Q&A #26: Todd Casey

 

Todd shares his journey as a painter, how running helps him work out problems in his painting, and the importance of not putting a timeframe on things.

 

 

Leigh Lim: Hi Todd, thanks for taking the time to do a Q&A! While on your site, I noticed that you have some prints for sale. Did it take awhile for you to decide how your paintings are going to be captured as images as well as the printing process?

 

Todd Casey: Hi Leigh, thank you for taking the interest in interviewing me. It did take me a while to make the decision to sell prints. It’s a new venture and a few people had shown some interest so I figured why not.

There is always something lost in a print as in relation to the original. Its one of the reasons that held me back from making them earlier in my career. I also feel that I have something that is marketable in drink painting and cheese painting. Who doesn’t like wine/beer and cheese?

In terms of how it was captured, I’ve been able to find a few photographers that do a really good job of getting the color and subtleties in the photos. The paper that the images are printed on is a good quality thick paper so it lasts.

 

 

LL:  Why do you think you do the things you do?

 

TC: I feel that if my paintings can touch one person in anyway then my job is done. It is my intention to give the world something beautiful and add to it with great things. In the words of Thomas Mann “Be ashamed to die until you have scored some victory for humanity.” or of Neil DeGrasse Tyson “I fear living a life that I could have accomplished something and didn’t.”

 

 

 

 

 

LL: Can you give a quick summary in terms of how you got to where you are as a painter?

 

TC: My artistic journey of how I got to where I am now plays out like a long novel. To sum it up, I started out at Massachusetts College of Art in Boston MA where I got a BFA in Illustration. I then moved to NYC to pursue a career in Illustration in which I failed miserably. I then decided to go back to Graduate school and enrolled at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco where I majored in Animation.

I wasn’t satisfied so I found myself back in the Illustration Department where I met Warren Chang. This led me to move back to NYC and pursue studying under a master painter and found one in Jacob Collins.

 

 

 

LL: Sounds like it took awhile for you to find ‘the painter you’.

 

TC: It did take a while to find that I wanted to be a painter though I probably would have taken it up in college had they offered a program where I would have studied the figure instead of abstract painting.

 

I initially went into Illustration because I wanted to do paintings like Norman Rockwell and Illustration seemed to be the only place to do stuff like that. Little did I know that illustration had evolved into more of a super stylized art form or something that was closer to design work.

 

I’m glad that I went through the illustration and then the animation to get to painting though as I feel I was able to pull all that knowledge into painting. I was able to also appreciate all forms of art as well. Too often now I will meet a painter that is so narrow minded its kind of sad. I love all forms of art, even abstract art but it just doesn’t mean I want to do it.

 

 

 

 

 

LL: Is there a Connection between Warren Chang & Jacob Collins? (Even not directly…did meeting Warren Chang steer your towards finding Jacob Collins? Or was it more the move to NY that triggered the events? And Warren was able to give you a different kind of insight?)

 

 

TC: There are multiple connections to Warren Chang to Jacob actually. I took Warren’s class in grad school called Heads and Hands. Its an illustration class that they make the animators take so they know how to draw.

 

Both Warren and I have a love for Rockwell so we would just talk before class began and after about art and names. The method of drawing that I was learning seemed like a long time to do one drawing and I remember him saying “If you think this is long, check out Tony Ryder, they take 60 hours to do a drawing” and that concept just blew me away as we were doing a 3 hour drawing and I was amazed.

 

 

So that conversation kind of opened the book for me to start looking around. We continued to talk before and after class and he also loved the work I did in his class. He was the first to bring up the names Jacob Collins and Max Ginsburg. Being a good student, I wrote them down in my sketchbook and looked them up. I was definitely fascinated by their work.

 

 

Months later I had moved back to Massachusetts to take the summer off from grad school and was staying with my parents. There was something about grad school that made me not want to go back. One was the idea that I had changed my major from 3D animation to 2D animation and then to Illustration within a year. I didn’t feel focused and I couldn’t understand why a school would allow this to happen. I also didn’t want to walk out of grad school with a huge amount of debt. I decided to take time off of grad school and move back to the east coast.

 

So, I did this big cross country trip with my buddy I met in grad school. Our plan was to make it back to San Francisco to get our stuff and move to New York but along the way visit as many artists and their studios as possible. It was quite the enlightening experience. Warren was one of the artists that we visited and he gave us a bunch of names to look up, mentioning studying with Jacob again.

 

When I finally got back to NYC and settled in, I emailed Jacob. He emailed me back in like 10 minutes, it was really bizarre. I interviewed for his school and then he sent me on a mission. (The story continues into the next question)

 

 

 

 

LL: How did you know that Jacob Collins was the person for you?

 

TC: When I interviewed at Jacob’s studio he greeted me at the door. I thought he was a student because he looked like a big kid but I said, is Jacob here and he said yep and said come with me. Then I realized he was Jacob.

 

Jake’s studio was in the back of the school which was in the garage of his carriage house on the upper east side of Manhattan. During that walk through, there were about 15 students standing around a model painting the figure.  Each students painting was so good, I knew right there that I wanted to do this. I figured, even if I was the worst student in this school, I’d be super happy.

 

 

When we got into the back where his studio was, he asked me a lot of questions. He challenged me to ask why I wanted to do this, who I had studied with. I showed him my work and he was not impressed but he said something like “eh, there maybe something there”.

 

So, he sent me on a mission. He said, go study at the Grand Central Atelier with either my student Nick Hiltner or Camie Davis. Do a cast drawing and show bring it back to me when you are finished. I called the GCA that night and enrolled in the night class.

 

It was crazy, it was every night from 6:30 – 9;30. I remember walking in to a full room of students (of all ages) and looking at their drawings. I asked a ton of questions like how long did this take you to do, and what materials they were using etc. What blew my mind was that they all were working on one drawing for about 3 months.

 

Initially I was like, yeah this may not be for me but I figured why not give it a shot. I thought there would be no way in the world I could draw a plaster cast that slow, what were they doing with all that time???

 

 

But Camie was a fantastic teacher and she really got me to slooooow down. As each day went by and I did the drawing, I started to see how this could be the foundation for what I had always been looking for. This was the link to that Gerome painting “L’Eminence Gris” I had seen in my undergrad at the MFA Boston. So, I just took my time and did the drawing at the pace that Camie had guided me through.

 

 

I was happy with my drawing and I let Camie know my intentions. She gave me a recommendation email to Jacob and we scheduled a second meeting.

 

 

When I showed up for that second meeting I had a bit of confidence. He asked to see my drawing and I showed him. He wasn’t overly impressed with it though. All I kept thinking was: ‘What was he seeing that I was not and how can I see like him?’.

 

The second interview seemed to be going terrible in my eyes. He was asking how old I was and then he would say that I was kind of old to start this, that you have to really want to do this and that it takes 10 years to build a career as an artist. He would look at my work then go over to his email that I sent with the images I sent. He was making sounds like he wasn’t’ sure what to do.

 

 

It was a Friday and he just said, “show up on Monday with a pencil and paper.” I remember saying: ‘Wait, What? Am I in?’. He said yes, show up with a pencil and paper. And that’s where it all began. Honestly I felt like someone kicked me in the balls and then gave me a prize. I felt so indifferent about the whole thing.

 

 

 

 

LL: Looking at the time you’ve invested in those two degrees, can you see now how both have helped shaped you as a painter? (you wouldn’t change a thing? Or if you would have a chance to tweak a few things…you might have just gone straight to private lessons under someone like Jacob Collins and skipped doing both degrees)

 

TC: I wouldn’t do anything differently honestly. I love all forms of art and I had the chance to try them all out. I almost double majored in Illustration and Graphic Design in undergrad because it’s so hard for me to just pick one thing. Although, studying with Jacob in those early days of Water Street would have been nice.

 

Just to clarify though, I did not finish my Master Degree program. I only have a BFA, I’m about half way through a Masters program.

 

 

 

LL: Do you have specific books that you keep within reach that you regularly refer to?

TC: I love to read and always have a few books that I’m reading. My top 3 that are always are in reach is The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo, The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell and A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle.

In terms of art books, I always have Emile Friant, John Singer Sargeant and Andew Wyeth close.

 

 

 

 

 

LL: Are there any challenges that come to mind during your learning process?

TC: I am always challenging myself as an artist, I’m never at rest. As I feel I gain a new skill I’m always looking to build somewhere else. I’m always doing portraits from life because I feel that as an artist it is probably the hardest thing to do. It took me a while to get good at them. I’m still learning though and continue to always try to keep my sword sharp.

 

 

LL: If you were to put together a ‘learning plan’ or practice pack for someone who has yet to attempt to craft their first painting, so they could have the capacity to paint at your level and skill. What would it look like? (Would you want them to go through the same journey as you did?)

 

TC: I would let them know to take it slow, very slow. I think that the journey is the best part of any goal that you are trying to achieve, although the end is always nice. When I found Jacob Collins he told me it would take a good 4 years of just study under him and then another 6-8 years to build my career. It didn’t phase me as I knew.

 

 

 

LL: What does building your career mean to you?

TC: The idea that it takes 6-8 years to build your career is a bit arbitrary and organic. Some artists catch a break right away and some have to build their careers over time. I’m not looking to get into a big gallery but to get into the right gallery for me. Some of the bigger galleries have so many artists in them. I’d rather be in a smaller gallery that promotes my work, more of an intimate experience. But, some people feel that if you are in a big gallery then you made it.

 

At this point in my career its about making the right moves and building relationships to push my career forward. A lot of decisions in art are risky like entering competitions but sometimes they help you. You never know where you will be planting a seed so I always give something a shot.

 

 

For instance this past year I became a member of the Salmagundi Club. It’s a lot of money to join, 750 dollars a year. But, it’s a prestigious club that has been around a long time and there are many shows that you can be in as a member where they award prizes. Its definitely a lot of money for an artist, I’m still trying to figure out if its worth the money though.

 

I do think that finding the right gallery to promote your work is key to a successful career. I am blessed that I found a great gallery and great family in Rehs Gallery. They are a family and they are all about having a personal relationship with their artists. I go there so much that the front desk guys calls me one of the Rehs.

!!!!

 

 

LL: Artists are known to be very protective of their work. What would you say to someone who can’t seem to let go, and share their ideas/work — while it is in progress?

TC: That’s hard to say as I share all of the stages of my work. I love to pass knowledge down to anyone that is interested. I get the reason that an artist would want to stay protected. I think that giving students all of the answers at the beginning of their career could be detrimental. I think the journey is really important for any student.

 

 

 

 

 

LL: Would you say it was discipline that got you to where you are as a painter?

TC: I would definitely say that it is the discipline that got me to where I am. I always say that its like the movie “The Shawshank Redemption” when Andy says that he is going to dig his way out of the prison and Red says “It will take a man 600 years to dig out of here.” So later on in the movie we find out that Andy did it in about 20 or so by being patient and just chipping away piece by piece at the stone.

Patience is a big part of getting to our goals as well. Take the time and set realistic goals and also be relentless.

 

“I remember thinking when I got him that gadget back in ’48 that it would take a man six hundred years to burrow through the wall with it.” (Link to Shawshank Redemption Film / King Novella)

 

LL: It’s interesting that you used that term (relentless). Was it something that you had to build on? (I sense that you’re the kind of person that knows what he wants, and will keep going for it. Which might have made it easier for you maybe to say: ‘nope..this isn’t for me’ when you were going in the direction that you thought wouldn’t bring you closer to where you wanted to be as an artist. Do you feel like there is little room in your life for discouragement? Because you know it would be so worth it to be on the right track again?)

 

TC: I’m definitely into the idea that slow and steady wins the race. We are an ADD generations now with instant gratification. I think that really taking the time to slow everything down is key as it helps you to really focus on the things that you really want, not just something that instantly gratifies you.

 

I took time away from art to really think about if I wanted to do this or not. I decided to just kind of walk away from it for a while to test myself, see if this was a thing that I loved or something I had been pushed into. The good news was that after taking that time off, I just had to come back to it. I knew it was my calling. So, here I am.

 

I think that discouragement is part of being an artist. I think to a degree we all are trying to change and morph, to grow in thought and also art. The unhappiness is sometimes a fuel for the growth. I think that the artistic journey is in all of us, we just have to go along for the ride. As Joseph Campbell says, “We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us”

 

 

 

 

LL: How important was it to have someone help you learn a specific technique?

TC: I feel strongly that the Academic approach to painting was what I was searching for the whole time in my career as when I found it I knew I that this was what I wanted to do. Jacob Collins’ method is based off of years of traditional that go all the way back to the Renaissance and peaked in the French Academy’s in the 20th century.

For inspiration I still keep in touch with all of my old instructors and visit their studios or speak with them on the phone frequently.

 

 

LL: What are your guidelines to joining artist societies? (You mention that you had recently won gold at the Allied Artists of America, and was wondering if you limit your memberships — and even limit the contests you join annually. If you’d like to also share how the gallery fits in all this — maybe there have been times that they have suggested you enter your work to be considered for a specific award)

 

TC: I try to support the societies and organizations that I feel are doing the right thing for art. I’m not a fan of organizations that feel like they are money making endeavors. My gallery, Rehs Gallery is behind me building my career through these organizations as well. Howard Rehs is always open to lend me a painting for a show at one of these organizations he knows that awards and recognition will help me build my career.

 

 

 

 

LL: Favorite time of the day to work?

 

TC: I’m a night owl so I always work best after the sun goes down. If I could I would start at 8 every night and paint until about 4 am or longer.

 

 

 

LL: How much do you plan before you start a project? (Or the main things you bring along with you when you are working on a project when away from your favourite working spot? For example, if working with a client there’ll be lots of sketches, nothing digital yet, vs if you were just doing a project for you, for someone to invest in — or pieces to go on sale to the public.)

 

TC: I feel that painting is visual poetry so I let the ideas and come to me and then come to fruition when they are ready. One of my paintings took 5 years in the making to have it all come together and be ready to paint. You never know and I hate to rush any painting.

 

 

 

 

LL: Can you tell me more about that painting? (is there a link to a publicly accessible image? If not you can mention the instances when you spent time on it, and knew that it wasn’t quite right. Then the difference when it was)

TC: I feel that paintings should come together when they come together. I hate the idea of doing a painting within a deadline although sometimes I have to. Working out a good idea takes time and to make a story feel rich and authentic is the key. Whether that takes a day or 5 years or anything in the middle, I like to let the seeds sit and come to fruition naturally.

The painting that I referred to was the painting “The Shamrock” that I did in 2014. The idea began when I was working at Ralph Lauren and saw this beautiful blueprint of a yacht on the wall. It was just stunning, there was something about it. So, I had asked my boss if I could borrow it for a painting and he said yes of course.

 

Then later on that year my brother got married in Nantucket MA. My wife and I toured the island and when I was in the gift shop I spotted a model yacht so I bought it. Sometimes I’m looking for objects to compliment an idea and sometimes the ideas just come out of where I visited or what I saw. When I got home I put the two together but it just felt staged. I wanted that story, that authenticity to the image I would create, that wonder of what is this? That was in 2008.

 

I left it alone for a couple of years but it was still there in the back of my mind. Along the way I had come into some beautiful old books and also a compass. The books were from my wife’s Aunt who had passed away but it felt like it was complimenting the story and the scene I wanted to create. Around the same time, my wife’s grandmother had given me her old box of paints from about 1970 that came in this beautiful box.

 

All the elements seemed to be coming together. I began doing a few studies to see what the big image would be (6×8 small paintings). I really wanted to develop this character so I added a stack of letters I bought off ebay and set the scene up as if the character was writing something to someone, perhaps a loved one. The glasses and the binoculars acted as an idea of searching for something.

 

 

 

 

LL: How long would you say it takes, for you to complete a painting?

 

TC: My small paintings, around a 6 x 8, take me about 3-5 hours to complete. The bigger stuff takes a lot more time and planning, anywhere from 40-80 hours. The small paintings I always feel are just beautiful little studies that don’t tell a big story. The larger paintings however are always about a story.

 

 

LL: How would you describe your style?

TC: Realist Painter

 

 

 

 

LL: What are some misconceptions you find about you as a painter? (particularly by other painters. You could also mention some misconceptions that people have about artists in general — which have been directed at you.).

 

TC: I would say that some big misconceptions are that artistic ability is born naturally, that I was born with this talent. To a degree I feel that there has to be some drive inside you that makes you an artist, a different view of the world.

