Archive for July, 2011

Experimental Music

Posted in Songwriting with tags , , , , , on July 31, 2011 by Gideon K

 

I’ve heard a lot about ‘Experimental Music’ and I’ve always disliked the phrase – what does it actually mean?

 

If something is not experimental, that must mean it is done using a tried and tested formula, and formulas in the context of rock n roll are definitely not exciting. What they mean is music by numbers.

 

I believe every piece of work should be an exploration into some part of the unknown, the forgotten, the mistaken.

 

In order to conquer and put your flag up on the mountain top, you must be willing to at least explore avenues with your art that you wouldn’t necessarily think will work – it’s part of experimentation.

 

Quentin Tarantino said something about if a film he is working on comes out EXACTLY how he plans and has in mind, it’s slightly disappointing to him, not because his ideas and vision are not good, but because part of the process of creation and capturing art, brings other special moments and happy accidents your way which are usually far more alive than doing things 100% in line with the initial plan.

 

In music for instance when you’re setting up to record and someone plays a line or a riff that (or even coughs into the microphone) and it sounds really cool, it usually pays to go with that, keep it for texture and see how it fits into the bigger tapestry, rather than just shutting out this gift and trying to stick to your sketches and mental images too much.

 

I think part of that is being willing to be playful and not too reverent of your own material. Being willing to try and bend it to see what happens with it. Not being scared of your instrument or audience or whatever.

 

For example, there is a difference between knowing every nook and cranny of your songs, and attempting to explore them all, vs dictating coldly how everything should be about them.

 

Of course there is never time in this life, in this world to explore EVERY avenue open to us, but I guess what I’m saying ties into the idea of certainty vs uncertainty. You have to avoid the too familiar if you want your work and life to have that swagger, that sense of achievement from boldly going where no one has gone before.

 

This is part of why a band as great as the Rolling Stones do not make albums anymore that area appealing or exciting to me, because I get no sense of them discovering anything about themselves or the world around them in the process.

 

If you’re not learning, then you’re no use to anyone.

 

Get Lucky

Posted in Inspiration with tags , , , , , , , , on July 29, 2011 by Gideon K

Do you ever worry that inspiration will just dry up?

I sometimes wonder if each song will be the last I write, and I think everyone has that fear to an extent.

Even so, I’ve always got lots of started and unfinished loose writings around, rejected ideas because you’ve passed that point in time, or ones that have hit a dead-end of some sort. And even with good ideas that you haven’t gotten round to finishing.

For example, last month I knew I was going to be busy towards the end of it, so I figured maybe I should get all my blog post writing out of the way as soon as possible, and get stuck into some songwriting work while the coast was relatively clear.

My thoughts immediately went to the list of songs I’ve been working on but not finished, to the list of potential ideas etc, and to the list of blog topics that I tell myself I should get on to doing at some point (I can never say I have nothing to write about, or worry about that because of these lists) but sometimes the prospect of carrying on work on some mammoth project that has defeated you thus far, seems a little disheartening and you drag your creative feet to face it.

What I hadn’t counted on, and what I still try never to rely on, is momentary inspiration – a chain of thought, an incident, a perspective, a flash of something someone said – to give you an idea for something fully formed.

It continues to happen just as a consequence of being alive and being aware of things, and by doing so things tend to fall into your lap.

“the pain and confusion and the horror of

Life

Will not stop then

But continue,

Lavishly

 

Giving your electric IBM more and

More

To chew

And ponder” –  Charles Bukowski, ‘Celebrating This’

I’m always delighted when it happens and it makes me feel lucky that I was there in the right place, at the right time, with the right frame of mind to be open to receiving this golden nugget.

In this case, I happened to have a song triggered by something that was on my mind and had to come out, so I sat and wrote it and with in a few sittings in consecutive days it came out damn near complete, and without too much toil or sweat. A beautiful feeling.

The thing is, you’ll always get lucky every so often, and it’s nice to forget and be reminded that sometimes it gets handed to you on a plate.

“I get lucky sometimes…” – Twilight Singers – ‘Get Lucky’

 

Sovereignty Over Your Work

Posted in Creativity with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 28, 2011 by Gideon K

I started reading Hugh Mcleod’s excellent and freely downloadable ebook ‘How to be Creative’, and on page 5 there was a line which just about knocked me over with the realisation of what I had not been paying attention to.

 

“The sovereignty you have over your work will inspire far more people than the actual content ever will.”

 

Wow.

 

But what exactly do we mean by sovereignty?

 

“Sovereignty is the quality of having supreme, independent authority over a geographic area, such as a territory.”

 

The most obvious thing here is when you think of people who make whatever it is they are doing look very easy. Bruce Lee had that – which is why so many guys watch his films and then start copying his moves, or trying to, and looking very silly in the process.

 

One could say this is just a more specified version of ‘It’s not what you do, it’s how you do it’, but I don’t think that’s it.

 

When Johnny Cash sings a song, he OWNS it. You believe what he says and you never feel like he’s struggling to achieve something. You feel like the song is just something flowing through him directly to your ears.

 

Queen are another example. If you listen to bohemian rhapsody, they don’t sound like they’re finding it hard to play the song. It sounds like they’re swaggering grandly through it and THAT is an important part of what makes it work.

 

Recently whilst recording some of my songs I’ve played or sung takes where they were good enough, I hit all the notes, even had some character in it, but I just didn’t feel satisfied. I wanted takes that felt easy, felt visceral and had that swagger.

 

Plus I didn’t want to be haunted every time I heard one of my songs by hearing parts and feeling I could’ve done them better, or worse, that those parts had defeated me.

 

If you don’t conquer your work, it will conquer you.

The Essence of Creativity

Posted in Creativity with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 5, 2011 by Gideon K

Photo by Pia Anttila

What is being creative about? Does it mean anything?

 

For me, a lot of it comes down to playfulness. You don’t have to be at your desk writing, or playing your instrument to be creative. It’s the time in between your ‘designated creative hours’ that really tests you.

 

How can you do your food shopping, clean your house, talk to your bank manager in a creative way?

 

What can you do in your everyday life to avoid simply going through the motions?

 

“I always make sandwiches with butter and jam. Today I’m going to switch it around.”

 

“I always walk this way home. Today I’m going to try a different route.”

 

One of my favourite examples is a mate of mine, who in order to liven up his house-cleaning pretends he’s a serial killer trying to ‘hide the evidence’. Brilliant. I love things like that.

 

My brother and I have lots of games we play like this when we’re out anywhere. Simple things sometimes, like deciding to walk up the stairs when we get out of the tube station, instead of taking the lifts. The lift just seemed like the easiest, most obvious, path of least resistance.

 

One day, I’ll be too old to take the stairs and so I’m going to do it now while we can.

 

I also love how other people creative in their own different ways. I remember one day I was walking down Oxford Street around sunset with a friend of mine. I was too lost in my own thoughts, or just looking at passing faces to notice, but she pointed out that the clouds in front of us had the shape of a camel.

 

I would’ve never noticed it without her, because I wasn’t looking, and I was just taking things as they were. Now there’s a time and a place for everything, but she was being more creative or imaginative than I was at that moment.

 

It’s about indulging your child and ignoring any part of you that says ‘you’re too old for that’, ‘that’s silly’, or what will other people think?

 

 

To me, the essence of creativity is in things like these examples. Looking at things differently than your habits dictate, how you interact with your surroundings, and negotiating your own reality.

 

“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”Mahatma Gandhi

 

In other words, you ARE part of your own creative work. How you live is part of it.