I am rather besotted with GarageBand, the funky studio app for iPhone and iPad. It’s like a mini recording studio in your bag or your pocket. Not bad quality either, certainly lives up to the standard of some of the cheaper studios I frequented twenty years ago and more when I was a ‘proper’ musician. By which I mean a jobbing musician. I’m still a proper musician but it has taken my obsession with playing around on GarageBand to remind me of quite how all-consuming that can be when I allow myself the time and headspace to focus almost exclusively on recording music.
Back in the day when my obsession was a given and everyone in my life just had to learn to put up with it or walk away, I felt little guilt that I was devoting so much of my time and my mental energy towards writing, rehearsing, performing and recording songs. It was my job, even when I was without a manager and a wage I knew it was my job and I was totally dedicated. There were ups and downs but I always felt I was good enough to make something of the talents I’d been blessed to be born with. I was right, too. After years of struggle and having to face the disapproval or the concern for my welfare of even the staunchest of supporters, I got to the stage when my bands’ manager was lining up potential suitors from several record labels.
Which is about the time I walked away. Contrary? Not really. It was hard to articulate at the time but my reasons for wanting fame and glory in the first place were unhealthy ones and I had begun to understand that no matter how successful I might become if I were lucky enough, it would not satisfy the ache and the urge that drove me to pick up a guitar and sing my soul in the first place. Sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever truly satisfy that ache and that urge but there are few regrets as I am very sure that if fame had come calling I would have hated the restrictions of my privacy and the expectations of fans and the media.
So I quit the business as a serious past-time and gradually decreased my performances, started writing fewer songs. The muse began to go to sleep, music as a hobby is not the same thing. It’s fairly easy to grab a guitar and bash out a few singalong tunes at a party. Or even to play three or four original songs at an open mic session. Without fully realising it I had mothballed the musician inside my head. A bit silly, wouldn’t you say, when that aspect of me had driven and defined me for half my life? When I was first at university the muso within still wanted to play and I could hear that part of me complaining that all this studying was boring and when was I going to get round to some sex and drugs and rock and roll? After a while my studies took up too much of my attention for the rock and roll kid to be heard. So he took a nap. A long one.
Over the past few weeks he’s woken up, brushed his skanky teeth, and delighfully torn into the sketches and songs I’ve been fooling around with on GarageBand. I’m still feeling my way round what can and can’t be achieved with the app but I’m fairly convinced I can make the sort of sounds I find satisfying. Why else would the musician be so suddenly and so swiftly awake and firing on three cylinders already?
I’m not planning on a return to professional music. That industry has changed in a lot of ways courtesy of theapparent democratisation of the internet, but it still consists of talented people whoring themselves around in a desperate attempt to be liked by enough people to fill a hole in their psyche or their soul. Or both. No thanks. I’ll just have the obsessed with making noises go together with other noises bit if that’s all the same to the rest of the world. The best thing about modern technology is I can do this shit for myself and not have to compromise on sound quality or on the styles of music I want to mess around with. At last the perfect bandmates – all of them nothing more than funky technology which allows me to add bass, drums, cello, the noise of a bee breaking wind, or whatever else I want to my stuff.
Oh, and when there are some properly good results I will share a few on whatever social networking site doesn’t put my teeth on edge. Stay tuned, but be prepared for a long wait: Rock and Roll Kid has a lot of time to catch up on.