Artist vs. Musician Reprise – inspired by Janice B.


What? Artist VERSUS Musician? What is this about? Don’t they come in one (crazy) package? Well, some do, some don’t. Apparently, I must fall into the latter category according to Janice B.’s brilliantly written contemplation on the subject. Reading her article as to what sets the two apart in a way, reminded me of the first time I may have – more subconsciously – found out about that. I am going to have to elaborate a bit for this statement to make sense.

I started playing in bands at around age 13. I had been playing guitar for four years with some minor formal education for two years until the local music school’s teacher ran out of material to work on by saying something like “I can’t teach you guys anything else.” (doh! LOL). I then continued to work with the only other student in my class and we’d somehow figure out how to play Beatles songs on acoustic guitars and singing along in harmony. Something like that. From that and “performing” around campfires – I was being asked to join a band, which I gladly did. From whatever pocket money I had, I bought my first electric guitar (I recall it being a Fender Stratocaster copy) and shared the guitar amp with the other guitarist in the band. Rehearsals took place in the basement of the keyboardist’s parents house and let’s just say that basement was in questionable condition… But I didn’t care, I was so pumped about being in a band and getting to perform in front of people, I put up with mold, freezing temperatures, damp fingers, lack of light and oxygen for hours on end, bickering and disputes over song arrangements and the correct phrasing of vocal and instrumental parts, the usual amount of friction between “ego mammals”, transportation issues, juggling school and other chores, making time for rehearsals, bugging out Mom to take me there in winter, in other words: The usual “side effects” of being a musician – right? Right.

So, I kept doing that for a while. At 14, a former buddy comes to visit and runs me over with his moped. Result: Ruptured ligament in the left knee, hospitalization for… the entire summer break (6 weeks in my country)! Back in the day, that meant full surgery under anesthesia, total immobility for two weeks after that, cast, crutches for bathroom “breaks”, bed-time, in short: No fun at all! (and this in summer, with high temperatures and such. Can anyone say “scratch me under that thing there? Like NOW!!!!”) My dad signed me out of hospital prematurely, so I got to be in my room at least (right under the roof, during the summer the equivalent of a George Foreman grill for human beings). All my friends were gone for the summer break, so noone came to visit. My sister was out and about. My parents were considerate enough not to go on vacation without me. So, no walking around the house or garden, bathroom breaks had to be scheduled, distraction was scarce. What was I to do? … Yup! You guessed it: Pull out the guitar and play all day! It must have been way above 100 degrees in my room (“I like my wesbound well done, please. Thank you! Got a bun and some mustard to go with that? A cold beer? You know, white people tend to be a little chewy”… LOL). I can still feel the sweat running down my chest and back from only thinking about that. But: I believe it was then when the Muse hit me in full. I would actually listen to the records I played along with, analyze what made ‘em great for me, emulate the guitar parts as best as I could and improvise with the modest skills I had then (and consider not to be too different by now). So: This may have well been my defining time as a musician first. I say “musician first”, because as I went along in understanding, what made the greatness of the song for me, I instantly wanted to do like those great composers and artists. Which is how I got into songwriting, I believe.

To come back to the subject at hand being discussed in Janice’s article: I am in total agreement with her as to what makes a musician. And there’s no judging on my part as to that, either, whatsoever. Matter of fact, it is now that I feel the ambition to become a better musician and look into ways of accomplishing that (practicing at home is just a part of that equation). And as to artist: In my book, I believe this species to be a being, who look into ways of expressing themselves and their experiences by way of their artform of choice (music, painting, writing… you name ‘em). There is a prevalent urge in saying something in such a way that everyone (with open ears and mind, that is) can relate to it. Much as for Janice, to me the greatest joy and reward in music is to write a song. Work out a chord progression. Find nice sounds to go with that. Optionally lyrics to tell a (personal) story. Make the “inner track” audible to the public. That sort of thing.

I’ve been writing songs eversince (I trashed a large stack of unfinished lyrics when moving out from home at 18). 25 years later – I have just started out (again). With a bit of life on my hands. Some insights, some lessons, some pain and some joy. I consider myself that bottle of wine that stayed dormant in the basement. The door has been opened, new light falls into the room. Time to pick up the narrative and journey.

Care to come along?

Peace,
wesbound, July 2010

P.S.: On a little less serious note: When you forget the lyrics, it’s still better to hum and look involved. Like this:

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wesbound on GHP Radio with Gary Fuston


GHP Radio, Gary FustonHi folks,

just a little update to let you know that I had the honor and pleasure to do an interview on Gary Fuston’s GHP Radio. If you missed my event announcement on Facebook, feel free to catch the recorded podcast here, segment #15. Hope, you’ll enjoy – the entire show outside my interview was and is great, you should definitely go check it at some point :-)

peace,
wesbound

A little insight into the recording process


OK, so now there’s 36 bars of a guitar track for my next track in the making. This equals about half a day’s work. Why that much? And why was I being slow? Can’t I play at all? Let me explain:
I left it the way it is now at about the 30th take into it. When I say “take”, I mean to say one ENTIRE track of recorded guitar, from bar 12 through 38. Don’t get me wrong: I had a decent take on the first attempt, yes. But then: It was only decent. I don’t by any means claim that the current track is perfect or anointed or anything. But it’s the least quality I’m satisfied with. So now why does it take so long?
Ok: I found out that I sound more organic when doing “entire tracks of takes” – in this case: About 36 bars at ONE GO! That again means, if I mess up anywhere in between … – you guessed it! – I stop the recording, go right back to the top of the track and start all over. Most often, I delete the current take right away unless I feel there were some parts I might be using later (which I rarely do, given the approach of taking the entire track in one go). To give you an example: Let’s say, a string accidentally snaps or “tingles” (in not a musical way) on the neckboard at bar 37… YES! I go RIGHT BACK TO THE VERY TOP and start all over!!! And I keep doing that as many times as it takes for me to be “OK” with the recording. When I say OK I don’t mean to be fishing for compliments, either. It’s really just that: When I’m ok with it, that’s when I leave it as is and move on. No sooner than that. If that requires for me to come back for an entire week until I got it right – I will! If it means, I have to drop some heavier parts and play something simpler, I will. If it means I’ll drop the take altogether… I will. The bottomline: Only – when I can lean back and listen without getting a knot in my stomach, only THEN will I warm up to the thought of actually “freezing” the take and move on to the next one.
For the songs I’ve put out so far, there’s typically between 20 and 30 individual tracks. Not all of them are single instruments. Sometimes, there’s a track with only fill-ins on drums. Other times, there are some ad libs (“random” additions) on the instrument. Sometimes, it’s a midi-track I’ve already recorded, which I copy and assign a new sound to (to “fatten” it, mostly for bass sounds, sometimes for bass drum or snares). This is just about the “raw” process of tracking instruments. The editing process… guess, that will be a different chapter.
OK, now I’m gonna take a break and do a lap of bike-riding or swimming, then back to the “sweatshop” later LOL.

Have a great day, everyone!
Peace,
wesbound