Archive for May, 2010

Dirty little secret…

I have a secret. For some this will definitely be viewed as a dirty little secret, something to keep hidden away. People who know me closely know it. For reasons of political correctness it’s not something I advertise, but it is starting to weigh me down. Since I don’t think anybody reads this stuff I think I can safely reveal my secret here. It’s something I feel I need to get off my chest, so here goes, hold on to your hats…

I don’t like “prog” music.

Did I say that in my out loud voice?! How can this be since my band Mastermind is so deeply entrenched in the prog scene?! Say it ain’t so!! Unfortunately, I have to say it is so. I like many kinds of music, and a fair percentage of my favorite music falls into the progressive rock category… Emerson Lake & Palmer, UK, bits of Yes or Jethro Tull, the occasional Rush album, definitely Mahavishnu Orchestra, Jan Hammer and their ilk, but I consider that “fusion” which should be freed of the misnomer of prog. I like old Bo Hansson records, some early electronic music like the first Synergy album, Univers Zero is cool (although it all starts sounding the same to me rather quickly) and a few other select tidbits. That’s about it. I am very specific about the music I like and have to say I really don’t like most of the stuff that falls under the banner of prog these days. Sorry! So sue me.

I guess the reason I need to get this out is I am constantly approached by bands and related periphery with something that typically begins with “I see you are a prog fan….”. No, I am not. Full stop. I have made music that is categorized as progressive rock and therefore I keep in contact with some groups and places where it seems beneficial to expose that music, but overall I am not a fan. I would be happy to perform at your prog rock festival, but I have very little interest in attending one. Some people take great offense to this and respond with an attitude of “oh, well, if you aren’t a prog fan, then screw you”. I just don’t get it. Just because I don’t share the general consensus of the people that enjoy the music I have made with Mastermind, does that mean they should then therefore reject me out of hand personally because I am not a blanket prog aficionado? So it would seem. Hence my keeping it secret all these years.

I fear revealing even further… I am not a metal fan either. Not in the least. Sure, some of what I have done and a bit of the music I listen to has definite metal-like tendencies, but as above, it does not follow that I am a blanket metal fan. Again I am sorry! I could go into great detail about what it is that I don’t like about most prog, metal, and prog-metal, but I will refrain from doing so. I don’t wish to alienate anyone any further or insult their musical tastes, no matter how tasteless it may be to me personally. On the other side of the coin I’ll go even another step… as much as I do dearly love the blues, I find most blues music to be painfully repetitive, uninspired, boring and dull. Oh no!! It’s true though, and that applies to some of the biggest names in blues. In fact more so to the bigger names. My taste in blues is as specific and eclectic as my taste in progressive rock and metal. Perhaps because I’ve spent a lifetime studying and creating music and have something of a highly developed taste? Or perhaps I am simply that eclectic. I don’t know. Maybe there’s something wrong with me! What I do know is being viewed and approached as a broad fan of these styles of music, well, pretending to be one in order to not offend anyone just plain wears me out.

So, I am happy prog fans enjoy the music of Mastermind (quite a few of them anyway), and the same goes for metal heads. It makes me happy to see them happy and I have a lot of prog and metal fan friends worldwide I enjoy hearing from. We don’t have to share identical tastes to find some common ground. I’m also pleased the blues folks enjoy the stuff I’ve been doing in that vein recently, but if I had to say I was a blanket fan of any one particular kind of music, I couldn’t do it. I might begrudgingly accept the term blues-rock or hard rock.. but definitely the stuff that leans towards the far side. I enjoy Shostakovitch, Beethoven, Mahler, Devo, and Wes Montgomery just as much. Weird huh?

Thinking about this a bit further – actually, I’ve thought about this a LOT over the years – I think this one-idiom-only sort of fan behavior is what is responsible for making a large percentage of new music so dull and uninspired. If prog musicians only listen to other prog music, or metal guys only listen to their particular sub-culture of metal, blues people only listening to the blues etc, it all becomes far too inbred. Everything starts to sound the same and the quality degrades, much like a clone of a clone of a clone, to the point where it cannot stand on its own anymore. At least that is my thinking, and that seems to be where the world of prog and metal is today. Collapsing in upon itself and suffocating to death. It could be argued that this applies to the world of rock music in general as well.

The most interesting progressive rock music borrows elements from other styles and pulls them into a rock band format. The most interesting metal is not constantly banging your head – or even worse – the oh so predictable starkly delineated switch off between ‘brutal’ heavy parts and cheesy soft passages, and the best blues definitely pushes the envelope, steps out of the 12 bar rut, and refrains from singing “this is the blues” or “I got the blues” and so on. Most blues seems to be guys singing about blues music… it’s goofy. Like yeah, OK, and….? You think people listening don’t realize you are playing blues?

I guess there is some social element to it, a need to identify with some group larger than one’s self, to be a part of something. An identity. Like dude, I’m so metal I eat screws for breakfast, I live eat breath and sleep metal, all my clothes are black, horns up! Or I am the blues, I got the blues, this is the blues, I live the blues. I am prog, I refuse to accept music in 4/4 with major chords and songs under 10 minutes, lyrics must be about elfs and lost kingdoms. Kind of reminds me of junior high school, but those were much simpler times. You were either “soul” or “psychedelic” which basically boiled down to being a jock or a “freak”. You can imagine which side of the fence I was on. When the jocks started smoking pot is when I knew something had gone very wrong in the world.

As I cruise around social media sites and get hammered by band friend requests, the few I do actually listen to – which is very rare – I find myself thinking, ‘oh, well there already is a Tool’ or a Dream Theater, which seem to be the two most emulated bands on myspace. I am guilty of this myself of course. Much of the early Mastermind music wears its influence on the sleeve, but in our defense we were doing it at a time when the originators were assumed dead and buried. At least gone missing for a decade or more. We never expected (for better or for worse) for their zombie corpses to rise again! So in that respect we were trying to revitalize things we loved from a bygone era, but I also think we added our own elements and each album progressed away from that. Some prog-rock bands can manage to pull this off with some glimmer of originality, but the further time ticks along, the fewer there seem to be. In fact people seem to actually want the same thing over and over! Like, all I like is vanilla and if it ain’t vanilla I ain’t eating it. Weird. And boring. This is in large part the reason why later Mastermind releases varied so widely, I am searching for something… different! But not so far different, so far over the hill, that no one can relate to it. Maybe a few paces ahead or off to the side. There is comfort in the familiar and thrills in the unknown, the key is to balance those elements. But that’s a different discussion altogether.

The bottom line I guess, and original point of this rant, is my wish for folks to please not take offense if I don’t share your tastes, join your forum, or have an interest in your music. People take their musical tastes far more more personally than almost any other aspect of their lives it seems, as if saying I don’t like [your favorite band] is equivalent to saying you are an idiot for doing so. That’s not how I feel! Usually. And I do try to keep my ears open for new and interesting things, really I do! I listen to way more music than the average person I would wager, but for the most part as this article starts out, I am not a blanket fan of any one style of music. It doesn’t mean I dislike you personally, so please don’t hold it against me.

If I do like something, I will let you know!

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