Playing with Fire: Creating Your Unique Sound.
On the side of a hill about an hour's walk north of the village of Cirali, in present-day Turkey, dozens of flames burn night and day, in dazzling splendor, from vents in the rocks that decorate the terrain. Yanartas, Turkish for "flaming stones" is a region that attracts thousands of visitors from all over the world each year, hoping to catch a glimpse of the mysterious dancing fires, to be a part of the myth. You may know this area better as Mount Chimaera, home to the Chimera in Homer's Illiad.
The fire-breathing creature has come to symbolize an idea, so real in its imagination, and yet unlikely or impossible in its conception. Like any artist, your aspirations have been called an illusion before, an unbelievable dream distant from reality that you must let go off, a flame you must douse. Defiant, as every artist should be, you trek along and continue to slowly develop that weapon which defines you in battle, for musicians that weapon is their unique sound.
As a bass player, I utilize the following equipment to define my sound: a Hartke TX600 bass amplifier plugged into two Hartke 112 Hydrives, a Keeley Bassist Compressor, an Aguilar Octamizer, and a Darkglass Microtubes B3K Overdrive. Each pedal carefully selected to match not only the musical needs of my group at the time but also to help define that sound which most represents my unique personality: straight forward, and conservative, with a few added layers.
Which brings me to the symbiotic relationship between a musician and their instrument, did I choose the bass or did the bass choose me? See when I was thirteen years old my father bought me a cobalt blue Silvertone Revolver electric guitar, which I never learned to play and barely ever strapped on, except for when I was pretending to be Kurt Cobain and having fake concerts in my parents' living room.
Fourteen years later a friend invited me to jam with his band, encouraging me to live out my chimera, he showed me three simple notes on the bass, and I played my very first song that night. Six months later, I joined my first band, and a month after that I played my first live gig at a local bar in Las Vegas. Unlikely as it all was it came true, and that is the point of this post.
Your instrument and your sound evolve with you, becoming a part of the personality that you let burn brightly each time you step on a stage. Your sound becomes the raging fire you use to fend off the naysayers, the sweltering heat that keeps you up at night finishing that song, or the light that guides you through your darkest moments.
Develop that sound, in your own time, with friends, with family, at home, on the streets, in your heart. Don't take anything for granted, each trial and error is part of the discovery. As time goes by, you will find that those flames which make you who you are, and those dreams which today seem so far away, are there, burning brightly and calling your name.
Yes, it has been thousands of years since as the myth proclaims Bellerophon flew over the mountains of Lycia, firmly sat on Pegasus, sword in hand, and slew the Chimera. Still, today the flames continue to burn, and people flock to the entrance of the temple of Hephaestus and make the one-kilometer hike up to the site to observe the lights and feel the heat of those things we believe to be impossible, of those moments that seem unreachable, of those dreams that burn for eternity.