I'm not the only person who listens to the radio with sadness and disappointment when considering artists who used to dominate the airwaves such as the late David Bowie, Prince and Amy Winehouse. I'm not the only one who feels squashed by big corporations and their power over the media. Am I the only one who struggles as an artist, musician and independent creative because I will not subscribe to the mainstream? Would I sell out to clean-cut trend or, as Bill Hicks - the stand-up comedian, satirist and musician - comments, would I put my face to Coca-Cola or another brand to sell their product, gain fame or make cash? No, and of course I'm not the only one.
A true musician has no choice but to survive and make music their life choice. You have to keep the love alive, feeding your desire and passion for music and less obvious things. If you are unwilling or unable simply to replicate another artist's style or join the league of other existing genres, it's even more difficult, but more rewarding, because that is where there is real magic, freedom and some version of integrity.
Personally, I find the manufactured style of a lot of bands and musicians unappealing. In the past, I've felt oppressed by trends. I have been heartbroken at times and disappointed about where certain music genres have travelled. I've been shocked about the lack of originality that there has been for a long time now. I understand that nothing can be truly original, but when a new band with a new sound has emerged, I've always watched where that seed or originality has travelled.
I was heavily into grunge from around 1990 to 1996. My heart broke when I went in to my local record store one day. I had just bought every album by the Butthole Surfers. The shop assistant stopped me before I left and said "Check this album out, it's by 'The Offspring'". The album was called "Smash". No disrespect to the 16 million people who bought that album and put that band on the map, but to my ears it was like listening to the McDonald's of punk. It was for a generation I didn't relate to, and the earthiness and genuine energy of bands I liked from the 70s, 80s and 90s seemed not to be important anymore. It was more about being tongue in cheek, sporting manufactured hairstyles, wearing all the right gear and being a little plastic. I guess it was the birth of pop punk. Pop punk? What? I was very sad when my journey in a beloved genre was interrupted by what seemed to me to be shallow music.
I found that the same happened in hip hop for a good while, but this was harder to understand. I wasn't a gangster, I wasn't' from 1970's Bronx and I wasn't oppressed for my skin colour, but I was obsessed by the energy of bands like Public Enemy, NWA and loads of Hip Hop artists tht had gone before them.
Anything too 'poppy' was dismissed by the general hip hop community, but after about 1992, it seemed to me that as long as there was a good beat and someone rapping about guns, bitches, money and weed, one was in for a pretty good chance of selling a few records. All of a sudden hip hop appealed to a mass cult of people globally. Like pop punk, it exploded into the mainstream.
Don't get me wrong. It's the mainstream that disappointed me. Both punk and hip hop have still had relevant and prolific artists and people who did not jump on the bandwagon. Hip hop has evolved into something incredible again. Even mainstream hip hop and the genres it inspired continue to push boundaries. I don't witness that in punk or rock music. I also don't really see that with guitar-driven music, and that is sad, as I play guitar obsessively and have done for years.
I wanted to explain a small part of my musical journey. I also wanted to touch on the fact that I have never really found much interest in the mainstream.
Fast forward to 2016. Over the past 12 years, I've experienced so many different sides of the music industry: touring, performing, the media, releasing music, and representing yourself when you want your music to be heard. For years, I worked away on my own with my guitar like a freak. Eventually I was in a position to have my own studio/writing room, and I put all my energy into creating my own music.
For some time, I had tried to reinvent the wheel and, to be honest, I failed. I didn't ever try to release anything or hardly invited anyone to hear it. I guess that's because I wasn't ready to follow any recognised pattern of songs. It was music just for me to listen to and experience in the way I wanted. I didn't have the inclination or desire to do what anyone had done before. At times, it was profoundly difficult, because I felt like my channelled energy only had a short attention span. This was frustrating. I came to a point in my life where I could have gave up on what I couldn't live without - music. It wasn't an option. I was and still am working with great artists like Gary Numan and Pop Will Eat Itself as a guitarist/bass player and producer, but I wasn't writing my own music or, more importantly, my own songs, even though that was all I thought about.
After a profoundly intense and difficult time in my personal life, I found myself not caring so much about the originality that I had so preciously been trying to invent. I decided just to gather all my influences together and weave them all into a load of songs.
Part 2 coming soon....