Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Being A Musician Is Hard

I've been playing guitar for a very long time now, and one thing I can tell you is that writing and playing your own music isn't a cakewalk.  There's a reason why real professional musicians practice for hours upon hours everyday.  It's cuz making music is hard.

I was reminded of this fact this week cuz I, for the first time in a very long time, sat down to write a song.  Here's a few things I re-learned, and the reasons why I'm not a professional musician.  You know, beyond I'm just not very good.

  • Writing lyrics is a pain in the ass - Dude, trying to put your feelings into words... Not my strong suit.  Especially when you wanna keep to a specific rhythmic flow and you have to make everything rhyme.  I should stick to the A,A,A,A rhyme scheme.  At least that's a little easier.
  • Singing is hard - You may not believe me, but I used to have a pretty decent singing voice.  I cut my teeth singing along to Harry Connick, Jr. and Queen in my buddy's old orange Subaru (Code name: The Rock N' Roll Pumpkin).  I got pretty good singing along with Weezer and Nerf Herder and Fountains of Wayne.  Of course, back then I had no idea there was so much cool metal out there.  Once I found bands like Lamb of God, In Flames, and Children of Bodom, I pretty much stopped listening to bands I could sing along with.  Therefore, my voice fell out of practice and now it just sucks.
  • Singing while playing guitar is a challenge - It just is.  Playing your guitar parts while trying to remember your lyrics and sing on key...  I mean, there are plenty of people who can do it, no sweat.  Rivers Cuomo, Dave Mustaine, Brian Setzer.  Those guys can pull it off.  I can't.  Not without copious amounts of work.  And I have to wonder if it's worth it.
  • Ripping off your musical heroes is way too easy - There's a reason so much of the music I write sounds like Weezer and why all my metal riffs sound like something rejected from a Killswitch Engage record.  It's cuz I tend to regurgitate the music I love, without changing it too much.  It's just so much simpler to paraphrase something some band you love created.
  • Stagefright - I am incredibly shy and I don't do well in front of a crowd, even a one-person crowd.  So even if I somehow navigate the gauntlet of songwriting and get to the point where I can play it and sing it at the same time, I can't play it in front of anyone without pissing my pants.
Still, when I get it together and actually play my stuff for people, it feels pretty damn amazing.  So I should just suck it up and get on with it.  \m/  \m/

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Darkness Rocks, Holiday-style!!

It's December, which means winter, snow, and freezing-ass cold.  We've had all of that round here over the past week-and-a-half.  It also means Christmas, and with that, an inundation of all things holly and jolly.  Speaking of all things holly and jolly, here's a holly jolly holiday jam from The Darkness.  Commence with the festive air guitaring!!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Sick Daze

So, Monday when I woke up, I didn't feel very well.  By noon, I was having trouble standing up without losing my balance.  By about 2 p.m., I knew I was in deep doo doo.  I was coming down with the sickness (Damn you, Disturbed).

As a result, I've spent 99.9% of my time since I got home on Monday in bed.  I can describe the experience by appropriating a quote from The Wonder Years: After two hours of TV and steady bed rest, the world always looks a lot better.  After ten hours of TV and steady bed rest, the world always looks a lot worse.  There's only so much Top Gear you can watch before you zone out.  (Or start speaking with a British accent.)

In the effort to keep my mind occupied during my sick time, I've been playing a game with myself.  I've been trying to see how many lucid observations I can make under the influence of cough syrup.  Most the time, my brain has been static or endless fields of colorful tulips.  But here are a few I've managed to latch onto:

