The author lost in music.
I've always wanted to make music, I guess. Always dreamed of standing on stage, soaking up applause and adulation from my peers. Always wanted to buy my own records in record shops. Always wanted to answer quick Q&As over email rather than being the bloke who sends them over. It never happened. Until yesterday. Yesterday I was the day I became the master of my own destiny and changed my life forever.
Before yesterday there were a million other yesterdays when my dreams were still unrealized. I'd tried to will them into being in various ways. There were aborted piano lessons with my grandfather, summer holiday rock school sessions where I was immediately demoted to the position of triangle player in an impromptu nu-metal band formed of myself and four lads who really, really liked the Deftones. I even went as far as asking for a guitar for two birthdays in a row. I never learned to play the first one I received. They both sit, sadly, unloved, untouched in my brother's bedroom, broken stringed ruins, battered tombs of wasted talent. There wasn't much talent to begin with, but still.
By the time my voice broke I'd quietly realized that I was never going to be the raffishly awkward bass player in a post-hardcore outfit that tours provincial towns and inspires slavish devotion from the kind of girls who I imagined read Sylvia Plath and had Very Intense Feelings, just like I told myself I had. I didn't, obviously — I was a teenage boy and all teenage boys think about is Pro Evolution Soccer, and when they can fit their next wank in. Anyway, it was during those doldrum days of adolescence that I said goodbye to childish things and thought about becoming a writer. I was never going to actually make music so it made sense to forge a career path that allowed me to take out my latent frustrations on those fuckers who could play instruments. Look at me now! Take that, world! Look at me! I'm flying! I'm fucking flying!
Hard at work...or hardly working!?!
Being the mid-00s, this was pretty much the stone age so I hadn't even thought about making music on a computer. Sure, I'd dabbled with Music 2000 but even then I'd used it to sample the White Stripes and make a computer voice sound like it was orgasming. Fast forward a few years and I'd find myself fumbling with Fruity Loops every so often before turning the fucker off out of frustration. I was never going to be Aphex Twin. I wasn't even going to be Squarepusher.
I thought I'd finally let the thought fall the way of all my other hopes and dreams, finally thought that the idea of myself as a musician was lying down there in a shepherd's pie and fag-ash filled dustbin with my ambitions of being a central defender and a corner shop owner. Then, yesterday, I decided to set myself a challenge. I was going to give myself a time frame. I was going to work within constraints. I was going to make a song in 30 minutes.
The internet's rife with websites that pretty much let you do that, to varying levels of competency. I settled on Soundtrap. Because it looked nice. There was no serious rationale behind the selection. It just looked nice. So, armed with half an hour. a box of Frosties and a pint of tap water, I was about to embark on a transformative journey which might just have changed my entire life. Maybe.
This was it. I was ready. I was going to make a song. Everything looked so fresh, so pristine, so pure and perfect that part of me didn't want to sully things. How could I improve on the possibilities of the mind, I asked myself. How does anyone translate the infinite that exists within us into something tangible, real, audible? I was baffled. Stuck. Quite worried. I had to go on. I must go on. I had to go on. I went on.
Three minutes in and things were going well. I'd already found a sturdy drum loop to base my track around —it turned out that I was totally arhythmic and as such my brief attempt at programming my own drums proved to be disastrous. It was so bad that I couldn't even pass it off as a broken beat record. Thank you, then, This Beat is Sick for helping me out. I owe you a pint. When the royalty cheques arrive that is! You'll also notice here that Soundtrap decided to check in on me and make sure I was enjoying my experience thus far. Boy was I! You'll probably also notice the interesting bookmarks I have. Bookmarks tell you alot about someone. in this they tell you that I like teenage bullfighters and Ikea quilts. I do like both of those things.
Time flies when you're having fun. I'd got a sick beat and I'd found a nice, Komapkt chord sequence. I'd decided to make a chilly, icy, emotional tech-house record. This was what I was put on this earth to do. So that's what I was doing. All good club records need massive basslines, right? You can't just rely on the thwack and thud of a juciy kick. A cheeky two note bassline was the one for me and I was going to get acidic. Until I changed my mind and went for a tone called Kenny Lravitz and spent a good thirty seconds trying to remember what Lenny Kravitz's dick looked like and then momentarily got sidetracked by thinking about other celebrity penises. I had to shake myself out of my dick-hole with a refreshing gulp of carbonated water — this was no time for cocks! There was music to be made.
Ten minutes had elapsed and I was still feeling my way around the dark somewhat. Then it hit me. One chord sequence is good...two chord sequences must be better? They were! It was! I felt a hit coming on and immediately nipped to Amazon to buy a large Toblerone and a set of slippers as an early PRS day present.
Just after the halfway mark I panicked. What I'd produced was fine, would probably sound amazing on the right speakers and would definitely get signed by a big label, but it needed something else. It needed pizzaz. I'd found myself in the EDM section and things were about to get stadium sized.
THE TWO NOTE BASSLINE! THE DRUMS! CHORDS! MORE CHORDS! THE SOUND OF A PLANE TAKING OFF IN A HANGAR! ORCHESTRAL STABS! THIS IS IT! MUM, DAD, I'M LEAVING VICE MEDIA AND I AM GOING ON TOUR....THIS IS IT!
NOT QUITE! With only a few precious moments left I wimped out and removed my bassline and swapped it for a ready made. I'd love to say I felt some kind of artistic shame at my own wussiness but, no. I wanted to produce a masterpiece and I didn't care how I did it. The new bassline was a perfect fit. For a few seconds I was in ecstasy. Mum, dad, come back!
And then time was up. That was it. Thirty minutes had elapsed. What was I left with? Well, something that looked like this:
At that exact moment I felt like I'd found a new calling in life. This was the new me. From now on I'd be one of those "music guys" who drops VIPS and remixes and bootlegs willy nilly and my social captial would rocket. Then I listened to it back. This is what it sounded like:
Fuck me, I'm good at this I thought. What a record! All 6.50 of it!
Time has elapsed since the completion of the song and I still stand by it. The seven plays on SoundCloud are a testament to the track's growing legacy and I am confident that as soon as Michael Mayer hears it —which will be any day now, surely— I'll be getting that deal I always dreamt about. It's better than a good 12% of the things that turn up in my inbox day after day.
I learned a lot in those 30 minutes: I learned that patience is a virtue, that good things come to those who use pre-made loops, and most importantly, that making music is really really easy. Honestly. Expect an album from me soon.