Archive for Billy Corgan

Un-Crippling Creativity

Posted in Creativity with tags , , , , , , , , , , on September 7, 2011 by Gideon K

This post was sparked by something a friend said to me:


“I was writing something else yesterday and then watched ‘Midnight in Paris’ (Woody Allen). The genius of that film and the portrayal of genius within it completely paralysed me creatively. You ever get that? What do you do?!?!?!”


The answer is yes, sometimes I think that happens to everyone.

I haven’t seen that film so can’t comment on that, but even though true genius can be pretty intimidating, I think I’ve generally found ways around that issue.

Here I’ve broken this issue down into four areas that affect us as creatives.



Being intimidated by artistic greatness is a bit like being in the school playground afraid to play ball with the big boys, or even to play ball by yourself simply because everyone else seems better and has had more experience doing it. You’re worried that everyone will laugh at you or pick on you for it. Really, it’s by putting in the time regardless of outcome and solely for the purpose of getting better that you stand a good chance of outshining the masters anyway.


No one really has any greater artistic resources to draw upon than anyone else, it’s just a matter of what people let stand in their way – even if they put the obstacles there themselves.



Once you recognise that it is fear that is holding you back one way or another, the way to conquer it can be as simple as deciding that none of it matters. All the stuff about who and what is better than anything else is just dry academia and nothing to do with the real process.


Be kind to yourself.


Give yourself permission to fail. And fail repeatedly until you succeed.


Know that your mission is only to explore, to keep growing, to share your creativity. When you have fixed ideas about who you are, what you are supposed to be and what your creativity is supposed to be like, then you start to censor yourself.



As much as it can make us feel shitty when we compare something and find our work lacking in some way, it’s important to take on board the lesson that the world is trying to teach you – that you’ve got a lot to learn and a long way to go. That should be inspiring in itself because you know you have a journey to make, but someone has just shown you the map. It’s far worse to be lost in the dark without a clue what to do to improve or which way the light is for you to grow towards.


I find the quote below very powerful in dispelling any of the excuses we give ourselves not to try.


“The notion of the past as somehow representing certain limitations for you today is bogus.

I used to have so much reverence and respect for the great accomplishments of past artists that it stifled me into thinking, “Gee, I could never do any of this.” But the whole point of making music is that it’s an expression of who you are, be it angry, happy or sad. If you can somehow reflect that musically, you’ve achieved something.”

– Billy Corgan




When your mind starts doing funny things, often the best way to counter it is just to take some action.


Here is an excellent article by Steve Pavlina about Passion vs Self-Discipline where he argues that it is more important to take the actions regarding doing the work than whether you feel like it or not.


One of the mantras from The Artist’s Way that I’ve been trying out, despite being hugely skeptical of it is this – you say to whatever muses or higher power you hold to – “Great creator, I will take care of the quantity. You take care of the quality.”


I think what I’m seeing from this, and what should be obvious in a way, is that you treat it all as one big stream of creation. If you do lots of work, there’ll be plenty of great stuff in there.


Take Woody Allen – he doesn’t even watch his own films when they’re done. He moves onto the next one already.

This may be an assumption on my part but it is as if each film is the manifestation of a creative urge and once completed he has satisfied that need and moved on. How other people view it is almost irrelevant to him at this point.

Some of his films get savaged, others are considered great works. I’m sure he has his own views on which are his best and worst pieces, and those views are no less or more important than anyone else’s.

The point is that the work gets done and the energy to produce them gets spent on creating rather than inflicting damage on himself by worrying about how they might turn out to be unpopular etc.


None of it matters as long as you can find someway to share your creative energy and put it out there.


Keep playing and being playful.



Cheap Instruments & What Fate Hands You

Posted in Me Oh My with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 25, 2011 by Gideon K

I have this strange fatalism regarding instruments.

I think a lot of the musical changes in history have come from circumstance as much as anything else. We should consciously cultivate this. That’s why I think there’s a lack of imagination and a soul-starvation to people in bands spending stupid money on expensive American guitars.

Really obvious and unimaginative example:

A lot of indie/alt/rock bands play Fender Jaguars and Jazzmasters, because they have a great and unique sound, and all their favourite bands use them.

All their idols played them in the 80s, mostly because they were dirt cheap. No one wanted them back in the era of post-Van Halen pointy guitars. That’s the only way Sonic Youth could afford to have thousands of them, the same reason why My Bloody Valentine, Dinosaur Jr, Nirvana, etc etc used them.

Now however, people spend loads of money on them. But to me it’s completely counter to the spirit they were used in the first place.

Is it really necessary to spend stupid amounts of money on some crazy thing when there might well be something just as great but different lurking in the dusty, forgotten corner of some tucked-away junk shop?

This goes for everything. If bands aren’t willing to be creative and spontaneous about how they outfit and equip themselves, how likely are they to be creative or unique in other areas?

Billy Corgan said he wrote most of the songs on Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness on an old electric he got for $60 in a junk shop.

Josh Homme bought his Ovation GP from a record store that had just a banjo, an acoustic guitar, and the electric that he bought.

Nearly all my guitars are secondhand, old and Japanese – All under £300 except for one. They sound great, and what’s more – they sound unique. No one else is playing them.

You can probably tell I’m in thrall to the romantic notion of finding lost treasure in forgotten places….

I wholeheartedly advocate junk shops, car boot sales, ebay, gumtree, craigslist etc, or my favourite – charity shops. Just keep an eye out.

I like the fact that I don’t know where my next musical fling is going to come from, and it leaves you with some interesting stories about each of your toys.

Here’s how I see it: The era will provide whether it’s in a way you like or not. But there will be ample equipment that has been thrown out that is ripe for re-use.

Find out what type of gear is really good but unpopular, and go get yourself some great gear for cheap.

Happy hunting.