Tag Archive for: motivation

Writing for Expelling the Hellhounds

Recently, I pulled a song called “Energy Explodes” out and started reworking it.  State of Balance, my prog-alterna-metal-punk-fusion band, played it live a couple times.  The song was solid, but something wasn’t working.  I got out the test tubes and Bunsen burner and Wile E. Coyote (me) went back to the lab.  I started re-imagining the bridge with a new Slay-Fighter-ish riff.  Then, devised a drum track that was earthquaking and inspired the prehistoric drums of the ancients and a badass ending drum fill.  I cackled when I played it back.

The key element missing from this soon-to-be-preeminent guitar recording was a totally bitchin’ solo.  With a Tempo of 185 bpm, it could be really “meh” or scary shredding.  After two days of improvising thru the changes(Gmaj- Dmaj- Amaj- Cmaj), playing along to my rhythm tracks…I bid an abrupt farewell to the licks I knew from before and swam out past the breakers to play with the sharks.  On the 3rd day, I was really stretching.  My “Yoga for guitar” sessions must be paying off.  Balancing the mind and body, using my eardrum, cochlea and inner ear bones to blend the reality of my world to the fantasy of my temporal lobe.  Steve Vai calls this “Ultra Zone”.  My brain was creating molten alloy to be fused into something that I hadn’t the technique or ability to play yet.  Chuck Berry, Slash and Marty Friedman are having a rumble with Vai, Becker and Petrucci.  Miles Davis stopped by to laugh at them all.  You gotta keep your head on a swivel, ya know!

Let your mind play until you come up with interesting ideas you really love.  The above words are just a few images I used to describe what I let happen.  Yes. You must allow yourself to breath creativity.  Open firmly closed and locks doors.  Be vulnerable to things you’ve never experienced before.  How can we be truly open with others if we do not first own ourselves to the highest degree?  Confidence and belief in the playful process of imagination takes time to develop.

Written between Oct 24 and Nov 3, the solo may be revised yet again after I hear the results played back thru the speakers.  My goal is to grow each time I create music that I’ve never done or that I may have never heard before.  Use the creative process to come up with something that intrigues your heart, mind, body and soul.  The Archeology expedition begins anew with each song.

Following Your Dreams

When I’m with friends, students and family alike, I am often sharing what I am doing to push myself forward in my business.  Yes, this is all a business.  It is fun and I get to do what I want for a living.  I share music with people all day.  I carry a guitar instead of a brief case and I get paid to rock the _______(fill in expletive) out on stage.  None of this would be possible without adherence to my vision and direction that came from within.  A sense of purpose that I own day-in and day-out.  A deep faith in myself that, to this moment, I act upon.  No matter how crappy I feel.  No matter what I’ve eaten or how many friends I have.  After all planning and thinking is done….the purpose lives on.  My central motivations for my music are: 1) play guitar to the best of my ability, 2) write the best songs I can with the best songwriters available in all my favorite genres 3)create the best recorded songs I can and 4) teach my students so they can carry out their purpose the way they want to.   (Aside: Raising my child is my primary goal and it was a huge dream to have her.  I’m talking about something that inspires her too.  She’s already becoming quite a performer without even pushing.  A little fatherly example never hurts though.)

I have had many backers: financial, moral and spiritual alike.  But without that personal drive and commitment to excellence in your field, why would anyone risk backing you?  When you look back on your life, do you want to have regret?  The statement might sound like this: I had all the resources that I needed to create the life I desired and I didn’t act on them.

If you’re my friend or not, I’ll tell you, YOU MUST ACT.  Your vision, your dream, your purpose ,no matter how small, is valid.  There were moments in my life where I hesitated or acted in fear instead of acting on what I truly believed about myself.  The most awesome thing about this is, if you’re alive enough to have a regret, you’re alive enough to assess your current situation and build new goals, new resources and new ideas to follow your central motivations.  Every day, look at yourself in the mirror with love and in every triumph, victory or mistake, remind yourself, “You did the best you could with the resources you had in that moment.”  Re-assess the situation and get back in the game.  If you’re hurting from a failure, take a short break.  If you have to get a DAY JOB to care for your responsibilities and to continue following your pursuit, do it.  If everyone says you suck and you only do a single-act one-man play at an elks club…..DO NOT GIVE UP.   You can be your own audience.  F#CK anyone that says no.  Success isn’t playing in front of 20,000 people in an arena.  Define your own success, no one defines that except you. This is your dream, IS IT NOT?

