Unicorn Chaser (Eight)

*AUDRA* says:

Catching a unicorn. Sounds magical, doesn’t it? Well unless you know exactly what I mean or what I am feeling you don’t know that it is the most plaguing feeling on the planet. It’s like a curse to those who know it. What is a unicorn? It’s going after a dream that is so huge that only a small percentage of people actually make it to the big time. Musicians, writers, actors, professional athletes; the list of the elite can go on, but that’s the very point, it’s an elite list. You have to be elite in some way, shape, or form to make it. And when you do, you are forever a part of the elite. You know something people that didn’t make it don’t know. You have tasted the forbidden fruit. You have caught your unicorn.

Often times wish I were normal. And I don’t mean normal in a negative way. I mean it in the way that I wish I had an obtainable and realistic goal. I wish it was my life’s ambition to be a teacher. Teachers are a tremendously important part of life. They are knowledge bearers that feed our youth to become the next knowledge bearers or healers. It’s amazing. And if you study hard enough and read the right books and pass all the tests, your dreams of becoming a teacher will come true. Your dreams of becoming a doctor will come true. Your dream of becoming a (fill in the blank) will come true. Unfortunately, that is not true for the unicorn chasers. It doesn’t matter how much we study or learn. Without talent, luck, and opportunity we could be left chasing forever. And it’s a chase that kills us.

For me, there is no backup plan. There is no “what happens if this doesn’t work out?” This is my dream. My life. My body and my soul yearn for this. How can you give up something that lives inside of you everyday? Unless you’re in the business of unicorn chasing, do you really even understand this life? Do you understand what it feels like to want something so much, but never quite having it in your reach? And it’s completely out of your control. Sure, you can practice and be the best you possibly can, but what if that’s not good enough? Or what if you were born with the wrong stroke of luck? I ask again, do you understand my life?

Listen, I’m happy for people that can be happy and fulfilled being married and parents and successful in their jobs. I’m even happy for the people that don’t want any of that and just want to live their lives. It’s just not me. It’s not a unicorn chaser. I want to be a wife and mother, but there is nothing I want more than to stand on a stage for the rest of my life and have people hear my music and sing my lyrics. Being a wife and mother or successful at my job is not what drives me. It’s not what lives inside of me. I die inside every time I have to sit at a desk or learn a new job. Not because I don’t enjoy it. I’m actually very good at finances and have had many fortunate positions over the years. I was even making fantastic money at one point. And it was great, but at the end of the day I felt like a sellout. I felt like someone who had sold my soul for the comfort of a good job with good money and good benefits. I wasn’t me. The unicorn chaser had turned into the chaser of an animal I could actually catch.

I’m happy to say I’ve found my way and I’m back to chasing my unicorn. It didn’t take much for me to get back on track. Honestly, when you feel a calling with such great passion as I do, it’s a constant voice screaming in your head not easily ignored. And after all these years of chasing my unicorn I have learn two things: Unicorn chasers are the most hopelessly romantic people on the planet. We have the ability to dream beyond reality and envision a life that may be out of our grasp. And even though it may be out of our grasp we never stop chasing it.  And that I am a successful and famous musician already because I will never give up on this dream. So many try and fail and the difference between them and me is that 10th time they fell, they stayed down. I will always get up the 11th time. Always. Until I no longer fall a 10th time. Until I am my dream and I’ve caught my unicorn.

The Film Distribution Conundrum

Pat says:

This fall movie season has a few interesting music biopics opening up. The first, called Jimi: All is by My Side stars André Benjamin (aka André 3000 of Outkast) as Jimi Hendrix and it focuses exclusively on Hendrix’s year of reinvention in the 1967 London music scene. Another, Love & Mercy, about the Beach Boys' Brian Wilson, stars both John Cusack (old, fat Brian) and Paul Dano (young Brian) as the enigmatic musician and only touches on a few years of his life.

What intrigues me most about these two films is that neither follows the typical cradle-to-grave format of other musical biopics. Films like Walk The Line that try to encapsulate an artist’s entire personal life and career into two hours are seldom interesting to me. Steven Hyden of Grantland hit on why this is the case in a review of the James Brown biopic Get On Up earlier this year:

"Biopics are obligated to dramatize the “real” person behind the legend, but the real person is both unknowable and irrelevant. The idea of the person is what matters; it’s what justifies the biopic treatment in the first place."

I think he is right. Trying to dramatize a lot of biographical details of famous peoples’ lives often turns into just a bunch of silly window dressing with little importance for why we care about the artist. Why look there is Johnny Cash talking to Elvis! And there he is with Waylon Jennings! Is he smoking weed!? None of it ever helps to get a deeper understanding of the artist’s work or what that work meant to our culture.

Anyway, with my enthusiasm for seeing these films being so strong I was disappointed to find that I had basically no (legal) options to see them. There is not a theatre playing Jimi: All is by My Side within a 2 hour drive of where I live and I couldn’t even find any screening information for Love & Mercy within a 500 mile radius of where I live, despite the movie already being released. And I don’t exactly consider Southern Connecticut to be some remote part of the country.

All of this got me thinking about how much better music distribution is for the consumer – at least for small and medium sized releases. When we release our album next year it will be available for our fans to obtain on any number of platforms all at once. The idea that smaller movies like the two I’ve mentioned are not immediately available for me to experience doesn’t make any sense. I have to wait several months for these films to be released on DVD or be available on a streaming service like Google Play, yet these movies are being discussed, reviewed and promoted now. I will have completely forgotten about them in many months’ time. It would be like us promoting our album and then when people ask where and when they can hear it we respond with, “I don’t know. Many months from now perhaps?”

