18.3.11

the why in new now

I suppose now is as good a time as any to give you the rundown of my life in music.
Fret not, this is not some lengthy memoir monologue, rather it has become clear recently that very few members of my friends and family have any knowledge of my musical hobbyism, and a brief description of how, why and when, written here will save all the quarrellings should I become the ego-bloated rockstar who forgets that any of you ever existed. 



Music has always been a large facet of my life and I would go as far to say that it played a stong hand in shaping the person I am today. 
Sadly I don't have many 'my-dad-used-to-play-these-records-when-I-was-a-kid' anecdotes to my musical biography. That's not my parents fault, they never really enjoyed music beyond it's cursory osmosis into their lives. (When do policemen have time between shift work, sleeping and raising children?)
My mother is a die hard Rod Stewart fan but thankfully that has had little influence on me besides finding myself with an involuntary lyrical knowledge which arises mostly when I'm in supermarkets. My father was a metal fan back in the days of Sabbath and Deep purple, lamentably though his record collection seems to have disappeared into the ether leaving me with little to scavenge from the household vinyl collection besides the Carpenters and The new seekers.

Previous to being a socially inept and awkward adult I was a socially inept and awkward teenager, and sought refuge amongst kindred spirits as soon as I could find them. The reason I managed to live through secondary school despite being painfully awkward and bespectacled was finding that insular and connected group of friends. We weren't all rock fans but we seemed to have a penchant for shying away from the mandatory necessity for inclusion that becomes inherent in secondary school.
We hung out of the way in the music rooms, where we learned and shared and became a different unit to the rest of the school. Trusted by teachers, disliked by peers it was a strange and upon refection very formative time. This is when  I discovered the useful skill of consistently (I still do today) listening to music when I'm on the move. I seem to have and always have had a face that people like to yell at, I found that if you can keep from hearing the taunts or derogatory comments, there is little reason to get yourself into a situation where you might feel the need to rise to them.
One of my musical boasts has always been my quasi-break away from most of my rock and metal friends in terms of taste. I always have - and will be - a metal fan, but I do like to question myself and my tastes, and I like to ask the question "do I actually like this?" of myself on a regular basis. 
Like many of my friends at the time I was listening to Metallica and other big band based rock acts, but upon hearing Marilyn Manson's 'Antichrist superstar' I found there was a new vain to rock that I had yet to explore and was increasingly compelled by.
The album, while visceral and inherently creepy was unlike anything I'd heard prior. It was rich in samples and effects, which gave the feeling and experience of listening to a record decaying as it progresses. This wasn't just the usual rock band scenario, it screamed with intrigue and difference, an unidentifiable entity bursting from the body of modern metal. 


By this time (college days) many of my friends felt that, beyond being involved as a consumer in the rock world, they wanted to contribute. 
They began to form bands and where as I could play guitar - enough at that time to survive the fumblings of a fledgling garage band - I was never really invited to join in.
Instead I became a school-room roadie, I helped my friends lug around amps and set up drum kits and as time progressed I fiddled with knobs on effects units to help guitarists find the sounds they needed and stood at the back of sports halls to give pointers on levels.
Always the bridesmaid...


The bands I was discovering helped to bolster my stung self esteem, they weren't built around the four piece rock outfit ideal. Bands like Nine inch nails and VAST alluded to a singular vision using any tool necessary to achieve a new and dynamic sound.
So I wasn't invited to join a band, maybe I didn't need one? Maybe my new found taste for a seasoning of electronica in my metal had tainted my palette to the point where I wouldn't have been fulfilled being part of someone else's sound?
I got myself a laptop and with whatever free software (I will be forever indebted to the people at computer music for their part in that) I could garner began to make some noise. 
I have been asked, as an adult, why I don't just set up a band myself now.
All I can offer as a response is that now I am too used getting my own way, if I were in a band I would have to compromise and give in to others ideas.
Yes there is a lot to be said for the meeting of creative minds to produce something greater than the sum of it's parts, I am a strong advocate for the concept of taking a myriad of musical tastes and creating something that brings about the best of them, but I (like everyone else) want what I want.
On top of that if i want a brass section, with a little tinkering and a good ear, I can have one through good synthesis and sampling. Orchestration and space-age soundscapes are all at my fingertips without the need for expensive rehearsal spaces and high priced recording studios.

I found my niche in an almost autistic compulsion to sound, when I got my first amp I spent more time with the guitar laid against it while I played the effects off against the feedback than I did playing the guitar itself. I was searching for a sound, something that, although similar to the bands I liked, was more of my own. I didn't have the skills, the technical know-how or the budget for kit that they had but that seemed to work in my advantage.
If imitation is the highest form of flattery, what does it mean when you imitate, fail and create something new from the pieces?
At first all I did was jostle together a few (possibly copyrighted) samples, into abstract pseudo-songs, I begun under the flag of 'cold water flat' I honestly can't remember where that came from but suffice to say it didn't stick for long.
I was simply learning, creating tracks of little merit to the outside world but they were teaching me how to improve and adapt what I knew about the music I loved. 
That has always been what I strive for, musical evolution. Create a bunch of tracks until one stands out, learn from it and start the process again with the new, 'better' track as a basis. 


A composer friend and I dabbled in a music project with some unexpected blues influences for a while, a concept based electronica meets Tom Waits meets Nick Cave debacle which I still like to reminisce about from time to time called 'fiction'. It was a lot of fun and I learned a great deal about production of live instruments and song structure from him. 
While touring Eastern Europe with the same friend, we stopped in the Serbian city of Novi Sad. The city itself was not particularly a highlight of the trip but hearing of how it was practically leveled during the Yugoslav/Bosnian war and looking at the thriving metropolis we were stood in made me think about the the prosperity and dedication of the human condition. Someone we met in a hostel that night told us the English translation for Novi Sad was 'new now' (I have since learned it is 'new plantation' but that is a triviality I am willing to overlook) and I decided there and then that this phrase and the city spirit of it's moniker summed up an ideal I felt truly inspired by. Today the city is famed for hosting the famed 'exit' festival, so it would seem musical inspiration is in the city's very make up.
By this time I had mastered muzys enough to be producing things that I wasn't afraid of gingerly sharing with the world outside my room and a few remixes which I find help stave of the pressure of writing new material and constantly wanting to be original (samples kindly provided by remix.nin.com)

Since then I have been attempting to allow a sound to evolve that lies somewhere between the musical influences I have amassed over the years. Portishead and Garbage, Miles Davis and Lamb of God seep out of my ipod and I try to learn a lesson from them all. I want to make organic electronica, a phrase which not even I am sure of its meaning but in all honesty I feel I'm heading in the right direction.   





If you would like to hear what my music actually sounds like, please give my newly appointed website a try; http://www.wix.com/newnowmusic/main

1 comment:

  1. Another great read Richard, a really nice mix of the personal and the broader musical world. Off now to listen to some of your stuff...

    ReplyDelete