History

You won’t want to read this.  In fact, I don’t expect anyone to read this.  This is one of those things I wanted to write down for my own reasons, selfish and boring that they are.  The end of this month is my 36th birthday, and it also marks (to the day), the fact that I’ve been writing and playing music for 20 years now.  I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, trying to remember all the different paths over the years that led me to where I am now, at least in terms of music.

For as long as I can remember, music in some form or another has always been a part of my life.  Even from a young age it was something that fascinated me, something I wanted to be a part of.  I’d spend hours as a kid building guitars and other weird instruments out of cardboard boxes, pieces of wood, and rubber bands.  In grade school I was selected for an advanced after-school music class, where we were taught basic theory, and how to play simple instruments like the xylophone, recorder, or different percussion instruments.

I don’t know how I ended up in a class like this, music wasn’t something that I did at home at the time, and except for a great-grandmother who taught herself to play the organ, no one else in my family played an instrument.  In the end the budget for the class was cut as is often the case, and it was ended after only two years.  I don’t think it had a huge impact on me musically, it wasn’t until only a couple of years ago I even remembered it to be honest.  Still, perhaps there was something there even at that age…

Early in my teens I started getting more and more interested not only in music itself, but how things sounded.  I’d spend hours at the store comparing different cassette Walkman’s trying to find the best sounding ones, or trying out different headphones to see which sounded the most “real” to me.  I developed a knack for learning to disassociate the SOUND of music, with the MESSAGE in the song, focusing only on it’s sonics and how they were presented.  The EQ controls on any stereo were fair game in those days, as I was always working to make people’s stereos sound better (whether they wanted me to or not).

Most of my friends in school were a year or two older than me, and it was when they started getting their driver’s licenses, and thus their first cars, that a lot of this started to come together for me.  With a new car, came the chance to install a new car audio system, and I was lucky enough that a few of my friends really got into this aspect of car modding.  Some people were all about making their cars faster, but most of my friends were about making their cars louder.  Big subs, deep bass, being in the lowrider scene were what they wanted.  It was fortuitous for me, as I was there when they went shopping for new equipment, and I got to learn a lot about electronics helping them install everything.

For me though, the real benefit was finally being around a group of people who all cared about how things sounded, about learning critical listening.  Not everyone was into the big bass aspect of car audio, and when I got my first car, I dove headlong into creating the flattest, best sounding system I could afford.  I started reading books on acoustics, study frequency responses of different instruments, learned what makes a good loudspeaker, and how to design the perfect enclosure to hold them.  I’m not saying I was great at it, but there was a ton of information to take in, and I soaked it up like a sponge.  I was the kid everyone wanted to tweak the graphic EQs in their cars, people just thought I was good at it, and I never understood why.

Being in a scene like this had the added benefit of exposing me to music I would have never heard before.  While most people I knew were into rock and punk (I was mainly a skateboarder after all), these guys were into early hip hop, and more importantly music made with electronic equipment.  Radio stations like Chicago’s B96 late at night, along with groups like LA Style, Sir Mixalot, MARS, Yello, etc all introduced me to more rhythmically oriented and beat driven music.  Music meant to kick you in your chest while driving your car around.

However, there was one thing that influenced me even more during this time, and that was a Burton snowboard movie called “Board With the World”.  Like I said, I was a skater and avid snowboarder in my teens, and we watched all the latest vids hoping to learn new tricks.  This video was different though, because it had a soundtrack by Joe Satriani.  Quite odd for a snowboard video during that time now that I think about it.  Anyway, it was the first time I had ever heard music like this, mainly guitar with no singing.  I don’t know what it was about that music, but it really hit me, and suddenly all I wanted to do was learn to play the guitar.

So, for my 16th birthday, my mom took me to a pawn shop, and I picked out my first electric guitar.   It was honestly a piece of shit, bright white and never stayed in tune, and they even threw in an equally shitty combo amp to complete the package.  I didn’t care that it wasn’t in tune though, I’d spend hours playing that thing until my fingers were cracking.  Like any new and ignorant guitarist, the first thing I did was run out and get a book of Satriani’s songs in tabulature, only to be quickly crushed that there was no way I could play these songs!  In a way this was a good thing though, as it really forced me to focus on things I COULD play, and to come up with my own style too.