BUT I would also say that from a technical stand point anyone could get good at this. What you have to say is just a different conversation.

 

In Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Outlier’s” he brings this up, that the idea of genius is a bit of a misunderstood concept. I believe that if you keep working at something you will be good at it, to some degree. And if you do it for a lifetime you will separate yourself and master that thing. If you put love in there with that thing you do, that is even better!

 

 

LL: Are you learning something specific at the moment?

TC: I always feel that I’m pushing towards new ideas and directions with my work. I feel good about my technical ability but I am never satisfied with where I am. Lately I’ve been working on putting a narrative in my work so it’s not just a painting of a thing. I try to create a character and put elements around that would support the story.

I’m also reading a lot of classical literature that can add to my stories. In addition, I love science and I would love to bring some of that curiosity into my work.

 

 

 

 

LL: Can you share three approaches you take that helped you become a better artist? (can be in your work when teaching too — or even reading a book that doesn’t have anything to do with painting!)

 

TC: One approach that I took to becoming a better artist is to not put a time on anything, to take things as they come and to stop comparing myself to others. Another approach is to be relentless and just keep working on your craft.

I feel that a lot of artists are interested in the field but give up to easy. If this is the thing that you have to do and it makes you happy then you will keep doing it. The last would be to be inspired by all the arts and be open-minded. I have met way too many artists that only think in one way and don’t appreciate all of the arts. The world is your oyster as an artist.

 

 

LL: What usually is the sign you look for that will give you the signal that a piece is finished?

TC: It’s always hard to tell when a painting is done. One thing is to step back and say “is this what I envisioned” and if that is a yes then maybe you are done. I don’t have a physical checklist or anything, I just let my feelings tell me when something is done.

 

 

 

 

LL: What’s your go-to set-up when painting? (You can be as detailed as you want! You can even share your set-ups for previous work. For example, if it is a particularly busy month, you might work on doing the base of the design…then build on each element as the month goes on. I appreciate that on your site you’ve shared a bit of your process. Is there anything else that has changed from that set-up?)

 

TC: I love dark paintings with a pop of color. The dark background usually makes the color pop even more. As for objects to paint, I usually go with whatever touches me deeply, perhaps on a visceral level.

 

 

LL: Did it take awhile for you to settle on the kind of set-up that you like?

TC: My setups are always based on a visual poetry of objects. Typically I have one strong light source, objects that interact and complement each other but always a strong sense of design. Eventually, I am going to try to work more with a cooler light source to make it feel like I am painting from natural light. Natural light is usually a little less dramatic and the colors tend to be cooler.

 

 

 

 

 

LL: What’s part of your arsenal at the moment?

TC: I don’t use all that much technology in my process. Normally I will do a drawing for a painting and then I scan it, and blow it up to the size I want to transfer to canvas. Other than that, I do tend to create fake vintage items. Mostly because they cost way too much, so I will print them out and doctor them to look older than they are. Same with the drink painting, most of them are coca cola or water instead of mixing a cocktail.

 

LL: Do you have a piece of equipment (or software) that you thought was a good buy at that time, but you eventually didn’t use it as much as you hoped?

 

TC: The only technology I have is a bunch of different lights that are warmer or cooler and wider so smaller than what I use now. I use the computer to scan and print out a drawing to scale. I’ll sometimes doctor things in photoshop but that’s about it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

LL: Have you been always mindful of ergonomics while in the process of finishing each of your pieces?

TC: I wish that I cared more about my posture while painting, haha. I do exercises outside of painting as I play basketball and run a lot. I find that running helps me with working out problems in my painting, it really helps me stay focused as they complement each other.

 

LL: Equipment Maintenance and Storage? (Is there a specific part of your kit that you are extra careful in transporting and handling? If you own a Mac, there is a saying that Mac users tend to clean their computers more often…so it’ll be interesting to hear your response about that!)

 

TC: Haha, I do have a Mac but I don’t clean it all that much.

I clean my studio all that time, it’s actually a routine that I do almost every day. I don’t try to ever hide the fact that I’m a painter and sometimes wear my painting clothes out to dinner with my wife (where she always says, why are you wearing that?).

I’m also really bad at cleaning my brushes at all. If a brush is bad I throw it away but sometimes it becomes a new tool to paint with. I love accidentally finding new things out like that. A crappy brush could come in handy sometime in the future!

 

 

 

LL: Goodness! So…instead of the bits of paint that gets stuck in your fingernails (and maybe some bits that gets missed on your hands and arms), you opt to wear the clothes! Is this ‘Rebel Painter Todd’? (‘Painter Represent’? Or could it be a mindset thing? The clothes build the mindset? So when you’re back from dinner, you can go straight to being a painter?)

 

TC: Haha, my idea of clothes are more about comfort.

 

I am not a fan of faking who you are or even hiding what you do. When I was at Ralph Lauren they were all about wearing these fake costumes and pretending to be a certain kind of person. I don’t pretend to be anyone other than myself. Sometimes the shoes of a fisherman can tell a story in themselves of where the person had been.

 

I am who I am, I don’t hide it and I love what I do.

 

LL: Any learnings you’ve picked up through the years when transporting your work?

TC: I hate transporting my paint gear but it’s always worth it to get a good painting. I often go into New York City to paint the model with other artists or at the Art Students League. It’s always a pain, my gear is big and clanky and I try to be as small as possible but when you have about 20 tubes of paint, brushes, turpentine and also an easel, that is a lot of stuff.

 

 

 

 

LL: Do you keep some of your originals either on display on in storage?

TC: I normally send all my work to my galleries. However, I do have a few that I will never sell because they mean too much to me. I have a still life in my living room of all the elements from where I proposed to my wife in Bermuda. I could never sell it. If paintings sit at the gallery for too long, sometimes I’ll just take them back and put them on my wall or move them to a new gallery.

 

LL: I notice you don’t put watermarks on the photos you share of your work. Is that because you’re just trusting that people are inherently honest? (and if someone does try to pass your work as their own — it would be quite difficult to do?)

 

TC: Great question, honestly I don’t think all that much about it though. There is just a huge difference between an original oil painting and a digital representation of one. If it moves someone to download it and put it on their desktop then by all means they are welcome to.

 

 

 

 

 

LL: Can you share a bit of background on how some of your paintings came about? (You can choose your own, though I’m particularly keen on hearing about: ones that you haven’t done an entry about! Also you can include a bit of your ‘subjects’ — are they items on loan? Do you specifically seek them out?)

 

TC: A lot of my paintings come out of a song, a book or an idea that I’ve been pondering for a while. For the painting “Another Story”, I was obsessively playing the album by the Head and the Heart and was just captivated by the song with the same name. I try to paint what I feel though so it’s not just a literal translation. It’s my own poetic interpretation of the song.

I hope when someone sees the painting that it makes them feel the same way that I do when I hear the song. Almost all my props are bought as I mostly paint from life. I like to spend time with the objects and study them. The violin for “Another Story” was bought on craigslist for like 100 bucks. I bought the violin way before I liked the song and then it just all came together, though they used their violin as a fiddle in the song. I would listen to the strings in the song, which are a minor part of the song, and then it just kind of all came together. The background was from a palette that I had out by the shed for over a year that I pieced back together. The elements just all came together and it just felt right.

 

LL: It’s the first time for me listening to the song. And after looking at your painting, then watching the lyric video, somehow the line: ‘Can we go on, as it once was?’ jumps out. Would you say the painting is representative of you wanting to always have a place to find shelter (when life gets crazy)? (You mentioned that the background was from a palette that you had out by the shed that you pieced back together. It reminds me of a desolate but peaceful place…with a shed with a similar palette, that I could stare at for hours…and just feel…safe, and peaceful. Kind of like staring out into the ocean, and instead of the smell of the sea, you smell the foliage nearby. Maybe more like a cabin in the woods…where all the people you love are gathered.)

 

TC: Yes, a lot of the lyrics in that song ring true for me. I do think that the song brings peace to me. When I’m inspired by a song I try to capture the mood of the song and how it makes me feel and then convey that into a painting.

 

I try not to over think it or be too literal, though it got a bit literal in this one as the song has a violin that is used perhaps a bit more like a fiddle.

 

 

 

LL: Have you ever considered selling the elements and the painting as a package? (For example for ‘Another story’ — maybe not all elements…just the violin…or even the palate you stitched together as a separate item.)

 

TC: I have considered selling some of the elements though most objects that make it into a painting are very special to me.

 

I don’t know if a collector would ever buy the object and the painting though, it would definitely be a new spin. Although, I’m sure a few of the commissions that I’ve done for friends or clients are hanging near the object of theirs that I was asked to paint.

 

 

I did a painting named “Birth of a Kamikaze” for Howard Rehs as a commission from his wife for their 30th anniversary. Howard absolutely loved the painting and still tells me all the time to paint more like it. He loved all the props and asked what I was going to do with them so I gave them to him. I think he has them set up under the painting at his home.

 

LL: What approach do you find is the best way to serve your clients?

 

TC: I like to work with a client to find out why they want me to paint the thing they are asking for. From there the best I can ask for is a collaboration of ideas and not to paint what they want. Then I usually will do a poster study or two (small oil paintings sketch) of the setup.

 

I’ll show it to them so they can see the composition and color and if they are good with it, then I’ll pull the trigger and go for the big painting, or whatever size they want. Sometimes its as simple as sending them a photo of the setup to have them approve the composition and elements in the painting. Sometimes its even the client saying you paint me what you would like, so it depends on the person. (I have examples if you want any small poster studies).

 

 

 

 

 

LL: With your website, what process did you go through?

 

TC: I used to design my website as I know some basic HTML coding. I like to present myself in the spirit of what I imagine. I did this for about 12 years but it got to be too time consuming so I now use a template driven site.

 

I like it way better now as I have more time to paint and its easy to upload images.

 

LL: Are there questions you find yourself answering multiple times?

 

TC: Here are a few commonly asked questions:

When do you find the time to paint?

Where do you want to go with your artwork?

How do you choose the things you paint?

 

 

 

LL: Do you have a regular schedule of posting blog entries?

 

TC: I actually gave up on posting on my blog. I wanted to offer something to an audience about learning but found it to be too much about me. I love to offer my work to the public and share art but blogging felt a bit egotistical. I’m not one to talk about myself unless its for an interview. Although, I love to tell stories and give anecdotes for others to learn from.

My newsletter is aimed at building an audience that is really interested in my work. That ranges from collectors, students and family. I find that if you take the time to sign up for my blog then you are really interested in what I have to say.

 

LL: Were there instances when you hesitated about posting something?

 

TC: I normally take a day or two to write a post. I reread it like 50 times and then have my wife read it. She’s my proofreader and editor as she is way better at writing and grammar than I am. She did not edit this interview though, haha.

 

I am always open to ideas about what to add or take out of a newsletter though. I’ll always ask my students or family what they thought of my post. Critical feedback is always important.

 

 

 

 

LL: What’s the one thing you have to put time on —- but have been putting off?

TC: I definitely have to clean out the basement of my house! I also need to work out more. I kind of brushed working out to the side when I started my atelier training.

 

LL: Are you currently mentoring someone?

 

TC: I work with 3 students that live in my area. We meet every month to work on still life paintings as a group. They have grown over the years into better painters. I prefer to work in smaller groups and I am always in contact with them.

 

In fact, one of them is more like a second mother to me. She is always helping me with my career and suggesting me to do things here or there and is always telling all of her friends how good of a teacher I am. She offers me to teach out of her studio, its really a blessing to have met her. She found me about 3 years ago when I was in the Artists Magazine.

 

She saw that I was close to her and asked if I would teach her privately. So, I said sure. We talk, text and are always in touch.

 

I also have a student come to my house 2 times a week for private study. In addition, I teach workshops in my area regularly.

 

Happy Inktober! #pen

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LL: What do you do when you come across something that annoys you?

TC: If it is in a teaching scenario or painting scenario I’m always one to try to fix what is wrong. Painting is challenging and if the light stinks or there is something off, you’ll constantly think about it and it on your painting being back.

 

 

LL: Are there certain things you can’t help but ‘geek out’ about?

TC: I have an addictive personality (as my wife says). When I get into something I usually immerse myself in that thing. Most recently it was reading books by Joseph Campbell, then it was the books of Neil Degrasse Tysone (and lectures) and now its Michio Kaku.

 

I’m always searching for a good album that will just suck me into it, though it’s been a while. The Head and the Heart was the last album that did that. I listened to that album for almost a whole year, every day (I know that sounds nuts).

 

In addition to loving music and to read, I love to watch sports. If my teams are doing well I put everything aside to watch them. It’s kind of the only TV that I watch but I do watch 1 hour of TV with my wife a day. We love CSI or shows like that.

 

#rehs #reflectingthereal #rehscontemporary #stilllife

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LL: Got any peers you’d like to mention?

 

TC: I’ve always been fascinated with Eastern culture and thinking. I think because I’ve grown up with western culture and thinking. I don’t look too much at what the contemporary painters are doing, I’m almost always looking back.

 

Today’s art is lacking spirit (in my opinion) and also the technical prowess that all the 19th century French guys had. Not to generalize as there are some great contemporary painters. If I could I would study with Odd Nerdrum or something as his approach to painting is much different than mine and he also paints his subconscious (being a big fan of Carl Jung).

I also have to mention that I meet up with one of my best friends quite often to talk about everything. He is a poet named Jose Canon. We talk about books that we are reading, politics and everything. We always exchange books when we finish reading them.

 

LL: What were the last 5 things you pre-ordered?

TC: I never pre-order anything but here is the last 5 books/dvd’s I have ordered:

Michio Kaku – Beyond Einstein

Michio Kaku – Physics of the Impossible

Neil Degrasse Tyson – Death by Black Hole

Wilhelm Hammershoi – Hammershoi and Europe

The Teaching Courses – Philosophy as a guide to living

 

 

 

LL: Are you a big listener of music? (You mentioned one of your paintings being inspired by a track you listened to. Does your music library reflect your work? In a sense, maybe you can grab random albums from your collection and bring it to the gallery, and somehow…it would fit? Can you share some of the artists that you absolutely dig, and are surprised that others in your circle haven’t heard of? songs/albums that you cannot get enough of? Or maybe if you were to pick a track/album for someone to listen to while viewing your work? Alternately, you can also share things you like reading about or listening to —- or even your favourite non-musical artists: painters, dancers, sculptors, poets…)

TC: Yes I listen to a ton of music. I’m always looking for something that will just catch me and suck me in. sometimes it’s a lyric, sometimes it’s the mood and sometimes it’s the album.

It’s a fun idea to bring the music to the gallery but it would take a joint effort on their part to want to do that. Most galleries don’t have music as it may get distracting when a collector comes in to buy art.

Here is a small list of artists in no particular order:

 

Radiohead – In Rainbows (Nude, All I Need, Reckoner) also  Decks Dark off the new album

 

The Head and the Heart – Lets be Still (10,000 Weight in Gold, Another Story, Gone)

 

Matisyahu – King without a Crown, Got no Water)

 

Gipsy Kings –  Greatest Hits (Bamboleo, Baile Me, Volare, Djoba Djoba)

 

Wu Tang Clan – Enter the 36 Chambers (Tearz, Clan in the Front, Wu Tang aint nuttin to F wit)

 

Delta Spirit – Bushwick Blues (EP Version), Salt in the Wound, Streetwalker, Strange Vine, Hold my end up (acoustic)

 

Guster – Keep it Together (Come downstairs and say hello, Long way down, I hope tomorrow is like today)

Beck – Sea Change (Golden Age, Guess I’m Doing Fine, Lost Cause, Ship in the bottle)

 

The Killers – Hot Fuss (whole album but love All these things that I’ve done)

 

The Shins – Wincing the Night Away (Australia, Phantom Limb, Sea Legs, Black Wave, Split Needles)

 

Jack Johnson – In Between Dreams (Whole Album)

 

Tchaikovsky – Sleeping Beauty, The Nutcracker, Swan Lake

 

Yo Yo Ma – Bach Cello Suites nos. 1, 5 & 6

 

 

IamamIwhoamI – Bounty (Y)

 

 

 

Bjork – Greatest Hits

 

Kings of Convenience – Riot on and Empty Street (Love is no big truth, I’d rather dance, Homesick, Cayman Islands)

 

 

Live and let die #fineart #vanitas

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LL: What are you reading at the moment?

