i love music. unlike many other people who feel that way, i made a choice to actually take up an instrument in the hope of making a living as a musician. that didn't happen for me, but i still love playing music (ie: physically picking up and playing an instrument, as opposed to simply putting a cd on, dummy!).
it began in my last year of high school. i didn't receive much in the way of an allowance and had to get a part-time job in order to buy a bass. i started somewhat later on guitar. i was about 20 when i finally purchased a six-string.
in my early 20s i played bass in a few different bands, none of which got anywhere. by the time i was in my late(ish) 20s, i felt confident enough to try forming a band based around my own singing, songwriting and guitar playing. i was probably over-estimating my talents at the time. i was writing pretty good songs, but my presentation of them was terrible. i sang in the most godawful loud, blustery, faux-soulful voice it might ever be your misfortune to suffer exposure to and accompanied myself on a guitar amplified to the most perversely grating and unpleasant tone imaginable. looking back, it's hard to believe that i actually found people willing to play with me in a band. maybe they figured there was something so strikingly rotten about what i was doing that it was bound to make waves. obviously, they were wrong.
i essentially gave up on playing music with other people when i was in my early 30s. the band i was fronting at the time had completed its third demo, but then dissolved since the three of us could not see eye-to-eye regarding the band and where it should be going. to be honest, over the four-or-so years i'd spent playing my music with other people, i'd had serious problems regarding their creative contributions to my songs which made it fairly easy to close the door on that part of my life. for about seven years i resigned myself to the idea that i would not be playing music in much of any capacity beyond noodling on my guitar in private (and occasionally for friends).
sometime during 1999 i got the itch to do something with music again. something that wouldn't put me in the position of having to include other people. i bought a bass guitar and a drum machine late in the summer of '99, thinking that if i could record satisfactory backing tracks using my stereo cassette deck, i'd then go ahead and buy a tascam 4-track machine. after roughly a month's worth of experiments, i felt confident enough to set up a proper home recording studio. along with the bass, drum machine and tascam recorder, i also purchased a ZOOM effects board.
my lo-fi solo odyssey began in january of 2000. i was briefly encumbered by some (in retrospect) misguided ideas about keeping things as simple as possible (the rule was 4 tracks of instruments/vocals per song, with absolutely NO track bouncing), but by mid-february i had thrown that nonsense out the window and was experimenting with overdubbed vocals and guitars. during 2000 i recorded over 150 songs: some brand new, some written during my seven years of (not exactly but sorta) inactivity and some dating back to the period when i'd led my own band.
in december of 2000 after nearly 12 months of recording whenever the mood hit me, i actually needed to take a break from music again. i decided that after this interregnum (which lasted roughly three months), i would record only when i had enough ideas on hand to make an album's worth of songs.
and so from march 2001 to january of 2004 i kept my home recording activities confined to short bursts which generally lasted 1-2 weeks and which, as a rule, had to yield at least 40 minutes worth of music.
my interest definitively waned after january 2004. i made attempts to record material during the summer of 2004 and spring of 2005, but was unhappy with the results. in the spring of 2008 i wrote a half dozen songs and decided to record them while also finishing up the tracks i had lying around from '04 and '05. the work i did in the spring and summer of 2008 constitute my last completed "album". it's not that i'm lacking for inspiration, mind you. when i pick up a guitar, it's inevitable that i'll create the germ of a song within a few minutes. for some reason though, i never feel like doing anything with the ideas i come up with. it's not writer's block. more like writer's ennui. writer's laziness? old age? i dunno.
in any case i've decided to start posting my "albums", hopefully at the rate of 2 per year. which means that i should be done with this little project in about a decade. the music's offered under a standard creative commons license: free to anyone for personal use, but if it's employed in any context where money is generated, i want my share.
first up: october 2003. along with some notes on the recordings, i'll be including lyrics with the downloads. though i don't think they'll make my songs fully comprehensible, as lyrics are not especially crucial to what i try to accomplish as a songwriter. for me, songs are (more or less) finished once i get the structure and texture down. while the vocal melody is important, it's only one component part of the song. that's why i generally mix my vocals low, so that they're part of the overall texture without dominating the song. at least that's the idea.
enjoy! (updated with new notes and creative commons license)
Monday, April 8, 2013
Monday, April 1, 2013
last week in the av club's relating to art q&a i hastily posted things which, predictably, made a couple of people angry. i want to elaborate on what i wrote and make my point(s) a little clearer. certainly not with any hope of making those i angered any less irate though, because those idiots are a lost cause.