It quickly became apparent that if I was going to play the guitar though, I needed a better guitar.  A couple of my friends in high school were in a punk band called Lunkhead, and the lead guitar player had this Dean 88 that I always liked.  So, in stereo-typical fashion, I saved all my money from my paper route and bought one the following year.  A huge step up from my first guitar, it not only stayed in tune but was easier to play!

Having a guitar was very enabling I discovered, as I was now accepted around other musicians, I was one of them.  So, I started a band with some of my friends, a punk band called Gargamel after the character from the Smurfs.  NO idea who thought of that name!   The bass player’s parents were all musicians, so they had no issues with us making all the noise we wanted in their basement a couple times a week.  It was the first time I was able to actually jam with other musicians, and it was one of the best and worst experiences of my musical life.

The first time you start playing with other musicians, making your own songs and doing covers, it’s the best feeling in the world.  You get that taste of the “groove” you hear so much about, where every is on the same page and the combination of all the parts is greater than their individual sums.  I learned a lot about working with other people who didn’t play the same instrument as me, as well as how to improvise.  I mean, we honestly sucked like most high school punk bands do, but it was a learning experience I’ll never forget.

Of course, as any band member will tell you, it wasn’t all positive either.  From the beginning it was apparent that the other guys were more interested in just messing around jamming, and I really wanted to hunker down and get some real songs written we could play out.  Without a doubt I was more serious about it than they were, though in hindsight I’m not sure if that was good or bad.  Tensions arose when everyone wasn’t on the same page, or if people forgot the jams we did the week before.  Eventually, they basically kicked me out of the band so they could focus on ska music instead (something I hated back then).  I think that last two weeks, and then they stopped playing together for good.  The other guitar player and drummer stopped playing all together after awhile, though the bass player (James DeJesus) went on years later to join some pretty famous ska bands in the Chicago area.

At the time it was a very frustrating thing for me to deal with.  But it did do one important thing, it helped me make up my mind that I was never again going to let being dependent on other people get in the way of making music.  Something that to this day I don’t regret one bit.  More on this later though….

So having failed the band thing, I refocused my energies on the guitar, and about this time I was lucky enough to meet one of the three people I would say who were the most influential in helping to shape me as a musician.

My last year in high school I was in accelerated classes, which meant as long as I kept my grades up, I could leave school after only a half day.  So, after school I was going to work in a local art gallery and framing shop, and it’s there I met Jim Mohrman.  He was a bass player in his 40’s, a kind of quiet guy until you got to know him.  Often he and I were the only ones working at night, and we would rush to get our work done earlier in the day, so that we could hang out and listen to music together.  He turned me on to stuff I had never even heard of, groups like King Krimson, Steve Tibbetts, Robert Fripp & The League Of Crafty Guitarists, Frank Marino, Tangerine Dream, Al DiMeola, Brian Eno, and dozens of others I can’t remember.  He’d make me mixtapes of some of the more guitar oriented stuff, and it would just blow my mind.

Here was music that was using the same instruments as normal bands, but they were making weird noises with them instead.  I really opened my eyes to a lot of the more experimental music out there, things I never would have been exposed to otherwise.  In return, I’d play him a lot of the industrial stuff I was getting into.  Things like Skinny Puppy, KMFDM, Frontline Assembly, Ministry, Haujobb, etc.  After all,  WaxTrax! was based in Chicago, so I was going down there almost weekly to buy new music.  Jim didn’t like all of it, but he had just bought a brand new Korg M1, and was getting into synthesis, so he’d focus on those aspects.  All in all it was a really good experience, and I was exposed to music that completely changed the way I viewed the way music could be made.  Jim was also responsible to helping me to get what would be my main instrument for almost 20 years, an Ibanez S540 FMTT guitar.

A couple years later I met another of my main influences, while working in the receiving department of a Kohl’s Department store at night after college.  The receiving department was run by a small guy from Texas, named Tobias Harrison.  Tobias was another amazing bass player, and almost instantly we became good friends.  Very quickly he realized that while I might have an ear for music, I didn’t know the language at all.  I knew almost no music theory at the time, so Tobias took it upon himself to teach me as much as he could.  First by giving me his old college text books to study, and then by quizzing me endlessly while we would unload each day’s shipments at work.  It made a tedious day of tiring and backbreaking work more tolerable, so we both dove into the subject to pass the time.