TC: Michio Kaku – Beyond Einstein

Robert Frost – Selected Poems

Joseph Campbell – The inner reaches of outer space

The Origins of Species – Charles Darwin

Space Chronicles – Neil DeGrasse Tyson

 

Bill Nye – Undeniable

Caveat Emptor – Ken Perenyi

 

LL: Do you go out of your way to discover new things?

TC: I love talking to people about their top 10 lists. Books, Music, etc. I don’t go out of my way to look too much for books and such. Just like art, I like to read the classics. If I go to a bookstore I usually sit in the café and draw the people while I drink coffee.

 

I would love to hear your list of books and music though.

 

 

 

Editor’s Note: Prepping a link to list of books and music (TBA!)

 

Globe with books, oil on linen. #oilpainting #stilllifepainting #stilllife

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LL: In what way do you approach motivation and inspiration?

TC: Painting can be tough at times. I like to go visit an artists studio and just talk with them or see their work to get inspired. Art inspires me but not just art. Listening to lectures or intellectual conversation motivates me to read more and dig deeper into my artwork.

 

If I can’t find an artists studio to visit I will go to a museum to see an old masters work or a show that is coming through the city.

 

LL: What makes you smile?

TC: I love romantic comedies on television. Any time they are on I’ll end up watching them. Also, comedies like Super bad or funny movies like that. I also like stand up comedies as well as I love to joke around, a lot. I also love motivational stories like this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l2IU1h9sG7U

And also the movie “Finding Joe” by Takaya Solomon I watch a lot of Joseph Campbell’s “The Power of Myth” interviews with Bill Moyers all the time

 

Samurai Todd, digital. #arte

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LL: What’s your view about social media?

TC: I am not a fan of social media. I was not on it until my gallery convinced me to do it for my career. If I was not in that gallery I would not be on social media.

 

LL: What are your favourite sites at the moment?

TC: I really only go to sports websites and Art Gallery websites. I do also go to youtube and watch a lot of lectures, mostly science ones though. Also, lots of Radiolab (podcast). I’m always interested in hearing something I HAVE to listen to though, what are your favorite sites?

 

Editor’s Note: TBA for fave site list link!

 

Mi Amor, oil on board. #allaprima #oilpainting #quickpainting #maxginsburgstudio #goo

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LL: Do you currently post on other sites?

TC: I try not to post onto any sites, not even facebook. I’m on it and tempted but there are so many people that are negative on sites, that troll it. I try to read articles (mostly sports) and then not read the comments. I don’t like negative energy.

 

LL: Are there websites that you like to visit just because you like the design?

TC: Haha, not really. I like to spend time looking at art, in person. Looking at art on the internet is usually a totally different experience.

 

 

Pedro, oil on board. #art #arte #pintor #painter

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LL: What would you do when you need cheering up?

TC: I usually go for a run as I can usually work through a problem. Inspirational movies are always good too like “Finding Joe”. I’ve seen it like 20 times.

 

LL: Do you enjoy collaborating with other artists? (via YouTube or specific collaboration websites. Or would the collaboration be more about co-hosting a podcast…like the video of ‘The Guys and A Chick Flick’ you have on your site’s media section?)

TC: Haha, I love that you saw that on my site. I find that to be such a funny experience. I mean, I say “My mom loves my stuff” lmao. Normally the only time I want to collaborate with an artist is to have a show with them. I have a 2 man show with David Palumbo this May.

 

The Pumpkin King, oil on board. #pumpkin #pumpkinking #stilllife #allaprima #painting

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LL: Are you interested in technology?

TC: I’m interested in technology but I’m also not. It fascinates me but our generation is too addicted to it. I hate that everyone is glued to their phones, it promotes an ADD generation.

I have a mac computer with a Wacom tablet for doing graphic design. I do a lot of random graphic design jobs.

 

LL: With your blog entries, are you looking to write the same kind in the future? Or are you looking to do different things?

TC: I don’t write enough honestly and I wish that I did. I’ve kind of given up on the blogging. I post to Facebook and Instagram only for my art or to show that I am teaching somewhere or showing somewhere if anyone is interested in going. Other than that, I have a sketchbook with notes and ideas for what I want to do.

 

 

 

LL: If you were asked to pick from your paintings, which one would be your favorite?

TC: Great question. I don’t’ really have one. I like certain aspects of a lot of things that I have done. I guess I like the ship paintings the most, they feel complete and deep and have a story to tell.

 

LL: Are you the type of person that finds it easy to start something?

TC: No, I’m quite the opposite. I like to take my time to build a great idea rather than just hop right into something. I paint when I want to paint and if I don’t then I don’t paint.

 

 

 

LL: For someone seeing your work for the first time, what is the message you’re hoping they’ll take with them?

TC: I hope that my paintings touch them in some way, to add more deep and richer meaning to their life. To quote Horace Mann “Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity.”

 

LL: What makes your soul sing?

TC: People who want to make the world a better place makes my soul sing.

 

 

 

 

LL: You mention your wife earlier and also in your episode with Danny Grant. How important do you think  artists’ take their time to choose their life partner? (It’ll be great to hear how you think your partnership with your wife has made you a better artist. Also, if you had the kind of qualities in mind that you were looking for in a spouse in mind, before you even met your wife. There are some artists who feel like sustaining a relationship takes too much of their mental energy, and they would prefer to expend it on their work, so they’d usually not make it a priority in their life.)

TC: I think it is very important to find your life partner. It should be the yin to your yang. Your partner should complement you and balance you in every way possible. My wife is an artist as well, she’s a graphic designer but we went to school for the same thing so she understands it. She has always been supportive of my career.

 

LL: What’s the best way to connect with people who admire your work? (sending and replying to individual messages via email or social media? or via your mailing list? For those interested in supporting you, what would you want them to know? Is there a specific social media platform that gets the most engagement with your network/circle? How did you meet your biggest fan? Alternately you can mention how have you managed to find the people who resonate with the same things as you — and as a result, they resonated with your work. Maybe a lot those that currently support your work have found you through your blog entries compared to finding you via a Gallery? Or Maybe within 6 months of winning a specific prize, you’d get an influx of inquiries and among them people who ended up following your work until now?)

TC: I prefer that anyone interested in my work to contact me through email or through my gallery. I find it a bit more personal. For those interested in supporting me, there is no better way to support an artist than to buy a painting or commission a work.

Most people interested in my work have emailed me but some contact me through Instagram or Facebook which is fine. It’s not my preferred way of communicating as I don’t check them as much as my email. I have received emails after publications, shows and also awards so yes all those things are great ways to get in the public’s eye.

 

 

 

LL: Have you found your tribe yet?

TC: I would say that my close friends, family and especially my gallery have been the best tribe I can have. They are all so supportive! Finding the right people to support you is tough but I think that if someone senses that this is a true passion of yours that you have to pursue then they will be behind you.

Being relentless in your pursuits helps as well. Find like-minded artists who show at the same galleries or shows that you would like and talk to them, reach out to them, visit their studios. Artists all love talking art with one another, I do.

Creating art can be so isolating at times so having a visitor to a studio is nice.

 

LL: What kind of opportunities are you looking forward to?

TC: I’m interested in adding even more depth to my work. I’m a big fan of reading classic literature and using that as a source to say things. Perhaps even delving into the subconscious. I believe that art is visual poetry and adding that layer to my paintings is always important to me.

I also want to keep evolving to never stay stagnant, be like a sponge. To quote Bruce Lee “You must be shapeless, formless, like water. When you pour water in a cup, it becomes the cup. When you pour water in a bottle, it becomes the bottle. When you pour water in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now water may flow or it may crash. Become like water my friend.”

 

 

 

 

LL: In what way do you enjoy helping others?

TC: I love to help anyone who is truly looking for what I have to offer but they have to really want it. I offer a lot as a teacher, sharing funny stories and also a lot of things that I’ve learned in all of my training.

 

I find that in smaller groups I work better with students and feel more comfortable. I’m not one for attention so I don’t’ like big groups. I find I’m able to connect more with smaller groups as I like a one on one experience.

 

LL: Looking back through your journey, are you amazed at what you’ve accomplished so far?

TC: I love the journey and I’m happy with what I’ve accomplished but the journey is not over. There is still more room for growth and much more to achieve.

 

LL: How can we support your work?

TC: My goal is to keep painting and provide for my wife and I through my art. The best way to support an artist is to buy a piece of art from them. If you want to support me buy some art http://www.rehs.com/Todd_M_Casey_Bio.html or a print http://toddmcasey.com/Prints-for-Sale.

 

 

 

 

* Todd Casey is a painter based in New York. See things though his eyes via his Instagram feed. You can pick his brain by reading his previous blog entries, via his newsletter, or by attending one of his workshops.

 

 

Source Material and Notes: The material posted is based on correspondence (August – December 2016) between Todd and Leigh. Content has been edited for length, and the final version has been reviewed and approved by the interviewee.

Leigh Lim is a musician based out of Sydney. You can find a sample of her music here. To reach out you can do so based on this post. (Curious to find out if she’s your kind of person? You can check out her slightly cheeky FAQ.)

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Q&A #25: Justin Schroder

Justin shares his journey as a guitarist, a reason why unprepared drummers make him crazy, and his affection for his family.

 

 

Leigh Lim: Hi Justin, thanks for taking the time to do a Q&A! How would you describe your target audience?

Justin Schroder: I like this idea and you have chosen a great name for your blog. It’s important that we have real discussion regarding how players become good musicians.

I would say my audience is elusive. I have no idea who they are, what they want, nor what use I am to them. That reads poorly, but I just don’t know anything about my audience because there is so little commentary or conversation.

 

 

LL: Can you give me a quick summary in terms of how you got to where you are with your playing?

JS: How did I get to where I am as a player? Well, twenty years’ effort, frankly. If I may digress for a moment, there is a saying in the auto racing community, “There’s no replacement for displacement”. ‘Displacement’ is the size of an engine and all engines can be made to create more power than its original output, but bigger engines always have more potential for power. I use this example because no matter how many shortcuts, lessons, tips, tricks, etc. a person uses, one can only be as good as their CUMULATIVE PRACTICE TIME allows.

 

So, on to the specifics: I started playing songs. I didn’t learn exercises, scales, chords, etc; I learned songs. I still love learning songs. I also create songs. Sometimes I create songs from a musical concept, (e.g. scale, mode, chord type, etc.), other times I create songs by manipulating bits of other songs that I like to play/hear. I teach people a finger exercise to gain finger independence because I struggled with that as a beginner and it puts everyone a few steps ahead of me as I was at the beginner level. Same idea when I teach chords, chord groups, and barre chords; it’s just a way to bring people to a playing level in fewer years than I took to reach the same skill levels. Students that play for hours/day like I did are ALWAYS better than I within the same number of weeks, months, and years in my early days of playing. ALWAYS, but time spent playing is #1.

 

 

 

LL: You mentioned you create songs from a musical concept (e.g. scale, mode, chord type, etc.). Can you give two examples?

 

JS: Here is the link to the video of me discussing and playing Parking Lot Birds and Cream Soda:

 

Parking Lot Birds is a song for the little birds one sees in parking lots hopping about and picking at little bits of things on the ground. PLB started with the melody and I took a year or so to decide which chords I liked best. I essentially stole the A section chords from Benny Golson’s Killer Joe and from the Bridge of various I’ve Got Rhythm tunes, I developed the B section of PLB.

 

Cream Soda is a tune that started with chords from which I created a melody. I found myself drinking a lot of IBC Cream Soda at the time, and figured it would be a great title for a Smooth Jazz sort of a tune. I like most of my tunes which start with chords a little more than those which start with a melody, but I think Parking Lot Birds is my strongest Melody First tunes.

 

LL: What would your advice be to someone who has only a limited amount of time (Maybe 1-2 hours a day) to plan their learning and practice?

 

JS: If someone has limited time (Don’t we all?), I would suggest spending 90% of it playing. Too many people, myself included, spend too much time thinking or looking for efficiency or short-cuts; the truth comes with playing.

 

 

 

LL: How about getting the next generation to practice? Isn’t it all about starting as early as possible? (NPR has an article)

JS: Getting the next generation to practice is just like the old generations; if they want to play, they will. I still  get new students who outpace students who have been with me for a while just they spend more hours with their instrument.

My favorite concept: Be aware of the difference between a guitar OWNER and a guitar PLAYER.

 

People start playing music or anything else when they start. Age is only relevant because as we age, we often become more aware of our preferences and have developed better work habits. I find adults will advance with less effort because children waste more time and effort avoiding work than would be spent DOING the work in the first place.

 

I didn’t start playing guitar until I was 18 and I was teaching by age 23. I played many hours each day because I wanted to play. If my fingers hurt from playing, I moved to listening. I kept music playing while I slept. The funny part about that is when I suggest to students with the worst sense of time to sleep with the metronome on; the idea is for their brains to develop a sense of tempo.

This is a great article. The end of it is the real meat-and-potatoes of practice; getting good results regarding improved skill, higher self-worth, and organizational skill development.

 

LL: Sounded like you wanted to share a funny reaction to students with the worst sense of timing to sleep with the metronome on.

 

JS: No, that’s all there was the example of sleeping with the metronome clicking. I’m sure there are some funny stories, but I don’t think parents have told me about them.

One thing I’ve done in sessions with students who either A. Refuse to honor the time being clicked by the metronome, or B. Are so preoccupied with what their fingers are doing that they can’t ‘hear’ the metronome, is that I will plug the metronome into an amplifier and make it so loud they have no choice but to play ‘with’ it. To be clear, this is not so much an abuse tactic as it is a method in making the metronome as loud as a drummer.

People ALWAYS play in time with a drummer. This is what makes me crazy when a drummer is less than prepared for whatever we are playing; I can’t pull them back into place

 

 

LL: If you were to put together a ‘learning plan’ or practice pack for someone who has never played before, so they could have the capacity to play at your level and skill. What would it look like?

JS: Start with thinking about where you want to be as a player by considering your favorite artists. There is usually something that someone else has done which inspires us to start playing.

Then discover where you are failing to have that ability and practice that until you are great. Remember there is no substitute for time on your instrument playing music. Just don’t forget that if you can’t play the music you want, you have some work to do and it should be in the form of an exercise using the actual music. If there is a two-measure section of a solo or rhythm part that you can’t play, then you should be playing it 5,000 times in a row as if it is an exercise, because it is and you will reach your goal directly.

 

 

 

LL: What would you advise a songwriter (who has never played guitar before) wanting to accumulate enough knowledge and skill to be able to translate musical ideas using the guitar?

JS: Learn piano. Seriously. Guitar is by and for crazy people. Piano is logically laid for the eyes and hands. If someone wants to be a songwriter, the keyboard is more intuitive so one will achieve better results in less time by using it.

 

 

LL: Is that why guitarists usually find it difficult to transition to piano? (and pianists usually have no problem…and if they do…they can easily figure out a work around?)

JS: Well, I don’t play piano, but I’ve tried a couple things on piano and I can certainly confirm that my problem with piano is trying to play one rhythm with the left hand and another with the right.

For guitarists, we need to have good timing with our left (or whichever hand is fretting), but it doesn’t exactly play rhythm. In a nutshell, the fretting hand arranges itself for the sound and the picking/plucking hand initiates the rhythmic quality of the music being played.

Eddie Van Halen is a primary exception because he played proper piano as a child before learning guitar.

 

 

LL: In one of your videos (Creative Soloing), you do a whole lesson (about an hour) — can you give a rundown of what you covered? And was it easy to get your students to agree to be videoed?

JS: The basic outline of the program is that we learn the five scale shapes, the five pentatonic shapes, the seven 7th harmony arpeggios in each of the five positions (many of which repeat), and we don’t move from the first of any shape until everyone in the class is competent to a certain level. Basically, it’s a 32-week course with so much playing that everyone’s skill jumps by leaps and bounds.

 

It’s really intense and it isn’t easy finding students who can dedicate the time to take it, but those who do grow tremendously as players/musicians and are very thankful to themselves for being dedicated to the process.

 

 

LL: What’s part of your guitar arsenal at the moment?

JS: Ah, the goods, the tools of the trade. Well, I have a Breedlove AC200/SM that I love to hate. We fight all the time. I have been playing it almost exclusively for the last several months almost with a battle mentality. I have recently started using 11 gauge strings, D’Addario EJ26. I had been using the originally intended set which were D’Addario EJ16, but I just couldn’t get what I wanted from them. It just sounded like there was a blanket over the instrument. I have played other guitars with 12s and they feel the same, so that eliminated ‘specific instrument’ from the equation.

