Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Irrevocable Unfinishedness of Life

The older I get the less I feel like I've "arrived."

Maybe that's why I post on here a lot less. I've been in learning mode. It's hard to write like you know something when you're learning that you don't.

I recently remodeled my garage so that I could use it for a studio. I needed a place to work where I could be free of distractions. My requirements were that it would be warm, dry, and relatively quiet. 

"Function over fashion" is a saying I try to live by, so when it came time for drywall, I only bought enough for the walls. I did the ceiling above the studio monitors with some leftovers so I could sound-treat it, and with the scraps from that I put a panel above the drum set.

The rest of the "cathedral-style" ceiling is insulation-batts covered in clear plastic sheeting stapled to the studs. It's got that "unfinished" vibe. 

Kind of like my life.

It's funny to me that when I was younger I really felt like I'd arrived. Like I had read enough books and picked enough brains to finally understand how everything was. But life taught me that there is no official arrival. Something always comes up, or the same thing comes back around again.

Kristie feels it too. Is there an end to the laundry? To the cleaning? To the dinner prep? It seemingly never stops.

You could sum up the recording process, a process I'm living in right now, with this concept of "unfinishedness." 

With recording, nothing ever seems done, because technically you could edit forever. At some point you've comped, edited, and printed, and you have to move on... but part of you knows that you're just moving on for now, that you'll be back, at vocal time, at mix time, to move some of those notes around.

So I sit in my studio, working, editing, fading, scrolling, dragging, zooming in and out, listening to takes, hemming and hawing. 

Occasionally I glance up from my unfinished work at my unfinished ceiling and think about my unfinished dreams.

I think about how crazy it is that I'm here now, and about how uncomfortable I am to stay.

And then I get back to the work at hand; listening, hearing, changing, sifting through the irrevocable unfinishedness of life.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Too Big Not To Fail (Why Becoming too Branded is Bad for Your Band)

It's hard to maintain a larger-than-life image because frankly, life as a mundane reality is far too pervasive.

This is the struggle with being in a rock band. 

If you do it 'right,' you start out with a level of mystique, you iconize each member, you make sure your media is compelling; your pictures, your videos, your publicity all has to be patterned after this hyper-sexy-talented rockstar image.

You shop for the latest fashions, you get designer hair-cuts, you get photos that make you look like Gucci models or cartoon characters or something out of the movie Mad Max. Something other-wordly. Something not real.

You tour a lot. You spend a lot of time on stage. You are the artist, the talent, the musical event that people pay money to see. You try to be the hero they expect you to be, the person they aspire know, to understand, to follow.

Not many people know who you really are. They've come to understand the projected image of yourself. They know the brand you market. That's it.

Only you and those close to you know you are human. That you are no better than the fans. That you are not special. That you are an insecure, foolish, hypocritical mess like everyone else.

But you cannot be you. There are expectations now. The brand has a mission statement, a subtext if you will, that says you cannot be human, you have to be a god, or this whole thing falls apart.

Your brand is larger-than-life, it's bigger than you, but it expects you to behave bigger than yourself... which is stressful. 

You carry the burden for awhile, but you start to buckle under the pressure to maintain this image, especially when your human side is becoming more human... You get married, you start having kids. You're a dad, you have a family, you don't identify as this idol anymore. It's hard to reconcile the brand with reality.

Eventually, you can't take it, and your band breaks up.

My goal over the last five years has been to avoid this. 

There is no reason why the musical brands I've developed need to stop creating, especially if we can relieve this pressure, especially if we can change the subtext to implicate us as flawed, regular folks, who occasionally would like to create and release new music. 

Have we lost some people during this change? Sure... but what we've gained are partners in our art, humans like us who enjoy what we create. We've lost a few fans who want the larger-than-life thing, the brand being marketed in your face thing, but we've exchanged them for friends and supporters. We don't need to be idolized, and frankly it makes us feel awkward when it happens.

We are normal dudes with families and jobs, just like you. That's what The Classic Crime as a band has morphed into, and that's how we'll survive and make music for years to come.

By God's grace I hope we can make it happen.