Eventually we got to a point where we both knew about the same level of theory, so I started buying more advanced theory books from my college book store for us to study.  And of course, like all things you never use, I’ve probably forgotten a great deal of this over the years.  I’m sure it’s somewhere tucked away in my brain, at least I hope it is!  In addition to teaching me theory, Tobias also was one of those people who loved to talk about gear.  We’d often discuss the various new guitar and bass products coming out, as well as different aspects of live sound which he also had an interest in.  Truly a great friend and a real inspiration to me.

So I had been playing guitar for about 4 years by this point, and had gotten to where I was using a MIDI controlled pre-amp and effects unit (ADA MP2), which was also my introduction to the world of MIDI.  I was still listening to a lot of industrial music, and to be honest, spending most of my time trying my hardest to make my guitar NOT sound like a guitar.  Playing with vibrators, magnets, too many effects, weird tunings, all the usual suspects.  Eventually I realized if I wanted to make synth and electronic sounds, I was going to need to get a synth.

I still didn’t have any way of recording or composing on my own, so I figured the best option was to get a keyboard workstation.  Thanks to Guitar Center and their generous credit card offers (evil, evil things!) I soon acquired a Korg X2.  Finally I had a way of composing and sequencing songs all on my own!  Right away I started working on writing a bunch of electro-industrial style songs I could play my guitar over, and as part of that process I started getting my feet wet with synthesis.  The only problem, was that all of the industrial songs I was trying to write, really didn’t sound like industrial music.  All my friends kept telling me it sounded like clubby music, which at the time pissed me off.  Ultimately not a bad thing though, as my life was about to take a drastic turn.

While I had sort of been interested in dance music from a sound quality perspective since my car audio days, I really hadn’t paid much attention to it.  That started to change when the goth and industrial clubs I was going to started to play more and more of the popular club tunes coming out back then.  I think Cowgirl by Underworld is the one that stands out the most, which led me to check out the more commercial groups like Chemical Brothers, Orbital, Leftfield, and Prodigy.  Before long I was hooked, and I traded in my black leather pants for some super baggy rave-o-matic Jnco’s. 🙂

At the same time, my room mate at the time decided he wanted to get into DJing, bought some turntables and there was no looking back.  I think within 2 months all of our friends were DJing too, though strangely I still had little interest in it.  I wanted to be the person writing the music, so I started focusing my attention on putting on Live PA’s.  I ended up selling the Korg X2 and getting one of the first Roland MC505’s for playing live.  Probably still one of my favorite bits of gear, and I still daydream about finding one brand new, unopened in the box to buy.

So from the very beginning, I wasn’t really writing studio tracks, almost all of my efforts were focused on creating live performances.  I was going to raves pretty much every weekend for those years, and it was always the live acts that interested me the most.  I had no desire to be recording individual songs, all my attention was on putting together hour long live sets for playing out.  It’s something I still enjoy to this day, as there’s so many challenges involved with playing music non-stop by yourself for that long.

Of course, eventually the gear lust bug started to bite, and the MC505 on it’s own was not enough anymore.  Soon I added an SP808, Korg Electribe R, Yamaha CS2x, Akai S3000XL, and a Mackie 1202 mixer.  My live sets were incredibly complex, a pain in the ass to tear down when the cops would bust a party we were playing at!  I can remember many a night where my friends would be high-tailing it into the night with their single record bag, and I’d be stuck there talking to the cops while i tried to pack up as quick as possible (all the while hoping my gear didn’t get confiscated).

All of a sudden this DJing thing looked pretty appealing!

I’ll never forget the first time I asked my roommate to show me how to DJ, I just couldn’t stop laughing at how easy it was.  I’m not saying I was a natural, or that I picked it up instantly.  But all this time I thought DJs were grabbing loops and sounds off the records and creating new songs on the fly.  When I realized it was two records played as they were combined with a simple 3 band EQ, I was just floored.  Compared to all the work that went into putting on a live set, it just seemed like….well… cheating.  Of course over time I started looking at it a different way, and began to appreciate how much skill could be involved with controlling a room full of people with such limited tools.