(I have since returned to the D’Addario EJ16 strings and also using either Fender Medium or Jim Dunlop Big Stubby 1.0 picks for a brighter tone. This seems to be the best arrangement. At least until I change my mind again. Musicians: We’re a nutty lot.)

Funny enough, I will be using D’Addario EPN115 strings soon on my electrics. I have been using Ernie Ball Power Slinkys and D’Addario EXL115 for a while and just purchased a batch of the pure nickel strings to try. I think I will like them for their more mellow tone. I use a Bugera V22 that has a bright tone and I think a mellow set of strings will take some of the harshness away without making the sound dull. Just a hunch.

(Another update since first being asked, I sold the Bugera V22 because I wanted a smaller, lighter amp for greater portability. I now use a Fender Blues Junior with an Eminence Cannabis Rex replacement speaker. Yes, it’s made of Hemp, and yes, it sounds fantastic and is a solid 10+ pounds lighter. The D’Addario EPN115, Pure Nickel strings, are also here to stay. For now-ish.)

I also have a HiWatt Bulldog 10 from the 1990s. Great mellow clean tone from that and a nice RAWK sound on the distortion setting. Unfortunately, ten watts is not enough for any gig and the distortion setting is not foot-switchable. It’s very nice to carry though.

In the last couple years I have crossed the river regarding the use of pedals. I have been using a Electro-Harmonix LBP-1 in my effects loop to boost my solos when playing tunes that require some crunch for the rhythm sections. Using a booster in the effects loop allows me to make the tone remain exactly the same except louder. Plus, using a booster in the effects loop gives it a very wide range; it takes very little boost after the preamp section to make the volume increase a great deal. Putting a booster in the front end of an amp acts like a gain booster more than a volume booster.

I also have a DigiTechJamManlooper. Great for practicing, solo gigs, testing drummers’ listening skills, etc. I also use a HardWire SC-2 Valve Distortion pedal. I tried a Boss Super Overdrive and really liked its tone, but it isn’t touch sensitive like the HardWire series.

(Additional updates regarding effects: I have also acquired the Digitech Trio Plus which is a fantastic evolution of the looper to include the creation of bass and drum parts which are ‘Trainable’, and also a Tech21 Hot Rod Plexi pedal which emulates a Marshall Plexi sound and is a noticeably different sound than the Hardwire SC-2 Valve Distortion. I use each for different needs because both sound great, just different. The best function of the Tech21 HRP is that it has two stages of gain which gives me the opportunity to have a dirty rhythm sound and a slight boost in saturation for solos. The Hardwire SC-2 has similar functions, but the switch isn’t foot-operable. If only…)

My first guitar was a Peavey Predator from the early 90s. One of the ‘Crafted in USA’ models. I still have it and it sounds fantastic, but it needs a refret because, well, I played it a lot and now the frets are too low.

My favorite guitar is a Korean-Made Epiphone Dot from the late 90s. I sent it to Dan Erlewine for a refret, installation of Gibson ’57 Classics, TonePros bridge and placement modification, and a retrofit Buzz Feiten nut and tuning compensation. Plays and sounds like a dream to me. I have owned many Korean-Made Dots and this one is my favorite. Plus, it is a rare Tobacco Burst which had a small run for Dots and was mostly used on Sheratons.

My most recent acquisition, which was last year (2013) I think, is an Epiphone Les Paul Plus Top, or some such. The color is Trans Amber, which my wife says looks like baby poop, but I like it. The electronics are dull like most stock Epiphones, but I’m sure it will come to life when I upgrade the pickups. I’m also considering upgrading the pots and wiring with a rewiring pack from Stewart-MacDonald. I’m hoping to get it to function like my Dot which is wired so the volume and tone pots are independent.

I think that is all I have for guitars and amps. Picks are another story. I had used Fender 351 Medium Celluloid picks for a very long time. Then, I had a trio that played uptempo Blues and Jazz tunes with a set of Surf music like Dick Dale, The Ventures, and so forth. For some of the faster tunes, I noticed I was having trouble at higher tempi, then through some experiments I discovered that the pick was not returning to its ‘playable’ position soon enough to actually strike the string as my hand passed it. So, I tried heavier picks made of different materials. What I am using now are: Big Stubby 1.0 picks for acoustic playing and Fender 351 Heavy Celluloid for electric playing. The lexan of the Big Stubbys has a brighter tone and the Celluloid has a mellower tone (remember, the Bugera is bright).

Oh, and the same fingers as always. Much of our tone comes from the fingers, but everything else affects it too.

 

 

LL: How did you end up saying yes to a Breedlove guitar?

 

JS: It was the right shape, sound, and price for what I needed in an acoustic instrument. The Concert body style works best for my playing. It makes the single notes more defined whether these notes are melody or bass.

 

LL: So this love/hate thing you have with your Breedlove AC200/SM?

JS: I think the love/hate relationship is more about acoustic vs. electric than this specific instrument. I did recently change to an 11 set of strings on the Breedlove and I am feeling much better about everything. Now I have about ten sets too many of 12 gauge strings. Need any?

 

(…and have since returned to 12-gauge strings as mentioned above. Now I have two leftover sets of D’Addario EJ26, 11-Gauge strings which need a new home.)

 

 

LL: Have you used the HiWatt Bulldog 10 in any of your videos?

JS: Yes. I made a series of videos by playing some fun Rock tunes/solos/etc. and I’m pretty sure I used the HiWatt for most of them. Here is Judas Priest’s Livin’ After Midnight on which I used the HiWatt.

I think it’s a great sounding amp, especially for a solid state amp. I primarily use tube amps. The HiWatt is just 10 watts and, while plenty loud at full volume in a small room, it just doesn’t have enough volume for playing with a drummer in a larger room. I may experiment with it one day just to hear it in an A/B arrangement with my larger amp.

 

LL: Did you have to do any set-ups or adjustments to any of your guitars (strings closer to the fretboard)?

JS: I setup my guitars once when I acquire them. Sometimes they will need a minor adjustment every couple years, but I don’t break out the feeler gauges when the humidity or temperature changes ten points. The process I use is time-consuming and more intuitive than scientific. If the job gets into nut or fret work, I hire someone else for the job.

 

LL: During a gig, do you keep some notes as a guide? (tablet, bits of paper,mental notes..)

JS: For Rock, Country, other Pop type gigs, I try to play by memory so I can move around and make a show. I play musical theatre and read the book because: A. I need to be spot-on and predictable, and B. I’m not part of the show. I have been part of the show once though. I went wireless during a dance routine in one show and crossed the stage during an improvised solo. That was cool.

For Jazz or Holiday gigs I use lots of charts or charts with improvisation ideas because nobody is paying that much attention since we are usually just ‘Mood Music’. I take the opportunity to be an ‘Artist’ during these gigs by working on my ‘Improvisational Voice’ and play some of my own creations. I can usually predict/remember my screw-ups.

It’s very important to know one’s self as an artist and player. I need to work more on the ‘Artist Me’ by doing more concerts instead of atmosphere music gigs.

 

 

LL: What is your warm-up / practice routine like?

JS: I subscribe to the Barney Kessel school of warm-ups: “Stay hot.”. I warm up on mid-tempo tunes. I use exercises for mechanical problems. It took many years for me to realize I should have balance in this regard. I usually only discover playing problems during an improvisational concept that I try on a gig and fail because I never thought to try it before.

Exercises are for building a skill that one does not have; it is not a way to become a better musician, it is a way to become better at instrumental execution. (How do I play this musical idea on my instrument?)

 

LL: Description of your playing style? (i.e. you like keeping it simple, no riff-busyness/crazy solos, go-to picking style..etc)

JS: The music dictates my playing style. To me, there is no rhythm, lead, left-hand, right-hand, etc., there is only ‘What must I be able to do to play the music?’ and ‘Can I do it?’. Sometimes I can’t ‘do it’, and that informs my next practice session..

Most recently, a couple years ago, I was rehearsing with a Hard Rock band and I couldn’t play some of the solos at the final tempo. These were a Judas Priest and some Guns ‘N’ Roses tunes; a couple others too, I’m sure. Anyway, I had to spend about six months really working on these solos to be able to play them at tempo. I essentially went from sixteenths at about 120 to sixteenths at 160bpm. I’m not talking about an exercise at 160bpm, this was the music, what I really wanted to play.

 

 

LL: What was your practice routine structured like during those six months (to be able to go from soloing at sixteenths at about 120 to sixteenths at 160bpm)

JS: I used the same process I teach: Learn the music at a slow tempo (50% or less), then move the tempo up ten points and play through. Keep raising the tempo until mistakes begin, then return to the last perfectly played tempo. Stay at that tempo for one week, then start raising the tempo again until mistakes begin and repeat the process. I did this until I could comfortably play the music at 10 bpm higher than the final tempo required. It takes a long time, but it’s worth it.

 

LL: What’s next for your playing?

JS: Taming the acoustic, becoming more of an ‘Artist’ regarding my voice in arrangements, improvisation, song choice, etc.. I will discover my weaknesses sooner by learning new music.

I’m also pursuing more concert opportunities instead of ‘Club Dates’, (Which are gigs at venues ‘needing’ atmosphere music for 3-4 hours.). I’m sure I’ll still do some weddings and other special events, but concerts are where I believe I will grow the most as an artist with message.

 

 

LL: Are you working on something specific at the moment to spice up your playing?

JS: Not really since I don’t have any upcoming gigs, but I do have a voice and guitar duo that is on hiatus (the vocalist is having a baby in June 2014) and a guitar and sax duo. The guitar/sax duo is just two weeks in the making, so we are still finding a start to our voice and choosing tunes. The real work begins when we have the music chosen and we need to find ourselves inside of it.

(A bit more updates: I’m currently have a guitar/flugelhorn duo, solo-guitar arrangements, and two possible guitar/voice opportunities, and a full band concept for which I can start booking concerts. Since first answering the above question, I have decided to pursue concerts as a primary goal and I want to have different levels of hire available to select venues. Some venues are a small, intimate setting, and some are larger and prefer a larger group for a more intense experience.)

 

LL: Pretty happy with where you are at now?

JS: HA! Never happy! However, I do consciously decide to stop ‘Improving’ so I can really internalize the recent changes to my playing. In other words, I have to make myself stop trying to be a better ‘Guitarist’ and remain in the work of becoming a better, more soul-touching ‘Musician’ with my current skill level.

Ever hear a guitarist play only scales or strumming patterns? Yes. Did it touch your soul? Probably Not. We need to work on the other bits of musicianship by ceasing the work on mechanics.

 

 

LL: Are there questions you find yourself answering multiple times?

JS: The funny thing about questions is that I don’t believe I hear any of them repeated. I know that may seem strange, but while my answer to the students’ questions may contain the same information, every question is different because each student has a different hole in their understanding.

As an example, the most common topic I discuss is improvisation. Most people know something in regard to improvising by the time I see them, but there is always something they don’t like about their playing, or something that has become stagnant to them. So, we discuss keys and how we make chords and melodies from the notes within. Then we learn more about how we can play them in a practical manner on guitar.

I guess the second most common topic is that of rhythmic concepts. Unfortunately, none of us manipulate rhythms as much as we should; music could be so much more interesting if we did.

 

LL: Are there artists that you absolutely dig, and are surprised that others haven’t heard of?

JS: No, I’m not part of any underground faction that is hip before anyone else. I’m 42. Ha!

Most of my new discoveries are from the social media posts of others, YouTube suggestions, online programs such as Tiny Desk Concerts by NPR, and other random finds.

 

 

LL: Are there songs/albums that you cannot get enough of?

JS:Man, what a list that would be and who has the time for all that listening? Joe Satriani, Led Zep, AC/DC, Barney Kessel, Kenny Burrell, Big Bands, Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, Charles Mingus, Stu Hamm, John Scofield, Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Earl Hooker, Chuck Berry, Merle Haggard, Jerry Reed, Roy Clark, Jane’s Addiction, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Appetite for Destruction, INXS, U2, John McLaughlin, Al Di Meola, Arlen Roth, Booker T. and the MGs, Christian McBride, James Brown, Ray Brown, Ray Charles, Vince Guaraldi, Dave Holland, and many more.

 

LL: Do you go out of your way to discover music you haven’t heard before?

JS: Sometimes I accidentally find something on YouTube or a blog that I like or some Pop star like Lorde is in the news and I YouTube them. However, I certainly don’t go out of my way. I don’t think we need to go out of our way any more. Like I mentioned earlier, I’m 40 years old, so I remember when one had to hunt for music. Especially if you lived in the woods or the hills.

 

Now it’s almost like the matter of finding music is as easy as picking a blade of grass while in a park; we’re just surrounded my sources of music.

 

 

LL: Where do you go for inspiration?

JS: YouTube and watch the masters at work.

 

LL: What’s your view about social media?

JS: Social Media is, to me, a contradiction in terms, but it is important. I think ‘Social’ is about time with or making friends and ‘Media’ is a method of distributing information. I don’t think the two are ALWAYS good together as are chocolate and peanut butter. ‘Social’ and ‘Media’ are better as a small part of two concentric circles.

I like Twitter best, but some people lump YouTube in the Social Media box and I think we know by now how I feel about YouTube. Ha!

 

 

LL:Would you be willing to share your Twitter handle? (What do you think of Twitter so far?)

JS:  Twitter.com/ JustinSchroder

I’m concerned about upcoming changes to Twitter since there have been some leadership/ownership changes, but so far, they haven’t pulled a Yahoo! and done anything ridiculous.

I like Twitter better than Facebook, primarily because I only have so many characters to create posts. This has helped me learn to communicate more effectively. I find that most of the people that don’t like Twitter are people who don’t like to work on their communication. I don’t feel good about my communication, so I like to work on it.

 

I also go through phases of posting in Haiku form, just add an additional challenge.

 

 

LL: Are there websites that you like to visit just because you like the design?

JS: Most websites have good designs now. Site design means little to me unless I’m trying to pay a bill or see my bank balance. Some companies have websites which drive me bonkers. How wrong can one be when designing a website? Well, pretty wrong sometimes.

 

LL: Name a website that you would go to when you need cheering up/inspiration?

JS: Outside. Not a website. I find my pets, children, or wife when I need good feelings.

I like bike rides, especially in the woods. My wife likes hikes, I like hiking with her, but I would never decide to go on a hike on my own. I prefer rolling friction.

 

LL: Would you be open to collaborating with other artists?

JS: Absolutely.

 

My strong skills are harmony and melody, not lyrics or singing. So, I need to have others to complete my work. Also, I’m good at developing and leading bands, and most musicians/singers are not good at the management of musical endeavors.

 

 

LL: Are you interested in technology?

JS: Nope. It’s just a means to an end and, thankfully, systems like WordPress, YouTube, SoundCloud, et al are great for technologically imbecilic people like me.

 

I think that is the greatest societal improvement given by computers and the internet; it allows otherwise incompetent people like me to be able to produce documents, audio, video, and other forms of gaining an audience without needing to hire someone or develop into a Jack-Of-All-Trades to be an artist.

 

LL: With your videos, are you looking to upload the same kind in the future?

JS: No. Frankly, I have found that very few of my videos are being discovered or watched by people whom I believe I am trying to help. So, evidently, I’m not as helpful via video as I thought.

 

 

LL: Or are you looking to do different things?

JS: Something that a lot of people will find helpful. It’s not so much of an ego-centric ‘Hey, look how many views I have!’. It’s more a matter of ‘Hey, look how many views I have by people I can help!’.


We seem to be moving toward Live online events through FaceBook Live, Concert Window, Periscope, et al, and I am upgrading my tools to take advantage of this trend. It’s interesting how our intrinsic Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO) is fueling the technological and social changes we are seeing.

 

Perhaps FOMO has always been the foundation of technological and industrial advancement.

 

 

LL: If you were asked to pick from the videos you have, which one would be your favourite?

JS: That’s an impossible choice, but it would be one of my youngest daughter Claire either playing violin, singing, or riding her bike for the first time. We were too poor when my oldest daughter was little to have any video of her and now that she’s a teen we just have pictures of her being beautiful.

 

 

 

LL: In what way do you enjoy helping others? (Is there a particular cause that you resonate with the most?)

