March 3, 2009
“Don’t Speak – Yea, That was Kind of the Problem”
by Tony Kanal
My name is Tony Kanal. Most of you know me as the bass player from No Doubt. What I’m most well known for, however, is being the subject of a painful break-up song inked and performed by No Doubt’s front-lady Gwen Stefani, a song called “Don’t Speak.”
This has been a mixed blessing for me. Certainly the song was a huge hit, resulting in our band gaining a foothold on the undulating music industry, a foothold that has resulted in a long career with artistic and financial success. But for me, this has been a bittersweet victory. I became the antagonist of what would later be called the greatest break up song of all time. Now I am hardly without fault in the whole scenario. A relationship is an equation with two variables so I can’t be held without blame. But my side must be told.
I’ve been secretly and lopsidedly maligned by thousands of girls all around the world who hold me responsible for breaking the heart of their favorite pop star. Now this army of former-adolescents has grown into adults with jobs. The catalyst for this piece, which I’ve titled “Don’t Speak – Yea, That was Kind of the Problem,” came from when I went into a GAP store looking for some jeans. Two female associates in their mid-twenties were very rude to me. They had recognized me and treated me as if I were a second-class citizen. “You bastard,” the cashier whispered to me, glaring into my eyes at the checkout counter. Well, I have sat back in the shadows of this ballad for long enough. It’s time to clear my name.
My relationship with Gwen started out rocky enough. She was the hot, “guy’s chick” in a band full of dudes. Naturally, there was a lot of competition between me, the drummer, and the guitarist to get with her. I regret to say that I started a few nasty rumors including that the drummer had tuberculosis and that the guitarist was into Granny porn. My tactics were Machiavellian but effective. She gravitated towards me. Perhaps she thought I was exotic. I am, after all, the only man of Indian decent in the world who plays bass guitar. I’m like the Jackie Robinson of Bombay (Mumbai) bass players. She made a good choice.
But as with any really smoking-hot chick who seems cool at first, she was more high-maintenance then the jet engine of Air Force One. If I wanted to go out with my friends she’d say “That’s cool, go out with your buddies.” So I would. Then she would get mad at me for doing what she said! But since I was getting some on a semi-regular basis, I needed to keep the relationship going.
In the song which I’ve grown to hate, despite it being my cash cow from which royalties flowed like delicious sacred Brahma milk, Gwen says “We used to be together…always.” That is definitely not an exaggeration. She literally was around me non-stop. I understand wanting to spend time with each other, but she would constantly check my pager (we had pagers back then) and ask to whom each number belonged. I felt that my privacy was being violated on a regular basis.
Plus, there was barely any form of healthy communication. Anytime I tried to speak my mind she would “shush” me a la Dr. Evil. She kept telling me, “You’re Indian and I’m a pretty white girl, therefore you don’t speak unless spoken to.”
I understood that while in a relationship with an “artsy chick,” I would probably be subjugated to frequent melodramatic incidents that are often associated with the creative type. The line in the song, “As we die, both you and I,” is reflective of one such incident, except it was more frightening than it was dramatic.
Most people think that the lyric is a metaphor for our relationship. It is not. She literally tried to kill me at one point. It was a very elaborate scheme, cartoonish even. One day we got into an argument over the jumping choreography for our stage show. I said we should jump up and down and she insisted we jump diagonally, which to this day does not make much sense. She left band practice in a bit of a tizzy.
I got a page from her later that day. I called her back and she told me that she was sorry and to come meet her by the local Jiffy Lube for a real apology. As I approached the Jiffy Lube I noticed that there was a Grand Piano perched on the rooftop. I thought nothing of it at first, although I did note it as odd. “Maybe Jiffy Lube is expanding their tune-up services to pianos as well.”
She was standing very near the building, underneath the precariously position piano. “Hey Tony. Come over here and give me a hug.” I reluctantly complied but as I wrapped my arms around her, I felt her give a tug on some type of rope. I looked down and we were embracing on a giant “X” marked in spray-paint. The rope went slack and the shadow of the huge instrument was upon us. Luckily, I was able to push us both out of the way. She got up, dusted herself off, crossed her arms and did that pouty-faced thing which has come to be her trademark.
I decided to break up with her shortly after that. She handled it very poorly. She thought it was funny to drop the “K” from my last name. She called me “Tony Anal” for the better part of 1996.
Finally, she focused that energy into song-writing and thus “Don’t Speak” was born and I was forever turned into a villain!
She has since married Bush front man Gavin Rosdale but will soon drop him (if her videos are any indication) for a handful of anonymous Japanese women that she seems to be sexually enthralled with. Gwen has walked away from the song “Don’t Speak” with a stronger reputation, while mine has been damaged beyond repair.
So to the radio stations still playing “Don’t Speak”, I urge you, in the name of fairness, stop playing this slanderous song. Stop the darting eyes and judging hearts of the public from further castigating me.
Don’t tell me you can’t stop playing the song.
Don’t tell me ’cause it hurts.