In today’s crowded and largely underwhelming music industry, it seems like sidestepping the crucial, and often, time consuming steps towards true and enduring proficiency has become the norm. In the quest for overnight success, fledgeling DJs and musicians seem to have forgotten (or never really knew to begin with) what music is truly about. This is why it’s more important than ever to become really good at what you do.
Regardless of the genre, there is an underlying technical and/or musical ability that one must possess in order to perform at a “professional” level. Artists who predate modern music technology have long known this, since being a decent musician back then actually required dedication, perseverance and a solid foundation in musical theory. You also had to play a real instrument.
It wasn’t so long ago that I was touring as one half of Deepsky — the (bald) American live electronica duo originally from Albuquerque, New Mexico. We achieved pretty astonishing success over the course of a decade, considering that, at the time, most of the world’s attention was primarily focused on European artists like Sasha & Digweed, The Prodigy and a barrage of other electronic pioneers who made their mark on the U.S. mostly by being exotic imports.
There are definitely cringe worthy moments in some the music we made, especially when I listen back now. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of it was decent, but compared to what I make these days, I would definitely consider it rudimentary. Of course, the technology back then wasn’t nearly as accessible, affordable or robust as it is now, but in a lot of ways, our studio limitations forced us to get more creative and make the most of what we had. That being said, I doubt that I was nearly as good then as i could have been if I had just applied myself more.
You see, like most young musicians, I was more concerned with the fame and fortune aspect of being in a band, than I was with being phenomenal at what I did. Having come from a pretty rough background, I filled the emotional void that I accumulated as a kid, with the love and admiration I got from my fans. To make matters worse, my addictive personality led me to repeatedly indulge myself in as many carnal pleasures as I could get myself into (so to speak). This was a huge distraction from what was really important, which was working on myself and my musical/technical prowess.
When I left Deepsky in 2006, there was a tremendous hole in my life that was leftover from my childhood. Having never really addressed it, my life began to fall apart and I soon found myself confused, broke and obsolete. I set out over the next decade to figure out who I was, where I was going and how I was going to get there. Amidst that, I decided that it was time to deprogram everything I knew and start over, both personally and musically.
“So you have a choice — you can either be one of them, and get lost amongst the noise, or you can apply yourself and BE THE NOISE.”
After a year long, life changing walkabout in Europe in 2012, I moved back to the U.S. and began reeducating myself. I spent the next three years watching tutorial after tutorial, learning the ins and outs of everything I owned, the delicate nuances of mixing, the art of sound design, music theory, chord structure and so on. I threw out all of my old studio habits and began to develop a new strategy that was based around a sound that I had in my head for nearly a decade, that I was never good enough to manifest in the previous years.
For the very first time in my life, I understood what I was doing, instead of blindly fumbling around the dark. I started making music that was deliberate, memorable and stirring, instead of the my typical dribble for the masses. I stopped being concerned with what I thought people wanted to hear, and started making what *I* wanted to hear. I realized that I no longer wanted to be a follower, and instead, be a pioneer. In just three years of truly applying myself, I had learned more about my craft, than I had the previous seventeen.
The music world has become a circus filled with clowns looking for their fifteen minutes of fame. Much of what people make these days is based on a model of someone else’s hard work and originality. These “musicians” do the minimum amount work to get by, using technology (or ghost writers) to substitute true euphonic competence and finesse. The result of this has been the perpetuation of an industry full of lazy copycats who don’t have an original thought in their head, or the desire to push the envelope forward in any way, shape or form.
So you have a choice — you can either be one of them, and get lost amongst the noise, or you can apply yourself and BE THE NOISE. Nothing good comes easy, and unless you’re a prodigy (which I am not), it’s gonna take time and effort to get to where you want to be. I can tell you from experience that I find it most gratifying to be able to express myself in a way that no one else can, especially when I find myself surrounded by musical lemmings. Nothing will ever take the place of knowledge, because true knowledge is the only way forward.
All you have to do is want it bad enough.
(Written by J. Scott G.)