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Old 27th December 2002
Lives for gear

DISCLAIMER/Intro: Now that I've been working on this post for the last half hour, I realize it is lengthy and I give up on trying to make it short and convenient. Initially, I didn't think much of the topic until I started replying to it, and found that remembering how I got into this game was more important than making it brief and maybe more readable. I'm keeping a copy of this for my own sanity and future reference. The topic is quite timely as I needed to be my own sponge on this one and reabsorb why I got into recording. BTW, thanks to EveAnna for asking a great question. The answer to your question explains for each person WHY they are doing music.

There was no single defining moment for me. I got into the music biz through a series of experiences I've had as a drummer in bands. Starting out with a boombox in a $600/mo. (shared!) 12x15 pratice closet with three other people making incoherent noise, I wanted know what we would sound like if we could really hear eachother. Were we actually any good or was I wasting my time? It turns out that the screeching boombox tapes did actually land us some gigs, long ago. So I ask you, do bartenders and club managers really give a damn about sound quality? Well, do they?? Not back in the late 80's in SF they didn't. The tape only had to resemble music and maybe have a discernible pulse within the wall of noise.

The next step for the band was agreeing we should go somewhere and do a real recording. Because it was a well-known punk dive and it was cheap, we went to Gilman St. in Berkeley and paid some guy for recording us to skinny analog tape. What do ya know? We were actually pretty good I thought, but I still wasn't very interested in the recording process. A little, but not much.

The point to me was that I could hear what we were doing now. This was no stellar recording, but the instruments were distinct and they weren't hidden behind volume. When we practiced and thus when we played shows, we now had a source tape to reference our own songs from. As the drummer, this was kind of a revelation to me. OHHhhhh! The change is THERE and then we go into THAT part HERE! This awakened my musical interest more than I had known I had any, and I was working with the band to come up with parts and generally hearing ways to make the music more involving. Finally I was able to communicate my ideas within a context.

Jumping ahead about 5 years, I picked up a sequencer and a synth from guitar center. I grew up with a piano in the house and played it in my own odd, self-taught kind of way for many years. The Kawai K-11 and Cubase Score would allow me to capture the old phrases and spooky little riffs that had been with me all that time. Eventually I thought "Wouldn't it be cool if you could record acoustic instruments into a computer like this?" I decided that the ease of arrangement, the ability to loop and edit, and patchwork method of composing songs would be a helluva lot more fun if I could make a real band work that way.

At the time, I didn't know anything about Pro Tools or any of its early incarnations that existed back then. With the bands I had been in over the years and the various recordings we'd done at local studios, the inspiration hadn't quite clicked like it did after getting into sequencing my own stuff. Ironically, in those days I had seen recording studios and all the fancy gear they were equipped with for what they were: nothing more than tools that could be put together in the form of a vehicle for music to be captured. But you couldn't arrange on a mixing console or a tape deck. You couldn't easily patch together various sounds at will from a central brain until they even resembled what you heard in your heard. In the studio, that meant wheeling amps around, changing mics, swapping snare drums or kits, cymbals, guitars, PLAYERS! MADNESS! I saw the difference. The musical idea is perishable and must be handled like fresh food in a gourmet kitchen to get the most out of it.

Since I came from a background of playing live instruments with others doing the same all around me, I quickly became dissatisfied with the stale sounds coming out of my synth. Delving more deeply into electronic sounds didn't interest me. The excitement lived in playing with other musicians again, and showing them examples of music I had come up with. Much later I realized my compostional approach had turned me into a different musician and dramatically shifted how I played drums as well. However, the magic of developing tunes as painstakingly and patiently as I can on a synth and sequencer can only really happen with people who have enough of a level of dedication and time.

All of that translated to building my own studio when I got away from the synth thing in favor of developing music with others again. The challenge of making music from the interaction of ideas with others is far more interesting to me. The results of well-concieved and comfortable collaborations have borne this out. In all honesty, I'm doing the studio thing because music is what I've enjoyed the most out of everything else I've tried. I find it harder to function in a less familiar world and I wonder what I would happily do for the rest of my life outside of music.

There is less collaboration and more time spent trying to get bands or musicians in here just to record anything these days. Got to get those bills paid!! Having the studio environment where I can use my skills, tools and time to make music is what matters for me. Ultimately I'd like to work on my music most of the time, but it doesn't matter so much if it's mine or someone else's, as long as it's good.