Dear readers, wake up from your asleep because I want you to experience Big Bang... Here is Zlad! (shortname for Zladimir? Or maybe in the future we don't use long names anymore), who has seen the future and it is electronic-supersonic...
One of these days I'm going to get me a stage persona, and this guy is going to be in the very epicenter of my influences...
Lately I've been watching a lot of what we could call "alternative" stuff. Everything works for me as long as it is not the usual hogwash of a guy trying to look as similar as possible to the 30,000 guys that preceded him. Maybe I'm taking courage to make my own videos at some point?
My material situation, last time I checked, was not very good. (I have my residence in the clouds and hardly go down there, but sometimes you just cannot avoid it.) Making music, in a world of noise, has become a pure endeavor of stubbornness. I cannot not do it, I think if a laser ray fell on me and there were only one cell left of my being, that cell would still try to make some percussion noises with a ribosome or something. But the scope has to change.
The headphones I used for (retained laughter) "mixing", the (retained laughter) "good ones", have blown and I'm in the middle of nowhere, with no possibility to get others. All I have is shitty 3€ earbuds. As if I didn't have a huge bottleneck already with mixing and mastering without the technical difficulties. The possibility of publishing this year the two albums I've been carrying around for a long time, is (again) seriously endangered. Not that it matters to me too much at the moment, life seems to be taking a serious dump on me lately (but I don't want to take it personally, maybe it's a collective thing, I don't see a lot happening on the good side of the spectrum for anyone), so most of my energy goes to, you know, that survival thing. Yet, I still feel happy and grateful that I can keep on making music at any level, something that wasn't possible at all at other shitty moments of my biography (I've had the worst decade ever).
The solution this time has come to me in the shape of renewing my relationship with those great folks at Wikiloops. If you don't know the site, it is great, you just browse among different tracks from people, and when you find something that tells you something, download it, add your instrument of preference, and upload the new track. And it is not difficult to find tight tracks and good musicians, given that you have the whole gamut of the planet to choose from.
It's funny working in this way; having to fit yourself to tracks other people have made shows you portions of your talent that you wouldn't normally have access to. Songs you wouldn't have written, but which ask you to sing or play in a different manner, to look at yourself in a different mirror. There are things I've made there of which I'm quite proud, and this reminds me of Jimmy Hendrix, how the guy, it seems, always tried to jam with EVERYBODY in sight. Perhaps he did it for something like that. Self discovery.
Technically, it is also a relief, as you feel you are among friends -the gamut also goes from very harsh equipment, e.g. "sandpaper guitars" like mine, to more polished stuff, but I have a feeling most of people there, like me, give a secondary importance to sound crafting, second to the songs content and the fun. From a practical point of view, what this represents for me is that I'm no longer producing songs, but single tracks, which is easier and gives me a great feeling of advance as stuff comes out of the pipeline. Plus it gives me that pinch of recognition that we all need not to die of cold (what a feeling when someone gives a "horns up" to your solo!), and allows me to improve my basic production systems until I have them nailed to "wax on wax off" levels.
Personally, I'm happy of how I've tried to make the best of this situation, to adapt and look for new horizons instead of grouch. It seems to be in the nature of things that bad news come on their own but the good ones it is up to you to manufacture them. Anyways, the only thing permanent is change, so this state of things is not going to last either. On my way through adversity, I've met a community of peers; so there's a lot to like about this. Maybe it's all you can expect in the 21st century if you're a sentient being who does music.
The fun/non-fun engine of two times keeps working fine for me in regard to music production. In fact I've found that any deviation from its paradigm is fictitious, it catches with you later.
The line between fun and non-fun is not only subjective but also highly fluctuating (like: day to day fluctuating), so sometimes you yield to pressures of the moment and say: "OK, this task is not really fun, but it's almost fun, or will quickly lead to fun..." This stretch is part of the production strategy, one more tool in your arsenal, but in the latest times I've overused it; becoming more and more obsessed with set deadlines and results (or to put the emphasis somewhere else, too sad for the sluggishness of the whole thing), little by little I've been slipping without noticing it into full time non-fun.
