Monday, May 22, 2017

Sunday, May 21, 2017

RIP Chris Cornell.


The death of Chris Cornell came as a shock to me, as I'm sure it did to most people who were fans of his music. It hit me really hard because at one point in the 90's, when I was going through a dark time of my own, songs from Soundgarden's "Superunknown" made me realize that I wasn't alone. The lyrics were all about exorcising personal demons that plague you and overcoming the dark thoughts that hold you back in life. The song, "The Day I Tried to Live" saved my life.

Aside from the lyrical content that I could relate to, Soundgarden was also the most musically accomplished band from that era. They were rhythmically and melodically complex. Cornell's voice had a four octave range that is hard to match. Having that versatility and range is one thing but being able to write such great songs that employ it perfectly is a gift that very few people have.

If you know his music, you'll know that Chris Cornell always laid his demons bare in his lyrics. There was a brutal honesty to it, like he had to bare his soul or he would die. It was always stark and direct, no metaphors or hidden meanings. He wasn't Kurt Cobain or Layne Staley. There were no stream of consciousness or nonsensical ramblings of a junkie. All his lyrics were dead serious, intelligent and well thought out. Most of them dealt with mortality and trying to overcome demons. That's why I never thought he could ever kill himself no matter how dark it seemed. Purging demons through song is a healthy exercise. Many have adopted it, including myself.

I'll never judge anyone who goes through darkness and depression because they can't explain it themselves. You can have everything in life and still be suicidal. The chemical imbalance in the brain just won't let you lift yourself out of the doldrums. It's not the same as having family problems or monetary woes that drive you off the cliff. Unlike Kurt Cobain, Layne Staley and Scott Weiland, Chris Cornell was not a junkie. He was healthy and clean by all accounts and had young children and a loving family to live for. His band Soundgarden was in the middle of a successful sold out tour. That is what makes it all the more perplexing.

His wife has reportedly said that he wasn't depressed and there is no way he could have taken his life willingly. According to her a prescribed medication he was taking could have caused confusion and led to him do the unthinkable. I have looked it up to learn more about it. What I found out is that the drug Ativan, that he was taking, is used to treat anxiety disorders and sleeping problems but one of the side effects is it increases the risk of suicide for those who are depressed.

Whoever prescribed that drug to him should be shot. They have obviously not heard his music or read any of the lyrics. As well adjusted and happy as he seemed, the darkness was always there, as evident even from his latest music. Darkness will never completely leave you even in the best of times, if you are predisposed to it. You can only distract yourself from it by keeping busy and surrounding yourself with family and good people. Unfortunately, no one was there in that hotel room with him after he took those pills.

Rest in peace Chris! Thanks for the music. It has saved lives and will live on forever. May your children be well loved and taken care of.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Generation Axe


The wife asked me if I'm ever going to grow out of being like a 14 year old who is still excited about playing the guitar and going to gigs. The short answer is no, it doesn't seem like it will happen in this lifetime. I'm reliving my childhood more these days, especially since I have a son to share it with. I still can't take him to most of the gigs I go to, usually due to it being a school day the following day and his mother ruling with an iron fist. The time will come when we can hang out like guitar buddies when he's a teenager.  

I got to meet some of my childhood heroes recently. It was a chance of a lifetime to see them all at once! They were all cool. Well, almost all of them anyway. Yngwie Malmsteen came into the Meet N' Greet complaining about his hotel room to the promoter/organizer and was in bad mood through most of it. I kind of feel sorry for the people who were there to see him and get something signed by him. The other guys Steve Vai, Tosin Abasi, Nuno Bettencourt and especially Zakk Wylde were all great to their fans. 

One of the ladies handling the Meet N Greet told us not to shake hands with them because they were going to be playing a 3 hour show, so they need to preserve their hands. I found it a bit laughable that shaking someone's hand was going to make a difference to their performance later but there were a lot of people in line to meet them. I wasn't going to argue. We were only guests so we had to follow their rules, no matter how peculiar it was. The cool part is that when Zakk Wylde saw that I was wearing a Zakk Sabbath T-shirt he instantly grabbed my hand and said, "nice to see you brother" and signed my copy of his book, "Bringing Metal to the Children". I told him his first solo album with Pride and Glory was still one of my favourites, apart from his work with Ozzy, of course. 



I finally got my personal guitar hero Nuno Bettencourt to sign my Washburn N4 guitar. I've been a huge fan of his guitar work since I was 14, so it was a major thrill for me. I met Nuno for the first time, a few years ago, when I caught Extreme on their tour to commemorate the 20th Anniversary of Pornograffiti. He's always a cool and laid back guy to his fans. He never comes across as an entitled rock star like Yngwie does. The less said about Yngwie the better. I have to give him respect for being the best at what he does but he doesn't seem like a guy I would want to hang out with.  



