Friday, June 26, 2009

In Memoriam

It's been a while since my last post. Life has been a bit of a whirlwind. Shows in Lubbock & Houston, along with much time in the studio wrapping up an album as well as preparing for the push. It's been a bit crazy, but when a loss so great occurs, you almost have no choice but to stop & reflect on the weight of the situation. The loss I speak of is the death of perhaps the greatest pop artist this world has ever seen...Michael Jackson.
Trendsetter, trailblazer, an amazing vocalist, & so much more, the passing of MJ holds a deeper significance than that of simply the death of a celebrity. For many people throughout the world, Michael was the last icon. The term "popular culture" can be so broad, for fads that are identified with the times they inhabited can be absorbed within the ranks of what is considered popular culture, but Michael was more than that...Michael transcended generations. My parents grew up with the Jackson 5. I can recall digging thru my father's record collection & finding the "Victory" & "Destiny" albums in his crates. I never once reveled in the connection of how the "baby of the bunch" in a group that my father grew up with was the same man that I impersonated at family gatherings, parties, & anytime that I was on a smooth surface with socks & no shoes on.
As a youth and an aspiring musician, Michael remained the pinnacle of musical achievement, an international superstar, commanding performer, & expert songwriter. Much of my childhood contained Michael's music as the soundtrack, & even now, at the age of 27, his songbook remains undeniable. I hear tracks such as, "Rock With You" or "Thriller" & almost immediately I am taken back to time when I was just a kid watching "Moonwalker," seeing his 1993 halftime performance at the Super Bowl, attending Chicken Skates, & so much more. As I grew up & began to question everything, I also remember the allegations, secrecy, & speculation that began to outshine his achievements. Despite it all, there's still a joy that I hear in his music, an instant trip down memory lane to a more innocent time in my life.
Much can be said of MJ's eccentrics, but consider, if you will, other greats such as Miles Davis, Vincent Van Gogh, Salvador Dali, Ernest Hemingway, Hunter S. Thompson, Beethoven, & so forth. Never has the genius of their artistry been shadowed by their personal lives. Their art becomes a part of the world's collective conscious, our culture, our lives, & in that they live on thru us. Much of my love of music is thanks to Michael Jackson, & for that I will forever be grateful. May you rest in peace, King of Pop.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Thunder Storm New (sort of) Macbook Y Mas!!!

Yes.  As I write this entry a storm is raging outside.  Plans were made to deliver and set up a PA system amongst other things @ the new rehearsal spot for the Boss Level but to no avail.  Funnel clouds began to appear over North Carrollton & Coppell, so traveling in the thick of the affected area with two gynormous B-52 speaker cabs and more seemed like a bad idea.  Despite this, what this abrupt situation afforded me was quiet time to write, read, and explore online thanks to a new addition to my quasi-new macbook.
Ah yes, my white model two month old macbook is a gem thus far.  Though my house experienced a very brief power failure, literally less than five minutes after my roommate called to request that his iMac be shut down, I still have battery life to enjoy the simple things, like viewing my friends short films on YouTube, reading other's friends blogs, checking out a few Katy Perry music videos (I wish I could say it was simply for the music...if it was, what would be the purpose of watching the music video) & sharing a little bit of my life & perspective with whosoever reads this.
The reason I needed a macbook was primarily to expand the sonic possibilities of my band & to do so with less gear than I use now, but I admit just being portable, untethered to a power source is oh so very nice.  Phase one complete...on to phase two, getting a kick-ass midi controller and diving into more of Reason & possible Ableton Live, but that is simply geek talk for all my electronic musicians out there.  What is far more engaging is how these devices affect us, for I know how it's affecting me.
As I said before, my primary reasons for the Macbook were to utilize it as a musical asset.  Too many times in the past have I been on the road away from the home studio longing to be able to create rather than waste time in hotels, vans, etc., but now that I've got it I feel energized to do much more.  I want to edit video, nothing crazy, just some video blogs...possible comedy sketches.  I want to stretch out into photography, nothing major just explorations in what is possible post point & shoot.  I want to do it all.
I think that's why I identify with producers and got my degree with a production emphasis.  I love creation, and want to inspire others to create as well.  I value individuality and originality, even when I celebrate it thru "quoting" musically or verbally.  I've never begun a project with an intent to plagiarize, but recognize when aspects of music, images, or stories coincidentally hold similarities to things past.  I believe that it was Igor Stavinsky that said, "Good composers borrow...GREAT composers steal."  Great quote, but very similar to T.S. Elliot's, "Immature poets imitate...mature poets steal."  I wonder who said it first.
Regardless of when it was said, all that matters is it holds truth within its words, for all that came before inspires what comes next.  Richard Linklater's, Waking Life led me to believe that the moment the ideas are out there those in tune to them gravitate towards them, use them as fuel to carry them to where they want to go or what they are trying to discover.  Though in this technological and informational age where the vehicles may have changed, the process remains as it has always been.  T.S. Elliot also was quoted saying that, "Art never improves, but the material of art is never quite the same."  What was good will always be good, I'm just glad to be turned on by another tool of the trade & look forward towards the possibilities.  I'm tuned in once again.  It is time to transform potential energy into something kinetic.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Artists' Burden


