Am I a musician? No. No. Not quite
By NICK TAVARES
STATIC and FEEDBACK Editor
So, it's May in Arizona, it's a Wednesday, and, naturally, it's pretty hot. It's an interesting task to try to pass the time now and then.
And in the meantime, I’m listening to Ryan Adams’ amazing EP Follow the Lights, and thinking about my own budding — don’t laugh — recording career. I recorded a ridiculous cover of Neil Young’s “Time Fades Away” the other day, in which I scream off-key through most of it. But my guitar playing is better than it was, my harmonica wound up sounding sweet, and I figured out how to successfully program a drum loop. And today, after work, I was able to create a 1:30 track with a slower beat, some bass and a chord progression I came up with on the spot to fit with it. I’d like to go back and add some solo stuff with the guitar, and maybe even words. I figure my best bet for finally breaking through and coming up with lyrics after suffering through a mental block for 8 years will be to try some non-sensical stuff. Frank Zappa or Phish-like, though I’m pretty sure they were trying. They were good at what they did, though.
What’s really interesting, though, is that lately I’ve been listening to music a little bit differently, a little more critically. Or maybe, just differently critically.
Today, at my day job, I had my headphones on listening to the Pixies (the amazing Pixies at the BBC, everyone go buy that now), and during “Dead,” I thought, “man, it’d be really cool to try something like that, with the driving drums and the distorted one-note verse pushing the whole thing off the cliff.” And that surprised me. I've never really listened to anything and think of something original I'd like to do. But I’m starting to realize that I do have a style.
The few basic things I’ve recorded, including the cover above, are all fairly fast, distorted, noise-filled excursions which really has me covering more Spoon-Stooges-Mudhoney-Pixies territory than I would have thought I’d travel otherwise. Even my harmonica playing comes off as more punk-sounding than bluesy, if that’s possible.
I listen to a lot of different kinds of music. Ryan Adams, lately, has nailed the sweet country croon that I love. Yesterday, I think I listened to the Grateful Dead, Tortoise, Bruce Springsteen, the Raconteurs and the Black Keys. Today, I believe it was Oasis, Neil Young, Miles Davis, the Clash, Wilco and the Pixies, as mentioned above. I could have gone a lot of different ways as a struggling musician.
It could also be that I’m not good enough to mimic the sound Ryan Adams, Bruce Springsteen or Gram Parsons, either. No one talks about them being great string-masters, but they’re much more nimble around the guitar that I am, that’s for sure. Finger picking scares me, as do most bar chords. And most things above the 12th fret.
But, alas, I’m happy to steal ideas from my faster-playing, noise-making heroes. And subsequently execute them in a much poorer fashion. Hey, it’s a start, right? These rock-star checks won’t write themselves.
May 7, 2007
If you’d like to hear my take on Mr. Young’s song, you’re more than welcome to the mp3. But, you’ll have to e-mail me. If I’m going to embarrass myself, I want to know who’s going to be laughing at me. Fair enough, I say.