This all started at school. Maybe.
I went to school with a group of pretty talented musicians, and was lucky enough to play in a band with them for about eight years. When they asked me to play, I was starting an undergrad degree in contempary classical performance at UWA. I had spent high school jamming with them and playing in the school groups, on a variety of instruments.
I had played the trumpet for ten years, from when I was a little tacker, but switched to tuba in year 10, because the school concert band already had enough trumpeters. Also, just quietly, I wasn’t very good at it. The tuba was bigger, louder, more unique, and much more bad ass than the trumpet seemed at the time. I look at the shiny silver Yamaha and Bach trumpets longingly in shops these days, wishing that I had kept both instruments up. However, it wasn’t really possible; the embouchure necessary for playing the tuba is much more relaxed than the what the trumpet calls for, and my tuba playing would have suffered (apparently).
After falling in love with twentieth century interpretive music, I decided that this was what I wanted to be doing. I auditioned and got accepted. Things were pretty awesome to start with too. The uni music library had some killer twentieth century material.The uni had a sweet tavern. It wasn’t until a few lessons from my tutors had passed and a few sit in sessions with the uni ensembles and such that I found out something pretty disturbing that killed my love of playing contemporary classical music.
You have to be an utter wanker to do it.
Now, that might sound like a pretty fucking obvious statement (and also a pretty sweeping generalisation), but let me quantify it. I had only just turned 17, and hadn’t really played in groups other than with my mates from school. Since I had only played music with people who were my mates first and musicians second, I had always thought that if you played music, you were cool and that was that. Encountering people who had only ever played by themselves, and were constantly told that they were musical geniuses, I was surprised to discover that not everyone who plays music is cool.
There were 125 students in the first year of the course. There were three that I could hang out with. I’m a pretty social person, so that was a big problem. I dismissed it at first. Then I thought about what I was doing this degree for. I wanted to play with big orchestras, and this was the quickest path towards success in that field.
But if all the people in those orchestras come from these sort of places.. then won’t most of them be wankers too?
I think it was the hardest problem I’d had to deal with in life up until that point. I had been planning the whole thing for years, and it all flew apart in the space of about two weeks. The only thing that was still going according to plan was the awesome little band I was in.
We played around town at venues like the Grosvenor front room, the Hyde Park, The Orient, Mojos, The Swan… you know, classy places. They even had beer on tap, that they poured into glasses, and exchanged for cash money. Amazing. We played some little band comps, and even won a few of them. We played the Next Big Thing, the Campus Bands comps, Gozzy Rock, and everything in between. It was a fucking laugh. I worked a menial but adequate job at a family law office, walking up and down the streets of the Perth CBD, delivering cheques and documents. I moved out with my brother to a craphole in Crawley. I drank too much, and discovered that life outside of school could be fucking fun, if a little rough and ready.
(don’t worry, I’m going somewhere with this.)
I was playing horn in the band, I can’t remember if it was trumpet or trombone at the time. We had recorded an album, which I wasn’t really involved with – I was away when they recorded the horn takes. We launched it at the Rosemount, and made enough money to cover our debts, which was fucking lucky really. I think it was seeing the relief on everyone’s faces after having a successful launch that made me fall properly in love with making music again. Before then, it was just larking about with my mates. After that first CD came out though, I started to wonder. Could I actually do this on my own?
Before picking up a trumpet, my parents took me to piano lessons. The Suzuki school, with electric keyboards, shakers and doe rei me. I can’t really remember if I enjoyed playing the piano back then. After I started learning the trumpet, my interest in the piano waned and I gave it up in year 8. By this time though, I had also discovered computers, and that you could make music on a computer quite easily. Early versions of programs like Rebirth and Fruityloops fascinated me, and I played around with them, learning how to use sequencers, and how to program synths. I bought my first real proper synth when I was 15, a Jupiter 4. It was a fucking beast, but jesus it was touchy. One of the oscillators was totally off, so when it was in polyphonic mode, every fourth note played didn’t do anything. Heavy, confusing (at the time), and broken, I only had it for a couple of years. It was enough to fan the flames of my imagination though.
Time passed, and while I was playing horn and cowbell and singing bad backup vocals in the band, I was also buying samplers, fucking around for hours and hours in FL, Rebirth and eventually Reason and Nuendo. I tried for years to make drum and bass, but nothing ever felt like it was working. The drums didn’t flow, the synths weren’t producing that bass-quake that I was hearing in Ed Rush and Optical and Teebee tunes at the time.
Maybe five years passed. I played with the band at bigger gigs, we did little tours down south and up north. We bought a bunch of studio gear and tried to record a second album. I think we were at the studio when a good mate of mine mentioned that Tom, a friend of his from school was an awesome MC. I found him on myspace, and immediately noticed that he was right.
Maybe there’s something in this hiphop thing, I thought.