(Artwork care of Karen Ramsay (www.karenramsay.com), profile photo care of brianlackeyphotography.com)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Stepwise refinement

That seems to be the arc that my band experiences have followed. Take a step, evaluate, plan before the next step. That's my engineering mindset as applied to "Real Life". Or at least "Real Music"

I think I first noticed it during the last gasp of a band I was in that I dubbed the Nowhere Band. Mostly because "you can't get there from here", as I was fond of saying in those final days. This started out as power trio, but we later added a keyboard player and a lead singer. The coolest aspect of the band was that everybody got their way: I got to play my original songs, Bob the drummer got to bring in some R&B, the bass player got his hard/classic rock, etc. Now, eclectic is cool and it can work (I've done it since;-), but we never found that path. As you can guess, the worst part of this band was that everybody got their way and it was a muddle.

After the slow fade with some minor fireworks at the end, we called it quits and went our separate ways. During that fade, I swore that my next band was going to have a clearer vision of what they're doing. After the next band (or so), I swore that my next band would have a someone cooler drive that clear vision. And so on. It's not like all of these groups sucked, it's just that I sensed there was something better out there that was worth looking for.

Eventually, I ended up playing in a reggae band (Cool Runnings), which is where I discovered my fundamental philosophy: dedication to the groove. I'll write more about this band later. The only reason I left that band is because work moved me to another city. Even so, I still looked for a band that would hit the sweet spot that Cool Runnings did but fixing some minor stuff. Because, as great as that band was, there's still got to be something a little closer to my ideal. Each step I take gives me another glimpse of what that ideal might include.

During this search, I've had a number of wonderful, transcendent musical interludes in my playing. My obsession doesn't block me from enjoying those. Anyway, looking for the "perfect band" is a doomed mission. I realize that and yet, every time I find myself looking for a new band, I have my list of stuff to fix from the last one and the dream of what could be. Always trying to move one step closer to my ideal.

This ties in with the see-saw I described in my musical history. Right now, I'm diversifying a bit: band and solo in parallel, following and leading, becoming a better bass player and doing it all. But above all, dedication to that groove.

Will the next step bring me closer?

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