Archive for June, 2013
In my dream last night, a group of friends and myself were all staying at a really cool hotel celebrating my birthday. The dream took place the morning after as we were all checking out. There was a lounge area in the lobby next to the main desk and a few of us were hanging out there for a few minutes on our way out. I was extremely nervous because somehow Felicia Day had come to my birthday celebration and was there in the lounge. I don’t think I had really got the nerve to talk to her much, so I remember at this point still feeling pretty aloof and not sure if I could really just chat with her. I think I was a bit starstruck and shy and didn’t want to bother her and all that. There was also a bathtub in the lounge which my cousin, Casey was sharing with my old high school friend, Eric MacGilvray (there was no water in the tub, though I can’t remember if they were clothed or not). At one point, Casey was being goofy and made a classic Casey goofy face, at which point he rolled over and kind of smooshed his face on Erics. I remember thinking that was kind of odd in that they were now, kind of kissing but in the framework of being silly and comedic.
I eventually said my good byes and left. I hadn’t got far when for some reason I decided to go back. I know that for at least the last part of the journey, I walked while controlling a toy remote controlled car back to the hotel. When I got there, everyone had left their keys sitting on the table in the lounge (that was what you did when you checked out) and I remember seeing Felicia’s room and rental car keys sitting there. I thought “Hmm, there’s still 9 minutes until noon, I could take her key and go see what her room was like!” It was sort of that sentimental idea of being able to go “Whoa, this person slept here! Whoa, they used THAT towel for a shower!” (No I am not actually a creepy stalker in real life, and I seriously hesitated to post many of these details but, come on, this is a dream where all kinds of weird things happen with seemingly unfathomable logic like my cousin and an old high school friend sharing a bathtub in a hotel lobby/lounge and more than that, I want to be as detailed as possible in my dream recountings and I want to be the kind of person who isn’t uncomfortable worrying about what people will think…if someone is going to judge me based on some weird detail in a crazy dream then chances are they would probably judge me even harsher on much of my real life! Nervous, rambling rant over.)
The hotel itself was also very cool. Not at all like a normal hotel. The rooms were all very down home and unique and felt more like rooms in a house. They all came off a single Hallway but yet I remember a distinct labyrinthine feeling as well and that maybe there were more floors or something. I think that this was the hotel in the MSC on the Texas A&M campus (though it had been completely redone and didn’t remotely resemble that place in real life, past or present).
I remember that distinct feeling of sadness after a party is over, or after a wedding or when a vacation comes to an end. “The morning after” when it’s all over and you’re collecting your things and checking out to go home.
Last night I dreamt that I was at a party with the crew from a movie I was working on. Everyone, including the director, decided to shave their heads into Mohawks. I went along with it. Mine ended up being a very wide Mohawk where it was really more like just having the sides shaved. Then the thought struck me that we were in the middle of filming this movie! We weren’t done yet and now I had just pseudo-Mowhawked myself! Not only that, but I also had 2 other films in progress and how could we possibly deal with my hair suddenly being so drastically different! For the film I was on, I started thinking that since my character was about to head out on some kind of hunt or chase in the desert (or at least hot Texas) that we could justify the change with a line or quick scene. Since the director had been there and done it too, I wasn’t too worried about getting in trouble, but for the other two movies that still had some scenes to shoot, I was sure they would not be happy.
Today I had an experience that has me feeling unsettled. I spoke to a guy putting together a band about possibly playing guitar for him. I liked his music, he seemed to like my playing and singing. Then we got to discussing equipment. He was looking for a specific sound and was not convinced that my digital modeling gear was sufficient. He said this was a “pro-level” gig and that there needed to be real Les Pauls through real Marshall stacks. We chatted a little about it and basically parted ways amicably with the decision that I wasn’t the guy for the job.
However, this exchange continued to bother me and I tried to analyze why. I certainly don’t begrudge him his opinion or knowing what he personally wants in his band. Then I realized that it resonated with something deeper in me. An insecurity. I’ve encountered this attitude before from people. People who don’t take me seriously because, in their ears, they don’t take my equipment seriously. I realized that I was bothered because I felt like I had been dismissed, or looked down upon as less than a professional.