Not everything was going good during this time though.  I was working full-time, going to school full-time, and partying double-time, all of which required a car to get around.  So when my car decided to suddenly get a locked transmission, I had no choice but to sell most of my gear so I could continue to go to work and school.  It was heart-breaking, but I told myself that at least I could still keep DJing in the mean time.  Honestly though, it’s not the same.  I love to DJ, but in my heart I’m a musician and creating music was what always excited me the most.

It took awhile, but eventually I was able to save enough money that I could seriously consider rebuilding my studio again.  This actually led to a tough decision, as I struggled with trying to choose going the hardware route again (something I felt a strong affinity for), or taking a chance and trying out this newfangled computer DAW thingy.  I had never owned a computer to that point, so I really didn’t know what to expect.  In the end, the lower cost of the computer won out, so I built my own workstation and bought a copy of Cubase and Reason.

In hindsight, this was another one of those pivotal moments in my life.  I now had at my disposal almost unlimited effects, and the ability to record and fix any mistakes I made.  I began to understand the importance of audio engineering in this new paradigm, so I dove in once again and worked my ass off to learn as much as I could about audio engineering.  My sister was working at Barnes & Nobles, and would bring me stacks of magazines that didn’t sell each month. Things like Future Music, Computer Music, and the one that’s still my favorite, Sound On Sound.

It was around this time that I met the third and most influential person in my life, a fellow from (then) Georgia who we’ll call drK.  We’d met on the mc505 mailing list, and I have no idea what triggered it, but eventually we began to send almost daily emails to each other discussing gear, technology, and most importantly for me, the finer points of digital audio and engineering.  drK was not only one of the nicest and smartest people I’ve ever met, but he was also extremely patient with a self-proclaimed know-it-all like myself.  He’s a bit of a recluse when it comes to praise and being publicly acknowledged, so for his benefit I’ll skip a lot of details and just say that he taught  (and continues to teach) me more than anyone else by far, and I’m extremely lucky to have someone like him as both friend and mentor.  I truly hope some day he gets his due, as he’s done more for modern digital musicians than most people will ever know.

Anyway, by now we’re up to about 2001-2002, and I was starting to get out of the rave scene and more into the Chicago club scene.  Raves were getting busted left and right, and honestly a lot of the PLUR vibes of my earlier days were disappearing to be replaced by too much shadiness or crap party promoters.  The scene was getting too much attention to be honest, so it was time for me to move on.  With my fellow DJ friends I was still DJing at a lot and throwing parties and local club nights during this time, but on my free weekends I was basically living at clubs like Karma, Crobar, Club 950, Mint, RedNo5, and Zentra.

I was totally into the early super club scene, with DJs like Sasha & Digweed, Oakey, Christopher Lawrence, and Mistress Barbara rocking my world.  I still liked live acts, but for now the superstar DJ was the center of the club universe and I bought into that hook, line, and sinker.  I was more or less clubbing 2-3 nights a week, and had become good friends with guys from one of Chicago’s biggest promotion groups, Pure.  It was a a time of carefree excess, and some of the best nights of my life happened during this time.  I consider myself truly lucky to have experienced clubbing during this time, before it started to get overly commercial and exploited (which of course it always had been to a small extent anyway).  The only downside was all the grief I’d get from my DJ friends for spinning trance, since they were all into hard techno and DnB still. I never cared though.  🙂

My own music making was going strong as well.  I had a nice apartment studio with my girlfriend (now wife), and I was making music all the time.  I had a day job as a senior research technician for a major healthcare corporation.  Best of all, the work was easy for me, and left me lots of time to be online for free during the day.  Whatever time I had not dedicated to doing my ‘real’ job, was spent online meeting other musicians and continuing to learn as much as I could about improving the craft of writing and recording electronic music.  My guitar playing all but stopped during these times, but I was hooked on the idea of becoming an audio engineer, so I didn’t care anyway.

