Saturday, November 26, 2011

In a former life...

I don't write much here about my former career as a struggling, out-of-work musician, but lately I've been reflecting on some of the good times from my musical past. Sometimes I forget why I chose to move away from the dedication to my musical ambitions, and then I remember the reasons. The multitude of reasons.

For starters, I never really got on well with other musicians. In the early 90's I seemed to move from band to band, each band doing a number of gigs before self-imploding. It was disheartening because each band had its merits and its talented players (a select few of which I've maintained some contact with over the years).

I have nothing but the greatest admiration and respect for my few friends that have succeeded at sustaining a career in music. It takes some unique skills. One such skill: Being comfortable with ambiguity and a frequent lack of structure. Over the years I have learned that I am most UNcomfortable when there's an absence of structure (for anyone who's curious my Myers-Briggs is INTJ).

Another realization I've had recently is that the music biz of today is FAR different from the biz of the late 80's when I was learning the ropes and paying my dues. Frankly I never felt completely comfortable selling or promoting my own product. I think part of this comes from being Scandinavian/Minnesotan/raised Lutheran, an interesting combination that often mistakes self-confidence for bragging or cockiness, which is a very bad thing if you're a Scan-MN-Luth mix like I was.
I was friends with the members of Words before learning to play, sing, or write. These folks (who happen to be musically inclined) are extended family, which probably explains why we gravitate together every few years to make new music. Since forming in 1986 we've written, recorded & self-produced four full-length cassettes, a CD, a 7" vinyl single, and (my personal favorite) a cover of "Yesterday's Hero" on Men In Plaid, an internationally distributed Bay City Rollers tribute CD that has gone into its 2nd printing on Bullseye Records of Canada.

As much of a thrill creating music has always been for me, I've found my professional niche in Higher Education, where I feel at home. I believe it's where I'm at my best. Working on my PhD, despite its occasional headaches, has been a fantastic opportunity. Turns out that I really get off from being in an intellectual environment, and that the satisfaction of creation is often the same whether it's a song or a research article. It's just the end product that is different.

A few weeks ago Leo and I did a massive re-arrangement of the upstairs floor of our house, and I discovered my old TASCAM Portastudio under the bed covered in a thick layer of dust. Since then I've been sifting through some not-so-dusty tapes (carefully stored away in our basement), shining up some old songs and posting them at my tumblr site.  Through this process I have made very nice peace with the musical past that is very much a part of who I am. I am extremely proud of the music that my mainstay band Words and I have created over the years. It's not all genius stuff, but that doesn't mean it lacks value. For me each song is like an audio time-capsule; the feeling of being transported to a different time via recorded music can be a very powerful thing.

I've provided a few links below in case you're interested in hearing some of the tracks I've posted recently. If you like what you hear, check back from time to time because I'll probably keep posting stuff, as long as this nostalgia trip maintains my interest. :)

Thank you for reading & listening!


Anonymous said...

Here's my garrulous take -
"London Bridges" has an earthy feel to what is now known as 'chillwave' at first I thought Lennonesque but it is a unique track let me guess on the synth -- a Roland? I like the tonal variety of "Struck Down" kind of like a excursion through the bands musical influences. "No Big Deal" again the variety sticks out and “I lit a grease fire in home ec, no big deal" one lyric over the iambic pentameter punctuates. On second listen love the drums got me thinking back to the Stones "Complicated". On "Sun" very very good and exact - Words interpretation shines through. Thank you for sharing your tracks.

Jeff said...

Anon - Thank you for such thoughtful input on these songs, and for simply listening in the first place! Much appreciated. I'd not known about "chillwave", so I was able to Wiki that and learned something new.

Yes I'm pretty sure Matt's synth (which we used on London Bridges) was a Roland. Mine was a Yamaha.

Feel free to leave "garrulous" comments anytime!


Anonymous said...

Jeff -- They're three songs worthy of mention -- all Chillwave. For 2011 they simply stand out. One can say that Chillwave currently is riding a crest of a wave into 2012.

[the current hottest exemplar out]
Elephant - Assembly

Kurt Vile - On Tour

[SubPop - I'd grab this one on vinyl.]
Washed Out - Amor Fati

Happy Holidaze!