  • Heating pads were not made to be slept upon.
  • There's a certain age that, once reached, it is impossible to fall asleep with death metal playing.  I believe I've reached that age.
  • Ted Mosby's a lot less funny after 2 a.m.  I guess Ted's mom was right about nothing good happening after 2 a.m.
  • I don't know how sick folk got along before NetFlix.  And being sick without NetFlix just sucks.
  • Cough syrup leaves a really warm feeling in your chest after you take it.  But just after you take it.
  • I think my favorite performance in any comic book movie I've ever seen may just be J.K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson in Sam Raimi's Spider-Man movies.  Perfect blustery brilliance!
  • It's really hard to translate the sounds you hear in your head into music coming out of your guitar amp.  It's doubly hard when your head feels like it's stuffed with cotton balls.
  • Laughter is the best medicine.  Unless you have a nasty hacking cough.
  • Sometimes, a long, hot shower is the greatest damn thing in the world.
  • Watching scary movies while you're under the weather is a recipe for scary dreams.
  • I really wanna see the new Lamb of God documentary As the Palaces Burn.  It covers the issues the band had as a result of Randy Blythe's arrest in the Czech Republic.  It sounds riveting.
  • When you can't stand up straight without feeling dizzy, taking a leak is an unpleasant adventure.
I'd write more, but I'm not feeling so hot right now.  Don't worry, though.  A nice, long, hot shower and a couple pins in the hip and I'll be as good as new.

Monday, November 25, 2013

It's The Only Thing I've Ever Won...

And so it ends for another year.  I rolled past 50,000 words earlier this afternoon.  It's the fourth time I've "won" NaNoWriMo.  That means the stress that comes with trying to hit a word count goal everyday is gone.  Unfortunately, that does not mean I finished telling my story.  There's still a few chapters left to unspool.

I think this is the earliest I've won NaNo.  Now comes the hard part: deciding whether or not to finish the story.  By the time I hit 50k last year, I'd lost interest in my story completely.  This year, that isn't the case.  I've kinda developed a love for my protagonist and I wanna see what happens to him.  I think it's important for me to wrap things up.  This is the most excited I've been at this point in NaNo since the first year I did it.

As is customary, I usually thrown down with a list of things I learned over the course of November.  I' am a creature of habit, so this year will be no different.  This is the stuff I've learned from NaNoWriMo 2013:
  • Glasses are optional: I've always had a thing where I need to wear glasses to be able to write.  This year, though, I noticed that I was spending more and more time writing without glasses on.  And I don't feel my writing suffered for it.  Other things I did hurt my writing.  But not writing without wearing glasses.
  • Junk food is also optional: Junk food is also something that I felt I need to keep me going.  This is the first year I've tried to keep my crap food consumption down.  And you know what?  I didn't affect me all that much.
  • Friends are NOT optional: I write so much better when I have people around me that I can bounce ideas off of.  For example: I had a message I wanted to get into my story but couldn't figure out how to do it until I was whining about it to a friend and she made a suggestion.  It was an ingenious suggestion, and helped me find much-needed direction.  That's why writer friends are my favorites.
  • Netflix is the Devil: Holy time-suck, Batman!  That's really all that needs to be said about this.
  • Helping others helps yourself: Sometimes getting away from your story problems and helping someone else out of a jam re-aligns your thinking and helps you to work through your own story issues.  Therefore, giving of yourself returns back to you, most of the times, many times over.
  • Some problems are worth having: Writing can be a soul-crushing, dispiriting process, but when you get through your problem, it feels pretty damn cool.
  • I'm through writing about heavy metal.  Seriously: I love metal, but I feel like I'm painting myself into a corner.  I need to branch out and write some other stuff.  Stuff that isn't packed with pop culture references.  Stuff that isn't about a single thirty-something dude who's lonely and drifting through life.  And above all, I'm done writing about anything related to metal.  For now...
Anyhow, that's it for NaNoWriMo 2013.  It's been fun.  Now, it's time to chase some other goals.  Like fitting six dozen hot dogs in my mouth at the same time.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Gimmie Back My Wig

I've been noticing the last little while that my hair is thinning.  I'm not Mr. Clean yet.  Not even really that close.  But I'm seeing more of my scalp than I really want to lately.  It was bound to happen sooner or later.  My mom's dad was fairly bald.  That's the indicator for male-pattern baldness, right?  Your mom's dad?

