10.25.2009

Identity Crisis

I've been thinking about my identity lately. Specifically, should I have chosen a stage name years ago when I started playing out after college? I'm not getting mobbed by fans and I have my privacy. But there is obviously a conflict between my life as a musician and my personal life away from the stage. Lately it seems the more I express my private life the more damage I do to my music life.

I am a guitarist, bassist, singer, and percussionist. I am a composer. I am a recording engineer. I am an artist. I am a designer. I am a traveller. I am a friend. I am a son, a cousin, and a nephew. I am a skeptic. I am an atheist. Did those last two taint your view of all the previous ones? I wonder if there are some parents out there who would complain to their kid's schools if they new that the music teacher was using music in the classroom written by an atheist. Probably a few, never mind that I've only had instrumentals published so far and I wouldn't advocate atheism in a song to be bought by a school.

Still, I am who I am. People will either accept me or not. If you decide not to like my music because I'm an atheist, well, I can't change that. Music is music and I've found many religious songs beautiful. Especially in the classical world (like Ave Maria by Bach/Gounod). Creativity will find its way in the world, filtered through each artist's experience.

I think instead of separating the private from the public, I'm going to be bringing them closer together. Music is my life. I've never felt like I needed to do something as compulsively. I breathe, I eat, I play music. It's not something I can't do. I feel like I should focus on that and just shut up about everything else. I have to be 'me' to the fullest to be satisfied with my music. But music is not my life. I am more than just little black dots. I can't be creative without experiencing life. I think Neil Peart of Rush said it best:
Back in April of this year, just before the Snakes and Arrows tour, I did a TV interview for the Canadian music channel, MuchMusic. The cameraman placed the interviewer and me in the rehearsal hall, in front of my drums, where I had been laboring for several weeks by then. Some of the interviewer’s questions seemed to angle toward a certain starry-eyed view of my work, especially the touring side of it, and I tried to explain to him that I didn’t consider touring, or even drumming, to be my life.
He seemed perplexed, and to appraise me as clearly jaded and cynical, because his next question was, “When did you start to feel that way?”
I paused to think for a couple of seconds, then was glad to feel the mental light bulb illuminate a true and clear answer. I was able to answer honestly, “About a month into the first tour, in 1974.” That really was when I started to feel that touring was “not enough,” and turned to reading books as a way to make more use of the days and nights.
Partly out of sheer contrariness, but partly out of a desire for context, I often refer to playing the drums, with deliberate disrespect, as “the job”—hitting things with sticks. Obviously it means much more to me than that, and has been a central focus in my life. But still, it seems rather sad to hear anyone say that their work is their life.
Not family and friends? Not reading and writing? Not hiking or cross-country skiing or birdwatching or motorcycle riding or swimming?
Just work?
I don’t think so.
Thanks Neil.