JS: What I enjoy most is helping people realize how being a good musician isn’t as difficult as many other people make it out to be.

Essentially, there are a lot of people discussing music concepts in such a convoluted manner that it’s nearly impossible to understand or apply them. I really enjoy working with performing musicians who want to discover more about themselves musically. Working with a group of musicians is probably my favorite environment because we can inspire each other to do our best. It’s easier and more fun to be creative in a group setting because one idea triggers another and the creativity builds.

If I were to describe a cause which motivates me the most, that would be the success of the student. Nothing motivates me more in teaching than seeing a student surprise themselves with their playing or with a sudden moment of clarity. Most of the time the problem isn’t the student’s level of effort, but rather the music concepts being made simple, clear, and immediately applicable.

 

LL: How can we support your work?

JS: I teach at TrueFire.com via video exchange, which is probably the most efficient way to teach and learn for the intermediate to advanced player.

Players should take this link to register and learn the benefits of studying with me there. Visiting my website, JustinSchroder.com, will give people the opportunity to learn what I am doing as a teacher and performer. It’s also the best way to contact me regarding how I can help them. I am currently focused on performance and group education. I am available for concerts in solo, duo, small combo, and big band settings, as well as related workshops, clinics, and guest performer bookings.

Simply put, supporting my work is as simple as hiring me to help people and organizations reach their musical goals.

 

 

LL: Looking back through your journey, are you amazed at what you’ve accomplished so far?

JS: I’m amazed that I survived! 🙂

Frankly, I’ve noticed more of the effect I’ve had on students, other musicians, and just people generally since I retired from teaching daily. For various reasons, my current schedule and physical/mental condition are more conducive to effective thought and being present in my daily activities than ever before.

When I am looking for a video I made or a blog post to send to someone, I must say I’m a little surprised at how many videos and blog posts I have created. I’m sure they’re not all great, but I did them and they were evidently something I felt worthy of sharing.

I guess what is most valuable to me at present is the growing awareness and appreciation that I have a family, a job, and the ability to create and re-create Sound Art for my enjoyment to share with others.

 

 

* Justin Schroder is a guitarist based in Lynchburg. Witness him working on learning to communicate more effectively (in 140 characters or less!) via Twitter. You can pick his brain by watching him share playing nuggets on Youtube, through his entries, or by going through the really intense 32 week course.

 

Source Material and Notes: The material posted is based on correspondence (May 2014 – October 2016) between Justin and Leigh. Content has been edited for length, and the final version has been reviewed and approved by the interviewee.

Leigh Lim is a musician based out of Sydney. You can find a sample of her music here. To reach out to Leigh, you can do so based on this post. (Curious to find out if she’s your kind of person? You can check out her slightly cheeky FAQ.)

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Q&A #24: Matthew David

 

 

 

Matthew shares his journey as a drummer, his preference of one (big!) screen rather than multiple monitors, and the realisation that focused practice could have improved his skills greatly.

 

 

 

Leigh Lim: Thanks for agreeing to share a bit about yourself Matt. I noticed that there are a couple of vintage kits, is that a soft spot? (You’d pick, or even rescue an unloved, old-old-old kit, rather than purchase a new, or second hand one that was less than 5 years old)

 

Matthew David: I own 1 vintage kit yeah, and I had wanted to buy a vintage kit for as long as I could remember. Being able to restore one, well, that kind of makes it even more special. This kit was collecting dust and rusting away in a friend’s garage. When I dug it out and realised it was the exact sizes I wanted (20″ kick, with short 12 and 13 inch toms, plus a 16″ floor) I knew I had to have it. I took it home and spent an entire Easter weekend scrubbing, wiping, scraping, polishing, till the skin virtually came off my hands.

I smelled of polish and chemical and vinegar and detergent and whatever else I was using. But within a week, I had a fully functioning, totally restored kit (I also had to buy all new skins, plus snare wire and throw-off, plus a couple of hoops and some other bits and pieces). I use it in a 50’s/60’s band, and it’s great fun to play and sounds perfectly old-school.

 

LL: Did you have to wait long to find (and receive) the parts you needed for the restore?

MD: I just went to my previous place of employment (music shop) and bought the parts there. From memory I had to order something in but it only took a few days. I wasn’t up for trying to restore it with genuine parts, so I put generic parts on as no-one would be able to tell the difference anyway.

 

LL: Also! There are a number of Saluda Sound files! Was that a phase? (or you really like those Saluda Cymbals?)

MD: Saluda are great cymbals. I brought a whole bunch in from America to try myself and sell on to others, to get the name out there.

I don’t tend to use them much nowadays though, the ones I brought in were all within a certain kind of sound and I just don’t play the styles that suit the sounds. In saying that though, I use a Saluda Mist-X 16″ crash a lot, fantastic cymbal, it’s kind of like a Zildjian K Custom Hybrid.

 

 

New acquisition! #pearldrums #masters #playingwiththebigboys

A post shared by Matthew David (@matthewdavidmedia) on

 

LL: Can you give a quick summary in terms of how you got to where you are with your playing?

 

MD: When I started playing, I had lessons privately for about the first 6 months from a guy that wasn’t trained himself. We used a book “Progressive Rock Drumming” by Andy Griffiths, and I just basically worked through the exercises.

I didn’t exactly learn rudiments properly, in fact I couldn’t do proper double stroke rolls till I’d been playing for over 10 years (I’d done a lot of press rolls up until that point!). I remember one exercise he gave me was to play the intro part to the Screaming Jets song “Better”. He came back a week later and I played him what I’d practiced. He had to correct me, as what I was playing was actually a more complicated version of the part (I think I had written it down wrong, or just learned it differently and got stuck on doing it that way instead). That basically gave me the confidence to attack just about anything, drum-wise.

From there, I started to delve into blues and funk… nothing tricky though. About 6 years later my tastes all changed, I got more into hard rock, including progressive music, starting with some odd time signatures by guys like Soundgarden, and moving into trickier stuff like Dream Theater.

This got me into even heavier music, mainly Pantera, where I started to write a fusion of heavy metal and progressive music, with solid heavy grooves that you might find in a Rage Against the Machine track.

Eventually I moved into hard rock, then fell in love with latin, which allowed me to experiment with new grooves using the kit plus timbales, bells and blocks, and is really tightening me as a player.

 

 

 

LL: If you were to put together a ‘learning plan’ or practice pack for someone who has never played before, so they could have the capacity to play at your level and skill. What would it look like?

 

MD: I guess it would contain music by a variety of bands/artists, and chops from a variety of drummers. Even if you only like one style of music, check out a wide range of styles to see what people are doing.

Learn your rudiments, learn how to play to a click, but never forget how important groove is. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Be a bit sloppy sometimes. Don’t be the player that sits comfortably in a song and just plays predictable safe grooves and fills. Be the player that does the crazy stuff, because even though sometimes you might screw up, I guarantee when you play that killer groove or smash that totally out there fill or solo part, you’ll feel amazing, and your crowd will love it (and you’ll be known as the drummer that landed it!).

 

 

 

New toy. 14×6.5 Drumcraft Series 8 maple snare. #amazon #drumcraft #impulsebuy #hotpink

A post shared by Matthew David (@matthewdavidmedia) on

 

 

 

LL: Would you say it was discipline that got you to where you are as a drummer?

 

MD: Not entirely. I tended to just have a natural talent, that allowed me to not have to practice a lot in order to get better as a player. Problem was I became complacent and then years later realised I should be better than I actually was! I still feel like I don’t practice enough… I play a lot, but don’t tend to practice things too often.

 

 

LL: Where there times when you didn’t want to practice? (What did you do to keep going?)

 

MD: Quite often I don’t have the energy. Or if I do have the energy, I don’t have the patience, so I’ll tend to just jump on the kit or timbales and smash away for a while, as opposed to practicing technique etc.

 

LL: Any words of wisdom for drummers who are quite keen to find the energy and the patience, to practice?

 

MD: You really just have to make time to practice. And don’t let yourself plateau as a player. If you get stuck, change it up and learn a new style. If you’re a right handed player, start playing left handed instead. Flip everything around and it will keep you stimulated and interested.

 

 

New toy for my voiceover work. #voiceover #thatguyontheradio #isk #rode #voiceoverlife

A post shared by Matthew David (@matthewdavidmedia) on

 

 

LL: If you had a chance to redo things, what would you have wanted to practice on and work on?

MD: I just wish I had started to learn latin grooves years before I did. Not only does latin playing require a lot of discipline and feel, it’s also great to play a style where you can go between tight and robotic to crazy improvisation, all while people are dancing along and enjoying it.

 

LL: Heel-up / Heel Down?

 

MD: Heel up, both feet.

 

LL: Has that always been the case since you started drumming?

MD: Yeah always heel up.

 

 

LL: Favorite Shoes for Drumming?

MD: I don’t get a say, a lot of the time, because I play in bands that require me to wear more formal shoes. If I have to pick, I’d say light and grippy. Though I’ve had a lot of trouble with my feet and legs over the past 5 years (mostly unrelated to drumming) that have prevented me from wearing that kind of shoe (I have to wear something with a lot of rigidity and support).

 

LL: How would you describe your generic kit set-up?

MD: 5 piece, 2 up, 1 down, 2 crashes, ride, hats. This is my standard rock setup.

My setup for latin is usually the same plus add in an extra tom (when there’s room on stage!), an extra cymbal or 2, timbales, 3 cowbells, and a block.

 

 

 

 

LL: What’s part of your arsenal at the moment?

MD: For drums, I have a Pearl VSX graffiti kit, 22, 10, 12, 14, 16, short stack toms, black hardware. I’ve also got a ’69 Pearl kit that I restored, oyster shell wrap, 20, 12, 13, 16. And a Sonor Force 3003, 22, 8, 10, 12, 14, with 10″ accent snare.*

Mainly running Remo heads – Pinstripes and Ambassadors (clear and coated). Tried Evans, Aquarians and Attacks for a while, went back to the trusty old Remos because they do what I want.

Pearl signature timbales. Meinl signature congas. LP, Meinl and Sonor bells.

Tama Iron Cobra double kick pedals.

I use a lot of different brands of cymbals, just whatever I’d collected over the years and I like the sound of. I’m mainly a Sabian man at heart though, they tend to make cymbals that really capture the sounds I’m wanting to use. Also have Zildjian, Paiste, Saluda and Stagg.

Sticks I tend to use Vater 7a in Sweet Ride or Manhattan. I never got the hang of heavy sticks and these ones are long and weighty, but also thin enough to fit in my hands comfortably. I also use a heavier timbale stick, at the moment it’s Pro Mark.

Snares I only have a few, a nice Yamaha Sensitive 13×6.5, a Sonor Force 3003 14×5.5 and a 70’s Ludwig Supraphonic 14×5.5.

 

* Editor’s Note: Since there has been significant time between Matthew answering this question and him reviewing the draft for publishing, Matthew mentions that he doesn’t play a sonor kit anymore. His main kit is a Pearl Masters MCX, 22, 10, 12, 16. Instead of a Sonor 3003 snare, he now has a Drum Craft Series 8 maple 14×6.5, and a Sonor Force 3007 12×5 maple. As he doesn’t play in a Beatles/Sixties band anymore, his vintage Pearl kit hasn’t had much use in a while.

 

 

 

 

 

LL: That is definitely an array of gear! Do you usually go (clear) Pinstripes for the batter and (clear) Ambassadors for resonant (for toms)?

 

MD: Clear Ambassadors or Evans G1s for bottoms, and basically anything I like the feel of for the tops. It really comes down to the kit, and the style that I play on the kit. On my latin / funk kit, I have clear emperors on top, to give me a hardy and punchy sound, but still tonnes of resonance.

On my old-school kit, I have coated emperors, again for the hardy punchy sound, but with the old-school element associated with it. And on my rock kit, I have pinstripes, for massive punch. Emperors and Pinstripes are highly tunable, you can take the pitch up and down and they still sound awesome.

 

 

 

LL: With your double Pedals, why Tama (Iron Cobras)? (Is it because the footboards are quite heavy and chunky — as opposed to Pearl’s double pedals?)

 

MD: I bought them because I knew they were good. These days I mostly play single pedal though, simply because I found myself getting a bit lazy and using double pedal too often for things that I should be able to do with just the single pedal.

One time in the music shop I worked at I managed to get a cheap Pearl double pedal to feel as good as the more expensive Pearl pedals, and even setup a Dixon double pedal to feel just as good as well. So this led me to believe it was more about the setup than any other variable. In saying that, I’m happy with my Iron Cobra pedals, and can’t see any need to replace them any time soon.

 

LL: Did it take awhile for you to settle on the kind of set-up that you like?

 

MD: I’ve always liked having at least 2 rack toms, and at least 1 floor. I like having a lot of stuff to hit! Also I avoid putting a ride cymbal where a tom might go, such as in a 1 up 2 down setup (even though it’s so trendy to do it!), because I prefer to have a nice flow between each tom, instead of a gap that a ride would create. Ultimately I think my ideal setup is 3 up, 2 down, with timbales, cable hats, and a whole bunch of cymbals.

 

LL: So having your ride a bit further from you isn’t an issue, as they would be (Comfortably) an arm’s reach, and you can spend a whole gig on the ride, and you wouldn’t have any muscle tension (as opposed to if you had to reach out a bit to get to the ride)?

 

MD: Usually don’t have any problems. I don’t find it’s “further away”, more like just positioned differently. I’ve spent 20 years with the ride in that position so I don’t tend to think too hard about it. When I play latin I also ride on an 18″ cymbal that sits over behind my hats / timbales. It really just comes down to what you get used to.

 

 

 

LL: Are cable hats for your auxiliary Hi-Hats? (Or are you using it as your main hi-hat stand?)

MD: Cable hats I only use when I play latin, as it allows me to place the hats closer to the first rack tom, meaning I can position the timbales closer in (so I don’t have to stretch out as far to the left in order to play the timbales). It beats me why more latin players don’t do this, to be honest I haven’t seen anyone else doing it like this.

 

 

LL: When tuning your kits, do you have a specific process?

MD: I just wind up the top and bottom till the key starts to feel a bit of tension, then I tweak with quarter turns top and bottom until I get the tone I want. I like to tension my top and bottom skins to be fairly close to each other, I think the drum resonates the best that way.

 

LL: Drum Maintenance and Storage?

MD: Not as much as I should do!

 

LL: How would you go about restoring hardware that has started to rust?

 

MD: A few pieces I abandoned entirely because they were too far gone. Most of it I was able to salvage by a combination of aluminium foil, steel wool, vinegar and polish. There was a lot of rust and corrosion but I was able to fix most of it no problem. The Ludwig snare is pretty rough but it doesn’t bother me in the grand scheme of things, I play it for the sound not for the look!

 

 

Imaging for SCA at home. The best way to do it! #studiolife #protools #turndownforwhat #maudio

A post shared by Matthew David (@matthewdavidmedia) on

 

 

LL: Would you recommend buying consumables in bulk? (heads, Sticks)

 

MD: I’ve never done it so I wouldn’t know. Probably not a bad idea. I’ve bought sticks in 3 or 4 sets at a time before, but that’s as “bulk” as I’ve gotten. If I was going to tour, or was playing more than a couple of times a week, I would buy up more in bulk.

 

 

LL: During a gig, do you keep some notes as a guide?

 

MD: If I’ve just started with a band I may keep a note of who starts each song, until I’ve done a few gigs with that band and then it just becomes habit.

When I first started playing latin, I took a lot of notes, writing down how each song started, the main grooves in each song, the way the songs finished, and the main lines that were sung (so that I could differentiate between tracks, because at the time, since I was only just starting out, a lot of the tracks sounded the same to my untrained ears!).

I try to avoid having any notes at gigs, I prefer to just memorise the songs and stay alert on stage.

 

LL: With the gigs you do, are there universal communication signs that you agree on beforehand?

 

MD: Depends on the band really. In some of my bands I end up doing a lot of the leading, and people watch me for the cues. Other bands, I just sit back and let other people manage it. You tend to work things out on the stage, more than agreeing on things beforehand.

 The trick is to just be flexible, watch other band members constantly and don’t get too absorbed in your own little world.

 

Changing the world, one ad at a time. #studiolife #nxfm

A post shared by Matthew David (@matthewdavidmedia) on

 

 

 

LL: What is your warm-up / practice routine like?

