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
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, (www.thecircuitbreakers.com),
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, (www.westlakeaudio.com),
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 sectionforhire.com. 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.