I consider myself a professional musician and I know many who would serve as references for my skills as “pro-quality.” I’ve always had a very well developed ear. I am self taught on all instruments and have always learned by ear. When I’m in bands, I’m always the one (or one of the people) that others turn to when there’s a question on how something is played or some sonic detail. I’ve spent the last 30 years honing my ear and one of my talents that I’ve been hired for from time to time is the ability to copy, replicate or produce something that is “like” something else. However, it’s all subjective. Something that sounds good or “correct” to me, may not to you. However there are opinions, and there are facts. “A digital modeler can never sound as good as the real thing” is an opinion and can not be right or wrong. I felt bummed and irritated that this guy who I don’t even really know might think less of me than I deserve. That’s stupid, but yet I know that’s one my own issues and insecurities common in many areas of my life. I really don’t know how to not care what other people think of me. Obviously I have some weird deep-seated insecurity of being the person that everyone is pointing and laughing at or something. “Yeah, this guy is obviously an amateur. I mean he uses those digital toys.”
I often have various other people who may disagree with a guitar tone I’m using. They think it’s too trebly, or needs more mid-range, while I think it’s fine and just what I wanted and was going for. I’m always open to opinions and collaboration but in the end I feel like I’m the guitar player and that’s my arena to decide. Sometimes I don’t particularly care, so I don’t resist, but while I may offer my opinion on another musician’s parts or sounds, I’m certainly not going to dictate to them how I think they need to set their gear if I respect their own opinions and abilities. Basically we all have opinions, and I don’t want to be made to feel like mine is somehow wrong or inferior when I have dedicated a large part of my life to learning and honing my skills and my ear.
I’ve always loved technology. When I heard about the first “Digital Modeling Amplifier,” the Line 6 AxSys 212, I got one and loved it, even though it wasn’t perfect. Over the years, technology has come a long way and I’ve stayed with the times. I now play a Line 6 James Tyler Variax that can digitally model many different guitars and I use a Line 6 POD HD-500 that digitally models amps, effects, speakers, mics, etc. I personally think that technology has come far enough now that there is no perceptible sonic difference. When I switch my guitar to a “Les Paul” setting, and stomp my footswitch for a “Marshall,” it sounds and feels like a Les Paul into a Marshall to me. I’ve seen blind sound tests when people could distinguish which was real and which was digitally modeled.
Some people have their minds made up that nothing can ever sound and feel like the real thing. That is probably technically true on a microscopic level but I personally disagree as far as a human perceptible level. I believe that so much of what we perceive is colored by what we want or expect to perceive. If you have your mind made up that a movie is going to suck, then you’re probably not going to like it. If you think that a piece of gear is not going to sound as good as another piece of gear, then that’s probably the conclusion you are going to reach. Even if you think you’ve “given it a fair chance” it’s probably affected by your subconscious bias.
This, of course, goes for me as well. Maybe because I want to love the digital revolution, I hear awesome sounds that are just as good as the real thing. I try very hard to be open-minded and listen to feed back. I mean really listen and take it in and consider it and not just get knee-jerk defensive about my own opinions but I’m human and I’m sure I’m still susceptible to subconscious preference. I wonder if there will be a day when people look back and say “They used to use amps powered by vacuum tubes! Can you believe that? How antiquated and steam-punk is that?”
I have chosen my place as a digital warrior and I love that I can get so many (accurate, in my opinion) sounds out of one guitar and one amp/effects simulator. In 2 pieces of gear, I have the equivalent of a truckload of hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of sounds. And more so, the guitars and amps aren’t based on “average” models, they are based on particularly “exceptional” sounding models so it’s not just like have a Strat and a Marshall, it’s like having an exceptionally awesome sounding Strat and Marshall. They even model all the knobs to respond exactly like the knobs on the original equipment. When you get into the guts and details of Line 6’s digital modeling, it’s actually amazing what technology can do.
I could easily go on for hours about this stuff and how amazing it is and how it’s allowed me to experiment and discover tones and guitar and amps I may never have had a chance to before and how I can, in an instant, go from a Les Paul/Marshall combo to a Gretsch Duo-Jet tuned to Open E into a Park-75 amp with the flick of a switch and they all sound just like the real thing. I could ramble on about opinions, subjectivity, snobbiness, and any one of the other hundred talking points I’ve touched on here in this meandering diatribe.
I definitely have my share of insecurities about so many things, but I suppose I should be happy that at least I don’t doubt myself. I have pride in my own abilities and talents, even if I sometimes think that others may not see or appreciate them. I am fully entrenched in the world of digital modeling music gear and have no desire to change that, as are many top pro players. I guess if someone is going to look down on me for that, then they aren’t someone I was meant to be playing with anyway. It’s still kind of a bummer though.