As I sit here strumming on my acoustic 5-string bass in the ‘office area’ of my living room in downtown Helsinki, I have found myself being very analytical about what I’m playing; concerned heavily about what I should be creating, who my target listener is and how to put something together that will be entertaining to hear and play. In an effort to move past this mental block, I decided to think out-loud, or, almost out-loud by writing my thoughts down here.
There are many people who believe that music is their life, myself among them. We use it to keep us happy, to identify our style, or even as the general guideline of how to deal with daily life. I believe this to be true for all genres of music and the fans that connect with them.
You have teeny-boppers posting twerking videos on YouTube because Miley Cyrus was shaking her (missing) ass on tv, there’s the obvious connection between the clubbing scene and hip hop videos and then there’s country music artists trying to fit a very specific mold while also attempting to find some individuality without alienating a very judgmental fan base. These are the the most obvious observations to an outsider and I’m sure there are a ton of smaller intricacies I’m not aware of. The point is, we take music as our identity; as our security blanket.
Music to me is an immensely important part of life. My personality doesn’t quite fall in line with the most typical generalization of what a metalhead is, but in nearly all aspects of ‘me’ you can make some connection; my confidence (my friends call it arrogance, but I know better than them!), my way of interacting and the places I feel comfortable frequenting.
As a musician who focuses on heavier music, I find myself in this odd situation where I am trying to create something that is powerful, moving and different, while also staying true to the integrity of who I am. What’s more is that I’m trying to create with the goal of entertaining others. Thus we have ‘The Great Insecurity’. I’m trying to create good music that is entertaining for others, without compromising my idea of myself in the process.
Ninety-nine percent of people know the right answer is that one should create music for themselves and fuck what the rest of the world thinks. But what if the fun of creating music for myself is for the entertainment of others? And what if the music is equally as important to be good for myself and for the listener? What if I won’t like my own music if no one else likes it?
It is this insecurity of mine that causes a pause in the creative process. The way I have been responding to this insecurity is to record it and forget it. Then at some point I will come back and listen to it and if I like it at that moment, I will use it. This is a real problem when writing melodic music because more often than not the idea either sounds cheesy or doesn’t fit, or a thrashy part doesn’t align properly where you would like to use it or the song is at a speed that makes the part sound like shit.
I have a folder with a ridiculous amount of 30-45 second audio clips of three or four parts glued together that are waiting to become something. Not all are caused by this insecurity but to me it’s like a graveyard of ideas that are waiting for me to resurrect them.
It’s a harsh reality of mine to be a part of something that makes me feel so secure with who I am, and yet it is the cause of this great insecurity. Perhaps it’s that I don’t want to do anything to disappoint my idea of what I’m a part of, and maybe that’s a good thing. Staring at something until I am decidedly unhappy or excited about it, rather than shoving it into a song and hoping for the best, is probably a good idea.
Maybe I’m just being very particular and that focus will allow me to create something that is unparalleled to anything else on my list of personal creations. Maybe all this insecurity is my buffer from creating something terrible.
Still, I am tortured by the fact that I can’t sit down and write a masterpiece in a few minutes. I agonize over one part for days and days and often times that part will never get used. I lose sleep thinking about a piece I have created thinking that it’s not good enough and it may wind up in the trash after all. My anguish is often over the tiniest things, and I find myself unable to communicate with people around me because my mind is so focused on some molecular detail.
In the end I hope what is created will be something special both to me and to those who hear it. I am insecure about the latter because I know how music makes me feel when I listen to it and I want to create something that inspires that feeling in others. I guess only time will tell if I am suffering in vain over details that don’t matter, or if the focus I pay equates to the birth of something truly special. Perhaps I will find myself creating music that is merely mediocre, leaving me only with questions and a lingering insecurity.
I created this post as a way of thinking out loud to get through my thoughts and now at the conclusion I still find myself feeling exactly the same, though at least I have the feeling in words. Perhaps that is the answer to my problematic feelings about the music. I will always feel insecure about it, even after publication, and there’s no stopping that. There is no end to insecurity. The only thing I can do is try my best to create something I am happy with and the rest of the world (the 5 people who will eventually listen to it) will enjoy as well. The answer is that there is no answer and that I should find some sense of finality from the fact that insecurity is never final when it comes to creating art. Maybe I need a metaphorical ‘The End’ somewhere to let me know when I can take a sign of relief. We’ll see.
Nope. It didn’t work…