Stuck With Green Interview

July 28, 2018

1.       How old were you when you first became interested in music and what triggered it?

I participated in musical plays in early childhood and early teens and was mainly a performer.  Someone called me the next Robert Redford after one of my plays.  That memory sticks with me for some reason.  I was the star in a play called The Great Late Potentate and another one of my favorites was playing this inept sheriff in a comedy play called The Phantom of the Opry.  I loved making people laugh.

It wasn’t till my teenage years that I began to study music closely, especially my favorite songs.  I’d dissect them…  “Why was the guitar sitting in the mix that way?  This chord progression should’ve had one more chord.  That hi-hat is so important in this part of the song.”  Stuff like that began to really stick out to me in my teenage years and nothing really triggered it.  It felt more like something sprouting from within and I enjoyed listening to music that way.  I still enjoyed music.  I still felt music with my soul.  But this analysis started happening that I wasn’t sharing with anyone.  I was doing it in my private time, before I was told I shouldn’t be even listening to it.

2.       How old where you when you began learning to play a musical instrument(s) and what did you study?

The piano at about 16/17 yrs old.  My parents validated my desire for learning music not long after they found out that I was listening to the “Devil’s music.”  They hooked me up with a piano teacher who was in her upper 80s and also the church’s pianist.  She taught me using a lot of old church hymns, and she was very sweet and patient with me.  The lessons didn’t last long because the music we were learning the instrument on was what I grew up with as the son of a preacher and attending church so frequently.  So the lessons became boring quickly, but I picked up some basics.  Took more lessons later on while in college, and also began self-teaching guitar at the same time.  Guitar lessons were on-and-off three different times.  I kinda struggled with the commitment to the technical aspects of musicianship and it was deeply rooted in this “you’re not allowed to do this but ok maybe you are in a way” type of psychology.  So whatever I write or play/perform is a level of grace to me.  It’s a relief but also a struggle.  Sometimes it’s an exhale of a breath I’ve held in and sometimes there’s a voice that says I’m not allowed to do this and I’ve got to hold my breath.  I can’t breathe.

3.       Did you take formal lessons or teach yourself?

Covered in #2

4.       What was the first live concert you attended/how old were you?  Tell us about it.

I attended my first concert while at Bible College so I was into a lot of artists in the Christian music industry at the time.  The headliner for my first concert was a band called PFR (which stood for Pray For Rain).  They kinda had a Beatles sound that was more rock.  One of their opening acts was Jars of Clay and I had the honor of sitting with a few of their bandmates at a shopping mall in Tallahassee, FL, hours before the concert. They were unknown at the time but I could tell they were moving up…. And they did!  To this day, I feel they made the acoustic guitars sound like rock in such an incredibly spiritually moving way… more than any band or artist I’ve heard with acoustic guitars.  Adrian Belew of King Crimson was a big part of that on the recorded album.  He helped produce a couple of their songs (Liquid and Flood) and hearing them live was amazing!  They ended up opening later on for bands like Matchbox Twenty and Sting.  Some of their music ended up in movies and it opened my eyes to a lot of things I’d be more actively engaging later on in life.

5.       How old were you when you wrote your first song?

About 15 and I had my best friend help me with it.  He was a very accomplished pianist.  I wrote the lyrics and a few days later he played this masterpiece on the piano.  I’m glad he did that for me.

6.       Who would you say were the primary influences on you with regard to music?

a.       Knowing you’re a fan of electronic industrial, were you heavily influenced by Trent Reznor/NIN?  What other industrial artists influenced you?

