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Saturday, October 31, 2009

The 5th Season - a diary, Day 1

While writing this I find out that it is quite a little Lord Of The Rings what I wanna tell about just 3 days. Well it is indeed a 'shortened' version and I decided to do one article per day. But I want to bring this down to "paper". So, if you're really bored one day, feel free to actually read the whole thing. :-) Well, here it is:

Friday morning at 7 am. Into the car.
The box of Oktoberfestbeer is there, good.
Promised it to the regulars.
One hour later, at the other end of town we pick up Dario (aka ProgressiveLunatic, aka LordPL) and FluffyGuts. Could have been 30 minutes to go, but some Al Qaeda guy was mumbling something about not wanting beer and an Oktoberfest in Afghanistan, so half of the city, around the Oktoberfest, became a high security zone. We had to go a long way around that... Anyway, we're at the highway now.
At the end of the road, our road, a weekend with 15 progmetal bands and people from 15 nations are waiting! Though the line up is a bit weaker than on the last two festivals, exitement has already taken control over me.

Fluffyguts is a girl from Australia, she popped up at the ppe forum, looking for assistance to trip from Munich to ppe. There was a free seat left in our car.
Gerhard (gdantell) said he might show up on short notice when his business trip will allow it.
Robert (Atomic) was checking out if he could join some 10 days ago, but found out that he hasn't any more work-free days for this year. Bummer.

German highways are a mess, half of the entire way is under construction and it takes us more than an hour longer to cross the border at Roermond. We tried to avoid the Friday afternoon rush in Venlo and decided to hit Barloo from the south, and find the road to Baarlo filled with a massive traffic jam. We leave the road and take the long way around it, navigating with a map on my lap. That's not easy in the Netherland, they have a rather strange idea of where to put signs on the road and where not. If we had to rely on the signs I guess we would have ben completely lost. Fortunately the truck in front of us is from Venlo, and considering that it's Friday afternoon, we guess that guy is heading towards home. The roads we pass sometimes are so small and designed in a way that we're expecting a dead-end several times, even though they're labeled as main road in the map. We find a road sign that leads to Baarlo - thankfully.
It's a quater past four when we reach the castle, our accommodation. Casteel DeBerckt is kind of a hotel and they have a deal with progpower, everyone who orders a package deal for progpower also books bed and breakfast at the castle for a pretty fair price. And it is indeed 'bed', not 'room'. They simply fill their rooms with progpower people, noone has his own room there. If you come alone, you'll end up sleeping in a room with absolutely unknown people, unless you told the progpower staff who you wanna join rooms with. We did that.
When we enter the courtyard, a couple of black t-shirts are already there, sitting in a circle around some beer and an ipod with speaker application, with - of course - Devin Townsend playing. The regulars. When they gather, they are mostly always making a circle. They see us coming, with the box of beer, and welcome us, shouting out "It's the Geeermaaans", raising their beer cans.

At the entrance of the castle they have exposed a room plan this year, but the lady who welcomes us still is confused because Fluffyguts is in a different room than Dario and me. We help her in pointing at our names on the plan. I should mention that they don't have a reception at the castle, you just get in and wait on the corridor until some staff comes along. Something like the castle would be impossible in Germany, a hotel without a reception, only functional furnishing that lacks any kind of design, no bar. I know, Dutch hotels are different to the ones I've ever been anywhere else. But still, the castle is a great place.
Entering our room we find Gary (Cyberfloat) and Simon (jimmyjoint) hanging out, just as expected. The Brits always go into their room and only get out when they're leaving the hotel. Ok, Let's hug! It has been an entire year. Before I can pull off my jacket Gary is holding a bottle of Jamesson under my nose. Ah dammit, let the party begin!
Wait, six beds in our room? Weird... looks like they've messed up the reservation and we're having spare beds. And one window is broken. Wait... there were two people in the room, a window is broken, three empty bottles of beer at the table. Not two, not four, but three. Hey guys did you....?

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Identity Crisis

I've been thinking about my identity lately. Specifically, should I have chosen a stage name years ago when I started playing out after college? I'm not getting mobbed by fans and I have my privacy. But there is obviously a conflict between my life as a musician and my personal life away from the stage. Lately it seems the more I express my private life the more damage I do to my music life.

I am a guitarist, bassist, singer, and percussionist. I am a composer. I am a recording engineer. I am an artist. I am a designer. I am a traveller. I am a friend. I am a son, a cousin, and a nephew. I am a skeptic. I am an atheist. Did those last two taint your view of all the previous ones? I wonder if there are some parents out there who would complain to their kid's schools if they new that the music teacher was using music in the classroom written by an atheist. Probably a few, never mind that I've only had instrumentals published so far and I wouldn't advocate atheism in a song to be bought by a school.

Still, I am who I am. People will either accept me or not. If you decide not to like my music because I'm an atheist, well, I can't change that. Music is music and I've found many religious songs beautiful. Especially in the classical world (like Ave Maria by Bach/Gounod). Creativity will find its way in the world, filtered through each artist's experience.

I think instead of separating the private from the public, I'm going to be bringing them closer together. Music is my life. I've never felt like I needed to do something as compulsively. I breathe, I eat, I play music. It's not something I can't do. I feel like I should focus on that and just shut up about everything else. I have to be 'me' to the fullest to be satisfied with my music. But music is not my life. I am more than just little black dots. I can't be creative without experiencing life. I think Neil Peart of Rush said it best:

Back in April of this year, just before the Snakes and Arrows tour, I did a TV interview for the Canadian music channel, MuchMusic. The cameraman placed the interviewer and me in the rehearsal hall, in front of my drums, where I had been laboring for several weeks by then. Some of the interviewer’s questions seemed to angle toward a certain starry-eyed view of my work, especially the touring side of it, and I tried to explain to him that I didn’t consider touring, or even drumming, to be my life.
He seemed perplexed, and to appraise me as clearly jaded and cynical, because his next question was, “When did you start to feel that way?”
I paused to think for a couple of seconds, then was glad to feel the mental light bulb illuminate a true and clear answer. I was able to answer honestly, “About a month into the first tour, in 1974.” That really was when I started to feel that touring was “not enough,” and turned to reading books as a way to make more use of the days and nights.
Partly out of sheer contrariness, but partly out of a desire for context, I often refer to playing the drums, with deliberate disrespect, as “the job”—hitting things with sticks. Obviously it means much more to me than that, and has been a central focus in my life. But still, it seems rather sad to hear anyone say that their work is their life.
Not family and friends? Not reading and writing? Not hiking or cross-country skiing or birdwatching or motorcycle riding or swimming?
Just work?
I don’t think so.
Thanks Neil.