Tom Carter, guitarist for Charalambides, the influential and prolific ex-Houston avant-garde/psychedelic duo, is out of intensive care and recovering at a rehabilitation hospital in Ahrenshoop, Germany after awakening from a medically induced coma last week. Carter's bandmate and ex-wife, Christina Carter, says he could be well enough to fly back to the United States as soon as the first of next month.
Carter was on tour with Charalambides when he began feeling ill and was hospitalized in Berlin May 31. Doctors diagnosed pneumonia, but decided to put him in a coma after further complications, and he remained in the ICU for 40 days until waking up and being transferred to a rehab hospital earlier this month.
"We went there thinking they were going to say, 'Oh, you have a virus or something or the flu, here's some antibiotics,' Christina told Rocks Off from her home in Austin last week. "But [doctors] said 'No, you have to stay here. We have to observe you at least a couple of days. That's when he went really downhill and they put him into ICU that night. It was really a last-minute kind of thing."
Now, she says, "He seems to be doing a lot better. I guess the whole focus now is to get him well enough to come home. They're thinking that three weeks at the rehabilitation center should get him strong enough to get on a plane and fly back to the States."
Carter, whom Christina says had been living in Long Island City, Queens, is definitely feeling well enough to email. After being transferred to the rehab hospital last week, he sent a message to the long-running Texas-psych group email list Terrascura, where he thanked people for their support and compared waking up from his coma to "the most horrifyingly psychedelic experience I've ever had."
"I'm so glad and grateful to be back among the living," he added.
Christina says Carter does have health insurance, but could be facing considerable expense nonetheless, as his provider decides exactly how much of his treatment it will cover.
"Forty days in intensive care and three weeks in another facility, you can imagine it's going to be a lot of money," she says.
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Several of his friends and admirers have already began working to help Carter. Christina says benefits have already been organized in Massachusetts and San Francisco, but the best way for people to help right now is to donate to the Tom Carter Irrevocable Trust, a PayPal account accessible through the helptomcarter.org Web site.
Houston's experimental/psych community has likewise rallied to Carter's aid. Ramon Medina of Linus Pauling Quartet, Project Grimm's John Cramer and local experimental musician Sandy Ewen have put together a night at Rudyard's Friday, August 24 (bands TBD), and 2012 HPMA Experimental/Noise nominee Jonathan Jindra is organizing a showcase at the Railyard (2020 Commerce) Saturday, August 25.
David Dove of Nameless Sound, another old friend of Carter's, is organizing another benefit for September, which Medina says will be an "intimate high-dollar event with nationally recognized artists." Ewen also sold her artwork to raise money for carter at last week's performance at 14 Pews by Baltimore steel guitarist Susan Alcorn.
"It's been tremendous," says Christina. "People have been incredibly helpful and supportive and generous. It really helps Tom... and me as well."
Charalambides formed in Houston in 1991 and became highly esteemed in experimental-music circles for their exploration of the gauzy borderlands between acoustic folk music and psychedelia, as well as the intensely spiritual nature of their music. The duo has released several dozen recordings on CD, CD-R and vinyl across a handful of record labels, most recently Exile last fall on Kranky Records.
The Carters were on a European tour supporting Exile when Tom got sick. His recovery is projected to take months. Christina says she has had intermittent contact with him and (more frequently) his mother since returning to the U.S., and that he is determined to make music again.
"Definitely," she says. "I don't know when that would be able to happen, but absolutely."
She gave a long sigh when asked how she herself is holding up.
"It was really, really hard," she says. "It's always so difficult because I always feel like it's hard on me but not as hard as on him and his family, but it's been really difficult. I was with him for a week in the hospital, and had to come back at a point when it was still unknown what was going to happen.
"It was hard to believe it was happening at times."
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