I was spending hours every day online, running music forums and mailing lists, writing FAQs for the various bits of gear I used, and always trying to learn as much as possible about the art of manipulating audio.  I was asked to be on the beta teams for companies like E-mu, Access, various software companies that never went anywhere, you name it.  I had learned that a calm and rational online presence could lead to good opportunities, and it’s something that to this day continues to pay off.  I also realized that I had a chance to help other musicians out, and I strove to do so as often as possible.  I remember the frustration I felt when I was learning about all this, as I didn’t have any other friends really into the writing aspect of e-music, only the DJ side of things.  So I decided to take a leap of faith on that thing called karma, and made it a life long goal to try and help other electronic musicians whenever I could.  I’d keep no secrets, and spare no advice.  Again, one of those life-changing decisions that has come back to pay immense rewards considering the amount of time it takes.

Around 2003-2004 I started getting into the then underground breaks scene, trance was getting too popular and derivative (much like dubstep today), and I was really attracted to the idea of marrying funky human grooves with synthetic sounds.  It was around this time I got my first, and only vinyl record deal.  The track was called “Ion” and was released on Ritmic Records out of Switzerland (I was still doing music under the name “rEalm” then.  The record sold out, got good press, and I believe even had a small second run.  It was a dream come true, as it would be for more producers.  It was also an eye-opener too though.  It drove home the point of how little money there really is in releasing electronic music in the US.  Despite all these things going in my favor, I made almost nothing on the record at the end of the day.  In fact, I wager I spent more over the previous 3 years trying to get signed than I ever made back from it.

I dabbled with releasing tunes on other online labels too around this time, and again, despite good press and decent sales, there just wasn’t any money there.  So, I decided that my music would be for me alone, I’d release it myself, and not count on that for any income.  If I made money, great, if not, oh well.  I set about looking at other ways to make a living in the music industry.

I struggled for a long time with the idea of going to school for audio engineering.  At the time, it was the recommended path from all the magazines, and a lot of my friends were going to places like Full Sail or Berkelee. In the end I decided that I’d save my money and just teach myself as much as I could.  I never finished college because I often found the classroom counter-intuitive to the way I wanted to learn, and something like Full Sail didn’t seem to be much different to me.  Add to that the fact that my friends who were going there were still calling me for help with even basic MIDI questions, and I just didn’t feel that path was for me.  It was already apparent that the music recording industry was in the beginnings of a major change, and while I couldn’t see where it was going (and still can’t!), I knew that doing things the way they had always been done didn’t mean I’d get the results others had always gotten.

Honestly though, it was a realization that brought little comfort at the time.  What next?  Where did I go?  The day job paid really well, and left me a lot of free time, but it wasn’t what I wanted to be doing.  Music was in my blood, and audio engineering in my fingers.

It was with luck then that soon after I got an email from a fellow producer that would ultimately change my life.  I honestly don’t remember exactly who it was, but the gist of the email was that they had a song they had written, and while they loved the song, they wanted me to help them get it sounding really polished.  Like I mentioned before, I was all about helping other people out by this point, so I listened to it and offered suggestions on what could be improved.  After a few back and forths with the producer. it was apparent that he was just struggling with my suggestions, so he said “hey man, why don’t you just do all this stuff for me, I’m happy to give you some money to make it sound good.”

It was a huge step for me, but I decided to go for it, and set about fixing the things I heard wrong with his song. To make a long story short, he was very happy with it, and ended up telling all his friends what I had done.  Before I knew it, I had different producers coming to me asking me to master their songs for them.  I didn’t really know what mastering was at the time, but I found it easy to hear things that needed some slight corrections in their tracks, so I was happy to do it.  Some paid, some didn’t, but over and over I kept hearing this ‘mastering’ phrase being thrown around, so I decided to look into it some more.

It’s something that set me down a road I’ve been on ever since.  I wasn’t swamped with work by any means, but enough jobs would trickle in now and then through entirely word of mouth that I knew people were interested in me for this.  I started studying again, focusing on mastering this time.  It was tied heavily into the process of mixdowns I discovered (at least to me it is), so I studied that as well.  And I don’t mean here and there, I mean ALL of my free time was spent learning and practicing the craft.  I had found something that really resonated with me for whatever reason, something people said I was good at and that I enjoyed doing.

