This article was written by our good friend Brandon Rike.
Oh what to do, what to do. Maybe I‚Äôll start every article with that phrase. So, if any of these other dipsticks use it, you‚Äôll know they‚Äôre bitin‚Äô my rhymes.
So, what to do about your love for music. Oh, love. I see someone waltzing through a meadow, spinning in circles – completely, and utterly in…. love. The phrase, ‚ÄúLove makes you do crazy things‚Äù has never made as much sense to me as it does in this context.
Many of us have a deep-rooted romance with music. Music is powerful. Music narrates portions of our lives, so much so, that the instant you hear the first note or two of a song, you are instantly transported back to that place. ‚ÄúYouth Gone Wild‚Äù by Skid Row instantly takes me to our childhood home, in our bedroom, listening to my brother‚Äôs tapes. ‚ÄúHoney, Won‚Äôt You Open That Door‚Äù by Ricky Scaggs takes me to the backseat of my parents‚Äô friend‚Äôs Chevy Blazer, on the way home from the Fair — Blue interior, dark night, the smell of cigarette smoke, that song. ‚ÄúThe Freshman‚Äù by Verve Pipe takes me to my eighth-grade year in school on my way to becoming a freshman myself, along with all of the heartache that happened around that time. ‚ÄúBlack‚Äù by Pearl Jam, and listening to my brother explain to me what that song was really about.
What music does to us is tremendous. I‚Äôm finding myself without the adjectives that can truly describe what the power of music is. Music is a higher-power in itself. Music is it‚Äôs own type of spirituality, and so many of us are true believers.
I am one of these believers.
I began my pursuit at the ripe age of thirteen. Zach was possibly the greatest friend I will ever have in my life. Since around second grade, the two of us were inseparable. We just ‚Äúclicked‚Äù. We were both stand-out artists in our grade, and Zach had an earring – so that upped his cool-points, and mine also – just for being around him. I guess I received ‚Äúcontact‚Äù cool vibes from Zach‚Äôs dangly left earring. As we got into middle school – we became more and more obsessed with this new beast of a genre called ‚ÄúAlternative‚Äù. Freakin A. These guys were wearing sweaters, destroying their guitars, being dirty. We wanted in. We religiously listened to Weezer‚Äôs Blue Album, Nirvana‚Äôs ‚ÄúNevermind‚Äù and ‚ÄúInsesticide‚Äù (and I just now realized that the word ‚ÄúIncest‚Äù was in the title – Obviously, I had no idea what incest was back then, and I wish I didn‚Äôt now.) Pearl Jam‚Äôs ‚ÄúTen‚Äù, Sublime, 311, Beck, Bush, so on and so on. We were living it. It was what made us feel alive, it was what ‚Äúdid it‚Äù for us. So we did what any thirteen year old in his right mind would – we started a BAND!
Well, we had a band name.‚Ä®‚Ä®No instruments yet, no songs yet, no shows, plenty of eager members (none with instruments), oh, and I had already worked up a few logos on the back of my notebooks. We were almost there.‚Ä®‚Ä®Our closest friends were default members of the band. 48 Hackys was one of the first band names, because we played with hacky-sacks, and 48 was a cool looking number. Our buddy Steve offered the name Stainless Stall, along with a notebook full of reworked versions of popular songs. He had a song inspired by Bush‚Äôs ‚ÄúGlycerine,‚Äù and by ‚Äúinspired‚Äù i mean he switched out about 15 words to make it his own. He did the same thing with Kansas‚Äô ‚ÄúCarry On My Wayward Son‚Äù. I still cannot figure what the heck he was thinking.
But one day Zach was blessed by the rock Gods with this beautiful pea-green guitar. He was a natural, and he obsessed over learning to play the guitar well.
And so it began.
As the number of band members whittled down to a feasible amount. Only, the ones with instruments made it in. Zach, with his green guitar, Me, with a horrible voice – but plenty of charisma, and Chad. Chad‚Äôs wardrobe embodied everything great about the nineties. He had cardigans, woolen sweaters, slacks – he even wore Old Spice cologne. He was a 85-year-old man, living in a 13-year-old‚Äôs body. Plus he had a guitar, and parents who didn‚Äôt mind if we rehearsed in Chad‚Äôs bedroom. At night. With a single wall separating us from his sleeping parents. To this day, I still cannot imagine how they managed to sleep through that.
We were influenced by colorful bands, bands that had fun, bands that acted stupid, bands that had easy songs. We needed easy songs, because we had a guitar, another guitar that was tuned down to sound like a bass, and me rambling.
I remember our first song. It was more of hoe-down music than a song really. Four power chords, one riff, and a lot of passion. Our first gig was at school, during one of the last days of our eighth-grade year. We had some odd assembly in which we had a chance to perform our song – ‚ÄúComfy Chair.‚Äù That‚Äôs what we called it. Comfy Chair. I was obviously influenced by my immediate surroundings when I came up with the title for that one. We sucked, but it was so much fun. The type of fun that was contagious, and we knew we were tapping into something.
