Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A very hot fire

"Live your life like a very hot fire - leave nothing but white ash."
- Some guru dude

So - the ZakkFest is fast approaching. It's gonna be rockin'. It's the first ever recital that I'm hosting. As I'm training my little terrorists this week, I've noticed an extra urgency in both the learning, and the teaching. They're going on stage for real. So, they want to learn their part right. It's sink or swim time. It's awesome. And it's just what the lesson program needed.

In addition to learning the notes, we've also been learning about stage performance. The biggest issue is stage fright. I think everyone's afraid that they will look stupid.

Ironically, it's just this fear that brings that very thing on. I've encouraged everyone to pretend that they're not scared, no matter what they feel. "Be Dramatic!" I yell, waving my arms around.

Here's rule #1 for rockin' the house: Don't be halfway.

There's a fine line between genius and stupidity, and outward lack of confidence is the knot in the tight rope - it'll throw you off into lame land. I say outward because it really doesn't matter what you feel inside, it's what you project onstage. Think of yourself as a poker player. Make 'em think what you want 'em to think, not necessarily what's in your hand of cards.

And always, always, be 100% in rockin' the house. That's how Diamond Dave looks cool, when he could look like a complete moron.


Thursday, February 19, 2009

Victimizing ourselves

How often do we cheat ourselves out of greatness?

That is a question that bears repeating as we walk through our days. And more importantly, how do we cheat ourselves?

Here's a few ways that I do, and that I've seen.

1. Lack of confidence. It's important to believe in our sound, and ourselves...or at least pretend to. To quote my favorite bat biter, Ozzy Osbourne himself - You've got to believe in yourself, or no one will believe in you. ("Believer", off "Diary of a Madman.")

2. Lack of discipline. For me, discipline builds confidence. If I've taken the time to play an arpeggio five hundred times, well, I know I'm pretty good at it. Moreover, I know I'm capable of sitting down and enduring that, so that gives me an extra "superman" edge.

But the biggest one that I see in music, but more commonly in life, is the one of Victimization.

If you catch yourself saying "Oh, I really wish I could do that, but there's no way a loser like me will ever be able to achieve greatness" or "I hate Jeff Beck because his tone is so much better, and will always be better, than mine" you could be showing the classic signs of the victim.

I'm a little over my head in psychology terms here, but I'd assert that, for our purposes, the victim refuses to take responsibility for the current situation.

Now, if you're the victim of a murder, you'd probably refuse to take responsibility, because well, you'd be dead. Ha ha! If someone beats you, well, that's not your fault (unless you really had it coming.)

But, I'm talking about the dangerous, subtle type of victim. The type that says "Well, my band can't get a record deal, because the drummer is always late."

That's refusing to accept responsibility for the situation. You need to either fire the drummer, or make sure he shows up. Take it on yourself.

How about "well, I just can't sing. I'm tone deaf." Then train your ear!

The one that I get all the time is "Oh, I'd never be able to play guitar. I'm not coordinated enough." Have you ever seen me try to throw something?

The point is - take full responsibility for your actions, and more importantly, situation. If you don't want to get a record deal, don't blame the drummer! Just say "well, I'd rather not!"

If you don't want to play guitar, just tell yourself "I'd rather not!"

Here's a good rule of thumb: Could you tell your excuse to Mr. T and live?

Excuses absolve us of accountability. While it really stinks sometimes to always be in charge of our lives, in charge we are, and that's the absolute fact, regardless of if we like it or not.

It's easy to blame a bad economy for your slow business, or stupid bandmates for lack of success. There's someone to complain to then.

But when you're breathing your last hundred breaths, remember this: The Reaper doesn't have a complaint department.

So man up, and if you want to play like Steve Vai, just do it! If you want to sell out the Verizon Center, make it happen!

Don't be a victim.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Be a Man

Yo Rockers!

Man, did y'all hear about Chris Brown wailing on Rihanna? Geeze, bro, I don't like to follow all the celebrity chatter, but that really sucks. Domestic violence always sets me off. About a year ago, I went down to the local "racetrack" (parking lot) to run go karts with my brothers. We walked in on some lady who got popped in the face by her boyfriend. "Police! Call the police!" I thought she was laughing. She was sobbing. Her boyfriend drove off in a hurry. I'll never forget her face - a mask of pain, blood, tears, and sorrow.We waited with her for a half hour for the cops to show up, and finally took her back home so Mom could help her get her bloody face clean.

She wasn't hit that bad - she could have probably have gone to work the next day with a band aid and a clever story. But let me tell you - she had a hole torn in her soul that you could have driven a mack truck through.

So, to be threatened, and beaten unconcious - and to have it all in the news - I can't imagine. And I doubly can't get over what's come out about her Dad. Quote: Fenty said he wouldn't tell his daughter what to do, he did say, "If it were me, I'd move on."