This excess has finally caught up with me. Luckily, the counterbalance in this case is a happy one, because it has lead me to internal and external research and I've come across a new "vein" of fun that I'm now exploring, and now I'm going to be making music only for my pure personal gratification for some time. In other occasions, however, the results of a strain of this kind can be not so happy, they can lead to demoralization and even lead you to store the instruments and "forget about the whole damn thing"...
I guess the analogy of application here is the kid who is learning to walk. He takes two steps, falls down. Takes one more step, he's sure now he's got it, he falls again. Of course he never stops standing up whenever he falls down. There's too much to learn up there, and besides he's had enough of crawling already.
I will surely forget again about the importance of having fun, and I also for sure will keep trying every time. When I come to think of it, having fun is very connatural to making good music, it's a deal maker or breaker, it blatantly shows in the results. A guy will never go to a chair manufacturer and say "hey dude, I want to complain, you had no fun the day you were making my chair, you just followed the procedure, went through the movements..." No mood signs can be inferred from the finished product. However, when a musician is not having fun, when he just "goes through the movements", you bet it shows, and it's not precisely a pretty sight...
I just don't know where else to put them! These jokes are a test of your degree of Lean obsession. If you don't get them, you're not a real Lean geek (and maybe that's a good thing...)
(By the way, I've noticed "Lean" is also a term used in bodybuilding, but this is about the Lean production methodology, so if you are the upcoming Ernie Scwartzebergson, sorry, this stuff is not for you...)
The most common paradigms of production in our time are Just in Time, Just in Case and Justin Bieber.
He had the knowledge, the skills and the passion, but no matter how hard he tried, no Lean company wanted to hire him. Was he cursed or what? Timothy Woods was starting to feel a bit concerned...
It is rumored that Jimi Hendrix was going to record a special version of "Hey Joe" for Lean fanatics that started like this: "Hey... junka, how are you going to level that load...?"
"Dear Lean consultant, is it true that if you practice Lean for enough years you become fluent in Japanese?"
In one of those sarcastic moves that life sometimes plays on you, there was a time when I had to work as a proof reader in a car reviews magazine.
It was just a pay the bills kind of job. The car fetish that people out there often have has never been a thing for me. I've always preferred means of transportation where I'm carried, so I have my mind free to think, my senses free to observe, and both my hands available for writing stuff in notebooks, facing contingencies easily, etc...
At this job, I was surrounded all day by world of car geeks, so let's just say that we had a few awkward moments. However, I became a good friend of one particular guy there. He was as big of a car geek as the others, and I'm not sure what was different that created that bind between us, but I have a few ideas. Firstly, something that helped was that we both could talk about things outside our One Thing, and also about "anything stuff", and we both had a healthy, non-toxic sense of humor. Sometimes people try to create too much of an identity out of the things that they do, and that certainly wasn't our case at all, and we both had the healthy habit of not taking ourselves too seriously.
But I think I've remembered him today because of something else, something he told me one day before going to an appointment he had for a test drive: "man, the thing is... I would do this shit for free".
It was not a happy comment at the time; I think the conversation was about working conditions, someone taking advantage of us... (yeah, I know; shocking, right?) There was also a bit of an undertone -that I myself know very well- of "I really can't help myself, I couldn't do things other way even if I tried, it's like I have no say in this..."
Now I wonder if maybe that was the thing that connected us the most. We were both devoted persons. To very different purposes, for sure (I think I never mentioned to him my musical endeavors, among other things because at that moment I was on hiatus), but both of us shared that personal consistency that results of having one focal point in your life. He "lived for that stuff", and I "live for this stuff", too. When you have that kind of premise in your life, the rest gets ordered and prioritized accordingly. And that shows in some way, and creates links that are not always made of words.
In the case of music, like most of the people out there, I actually "do this shit for free". Money is a recognition of value, and according to that "scoreboard", it seems our society concedes little or no value to it.