One day I overheard a guy talking about his cat having kittens. He mentioned all of the names of the litter, one of which being Static. Static. Ooh – that might be a cool band name – Static. Static became the first official band name.
Chad was on great terms with many of the people at his church. We were friends with the pastor‚Äôs two sons, Nate and Tim – whom you may recognize if you look around this website long enough. Chad was able to get us into the church‚Äôs youth building, where there was some music equipment, including a drum-set. A real drum-set. The only problem was that Zach, Chad, and myself were thirteen, and thirteen-year-olds can‚Äôt drive cars.
But Josh, Chad‚Äôs older brother could.
We arrived at the church, and began making noise. Josh, who didn‚Äôt want to drive home, only to come back to pick us up, hung out. More specifically, he hung out behind the drum-set. We asked Josh to keep a simple beat to keep time. He did that, and then some. Josh was good. Really good. In no time, we formally asked Josh to play drums in our band. Reluctantly, he said yes. Hallelujah. Our band was born. We wrote our first real song that day, entitled ‚ÄúDo You Know Who You‚Äôre Talking To?‚Äù It was a song with a bit of spiritual connotation – as there was an enormous painting of Jesus pushing himself off the ground with a cross on his back. With a mural that large, I couldn‚Äôt help but mention JC in our song.
We were on a high. We had written a song. A real song. To our thirteen year-old ears – it was a masterpiece. It gave us this whole other level of satisfaction and excitement that everything else that we had held of such great importance paled in comparison to our new love.
Our new love.
Now, I could continue with about thirty more chapters of the life and times of my band, but I won‚Äôt. None of it matters as much as what I already told you. I just gave you the most important part.
We stayed a band for a decade after that. We played shows. Signed a record deal. Sold over a hundred-thousand records. Got popular. Played countless national tours. Played Overseas. Self-destructed. Rebuilt.
And then one day I just didn‚Äôt want to do it anymore.
That love, that high that began with that first real song had fizzled out somewhere along that ten year period. All that was left was a man who wanted to be a normal guy for once. To wake up next to his wife every morning. To detach myself from whatever it was that the band had turned into.
See, this love I had for music grew. It blossomed into something bigger. Something that many would call better. But it wasn‚Äôt better. It was just a different version of what we started at thirteen years old. Sure the music got better as time went on, but that wasn‚Äôt really the point. All the point needed to be was to keep loving music the way you did when you began. To maintain whatever spiritual connections you had with music, and concentrate on getting that high over and over again.
When a musician‚Äôs career grows, they build a team around them. The team does everything they can to push this artist or band into their ‚Äúfull potential‚Äù. They help get them signed to a label, and push the label to properly promote them to the public. Many bands want this. My band wanted this. My band wanted to be the biggest band in the world, so any opportunity that would help us get ‚Äúbigger‚Äù was one that we would gladly take. It all began to feel very much like a competition. ‚ÄúBig‚Äù was a relative term, and to get there, we needed to surpass our peers. If our peers were surpassing us, then we were losing this competition, and everything became about getting ahead.
This is the nonsense that killed my high.
The competition had nothing to do with the love I had for music. Even now, I struggle to find that feeling that I had back then. When I think of my career in music, I think about all of the nonsense that made me lose focus of the love, not the love itself.
What you have to understand about your ‚Äúlove‚Äù for music, is just that – the love. The feeling you get when you write a guitar riff, or when you add a melody to the words that express how you feel at that time. The single reward for any artist is the moment they feel what they came up with was creative, expressive, meaningful and from their heart – not anyone else’s.
That‚Äôs it. But it‚Äôs enough to build your whole life around.
When you can be proud of song, because it‚Äôs from you – that‚Äôs the high that made you love music in the first place. That‚Äôs the single reason that you devoted your life to it. Thus, that‚Äôs the only satisfaction you should ever need to feel like what you did was worthwhile.
If you are chasing a music dream for financial gain, you are already on the wrong track. The quest towards financial stability is like kryptonite for a musician. It kills everything that you love about music, and diverts your attention away from the spiritual connection you have with your music. Your most personal line becomes a ‚Äúhook‚Äù, and you become a product. The urge to sell the product is possibly the exact opposite impulse of the one that you create with. Something about this ‚Äúpursuit‚Äù sucks every ounce of life out of your music until one day, your standing in a studio, singing some of the most cheesy stuff you have ever heard – because you know it will sell.
Don‚Äôt allow yourself to get to that point. Good music has no correlation, whatsoever, with popular music. Devote yourself to good music.
Letting the love be the ultimate authority – that‚Äôs what to do about your love for music.
*this article was featured on August 24, 2007