It's fairly depressing to think I'm gonna lose my hair before I've even conned a poor woman into marrying me.  It's sad to think I may have to start worrying about scalpburn during the summer.  And it's a little bit of a bum out to think that pretty soon I won't be able to whip my hair around in my face while headbanging.  So, to combat that, I've tried to come up with a list of reasons why losing my hair won't be so very bad.

  1. I can compensate for the lack of cranial hair by growing a truly bitchin' viking beard.
  2. I can beat nature to the punch by shaving my head, and apparently the ladies really dig the shave-headed look.
  3. Being bald will put a huge-ass dent in my shampoo expenses.
  4. Decreased drag coefficient.
  5. Professor X is bald and that guy controls peoples' minds.  I won't be able to do that.  I just wanna be included in the same group with Xavier.
  6. Two words: Yul Brynner
  7. Two more words: Telly Savalas
  8. Two more words: Bruce Willis
  9. Two more words: Jason Statham
  10. No more losing my combs to the monster who lives in my clothes dryer.
  11. I can get a tattoo on my skull and folks will actually be able to see it.
  12. Maybe I can even get a tattoo of a skull on my skull.  That would be bad ass.
  13. I could get a job as a bouncer.  Most of those dudes ain't got no hair, right?
  14. Steam rising off your head when it gets cold is pretty cool-looking.
  15. No more bed head.  Ever.
I'm sure there are other advantages to being bald, I'm just spacing on them right now.  Anyway, I'm just writing this because I spent all day writing for NaNoWriMo and now I'm really loopy.  I'll go get some rest and be back when there's more on my mind than hair.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

NaNoWriMo: Week 3 Update

Okay, so I'm just over 41,000 words.  I think I can be to 50k by Monday if I really work at it.  But, man, am I ever burned out.  And I've kinda lost my way, story-wise.  Now, I have a series of random, mess-up events instead of a story.  I guess that's what happens when you're writing to keep yourself entertained and not to tell a story.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

NaNoWriMo Week 2: An Update

So, it's Week Two of NaNoWriMo and it's time to throw down a status update.  I went over 24,000 words, so that means I should be over halfway through by sometime tomorrow night.  I'm feeling pretty good about things.  No writing-derived depression, so far anyway.  And I've been on a roll lately, doubling my word count over the past three days.  Pretty awesome.

I've heard that writers are fairly narcissistic souls.  I can see why.  Three of the four NaNos I've participated in have included a stand-in for myself in the story.  Usually, my stand-in has been the protagonist.  I'm that self-absorbed.  This time, though, I've given myself broad-ranging permission to torture my stand-in.  And, damn, have I taken advantage.  Through the first half or so of my story, my poor protagonist has been chased by a junk yard dog, mistreated by an asshole concert merchandising guy, kidnapped by witches, and beaten up by a giant redneck hick.  And it's gonna get worse before it gets better.  There's still the emotional stuff to tackle.  But don't get too depressed, because (spoiler alert) he comes out of the story better than he went in. 

Monday, November 11, 2013


Well, after a brief and somewhat ill-advised trip to Wordpress, Stranded in Hickville has returned.  I wonder if this isn't a bit how the Israelites felt upon returning home after wandering the desert for decades.  Only less triumphant.  A bit.

How'd I come to the conclusion that I needed to come back?  Pretty simple really.  While I don't have a single bad thing to say about my experience with Wordpress, it was a bit depressing to know that for me to have the kind of flexibility I wanted, I needed to shell out the cash.  Since I don't make money off my blog, I didn't feel like it was appropriate to pay for control I knew I'd have if I were to use Blogger.

Secondly, and more importantly, I needed to escape.  You see, sometimes you run into people who, for no apparent reason, become obsessed with you.  The stalk you online and make you uncomfortable in general.  I remembered something Rufus said in Dogma: if your enemies know where to find you, then don't be there.  So, I came back here since my pursuer doesn't know about Hickville.  At least, I assume she doesn't know.

Unfortunately, I've been gone long enough that I've lost all my old posts, but that's okay.  There plenty of time to build up the posts again.  Plenty of time.  So thanks for stopping by, or coming back if that be the case.  Let's have some fun!!