I can understand how a film like The Avengers would follow the old fashioned model of having a theater release followed by a long gap before online distribution. Those kind of movies actually make a lot of money in the theaters. But most movies don’t. And of course those films have to actually be in theaters for one to see them. As I said, I actually want to go to the theater and see these movies but I simply couldn't. Obviously these issues involve a lot of complicated economics (of which I am no expert) but I think it is only a matter of time before all of this changes. Both the artists and the consumers are being hurt by an out of date distribution model.

It's The Time Of The Season...

Pete says:

Well there you have it folks, summer is over. It’s now time for the cool nights and warm days of autumn. Maybe enjoying a long ride into upstate New York checking out the foliage and stopping for a bite. Possibly some fall golf (and you better keep it out of the rough)! Then again maybe enjoying some music and arts festivals around the state. Or my personal favorite, a long ride on my motorcycle. 

Although summer is great, fall seems to have those ideal temperatures, at least for me. Seasonal change can be more than weather; it can be time for personal change and reflection. It can be time to look back at what you've done; your accomplishments, the fun you've had, the people you've met, and the places you've been. Maybe more importantly than that, it may be time to set some goals, make some changes, and take hold of your destiny. Some people have a five year plan or ten year plan. I’ll stick with a three month, six month, and one year plan. Let’s see how those work out first. I won’t bore you with my list of goals, but we should all have them whether personal, professional, or otherwise.

It’s easy to fall off track when you’re trying to reach these goals to, so having people that can help keep you focused can be the most important element of the goals you set. On occasion the "help" from others may seem harsh or just not so nice, but were all adults here and there is no reason for little kid gloves, right?

Seasonal change is going to be my new self-evaluation time. See where I’m at, what I’m doing, and what adjustments I need to make. I’ve recently had some dear friends suggest some changes that I may have been a little put off by, but after careful evaluation, it’s just what the doctor ordered. Although my 100% may never be others 100% due to many factors including completely different lifestyles, they push to only improve and succeed. 

Maybe I’ve gone off course a little here, but what I’m saying is for me there’s a new rule: When the seasons change, so will I! If it means when things aren't looking up for you that it takes true friends to pick you up and push you in the direction you need to go then that's how it works. Ok, I’m all over the place with this one, but that's just the way it is! Hope you got something from it!

Love Lift Us Up Where We Belong

Billy says:

Here's a quick list of six bassists that influenced me over the years.

Duff McKagan (Guns N' Roses, Velvet Revolver)

McKagan is most known for his tenure with Guns N' Roses from 1985 to 1997. His bass abilities featured on the band's debut album, Appetite for Destruction, was a major influence in my bass playing. One of the reasons is due to how the album was mixed because the bass is very audible and is the central backbone on all the songs. 

But a big resonance of his influence is McKagan's usage of thirds/fifths/octaves for bass fills; a song like Sweet Child O' Mine showcases his classic bass playing. A song like that, besides the very cool bass intro and being a guitar-centric song, is a good tune to learn basics from. Also a song like Rocket Queen displays McKagan's groove with drummer Steven Adler, which is partly based on older R&B songs that the two would listen too throughout the 1980's.

Tim Commerford (Rage Against the Machine, Audioslave)

One of the major reasons why I love Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave is the excellent rhythm section by bassist Commerford and drummer Brad Wilk, in which Commerford is central to that emulsion. Such songs like Bombtrack and Wake Up from Rage's self-titled album are a testament to that fact. A lot of easy bass basics can be learned from that particular album and the difficulty can range from easy to somewhat difficult. More complex rhythm movements are featured on Bombtrack or Freedom while more traditional and easier basics are featured on Bullet in the Head and Know Your Enemy (all featured on their self-titled album). 

Commerford's slapping abilities were showcased in the song Take the Power Back and somewhat in Know Your Enemy but after the band's self-titled album, Commerford stopped slapping because he didn't want the band to (in his own words), "sound like another Chili Peppers clone band." In addition, Commerford is known for manufacturing his own effects pedals, such as the verses in Calm Like a Bomb (which has a cool bass intro) and Township Rebellion.

Flea (Red Hot Chili Peppers)

Flea is synonymous with bass playing and he's very famous for his slap abilities. I only slap on very limited instances with Chaser Eight and the Chili Peppers' album Blood Sugar Sex Magik is the album that had the strongest resonance with me. On that album, Flea totally changed his bass playing approach and focused on "less is more". 

While he still slapped, it was only in limited moments on certain songs and he focused more on rhythm, tone, emotion and feeling. From that particular album, songs like Mellowship Slinky, Apache Rose Peacock and If You Have to Ask showcase Flea's stripped down playing yet still maintaining a hard line groove and feeling. Other songs like Emit Remmus (Californication) and Animal Bar (Stadium Arcadium) are other good and notable bass lines.

Various 1990's era punk-rock bands including Mike Dirnt (Green Day), Greg K. (The Offspring) and Mark Hoppus (blink 182)

As I began playing bass through the late 1990's, it's very natural to play to songs by bands you were listening too at the time. For me, it was punk-rock and I thought learning songs via that genre was essential because songs were structured easier plus you can learn the basics very quickly. Dirnt's bass playing has evolved over the years with Green Day and it was after their 2000 album Warning where his style changed to a more stripped-down rhythm. The first song I learned on bass was by The Offspring (All I Want from their 1997 album Ixnay on the Hombre). Including blink 182 and The Offspring, the two bands' styles through the 1990's were very easy to pick up on bass and to learn the fundamentals.