Monday
Nov152004

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It boggles my mind at how I can spend my days at work longing to go into my studio eager to record some masterful piece of musical art. Then I come home and sit down here at the computer, then hours later it's time to go to bed and start it all over again. On a good day, I do actually go in and maybe mess with guitar, drums, and bass, and maybe even enjoy it. Some of my playing has been interesting considering I don't do much of it anymore. Then the rest is the most boring dreck you've ever heard. The problem, same as it has been for over a year and a half at least, and four years if I was perfectly honest, is that I just have no patience for writing music anymore, and recording it. The two have almost always gone together for me, so to mess with musical bits is one thing, but I am not really into playing for people or for my own fun. I mean, no Dylan songs, no Hendrix or Zeppelin. I don't have a musical repertoire. If I wasn't recording, I wasn't interested. That's how it went for years. Now I don't really record but for scraps. Some sound interesting for starters, but when it comes to making it sound like more than a rock trio, I am lost. I listen to my old stuff, and in some cases, it's so full of textures and details that I can't even begin to discipline myself to do now.

I have been daring myself to record an honest piece of musical work that doesn't somehow rely on my traditional dependence on effects, digital editing-as-composition, and sometimes synthesizers or drum machines. I've been straining to get my little sound down that reflects an honest effort to make music without gimmicks. My appetite has been whet for playing material and THEN recording the resulting composed or partially composed stuff. I used to start a piece from recordings and overdub an insane amount of things and then go for severe editing to figure out what had to be there and what not. Now I approach things more like a band player. I have my dreams of doing a whole CD of stuff on my own for once. My playing ability sharpens up when I need to actually accomplish something, but as of now, I just don't know what to do. Really, the things I lament are that I don't have an arrangement-savvy partner who can take my fragments and turn them into something more than I tend to do on my own. I also miss having a drummer with a good sense of musicality. The one track that I did come up with in the last few years that I still beam with pride in is Race To Judge. That was recorded with Paul Horn and I recording his drums and my acoustic guitar in different rooms, based on themes we had rocked out with in the same room, with me on electric. So I know that having a good drummer will pull stuff out of me, but I've had hell trying to orchestrate a band effort. Paul isn't always available, and I don't always like what is produced, so that is too much guess work. I had a young guy here who could play the living shit out of the drums and he brought my stuff to life for the few weeks he was here, but that didn't work either.

Some of my favorite musical heroes are dudes who can play a lot of instruments and also have a unique self production sense. Mike Keneally, Adrian Belew, Kevin Gilbert, Ben Folds, Jon Brion, Stevie Wonder, and Todd Rundgren all have an amazing sense of making music, and producing themselves. They all seem to be able to get on any rock band instrument and just play something. Then they write stuff and go record a lot of it themselves. There is a certain stamp that is distinctly theirs. I have a bit of that. I'm just not as good.

The other thing I am bugged about is that my ability to sing is not what I would want it to be. I can do some things okay when singing along with an existing recording, and I can even do some harmonies on the fly. But I am totally lost and embarassed when I am trying to find my own voice. I have more of a baritone voice than anything, and I can do some falsetto, but there is a huge area in between that just falls flat on its face. I often think that if I were to establish my singing range I might have an easier time writing songs because at least I would have a key reference and range in mind. As it is, the music I write is more geared for an all instrumental presentation because of the way I fill space (as opposed to comping and doing certain antiphonal phrasing). With the last four years being an unending stream of life experiences, I would think somewhere there was meaningful stuff I could sing or speak, but somehow I just can't seem to tap into it when I am in the studio.

Sometimes when I am in the studio now, I am too aware of my surroundings. I am more worried about what my roommates or wife or neighbors think of my work. It is hard to be discreet when playing acoustic drums. Sometimes I am fucking great, and sometimes dismal. Ditto electric guitar. And especially voice! So I self-censor if people are home. When my grandmother was alive, she was nearly deaf, and while she would feel my drumming or bass playing, she wasn't able to articulate things. Voice was totally lost on her. So I could get away with some outrageous stuff. My studio has no windows, and to a person on the street, it's invisible anyway and unless it's drums I'm playing, almost inaudible. Still, I am just too self conscious about playing much if people are in the house. It is hard to tell whether the cart or horse came first; my grandmother died in early 2001, and within two months, I had roommates. It's been like this since then.

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