Who The Hell Is Dexter Peterson?

The Lives of Dexter Peterson So my latest album (and novella, and graphic novel) is called The Lives of Dexter Peterson, in case you haven’t heard me raving about it lately. Sure, it’s a new batch of musics and quite possibly the best-sounding record I’ve ever made, but I don’t think I’ve ever really gone into detail about who the hell this Dexter Peterson is and why I’m writing about him.

Those that know my inspirations and tastes might think that the album title’s some kind of homage to Ben Folds’ The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner. Sure, that album kicks many flavors of ass and I’d love to think that Dexter and Reinhold might be friends somewhere in the charts, but other than the lengthy title they really have nothing in common besides a lot of piano.

No, Dexter’s origins are a bit more meta than that.

Strategically Planned Chaos

Back in 2005 (you know, when Facebook was where you found your old college buddies) I took part in something called NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. The goal is to start with a blank page on November 1st and write 50,000 words by December. That’s over 1,600 words per day, or about five and a half standard paperback pages. Every single day. This kind of pace guarantees two things:

  1. Whatever you write is probably going to be crap.
  2. Any story you’ve got in mind will either be rock-solid or totally disintegrate, either of which can lead to a good novel.

It’s the second point that led me to create Dexter. I figured that if I was going to survive an effort like this, I’d better be working with a story that could move with the kind of random attention span I’d likely be suffering. Hence, Dexter was born not out of something truly compelling that I needed to say, his Genesis was more a utility to prevent writer’s block from killing my daily word count. His ordeal of finding his entire world shifted like the Mad Hatter’s tea party made for a convenient way to push the word count higher without devoting any excess time to a dying plot line.

Since Dexter’s reality jumps from one life to the next at any given moment, I had the freedom to abandon a thread as soon as I started running out of ideas. It’s the dream of every twenty-something male who’s afraid of commitment.

From Chaos, Meaning

About halfway into my NaNoWriMo ordeal, I actually began to formulate a direction for Dexter. If anything, his story is a story about finding focus. Are you the kind of person who has never held a job for more than a few years? A serial dater? Have you changed addresses more than you’ve changed hairstyles? You can probably relate to Dexter, even if you’re not a time-traveler. Dexter’s story is the same as every post-college American kid currently wandering Europe with a giant backpack and a 2-terabyte iPhoto library.

And yet he finds something in his existential ADD that brings consistency: Alexandria. When I started the outline process in late October 2005, she wasn’t in there at all. For all I’d blocked out beforehand (yes, that’s allowed in the NaNo rules), I never planned on Dexter meeting a girl that would change him. I suppose none of us really plan on meeting someone like that, but if we’re lucky we do. I’d like to think I’m that lucky.

So for thirty days Dexter lived in my tortured sense of direction (poor guy), but as the month wore on I found it easier to coalesce a coherent world for him. Ideas recapitulated in surprising places. An endgame began to present itself with each new idea. Sure, Dexter’s story began as an etude or an exercise, but it became something strangely autobiographical.

From the chaos of my imagination, a nascent sense focus emerged. This was also the year I released Beer & Coffee.

Life By Life, Track By Track

In the coming weeks I’ll try to post some more detailed explanations about each of Dexter’s lives as they’re detailed in the novella. Each of the album’s tracks will be explained a bit better as well. Hopefully I can impart a better understanding of who Dexter Peterson is and, with any luck, I’ll come to a better understanding myself. Penning the story and creating the album aren’t the final steps in this creative process, they’re really just milestones.

If you have any questions, please feel free to ask. They not only help make Dexter more real to you, they make him more real for me as well.

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