For a long time, (it feels) I pursued a dream, a dream of greatness. I wanted so much to validate my existence through doing something so great that I would live on in people’s minds past the point of natural relevance. We are here on this world for such a short time, the blink of an eye in the terms of human history, that to have an effect on the world as a whole felt (to me) like a goal worth achieving. Something that would make the gifts I have been given a worthwhile investment by society and family. As one of the lucky few to be born in a country that is imbued with such wealth and opportunity it seemed imperative that I live up to my potential. That is the worst kind of thing to live up to and a problem I have faced continually (a first world problem at least). I have been told my entire life that I have great potential, which becomes a burden when you look around and see bongs and beers and not much in the way of forward progress standing in the way. Oh, if only my teachers and elders has said, “He seems like the kind of guy that will find his level with bongs and beers and god knows what else.” .. how my life would have been different.
It would have been so easy…
Enough whingeing and moaning and to the point you say? Oh dear, what hubris – that I have a point to be made, oh dear.
I decided to write this post, though many will not see it, because I feel it is best for my soul if I come clean to the greater mind of humanity. Maybe through my extolling the failing nature of reaching for the stars will another unwitting and naive soul realise the truth that is laden in my heavy words. That potential is limitless, and you can always live up to more of it… but enough I have given you the beginning and the end yet not the middle. Let’s continue to there.
I remember clearly the moment I decided I wanted to be a musician. It was back in my early 20’s (i started late) and I had been through one of my inevitable bouts of depression which was linked to the listlessness and vague yearning of a youth without direction. I had lost all hope and in pure desperation reached out for the only thing that I knew to help in such times. Hard uplifting trance (I was young and had no direction, OK!)
As Cosmic Gate blared a refrain about yesterday or tomorrow (i cannot remember which) through distorting computer speakers it occurred to me that music is such a wonderful and magnificent force for biological, intellectual and social good. In that moment it was the perfect mood changer that lifted my darkened vision to a high peak of clarity, of an untroubled calm that only a few moments before had seemed impossible.
That revelation changed the course of my life. I came to realise in one naive and fateful moment a desire that would encompass my very being for the next 6 years. I had found my calling. I would find a way to learn music, (I had been told that i had the dreaded ‘potential’ some years before) to broadcast it to the world and for the many I would touch (there goes that hubris), they would know a moments peace, joy or enthusiasm for this world which up until moment’s past had been bleak and desolate. (but if I was honest was not really that bad).
If I could change anything about that moment, it would be some of the assumptions that I made, assumptions that in hindsight appear very foolish. These hindsight revelations naturally have come after hard lessons and tough emotional crises, fraught with all the good things an artist needs like overcompensating from self doubt, overt and ignorant rejection of other artists, and a deep and abiding disgust of my own work. I have been through it all. I regret nothing, but I do wish I had learnt my lessons easier and without such stubborn adherence to an idiotic ideology that (though warned away from) I had stuck to out of sheer determination to see it through.
Assumption 1 – Popularity = significance
I have been lucky enough to be taught by some great teachers. One, who it turns out was quite influential in mid and late 20th century experimental compostional electronic music, and was a pivotal figure in the minimalist movement way back when, opened my eyes to the nature of music evolution and how the most important thing an ‘artist’ can do is understand that to be “significant” one must by the very nature of the thing, be irrelevant. Tipper, is not Tipper because he copied what everyone else was doing. Tipper is Tipper because he understood what everyone else was doing and then took a tangental turn and expanded our cultural understanding of what ‘dance’ and ‘IDM’ and ‘experimental’ really means. By its very nature Tipper’s music, like many innovators before him, broached a new topic and waited for us to catch up. That is why he was significant, while at the same time being completely irrelevant to what his contemporaries were up to. You do not need to be relevant to be significant and to be honest, most of the people that are trying to be relevant… do not create significant works of music. Not to say they aren’t fun or great pieces of music, The just don’t stand out. They don’t inspire generations. They don’t fulfill the artistic drive to be extra special and unique.
Assumption 2 – One person is not enough.
One person is enough. That one person can even be you and that is enough. Trying to create a world movement is fruitless. No-one creates a world movement. A world movement happens because people are already moving. Trying to become a hit musician is a recipe for waking up in a hotel room in your 50’s strung out and full of disappointment. It is recipe for sleepless nights and missed opportunities. The best musician is one who reaches out and touches you in your soul. The best music wasn’t written by someone thinking of grand crowds. It was written by a person who was desperate to be moved, deep inside. Someone who wanted to feel something magnificent and in doing so used craftsmanship to capture that moment. By the way, great craftsmanship begets great works. Great works do not come from a special understanding or using special harmonics or using the ‘right’ drugs.
Sure, if you are going to make psy-trance it is probably a good idea to be taking a lot of acid.. which is one reason I don’t make psy-trance. My acid days are long in the past
Assumption 3 – Happiness is at the end of the road, and so is fulfillment.
This is the worst one. One which I still struggle with and I see others struggle with every day. It is hard to be a musician/artist and see others do great work and seem happy if you have never let you be there yourself. Happiness and fulfillment should occur at the beginning, during and after the act of creation of art. Art is in of itself an act of fulfillment. If you are waiting for your Skrillex moment, or your “breakaway” success story, give up now because even if it comes you have missed the whole point of the thing and that means you are wasting your time. I doubt I will ever make it “big”, industry recognition no longer has any flavour for me (which is easy to say cause i never had any). If a friend of mine likes the track that is a happy moment but even then, that is not the satisfaction that I crave.
The satisfaction, the fulfillment, the joy (whatever it is for you) comes when you begin to lay down some basics. It is when you feel in your soul a story worth telling and it takes shape in front of your eyes, It is in the moment when you sit back and smile… click save and go and find a beer/jebus/bong/glass of water. It is in these moment’s that I believe a good artist finds his place in the world. If I had known that sooner I would have saved myself so much angst. Everything else is hollow. But that act of creation, of manifestation is pure and is only brought about by effort and direct inspiration. It is a magical moment that only craftsman know and everyone else envies and it is yours every moment you create…. If you would but hear it in your soul.
I have maybe 150 followers on Soundcloud. My fb page has no more than 23 likes, which is not great for the world spanning career that I had previously dreamt so fervently about. It has taken me so long to admit intellectually to my overweening pride and excessive need for praise. I am not even sure I truly know it in my heart yet. But I can guarantee you that though the music industry is fraught with ignorant fools and socially starved wannabes, that does not have to be you. Fame is at best a tool to be used, and at worst the driver of a lot of insignificant and irrelevant pieces of… work… – do not let a desire to be greater or “live up to your potential” distract you from the key element of creating music and art. Instead let the deep satisfaction of creation drive your work, let it drive you to better technical understanding, greater composition and exceptional performance because at the end of the day you must always remember this one thing.
If it is that fucking good, people will listen.
Lots of love,