29 February 2012

Rocking Out

  Do you remember the first time you heard "Sweet Child of Mine"?  I must have been around 7 years old and I was wandering around the suburb of Avondale in Auckland. I liked to pop into stores and just look at what was on offer. Toys, stationary, second hand junk, I'd always manage to find a handful of things I could covert and dream about owning. I was addicted to curiosity like every other kid. I poked my head into a store and examined some of the bright and colorful plastic offerings. The  radio was in on the background and a strange song was playing,  the whining guitar of Slash, the whining voice of Axel Rose, and that gritty, energetic pulse of hard rock. It was at once unnerving and alluring. Soon rock n' roll wasn't a stranger but a very real and inspiring force in my young life.
  There is probably a simple psychological explanation as to why the idea of being a rock star was appealing to me. It inevitably boils down to a need for validation. However there is something transcendent about music and making music that on an essential level overrides the insecure impulse to be noticed, something more powerful then simply a need for attention. I can be very, very happy indeed with a tennis racket in hand, going wild with some untamed air guitar to Def Leppard, alone in my room. Its that rousing feeling that rock n' roll gives you. It's cathartic: pain, anger, release and energy. It's letting all that passion out with force. It feels so damn good doesn't it? Come on, everyone has rocked out with an imaginary band, right?
  Admittedly it does make a difference rocking out in front of a crowd. Sharing that energy with a group of people is electric and gratifying. I never made it as a stadium rock star, but I still love putting my music out into the universe and working up a sweat to a strong rock beat and a driving power chord riff . I used to force my mom to watch me rock out with a broomstick as a guitar in the living room, "That's good darling", she would say, nodding, slightly bemused and probably concerned for my future. Just the other week, at a bar behind a dumpster on a stretch of street in Nowheresville I rocked out to a crowd of 5. Did I work up a sweat? Yes. Did I rock out? Yes. Did I fantasize I was a bona fide rock god? Maybe.
  Don't you just love cliches? I actually do and if I may; it is all about the music. This really is true. While I do live a rich delusional life in my head, the reality of making music is a beautiful thing. I love nothing more then having a beer (always light beer, that's how crazy rock n' roll I am these days), and immersing myself in loud, amplified sound. My ears can attest to this; I have the hearing capacity of an Iron Maiden fan.
  My rock resume is cute. Not the first word most self-respecting musicians would want to use when describing their career, but in my case, apt. When I was 10 I started my first band, Venom, with some school chums. We played a lot of backyard cricket, watched some wrestling and worked up a not to shabby cover of "Patience". We didn't make the cut for our class concert though. A grave injustice.
  In high school my short lived band $9.95 recorded and released (on cassette tape) the original song "Cheesy Cheesy" and we headlined my little sisters house party. Hey, you gotta take any gig you can get when you are an egomaniac trapped in reality. Our stage was a bedroom with the French window opened. I cracked my head on the opening number by jumping enthusiastically into the window frame. Like a true rock star, the show went on, and my fake tattoos were smudged with sweat when the curtain came down, or I should say across. It was a pretty curtain. Now that I think about it, we were were not even the headliner (the ego and memory are a dangerous combination),  in fact we only opened for my little sisters house party. My little sister threw one hell of a house party though, think the New Zealand equivalent of Cochella. We were pretty good though as I remember, though the phrase "Passion over talent" would not be amiss in describing our sound.
   In university I won two consecutive air guitar championships, got a 3rd place in a lip sync contest and also got rocking use out of a grant I was awarded from the Humanities department of $800 to do a play, which I had said in the grant application was to promote drug education. I spent the $800 on lights and costumes for a lip sync tribute to hair bands, "Glam 2000".
A photo from "Glam 2000", which featured the line, "Hugs not drugs", and thus fulfilled its obligation as tool for drug education.
I was pretty proud of this. It was fiercely contested. There were some bad ass air guitarists and I had to bring my A-game to take the title. My first victory was performed to Alice Cooper's "Poison" and the stage show featured a hot dog, spandex, a jug of ketchup and a portable ab machine.
   At drama school I created the beat poetry band R tRio and sank into an unhealthy delusion that I could rap. That itself is another sad, sad story I'll save for a later date. Its a funny story (if you're not me) and it does not end happily. Well Eminem stole my thunder didn't he. I will tell you that I went by the pseudonym MC Rockit. Enough said.
  Currently I am back in a groove that suits my white ass. Poppy rock. I love the feeling it gives me creating melodies with my buddies Brandon and Devin. My musical M.O is upbeat, fun songs that make me energized and happy. There will always be some ups and downs that come with the amateur rock n' roll lifestyle, but it pales in comparison to the great source of joy which being in a band, getting together and making music brings me. Invisible Material is where I get my rock fix these days. It is all about the music, now that the millions of fans and dollars have evaporated back into my fantastical ether from whence they came.

  I would urge and encourage you to regularly channel your inner rock god from time to time, pick up a broom, your guitar hero axe or what the hell, a real guitar and strum some chords with your heart turned up to 11. Or better yet, get your friends together and start a band, you won't regret it. Love what rocking out can do for you, and love yourself, like I love me.
  Oh by the way we are playing this Friday at Universal Bar and Grill (you know it's one hell of a venue when the words, "bar" and "grill" are part of the name).