A Devolution in Music

BrokenguitarI see myself as a musically-competent person. Nowhere near perfect pitch, but I can carry a tune in a bucket. Sometimes in even smaller containers if needed.

Throughout my life I’ve played a number of instruments, starting with the piano at the age of 7 and moving to other instruments as I got older. Although my piano career didn’t last more than a year, due to motivational challenges and a short attention span (which unfortunately never got much longer), I soon thereafter got steered in the direction of the violin by my parents. For a few joyful years, as I blessed them with sounds that be could be described as fingernails-on-chalkboard meets very-frightened-cat, I eventually learned to play well enough not to invoke facial expressions usually attributed nausea and facial paralysis. My parents rejoiced. As did most others forced to listen to my repertoire.

I played in a youth orchestra for years. People came and listened when we performed. They applauded. Sometimes loudly. No overly-ripe vegetables of any kind were ever thrown at us.

Progress.

As I grew older and more rebellious I eventually decided to move up to a classical guitar. Because, as everyone knows, very few things embody true rebellion as much as Bach on guitar,  I thought. My fingernails were grown out unevenly, on my right hand only, to achieve true tonal clarity when strumming. And although I didn’t stick with the classical guitar for very long, my true goal of eventually abandoning it for something louder and more ear-piercingly annoying was soon realized when I got my first electric guitar and amp combo. True to adolescent beliefs – louder was clearly better.

Together with a couple of my close 9th grade friends we set out to rock the school graduation. Summer was fast approaching and we had high energy, limited talent and only a few weeks to practice.  Still, in the weeks to come we did everything we could to achieve greatness.  I slowly learned how to master my newly acquired instrument and together we wrote songs named Death Blow as well as many others with equally menacing titles. The lyrics were not sung, but growled, in true death metal fashion. Singing, of course, required actual skill, which we at the time didn’t possess.

On the day of our graduation we took the stage as kings, only to be greeted with taunts, requests to play some random popular pop-songs and ridicule by the sometimes rowdy auditorium, filled with soon-to-be-ex 9th graders.  Their voices were immediately squashed by our mêlée of loud distortion, drums and guttural screams as we started working through our set.

Although one probably couldn’t consider our first gig a pure triumph (as most of the audience was bracing themselves in their seats, covering their ears while hopelessly trying to avoid permanent hearing loss), it did launch us as a band. We kept playing, added a couple more members and eventually evolved into a pretty decent grunge band. At the top of our game we even played some festival out in the Swedish countryside outside a neighboring small town that most people never even heard of.

Years went by and our ever-so-promising band eventually dissolved.

Not long after this, another close friend threw out the suggestion of forming a band. So we ended up pulling together a few people from all corners of the country to form a logistically-challenged band where I was featured as one of the less prominent members of an otherwise stellar ensemble (one of which went on to form this band, and is surely on his way to fame as I’m writing this). Songs were written. A demo was recorded, but never once did we manage to leave the comfort of the basement to actually perform in front real people.

More time passed, I moved to a different continent,  and my guitar started collecting dust. This, until just recently, when my former coworker asked if I wanted to join his newly created crew of, what I understood was, a collection of middle age musical novices, in which the most accomplished member was to be a programmable drum machine. I would join the lineup as the most skilled member. With years and years of relevant  experience under my belt I would hold a mentoring position, while the remaining members were to learn basic cords and play Should I stay or Should I go repeatedly until our ears collectively bled.
I don’t intend to sound ungrateful. I’m very excited to get back into the game, no matter what level we’ll be playing at. Truth be told, my technique has seriously deteriorated since the glory days of touring the festival circuit of the Swedish agricultural wasteland. Even the most basic cord progression will likely provide a challenge. And if I don’t keep up, the very guitar some people once used to say I was borderline-proficient at, will turn into a foreign object in my untrained hand.

Seeing as my musical ability keeps evolving backwards over time, my coming projects will likely consist of me playing chopsticks on the xylophone after which I’ll revert to war chants from the dark ages shortly followed by incoherent, semi-audible grunts.

I’ll keep you posted as my tour schedule gets finalized.

9 Responses to “A Devolution in Music”

  1. Kasia says:

    Don’t forget you were also famous in other countries. I still have the Hollow Ground tape in Warsaw!

  2. peteDog says:

    Very true. The fact that we were internationally known somehow slipped my mind. :)

  3. chan chan says:

    To back up Kasia’s claim of international success, you had a small but loyal fan base in California as well! A couple of those fans actually traveled to Sweden to see a Hollow Ground show in Stockholm.

  4. Jonas says:

    You’re too kind Peter, but Hello Confusion and I do appreciate the link love. :)

    Best of luck with your new musical endeavors!

  5. peteDog says:

    You’re welcome Jonas, I’m sending all 10 of my readers your way ;)

  6. Olivia says:

    Ahh the glory of a high school garage band. Et tu Pete?

  7. RP says:

    Hi there,

    The best of luck with your musical endeavors, interesting read!

    Keep up the good work.

    Thanks RP…

  8. Christian says:

    Halleluja! Finally the Jakubickian Harmonies will be spread over the world. If ever out of ideas, there are as you know plenty of awaiting blockbuster hits from your former carreer. Keep us posted and good luck!

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