土曜日, 5月 29, 2004

Are you experienced?

"no, man. this negative energy just makes me stronger. we will not retreat. this band is unstoppable. this weekend, we rock portland! yeah!!"
cliff poncier of citizen dick
singles, dir: cameron crowe [1992]

i wanna be a rock star. please note the said term wannabe.

since time immemorial i’ve had that wish that i could play the coolest guitar riffs in front of a crowd. perhaps not madison square garden but a dingy rock bar would do. in fact i wished i was good enough to join the school kugiran when i was 17. but then i’d just picked up the guitar (thanks to my teacher, a then 13-year old called trabye). And also, i was shy. haha. that’s a good starting point for that elusive formula to be that rawk gawd. damn. i wish i had taken mama’s offer to learn an instrument that day in 1979.

if playing air guitar was the thing to do in front of the bedroom mirror, my ‘air guitar’ was a real electric, bought when i was in the first year of med school. i had either ‘enter sandman’ or ‘smells like teen spirit’ on that rickety hitachi mini-compo, and off i went. that compo also doubled as the amp.

riffs a-blazing you wonder? you bet. in my wettest dreams.

my first experience playing as a live musician whatsoever was at the medics’ revue. i was a band member, happy enough to be on rhythm. the finale was a parody of ‘grease lightning’, which required a blues solo in A. the bassist was a pretty decent guitarist, but as he was keen on playing the bass in that number, he wondered if i could pull it off. he just wanted some little rubbish in A, and it didn’t have to sound like jimi. my heart sank as i told him that i couldn’t. you’d think by two years one could at least doodle a little ditty at the 12th frets by then. uh uh. not me.

i stayed on rhythm guitar that night.

it made me realise I couldn’t just go on with the blinkered view that i can play power chords forever without learning some simple licks. but i felt that i wanna. it was my comfort zone. or perhaps i was just plainly apathetic. or even genuinely not having the commitment. blame it on the textbooks.

i had a little solid state fender amp and a dod tube emulator stomp box at that time too, which i bought it third hand off a mate of mine. i continued to play stuff from the black album, but i was ecstatic that my repertoire had expanded beyond that of ‘sandman’. Soon thereafter, i had jumped on the alternative bandwagon, playing songs by nirvana and other bands of their ilk. apart from the fact alt-rock has become a more popular rock art form, i naively felt the music was ‘easier’ to play.

it wasn’t until i had my own hard-earned cash after graduation that i decided to buy a nicer guitar (my first black epi strat copy was retired back in kl by then). i bought a strat on the cheap and started to play a little bit more seriously. i was getting better at my rhythm chops but i dared not tread into the realm of scales. it wasn’t by this time my playing abilities improved pretty much exponentially. i’d have to say in the early days prior to even holding an electric, there were some simple facts about the electric guitar that i just got to grips with (pretty much embarrassing but we’ll leave that story for another day. i can see imran rolling on the floor in tears).

as the years ensued, i bought another guitar, marking the beginning of what musicians call g.a.s. (gear acquisition syndrome). buy now, think later. the bane of many a guitarist’s girlfriend/wife. still a bedroom player. still no opportunity to play in a band.

there is simply nothing wrong with being a bedroom player. i bet all the greats had to start somewhere. clapton admitted in an interview that he once played air guitar as a kid before his grandparents gave him his first guitar. as i was so much into playing tunes from my ever-growing cd collection, writing stuff was (and still is) alien to me. i thought to myself that after learning loads of other people’s stuff, i’d be able to churn out some tunes of my own. but every time i try to come up with something, i’d end up sounding like someone else. a recurring problem when one is one’s worst critic.

when i started to mix around with some people in birmingham and sheffield who were also into guitars, i had to opportunity to jam on a regular basis. this was a perfect opportunity to improve as my playing was open to criticism by my peers. and i had no problems with that.

most importantly, i now had the chance to finally realise that dream of playing live.

since i did not have any original material, performing cover tunes or playing as a tribute band was my forte. it provided this cheap thrill of pretending to be pearl jam or whatever band we were trying to emulate and paying tribute to.

some may ask where is the soul in that?

i think there is always soul in playing any kind of music, may it your own or someone else’s. does one accuse john mayall of having no soul when he and clapton covered robert johnson’s ‘rambling on my mind’? or led zeppelin when they played willie dixon's 'i can't quit you baby'.

i won’t even attempt to put myself or the bands i’ve been in on the same pedestal as these giants. but it provides me great comfort to know that with every single applause from the crowd (no matter how apathetic) during each single gig performance (no matter how lacklustre), the music (no matter that they are covers or not)that we played had succeeded in some little way to touch someone.

now for me, that is soul.


Blogger The Neon said...

RIKI KACAU AH! Jelir2 lidah konon! Block aku dari the camera's view je! Siouttt!!!!

Blogger cicatrizRG said...

bro, everything u wrote is SOUL! what else do want?..

imran, how the heck should i know? was it u? i thought t'was someone who played 'even flow' on 'C' progression... couldnt be u, eh?

Blogger cicatrizRG said...


Blogger The Neon said...

Hahahahaha!!! I did that, didn't I?

"One, two, three... "

*Whole band masuk*

But something was slightly off. Something sounded sour. Everyone was trying to figure out, 'What the hell is wrong with the song?'

Tengok-tengok bassist tengah fret note C.


Blogger Trabye said...

"... my first experience playing as a live musician whatsoever was at the medics’ revue."

Hey, what about the PPP dinner where you played bass, remember? Susu was on vox, Bunkeye on rhythm, Chair on lead and Nik Azli on drums... Hotel California, was it?

Blogger kudo said...

hey, damn right you are! how can i actually forget! thanks for reminding, man. will blog on the old days soon, with pics. watch this space!



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