At 8 yrs old I was given a copy of the Beatles album Help and I remember how I couldn’t stop smiling and moving the first second I heard it. I was so taken over by it that I learned to lip-sync and dance with a badminton racket for a guitar so well that I would drive everyone crazy with forcing them to watch me perform the songs as the record played. By the time I was 15 I owned every Beatles album and had taught myself guitar by listening to the songs. I played guitar from that point on in various bands throughout high school, but never got the idea to actually start writing songs until I was about 20 after hearing the Simple Minds. This was a long time ago when they were ultra cool and their form of music was so new that it started me thinking about music in a whole new way.
Then finally on a whim, I rented some recording gear and locked myself in a bedroom for a month and wrote 30 original pieces, but none of them with vocals because I didn’t really think of myself as a singer. Then by strange fluke I had the opportunity to trade some musical gear I never used for 20 hours of studio time in a big downtown studio so I chose 4 of my 30 tunes, wrote some lyrics and melodies and went into the studio with some buddies and recorded them. I thought they sounded great so I sent them over to the student radio station at UBC (University of British Columbia) called C.I.T.R. and they agreed to play 2 of them on regular rotation, and within the first month they climbed to the #1 spot, above names like The Cure and OMD. Well, needless to say I was hooked and have been writing every since. I should add that the first taste of success was never repeated with such ease!
This song is the story of the evolution of a soul loosely using terminology from cosmology describing the big bang. I try to explain how I see my life through my spiritual beliefs that we are eternal beings having existed prior to being here and continuing in this life to understand what this life, this universe is. So talking through the experiences that help us to understand ourselves such as relationships where we learn where we stop and another begins, to discover the existence of love as proof of something far greater beyond this physical and limited life. So, it’s a song of eternity to eternity sung from the perspective of the few seconds we are here.
I’ve chosen to talk about this song because this is the song that divides the weaker songs I’ve written from the better songs. The songs before Exist and the songs after. When I started writing it I had no idea that it was going to be a song at all until months after. One day as I was needing to kill 30 minutes before leaving to go somewhere I picked up a guitar with the idea to quickly record something weird. That’s what you’re listening to for the first minute before the singing starts. 6 layers of heavily effected guitar. I ended up with a 90 second piece that I threw on my phone and listened to over and over again for days. I started hearing a song in it and just built it out from there.. always being careful to listen to what it was saying to me. I took a lot of time because I didn’t want to spoil the message by putting my stuff all over it. Weird right? That sounds weird as I say that but I have really come to believe that songs can come from a mysterious source that we can tap into like any source of inspiration and we just have to be careful not to spoil it with writing from our own head, such as using riffs and tricks and borrowed pieces from what we’ve heard from other artists, for instance. Anyways for me, Exist is the best example of a time I think I did that right.
Over the years I’ve written a bunch of stuff and out of that mass of music are some songs that I think I’ve been able to express something original in the alternative rock genre because I found a way to say something about me in them. Maybe that’s a grand statement but when you spend a lot of time living and breathing music with the intention to say something that someone else hasn’t said, you have to talk about your life experience, because that’s the only genuine thing you have to talk about. If you have any musical abilities at all, that time will give you some tools to express more than just words in lyrics, but also those otherwise inexpressible things like mood and feelings that only music can convey. And if you strive for song craftsmanship then you have a chance to say something that some listener could really relate to. That’s what I always tried for anyway.
I live in Vancouver and the music scene here is stupid and dead for anything that isn’t top 40 or rave music. There used to be over a dozen venues for live music and I can’t think of more than 2 at the moment. All people want to do is party and not with a band that isn’t famous. So naturally, that has turned me towards producing videos for my songs and I couldn’t be happier with the art form. Video without music is so much harder than with it. Its like each song comes with its own instructions saying yes this works and no that doesn’t. Having said that, I do miss those magic moments only a live show can bring.
Its funny but I never had the ‘pleasure’ of seeing music as a business I’ve rarely made much money from it and that’s been cool because I hate the actual music business. Music charts and my tastes have never been close, so I’ve neither had the invite or the desire to be in that world. I write using formats so that my ideas can be easily presented in ways people are familiar with. And there is part of me that hopes more people would hear the songs on this album so I pursue the online channels with vigor, but it is what it is and I’m sincerely not attached to the outcome.
I release singles because I don’t think its possible to properly promote 10 songs at once. I think each song needs a great video and by the time you get that done, its the most natural thing to start pushing it along and getting feedback while you start working on the next tracks. I see the album I’m putting together as a container for all the singles I’ve been pushing.
Social media is wonderful because everyone can get into the action. Its great to get someone who’s a wonderful graphic artist loving your song and pushing it along to their groups just because they want to share something they like. There’s always the chance that someone who can make a big difference will hear something you’ve done and decide to put some weight behind it. It really gives you the feeling that anything is still possible.
If I could spend 15 minutes talking to anyone it would be the late great John Lennon, just to find out what was going on in his head in 1968, the year they released Sgt Peppers in the spring and Magical Mystery Tour in the fall. Those two albums have 6 of his greatest songs written and recorded in such a short time. No one else has ever done that.
If you quit the idea of trying to write a hit song you might actually write a great song. Current music does offer something worth borrowing from, and that’s technique. Disco turning into hip hop is a solid example of that. New ways of doing things can inspire new expression. But that’s where it ends for me. You hear so much ‘I can do that too’ sound going on and that is the enemy to music, in my opinion.
and Finally, my favorite music quote or inspirational quote is … a painter paints his pictures on canvas. But musicians paint their pictures on silence. Leopold Stokowski