Archive for March, 2011

Do You Remember the First Time?

Posted in Songwriting with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 28, 2011 by Gideon K

Do you remember writing your first song you felt happy with?

I must’ve been a late starter. My first fully formed song that I was comfortable enough to play only came when I was 17.

It was a lazily hot afternoon. I was supposed to be in my room studying for my school end of year exams, but my guitar was standing against the wall leering seductively at me. My cheap, sticker covered, black and white Encore strat copy, making silent promises…

My first serious girlfriend

Happily and naively I picked it up, plugging into the amp and instinctively started playing these two chords – clean first, and then I kicked on the distortion and the hairs all over my teenage head stood up.

I started singing a melody on top, and words came out. I just kept playing and then before I knew it I had me a song. Magic.

I call music the bittersweet curse. When you write something and you’re all alone and you go “Ahh!” Just know that the second that feeling is over, you’re doomed to face it again and do it again. It’s never over. That’s why I love it, because it’s so mean to me.” – Josh Homme

I’d been coming up with riffs, chord sequences and ideas before this, and taping them on a little cassette player. Likewise with lyrics, scribbling down bits of lines, phrases and some awful early attempts at songs and poems.

This time however, it all came together. I don’t know why. All I know is that everything felt different.

You know that bit in Inception, where the girl has gone into the dream world for the first time? One of them says she’ll come back – because reality just won’t be enough anymore.

I felt alive in a way I never had before. Every time I’m writing and I feel like I’ve finished something, it’s a similar feeling, but never the same – a blessing and a curse.

Needless to say my school revision for the rest of the day went out the window…

So what’s the story of your first “Aah!” moment?

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Take Everything

Posted in Creativity with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 24, 2011 by Gideon K

Picture your muse as a really hot girl. How do you keep her coming back for more?

To me, the simple answer is twofold:

1) Do and be your best.

2) Show appreciation and understanding.

Treat every idea you get graciously and with respect; as if each spark and flicker of inspiration (however dilute) were the seed of a masterpiece.

If you want someone to keep giving something to you, whether it’s love, attention or pocket money, you need to show that you appreciate it. Be thankful, even if it’s not what you may have wanted.

Take everything.

“Anything is better than nothing – don’t drink your own kool aid” – Gary Vaynerchuck

If you get and idea but can’t be bothered to use it, or discard the idea straight away because it’s not ‘good enough’ then you can do that every so often, but make it a habit and your antennae/your brain will eventually say:

“I’m doing all this hard work, bringing all these healthy ideas, and bozo down there does nothing with them – why should I bother?”

Your muse will become an unappreciated lover. It will stop putting the effort in, or move on to someone more deserving. No one likes to be part of a one-sided relationship working or otherwise.

Your mind will become lazy and you will receive fewer gifts and eventually have to work even harder for the ones you do get, if any.

The irony is, you may even think that you’re taking the easy way out, when you’re really only setting yourself up for harder work that won’t yield as much in the way of immediate results.

BUT

When you’re working as hard as your inspiration stream then it will keep coming. Jump on every little bite of the line whether it seems like a small fish or a whale.

As they say, from small seeds great oaks grow.

The next stage I suppose is to attempt one-upmanship. That’s what I’d really like to test out – the idea that if you work harder than your muse it will be made to feel like a slacker – and hopefully bring out it’s competitive side, ‘tricking’ my inspiration to get louder.

“Stick with me baby, stick with me anyhow
Things should start to get interestin’ right about now” – ‘Mississippi‘ by Bob Dylan

When Everything is Wrong, Everything is (al)Right.

Posted in Creativity with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 6, 2011 by Gideon K

You know those nights where everything you do seems completely wrong?

I had a jam with a drummer the other night, and afterwards I was depressed and moody.

It wasn’t him or his playing – It was all to do with me and where my head was.

Firstly it was really cold playing in my shed. My fingers just weren’t responding to me very well or maybe I wasn’t giving them good instructions.

My guitar playing was stilted and creaky – half asleep. I felt at a total loss, that I’d never get round to playing properly.

My gear sounded crap – The amp, guitar, pedals. I hadn’t spent enough time playing around with sounds to find the sweet spots.

Then there were songs I was running through, ideas and riffs of mine, wondering why I didn’t have so many more to show. Why had I not finished all of those ideas I’d had? Why was I bored? What am I reaching for and not getting? Or what am I NOT reaching for?

Maybe I it was a signal that I’ve been slacking off. I have so many songs to finish, so much guitar to practice, so many other instruments to learn – so much action to take, so many things I want to do.

