Thursday, 29 July 2010

Me, Myself and Music

I was born a rocker. From a very early age, rock and metal music have been the sorts of music that get me on my feet, jumping around and throwing the devil horns. Don't get me wrong, I do like other music, but rock seems to be what I was born for. It's only been for the past few years, however, that I've really started to get in touch with my inner muso, learning about bands besides The Beatles and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

The transformation was quite remarkable- between the ages of 13 and 16, I've gone from being almost completely ignorant about the world of music to knowing my rock and metal inside out- well, more or less. There are still gaps that I need to fill, but that's besides the point. The point is that I have made the leap from neophyte to veteran, from an ignorant dabbler to a full-on rock snob.

It really began at 13, when I started listening to bands like Led Zeppelin and Iron Maiden. I had a limited library available to me, but I listened avidly to what I had, loving every second of it. Rock and metal. That was what I loved. At the time, I didn't go much heavier than Maiden, because I couldn't really handle it. It was probably a matter of vocals- the harsh vocals are often what puts people off genres such as death metal. When I was 14, I discovered Metallica. I listened to their stuff over and over, learning their discography almost inside-out. At the time, they were the greatest band in the world.

Now, those were just the early days. I've always liked music, but my hunger to learn everything about it began when I started listening to Dream Theater. A friend of mine had previously mentioned their song, Octavarium, which is exactly 24 minutes long. Some time later, I was lent their album Falling Into Infinity- which I later found out is regarded as one of their lesser albums. I fell in love with them, listening to it on endless repeat as I wandered through the streets, nodding my head as the band belted out the surging chorus to Lines In The Sand or chugged through the metallic Burning My Soul. A while later, I bought the album Octavarium and started listening to that one endlessly, too.

Whilst perusing the Dream Theater Wikipedia page, I was continually intrigued by their genre label: "progressive metal". What did progressive mean? How was it different from regular metal? And why were Dream Theater labelled as such? Before long and with some more research, I started listening to full-on progressive rock. The genre captivated me. It was a cut ahead of modern music, I decided. New bands didn't have an ounce of the skill or vision possessed by the likes of Yes, Pink Floyd and King Crimson.

In short, I was hooked. I borrowed CDs left, right and centre, from friends and even teachers. My then-girlfriend's father also had a collection of progressive rock CDs, from which I regularly sampled, learning of artists such as Gentle Giant. I heard Dark Side of the Moon for the first time. I bought all of Dream Theater's albums. It was a good time for me.

A few months later, a friend of mine invited me to Spotify, a fantastic music streaming service with an almost comprehensive library. Brilliant! With this, I could expand my musical knowledge tenfold. And I did. I listened to all manner of artists: Jethro Tull, Rush, Porcupine Tree, The Flower Kings, Genesis, Marillion, more Yes, Emerson, Lake and Palmer... I was becoming an accomplished muso.

That is more or less the story so far. My musical knowledge continues to grow constantly, through Spotify and buying CDs. I continue to uphold the principles of old-school prog whilst also learning of the new players in the genre, balancing ELP and Genesis with The Mars Volta and Ayreon. I have discovered hidden genius such as that of Toby Driver (maudlin of the Well, Kayo Dot) and Devin Townsend (Strapping Young Lad and all of his solo material).

As always, my passion lies with rock and metal, but I have branched off into other genres from time to time, most notably jazz. I know very little of the genre in comparison to my rock knowledge, but I like to relax with some Miles Davis or John Coltrane from time to time, or marvel at the sheer ability of the Mahavishnu Orchestra, for instance. Maybe I'll become a true jazz fan when I outgrow rock and metal- if I ever do. Until then, it's my continual pleasure to indulge my inner metalhead and throw the horns.

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