Hearthstone
Influences
My musical influences are broad and ranging. Maybe it’s from having an adventurous spirit, and not being afraid to give something new and different a try. I am really not sure because there really wasn’t anyone in my family with a lot of musical experience.

In listening to instrumental music, a lot of it doesn’t just grab you and will take some acclimation and patience before you feel what is being conveyed. This being especially true of instrumental music.

Some music takes time or even multiple plays to appreciate. Some music can grow on you slowly and take time to warm to be it instrumental or lyrical, while some music will hit you, or just agree with you more quickly.

I wasn’t raised in a musical family or anything; I didn’t even really listen to much music that I can remember. Most of my exposure would have been to the current hits from 50s, 60s and 70s radio I would pick up in my mom’s car. I used to love to listen to her sing from time to time as we were traveling down the road just listening to the peace and calm in her voice.

As children, my brother and I never got to choose to watch much television either. If I was at my grandma’s house, I would be watching The Lawrence Welk Show followed by Hee Haw. That kind of stuff will teach you some patience. Music featuring banjos, upright basses and accordions take a little getting used to as a child and so maybe that’s where some of the patience involved in listening comes from.

The earliest inclination for creating music I can remember was to sing and improvise simple lyrics and melodies about my mom and dad while trying to keep myself entertained.

I took basic music courses in grade school and sung in a couple of choirs but nothing much else really. That was normal as it was a parochial school though. I started off in X choir and graduated to Y choir or some such thing by singing a song with piano accompaniment.

A couple years later in fourth grade my friends and I would talk a lot about our favorite bands Kiss and Rush. We would also fantasize about starting our own rock band one day.

Eventually I inherited a stack of LPs and 45s and I was able to start playing them and getting an indoctrination into a little American music culture. It was a mixed bag of stuff from Chuck Mangione to the Carpenters.

The first piece of music I ever purchased was an Eagles’ 45 record with “Heartache tonight” on one side and “In the Long Run” on the opposite. I loved the seventies pop and commercialized music then, and I have to admit that I still do. I even like disco for the good rhythm and movement.

I was first interested in learning to play the drums when I was ten years old or so but my mom wasn’t having it, so at about fifteen I started getting the idea that I could play the bass. There were probably a couple key bands at that time that made the idea of playing bass interesting such as Duran Duran and The Cars, not to mention the Police.

Some of this stuff is kind of hard to admit because it also involves your adolescence and role models and things like that. That time in my life had the effect of testing my courage and my character. Picking up the bass was kind of a brave thing to do for someone that never played an instrument before I thought.
But I became thoroughly convinced that I was going to play the bass, and Sting of The Police had inspired me to do just that. Sting had a huge impact on me as a teenager at that time and he still continues to impress me from time to time.

I can clearly remember listening to the song from Ghost in the Machine’s “Spirits in the Material World and hopping around my bedroom while plucking away on an imaginary bass on my hip. My brother was there watching as I proclaimed that I was going to play bass.

So I definitely cut some big-time, musical-listening teeth with the Police. Not so much with the bass playing though as it did with the singing. That album set me on fire. So I began obtaining all five of their albums on vinyl. I listened to them constantly trying to understand what it was that was happening with their evolving sound.

Rush was always around growing up, but once I was introduced to the albums 2112 and A Farewell to Kings I really started evolving into a different kind of a player with more fervor and energy. Geddy Lee was to take over as my next biggest influence I would say at that time for me. That all happened in a short time while I was still in Illinois about to move.

I had no sooner moved to Florida in the middle of my junior year of high school, than I was into my first collaboration as a bass player and then into several other bands. They ranged from rock to Heavy Metal and eventually some of the “hair” bands and playing lots of cover material. I was popular with my newly found bass prowess and joined a couple of rock and metal bands playing out sporadically and then recording in three different recording studios.

Prior to graduation from high school I was introduced to improvisation. Be it some form of jazz, blues or even tribal rhythm we would get together and just jam together and make a lot of really cool stream of consciousness stuff happen. We would even get together whenever we could if we wanted to play badly enough with whatever was available as instruments and equipment.

I can remember times that we would even get two basses together and improvise that way. There were many times like that with another bass playing friend.
It must have been during these times that I was most likely steered toward jazz and jazz fusion than at any other time. Together with being at the School of the Arts, I know that after reading about what happened to Jaco Pastorius in a magazine article I was inspired to learn more about him and Weather Report.

Drummers like Omar Hakim, Peter Erskine and Don Alias all came from those roots.
Other bassists that were making instrumental albums of their own became fascinating to me. Players like Jaco, Stanley Clarke, John Patitucci, Anthony Jackson, Marcus Miller, Stu Hamm, Jimmy Johnson, Tony Levin, Mark King, Gary Willis and Jeff Berlin were mainstays in my tape or cd player. Victor Wooten came onto the scene much later with the Flecktones.

John Scofield made a huge impression on me also at about that time. The list becomes numerous with the six-string players but names like Pat Metheny, Mike Stern, Al DiMeola, John McGlaughlin, Alan Holdsworth, Scott Henderson, Jeff Beck, Bella Fleck, Eric Johnson, Steve Vai, and Joe Satriani top most of the guitarist names that I was interested in. I later discovered Terje Rypdal as well as many others too numerous to mention.