Now - if I had a daughter - and someone choked her till she passed out - First, I'd be on the phone with my soft talking buddy with an Italian accent and a big limo in LA. A few days later, I'd call Chris' mommy to to ask where I could send the flowers. "My sincere condolences about the loss of your son, Mrs. Brown. The roads are so dangerous nowadays."

Rihanna won't be alright for a long time to come - if ever. I have a piece of art hanging in my kitchen. It's a sculpture of a weeping woman's face. It's called "Sometimes." It was made by a lady who's had Rihanna's treatment times a thousand. And while I never have had to deal with something like that, it gives me just an inkling of what it must be like.

Just for the record, I'm not a fan of Rihanna's music. I'm a rock guy, bro! But this is about more than music.

Since I have an audience of young males, I'd like to remind you to be strong enough to be a gentleman. Take pride in your craft of music. Always play in tune, always play your best. And anywhere, anytime, keep your honor by honoring others. Hold your head up high, and be a good man. As musicians, we're examples. In the spotlight, we have the opportunity to inspire. Let's lead by example, and motivate our audience to good. Honor used to be big in the old days. Sure, it got out of hand, and people were shot over it in duels (classic male antics), but I think we can take the good from that school of thought.

There's pride in honor, and Chris Brown has no honor left. If he has any pride remaining, I hope the DA sees to it that he has time to cool off in a quiet place with some mandated time out.

Come on, gents (and ladies.) If we're disciplined enough to achieve a high level of musicianship, let's use what we've learned, and apply it to ourselves.

Rock on!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

The ZakkFest - be there!


I was visiting my folks yesterday. I ran into the house, grabbed a fire extinguisher, and ran out. "I'd better make sure my car's not on fire." It wasn't. It occurred to me that I get pretty wound up.

And I haven't come unwound yet, because it's almost time for The ZakkFest.
What is it? It's a rock 'n roll recital for my clients! It's going to be very instructional. It's gonna show you how to rock.

Here's the deal:

What: A talent show/recital for my clients and their buddies.

When: Saturday evening, February 28th.

Where: My office building. It's gonna be loud.

Who: Students and their buddies.

Why: Because it's gonna be the coolest thing ever! It's a great opportunity for you to practice your live playing. Meet your fellow students! No matter if you've been playing for a week, or twenty years, come on up and play a song.

Details: I'll have a backline set up. That is, in every day terms, amps, effects, mics, and speakers. Just bring your favorite guitar, and rock on! Pick one or two songs that you'd like to play. If you'd prefer not to play, I need plenty of help setting up, tearing down (especially clean up!), running stuff, and being part of the crew.

I really encourage everyone to play. You might have only been playing for a little while, or maybe you're shy. This is a perfect opportunity for you to step into the spotlight, because there's no pressure, there's no prizes, and it's gonna be a very friendly crowd.

Be there!

So, I'll fill you in if you have any other questions. Come on, be a Juke Box Hero!

Rock on!

- Josh

Friday, February 6, 2009

Stifled by the shadow

Hey hey hey!

Whew, it's been a little while! Between endless trips to the hardware store, tons of guitar lessons, home improvement, and gearing up for a gig...I've been quiet. But anyone knows a Josh doesn't stay that way.

I was driving home last night, rumbling along the dark highway, and guess what - I had a blog idea. I get 'em a lot when I'm driving.

Here's the point: Innovation sounds groovy. Filling shoes and proving yourself does not.

Let's take some great innovators to check out. Charlie Parker is a cool example. Saying he played the saxophone is like saying Jesus had a mullet. He was one of the creators of Bebop. Charlie, not JC, that is. Listen to how exciting and cutting edge his music is - from sixty years ago!

But let's take another one, and a great illustration of the innovation vs. emulation. Eddie Van Halen.

Everyone wants to play like Ed. And nobody can play like Ed, because only Eddie is Eddie. You can't play like me, and I can't play like you. So when we try to play like someone, we run into trouble.

Now, when Eddie plays, he sounds fresh. He sounds new. He's the thing. When other people try to play like Ed, they can sound well...stifled.

I think a lot of players, myself included, are so awestruck by these mighty guitar heroes, that we often find ourselves standing in a gigantic shadow - so concerned with living up to those standards, that we don't use that time to find our own voice.

The ironic thing is - that very uniqueness is what makes the heroes sound so cool! Nobody plays an E7#9 chord like Jimi, and nobody howls like Stevie.

I think what we can, and should gain from these cats would fall under a few ideas:

- Dedication to their art
- Learning from their heroes - to a point
- Confidence in their own sound

Because, let's face it, if Randy didn't FULLY rip your face off with crazy train, it might as well be a disco song.

So mean it, and mean it to be you.

I'm off to write a song for my aunt.

- Josh