Thursday, 3 November 2011

G.A.S and it's origins

G.A.S = Gear Acquisition Syndrome

As the (few) readers of my blog may have gathered, I am partial to spending the vast majority, nay, entirety of my earnings on musical equipment. I do it almost without thinking, an involuntary action almost. I've gotten to thinking recently, why do I do it?

After all, I don't run a commercial studio. I don't need the latest plug-ins or high-end gear to attract clients. What I do need, being in the fortunate (or is it unfortunate?) position of having to make music every day, is inspiration. Which can be in short supply.

I remember chatting to a producer-friend once, just after i'd started producing music full-time. He, like many musicians, has a day-job, and I had asked him whether he was looking towards doing music full-time also. He said 'no, it would be a bit like squeezing one out'. As in, it would be like forcibly having to do a poo even though you don't need one.

Within this fecal anecdote lies the issue that concerns the life of the working musician the most. Desire and obligation. The balance between art and commerce. And nowhere is this dichotomy more apparent than in the life of the professional songwriter. That debate however, is for another time.

My concern is, and always has been, inspiration. What happens (read- it frequently happens) when someone turns up at my studio to make music with me, and I have absolutely NO desire to make music that day? Or even listen to it? No matter how lovely they may be? Stopping short of saying "you know what? I can't be arsed today, sorry" you have to get on with it.

So, you have to constantly find ways of making music interesting to you. In the same way that when I had an office job, I mainly watched cat videos on youtube. You have to find something to engage with otherwise you feel like you're wasting your life.

So that's the challenge. Be inspired to make music every day. There's an interview with the music producer Matthew Herbert in this month's Sound On Sound (cough *nerd* cough) which is so awesome. He's absolutely a massive pretentious arse but fuck it, what a legend. He goes to extreme lengths to always "engage with the process" of composition. He talks about changing his studio every three years. Location, equipment, everything. That is an extreme example of what i'm talking about. You have to find ways to keep things fresh.

So when you're sitting in the studio with someone, and the inspiration isn't there, what do you do? You go into auto-pilot. "I'll just pull up that plug-in", "i'll just call up that Massive Bass Preset that I always use", "I'll just play that chord progression that I always do". The aim of any self-respecting artist is to not repeat yourself, and in pop music that is damned hard.

So I buy stupid instruments. Optigans, dulcitones, kalimbas, flexatones. Things that force me to get out of my comfort zone. I spend hundreds of pounds on vinyl every month, looking for new sounds and samples.

One dangerous thing I am tentatively dabbling with is a change of workflow. When you make music on a computer, it's so easy to be lazy. So I bought Native Instruments Maschine in an attempt to try and get away from the monitor screen. It's a bitch to learn, but it's fun as hell. I mean, I spent an hour the other day making a beat that I could have made in five minutes in Logic. But then, I wouldn't even have thought of making that beat in Logic. Playing an MPC/SP1200 is like playing an instrument. It's a different experience. And that's always what we should be looking for.

P.S Am very much enjoying the ASAP Rocky mixtape. Download that shit bitches

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