Steve Vai was as professional and gracious as ever. I've met him once before about 16 years ago. He got a good laugh over the headline on my copy of Guitar World from 1991 with him on the cover. Nuno who was next to him at the time, got a kick out of the fact that he was also in the magazine, in a poll where he was voted "Best Newcomer". That was 26 years ago. He ain't no newcomer anymore.

The show itself was epic! They each brought their own virtuosity to it. The highlight was Nuno and Zakk's duet on a song called "Sideways". Zakk Wylde showmanship was second to none. During his set, he played most of his solos at the back of his head. It's an old Hendrix party trick that doesn't get old. None of them disappointed the crowd. The jam at the end of the show with all of them playing "Highway Star" was chaotic in a good way. I'm pretty sure everyone went home happy having seen their childhood idols in the flesh at last.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Surplus to requirements

I just junked two albums worth of material while weeding through an external disc drive of song ideas and riffs I've recorded over the past few years. A lot of it didn't age well for me and wasn't as good as I initially thought. Time to move on and not revisit that stuff. There are only so many hours in a day. The less you have to clutter your mind the better.  

I am still constantly working on new things, which is what makes the old stuff a surplus to requirements. I know I can do better. It's the only thing that keeps me alive and motivated everyday. 

The guitar is the only instrument I can play. I would love to be able to write on piano or even drums. That would force me to approach songwriting differently and perhaps make it even more interesting. I occasionally write around drum samples, loops and rhythms but that is about as far as I go with that. Physically playing and learning a new instrument at my age requires time I don't have. Being a father and earning a living takes precedence. 

Being a control freak with my own stuff doesn't help. It takes a long time for me to be happy with anything. I am certainly not one of those naturally gifted people who can play anything I hear in my head. My reach always extends my grasp, which in a way is a blessing in disguise because it gives me something to work towards. 

Saturday, January 21, 2017

52 short stories in 52 weeks


Ray Bradbury suggested that a writer or would be author can't write 52 bad short stories in the space of one year. If you keep writing week in and week out, you're bound to come up with something good. I'm inclined to agree with him.

I attempted to do this with songs when I first started writing songs in my late teens and my early 20's. At one point I was averaging a song a week that I would record into my cassette recorder. It was in the 90's, back when I didn't have access to proper recording gear or a DAW on a computer yet. Singing and playing into a tape recorder was the only option. I didn't even own a 4 track recording machine because I wasn't ready to get into producing yet. It was more about getting the songs written and recorded as basically as I could. If it was worthy of being produced and recorded properly, I would find a proper studio to do it. 

By the end of the first year writing, I had more than half a dozen cassette tapes of songs. By the second year I easily had a hundred songs. Some of the songs ended up on my first proper studio demo that I recorded in 1996-97. Others ended up in the various albums I have recorded since then. However, apart from maybe 12 songs, most of my material from back then never saw the light of day. Listening back to some of it recently, I realise that most of it was just an experiment in songwriting. I was still developing and had a long way to go. Despite the flaws, there are hooks and riffs from some of those songs that I might still use in the future, even if the songs won't remain the same as they were. 

Am I better writer now than I was back then? I hope so. I am now producing my own albums in my home studio and have had a few songs on local radio. However, in my mind, I will always be the kid who still approaches each song as if it is the first one I have written.

I have also finished writing my first book at this point; something that has taken me years to do, but like any self indulgent endeavour, I'm still reluctant to put it out. When I do, it will be self published on Amazon.com on the digital platform. Anything that is an easy and free way for you to keep control and publish your book worldwide is fine by me. No one is going to offer an unknown a publishing deal anyway.

I'm might just take up this 52 short stories in 52 weeks challenge. I've written short stories before but not religiously. Something else to occupy my mind other than making sales and paying bills. Let's see what I can come up with. 

Monday, January 09, 2017

2017



What's my resolution and wish for 2017?

I don't have any resolutions because resolutions are for fools who will just break them by the second week.

I do have a goal and my goal this year is to downsize. Yes, I want to downsize everything from the size of pants to my guitar collection along with all other stuff I don't have time to use. A lot of things have been left languishing in storage.

The good thing about guitars, especially good ones, is that they will never drop in value if it is in good condition. You have heard stories about how some people have discovered a 1958 Gibson Les Paul in their store room and sold it for more than their house is worth. I don't have one of those unfortunately but with guitars in general you will get your money back and might even turn a profit if you bought it at a good price or when the exchange rate was favourable, like I did. I will be keeping a handful of my favourite ones, of course. I will never retire from playing the guitar. It's a life long thing.

Reducing my waistline so I can fit comfortably into my pants is also a goal. I don't bother with the weighing scale anymore these days. Staying healthy is enough.