Saturday, July 13, 2013

The Hobbyist

I've been brewing up a few articles on "clusters" of bassists and pivotal albums from brief time periods (Like 94-95'). There is a lot of good musicianship that was deserted when Grunge or Rap Rock decimated the scenery like a bad Godzilla picture!

Stay tuned in the next week and in the interim, check out my articles on and look in the staff section for: Tim Risser (that's me!). Below is a "reject" of mine that I thought would fit better here than for their awesome site.

*And keep playing the bass because it gets lonely sitting in the corner...

Imagine this: YOU ARE THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES. You get up every morning at 5am (that’s being generous) and you start your day--- your hectic non-stop day! Amidst the signing of legislation, meetings with the higher ups and sending texts to the first lady (you know he does!); he has to find some time for himself. We all have hobbies and ways to release the pressure and in his ‘free time’ (ha!) Mr. Obama enjoys reading, golf and oh yeah- BASKETBALL!!

So like anyone with a busy schedule, the president does find ways to let off steam and do some of the things he loves. And he enjoys music…

As you rifle through Obama’s IPod you’ll find icons like Stevie Wonder and “The Boss”, there’s a nod to contemporary with Jay Z or the fundamentals of jazz like Coltrane or Miles Davis. Well rounded and culturally diverse and not a trace of Judas Priest or Slayer! But that’s probably in his CD collection…

Not every politician becomes president, but here’s a secret they won’t tell you: all of them desire the highest level of political success and power that they can attain. If they tell you otherwise then they are…well, a politician!!

The echelon of musicianship with respects to fame and integrity hold all kind of players in various degrees of fame, fortune and critical grandeur- all of these jockeying for position or choosing a-la-carte. Some artists exchange critical success for monetary gain with no real intention and others look for the rainbow and make adjustments to get there. I could poke a few holes in here and name-drop but one look at the Grunge movement and the subsequent fleecing of Drop-D guitar riffs left many palates a little dry. And you get the point.

So set in your mind for a moment that you’re only allowed one: fame and more money than you can make use of or playing for the love of it with all the accolades that follow in its wake. Most bands with critical success will say that they are glad they stayed the course, while others would have given an arm to get the kind of unlimited wealth that some musicians/artists achieve. And then there’s the “hobbyists”.

If you’re like me and you have given “it” a shot, then you are probably in a very silent majority. The low (or no) paying gigs, the label giving no support- if you were “lucky” enough to get signed, endless gigs with a dozen people standing indifferently at the bar, viewing you as background noise to get drunk to; and let’s not forget the countless hours of rehearsal.

No one said it’d be easy-- but really, does it have to be this hard??

Zzzzzzz… you still with me? Admittedly, I started writing about music and bass playing because at my age, there is absolutely no way I can keep up with the digital age of playing in a band, hunting down gigs on Craigslist and well, playing in front of a dozen people again! I’ve been there and done that, and writing is an independent venture and more rewarding because you can’t see if only 12 people read your article. Paying your dues has a particularly harsh definition when you are watching a handful of people sit at a bar exchanging Jager shots, as you bleed onstage and open the void that was once your soul. Even golf is a satisfying hobby compared to that- and you’re not trying to make a living doing it either!?!

Wood-shedding in your early days as a musician had so much value because you are initially doing it to satisfy yourself. And then one day you see a music video of a band looking cooler than you could imagine or walk into an amphitheater to see an ageless icon like Rush and you think that:

You are capable of anything!


     Mr. Writer sir, could you please define: Anything??

The “hobbyist” has no limitations and the ‘spirit’ of music has nothing to do with radio anymore; or a ‘record deal’ or even getting into Spin magazine! None of those things are relevant at all in this day and age.

What it is relevant and significant is what trajectory a person follows to get to where they are satisfied with the course they followed, regardless of success and an endless flow of publishing royalties. Here are a few lessons I learned along the way, the hard way:

  •   DIY is the most important acronym you’ll ever know. Forget WTF, because that will come later out of frustration. The most important thing to remember as a bassist, playing and writing in a group, is that no one gets a free meal. Work hard at the basics, know the guitar player’s chord progressions and learn where to fit within the groove. Make the drummer your best friend! 
  •  Wear your humility on your sleeve. This is self-explanatory but here’s an example: If you’re playing on a show with numerous local bands and you are one of them---- make friends and kill them with kindness!! Then destroy them onstage with all you’re musical skills and stage presence & showmanship! Nobody forgets an awesome performance, and foul attitudes, ego and bravado will just get you run out town.

·     The landscape is different than it once was. There will probably never be another Grunge, College Alternative, Early hip-hop or Nu-Metal explosion. Never again will we see the mass success from the ground up by artists like R.E.M. or Wu-Tang Clan, with record labels outbidding each other for their services and a mass underground following that would eventually evolve into millions of fans worldwide.

Use predecessors as a reference point--- avoid being derivative, earn your originality and stick to doing what you love. Here comes my lesson of the day, or lifetime, depends on how long you suffer for your art!? Play with conviction--- its either going to happen or it won’t! You can’t shape music fans predilections; only influence the opinions of those who care for what you’re offering! I loved that I got even a small taste of the success that was hard fought, creatively honest and not easily forgotten. 
                                                              Well, not forgettable to me! 


                                                                  GET A REAL JOB!!!


My “hobby” of writing has exchanged hands with my love for playing music and given me a real creative outlet. And yeah- you’re damn right I still play the bass every single day…

Love what you do.

*The comment section at the bottom is where you tell me I reek, or that you think I'm neat. Use your freedom of expression!! Suggestions mold the process...