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Making music for the sake of great music!

Going against the grain of Pop culture; Making music for the sake of great music!:
by © John March June 2004

The music business is in shambles. everyone is concerned, or outright panicking. Work is slow and Pop music and technology are killing music. In fact intellectual property and artistry has all been reduced to binary consciousness, zeroes and ones are the beginning and end of the universe and nothing else is sacred. These, and many other sentiments, are the prevailing dialog in our industry at this moment.

I, however, being somewhat contrary in nature, and those I choose to work with, choose to think and feel otherwise. I do not believe that reductivism, making small that which moves us deeply, serves me or the way I wish to live my life. Music is part of something larger then what corporate America and MTV want to make us think and feel. So i am actively pursuing undermining the corporate music agenda. Not through peer to peer or any other technology, but rather through direct opposition and activism in my musical community.

I am a career musician and sound craftsman, as well as a Zen Buddhist and fellow human being. I look out into the world, into the culture, and basically see change as something that is inevitable. I also see that the unwillingness to allow change to occur is a source of suffering in our culture. I am not saying all change is good, but truth is truth, and for better or worse our reality is based on entropy and the inevitability of change occurring. In fact one could say that our very biological existence, and our ability to perceive phenomenal reality, is based on our innate ability to even perceive change.

So when I look out and see major shifts within the paradigm, I reflect how my participation fits within those changes I choose to perceive. I, and many of my fellow career musicians, love playing music. And while I will agree that there is a lot of crap out there right now, there is also a lot of great music being played by fantastic musicians. I prefer to align myself with the school of thought that music is not a commodity or an intellectual property, or a series of zeroes and ones, but rather one of the many ways our species tries to touch that ineffable reality beyond the veil of what we can perceive. I believe music is a gift.

With that in mind, as I am not just opinionated but vocal about it as well, many of my colleagues have been asking me what am I doing about it all? I reply, I am making music with great players! Simple as that. I firmly believe that life will take care of itself from there. I believe that because I feel that a life lived well is one where, the path followed is the path true to my heart and my vision of life, not someone else's and certainly not corporate America's vision of reality and life.

I am in a fantastic band called The Circuitbreakers™, (, comprised of some of the best studio musicians in Los Angeles, and I am proud to say we are not looking for a deal or label interest. What we are doing is recording great stuff, music we love to play, and creating opportunities to play music for people who want to hear good players playing powerful music in the styles of Blues and R&B and Rock and Soul music. That is about a straightforward as it gets.

The band is comprised of: Steve Ferrone on Drums, Tamara Champlin singing, Tim Scott playing Bass and singing, Tom Saviano on Sax and Steve Madaio on Trumpet, and a young Keyboard player Milen Kirov, with myself on guitar. This is a band of phenomenal studio musicians who have played with everyone you could possibly imagine. Yet here we are playing live Blues in Studio D at Westlake Audio, and everyone asks us why we are doing this? The answer is so simple; we love to play, and we enjoy playing music with each other, and yet that seems to be an odd concept. Has the music industry actually reached this homogenized state where that could be true? That the idea that good musicians playing music that they love, although somewhat outside the mainstream of what Pop culture is now calling music, is somehow not a good idea? What could be better then a return to simplicity and good music. In one single day we recorded demos that were basically seventy five percent of an album! Now that is something special.

Now don't get me wrong; I love beautiful women, nice clothes, fast cars and all those great things, but I just don't see what that has to do with making music. Call me crazy but I value things of depth and quality. I value the passion and intensity and craft that comes from a musician who is expressing himself and has spent the time and effort to cultivate that aspect of music. And if anyone thinks that for one moment that MTV is not a part of the corporate agenda and a serious purveyor of the politics of mediocrity, then I have some swamp land in New Jersey you might be interested in buying for housing development.

To me the music of The Blues is like a Zen art form. It's roots are steeped in tradition, in a history of form and performance, but it is also an evolving form that is both familiar and potentially new at the same time. It requires, at its most fundamental level, absolute attention and presence and a certain moment to moment awareness that requires an emotional honesty and connection to detail that only comes with time and experience. The music of the Blues may seem simplistic in structure, but in point of fact it is anything but simplistic. Of course it can be reduced to its form and structure, but form is not content. Powerful music requires subtlety and nuance and emotional content that comes from crafstmanship and experimentation, as both both musician and human being, and it expresses that transcendant connection between heart and soul that we all so long for. For me the music of the Blues is a direct expression of the humanity of those playing it. I am honored that musicians of this calibre want to make this kind of music with me.

For the last 15 years I have had a unique and inspiring working relationship with Westlake Audio In Los Angeles. Steve Burdick, the studio manager there, has been a great supporter over the years, of my vision of craft and community. 15 years ago I had a Synclavier room there, and Steve and I became friends. Recently we have been working together with his fantastic idea for helping and supporting new artists and singer/songwriters. Westlake Audio's Artist Development Program, (, in conjunction with the fantastic resources that Westlake Audio has to offer as a recording facility. We worked together to create a community effort that joined his vision of artist development with my idea to create a resource for singer songwriters that connected them to great players, called This lead to talks with my fellow musicians and studio players, which in turn has lead us to this project of The Circuitbreakers. Again, Steve has been unbelievably supportive of the idea that experienced musicians playing substantial music is a wonderful idea. He chooses to support us and what he believes in, which is a community of like-minded individuals who care deeply about music and want to move towards the future by creating a new possibility. I will always be grateful for his encouragement and support.

So I say; "Community" is not a buzzword. It is the essential ingredient missing in the cultural equation.We are so disassociated from the communal whole, from any sense of support and encouragement, that we think that this empty disconnected Los Angeles music community is real. It is only real because we choose to allow it to be so. There are no rules! We can make what we want of the world, and how we live in it. This is not polyanna optimism. It is a simple statement that says each moment is a new possibility, should we choose to see things that way, and be present to the possibilities inherent in that deep awareness. That our culture and our industry are mirroring a disassociative and fragmented culture is real and quite painful. Change will occur, however, when we are done believeing this is the way it has to be.

A man came to the Buddha with a long and detailed list of the terrible complaints about his life and all the situations that assailed and challenged him. He asked, " How long must I suffer like this?", to which the Buddha replied, "Until you are done.".

Don't let ANYONE tell you what is reality. Anyone whos says they know exactly what is going on and what to do is selling something. Don't believe the fantasies of authority. There is no reality but the one you create for yourself and the community around you. Choose to live and make music the way you want to. To quote Ghandi: "Be the change you wish to see in the world.". You want a different music culture, then participate in change by ignoring the corporate agenda and create music for the sake of good music. Go against the grain and live life, make music, be.

We, the musicians who play in The Circuitbreakers™, and I am sure many others as well, want to play music and live our lives accordingly, and are grateful for every moment, every opportunity, that allows that desire to manifest as true.