I’ve always had a very special connection to music, see music is more than just a hobby, it’s a lifestyle, it’s my soundtrack, it’s my refuge but it’s also my stage. There are very few feelings that can top the rush of being on stage and performing. Stage fright is not the funniest moments to go through before a gig, I mean everything aches from your stomach to your head, you sweat, you think time went on both a stop and a sprint. Stage fright messes with your head. But all that fades away once you walk on stage, you pick your instrument and strum the first notes.
The stage becomes your world.
I played for rock and jazz bands on small and shaky stages as well as big venues for showcases. The whole journey of preparing, rehearsing, installing the gears, sound checking and performing were exhilarating experiences. Sound checking was my favorite pre-gig time. I learned all the tricks from being behind a mixer and adjusting levels while guitarists cranked it at 11. Sound checking was my first management experience come to think about it. Your job is to put a harmonious order into a very chaotic system with many inputs all wanting to be heard.
But as my day job started to become more and more demanding of my focus, my band work got less and less of me and sooner than I thought, I was at a crossroad. I had to choose.
Taking the decision to halt everything that I had worked for after 5 years of effort was the hardest decision I made back then. It turned out to be the right one to take for both my professional career and musical one.
Sometimes you have to take a step back to see the whole picture
As a faithful companion, music was with me all the time, if not produced then consumed. At my favorite bands’ gigs, I’d watch how engineers sound checked the venues, small, big as much as stadiums. I’d watch the movements of FOH (Front of House) engineers and their great attention to details. They are the engineers who make sure that every sound played live is optimal and that levels are ok. They are the engineers you see sitting in the middle of a venue behind those big consoles. They might be behind the scenes for you, but they are the ones running the house! Seeing them would fill me with nostalgia sometimes but I was grateful for their work. Imagine how many times they’ve heard the same gig over and over and over again. I bet they knew every note that was different from one evening to the other.
As a compulsive creator, I invested my time in solo music production and DJing to keep on creating, learning and practicing. You can’t quit being a creator just because your day job ad commute time makes it complicated. You make the time happen. I didn’t have time for work group but I had time to invest in my solo career.
The first obstacle to handle was finding a way to replace all the band with something. It was easier for me to learn the instruments than outsource. I learned the keyboard and basic drumming in parallel to DJing. The latter was an opportunity to spin my records and the tracks I loved. My time was spent listening, learning, reading, practicing, repeating, recording and publishing. I must have created over a hundred of hours of DJ sets and listening material since a decade now. My DJing styles evolved as my listening habits and curiosity evolved. I listened to every genre of music. I had my favorites of course, but I was too interested in listening to jazz, hip hop, urban music, techno, progressive rock, metal, classical music, trip hop, deep house and other random genres I’d come across.
Music feeds from itself, no genre sits there on its own.
One can never stop learning music. It is not a finite science and I keep on being marveled by old and new tracks. Music speaks when words fail. Music can paint the panorama of an era, it’s a melodic canvas of time periods where history is engraved. Music speaks to you, moves you, makes you want to cry or sing along or dance. Music is an endless field of possibilities.
I marvel at how many things I still have to learn, everyday and every time I fire up my instruments and hit the record button.
This record button freezes time just like a camera shutter would freeze time in a picture. I call it a musician’s vortex. It has the ability to warp time into infinite minutes, hours or days. It has the ability to make your hand shake for no reason. It can make you forget the hours spent practicing that 2 seconds riff and make you redo the take 5, 6, 10 times over. A 3 minutes song is hundreds of hours of recording, re-recording, mixing, mastering and refining the song. A one hour DJ show is hundreds of hours spent researching for tracks, listening, recording, listening again, recording again, mixing and publishing the work.
Once the work is out there, it’s out. There is no turning back even with the magic of the Internet and uploading a better version later on. That is not the point. The point is that once the work is public and shared with the masses to listen, it’s available for everyone to hear, love, hate, share, criticize, comment, download, acknowledge or not. But know that the person behind the work wants your feedback. He/She put the hours and poured itself into the piece of music for you to be moved.
Have you noticed the depth of every instrument? Have you noticed the different instruments used? What about the panning of those instruments? Close your eyes, where does this music take you, how does it make you feel? What are you feeling right now and after listening to it? Why are you pressing on that replay button?
I want you to try the next time you listen to a song, to listen carefully to it, to its depth, to the layers of every instrument. Hear the intent of the musician throwing these riffs here and there, notice the cello, notice the slight bells at the back, notice the soft percussions making you want to dance for no reason, understand what’s important in every section of the song. Live the song, be the song. Notice the theme in the album, there’s continuity and intent there in combining these tracks under one roof, search for it. Streaming has taken away the CD booklet. I used to love booklets because it used to tell the story of the album with the lyrics written there and behind the scenes pictures. The Internet back then was just Yahoo! Search and a couple of news outlets. Now bands tweet and instagram their every movement and lyrics can be summoned with a click of a button. Technology killed the radio star!
In conclusion, do you see music differently? how will you listen to the next song? Will you do it differently than before? What are you listening to?