Friday, June 26, 2009

Doing what I want instead of what I should

I've been a bit selfish lately. I've been neglecting a song that I was well on the way of having finished on time before I got bored with the mess I was making of it. I've also given my wife maybe one half assed back rub. I'm not really obligated to do the former and I'd prefer not to do the latter even though it makes my wife happy.

It's not that I haven't felt satisfied because I have. I got a new car that utterly rules and I've been enjoying my favorite sandwich from Ralph's Subs in Orange now that I've acquired the ingredients to make an almost exact replica of it. It's not just about sandwiches either. I've been tending to my lawn which is quite beautiful and anybody who has taken the "About Me" quiz via Facebook knows that mowing the lawn is my favorite thing to do even though it should be playing guitar in the basement.

I was much more committed (and arguably better) at the guitar when I had a regular musical outlet in the form of a pretty good band and another delusional band that was equally awesome in our heads at least. I don't have any regrets about giving that up in favor of a house and a lawn far from it. I would jump at the chance to play some shows and at least play a little rock every now and then but honestly I just don't want to put in the level of commitment it requires. My last band consisted of two guys with a moderately heavy background in the local music scene. Both had been regularly paying their dues and enjoyed frequent rehearsals. Our drummer was the most tenacious out of all of us and was a polar opposite to my level of commitment which was usually to throw in one good rehearsal before a show the next night. It's not that I thought I was that good because I wasn't. I just never liked practicing or working at things. I like to just jump in and do it.

I take the same approach with recording myself. I have nothing that could resemble a studio. It's pretty much two guitars and some pirated software on an underpowered computer. With that I try my darnedest to make what I have sound like a normal song rather than something a recording novice like myself did in his basement. The unfortunate thing is that there are needs associated with that. I need a bass guitar, bass amp, drums, mics, and a decent means of mixing all of that. Instead I have to mic my guitar amp, fake a bass guitar with it and program all of my drums. Don't even get me started on what my voice sounds like when I record. I've played my prior attempt for several people and the typical response was, "You're better than this." Am I really or am I just used to the benefit of having talent around me?

I know if I just sit down and hit record and turn off the personal critic I could finish my music quickly and decently but I don't because that nagging idea that I'm potentially better than what I'm doing makes me want to continually tweak the last 10 seconds of sound that I just recorded to make it sound the way I think it should sound. I'm not even going to blame the things that I've been doing instead since I have had ample opportunities to work on my song. Honestly, after a long day at work I just want to sit with my wife and dog and not work at a computer.

On the subject of being adequate I've learned that the Pixies are doing a new album. I was initially excited but then I took to pondering what that would mean. It could be good and probably will be but therein lies the problem. I'm prepared to hear a good album but I know it's not going to be a great album. It's not going to be what I knew them to be back when they were using the fledgling group to develop what would eventually move on to other projects for them. This leaves the debate. Why be good when you've already been great? Sloan is great. I think every album, including the bad ones, are great. They keep it going so there is no lapse to get used to a particular album. I don't sit with Navy Blues or Between the Bridges hoping that the next album will have similar songs on it. They've become so good at stealing from themselves one only needs to listen to an album a few times to realize that it's something special and doesn't need to be held up to their previous efforts since they've been part of an evolutionary process. The Pixies left well enough alone and that's been enough all these years. Sometimes it's just better to stick with what you know rather than trying to re-ignite that old spark especially when you know damn well that some other kids found your matchbook and already burned through whatever you left in there.

Bringing it back to me I find myself in a strange place because I never really found that groove which leads me to believe that I could still pull off something great if I just knew where to start. Instead I'm trying to modify what is already perfect so it sounds like something I did which to me it most definitely does currently because it's unfinished and sounds like crap. It's like widdling away at a piece of wood. A good widdler knows that less is more and knows when to stop. He doesn't expect any more than he gets out of a piece of wood. What I do is cut away at the wood until all that is left is a much smaller piece of wood that I can't do anything with.

I'm going to take that piece of wood and see if there is anything I can work out. There is still a lot of options left but I think I went in the wrong direction when I started. I started widdling a monkey when I knew I should have just made a duck.

Let's make a list. My wife makes lists and usually gets through most of her list
Finish song
Minor landscaping
Finish work bench in garage
Shelving for basement storage
Re-arrange office
Write some damn songs

That's a realistic list for me. I won't likely finish it all before my 31st birthday but I would like to finish at least one.