-What it is world?!?!?!? It's been a while since my last post. I assure you that my Top 20 Albums piece will continue real soon. I've got some East Coast love on deck with explorations on "Ready to Die" by the Notorious B.I.G and "Enter the 36 Chambers" by the Wu Tang Clan, so stay tuned.
Anyways, I wanted to get back on the blogspot & give a little insight to what has been going on as of late. The main situation in my life right now has been the first official recording of my band, The Boss Level. The idea of the "Magnificent Beasts" EP has been in the works for a while now, and it's in the process of coming to fruition. Drums were laid down courtesy of Mr. Evan Gentry back in Mid-May along with most of the basic bass and guitar tracks, and little by little we've been getting closer to completion. Last night, I laid down the core vocals for one of our songs, "Danger," but it was so strange to perform it under these circumstances.
Music has always been the primary passion in my life, and creating it almost comes naturally. I can't really force it, so I'm constantly searching for means to spark the creativity. The strangest thing about it is that, most times, it's almost as if the song writes itself, and I have no control over the degree of difficulty the tune will provide for any of the band members...including myself. What's even more perplexing is the difference between performing in the controlled environment of the studio compared to the "anything goes" arena of the stage. Lately, I've found that when I perform material with the band, we all propel each other to attain that level (the "boss" level, if you will) of performance necessary to execute the song. I can feed off that energy and hit a vocal range unattainable in solo performance. Hence, the difficulty in performing in the studio.
I've always sang but never consider myself a singer. I still cringe a bit when that label is mentioned, for this vehicle is the first where I'm up front and center...for everyone to hear, so it's taken some getting used to. It's a very vulnerable position to be in, & it can drive you mad...if you let it. The only way to find solace is to surrender yourself to the song, and in doing so I've discovered it's not only an easier way to's the only way to be. As I tracked a part of one song in particular that held Twista-like amounts of verbage in a small space I recall telling Ryan, our engineer, "I need to stop writing such difficult parts." We laughed it up, but deep within the recesses of my mind I knew, I've never written anything for the sake of being difficult. I've only written what seemed right for the song, even if it meant not necessarily being right or easy for me or anyone else in the band.
There have been times where that very aspect of my creativity has rubbed some folks, including myself, the wrong way, but most of the time it works out for the best for everyone involved grew musically, technically, & artistically. We discovered the ability to tap into something within ourselves that we never knew was there, and that's what makes the entire process so exciting. I still get a kick out of playing recordings of our material to friends who upon listening ask, "Who's your singer," only to be pleasantly surprised when I tell them it's me. I enjoy it when folks who only knew of our guitar player, Josh, during the FTL days, revel in his sound, ideas, and prowess saying, "I didn't know he could play like that."
The truth of the matter is we as artists are slaves to our art. Some artists are genius, constantly attempting to break barriers in order to redefine our perception of what is possible & palatable. Some artists are freaks of nature that can effortlessly create or perform what most would deem unfathomable. Some artists are just in tune. They see, hear, and feel what is out there & translate it into something universal for all of us to tap into. I feel as though I belong to that third category. I remain open as a vessel for music to flow. All I do as a performer is attempt to relate the message as best I can...and entertain people while I do it.

Peace. Love. & All That's Beautiful in the World.