 

MD: It doesn’t really exist. I typically just jump on stage and play. Though I will take it easy and remain as relaxed as possible in the first instances, which helps me keep my energy up for the whole night.

 

LL: Are there times when you turn down gigs?

 

MD: Definitely. Although I tend to take most gigs as I earn a substantial amount of my dollars this way.

 

 

LL: Do you have a specific diet that you stick to and exercise regimen?

 

MD: I should, but I don’t. I was doing cardio at a gym for a while there, but then moved house and didn’t join up to another gym. Lately I’ve been really conscious of stretching, just making sure I’m fairly limber before I start bashing away.

 

Just a regular Wednesday afternoon ride around the block. I love this place! #gclife #mountwarning #cbr929rr

A post shared by Matthew David (@matthewdavidmedia) on

 

 

LL: Description of your playing style?

 

MD: I try to keep pretty consistent grooves happening. Sometimes I’ll get bored and chuck in some silliness for the sake of it. I tend to overplay as opposed to under, and I’m quite aware that it’s something I do so I make an effort to avoid doing it in gigs (though I’m pretty sure I still overplay haha).

Ultimately I just attempt to be sensitive to what’s happening in the music at any point in time, I try to have fun, create some energy and put on a show. I’m a little sloppy, I’m not the tightest player around, but I can slot into pretty much any style and take the music to a new level, which keeps me employed and has a lot of bands always asking  me back to play with them. I’m also my biggest critic!

 

LL: When you overplay — is it just enough that it satisfies your need for silliness?

 

MD: Very rare that my overplaying annoys other musicians. Typically if I try something tricky and pull it off, other band members will smile because they’ve noticed it. Sometimes I do it just to see if they’re still awake!

 

LL: What’s next for your playing?

MD: My next goal is to play for a Latin band where all the other musicians are miles better than me! I love a challenge and, providing they can be a bit patient with me, would love the chance to get to the next level with Latin music.

There are definitely plans to visit Miami (again) and Cuba, Puerto Rico, Colombia… 

I also have some connections with some solid Brazilian musicians so am keen to get back to Brazil to jam with them and see where it leads.

Technicality-wise, I spend a lot of time working on chops and jamming to Latin tracks, in an effort to just keep honing my skills. I don’t think I would ever reach a point where I wouldn’t want to be better, I’m always looking for that next level.

 

 

 

 

LL: Have you been always mindful of ergonomics when you play?

 

MD: Extremely mindful now that I’ve had the issue with my feet and legs for the past 5 years. The main thing I think about is my posture, and I have spent basically this year learning to sit more upright as I play. I also have to go easy on my feet so sometimes have to play softer so as to reduce the stress on my body.

Matched grip was just how I always played, and it feels right to me so I stick with it.

 

LL: What’s the average amount of takes per video?

MD: Depends on the video, and depends on the day! Some days I just crack it, other days I’m playing terribly. Or then the gear stuffs up and you only realise after you’ve done the perfect take that it only recorded the first 10 seconds then turned off!

 

LL: With your recording equipment, what are the current specs you use? (in your Saluda test video – you use a mobile phone, and some mics — what software did you use? And what did you use to keep that LG phone still?)

MD: Typically I record in Adobe Audition. Simple, easy to use and does everything I need it to do. The LG phone would’ve just been propped up against something. No other clamping devices or anything were used. The second video you referenced was filmed on a Canon DSLR. I tend to do all my videos now on that setup, as I own a lot of lenses and it gives me the best visual quality.

 

 

LL: Was choosing a DSLR something specifically for video?

 

MD: I had a couple of DSLR’s before I bought my 600D, and the reason I bought the 600D was purely for the 1080p video (I had a 40D before that and it took great photos).

 

 

LL: Do you mix the audio for your videos?

MD: Yeah I do all my own mixing. When I have mic’d in anyway. Otherwise I’ll just pull the sound out of the phone/camera and do a quick tweak before uploading. But I try to do things properly, with good audio, when I can.

 

LL: Will we be seeing gig videos with sound from the main mixer soon?

MD: I attempted it earlier this year with one of my bands, and because I didn’t get the chance to sound check it, it wasn’t perfect. I ended up combining live audio in the camera with the mixer output, and it sounded OK.

I’ll probably do more down the track as I have a new mixer that allows me to quite easily record the full mix in stereo. Usually it’s just enough to get the gig sounding good, so I don’t have much time to do a proper recording.

 

 

 

LL: What are your ‘go-to’ mixing settings for the kit?

MD: Typically I’ll roll off the mids in the kick, if there’s a way of doing a parametric on around 2.5khz I’ll do that. On toms I’ll do similar, just pull a bit of mid, and sometimes a bit of low if I’m getting too much rumble in them.

Snare I pull a little bit of mid. Ultimately if the gig is big enough to warrant doing a really nice mix of the kit, I won’t be in charge (it’ll be a sound guy running his own PA).

 

 

LL: Did you have to deal with latency issues when recording?

MD: Haven’t had to deal with latency too much. I’m usually running decent sound cards and don’t have the problem. If anything is slightly out of sync I’ll just jump in and match it by ear/eye.

 

LL: Do you have a regular schedule of posting videos?

MD: Just whenever I get the urge, and have the spare time, to record one.

 

 

LL: Are there certain things you ‘geek out’ about?

MD: Not entirely. Though I am a bit of a purist when it comes to latin grooves. Things like clave, you have to get that stuff right. And what instruments and sounds go towards creating different latin styles (for example, a lot of latin jazz / mambo gets passed off as salsa, when it’s clearly quite different.) Things like understanding why Colombian salsa is different to Cuban, Puerto Rican, USA styles of salsa.

 

 

 

 

LL: Can you share some of the artists that you absolutely dig, and are surprised that others haven’t heard of?

MD: Just about all the latin artists I listen to are fairly unknown in Australia. With exception to guys like Marc Anthony, Ricky Martin, and bands like Buena Vista Social Club.

My favourites would have to be Victor Manuelle, Timbalive, Gilberto Santarosa, Jose Alberto, Oscar De Leon, Grupo Gale, Fabian Torres, Huey Dunbar, Spanish Harlem Orchestra, Luis Enrique, Andy Montanez, Moncho Rivera, Frankie Ruiz.

Non-latin bands like The Truth, Directions in Groove, Incognito, not too well known around here but fantastic bands.

 

 

LL: How about songs/albums that you cannot get enough of?

MD: Pretty much the guys above. Can listen all day and not get tired (and I do listen all day haha).

 

 

LL: Do you go out of your way to discover new music?

MD: Yeah all the time. Because I also do latin DJ’ing, I’m constantly on the lookout for new material that no-one else is playing around these parts. It keeps my DJ’ing fresh and means that I always get rave reviews.

 

 

 

 

LL: Where do you go for inspiration? What do you do when you need to come up with a musical idea?

MD: Usually ask my brother! He’s a mad crazy guitarist and just a freak of a musician. Or I just absorb all that above music and bounce off that.

 

LL: What’s your view about social media?

MD: Took me a while to get into it. I see the benefits of it, but I think there’s still way too much crap out there.

 

LL: What are your favourite sites at the moment?

MD: Anything car related usually 🙂 Or just Youtube, checking out music / drum videos.

 

 

 

LL: What would you do when you need cheering up?

MD: Play the kit. Or the timbales. Or the congas. Or work on my cars.

 

LL: Would you be open to collaborating with other artists?

MD: Definitely. If they’re the same level as me and interested in doing the same types of music that I am, for sure.

 

LL: Are you interested in technology?

MD: I love audio plugins, I have a tonne of those. I like upgrading my computer every now and then, at the moment it’s a quad core beats with a fast graphics card, and my monitor is a 40″ Sony LCD. I’m definitely a tech head, though I don’t really have the income to be a very good one!

 

LL: A 40″ monitor!? Quite sizable! Did you choose that size because you needed more space when editing?

MD: Laptops bug me, I love screen real estate. the 40″ screen allows me to do audio and video with ease, opening multiple windows at once (like, a mix window and an FX window, for example), rather than running dual monitors. I’ll probably upgrade down the track but at the moment 1080p on a 40″ screen does me fine.

 

Imaging for SCA at home. The best way to do it! #studiolife #protools #turndownforwhat #maudio

A post shared by Matthew David (@matthewdavidmedia) on

 

 

LL: With your videos, are you looking to upload the same kind in the future? Or are you looking to do different things?

 

MD: I’d like to do some more guides, and also some more timbale covers. I’m probably due for uploading 1 or 2 more, now that I have a bit more free time that could be a possibility for the next couple of weeks.

 

LL: If you were asked to pick from the videos you have, which one would be your favourite?

MD: Hard to tell. Really depends what I’m picking for. I like my timbale cover, since I like the song and I enjoy playing Latin. But I know it’s not my best playing. I don’t really have one that I feel highlights my playing properly.

 

LL: For someone watching a video of yours for the first time, what is the message you’re hoping they’ll take with them?

MD: Well, it comes down to the video. If it’s my latin band, I want them to think “these guys aren’t too bad!” and then they book us for a gig! For my personal playing, I’m happy if it inspires people to make up their own stuff and get better as a player. After all, it’s not a competition. And I am of the mindset that if I’ve learned something, I just be gracious enough to pass that on to others.

 

 

 

LL: What feeds your soul?

MD: Playing with awesome musicians definitely does that. Or just jamming along to my favourite tracks.

 

 

LL: What do you find is the best way to connect with your audience?

MD: This is still something I struggle with. Audiences are fickle and sometimes you just can’t figure them out. Ultimately I just try to do things that I think audiences will enjoy. Keep people entertained and do things in a way that they haven’t seen/heard before. And it usually pays off.

 

 

 

 

 

* Matthew is a drummer based out of Queensland’s Gold Coast. You can find content on his Youtube channel where he shares groove ideas, covers, as well as gear reviews. See things through his eyes (as well as have a glimpse of the projects he’s working on) via his Instagram feed. He is open to teaching privately though he thinks he’d be better at doing instructional videos than getting students in and trying to teach them. As for gigs and recordings (in person or online), you can reach out to him to have an initial conversation to see if your project would be a fit for him.

 

 

 

 

 

Source Material and Notes: The material posted is based on correspondence (August 2014 – September 2016) between Matthew and Leigh. Content has been edited for length, and the final version has been reviewed and approved by the interviewee.

Leigh Lim is a musician based out of Sydney. You can find a sample of her music here. To reach out to Leigh, you can do so based on this post. (Curious to find out if she’s your kind of person? You can check out her slightly cheeky FAQ.)

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Q&A #23: Andrew Kolb

 

Andrew shares his journey of being an illustrator, his love for cookies, one of his methods of getting bad ideas out, and how his stinginess has amusingly become prevalent in his approach to investments.

 

Leigh Lim: Hi Andrew, thanks for taking the time to do a Q&A! While on your site I noticed on the upper right hand corner the picture of a fist that morphs into a ‘thumbs up’ if I hover over it. Has that been a new addition when you last revamped your website?

Andrew Kolb: Oh I’m glad you noticed! I wanted a quick link to my Facebook page and a friendly thumbs up seemed like an appropriate gesture.

 

LL: Why do you think you do the things you do?

AK: This can quickly get existential but I think my main driving force is making a strong connection between my mental and physical output. The hardest part, for me, is getting what’s in my head out onto the page. Sometimes it’s close and sometimes it’s not, but I continually strive to better connect the two.

 

 

LL: Can you give a quick summary in terms of how you got to where you are as an illustrator?

AK: Oh I don’t feel like it’s a very exciting story. I feverishly drew as a child and continued to do so in my young adulthood. An art teacher directed me towards design, and that’s what I studied/worked as for a number of years. Slowly I realized I needed to transition more exclusively to illustration and the rest (after a slow fade from one into the other while also freelancing) is history!

 

LL: Does that mean you just drew everything that caught your eye? (no particular theme of drawings you were particularly drawn to? Meaning…you didn’t draw mostly…eagles…etc?)

AK: Sadly I didn’t draw nearly enough eagles in my youth. I really liked making something that people could recognize so I often drew existing characters (a trend that carries on to today).

 

 

LL: Do you have specific books that you keep within reach that you regularly refer to?

AK: Not particularly. It usually depends on the project I’m working on and that will define what references from which I’m pulling.

 

 

LL: Can you share maybe three examples?

AK: Well there are two books that I couldn’t live without: The Graphic Artists’ Guild Handbook of Pricing and Ethical Guidelines and Business & Legal Forms for Illustrators. These combined are what took me from casual artist to a somewhat legit freelancer.

 

 

LL: Are there any challenges that come to mind during your learning process?

AK: I think the biggest challenge in my learning process is refining my communication skills. It’s ongoing but without the ability to get your thoughts and opinions across to the client, you won’t be able to effectively collaborate.

 

LL: So, a bit more like making sure the client and yourself are both on the same page before going to the next step of the process? (I’m interested to hear your thoughts relating to how you would approach if you were dealing with a client when after you’ve explained to him/her for 3-5 times what your vision is — or why specific changes would be helpful. And they still don’t get it. Would you pull the plug on the project? Refund their payment and mention that you’ve made a mistake committing early on and now know that there isn’t a fit?)

AK: No nothing that drastic. If I’ve committed to the project then I’ll see it through to the end. If, however, the experience was one where neither were really satisfied at the end then I’d probably have to really think on it before working together again. And to be fair, they’re likely feeling the same way. At the same time I’ll also reflect on the experience to get a sense of what worked and what didn’t. Maybe I wasn’t properly communicating and perhaps I need to approach the conversation in a different way next time!

 

 

LL: If you were to put together a ‘learning plan’ or practice pack for someone who hasn’t paid attention to how they approach their drawings before, so they could have the capacity to write at your level and skill. What would it look like?

AK: I think everyone’s journey is unique but a consistent element for growth is reflection. Look back on your work and try to figure out what you like and don’t like about it. Look at other’s work that inspires you and define what it is that you like. Do the opposite for work that repulses you. Collect this info and just reflect on it.

How can you take what you like and make more of it? How can you mitigate what you don’t like about your own and others’ work? There’s no single answer to these questions but asking them in the first place is what’s most important.

 

LL: Artists are known to be very protective for their work. What would you say to someone who can’t seem to let go, and share their ideas/work — while it is in progress?

AK: An interesting observation! For the longest time I didn’t share process work because I thought it was uninteresting, and yet I was always fascinated to see the processes of other artists. I would say to this hypothetical person that they’re adding beauty to the world and that the kindest gesture would be to share that beauty with others.

 

 

LL: Would you say it was discipline that got you to where you are as an illustrator?

AK: Perhaps a mix of discipline and perseverance. It’s tough to overcome the early work that you know isn’t your best but you have to keep going if you’re going to get better.

 

LL: Do you keep before and after photos?

AK: I don’t necessarily make a conscious effort but the Internet does a pretty good job of reminding you of your past. I still have people reference work that’s no longer on my site because it’s 5 years old and outdated.

All you need to do is go back to your earliest Flickr post or Tweet to get a quick reminder of where you started.

 

 

LL: How important was it to have someone help you learn a specific technique?

AK: I would say the most important lessons I’ve received haven’t been technical but were more ethereal. It’s important to talk to other people in your industry at different levels (more or fewer years than you) so that you can get a good perspective on how you’re doing. They might be able to provide you with direction or suggestions that you couldn’t conceive simply because you haven’t been around as long as them.

 

LL: Favourite time of the day to work?

AK: I like the feeling of getting a lot of work done in the morning. If I finish a project in the AM then it feels like anything that happens after lunch is a bonus.

Is this sensible? No. Is it how I feel? 100%.

 

Adder's Fork

 

LL: How much do you plan before you start a project?

AK: I always start with pencil and a sheet of paper/sketchbook. Sometimes it’s just to get the bad ideas out but I never start right on the computer; there’s too much commitment there.

 

LL: How long would you say it takes, for you to complete an illustration?

AK: It really depends on the complexity of the project. A single character image can probably be done after a few hours, but I’ve also spent hundreds of hours on more complex images. I try not to time my work too much as I find it limits creativity.

That’s not to say I don’t track my hours, I just don’t say I’ll complete a project after spending X amount of time on it.

 

 

LL: How would you describe your style?

AK: Genial with a touch of overthinking.

 

LL: What are some misconceptions you find about you as an illustrator?