I did that for years, perfecting my listening skills, learning new techniques, and developing the people skills needed to deal with musicians on a daily basis (no easy task sometimes!).  But of course it wasn’t all I was doing musically during this time.  I was slowly getting out of the club scene, you do anything long enough and eventually it starts to get repetitive, no matter how fun it is.  More and more I was getting drawn to downtempo music, it was electronic music that didn’t follow a lot of the same trends that most electronic dance music fit into at the time.  More experimental, covered a wider styles, and just seemed a lot fresher at the time.  My dad had always been into new age kind of music like Enigma, Enya, and Kitaro, so in a lot of ways I already had some of that music in my head anyway.

It worked out well, since DJs were becoming dime a dozen by then, I had something I could do that helped set me apart in some aspects.  Of course it meant a lot less club gigs, but by then I was getting a little burned out on that after doing it for so many years.  In a lot of ways switching to slower music was just what I needed, it reinvigorated me at a time when I was hearing a lot of stuff that just sounded too samey to me.  I think all musicians struggle with that feeling of “why am I doing this at the expense of so much else in my life?”, and I was no exception during those days.

The next couple of years were a pretty good time for me musically.  I had a lot of friends in all aspects of the music scene, I was still getting the odd gig, and musically I was writing all the time.  The mastering thing was gaining ground, though I knew it was still some way off before I’d be able to make a living at it, so I just took what jobs came and accepted it all as practice and paying my dues.  DJing took a bit of a back seat to the producing, though as one of the moderators of AbletonLiveDJ.com, I was still pretty involved in the scene and staying on top of trends.

All in all, I made a lot of progress during that time, as I slowly learned to start applying all the different aspects of music production I had been learning, and at the same time working ingrain those ideas into my workflow so I didn’t have to think about them at all when the muse came calling.  I made a conscious decision take a break from the constant search for new techniques and theory, and instead focus on being an artist again.  Not thinking about it, just doing it.

A lot of this came to a head in 2007 when my wife and I decided to move from Chicago to Seattle, something we had been talking about doing for some time.  We’re both outdoors people, and my wife had family here, so it seemed like a good change.  And to be honest, I was ready for new challenges and experiences to use as inspiration for my music.  So, when she got the chance to transfer within her company to Seattle, I quit my well paying day job, and we made the move.  Seattle was well known for all the biotech companies in the area, and given my experience and references, I was confident I’d have a new job in no time.

Of course, not everything goes according to plan all the time.

Little did we realize that a recession was about to hit weeks after we moved, and that the biotech bubble in Seattle was going to be one of the first industries to be hit.  I spent two stressful years looking for work while taking on odd jobs, and instead of being inspired to make new music, I was discouraged.  Aside from being stressed about not finding permanent work, I soon realized that a smaller city like Seattle is much more tightly knit when it comes to trying to get gigs.  I had left behind a good network of contacts where I was still getting the odd show or DJ slot, only to come to a city that, while full of friendly people, was much tougher to break into as a performing musician.  I went from some of the best years of my musical life, to some of the worst.

Not everything was bad however.  The one beacon of hope at the time was that the mastering side of things was still pretty steady, moving across the country didn’t seem to affect how much work I was getting.  If anything, it seemed like I was getting more work.  My original plan had been to build up enough of a client base to stop doing the day job and focus on mastering full-time.  But, seeing as how I was having little luck actually getting a full-time day job, my wife and I made the decision that perhaps now was the best time to focus on mastering 100%.  It was a leap of faith in many respects, as I was about 2-3 years ahead of my proposed schedule on making that jump.

So, I set about setting up Inner Portal Studio as a full-time bona fide mastering and mixdown service, and hoped for the best.  Almost 2 years later, and I’m very proud of how things have turned out.  Business is better than I hoped it would be at this point, and while I still have slow weeks without as much work as I’d like, more often than not I seem to have enough work to show me that this can be a viable way of making a living.  Things are going well, and I’m really exciting about trying to ramp things up even more and make this venture as successful as possible.  Not an easy task in a field that seems to be changing and progressing daily, but I’m determined to say the least.