I had started making more electronic rock music long before I discovered Trent Reznor/NIN, even though he’s my favorite in that genre and pretty much the originator of that particular genre that most would relate to (aside from Skinny Puppies and a few others that might be considered more Goth).  I love that he’s into movie scores nowadays.  As a teenager, it was Depeche Mode that blew my socks off!  Then in college, I was listening to artists like Skillet and Audio Adrenaline who were beginning to merge rock with dark-sounding electronics in that pocket of the industry.  I didn’t start picking up on Marilyn Manson, Trent Reznor, Rob Zombie, Prodigy, Radiohead, Beck and all those others till after they were already big hits… after I was drifting from my intense spiritual focus of life and moving back into more mainstream music.  If you ask me, I like the cinematic feel I bring to the industrial genre but this goes back to listening to bands and artists like Phil Collins/Genesis, Chicago, Moody Blues…. Who none were industrial but were creatively using some sounds and instruments in some form of fusion.  I swear I can hear Nights in White Satin (as performed with the London Orchestra) in quite a few of Beck’s and Radiohead’s works.  There’s ambient in it too, but I’ve kept most of those works in my private library.  And the cinema vibe I prefer to the industrial genre is more action-geared than a sweeping melodic orchestral score.

b.      Knowing that you’re also an aficionado of zany comedy, can you point to particular artists in this genre that effected your songwriting?

Well, Weird Al was the big hit growing up for me but he normally used other artist’s songs.  But he opened my eyes to how funny a tool music can be.  Peripherally, I enjoyed Ray Stevens, Benny Hinn and how many comedians incorporated music into their shtick.  Like Eddie Murphy on Saturday Night Live doing James Brown in the hot tub… HILARIOUS!  Bands like Bloodhound Gang and later Andy Samberg and his Lonely Island gang… I can easily relate to.  Humor, no matter how dark or corny or zany or polished that it is, when it’s put into music, it’s something very special.  It paints a unique picture.  Like, oh a kazoo, well that’s supposed to be a funny song, right?  And then the singer starts singing about something mostly serious.  If I write an orchestral composition and sing a song about being half man and half woman, it paints this beautiful picture of the complexity of perceived humor.  Lonely Island did this very well in their short videos/films.

7.       Besides family and friends, is music the most important thing in your life?

Aside from friends, family and my spiritual life, yes… music & sound is critical to my life!  I’d really love to afford a lifestyle where I’m experimenting with sound and form… music and form.  I don’t like how society works so hard to structure music and categorize it.  It almost feels like my parents telling me it’s Devil’s music all over again when I’m being pushed into something that bores me.  So there’s this conflict in me with making music and it’s a block to my creative process sometimes.  I’m very curious how I’m going to work through my current projects of making music in several horror films.

8.       Do you pursue activities in other arts, such as painting, sculpture, poetry, etc.

I’ve been writing short scripts that could work for short films and have recently composed music to several short films.  I also received a small part as a dead body in one of these short films coming out in October this year.  So hopefully that gets my performing juices flowing again… playing a dead body.

9.       Can you tell us about some of your placements of your work into film/tv, etc.?

Yes.  I haven’t had many but I’m very proud of the ones I’ve received.  The most recent was a placement in MTV’s Catfish show, which is quite interesting because I’ve been the victim of an elaborate Catfish before.  Funny how life works sometimes.  I’ve also had placements in shows like OWN’s Dr Oz show, Whose Wedding Is It Anyway, E True Hollywood Stories and a few more.  It’s really not a big moneymaker unless you’re making a lot of instrumentals in multiple renowned libraries.  Those who find a lot of success in that realm of the industry are very good at what they do.

10.   What current projects are you working on?

I’m currently in the beginning stages of writing a comedy/drama musical which might incorporate some of my songs from previous releases on the Starburst label, particularly the Songs Dad Won’t Let Me Sing album but also with newer material.  There will also be a few short films released later this year… all of them Horror movies… where I did the music or sound design.

11.   Is there anything you’d like to say about the state of the music industry and the struggles of independent musicians to find their voice and be heard?

I think there’s good music out there that, for whatever reason, is not known enough or being heard enough.  The music industry is very big and very grand.  It’s big enough and grand enough for more of that music to be known and to be heard. So there’s this frustration that exists among independents that tends to restrict or isolate us when we desperately need each other.  I don’t know what the answer is to relieve some of that frustration and tension in the independent realm.  I feel like if there was a way to address these issues more effectively, then you’d see something more powerful happening in independent terms.

 

 

 

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