I’m A Failure: Episode 3 – It has a beat…

As you may have noticed, I’ve been trying to avoid giving an indication of how old I am. The idea here is to tell you about what I do, but not me specifically, if that makes any sense. But I’ve come to the conclusion that I can’t talk about my musical influences and still be coy about when I grew up. And music is a big part of my life, or what’s left of it anyway, so there goes that mystery.

So back in the day when I was a wee lad, my options for the music I could listen to were limited to my father’s interests. He’s a huge fan of The Platters and Buddy Holly and their ilk, and he explicitly told me once that I could play that crazy MTV stuff after I gave older music (or basically his music) a chance first. I don’t remember hating his music, but at the time, the likes of Madonna (To this day, I still think of Material Girl as the first song I could freely listen to.) and Def Leppard and Bon Jovi had the allure of the forbidden to them. And if there’s anything about kids that you can count on, it’s that they’ll be drawn to something they’ve been denied.

With that in mind, you can probably blame 80’s pop and hair metal for my ingrained fondness for music that’s either electronic in some way, overly catchy, or yelled instead of sung. Granted hair metal was popular at the time, but one of my cousins is STILL a diehard fan of the genre, so her and my hipster brother are probably the most responsible for what I was exposed to. Once I was finally free to purse music on my own, I gravitated towards later Def Leppard, Motley Crue, and Skid Row (Yeah yeah, chuckle it up now.) as well as whatever else came around that was melodic.

My cousin, how I grew up (middle class white kid) and where I grew up (central Pennsylvania) are also probably why I never really got that into rap and hip-hop when I was young. You could more than likely toss in that “Us versus Them” mentality of metal fans versus, well, everyone else too. The extent of my exposure to anything rap-y was the super popular stuff that made it on radio and TV. Call the likes of MC Hammer or Young MC what you will these days, but they succeeded in showing the masses that there was music that didn’t involve ridiculously teased hair, lipstick, and guitars.

And then one fateful birthday during my later elementary school years, my brother gave me his old copy of the Broken EP by Nine Inch Nails. For those new to the Evil Midnight Blog, that was around the time I started embracing misanthropy because of how my classmates treated me. So as an angry little kid brought up on hair metal, the first time I listened to some of Trent Reznor’s angriest work, I was hooked on this “industrial” music. It was a perfect blend of the guitar riffs, yelling, and techno that I already liked, and the lyrics were just as hate-filled and angst ridden as I was at the time.

Speaking of Nine Inch Nails, I still get a chuckle out of my 8th grade yearbook. When 95% of the class listed “Nuthin’ But a G Thang” as their favorite song, mine was “Wish” by Nine Inch Nails. Wish it was something real in this world full of you, indeed.

As the interwebs were still a gleam in Al Gore’s eye, however, discovering new music was difficult, to say the least. Skip ahead a few years to high school, and #6 and I were getting a ride from another friend’s brother. I noticed a bunch of tapes in the car I didn’t recognize, and I meekly mentioned that I was a big fan of Nine Inch Nails. Oddly enough, this produced something of a gleam in Big Brother’s eye, and he started sifting through his tapes.

“You like Nine Inch Nails, Huh? You ever heard of Ministry or KMFDM?”
“Uh. No.”
“Oh, check these out. You’ll love this.”

If you have any familiarity with any of these bands, you know exactly where this is going. If you don’t, Ministry basically created the industrial metal genre by being the first band to combine electronically generated dancey beats and heavy metal style guitar riffs, and KMFDM are arguably equally as influential, if a bit more on the rock and experimental end. Long story short, I’ve loved industrial music ever since.

So I finally had a “type” of music that I loved. Granted it’s hard to explain to someone who only knows mainstream music, and in recent years I’ve resorted to using “techno” as a catch-all term, but I’ll persevere. Of course industrial music is still my favorite genre, but I listen to a lot different kinds of music these days. Almost anything from Arkona to Busta Rhymes to Creedence Clearwater Revival to Dimmu Borgir to Elvis Presley to Front Line Assembly to Girls’ Generation to The Horrorpops to The Ink Spots to Job For a Cowboy to you get the idea.

In fact, it’d probably be easier and faster to mention what I don’t like. I’ve already covered why I hate classic rock and “hippy” music here. I also don’t like most genres where it’s intentional to NOT be rhythmic, though I can handle math metal once in a while. (If that last sentence didn’t make much sense, look up Intelligent Dance Music. It’s pretentious as fuck and extremely painful on my ears. Math Metal focuses on musicianship over being catchy.) Blindly religious music also tends to get on my nerves, as well as whiny country, or extremely braggy rap. My annoyance towards inane lyrics is also a large part of why I like foreign language music so much. I can either just ignore the words and enjoy the sound, or if I get too curious regarding what the song is about, pass off the lyrics as not translating well.

Now with this all mind, I hope I’ve established that I have a thing for music, and especially melodic, catchy stuff. In elementary school I did start taking trumpet lessons, but I always kinda sucked at that. Shifted to percussion during high school, but I was never really good at manually playing the drums either. The thing is, while I may have an ear for a beat, I’ve NEVER been good with numbers. As such, a full understanding of how music is actually made has been just beyond my grasp. I’ve never learned how to read music, but I never really sat down to try to figure it all out either. Which made learning an instrument in a school lesson format incredibly difficult, to say the least.

During high school I started joking that given the opportunity, I’d try to learn bass guitar. I mean I already looked like I was in a band, why not actually be in one? And then the opportunities to play in bands finally started presenting themselves, which I’ll talk about in the next IAF episode.

-Johnny

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