One unexpected side-effect of doing this for a living, has been how much really great music I get to hear.  And this in turn has helped to inspire me to make my own music better as a result.  It took longer (much longer) than I expected, but in the end it seems that I finally found that new source of inspiration I was looking for when we moved to Seattle.

Which brings me to the present.  Or is it the future?  Where do I go from here, what are my plans?  Well, as I mentioned, my main goal at the moment is to keep growing Inner Portal Studio.  That takes most of my time and energy these days. When I’m not doing that though, I’ve been working on putting together a new hardware live pa, with the hope of getting some gigs over the summer here in Seattle (and beyond).  I also just bought a new guitar (after selling the old one), so I’m really interested in getting back into that again.  Even though I’ve been playing guitar for almost 20 years, for much of that time it was very sporadic, only when I heard the need for a guitar part in a track I was working on at the time.  So I’d like to focus on becoming a better guitar player, and working to rebuild my theory knowledge in the process.

The last thing I really want to focus on is this blog, and how my writings can help other musicians and producers.  Some of the best times of my life are due to music, and I want to do whatever I can to help others experience some of that too.  So I plan on writing new articles and posts as much as time allows, sometimes inspirational, sometimes technical. Either way I’ll keep sharing my ideas and knowledge as long as people out there are reading it.

And speaking of reading, if you made it this far, well…. I guess you’re likely bored at work.  Shame on you!  🙂

Anyway, before I wear out the keys on my MacBook Pro with all this typing, I wanted to share one last thing.  Well 9 things.  Below are what I would call the songs that were most inspirational to me as a musician over the last 20 years.  I’m sure there’s a ton more, but at the moment these are the ones that stick out to me.  Thanks for reading (sleeping) through this post, I’ll be back with more production oriented advice soon!

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Fleetwood Mac – Silver Springs.  Growing up as a little kid, some of my earliest memories are of my parents playing Fleetwood Mac in the car.  At the time I liked it, then I got older and thought I was too cool for it, so I hated it.  Eventually I realized what incredible musicians and song writers they were, amazing.  This song was actually not released back then, but I think it sums up all the reasons why I like Fleetwood Mac.

 

Skinny Puppy – Mirror Saw.  I really wanted to put their song “Download” (not the band, the song) here, but I can’t find any videos of it, so this is a runner up.  Download as a song was just a total aural mind-fuck, noise and beauty at the same time.  Long before I ever did any drugs or drank, I would sit in my room in the dark with my headphones on and just drift away listening to that chaos.  Years later, I still have no idea how they made some of those sounds.  It taught me that music does not have to be beautiful, or even understandable to make an impact.  Mirror Saw is a great tune as well, off of probably my favorite album  by Skinny Puppy.

 

Hybrid – Theme From A Wide Angle (Dark Skies Remix).  This is the song that got me into breaks, when I first heard it on Anthony Pappa’s Global Underground CD.  Groovy beats, huge dark rolling basslines, and beautiful guitar in the drop.  It was the first song I heard that combined some of my favorite aspects of electronic music into one hell of a masterpiece.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QIov0C_T-WU

 

Satriani – The Forgotten (Part 1&2).  As I mentioned above, Satriani is the reason I started making music, and this was one of the songs that did it to me.  First heard it in Burton’s “Board With The World” snowboard video, it changed me forever when I realized a guitar was capable of so much more than standard rock.

 

Dada – Dorina.  The CD “Puzzle” by Dada was what made me want to learn more about production.  Just an impeccable sounding album, which I later learned was mixed by Bob Clearmountain, go figure.  Shame I couldn’t find a video for the song as the same name as the album.

 

Enya – Caribbean Blue.  My dad and I used to trade CDs when I was younger, and for some reason his Enya CDs always resonated with me.  Incredibly complex and haunting, so many vocal layers.  This song is one of my favorites from her, probably due to the synth bit in the beginning.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EeYL3uhYv48

 

Enigma – Principles Of Lust.  Yeah, yeah, yeah, I can hear people groan now.  I don’t care.  I love this album, for the longest time it defined great downtempo to me, and is a good example of how popular electronic music can be.  And let’s face it, if you couldn’t get laid to this song, you couldn’t get laid.

