THE UPSIDE with Shane Whitbread: CREATING SOMETHING AND TELLING HOW

The last couple of months have found me yearning for musical conversation.  The way the Sword conversation got kinda heated was fun, and everyone was respectful.  It was refreshing to have a discourse solely about the musical output of a band that didn’t devolve into pettiness or banal exchanges.  It made me remember that people used to have endless conversations about music that were civil; an exchange of opinion and knowledge.  Yeah, they could get heated, but that was part of what made them fun.

I spent my weekend recording leads for my band’s next release.  There are very few things I like more than studio time.  I love being in the studio.  It’s one of the rare times that conversation on music stays cover-highcountry-400focused.  You talk about progressions and parts, spend hours getting sounds and messing with pedals and amps.  You discuss the finest details of each change and each minor tweak.  Everything else that revolves around music is secondary; it’s just focused conversations about how to create something (I won’t call it art even though I think it is art).

I think we often forget that when discussing music, rarely do we talk about the structure, choice of drum fills and songwriting choices.  We focus on things around the music:  scene identification, politics of the band, the hype surrounding it, endless discussions on digital distribution and how it effects music and musicians lives.  We spend a lot of time talking about subjects that involve music and not the method or the technical side of making music.  Maybe this is a byproduct of social media. These conversations are way easier to have without alienating non-musicians.  It promotes communication and maximizes the amount of people who can interact.  It’s not that those interactions aren’t worth having, but goddamn it I miss the other side.  Yes, it is pretentious as fuck. Yes, we are looking at the work or theories of others as though they are under a microscope.  I understand it is pedantic and elitist, but Jesus can it ever be rewarding.  Sitting down with a group of people, slapping on a record and just talking about the process that went into creating it. Conversations about the production, or how awkward the chorus sounds in the third track. Discussing the choice of art work for the front cover and how it represents the album.  These sort of conversations, that are directly about music, seem to have died off in the last few years.  That could be age or lack of time, but even in areas where these conversations are possible, they just don’t happen or they are derailed and go off in an entirely different direction after a few comments.

I was driving back from a show in Montreal with Mike from Loviatar and we were kinda discussing what to put on and both kinda being dismissive of each other’s choices.  Post show, it is always hard to find something everyone wants to listen to, as there are so many variables involved (mood, how the show went, levels of intoxication are a few good examples).  We bicker for about 10 1363294138_936full-the-fragile-coverminutes and he puts on “The Fragile” by Nine Inch Nails.  I completely shit on his choice, and slam it and Reznor until he shuts me up by asking when I listened to it last.  Ok, it had been a while.  Like, when it leaked to the internet via wav. films on a newsgroup, sort of while.  Pre-Napster era.  He shuts me up pretty quickly by starting to discuss the songs themselves, the layering and the choice of processing and mics.  He got me involved in the record through rational conversation about it and stayed on topic.  Funny enough, I trace my willingness to listen to a lot of classic rock now back to this conversation.  I get that these sorts of discussions are exclusionary, but they are also one of the few opportunities musicians have to learn from their colleagues.  You’ll never have time to jam with all these people and discuss structure and parts in a small room as a unit.  Having a conversation about a record at least gives a glimpse into another persons creative process.  You begin to understand what they like and why.  It helps you to understand their playing and their method, and understanding how someone else does it has never made a person a worse musician. – SHANE