Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Audible inspiration: Pearl Jam

Quite possibly the single biggest inspiration in my life has to be Pearl Jam. As a kid, my first three CDs that I bought with my own money were the CB4 soundtrack, Dr. Dre’s the Chronic and Snoop Dogg’s Tha Dogg Pound. Then one day, I saw a pink cover with a bunch of hands reaching to the sky with two words on it… Pearl Jam.

This is where my true love affair with rock began and a relationship with what is the most important band in my life. I listened to Ten nonstop and I apologize to my brother for having made that album my own (and Nevermind, and Downward Spiral and The Wall… damn, I owe you big bro).

Throughout my life, Pearl Jam have left an imprint in how I want to do things, and how I want to be known. They could have taken the easy way to success a million times and instead shied away from the mainstream to remain true to their vision and their fans. Although far from a rockstar, that is what I want to achieve. An honest relationship with people who are into what I make and will accept me for who I am and support me while other people ask for the greatest hits.

Album after album, Pearl Jam has delivered tracks that have touched my life, influenced my writing, influenced my music and even the way I surf. They’ve been with me through thick and thin, through heaven and hell, at my highest and my lowest, allowing me to feel like a Nothing Man and feel ok about it or allow my soul to be Given to Fly.

So if you want to know who I am… who I really am and see where some of what I write comes from, by all means, support the greatest band in the world. You won’t be disappointed.


Saturday, July 27, 2013

The bridge to my mind is unabridged

Filters by definition should be a good thing. They are meant to keep out impurities by most standards which is why some people question my reasoning for not hiring an objective editor to give my book a read. What people often fail to recall is that filters can also be used to recover solids. Think of a river back in the 1800’s and take into account that people used filters to sift out something that is far from an impurity.

Am I comparing ideas to gold? Well not all of them. Some are right up there on the poop stack. Then again, due to the nature of most of my dayjobs, I’ve been subject to countless bouts of revisions and recommendations. This means that for the most part, what has ended up going out with my name on it is not what I did or what I believed in, even if in the end I was held accountable for the impact said materials had. Does that sound like a poor deal? Well that’s because it is. It is a very shoddy, unfair deal and millions of people go through that every day.

That’s why I insisted on as unabridged version of Only Human as possible. I made the decisions of what goes and what does not go and was honest enough with myself to take tough decisions and eliminate entire pages at a time. Was it easy OR pleasant? For heaven’s sake no. It was brutal because I had to recognize that not all of what I wrote worked. But it helped me infinitely. It was a self imposed trial by fire and I think it’s helped me become a better writer for it.

I’ve actually helped edit two books, have proofread thousands of pages and have edited countless communications (from letters to full site maps). As an editor, I clarify what the writer is expecting from our collaboration and stick to the rules agreed upon… and above all else, I focus on two things: that the content flows and on format. What they want to say is their decision and if they want suggestions, I’m all for giving them the suggestions but as a writer, I know what I wouldn’t want done to my work.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure there are editors out there that probably could have made my book a whole lot better. I have no doubt in that… then again, I have no doubt in my own vision of what I want to achieve in a story arc and the places I want to go and some people might have issues with what I think is a worthwhile place to visit. Having read my book a few times, I’m quite clear that a lot of people might think it’s too long, or visits too many places or whatever… the reality is that the response from people up to now has been quite positive and I’ve been able to see a very interesting thing happen… different people like different things. Imagine that.

So what some people saw as a highlight, was cumbersome to others while other people gravitated to a specific chapter and another person loved the little hidden Easter eggs and tributes to some of my favorite musical artists, movies and writers. That also means that for the time being, the blog, the tweets and the books that come forth with my name on it are completely unabridged and the only filter set in place is me. So if I don’t like it, it won’t have my name on it.

Some people measure success by webhits, profits, or books sold… for those who hold a sense of satisfaction as the greatest tribute to success… I salute you.

Peace, love and maki rolls.


Audible inspiration: Tool

When you read Only Human or any of the other books in the trilogy, please be aware that Tool was blasting in my head, heart and soul. Many of the underlying themes I explore in this series have everything to do with my relationship with this band although few things are taken from a literal context, meaning, nothing was copy-pasted but were a direct creative reaction to wanting to go to some of the darkest places in my soul in search of light.

Tool is a thinking man’s metal band and everyone in that band is downright scary talent-wise. As for the inspiration, I’ve been exposed to Tool from a very young age and early on adopted them as one of my favorite bands. They channeled anger in a truly unique fashion and have never needed to fist pump or make devil horns to carry their message across.

I still remember enjoying the dark dreams that screwed with my sleep patterns from watching their videos from Undertow and Aenima and discovering Bill Hicks thanks to them, another massive influence. When I listen to Tool, it’s just natural that I want to start writing and through their own process of growing as dark beings of light and achieving their own brand of catharsis, I’ve been able to discover my own path of self-discovery.

Highlighting tracks or albums is truly a moot point because everything they’ve made is solid and I am fortunate enough to have discovered them to claim them as a source of inspiration, be it spiritual or artistic.

So if you’re craving a slice of darkness, explore the worlds of Tool… after all it is the best way to squeegee your third eye clean. 

Friday, July 26, 2013

Music to write to: Austin Wintory Journey Soundtrack

Earlier this year, I was able to play through one of the most amazing games I’ve ever had the pleasure to enjoy. Journey by That Game Company also happens to be one of the most important artistic experiences in my life because this isn’t your typical game, although that’s a topic for another series of posts talking exclusively about how videogames have influenced me.

That being said, the visual presentation of this game may be downright jaw dropping, but one of the things that really resonated with me and almost had me at tears by the end of this wonderful... well  journey... was its soundtrack.

Austin Wintory created such a powerful piece in this game that it pretty much stands on par with videogame canon of the likes of Final Fantasy 3, Xenogears, Secret of Mana, The Legend of Zelda and other titles whose music strums the deepest strings of a gamer's soul.

The music literally swept me off my feet and into the game and was essential in me being at the brink of tears by the end of the 2 hour-or-so long game. If you want beautiful music that tells its own tale and allows you to chase dreams in the lonely desert of your soul… here’s a fine choice to add to your collection.


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Music to write to: Sigur Rós

Heart-achingly beautiful, few if any bands can create an ethereal atmosphere like Sigur Rós. I was actually fortunate enough to come in contact with this band for the first time, watching HBO’s live concert series, Reverb. The band simply blew me away with their walls of sound… it was like nothing I’d ever heard before and truly one of the most unique bands I regularly listen to.

Although they have developed their style to include many feelings and emotions, the overall feeling they often project and have basically perfected could be best described as celestial melancholy. Listening to their music you can face the brink of your sadness and although at times you might almost be swallowed by a huge ocean of tears that wells up within you, more often than not, you come afloat humming from the experience of strumming your soul.

That’s how deep this band can touch me… and with each successive release, they’ve offered me some of the best music I’ve ever been exposed to, even if I don’t understand it, because it’s in Icelandic, or because I’m not supposed to. You see, many of their songs have vocals although they don’t have intelligible lyrics. The lead singer, Jonsi, sings hopelandic or vonlenska, a non literal language that has no structure, no grammar, no rules and just pure emotion… and that’s what you get with Sigur Rós, more often than not… pure emotion.

So by all means, strap your headphones on and swim towards heaven.