When I was younger — back when woolly mammoths walked the glacier fields — I wanted to be musician. I suppose everyone entertained that fantasy at one point or another in their lives, but I was willing to go a step further. I actually purchased guitars and amplifiers and bass guitars and drums for, from my family’s perspective, the purposes of making their lives rich with music or at the very least incredibly loud and annoying. Around the time I graduated high school, it was my father calling the local police on his son’s band that was playing in our garage. A few years and several band lineup and instrument changes later, it was my band, Medium, playing at full volume in the basement of my house with my infant daughter napping just above us in her room. Yes, both of these things happened. I’m not making anything up.
At present I play guitar, bass, piano, drums and noodle around on nearly anything musical that other folks let me touch. I even sing, depending on who you ask. I listen to an incredibly wide range of musical styles because various sounds and melodies serve such a purpose as to resonate in different parts of my psyche. Rock, pop, thrash, rap, techno, cathedral chorale, progressive metal, reggae, grindcore, classical, deep trance, bluegrass, Broadway, and even a few country songs sprinkled in; music can convey emotions and ideas that simple words cannot. Music is the thread that holds the diversity of myself together and forms unspoken bonds with other people, be they friend or stranger.
All that said, it really should come as no surprise that my children are musical as well. My daughter, while never truly inspired to play an instrument, has a breathtakingly diverse musical taste. It probably rivals my own. As 2016 has been the year the reaper appears to have gotten sick of musicians, the tears that flowed from my daughters eyes with Bowie and Prince were taken from us were very much genuine and heartfelt. My boys, who I used to refer to as Distract and Destruct (Noah and Victor), are much more hands-on. Both of them play piano and have years of lessons to back that up. Noah takes after me; he’s more of a player who listens and plays songs on guitar. His graduation present from his mother was a Les Paul. The reason I say he takes after me is that he doesn’t read music much. He’d much rather play by feel. Victor, by contrast, has always maintained a healthy understanding of sheet music. This isn’t to say that he lacks feel — he plays the violin beautifully. The Ex got him an electric violin for his grad gift.
Both of them are also heavily involved in composing for video games. Indeed, their understanding of composition is so beyond me. That isn’t jealousy so much as admission of facts. The collective time they have invested in their respective projects can probably be measured in months. Proud Padre moment (indulge me)… Here’s Victor’s SoundCloud and here’s Noah’s SoundCloud.
I can’t help but draw comparisons to what all they have accomplished with my own adventures in the music biz. After a while, I begin to sound like the Grumpy Old Man on Saturday Night Live. (If that ancient pop culture reference isn’t ironic, I don’t know what is.) Back in my day, we didn’t have fancy websites and apps that not only assisted in composition, but even the storage of our music with the world at out fingertips to distribute it. The internet was still in its infancy and the album I recorded in high school is still on two-inch magnetic tape somewhere.1 It’s also worth nothing the hundreds of ideas that never made it beyond of scraps of paper and Perkins napkins.
As my boys edge ever closer to graduating high school, McNally Smith College looms just over the next rise. These guys are 18, have each already written full soundtracks to video games, and they haven’t even touched their true potential. That fact is simply amazes me. I just want to rearrange my basement, get some old musician friends over, and jam with my boys before they’re both too busy and/or famous to have time to do so with their old man. I think I now understand why Eddie Van Halen was so gung ho about getting his son in the band.
1. [Yes, these tracks have been converted to digital media. No, you cannot listen to them and laugh at me.]↩