Not that I'm going to let that stop me, let's just follow the line of reasoning: if you don't make money with something, you do it in your spare time. That period of time associated to recharging, the time considered "lazy time". Here's where the difficulty arrives. How can you call "lazy" to being stuck to a screen for 10 hours in a row trying to make a song sound better? Well, that's the way it works. Such activity can have all the personal value you want, but if it does not have societal value it does not make money, and it is leisure, it is "lazy".
So color me lazy then, because those 10 hours are the ones I enjoy the most of any day. Even if I'm tired like a dog when I'm finished, even then, it's that kind of fatigue that is somewhat enjoyable too, that kind of fatigue that makes you feel you've earned yourself a good movie and a pizza, or a fatigue similar to the one that follows the sweet labors of love :)
I think what we have here is 1) a disagreement on the definition of value, and 2) the slightly slippery definition of what being "professional" means. On one side, when we hear that someone is a "professional" in X, we automatically think in someone who gets paid for doing X.
But now that musicians are no longer paid, or hardly, how do you differentiate a professional musician from a non professional one?
I have no answer to offer, but while this state of affairs lasts, I think the only criteria of professionalism we have available is persistence, pursuit. Here I remember an interview with the creator of the Reaper DAW, where he said he liked to make songs now and then, but usually after half an hour or so he considers it "good enough". He is not trying to be "professional" (but, as an aside, what a good thing is that a developer keeps in touch in that way with his own product!) Inversely, I can sometimes sit at the computer and research something I want to code, "wouldn't it be great if I could...?" I give it a few tries, and if it works awesome, but if it doesn't at some point I'm going to let it go and don't spare one more think on it. I prefer to carry in my head melodies, chord progressions, you know, that kind of stuff.
In the case of a programmer, on the contrary, I'm sure a kind of problem like that will stick to him, he'll carry it to bed and wake up with it in the morning, find what seems to be a solution during the shower, discard it as he spreads jam on the toast... Who knows, we'll never find out for sure because of the high regard computers have in our time, but perhaps he would even do all that stuff anyway if there was no money involved. I guess not all kinds of laziness are born equal...
(Note: when I speak about "musicians" here, I guess I'm thinking real musicians, musicians who make real music, today music, here-and-now music. Saying that a bunch of guys who play Abba covers are professional musicians is like saying that a guy who works at a morgue is in the hotel business... Ehm... well... Ok... Kindasorta...)
A recent trick that has helped me was creating deliberate "chaos" or "mess" areas in certain rooms. By doing so, you tacitly admit that 1) You are not (and you are not intended to be) perfect. 2) There is mess and chaos in your life. 3) Now you know where to find it.
Doing this has brought me great relief. Anything I don't know where it goes, anything I don't have the bandwidth to deal with right now, I know where to put it. Giving it a spacial location is something that connects with your "old brain", thousands of years of training of going to the tree that had nuts, getting your tools from under the correct rock... So it feels very natural and I think it gets some dopamine going.
With all the amorphous blobs corralled into one single spot, you can start to tackle "it" progressively, and what was once daunting becomes often a very nice and stimulating routine. By a few daily minutes of chipping away a couple of random papers, very often you liberate inventory (you become "richer", as you liberate resources that were tied up and producing nothing), and also, the test of time gives you great surprises and even insights about yourself.
An additional advantage of this trick is that, by putting all of it in one place, you get an instant visual control of your chaos levels. As it attracts its dark anti-tidiness matter, one day the initial folder may not suffice anymore and you may have to turn it into a "chaos box". The box perhaps into a "chaos area" in the room. Who knows, maybe you could get at some point to a whole room full of chaos. Still, it's just one room, you know the dimensions of your chaos, and you know where to venture when you have to maybe "rescue" something that suddenly has become important or urgent again.
The journey is also possible in the other direction; at the current pace, one of my chaos boxes will turn into a folder next week, I'm confident that the process of getting there keeps great surprises for me, and also, it feels great...
I have a guitar and I'm gonna use it