To this point, the journey has been one of relatively private exploration. I can take as long as I want, apply all manner of studio trickery, layer infinitely to build something that I feel is halfway presentable.
This past Sunday, I took a detour. The T-Rox Music Academy (where I started taking guitar lessons a little over 6 months ago) hosts a monthly jam / open-mic for its students. Something came over me and I decided that the time was now to pop my solo performance cherry.
Now I've played bass before publically but that's always with a bunch of other people and invariably somebody else is the centre of attention. This was very very different.
What to play? For that I decided that I could possibly pull off the main picked melody of my track D Is For... I arrived very nervous with gig bag over shoulder. The instructors are playing Bille Jean and generally kicking ass. Oh this is a mistake. But Nick's seen me. He comes over with the clipboard and asks what I'm playing and if I'm ready to go on... Yikes! No I'm not ready. I haven't even decided fully to play! Quick give me a beer. Pretty soon, I'm almost tuned and ready to go. Stall some more. Let somebody else play. They were young but very awesome. Ugh. I'm totally in the wrong place. I'm gonna kill the vibe with my ballad-y crap. Dude, you're up!
Applause, plug in. Awkwardly acknowledge the audience and start. Of course, I had cut the fingernails on my right hand to play a bass part on another track I was working on... my hands are clammy. Finger picking with no finger nails and clammy hands is not good. Focus, keep playing. My left hand is shaking. Breath. The tune is in the form A B A B A C and each section can repeat pretty much indefinitely. This is good because my brain can't count right now. Ok should I start the ending? Yeah, now. Ouch, wrong first note. Rush through the rest; miss the opportunity to save it by playing it right on the repeat, hit the final note too hard and stop. Fuck. Applause. And I'm done. I have another beer and magically my hands are dry and everything is normal again. WTF just happened?
As I'm sitting there, Nick, perhaps seeing my post-coital grin, asks me if I want to go again. Boy do I. But I have nothing ready... and now I wait until next month.
In the beginning, I was self-conscious about the music that I made. I even kind of distanced myself from it by playing the various mental games we all play:
This is my first track.Of course, there's a grain of truth to all of these things but at their root, they represent a kind of emotional shield. Perhaps something to explore another time but this ramble has other places to go.
This is a rough mix.
Just got this new fill in the blank and this happened.
Just a little something I cooked in an evening. I have no investment in it so it's totally OK for you not to like it too.
Over time, I developed some skillz and a touch of hubris. Not quite willing to call myself an artist but being able to imagine a day where I'd be comfortable with the label (as though it's something someone else bestows on you [but that's still another thing]).
That first bout of hubris has been smashed (in a good way) by some very talented friends and it is conversations with these friends about our art that makes me realize that I'm less an artist and more an art student. But that's still not where this ramble is going.
In conversations with friends, we show signs of GAS (gear acquisition syndrome), we share videos describing various production techniques, etc and it's in this diamond mine we varyingly feel like we're in a rut. That we're doing things the same way and need to find new toys, etc. Driving around today I had a flash. What if Picasso tossed all his cubist works after the first one? Felt he was in a rut? Didn't want to repeat himself?
Perhaps we audio sculptors should take a cue from visual artists by embracing our "ruts" and exploring everything they have to offer.
Picasso's The Mandolin lifted from this site without permission.
On this journey many friends have been made. It is a wonderful thing to be able to share things with people on a similar path that you would otherwise have no hope of actually meeting in person.
Recently one such friend has come to the point on his journey where he has made music that he actually likes listening to. He wondered aloud one day whether or not it was conceited to listen to your own stuff. Interesting question, that. I don't think so and here's why.
I find that music reveals itself to us over repeated listens. Hits are hits partially because they're good but partially because of repeated exposure (be that radio or friends raving). When we make music we automatically get a headstart these listens as a simple byproduct of the creative process. After having got over my own self conscience I too found myself spending a ton of time listening to my own stuff. Partially because I like it and partially I'm listening with an ear to making improvements or learning something. It's obviously difficult to be objective. Perhaps it's not worth examining too closely. But I definitely do not feel conceited.
So sandbags keep on making music; we're all richer for it.
Which brings me to the some of the special people that have done me the honour of listening to my own music enough to have found something worthwhile:
glu, who is a prolific master craftsman of beats
sistersavage, wields a heart melting voice and a wicked wit
kavin, kirklynch and dougsparling, who are part of the forces that got me actually playing guitar instead of just sampling it
(of course there are more but this isn't an Oscar speech). The important thing to take away is that there are a bunch of talented people on Alonetone.com that deserve to be heard (and won't charge you anything).
So with all this listening and recording going on, I am finding that there is increasingly less time to listen to commercial releases. Currently, I'm devoting some time every month (when my eMusic account recharges) to grabbing and listening to new music but it's an effort... Is there a deeper meaning to be extracted? Probably not.
There is an ocean of music and I'm just peeing into it, enjoying the temporary warmth that affords.
CC licensed photo courtesy TomRaven.
Brain crapped by MMI on 7/10/2009
Recently, my sons played live for the first time. My younger, 11, played a drum solo and my elder, 16, played a Black Sabbath tune with his teacher accompanying on bass. It was part of the twice yearly show that T-Rox Music Academy (where we all take lessons) puts on. This is kind of like a recital, except the students can play pretty much anything they want.
As a parent, obviously I'm totally stoked that my boys did this. It's hard, it's nerve racking, it's work but it's fun. I also admit to feeling all of their anxiety along with them. It was hard for me too. Of course, that didn't prevent some good natured ribbing. On arrival, our young drummer saw no music stand next to the kit and asked where he would put his music. My daughter and I both said, "What?!? You didn't memorize it?"
As a person interested and concerned about music, I'm really pleased too. Anybody that's worried about the future of music need not worry. The kids are learning to rock.
Which brings me to the big thing. Full disclosure time. Way back in the Stone Age, when I was in high school I became friends with a young guitarist who had charm and an infectious smile (which I tried to ignore at the time cause I was too cool). Our experience together, lugging amps for some great players stuck in the wedding/party band circuit gave us a desire to play but with no outlet. Constantly, we were told we had to "pay our dues"...
Unlike myself, Sean continued on the musical path, did a bunch of cool stuff and ultimately became one of the founders of T-Rox. It is he and his team that built this outlet for young musicians to "pay dues" and learn their craft. It is one of those very special things. The depth of which may not be immediately apparent. I, for one, am very grateful.
And yeah, I'm definitely playing in the next show and, more importantly, the boys say they will too.
Photo courtesy of T-Rox.
Brain crapped by MMI on 7/01/2009