Happy 2009, this is my first post for a while…..(7 months) and see’s my playing and indeed my interest in the guitar going through somewhat of a transitional period. Having stopped gigging and left the band I was in. The idea of playing music live in front of people seems strangely alien right now.
I guess this happens to everyone now and again, you suddenly find yourself at a musical crossroads, unsure what to do next (if anything at all?).
I’m old enough to have been here before though, this feeling last happened to me in 1997 when…through a combination of circumstances and personal choice the guitar just took a back seat for a while.
I’d come out of a hard gigging band several years earlier and moved down South to study. One would assume such a time would mean endless oppertunities for musical alchemy and a greater choice of both musicians and possibilities.
How wrong I was.
As the musical sands shifted I suddenly found no real demand for a player like myself.
My crunchy power chords, textural influences and preference for lush delay lines seemed rather lost in the late 90′s. The very few bands I auditioned for seemed either lost in a post Oasis/post Britpop confection or stuck in a “US underground punk” haze of low fi incompetence.
It seemed rather odd meeting blokes from Camden putting on Mancunian accents and playing along to simplistic sub Gallager/Weller songs
(ever notice that whenever Noel G is on the cover of an English guitar magazine, they have a beginners special article inside….I mean why not go the whole hog & publish a special “underclass lads” edition with all the architypal “ladrock” favourites, articles on ripping off the Beatles Slade & Weller, using simple chords, gigging with an ASBO, organising rehearsals around a curfew order, a guide to shoplifting the best Les Paul copy from Cash Converters and styling your hair like Rick “remember him?” Witter).
On the other hand the “American Underground Punk” influenced crowd I knew seemed all to incompetent for my tastes. Anti Corporate dandys bashing out 3 chords in £100 trainers made by children in the third world?….Nah…it wasn’t really me!
This lack of musical oppertunity kept me away from the guitar for several years. When I eventually returned to the six string, It took me about 3 years to properly re-immerse myself into the instrument. It wasn’t easy, but I think that when I did re-emerge, I was a better musician and more tasteful player than before.
But what goes around comes around, I’ve spent much of the last 5 years of my life in bands and although brimming with musical ideas, my motiviation to do something beyond playing for my own pleasure is simply not there at this moment in time. This is actually more liberating than it sounds, however my biggest fear is reaching a point where I’ve lost ground in both ability and musicality. No one likes to go backwards when they stand still do they?
In light of both wanting to do something different and realising at the same time that I lack motivation to do in the first place. I think its a good strategy to keep myself involved in a more relaxed way. So a small recording project of a friends has allowed me to keep playing and be reasonably creative without the pressures of gigging, audiences, soundchecks, promoters, other bands and all the other annoyances of being a performing musician.
The other issue of this downtime is taking a closer look at my rig. Which in terms of amps & pedals has been largely unchanged since 2002.
I bought a Gibson SG earlier in the year and I have fallen back in love with the thick syrupy sound of humbuckers on a mahogany set neck guitar. In my friends recording project I’m running out of a Sansamp pedal into a Mac, its simple, quick and sounds ok for now.
If I were to gig again I don’t know what I’d use. The amp & pedalboard stand idly in a corner of the room. There are things I’d refine and things I’d change, but thats a set of decisions to be made another time.