Archive for music

I’m A Failure: Episode 4 – But I don’t dance.

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on August 28, 2013 by Johnny Broken

My first opportunity for musical shenanigans in a band was a high school thing with some friends. They wanted to follow in the footsteps of Oasis (who were uber popular at the time) and while I still don’t really care for the works of the Gallagher brothers (because of Wonderwall and the line “where were you while wwweeeeee were getting high?”) at the time I figured what the hell. They needed a singer, and I volunteered.

Why did I volunteer? Beyond for reasons I’ve already alluded to, hard to say, really. I mean I’m not like, uncomfortable with singing or anything. I used to do it all the time in class during elementary school, but never on my own in front of people and I never did it extracurricularly either. When I’m alone I do sing along to music I like all the time, though whether or not I’m any good is another story. If nothing else, I at least like to think I know who I can mimic and who’s definitely out of my league. (Generally the more talented the singer, the more they fall in the latter group.) Always been more of a fan of rasps, growls, and what I like to call “rhythmic talking” over clean singing anyway, which are also easier to do

I had a few practice sessions with the band, and a recording of an original song was even played for class. While no one ever said “Oh MY GAWD you suck!” no one was fawning over my singing either. The extent of what I was told by the band was that I was going too fast, as they weren’t trying to play so punky. I guess I was more heavily influenced by a local punk scene than Britpop at the time, but after about a month they stopped inviting me to practice. Fair enough.

Shortly after that, some friends from the aforementioned punk scene, who were also a lot more inclined to metal, wanted to form a cover band. Again, I volunteered based on my “experience” with the Britpop band. I think I realized this endeavor wasn’t going to last much longer like the night I said “Yeah, sure, I’ll give it a shot” though. The metalheads wanted to cover older Metallica and Megadeth, but for as much as I say I like metal, I’ve never really gotten into any early thrash metal. After some finagling Rammstein was added into the mix, but that… probably did me more harm than good. I probably could have pulled off mimicking Dave Mustaine or James Hetfield, even if I didn’t know the songs they wanted to cover. However, while I’m significantly more familiar with Rammstein, their singer, Till Lindemann, has this incredibly deep singing growl. Which in and of itself might have been manageable, but 98% of all Rammstein songs are also in German.

To put it lightly, I’m not so good at trying to sing baritone, never mind in German. I’ve been told I can pull off a fairly impressive low growl when speaking, but my default singing style seems to be a good bit higher. Nonetheless, I came to the conclusion that maaaybe singing wasn’t for me.

Now my “friend” #3, and I’m adding the quotes because as of my typing this I’m still a little unamused with the bastard, but anyway, he’s into music even more than me. But while I’ve had more of a thing for comic books and writing for the last 10 years, he’s taught himself guitar in that time.

Now even though I have little desire to hang out with #3 now, he and I are a lot alike. We’re both anti-social, misanthropic, geeky, gamery, and of above average intelligence. So we’re both kind of inept in our own ways when it comes to dealing with other people.

So with that in mind, #3 has wanted to either join or start a band for years. Though he’d argue it, he has just as much trouble as I do getting along with people, if not more so. So when he meets new people to practice with, either he gets sick of them or they get sick of him pretty quickly.

And the best part? Every couple months he’ll try talking me into starting a band with him. He tells me I have this great sense of rhythm and would be a natural bass player. So after about 16 years of joking that I’d learn bass given the chance, I finally broke down and bought a crappy bass to practice with. I just kinda did my own thing on the bass with some advice from him, but nothing complicated. Looked up some bass tabs, and researched the basics online. Practiced for a few weeks. Wrote some song lyrics. Tried to come up with some decent basslines. As time passed though, and it was just me and #3, I started noticing a few of his habits, which as far as I was concerned, explained why he wasn’t currently in a band.

The worst part is that for as much as I do think it’s over diagnosed, he has a major case of ADD. He can’t keep doing something repetitive for very long, and if he can help it, he’ll constantly try something new. Now think about that in context. A guy who has trouble doing the same thing over and over says he wants to play guitar in a band. Where one would, y’know, practice the same songs over and over and over.

He can’t do it. He claims he’s not good enough to play lead guitar in a band, and tries to play rhythm guitar, but he doesn’t have the attention span to play the same riffs over and over in a song. So I’m supposed to keep a beat for a guy that gets sick of hearing or playing the same riff after like, 2 minutes. Which is when he starts improvising. Which is when any semblance of any sort of song structure is completely thrown out the window.

And then we both came into some financial troubles, and to make a long story short, as far as I was concerned, the “side project” band was quickly becoming a waste of time. We shelved things for a couple months, and I eventually sold my crappy little bass.

To this day #3 still tells me I’d be a good bass player if I stuck to it. Then he started showing me how to use a drum machine for the cover band he’s in, but once I thought I got the hang of it, he seemingly dropped that completely and tried showing me how to use a sequencer. That was significantly more complicated, but shortly after I started trying to figure that thing out, I finally heard the cover band.

And…

Wow. They were horrible. But the worst part is that #3 fully admitted (to me, anyway) that he hated the idea of the straight up cover band the others wanted to do, and never intended to learn the songs. So I at that point, I pretty much completely lost interest. I wasn’t going to go out of my way to practice for something that I knew he didn’t care about.

So where does that leave me? I… dunno. Like I’ve been saying, I enjoy music, and would like to see if I can actually manage to create it, but I’m strapped financially for the forseeable future, so buying a decent instrument is out of the question. And then there’s the matter of being as old as I am and basically starting from scratch, and nevermind how I still plan on not living to see 2014 anyway. It might be something that could turn things around for me, but I just don’t see how I can manage to even start anything in time before my plans for Halloween.

-Johnny

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

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on August 21, 2013 by Johnny Broken

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