for sunshine after storm

“I would say that he has a rather limited and uncreative way of looking at the situation. You want to know if I understand that this is a mental hospital? Yes, I understand that. But, then how can I say that you are Don Octavio and I am a guest at your villa? Correct?” – Don Juan DeMarco

A few months ago I experienced something unusual. I was tense. I couldn’t think clearly. I couldn’t grasp my thoughts. A fog had descended over my brain. I couldn’t visualise or access the parts of my brain where all the interesting stuff was. 

I love reading and literature. I could read something but I couldn’t access the memory drive or whatever the technical term is for that, where I hold all the allusions and reference points to my previous experiences and all of the other shit I’ve read in my life to form a picture or an opinion or expand on, or even understand what the writer was trying to say (intentionally or otherwise). It was an incredibly frustrating experience.

I was stressed out from long hours. I was physically and mentally jaded. My brain and body had effectively hit the ‘safe mode’ á la Windows 98. All my body and mind was interested in was the basic functions of survival and protecting myself to stay alive. An ancient, hard wired evolutionary response.

Your body is designed for two primary functions: reproduce and survive. When you’re faced with stressful situations, the only parts of your brain you can access are the ones which perform the basic functions of keeping you alive. If you’re about to be lunch for a sabre tooth tiger, your mind couldn’t give a shit about the nuances of James Joyce’s Ulysses, only the threat at hand and keeping you alive. 

It actually took me a while, to regain my sense of self. I don’t like feeling jaded or having my mind clouded over. I enjoy the sensory aspects of living. How pretentious as fuck does that sound? I started trying to increase blood-flow to my brain and break the shackles of the stultifying fog.

I started looking for outlets and later it was by chance I became interested in playing guitar again. I don’t profess to be even a proficient guitar player. I’m working on it. However I became fascinated by the possibilities of the instrument and the creative process. I eventually started to think outside of the box again and started looking beyond the conventional idea of the instrument. If you’re playing an electric guitar, essentially, the guitar is actually the platform and your instrument is the amp. I started messing around with various effects pedals, which are actually addictive. I started looking beyond the guitar in the conventional sense of playing chords and became interested and intrigued in the various multi-faceted possibilities. Utilising the various quirks of the equipment to create interesting sounds, rather than spending hours tediously practising ‘Stairway to Heaven,’ to make it sound like it does on Led Zep 4, I thought it was more interesting just messing and playing around. Creating my own sound. I didn’t care. The stress was gone. This is freedom.

I had internalised the greatest lesson from James Joyce’s work, the creative process is essentially for your own amusement. Art brings stillness and fulfilment. It doesn’t mean shit if people like, appreciate or even understand what you’re doing, it isn’t a means to an end. You do not create for visceral reponse. It is an outpouring of spiritual repose.

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Four on Six

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I’m determined to get good at this.

Some considerations:

During every practise session of an hour or longer, there will be 10-20 minutes ‘cold time’ and this makes no consideration for how “purposeful” the practise session is. Nor does it take into consideration how invested you are in what you’re actually doing. 

However this also doesn’t take into consideration towards other time spent towards developing. Time invested in studying technique, music, researching, learning will ultimately be beneficial. 

Raw is Wah

Looking forward to the arrival of my new Telecaster, Dunlop JC95 Wah and Behringer SF400, which has some interesting effects and a wide range of tones I can mess about with.

I recently found the sweet spot with my Les Paul, where I managed to finally illicit the right amount of gain to get a really dirty, gritty bluesy sound. I’ve been having a lot of fun playing some Beatles stuff in the fashion of a really beat up, poor mans ZZ Top. I’m interested to see how I can expand on that with the Telecaster. I loved the tonality of the Tele whilst playing blues licks.

I ordered the JC95 Wah after spending an afternoon watching head-to-heads on YouTube of various pedals and I ended up torn between the JC95 model, which is based on eliciting the sound of Alice in Chains’ Jerry Cantrell and the signature model of the late Pantera guitarist Dimebag Darrel, ‘The Crybaby from Hell Wah.’ For the sound I’m looking for, It was a tough choice between the two as to which offered the most textured, layered tone. I ultimately opted for the Cantrell model, as you can only obsess over the nuances of sound so much and obsessing over the ‘perfect sound’ just gets in the way of creativity. You have to work with the quirks of the tools at your disposal.

Rather than looking for perfection, I think it’s a lot more interesting to work with what you’ve got and build your own unique style and sound based on that, rather than being de rigueur or trying to imitate someone else. It’s the quirks which give you the authenticity, soul, individuality and originality.

It’s always better to the first and best you, than a second rate someone else.

Looking to add an MXR M108 10-Band Graphic EQ and a decent digital delay pedal sometime soon, too. This set-up should lead me nicely to one day making high budget films on oil tankers lamenting the breakdown of human relationships and swimming with dolphins. If you don’t get that last reference, you never will.