I never really delved into any other brass players unless they were string players other than Miles or Michael Brecker. But once again, I think a lot of that has to do with the ever present guitar sound and influence over the composition. Miles had four guitarists that I can rattle off quickly, the other one I haven’t mentioned is Hiram Bullock. Not sure how Stanley Jordan fits into all this but he sure was a force to be reckoned with as well. I’m sure I will continue to remember more of them as I go.

Other groups like King Crimson, Yes, Emerson Lake and Palmer and Styx have had influence on me as well in major ways and I still love listening to them today. Trevor Rabin and Rick Wakeman of course have made their musical soundtrack writing contributions as well. As an aside but very relative is the music of Bill Bruford and his incredible contributions.

This isn’t all an exact order of influences but throughout these times I also began listening to more instrumental piano and meditative new age music type stuff like a lot of the music that comes out of Wyndham Hill recording artists like Michael Hedges who I have had the pleasure of meeting.

The tribal tech influences along with Weather report had made me more interested in music like this. Chic Correa Return to Forever Band and the Electric band out of that, Jan Hammer ballads and even more jazz influence from Gary Burton are a good range of examples here.

The music of Frank Zappa is a little tougher to measure as far as its influence due to the lack of consistency in genre as he was always delving into something more and more eclectic as time went by. I suppose his orchestrated album the Yellow Shark and Jazz From Hell would have to be about the best example I could recall in this overall picture.

Eventually I was introduced to some things like Ravi Shankar and Philip Glass as well as a myriad of movie composers that I quickly became fond of like James Horner, Hans Zimmer, Allen Silvestri, Thomas Newman and numerous others that I was studying.

Danny Elfman, William Orbit and Stewart Copeland are artists that appeal to me as they were once pop musicians and somehow turned into major composers also. Not sure how that all sits with other classically trained musicians and composers but it’s the truth.

If you have any questions I would be happy to answer them for you with an email. Thank you for reading.
Initial Post
I began buying equipment back in December for this project which I am now working on and trying to finish, which is the album or cd. At this point it is looking like it may be all instrumental but that’s ok for now. I don’t want to force anything that isn’t really needed. It is my feeling that music can be just as engaging even without vocals if its done right.

I bought a Roland VS 880 portable home studio that was a little tricky getting to know how to use. The interface is really hard to read and the navigation isn’t all that easy either. The best information I found on it was actually from a few video tutorials that were posted by Roland on Youtube. Let me just say that the guy in the video made it look a lot easier than it actually is.

I was beginning to learn but it seemed to be less than optimal. One of the biggest problems I had was getting my mixdown recorded onto something that I could listen to it on that was portable like a file for a computer.

To make a long story short I finally took the leap and bought myself a digital interface for the computer and walla! Everything changed pretty quickly. It even came with the software necessary to record the instruments and equipment I had just bought from a friend in a package deal.

So, at first, everything seemed so stagnated that I almost felt overwhelmed. Now I had to learn how to use the software that came with the interface. I had never recorded myself digitally before. I was still old school and definitely not in ‘the Know’ you might say.

But after a couple months of recording and experimenting with the new stuff I began to make little breakthroughs which were actually felt huge to me at the time. Little editing procedures and copying of loops and what not made my life a lot easier now. I thought it was really funny once I figured out some of these things because I was kind of panicking with a lot of different issues and in other ways I still am, but at least I know that i can figure these things out eventually.

I have material written, recorded and arranged now and am able to feel like I can relax a little bit, sit back and enjoy the writing and recording process. Neil Peart said it best ‘The point of the journey is not to arrive,’ and I am really enjoying this journey now.

It’s more than just the decision to do something you really want; it’s the courage and the faith in oneself to continue on until it’s done and you can see it through, but only if you take the action and the necessary steps. It’s all about doing.
I’ve been planning and dreaming all my life and so now it’s more than appropriate to finish what I started a long time ago. And it’s funny as things progress, some things are more difficult than I expected or realized, while some of the other things which seemingly should have been more difficult, fall right into place. That’s when I laugh out loud no matter how late or early in sheer amazement!

But it can be lonely as well. I have had to isolate myself in order to think and do things in order to avoid distractions. I’m sort of an isolated person to begin with so that part of it can get to be too much sometimes.

The main reason I’m doing all of this is so that I can share with other people who I am and where I’m coming from. Another reason is to promote my ideas and exhibit my skills. Moreover though I simply enjoy doing it and I hope that some people will enjoy it just as much as I do.

One of the biggest struggles which continues for me now is how to find the right balance between what I produce which people will enjoy and also what I want to create for myself that I will also enjoy. I think as long as I satisfy both conditions then I should be successful. The only problem is that I will produce everything and it will be final before most people have a chance to hear much of it. That is why I have been very open and have asked my friends and other musicians to critique some of the work as it’s being developed. I haven’t gotten as much feedback as I would have liked either which surprises me. I figure people either don’t know what to say or they flat out just don’t want to hurt my feelings.

I guess that’s about it for now. I feel like I am getting tired of sitting at this laptop which is what I writing and recording the album on.

It’s mid-July now and I would say that the album is about mostly written in terms of content. I am now adding bass and guitar leads to give more context to motifs and refrains, and textures to the frames and structure of the rhythm and percussion. I purposefully left things in a simplified or a basic state so that I wouldn’t have to commit too early, also leaving myself with options not being sure if there would be any vocals.

I feel strongly that I am more than halfway there with the album content, but in terms of getting an overall sound quality and production I am satisfied with, I am more concerned that things are lacking and am trying to make corrections. Its coming along though and I am more and more pleased all the time. It’s definitely a learning process and has been personally enriching.