I put this question to myself, and to several of my musician friends. My answer is something that is constantly evolving I suppose. Why did I originally start making music? This question has to be taken in several stages basically because there are several stages to my becoming a musician. I was born into a musical family and some of my earliest memories are seeing my grandfather playing, and hearing his booming voice while he’d rip it up on a pedal steel guitar. I can still remember going to visit him in the middle of nowhere and seeing stacks of instruments and music equipment just piled up around his living room. Outside his house there were old vans just lined up and broken down. They were all of the vans that he had toured around in over the course of his career.
Now this musical heritage didn’t directly push me into music. It really didn’t affect me at all other than entertaining me during my childhood at family gatherings. I didn’t get into music until long after my grandpa left the gigging scene.
It sounds stupid and rather “high school” at this point but it all started because of a Blink 182 song that I heard a long time ago. A friend of mine had just committed suicide and I ended up hearing this song by Blink that was about that exact topic and really reminded me of him. I became obsessed with it and listened to it over and over again. After a while I really started to shift from an obsession with the lyrics to an obsession with the instrumentation, primarily the drums. I was hooked in my the drums in that song and slowly they just started pulling at my senses. Before too long I had decided that I wanted to learn to play the drums on that song. To emphasize that point, I didn’t want to learn to play drums, I wanted to learn to play the drums on that particular song. What would happen after that was unforeseen and unimportant to me at the time.
But what did follow becomes insanely important as I look at the grand scheme of my life. I purchased a drum set off of some guy who had one sitting in his tool shed. It was an old Ludwig kit in a god awful gold glitter finish that was beat to all hell. He threw in some cymbals and hardware and I ended up getting it for a couple hundred bucks. Very quickly I hooked up with some other musicians and forced them to learn the very song that had driven me to playing the drums. Mission accomplished. But what comes next? Where do I go now? I did the obvious thing and started a band, then another, then another. I kept jamming with different people, with different styles of music, until I found what would be my longest running and creatively most successful band. This brings me to the next stage in my musical development, the guitar.
When you’re a drummer you’re constantly looking for people to play music with. Drums by themselves can get a bit boring. Also, living in an apartment makes it a bit difficult to play drums late at night. Because of these two things I decided to take on an instrument that I could play by myself and at any time of the day. Much like the first drum set, I opted for something cheap and dirty, a used Takamine I snagged for about $70. I slowly started piecing together chords, some of which I knew the names of, and even started learning a couple of songs. Being that I had an amazing guitarist in my band, my main focus was to be a good drummer, not guitarist. This led to me not spending a ton of time learning guitar and over the next couple of years it was a slow learning process.
Then came the crashing wave that transformed me from a drummer to songwriter. The band that I had helped build for many years finally broke up in a wonderful explosion of built up anger and some other emotions mixed in. In the process I managed to lose the majority of my friends as well which added to the spice of it. When the dust had settled from this, I had such a bad taste in my mouth regarding drums that I pushed them to the side and picked up my guitar. Over the next few years I would get them out every now and then and jam with various people but it was always slightly tainted. Finally I packed them up and they stayed that way for many years. That is when I I really started focussing on writing songs, which were at first all about the emotional struggles of the time. I had lost a band, a brother, and a mother all around the same period of time, as well as dropping out of college. I pretty much changed the entire direction my life was heading, and while I was at it threw a guitar in the mix.
Now I’ve been writing songs for several years, I still play drums, and do vocals as well (for better or worse). I like to think I’ve developed a unique sound (again for better or worse) and I dig my own music which is about as much as I ever wanted from it. So why do I make music? I gave a history lesson in the world of Fathomless Regression but didn’t so much answer the question. Through all of the changes in style, instrument, location, and bandmates one thing has remained constant. A need for a creative outlet. It was once filled by visual art for me, then by writing, and now by music. My favorite quote ever is “play it loud enough, it’ll keep the demons at bay.” That’s why I do this. I’ve got too many thoughts buzzing in my head to be taken on at once, and music is a way to drown them out for a bit, and focus in on just one idea. Art was originally my way of doing that, then it lost its effectiveness. Then it was writing which lost it’s effect on this as well. Eventually I imagine music will lose the battle as well and I’ll have to move on to another medium. Until then, as long as it’s winning the fight, that’s why I play.
A response from another musician that I posed this question to:
I was born to make music. My mom
>> tells me when I would walk around the house at a really young age,
>> singing to myself. I think there is always some sort of melody
>> running through my head, even when I sleep. When I’m sad, I make
>> music. When I’m happy, I make music. When I’m lonely, I make music.
>> Mostly I make music for myself, but I’ve found that music is a very
>> unique gift I can offer to loved ones in times of despair.
>> ~ Joe