AK: This is weirdly specific but if I was paid every time someone said they thought I did my work in Illustrator, I could retire today. I think there’s also a misconception about freelance in general that it’s all weekends all the time.

The truth is that you have to be more disciplined as a freelancer than if you were employed. Yes there are perks, but if you chase those perks for too long then they start to be what ruins your business.

 

No Strings on Me - Captain America

 

LL: Why do you think you get that comment a lot?

AK: Hmmmm. I’m not exactly sure why! Perhaps it’s the relative geometry with which I work or maybe because I don’t do a lot of painterly executions (something I’m working on right now!) so I think the assumption is “not paint = illustrator”.

This is a gross generalization but maybe that’s what’s happening?

 

LL: Can you give an example of how one of your days look like?

AK: No two days are identical but I try to keep to a general structure. I start the morning with emails for 15–30 minutes and then get to “work”. That could mean research or sketching or admin but what matters is that I’m not constantly checking emails. I’ll spend the last 15–30 minutes before lunch checking social media and then I take a break.

That process repeats after lunch (and sometimes after dinner) and I find it helps to break the day up into chunks.

 

 

LL: 15-30 minutes checking email. How are you able to stick with your time limit?

AK: I admit it’s not a hard rule. Sometimes it’s quiet and I only need a few minutes to reply to what’s in my inbox. Really what I’m getting at is that I don’t constantly check my emails. I scan the emails to see what’s most pressing, and then reply to those first. If I have time to start working on a more casual email then I will.

What this helps avoid is an email conversation as that starts to really eat up precious time.

 

LL: Are you learning something specific at the moment?

AK: I’ve been exploring more restrictive palettes and, quite separately, trying to be more loose with my execution. I love a painterly aesthetic and I want to leave a softer impression with my imagery.

 

 

LL: Can you share three approaches you take that helped you become a better artist?

AK: Hmmm. Top three pieces of advice/approaches I find works:

  1. Draw every day (in any capacity and without too much filtering)
  2. Read a lot (business books, biographies on people who inspire you, stories about subjects you’d like to illustrate, whatever!)
  3. Don’t be too hard on yourself (being unhappy doing the work that you love is a very difficult feeling to overcome).

 

LL: What usually is the sign you look for that will give you the signal that it’ll be the take/version you like?

AK: This is so tough to say but I just kinda know. I’ll do a sketch and know ahead of time if they want to change something or not. It’s not a 100% guarantee but once you get to know your collaborators it makes the process so much smoother.

 

 

LL: What’s your go-to set-up?

AK: My day, when planned, is generally structured with emailing being the first half hour of the day, after lunch, and before I wrap up the day. Sometimes emergencies will negate that but it helps me focus when I know I don’t need to check something every 10 minutes.

 

LL: Did it take awhile for you to settle on the kind of set-up that you like?

AK: The transition from my drawing tablet to a screen based tablet was a big hurdle. I didn’t realize how accustomed I’d gotten to looking in a different direction than where I’m drawing, but that mental shift took a while to correct.

 

 

LL: What’s part of your arsenal at the moment?

AK: Well I use a mac mini outfitted with a Cintiq 22hd, Creative Suite CS5, and a second monitor to have research/comments visible while I’m drawing. My mouse and keyboard are as integral as the drawing stylus and music or a podcast is running in the background.

I’ve probably also just recently eaten a cookie.

 

LL: Has your equipment undergone customisation?

AK: Not much. I make a few custom brushes but outside of that I find I’m a fairly vanilla guy when it comes to my technology; I just need it to work.

 

 

LL: Do you have a piece of equipment (or software) that you thought was a good buy at that time, but you eventually didn’t use it as much as you hoped?

AK: Not that I can think of! I try to do a loooooooooot of research before I invest in anything and I think I’m so stingy that even if it wasn’t perfect, I’d make it work somehow.

 

LL: Have you been always mindful of ergonomics while working?

AK: I recently invested in a standing desk and that helps a lot. I also make sure to get up for regular cookie breaks.

 

 

LL: Okay…You’ve mentioned cookies twice already! I have to ask for the readers who are cookie fans: ‘What kinds do you keep within reach?’

AK: Well my mum and sister bake a lot so I usually get the spillover from their hobby. But I actually have a very low bar for baked goods and will eat pretty much anything.

But some faves: Chips Ahoy Rainbow cookies, Chips Ahoy Ice Cream Creations cookies, and Danish Cinnamon

 

LL: Equipment Maintenance and Storage?

AK: There is one thing. I invested in a fireproof box that I keep my external hard drives in. That’s pretty much it.

 

 

LL: Do you keep prints of your illustrations?

AK: I keep a few prints on hand for sale; does that count? Outside of that I usually give copies of my work (like magazines I’m in or greeting cards) to my family members cause they like to see what I’m doing.

 

LL: Yes! That counts! What’s the magazine/greeting card limit when you buy?

AK: Oh I’m usually sent a few copies by the client and those get distributed as far as I can go. Immediate family is first and then grandparents and friends are next in line. If it’s something really big (like a magazine cover) then I just tell everyone I know so they can buy a copy and get the client to hire me more because that means sales go THROUGH THE ROOF!

 

 

LL: I notice you don’t put watermarks on your work. Is that because you’re just trusting that people are inherently honest, and if someone does try to pass your work as their own — it’ll just be a matter of time before they’ll be paying for what they have done?

AK: Interesting. I can’t image someone trying to pretend their work is mine as what does that get them? Eventually they’ll need to create MORE work and I doubt if they’re that they’d be able to recreate the aesthetic. If they CAN then they’re probably talented enough that they don’t need to use someone else’s work. So I suppose that the law of averages will even it all out.

 

LL: Can you share a bit of background on how some of your illustrations came about?

AK: The Vacation poster came about simply because Mondo had the license and thought I’d be a good fit! I actually did a bit of a process post about that very project over on my blog.

The opposites poster was for a gallery show in France and it was a lot of fun! It was originally intended to just be that piece but after a while it really felt like it could be more than just the one print. I reached out to the Internet in general and a lot of wonderful people helped me translate it into other languages so that it could get into as many classrooms or kid’s rooms as possible!

 

 

LL: Mondo? (Is that mondotees.com? This is interesting because — there are a lot of ‘tribute art’ out there that is being sold. Would be interested in hearing about your perspective on how you approach it. Would you not put out publicly any art that has a link to a particular brand? Also! The story behind your collaboration with Mondo! Was it because of an existing relationship? Or did you get your art on their site because someone recommended a previous work you did?)

AK: Tribute/fan art is tricky. I try to draw what I enjoy and occasionally that means working with existing properties. With that said, I also like to add a little something new to the mix (perhaps a different style, or an additional story) and I think that’s what caught the eye of Mondo (though I genuinely have no idea how they came by my work). They approached me about a Yogi Bear poster and I’ve been working with them on various projects ever since! They’re a great group of people and really have a passion for the industry.

 

LL: What do you find is the best way to serve your clients?

AK: It’s tricky. Every client and every artist is different so I’ll only speak for myself; I think the best way to serve the client is to truly understand what it is that they’re trying to accomplish and offer the best solution you can muster. The client may see the problem as one challenge and you may see it another way, but that’s part of the dialogue.

At the end of the day, communication is what’s key. Listening is a part of that but so is being open with how you feel about what they need and what you’re doing.

 

 

LL: With your website, what process did you go through? (Do you do collect notes of the kind of changes you’d like to have, then after 2 years — roll them out?)

AK: Actually, yes! I take note of sites I like and try to parse out why I like them. Those items become a small running list in my head and eventually it spills over into a properly written list. That list translates into rough sketches and eventually a baby site is born!

 

LL: Are there questions you find yourself answering multiple times?

AK:

  1. ‘What brushes do you use?’ (I use a few custom brushes and others from Kyle T. Webster).
  2. ‘What software/hardware do you use?’ (Photoshop and a cintiq)
  3. ‘What are your influences?’ (Too many to list!)

 

 

 

LL: Do you have a regular schedule of posting blog entries?

AK: I’ve been trying to be more spontaneous with sharing and I like how that’s going. Some projects require postings at certain times (days before a gallery show opens, not until after a project is made public) but process work is generally as I’m working on it and it feels more natural that way.

 

LL: I have to ask about part of your Twitter Bio (“…keepin’ it clean…”). Does that have anything to do with the kind of illustrations you do?

AK: Yes and no. The whole “Kolbisneat” moniker started as a double meaning since I’m both a tidy guy AND a fairly genial illustrator.

 

 

LL: Were there instances when you hesitated about posting something?

AK: Nope! The whole “spontaneous” goal means that I try to not overthink and just share. If it’s a simple sketch on Instagram then that’s okay! There will be more posts like it in the future and one dud won’t spoil the whole lot.

 

LL: What’s the one thing you have to put time on —- but have been putting off?

AK: I guess updating my website is the big one. Not that I’m putting it off so much as I just have trouble finding the time to take on something so big for myself? I’d rather be drawing anyway.

 

 

LL: Would getting someone else to do the work for you an option?

AK: Oh I’d never considered this!

I think when I was doing more traditional graphic design then I’d be comfortable with someone else making edits (usually text or photo retouching). As for illustration, I really feel like they’re coming to me as much for my execution as they are for my ideas so to pass off a stage of the project would be to fall short of what they need.

As for the website, I think I’m trying to be more strategic. Instead of coding from scratch I’m definitely working with templates so I suppose I am happy to release some of the responsibility.

 

LL: Are you currently mentoring someone?

AK: Actually I am! One of my old design students is looking to get more into illustration so he and I have been chatting about where he wants to go and how he can best get there.

It’s still in its early stages but we’re both having lot of fun! Or at least I hope he’s having fun as well; he hasn’t told me otherwise.

 

Repost of a little Home Alone preview for @mondotees

A post shared by Andrew Kolb (@kolbisneat) on

 

LL: Oh! How did that come about?

AK: Well we’ve kept in touch since he graduated and I’ve occasionally offered feedback on individual projects. So the rapport was already established and we just formalized it and gave the interaction a little more structure!

Again this is my first attempt at something like this so I’ll be the first to admit that I’m making it up as I go along and as he offers feedback. Basically I give him goals to achieve and timelines by which to achieve them. If he doesn’t meet them then we discuss why and revise. If he has questions along the way then I’m happy to chat but I feel something this personal is still an experience to work through on your own.

I’m more like signage on a trail than a tour guide.

 

 

LL: What do you do when you come across something that annoys you?

AK: I suppose it depends on what’s annoying me. If it’s something I can change then I start to try to enact that change. If it’s something I can’t affect then I try to remove myself from the situation or change it so that it doesn’t happen again.

 

 

LL: Are there certain things you ‘geek out’ about?

AK: Right now I’m reeeeeeally into Dungeons & Dragons. I’ve always been into fantasy but something about role playing and being a proactive part of the narrative is really grabbing me! I listen to podcasts about it. I read blogs from Dungeon Masters. I read the books; anything I can get my hands on!

 

LL: What were the last 5 things you pre-ordered?

AK: Ha. I rarely preorder BUT I did just preorder the second volume of IDW’s TMNT comic series! They’re releasing the series in these beautiful hardcover books and the first volume is great so when I saw #2 listed I didn’t hesitate for a second!

 

 

LL: Are you a big listener of music? (songs/albums that you cannot get enough of? Alternately, you can also share things you like reading about or listening to —- or even your favourite non-musical artists: painters, dancers, sculptors, poets…)

AK: Artists to which I’ll never grow tired of listening: Simon & Garfunkel, The Beach Boys, Sleigh Bells, Andrew W. K., Theophany. Authors whose work I’ll never grow tired of reading: Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman, Jonathan L. Howard.

 

LL: How do you make sure that your media consumption doesn’t overshadow the time you have for your work?

AK: If anything I worry the balance is the other way. I’m so busy with client and personal work that I sometimes forget to take a break! With that said, I try to read every day and am sure to take breaks to see what my peers are doing (both for moral support and inspiration).

 

 

LL: Got any peers you’d like to mention?

AK: Oh yeah! Some of my faves to both check out and thank for all of the help are Chris Lee, Meg Hunt, Kevin Stanton, Jared Schorr, Matt Kaufenberg, and James Boorman!

Some are great inspiration for the business, some are great for the ideas, and all are great for the visual expression!

 

LL: Do you go out of your way to discover new things?

AK: I don’t know if it’s so much about “discover” as it is trusting a few key resources. I try to collate my favourite bloggers and sites so that I can keep up on what they’re recommending for music, games, and books. The Mary Sue and the AV club are two examples of sites with a lot of overlap in tastes. If they’re highly recommending something, chances are I’ll also be on board.

 

 

LL: In what way do you approach motivation and inspiration? (Are they both intertwined for you? During days when you’re not so motivated and inspired…would you read a certain book? Think back on a certain experience? Find something random to do?)

AK: I’m not sure if they’re intertwined. I can be inspired by something but it doesn’t immediately motivate me to recreate it or do something else. If anything, it may get tucked away and not pop up again for months!

But when I’m feeling unmotivated I take that time to do the stuff that doesn’t require any inspiration (invoicing, proposals, all the boring admin stuff that makes the world turn).

 

LL: What makes you smile?

AK: Oh just go to my vine account and look at my likes. They may not all be PG but that gives you a good sense of what makes me laugh.

 

 

LL: What’s your view about social media?

AK: Oh I love social media! I think I’m inclined to sit back and observe or respond when approached, but that’s something I’m trying to proactively change. Twitter and Instagram have been invaluable in not only growing as an artist, but connecting me with likeminded creatives who’ve helped me and I can help.

 

LL: What are your favourite sites at the moment?

AK: Feminist_Tinder on Instagram and Man Who Has it All on Twitter. Clearly I’m a feminist who enjoys biting satire.

 

This is why I love my dungeon master. #DungeonsAndDragons

A post shared by Andrew Kolb (@kolbisneat) on

 

LL: Do you currently post on other sites?

AK: One collective to which I regularly submit is Planet-Pulp. It’s a great collective and a nice way to keep up with a community in a casual setting.

 

LL: Are there websites that you like to visit just because you like the design?

AK: Hmmm. I admit I’m guilty of using an RSS feed aggregator so I don’t often visit the actual sites any longer.

 

 

LL: What would you do when you need cheering up?

AK: I usually go to my vine likes.

 

LL: Do you enjoy collaborating with other artists?

AK: I do! It doesn’t happen very often but when I get the chance I will always say yes to a collabo!

 

A quick tease of my contribution to @mrtomfroese + @everlovin's #TheCanadianist project!

A post shared by Andrew Kolb (@kolbisneat) on

 

LL: Are you interested in technology?

AK: I don’t suppose I am. Perhaps in the big picture (what technology is breaking ground on a global scale and how that impacts our daily lives, but I usually don’t get very granular on the topic).

 

LL: If you were asked to pick from the blog posts you have, which one would be your favourite?

AK: Maybe it’s not a single post but I really like my Monthly Media posts. It’s just nice to reflect in some way and while the posts don’t get a lot of likes or reblogs, they do create a lot of conversation and it’s something I value far more than those little hearts.

 

 

LL: Are you the type of person that finds it easy to start something?

AK: I do! But I try to balance that with recognizing if it’s a project that I should just as quickly end. Just because I’ve started something doesn’t mean I need to keep going. If I’ve learned from the experience and I’m no longer enjoying it then there’s no need to keep going (I’m speaking exclusively about personal projects).

 

LL: For seeing your work for the first time, what is the message you’re hoping they’ll take with them?

AK: I’d hope it brings a smile to their face. Or even if it makes them think! Heck if they’re smiling and thinking at the same time then that’d be a dream come true.

 

This week's episode of @mof1podcast is super fun and I promise I'm not biased in the slightest.

A post shared by Andrew Kolb (@kolbisneat) on

 

LL: What makes your soul sing?

AK: Finishing a good book. The first listen of a new album by a favourite artist. Not having to leave the house when it’s a rain/snow storm. Waffles. That perfect bite of a really unhealthy burger.

 

LL: What’s the best way to connect with people who admire your work? (sending and replying to individual messages via email or social media? or via your mailing list?)

AK: All of it! I try to keep up with social media comments but I admit they’re more frequent than personal emails. Tweeting at me with a question will usually get a response. Oh I’d say no matter the platform, brevity is key. I’d rather have two or three emails going with short answers than one email with 14 different questions.

(outside of this interview, of course!)

