Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Why I Do This

In a previous post, I asked all of you why you are a musician. Here is my story. I come from a family where music was always around in some shape or form. Both of my parents played trumpet when they were in High School but neither was what you would consider prodigious. My Mother was into Motown so when I was very young I was listening to Smokey Robinson, The Marvelettes, Stevie Wonder, and the list goes on. I could feel the music. The beat and the melody spoke to me. At age nine, my parents bought me a guitar for Christmas. I started lessons immediately but I didn't really like what they were teaching me. My teacher had me learning to read sheet music and playing songs like Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and other songs I thought were "stupid" for me to learn. I quickly became frustrated and quit taking the lessons. I wanted to learn cords. Soon after I continued to play and started making sound on sound recordings with 2 small cassette tape decks that we had in the house. I wrote songs that fit the experience of a child and spent hours on end in my room going as far as producing radio shows that incorporated my own songs. At age 12, my parents bout me my first drums and at 14 had my first full drum kit. I played in bands all through High School and College. I simply knew it was "what I did." If you have spent time with any Gravity Kills music, the lyrics are dark. The music is aggressive. Well....I am complicated. A tortured artist if you will. Places like sorrow, despair, loneliness and sadness are places that are home to me. I don't know if I would ever be capable of writing a happy love song or a feel good summer party song. That is not who I am. I am not saying that I don't attempt to have balance in my life and those of you that know me, know me as someone more rounded and three dimensional than the voice on a Gravity Kills record. Those of you that have seen a show see there is more than that. I simply draw my most powerful inspiration from the dark places in my life. I feel compelled to work on music for many reasons but will tell you that making music at times is worse than being a drug addict. I compare it to that because at times in my life, music has cost me personal relationships, my marriage, money, stability and at times the ability to relate to others. When Gravity Kills broke up in 2003, I didn't pick up a guitar for close to a year. I had a guitar on a stand in my living room really for decoration. I would pass it daily and for the longest time could pass by the guitar without really thinking about it. Then the guitar started whispering to me. As time passed the guitar's voice gradually became louder and louder. One day, I finally picked it up. Not really to play it or to write a song but simply to hold it. Maybe in the same way you hug an old friend that you had lost touch with and had not connected to in a long time. Then I started playing again. Not writing music but simply enjoying the feel of the guitar in my hand and the sound of the cords I was playing. I never thought I would entertain the thought of even performing in public let alone write music again. Really, music gives me the medium to talk about things and say things I feel I need to say. Today things are the same yet different. I feel like I still have something to say but I have reasons beyond me. A few years ago, Tom Green who started DFEST in Tulsa told me that if I still have something to say then I owed it to those who loved the band and all the guys that never got a shot to be heard. I really didn't know how to take that. Did anyone give a shit at this point? Could what I have to say be at all relevant? I suppose that remains to be seen but in the end, I do have something to say and Gravity Kills has decided to move forward. Why? Because it is what I do and who I am. Thanks for reading this. Life is beyond interesting at this point and I hope to make it more interesting.


  1. Sooo glad you picked that guitar back up! Interesting that I got ENVY the other night... because I do envy you and any musician, because I unfortunately do not know how to play any instrument or read music. I DO however have a huge appreciation for those that can create music and fill my world with wonderful, emotion evoking, tangible sounds that seem to fill holes I have in my heart, mind and soul- music makes me a more complete person. So go for it Jeff! Create away! I look forward to your next masterpiece and many more to come!

  2. (Part 1)
    This is going to be really cheesy, and I'm probably going to ramble and make myself look ridiculous, but here goes.

    As far back as I can remember, I have always dreamed of being a "rock star". I remember begging my brother to help me make tiny little cardboard guitars and drum sets for my GI Joe figures. They used toothpicks for mics, of course.

    In 1989, my mother bought my brother an electric guitar for Christmas. He was 12 at the time, 4 years older than me. Of course he didn't know how to play at the time, but as he took lessons and taught himself, we would use our parents' Sing-a-lodeon karaoke machine to record "songs" and called ourselves Iron Skull. We must have been way ahead of our time, because I'll never forget the looks on our friends' faces when we played our tapes for them. Anyway, as the years went on and my brother greatly improved his musical talent, he branched out and started joining bands in our area. Our hometown of Iowa Falls, Iowa was a pretty small community, so the talent pool was pretty slim, but each and every time I was lucky enough to tag along to practice, I could see my brother was getting closer and closer to being the rock star I had always dreamed of being myself. Mom and dad never bought me a guitar, and it's probably for the best. Dad was not too supportive of our rockstar dreams.