1... i never find art relatable. that probably came off as pseudo-nitzschean "i'm better than everyone else" boasting and i (sort of) understand why a blunt statement like that might rub someone the wrong way, so i want to add this: for me, art is generally an escape from the world as i know and experience it (don't misinterpret that as meaning my life is terrible, as i have lived a fairly comfortable existence and things are better than okay lately after a borderline disastrous six months in 2011). books and movies may deal with situations i've been in, but they don't come close to the way it felt when i was in them and i never expect them to. no paragraph in a book/shot in a movie can capture the intensity of what it feels like to have sex with someone you love for the first time or what it's like to be in a fistfight or what it's like to watch someone you care about as they're dying. a writer's approximation of what it is to be in love or afraid or lonely or sad or angry or happy can never be anything more than after-the-fact descriptions of those feelings. that can be beautiful and affecting in its own way, but it's NOT the real thing. i've always been acutely conscious of the difference/distance between art and real life and always will be, i think. attempts to replicate feelings and experiences in art are, for me, too far removed from the immediacy of actual existence to be anything more than a simulacrum, and a faulty one at that. deeply felt emotions are completely outside anything that can really be represented in words. have you ever read a passage in a book that conveyed the exact thing you felt the first time you were with a man or woman you truly loved? i honestly never have. because those words don't exist. and then there's my sense that art always limns human experience with the gift of hindsight. crazy, blundering, thoughtless, headlong rushes into disaster or ecstasy suddenly become explicable thanks to the magic of time, distance and language. again, i acknowledge that that has a value. but it most emphatically has nothing to do with life as i've lived it.
lastly, much of what i've come to love in books and movies comes from exposure to perspectives that i find completely unrelatable. i could never enjoy movies featuring over-entitled middle class douchebags like the characters that writer-director nicole holofcener (walking and talking, lovely and amazing, friends with money, please give) favors if relatability was as much of a deal-breaker for me as it seems to be for a lot of people at the av club. that's a huge element of what's great about art, IMHO: it's a way of seeing the world through viewpoints that are alien to me. i have never read a book or seen a movie and said afterwards "that was ME on those pages/on that screen", and i don't ever expect to. relatability just isn't what i'm looking for in art.
hopefully these (clumsily expressed, i admit) ideas offer a slightly better explanation of what it is i feel on this particular subject. art definitely has an important function and value in my life, but relatability is not part of the equation for me.
2... i also did some carping about the old tv show my so-called life and i want to add this: i never felt that angela chase's big existential crisis on the show mattered or should even be taken especially seriously. big fucking deal that she felt conflicted about deserting her friends to run with a more popular crowd. a character who makes that particular decision deserves the utmost contempt imaginable no matter how much manufactured regret and/or shame the creators of that character have her experience about making that decision. attempting to legitimize weak (or destructive and bad) thinking by ascribing guilt or regret to the character who engages in it is often nothing more than a lame trick to con an audience into somehow accepting those weak (or destructive and bad) ideas as having (at least some) validity. more often than not, they don't. few people in life transcend the class or social barriers which are generally imposed from birth, but the few who manage to probably spend very little time regretting it when they do. i will admit here that whenever i find myself writing about my so-called life (not all that often, thankfully) i tend to conflate all the characters with angela and talk about wanting to beat them ALL up. honestly, i can't even remember the others now that i think of it (and am pretty sure i only caught a few episodes of the show anyway). one thing i clearly remember though: angela chase and her phony (so-called) dilemma always ticked me the fuck off.
it was probably a mistake for me to post my complaints about my so-called life on a thread started by someone who actually loved the show. if you want to have an ms-cl circle jerk on the av club boards, i promise to stay out of it. although i should add here that i plan to post somewhat less on the av club boards in the future. i'm tired of the sad fuckheads who take things like an evisceration of my so-called life to heart. i don't give a shit how much you liked this or any other tv show, you should not be personally offended if a total stranger posts a negative opinion about it on the internet. this is one of the embarrassing by-products of the "relatability" issue: otherwise intelligent adults who forge such intensely emotional connections with art that they take umbrage when others disparage it. grow up already. jeez.
i reject my so-called life and everything (i think) it represents. if someone wants to point out that my not being able to accept the show's perspective contradicts what i also wrote about how unimportant relatability is to me when it comes to art, then so be it (hey, we all contain multitudes). but there's something wrong if you're the kind of person who can't have this argument without getting angry and upset about it. even if we are on the internet that's no excuse for launching ad-hominem attacks on someone who disagrees with you about a stupid fucking tv show. seriously.