Anyway my negativity was not doing me or anyone any good. We soldiered through the rest of the jam and managed to have fun, but afterwards I was still gloomy.

I hate feeling bummed out. I’ve wasted too much time in my life being miserable and I don’t want to do it anymore. I have to fight it off.

I thought about it and realised I was being a fool.

I wanted hard work didn’t I? – Something that would test me. Let’s see if I’ve got the grit to see this through.

If I’m not happy now, when will I be? When I’ve ‘achieved’ something? When I’ve better gear? A band I’m happy with? When I’m ‘good enough’?

It doesn’t make sense. The only thing that matters or has any effect is what I do NOW. Each new set of circumstances comes with its own problems, trials hurdles. It’s never over. Periods of relative quiet are just space between the end of one trial and the beginning of the next.

This is a beautiful thing. I need to remember to enjoy the process… stay focused and disciplined.

There is a saying I hold dear:

“The path itself is more important than how far along it you are.”

I’m thankful for every little reminder that I still have lots to learn and for having the path ahead of me illuminated enough to keep moving.

I’m more excited now than I have been in a long time.

What I’m currently up to 05/03/2011

Posted in Me Oh My with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 5, 2011 by Gideon K

I’m currently working on my own band or project called Black Hay.

I had a band under this name in 2009, but that didn’t quite go as far as it could have before temporarily falling apart, and in 2010 I’ve been playing with Ghostnotes too much of the time to concentrate on anything else.

I’ve been meaning to revive the beast though. I have an almost album’s worth of songs, along with a clear concept sonically, thematically, artistically. And it won’t go away.

I thought it made more sense to try and get the material recorded (or at least demoed) first instead of trying to put another band together and THEN recording.

I realised it’s not the kind of project where I’m looking for someone else’s input to help me realise its potential, I’m going to be singing these songs, I can play guitar, bass and keys to the sort of level I need to play my music, I just need people with certain skills to do the things I physically cannot.

I’ve been highly inspired by my mate Lee’s DIY approach to this regarding his band Dumbjaw, and getting some great sounding tracks done for very little money with just a bit of grit, persistence and balls.

What I have been doing is looking for:

– A drummer, the right drummer, a groovy, hard-hitting ROCK drummer to help me realise these songs.

– A producer/engineer to help record and get it sounding good.

My plan is to take each song one at a time, rehearse, arrange, demo, and get everything tight and shiny. Then and only then do we go about recording perhaps only bass and drums live with everything else on top.

Once one song is done, repeat the process with the next song, rather than trying to tackle a whole bunch of songs at the same time.

That’s pretty much all I’m focused on at the moment, writing songs for this album idea.

I know a few guys who play bass and guitar that might be able to help out if I need them, and should I require other instruments, I’ll look for them but for now that is all.

Who knows which ones will go into the final thing or what I’ll use it for or do with it once I’m done. All I know is this urge is driving me crazy if I don’t do it.

Do the work, decide what to do with it afterwards.

Crazy? Silly? Moi?

‘Art is Work’

Posted in Creativity with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 1, 2011 by Gideon K

A while ago my dad bought a book by an illustrator called Milton Glaser. I had a look a it and it wasn’t all my cup of tea, but I could appreciate it. I was mostly interested in the music poster work or portraits he’d done of people like Louis Armstrong, Bob Dylan, et al.

However, I was caught by the personal mission statement he laid out at the front of the book:

“Eliminate the word ‘Art’ and replace it with ‘work’ and develop these descriptions:

1) Work that goes beyond it’s functional intention and moves us in deep and mysterious ways we call GREAT WORK.

2) Work that is conceived and executed with elegance and rigour we call GOOD WORK

3) Work that meets its intended need honestly and without pretense we call simply WORK.

4) Everything else, the sad and shoddy stuff of daily life, can come under the heading of BAD WORK.”

I’ve long since copied this out and posted it on the wall by my desk because I like these definitions a lot.

I think the main thing I like about his approach, is that he de-mystifies his art – oops, sorry ‘work’ and pulls it down to ground level from up in the sky, makes it something not so far off and unobtainable. Basically, if you are not producing, it’s because you are not working.

The word ‘work’ might seem too mundane and uninspiring to some compared with ‘art’ and all its lofty associations.

But it’s a very honest way of looking at it. ‘Work not Art’ flips the focus on to how well you do what the job requires of you, not thinking about what you can get out of it, indulging your ego or any other unhelpful excesses. Work is constant and does not require inspiration.

I think it’s a nice approach which stops someone disappearing up their own backside.