*An immediate disclaimer, as I genuinely enjoy the fluidity of memory: some of this could have happened as early as 1995, and may have stretched into 1997, but probably not. 1996 was pretty important.*

In no particular order, here is how I construct it: Lauren was responsible for Underworld, Meggan was a go-to for rap (hip-hop) and random industrial, and Phil guided me to the best of the best. Many others contributed heavily, and you know who you are. This is a necessary trip back.

Dan had more skate- and ska-inspired rock than I knew. I borrowed or was gifted countless CD samplers, and honestly, to this day, Gracie is responsible for some remote part of my brain randomly surging forth an energized rift and Oi Oi-stylized vocals. I couldn’t ska-dance for shit, but he would break out mad custom moves right by the register or the fryers without hesitation. Dan is the reason I know a tiny bit about NY Hardcore. I might never have found the Wrens without you, good sir.

Lauren handed me Second Toughest in the Infants one night after work and said, “Hey, you might like this. I got this disc through WaxTrax (I think she had a subscription or something very similar), and it’s not really my style.” I had bought a Panasonic head unit from Chris (double-floating anti-vibration system) in a 1986 five-speed hatchback Accord, and I inserted the disc on a Sunday night. The parking lot lights made the empty streets amber, and there was a slight haze on my windshield. “Juanita” started playing, and it has not stopped playing in my head since. I even get a little upset when other fans play the remix of the song–the original was that strong. Thanks, Uncle L.

Meggan could finish any lyric I started. It was super-weird. Fast food (or most teenage jobs, for that matter) are tedious at best, so it’s kind of a big deal if you can entertain yourself and each other while going through the motions. I must’ve thrown everything from “1nce Again” to “Doin’ It” to “Wish” at Megs, only to have her immediately complete the lyric and send it back my way. Sometimes, like a true fool, I’d be so excited I’d sort of hop rapidly while completing some mundane task. I can’t be positive, but I feel like maybe she was the first to show me mustard and lettuce directly on top of a chicken tender, with no bun. You can’t learn that type of thing yourself. It’s taught to you. To this day, a raised eyebrow or a slight head tilt can signal, “Look at that asshole over there.” I bet it always will.

Phil and I went to see Depeche Mode. Millie dropped us off way back at the entrance to Star Lake (it will always be Star Lake, regardless of corporate sponsor), and I got to see Dave Gahan command a stage under purple lights. Phil always had the drop on The New, but it was his portal to the Older Unheard that really blew my mind. I think he took a lot of pride in casually, stealthily introducing super-rad shit. I was listening to NIN before I met Phil, but I’ll be damned if our combined Trent efforts didn’t result in a brand-new universe of sounds and art to which I definitely would not have been privy. For the thousand nights of sitting cross-legged on carpeted floors and feeling unholy rage at bad A.I. to a few dozen live shows, thanks for being that guy who can pick up where he left off six months or six years ago without a beat missed. This is where I should slip in a “First” reference, but it’s true, and we all know it.

In about an hour, I’m taking a meeting that will likely set the stage for the next ten or twenty years of my professional life, even if it begins with the smallest of steps. It helps to look back before we storm forward. Always forward.

Play a tune for me, and send some energy out there.

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