the Chamber Strings supporting us, that summer, we were a fucking furious rock band. Joe Bass wasn’t working for us at that time, and we’d spotted Matt Harris playing w Oranger at SXSW that year and asked him to join us. This band, Jon, Darius, Matt, myself — went on to make two great albums and tour the world. For almost 15 years. We had a lot of adventures, ups and downs. I’m not sure I can recall Darius ever being negative or bummed out. I used him on my own recordings, too. He plays drums on “You Drew” the opening track on “Soft Commands”. One of my favorite recordings of “one take D” as we called him — as he could nail a song on the first try — is my version of “Down on My Knees” by Bread for a tribute album. It’s not posted online to stream, but for D’s sake, download it. We sped the tape up after tracking the drums, so that they’d have a tighter sound, and it compressed the energy of the track.
When I toured the West Coast with the Maldives two years ago, we played in Vancouver at the Biltmore Cabaret. By this time, Darius was the venue manager and living in Vancouver. He had a great apartment with Danielle, who he’d met up there, around the corner. I stayed there that night. We had dinner together, all of us, at a great sushi place up the street. We had a wonderful show, and Darius hung out with us, as we drank tequila and stayed up late. An epic night, so much fun. I think about it often. The last time the Posies played together was at a kind of odd show, a free show in Wenatchee to kick off the ski season, last Halloween. It wasn’t our best show, but it was a great hang. That’s the last time I saw Darius. We were in touch, of course. But of course– you take your friends, who are healthy, and young, for granted. For the record, the last appearance we made in Seattle, at Macefield Festival in early October last year, was a barn burner.
Darius had lived in Pakistan as a teenager. His dad, a gifted surgeon specializing in the stomach, was from there. His mom was from Britain, they met there. He spent a year of junior high in Pakistan, and recounted incredible stories from that time. He was born in North Carolina, his dad being invited to bring his family to the States and take a position at a university hospital in the Research Triangle. Darius, accent on “Dare”, is a traditional Persian name, in line with his dad’s ethnicity. The southerners called him Da-RYE-us. Even tho, another well-known Darius, from Virginia is DARE-ee-us from Hootie and the Blowfish. I’m not sure what prompted the move to Boise, or when his dad died, etc. But he went to high school in Boise. His mom remarried. Darius has at least two sisters and numerous cousins — all female, it seems, and all very nice, and all loved Darius very much, so it was hard for me to tell who was a sibling and who was a cousin– they were all close. They lived all over the place — Toronto, LA, Argentina — we would run into them on tour all the time. Darius’ mom & stepdad hosted us in Boise. Darius just…wasn’t fucked up. Jon & I, we’re pieces of work. Matt can be a nutcase. Darius was ever upbeat, caring, fun. He played drums too loud, he played too fast. So what. He never played boring. I couldn’t even imagine writing all the memories of joy and laughter and music I have with Darius. It’s a book in itself.
Darius loved living in Vancouver. He loved Canada– anyone who knows him will bring up his love for the band Rush (Darius gave me his SECOND copy of the Rush 30th Anniversary DVD to make SURE I watched it). He loved the Toronto Blue Jays. Girls went gaga over him, he had years of growing up amongst loving female energy that made him very comfortable around women. He was respectful, and a serial monogamist. Over the years, I knew him as single only for a few months. Even with 40 approaching, he had the face of a kid.
He was very loved…by thousands of people. That is the good news, in all this bad news. His impact on the world was positive. It will be mourned, and missed. I loved him.
Here’s a great musical moment with Darius, to leave you with. I mixed this song, but Scott Greiner, who mixed several of the songs on Blood/Candy, had heard the tracks, and offered to edit the drum fill into the second verse. Technically, it’s out of time…I guess. I just hear it as a great spontaneous moment. It’s life. It happened, and I would never alter it in a million years. It’s beautiful.