I first legitimately played a guitar in high school, sometime in the mid-1990s. A friend of mine had brought an acoustic guitar to school for some kind of talent/show-and-tell kind of thing, and I remember being quite impressed. I’d never really had much interest in learning any kind of music instrument up to that point, except for maybe the drums. However, drums had three issues: s p a c e, price, and loudness. Unfortunately, they required too much of each.
The guitar, on the other hand, was much more accessible. It was smaller, could be purchased cheaply (although my first, from a JC Penny’s catalog, was definitely purchased too cheaply, i.e. it came with a big crack down the back and I didn’t use it for long), could be transported easily, and could be played quietly, given proper technique. Convincing my mom to let me enter this new world was not difficult, as there was musical instrument experience in our family, even if no one played much of anything during my childhood.
When I first began learning my way around the ol’ guitbox, I did what most people do: I tried to play my favorite songs. This was the tail end of the grunge era, so I tried to learn every Nirvana (easy only once I could do barre chords), Pearl Jam (moderately easy rhythm, but difficult leads), Soundgarden (so many tunings!), Alice in Chains (moderately easy), and Smashing Pumpkins (octave runs, woo) song I could. Thanks to my dad and uncle, I also delved deep into the 70s and 80s big guitar stuff, like Zeppelin, Van Halen, and Guns ‘n Roses.
How did I learn to play the guitar, though? I played obsessively for hours every day. I used the Internet, in its nascent days of OLGA and random websites, and got tablature of songs I wanted to learn. I joined a local church’s youth group and learned how to play with other people. I entered the back catalog of guitar virtuosos like Joe Satriani and Steve Vai, futilely trying to emulate them, but still being inspired to be better. Eventually, after playing other people’s music for several years, I started to formulate my own.
Awakening may not have been the first song I ever tried to write, but it was definitely the first riff I really remember working on and thinking “Huh, this is cool.” It felt really awesome to have created something of my own. It felt powerful. It was distorted. It was a glorified C#sus2 chord with a moving bass note! But it was mine.
The song had no words, and I didn’t yet consider myself a “songwriter”, because songs have words, right? Thus, I was, at best, a creative guitar riffer. I could put a few together, use something like Cakewalk to layer them into tracks, and fake a band out of it. I was a musician, even if I didn’t know it at the time.
Years went on, and I slowly expanded both my abilities and sensibilities when it came to making music. Badly-recorded guitar onto a tape deck turned into badly-recorded guitar onto a computer. The software I used went from simple audio recordings roughly arranged in time to full-on digital audio workstation-facilitated orchestrations with virtual instruments and samples. 25 years on, I now have many GB of virtual musical tools for making anything from string quartets to rock operas to electronic dance tunes. Once all kinds of sounds became possible, improving from general MIDI instruments to Soundfonts to paid-for samplers full of well-recorded live instrument samples, I became just as interested in all parts of the sonic spectrum, even if my default “sound” still probably spawned from the 90s alt rock scene.
It’s now the tail end of 2020. I am almost 40 years-old.
I am no longer a high school kid living with his parents, feverishly wailing away on a six-string for hours every day in my room, after discovering what was to become a lifelong habit.
I’ve been married for over 10 years. I’m living in a house I co-own, with my wife, 5 year-old daughter, and 9 year-old dog named Penny.
Solo-wise, I’ve created and publicly released forty-one collections of music, be they full albums or EPs or what have you. The genres range from instrumental rock to vocal pop rock to EDM to ambient to video game remixes to chiptune to a fully-arranged orchestral symphony.
The problem with being nebyoolaeous is that while I definitely have a recurring fascination with music that has a groove, regardless of the instrumentation, the different ways I go about it makes it hard to pin down exactly what I “sound like”. Trying to think of a single piece of music that answers the question of “What’s an example of a Nebyoolae track?” makes my head explode a little.
Lately, I’ve been segmenting myself, trying to come up with different “voices” or “personas” for the different styles I’m interested in. It seems like the only way to really do the things I want to do, no matter the style or genre or instrumentation I want to use at the moment, and not just put everything under the umbrella of a username I chose when I was a teenager that I’ve kept for 25 years and don’t want to give up.
Here’s what I’ve come up with:
- Nebyoolae – the granddaddy of them all. Essentially, from now on, I tend to only release something using this name if it’s instrumental…something or other. Rock, dance, etc., if it’s just instrumental, then it goes under this term.
- Fench – my made-up pop rock band that has lyrics and singing. I’ve only released one album, so far, but I have two more in the pipe. I think I might want to re-record, or at least re-release, a bunch of vocal stuff that was tagged with Nebyoolae as Fench.
- Massive Battery – my odd electronica outfit, only using Native Instruments’ Massive for synths and Battery for percussion. Oh, and loads of vocal samples. Become a Dance Master, ya’ll.
- Fly Like Venus – my current band. I play rhythm (and sometimes lead) guitar, and I contribute to songwriting and vocals. It’s a group effort, so it’s in its own little world.
- Jasper Crabbyhat – my one-man kid band inspired by Caspar Babypants. I know, I know. I have an album in the works, regardless.
Hopefully, I will continue to make music for the rest of my life. I don’t think this will be difficult to achieve because I essentially have to make music every once in a while. It’s an urge, a compulsion, a way of life. It’s a necessary way to express myself, whether anyone but me ever listens to anything I make. Thankfully, many people have listened to what I’ve made over the last couple decades, and it’s always nice to get feedback, good or bad.
My musical style may be hard to pin down, and I may have to create more personalities to encapsulate all it is that I do, but that’s just the drawback to being nebyoolaeous.