    I like to think that he had good intentions, but he spent far too much time telling my brother that he needed to get his head out of the clouds and stop dreaming because music wasn't going to pay the bills. Seeing the trauma that this negativity put my brother through, I began to shut myself in my room around the age of 11 and write. I certainly couldn't let Dad know that I had the same dream as my starry-eyed brother, right?

    Fast forward to the divorce a few years later. Dad demanded that my brother and I make a choice: him or Mom. We sat there in our dining room, crying, and explaining to our father that, by asking us to choose between our parents, he had already made the choice for us. I will never for get that, as we headed towards the door with our Mother, Dad screaming at us, "Get the fuck out of my house."

    For more than two years, those were the last words we heard from him.

    (continued in Part 2 because I've apparently maxed out the character count. shit.)

  3. (Part 2)
    This was Fall of 1995. I was 14. I became depressed in ways I couldn't, and still can't explain. I had given up on writing because at the time, it became apparently obvious to me that my rock star dreams were just that: dreams. I began cutting as a way to deal with my emotions, and contemplating suicide as a way of not having to deal with them anymore.

    My brother, now 18, was out of high school and had joined a band in Ames, home of Iowa State University. I went to practice with him and his other guitar player, Kyle one night at the beginning of February. At the end of rehearsal, their drummer let us know that the next night there was going to be a show at People's featuring one of his favorite acts, Sister Machine Gun, and asked if we wanted to check it out. Tom wasn't going to be able to make the trip because he had work the next night (McDonalds reprsent, yo!), but Kyle and I were more than happy to check it out, as Joel typically had pretty good taste in music. We got to People's early that night, and I will never be able to explain how happy I am that we did, because that was the night my dream was reignited, and it wasn't even because of SMG. It was all thanks to the OPENING band.

    Gravity Kills.

    It was you, Jeff. You, Doug, Matt, and Kurt. When I saw you pouring your heart out into your microphone and amplifying it to the hundreds of people in front of that stage, you were singing directly to me. Watching the way you connected to that audience made me realize that THIS was the way I needed to bleeding. This was the type of therapy that I needed to be treating myself with. And then, to top it off...

    You did two shows that night! :)

    Jeff, when you and I spoke in May at the Hard Rock in Tulsa, I told you that it was your band's music that kept me from breaking my mother's heart, and I meant it. If it weren't for you standing on that stage, and many others since then, I don't believe I would have been around to discover how therapeutic music could be.

    Over the next several years, I discovered that my dreams were no longer to become a "rock star" and make gazillions of dollars and swim in a pool filled with Tang. Instead, the dream became the reality of pouring my own heart out on stage by performing the songs that I wrote. Finally, after years of quiet jealousy and envy, my brother and Kyle let me into their band!

    Since then, I've had the privilege of "bleeding" on stages for hundreds of people... and even more times for just a few friends and/or bartenders.

    I've got a wife and two kids now. "Real" life may have gotten in the way of my full-time rocker status, but the dream is still alive. The drive is still there.

  4. I'm glad your love of writing music is back and is going into creating new GK material!

    This entry reminded me of my own struggles with my love: concert photography. I loved doing it with my little point and click film camera while at shows way back when...struggling for a good spot in the crowd and seeing what I got days later after getting the film processed. It gave me such a rush to shoot, score a great shot, and do it all again at another show.

    Then one day, it started feeling more like a job and less like fun. I got uninspired and discouraged out of nowhere. I didn't photograph shows for a looong time after that (maybe more than a year).

    But then one day it came back to me as quickly as it originally showed up. I was just about to walk out the door for a huuuge 2 day metal festival I had an all-access pass to and said, "Eh...Let me bring this. You know...In case I feel like shooting."

    I lugged my giant pro digital camera along for day one and cruised over to the photo area to shoot a favorite band of mine. You know...Just to see how it felt. And that rush...That love...That thrill...Was back. And I also realized that I'm not too bad at taking photos, either!

    Crazy how our passions can come and go like that for no good reason, no?

    I'll continue to stalk you and the guys on Twitter and beyond.

    Keep writing awesome entries and xoxos,

  5. Ending anything can make anybody bitter. It's all the more difficult when you've poured your heart and soul into something. But after a while, the bitterness fades and you remember the relationship (whatever kind it might have been) not for how it ended, but for what it was. That seems to be exactly the moment you picked up that guitar.

    It's great to hear anybody with some celebrity talk about their personal lives or even just behind the scenes tidbits. I'm catching up on your entries today and am enjoying it as a fan from way, way back. Thanks for sharing this.

  6. It's surprising to read things so personal.
    Hoping you will continue to move forward.