 

Jane’s Addiction  – Three Days.  One of those bands where every single person is an awesome musician in their own right, and together they are just incredible.  Many, many a drunken night my sister and I would listen to this song at full blast.  Perfect epic rock.  Seeing this song done live was one of the highlights of my life.

 

Smashing Pumpkins – Soma.  I’m a huge Pumpkins fan, I probably have more Smashing Pumpkins CDs than any other band.  They have so many songs that struck a chord with me (like Porcelina), but this was one of the first that hit me so hard.  Hits me on an emotional level, what can I say?

10 Replies to “History”

  1. Hey, I enjoyed reading this. It’s always interesting and inspiring to see how people got into music and found their passions within it and so on. Am I bored at work? How did you guess 😉

    It also proves that you’ll get the skills if you put in the time to practise and learn. Did you always have the motivation to keep spending all your alone-time reading, practising, etc – as in was it natural to just come home and dive into it or did/do you ever need to force yourself? Just wondering because even though I know it’s really what I want to do I still find myself getting distracted by evil things like Facebook, or frustrated when I do practise and can’t get “in the zone”…

  2. It’s good to get some insight into who Tarekith is and with this post you went all out. I enojoyed reading it and can draw some paralells with your story. Thank you for sharing this with us.

  3. “Did you always have the motivation to keep spending all your alone-time reading, practising, etc – as in was it natural to just come home and dive into it or did/do you ever need to force yourself? Just wondering because even though I know it’s really what I want to do I still find myself getting distracted by evil things like Facebook, or frustrated when I do practise and can’t get “in the zone”…”

    Most of the time it was just a real desire to learn, so I wanted to do it. I didn’t do it every single day, but more often than not I was. In fact my wife used to (err…. still does) get pretty mad that I’d just basically live in my studio most of the time. I’m an introvert, what can I say? 🙂

    As for distractions, well, you can’t do only music with your life, you need to have something else you enjoy too. But, some distractions are worse than others at being easily accessible when we’re trying to make music. For years I refused to get internet at home, because I knew it was going to be too tempting to get online and mess about when I really didn’t need to be (and it was). I still don’t use things like Facebook, Skype, or most of the social media outlets for this reason, too easy to access and waste time before you know, and it really doesn’t add anything to my life. Angry Birds on the other hand, sigh….

    “Getting in the Zone” is something that some people can do all the time, and other’s really struggle with. I’m one of the later, I have MANY, MANY days where I have this incredible urge to work on music, but once in the studio I just can’t get anything good to happen. It used to bother me a lot, now I just focus on other things and have patience that it will come. This might help too: http://tarekith.com/assets/inspiration.html

  4. What a good reading!!!

    I have a lot in common with your post. Learned guitar when I was 15 and always like music, now at 33 I have an day job (software programmer) and user all my free time to learn, practice and make music, I have my wife and now my kid that is taking ALL my free time :)…
    Got into the production thing in 2005 and always learning a lot more, now I think that I will finish my first track soon and at this time I´m convinced to send to you and pay for the mixing/mastering services, I have an good understanding on how to things work, but need to see the work done by somebody that have the experience. I´m sure that doing this with you will be a very good experience and I´ll learn a lot !!!

    Thanks for all the things that you share and keep going!!!

  5. A good read! I’m just passing the 2-year mark since my first live set, closing in on 3 years since I finished my first tune. So maybe in 17 years I’ll write something like this, and if I do, I guarantee I’ll mention The Flow of All Things, because that was the set that got me into live PA.

    I always like reading the stories of people who have found success on their own terms–they inspire me to believe I could do the same.

  6. 2.36am and what a story. Kinda reminds me of me a bit but I’m… well er lets just say older. Have a day job editing (Television) and the last 20 years spare time spent DJing and making music, This read reminds me of why I do it. Write some more I find it very grounding. Best Regards.

    1. Thanks, glad you found it interesting. Honestly surprised as many people have read it as have, I really only wrote it down to remind myself when I’m old and senile 🙂

  7. Nice story! I’m curious about the “training myself to deal with musicians” part that you describe during your first steps in the mastering field. Maybe you could elaborate on that on the blog someday, I’d gladly read it.

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