Often I hear people tell me, “you’re talented.”    I have thought about that a lot.  Everyone has talents and skills.  Talent is innate and must be refined to become a skill.  One talent can breed many skills.  For me, I think my highest talent is perseverance.  I’ve taken some huge risks.  At least in my mind, they were huge.  And when I suffered defeat, like Wyle E. Coyote super-genius, I licked my wounds, walked my charred carcass back to the drawing board and took the next step in my personal evolution.

Example:  I had an experience playing in a band out of New York City.  After a few gigs, their verdict was that I didn’t have the stage presence they were looking for.  I played really well but the moves weren’t working for them.  A good friend chalked it up to poor casting.  Another said, they’re crazy, you were awesome.  Still another said, OMG they did ____(fill in negative talk).  Whatever the reason was didn’t even matter.  The gig was done and I had to learn what I could and grow from it.

After beating myself up a bit for “losing” a choice gig, I made a decision.  I will never lose a gig because of stage presence again.  EVER.  I had had several people along the way try to tell me that my stage presence was too much, not enough, or don’t do this, because it distracts from the singer or whatever.  So after this loss, I decided I would study people’s stage craft from a visual perspective, not solely musical.  This was initiated by being in Appetite for Deception, my awesome Guns n Roses tribute band.  I had to be able to mimic Slash on all levels.  So I watched Slash videos relentlessly until I had his mannerisms down.  Then, I watched his heroes.  Keith Richards and Joe Perry.  I studied Duff and Axl and Izzy, to see how their personas played off Slash.  I continually watch musicians for stage presence and use new ideas all the time.  I believe it’s a high form of art, even if you’re “just a rock guitarist.”

Persevering in the music biz has cost me a lot.  Following my dream, when someone else’s expiration date came before mine, has caused some rifts.  I’ve lost friends.  Stimulated disappointment and resentment.  Divorces, breakups.  Misunderstandings and arguments.  The costs have been huge.  But I took EVERY SINGLE ONE,  learned from it.  So, in those losses, following my dream has also caused me to see more clearly what I want for myself and my daughter on many, many levels.  It has:


  • increased my self-worth, self-esteem
  • increased my skills in communication
  • given me faith in myself and others that I never knew I had
  • taught me how to better evaluate risks and assess better timing in action
  • taught me to be more present
  • raised the bar for how I treat myself and those around me
  • given me knowledge that even at my lowest point, everything will be fine
  • allowed me to play in every style I wanted to play.  Be it Death Metal, Hard Rock, Funk or Blues
  • increased business opportunities
  • made me friends that I cherish so dearly, that back me following my dreams and don’t undermine what I’m seeking
  • caused me to gain the respect of the people that previously didn’t believe
  • stirred creativity from the deepest parts of my heart, soul and psyche
  • caused every emotion from A to Z, the most giant belly laughs and the loudest bellowing crying, real joy, real pain and everything in between.

Essentially, all the things I’ve done to follow my dreams and really get the most out of this life have worked.  Every failure, every gain.  When you’re in the moment, even mistakes are your friends.  I’ve taken musical mistakes and made them part of the song and thanked the person making the mistake.  Any failure or mistake is valid as a learning experience.  Even if you get pissed, afterward you can still learn something, like “hey, yelling at that guy because I was pissed, wasn’t productive, I should cool down first, then talk.”  And you can learn the value of an apology and when, how and who to say it to.

If you’re following your dreams, I support you.  If your dream is to have a leather couch and a big screen TV without regard to the pursuit that gets it, I support it.  Unless it’s criminal.  Insert Emphatic non-support here.  If your dream is to raise 4 kids and have a boat with a dock in your backyard, I support that.  If your dream is to pick apart my every move because I’m not meeting your expectations…..well, I have a door prize for you.  It’s on the front porch, please pick it up as you’re leaving.  I’ll hear your arguments, listen to your ideas and take what I can from it, but at the end of the day.  I’ll continue.  Relentlessly, until my dream changes.  Then I’ll follow that dream.  To the end.

Thanks to anyone that has supported me through the years, on any level.  Emotional, spiritual, financial, personal.  You’ve helped me get this far.   And anyone that has been unsupportive.  You probably know who you are and I thank you anyway.  You fueled my gut-fire’s persistence and I laid waste to your doubts.