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Through it all, the tapes for what would be Fix My Brain continued to miss contact with record labels. Vig eventually released one of the songs, "Mr. Frotian," as a single on his own Boat Records. That was last year. This year Vig went ahead and released the entire album, replete with knockout cover art by Madison artist Bill Rock.

The results are impressive. Fix My Brain is a collection of sideways pop songs skewed with synths and sophisticated chord progressions. The CD's highlights are the fourth and fifth cuts--"Mr. Frotian" and "Mediocre Compromise"--both of which are the kind of anthemic gems that the Smithereens could have written if they'd grown up listening to Yes.

Fix My Brain is also the most mature-sounding material Herod's released, and not just because of the beefy Butch Vig sound. Herod's lyrics used to be naive and childlike, of Forrest Gump proportions. He'd pen songs about how "fish always move" and how "everything is happy and nice." One of his earlier songs concerned the daily living patterns of three midgets named Bill, Dave and Jed. Fix My Brain includes a few similarly screwy subjects--the title character in the opening song, "Rock and Roll With Julie," for instance, is blessed with an "elongated head." But on other songs, most notably "Side by Side" and "All of the Time," Herod allows himself to get closer to real human emotions, something he never seemed comfortable with in the past.

Herod's now trying to get comfortable with knowing that Fix My Brain is finally in the bins. He says he's almost prepared for whatever happens next. He's putting the Skin People back together, and he's got "tons of new songs" ready to go. He also says he's willing to hit the road should the new CD warrant a tour, provided he and the rest of the band can find time away from careers and families.

Herod's own availabilities may have taken a hit recently when Channel 15 announced it was switching network affiliations from Fox to ABC. Until now, Herod's been able to balance music and TV to near blissful levels. He puts his promos together on an overnight shift, and spends his days working on songs at his home studio.

"There was a time when I hadn't played out in a while and I was down on my TV job," he says. "But when I went to play out, it was so humiliating and embarrassing, I couldn't wait to skedaddle back to the dark nighttime control room at the station, where nobody could laugh at what I was doing. There was a perfect point in there where music relieved the job and the job relieved music. That seems like a long time ago."

Still, Herod keeps learning.
A few years back, he was the director of a local late-night fright-flick show on Channel 15. The host was a guy who called himself Edmus Scarey. "One day he didn't show up," Herod says. "They told us he had hurt his back." In fact, Mr. Scarey was being held in Florida on child molestation charges. The TV ghoul was eventually convicted and served prison time. Co-workers were shocked. Herod took it personally.

"Here was an older guy who seemed to have it figured out," Herod recalls. "He'd have all these women picking him up at the station, everything. I was inspired. I would think, 'Finally, an older man, a single man in his 50s, doing his own thing. Maybe that'll stop people from thinking all people who go their own way like that are weird.'"

Herod shakes his head.
"Wrong again. I guess if you're not lock-step normal in this world, you really are doomed to failure. It's an incomplete story in my case. But I expect it. I expect doom and failure.

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Ted Simons