 

 

LL: Have you found your tribe yet? (Also, if you’d like to give some guidance to those who haven’t found their tribe yet…where they should start…and how they would know they are in the right track…and when they’ve succeeded in finding ‘their peeps’.)

AK: I think a tribe/family is always changing shape. There are people that I really connected with for a time, and then paths change and that’s okay. There’s definitely a core that’s stuck it out with me and for that I’ll be eternally grateful. Some are further along in their career and some are right on my heels, but I think what matters most is that I trust them fully with whatever I’m bringing (a problem, a celebration, just a random idea, whatever!).

As to where you should start, just trust your gut. I think if you try to force a friendship and you’re not 6 years old then it’ll be a hard feat to accomplish. Reach out to people you respect and admire and if something clicks then great! If not then maybe it’s just not the right time?

 

LL: What kind of opportunities are you looking forward to?

AK: I’m really excited to getting into more dimensional work. I’m currently exploring 3D and it’s sooooooo insane!

 

 

LL: This is probably a good time to bring up 1001 Knights. Are you all talked out about the project?

AK: Oh yeah! So Kevin (whom I just mentioned) brought me on board as he’s 50% of the creative force (along with the ever-awesome Annie Stoll.

Kevin pitched it to me as a way to offer a diverse representation of what a “knight” could be and I was immediately on board! It’s been a little over a year in the making and the Kickstarter has gotten wonderful traction! It started out as purely a labour of love for the curators and the concept and I think that’s the best way to get an authentic marketing experience out of it!

Any eyes on my work based on this anthology is truly because everyone put so much passion into the project.

 

LL: In what way do you enjoy helping others?

AK: I really like one-on-one interactions. I love teaching and working with an entire class, but when we get the chance to connect in small groups it really is a different experience. Outside of that, any chance to push someone further is great!

I’m guilty myself of putting too many constraints on my own work so helping others break down walls is oddly cathartic.

 

LL: Looking back through your journey, are you amazed at what you’ve accomplished so far?

AK Yes?

 

* Andrew Kolb is an illustrator based out of Ontario. If you resonate with any of the information about him, he looks forward to hearing from you. You can see things from his eyes by checking out his Twitter feed or his blog entries.

 

 

 

 

 

Source Material and Notes: The material posted is based on correspondence (January-February 2016) between Andrew and Leigh. Content has been edited for length, and the final version has been reviewed and approved by the interviewee.

Leigh Lim is a musician based out of Sydney. You can find a sample of her music here. To reach out to Leigh, you can do so via this form or a direct message through YouTube. (Curious to find out if she’s your kind of person? You can check out her slightly cheeky FAQ.)

Notes:

  • If there are things that you’d like to know about Andrew that should be included, please do leave a note (using the second form gives the opportunity to share your request with the WNE community and also to give Andrew the option of answering).
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Interested in reading more?

  • Following each Q&A session a separate entry (The Quote Jar: Twenty Two) is posted that would be a companion piece to Andrew’s Q&A.
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Want to start a conversation unrelated to the Q&A? That’s okay too! Just use the first form below. 😀 (Or if it is your first time visiting the site — hoping you’d take the time to check this out.)

 

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Q&A #22: Nigel Powell

 

Nigel shares his journey of being a drummer, the perils of being self taught, and how learning proper posture early on helped him with his playing.

 

Leigh Lim: Hi Nigel, thanks for taking the time to do a Q&A! On your YouTube page, you use an alias, and from what I can notice, you don’t put your name in your videos. Is that something you just wanted to have a bit of play with?

Nigel Powell: Most of that is historical. My alias everywhere is sadsongco, which comes from The Sad Song Co., the ‘band name’ that I’ve so far released two solo albums under – my third is in the recording process right now.

I opted for that when I started working on solo stuff because I can’t see the name ‘Nigel’ as very rock and roll or credible! Probably a contextual thing. In my work with other people, especially Frank Turner, I go under my given name, but all of the social media accounts I set up used the project name.

 

LL: Can you give a quick summary in terms of how you got to where you are with your playing?

NP: The bulk of my learning was copying records I liked. I tried teaching for a little while, but it didn’t feel right to me. I just wanted to say to students “go and play along with your favourite album until it sounds right”, because the way you do things wrong is what makes drumming develop and be exciting, and creates original and new drummers with identifiable personalities.

When I was first out and gigging there was a famous drum school in London called Drumtech, and whenever you came across a player who’d learned there you could instantly tell – they were like little drumming clones. They could always play the arse off everyone around them technically, but it always seemed to be lacking soul.

 

I do practice though. I used to do it much more, working on rudiments (which some drumming friends had showed me), working things out at home. We play so much with Frank now that I don’t practice in quite the same way any more, I much prefer playing with people in front of an audience. It develops different skills – my technical level has perhaps declined a little, but in terms of vibe and making a band sound good (which is the top of my priorities anyway) I’m as good as I’ve ever been right now.

 

 

LL: Do you have specific books that you keep within reach that you regularly refer to?

NP: I worked through the first half of Advanced Techniques For The Modern Drummer by Jim Chapin a few times, and will still occasionally revisit to see if I can break through to the second half.

From time to time I work on pages from Stick Control by George Lawrence Stone, sometimes hands and sometimes feet. But as I say, I’m on the road so much that that ‘woodshed’ kind of approach to my playing has taken a back seat to actually playing shows.

 

 

LL: If you were to put together a ‘learning plan’ or practice pack for someone who has never played before, so they could have the capacity to play at your level and skill. What would it look like?

NP: Definitely wouldn’t want someone to go through the same journey that I did. If I had to give advice it would be to get into a band with your mates at school (or even more than one band), and learn your instrument in the context of how it makes music with other people, rather than from a technical perspective.

Take some advice from knowledgeable people about simple technical things – how to hold the sticks, letting them rebound, that kind of thing – otherwise you will find yourself hitting a wall later on and having to unlearn things. This is a problem I still come up against because of my self-taught approach.

But as to drumming as a philosophy, find your own, and invent yourself.

 

 

LL: Are there any challenges that come to mind during your learning process?

NP: Motivation is harder now than it was. But the biggest challenge is always working through something that you can’t do, starting it slowly and patiently making it work. Do what I say, not what I do – I get frustrated and I’m bad at being patient!

 

LL: Would you say it was discipline that got you to where you are as a drummer? (That you were able to build up the knowledge and skill — and able to apply it)

NP: In terms of career success, I can only really put it down to always keeping going and staying positive, even when things were bad and I really should have given up pursuing it full time if I had any sense. It’s a boring answer, but I was very careful to plan myself financially and be careful with money so I could afford to ride out the bad times and keep going.

I had other jobs, responsible jobs, and things I was good at, but I always considered myself a drummer who was doing something else. You want to be in for the long haul as a drummer? Stop smoking and drinking, you’ll save yourself a rent’s worth of money every month so you’ll never be cornered into having to give it up!

 

 

LL: Were there times when you didn’t want to practice?

NP: There have been times when I didn’t practice. Depression and negativity visit most people at some time, and I would sit on a sofa and play video games rather than improving myself. I think anyone who says that never happens is probably not telling all of the truth. I’m sure even Gavin Harrison has occasional days when he thinks “bugger this, I’m going to the cinema”.

But luckily there’s always been a gig on the horizon, so eventually I need to get myself back in shape or risk making bad music, or not giving someone their money’s worth. That’s the thing that truly drives me – live, someone has chosen to take a percentage of the money that they earn, possibly doing something crappy that they hate, and they’re spending it on coming to see the show you’re contributing to. If you have any respect for that, you always do your best.

 

LL: How important was it to have someone help you learn a specific technique?

NP: The advice I picked up was all in bits and pieces. I never had a specific mentor, but gleaned little bits of information here and there. No-one was really invested in my learning except me.

If anyone deserves props it was my mum – my drums were in my bedroom above the kitchen, and I used to play for hours while she’d be cooking or something. If it was me I would have gone insane within a month!

 

 

LL: Description of your playing style?

NP: Ummm… hard to say. I try to think about whatever music I’m playing first.

I guess my personal preference is I don’t care it it’s simple or complex, but I’m looking for something original, even if it’s just a subtle twist that you wouldn’t necessarily consciously notice. Take the new Frank song ‘Get Better’. When we were arranging it straight away I wanted that relentless ‘four crotchets of snare drum’ feel. After shifting things around a little bit, it became that with the Sabian Chopper as well, which gives it the slightly unusual sound.

Then on the left foot for the second half of the first verse I’m playing hi hat tambourine, but it’s a three bar phrase, so it shifts across the pattern as the verse goes past. I don’t think anyone would notice unless you pointed it out, but it gives a subconscious texture. Then in the second verse the hi hat tambourine switches to the backbeat to give an injection of urgency, but the kick takes over on the shifting three bar phrase.

Something like that sums up how I think of my drumming style – trying to find ways to make it different, without it being obvious or self-consciously different, and it still rocking hard.

 

LL: What are some misconceptions you find about you as a drummer?

NP: I’m a fan of some prog rock, so a few people who’ve known that have assumed I’m going to be playing massive fills all over the place. But that’s not really me. I do, unequivocally, love Phil Collins, but I equally love the work of Rob Ellis on early PJ Harvey, and in my work I tend to take that approach – slightly weird patterns, generally repetitive to create an original groove – more than the prog.

 

 

LL: Do you have a mental (or written) checklist that you go through, before each work is finished? (Idea, mental picture of how the end would look like, then chart it out? or are there people that note some input, then you go about finalising your work?)

NP: My concepts for things are all instinct, which I then use my right brain to realise. If it feels right when it’s done, it is right. I’ve never charted anything, except for occasionally in rehearsal where I’ve needed to remember something.

 

LL: What’s next for your playing?

NP: I’ve been practicing a bit more lately, trying to get my feet a bit more solid when playing double kick and getting through the glass ceiling of speed on my left hand. But that’s technique, not music. And everything that is ‘next’ for my playing is musical, not technical.

So it depends on what songs need their emotions refining and focusing as to what I need to do on the drums next.

 

 

LL: Have you been always mindful of ergonomics when you play?

NP: I’ve always sat up straight. I saw a Dennis Chambers video ages ago where someone described his posture as “like he’s welded to a lamppost”, and I took that on board.

Thank goodness my idolisation of Phil Collins didn’t extend to mimicking his posture; now that his back problems have come to light, watching old videos of him just hurt to look at.

 

LL: Heel-up / Heel Down? (both feet?)

NP: Heel up for loud, heel down for quiet. Although my right foot has a weird thing it does on double, which is kind of a heel-toe thing, but not like I’ve seen anyone else do. The perils of being self-taught!

 

LL: What is your warm-up / practice routine like?

NP: I do half an hour of rudiments on a practice pad before we go on, to get the blood flowing through my hands.

 

 

LL: Favourite Shoes for Drumming?

NP: I’ve got a pair of Macbeth sneakers which seem to make playing easier. Totally psychosomatic I’m sure.

 

LL: Favourite time of the day to play?

NP: When there’s other people to play with. Other than that, no preference.

 

LL: What’s your default gear set-up? (You did a walk through on your kit in this video — do the details still hold true currently? or have there been minor changes in your set-up since filming that?)

NP: That video is pretty much up to date. Little bits and pieces change from time to time, but that’s the basis.

 

 

LL: Do you keep track of your kit bits?

NP: I’m a bit of a hoarder, and I know where it all is.

I run a backline hire company with the bassist of The Sleeping Souls, so I own a few more kits that we hire out, but I love them all dearly. I still use my older drums for various things depending on what I’m doing. I recorded my third solo album recently and used my old Premier Genista concert tom kit and loved it.

The Dive Dive album we recorded recently used one of the hire kits with a 24” kick.

 

LL: Are you a bit of ‘gear-head’?

NP: Not really a gear head. If it works and sounds good then I’m happy and I’ll hang onto things forever.

 

LL: Has any of your equipment undergone customisation?

NP: I’ve changed hoops from time to time, but no, not really.

 

 

LL: Do you vary your kit tuning?

NP: More once it’s right, I stick with it. Snares go up and down a bit in the studio, and there was one song on the new Frank Turner record where I tuned the floor tom to a note for a specific purpose.

 

LL: Drum Maintenance and Storage?

NP: I look after all my stuff, clean it regularly (I polish most cymbals as well, except for hi hats). My Frank Turner kits are in big flight cases, and they live there between tours. I have an identical kit in the states, which also sits all quiet and lonely in it’s road cases when we’re not there.

 

 

LL: Do you have a certain process when you get ready for gigs?

NP: Not really. I try and look after myself the whole time.

 

LL: When recording, are you pretty much hands on when mixing your kit?

NP: Depends on the project, but usually I make my drums sound the best they possibly can, and then trust producers and engineers to do their thing with it. I’ll throw my opinion in, but the best results usually come out of collaboration.

 

LL: Do you have a regular schedule of posting videos on your YouTube channel?

NP: No schedule. If something interesting comes up then I’ll share it.

 

 

LL: Are you currently mentoring someone?

NP: I’m not mentoring anyone in the drumming sense of the word, but I have two children of my own so maybe there’s a bit of mentoring involved in that.

 

LL: What do you do when you come across something that annoys you?

NP: Not that much annoys me, but unless it’s directly affecting me or someone I care about I try to let it go. There’s quite enough conflict in the world without trying to kick off because someone posted a YouTube comment you don’t like.

 

LL: Are there certain things you ‘geek out’ about?

NP: I geek out about movies a lot. I love watching films for enjoyment, and then again looking at screenplay structure, editing, shot choice and other stuff. I’m totally an amateur about it, but they are excitingly complex things to analyse.

 

 

LL: Are you a big listener of music?

NP: I’m sadly not that big a listener. I’m going to blame that on age – I think at a certain point everything begins to sound like something else that you’ve heard, and it’s harder to just go “that sounds COOOL!!!” at things. I’m too analytical.

Occasionally though things do have an impact. A few years back the first two The Streets albums blew me away; recently Mew and Honningbarna (a Norwegian punk band) have really been exciting me. I tend to fall back on familiar things too much though. It’s not healthy, but it is what it is.

 

LL: What are you reading at the moment?

NP: ‘The Hydrogen Sonata’ by Iain M Banks. One of the Culture novels. Only ever feel like I understand about 50% of what happens, but I really enjoy them anyway. Planning on re-reading ‘God Bless The NHS’ afterwards.

 

 

LL: Do you go out of your way to discover new things?

NP: As above, not really. It’s got better recently, because my girlfriend is a music journalist, so there’s a constant flow of new releases knocking around.

 

LL: In what way do you approach motivation and inspiration? (Are they both intertwined for you?)

NP: They are definitely intertwined. I find inspiration usually comes from doing something, and once you’ve got a kernel of inspiration it motivates me to chase it down and finish it.

 

LL: What makes you smile?

NP: Obvious answer, but comedy. I’ve had the pleasure of introducing my Norwegian girlfriend to loads of UK comedy she hadn’t seen, and getting to revisit it. The Day Today, I’m Alan Partridge, Father Ted. All awesome!

 

 

 

 

LL: What’s your view about social media?

NP: I have a very private personal Facebook which I really enjoy as a way of keeping up with friends, and I’m very selective about who I’m in contact with on there. Otherwise it’s excellent being able to have communication with people who appreciate your music through my more public FB, Twitter and Instagram accounts. I think it’s fabulous – face to face can be a bit threatening sometimes, but the technology allows a non-threatening way of having good two-way communication.

 

LL: What are your favourite sites at the moment?

NP: I visit Ain’t It Cool News most days. I used to visit Global Warming News daily, but it reading the comments was bad for my blood pressure, so not any more. Other than that, BBC News keeps me in touch from the road, and I click on The Hunger Site religiously.

 

 

LL: Do you currently post on other sites?

NP: I don’t, no. It’s not really my personality to be trying to foist my opinions on others.

 

LL: What would you do when you need cheering up?

NP: Kids. Comedy. Cooking.

 

LL: Do you enjoy collaborating with other artists online?

NP: I haven’t done it, but I would love to. I don’t know if people assume I’m too busy with Frank, but I don’t get many offers. I’m always up for anything!

 

 

LL: Are you interested in technology?

NP: I’m competent at it, and I’ve programmed the back end to a few quite complex websites using PHP / MySQL. And from a professional point of view I keep up with what’s happening and where things are going, definitely.

 

 

 

LL: With your videos, are you looking to upload the same kind in the future? Or are you looking to do different things?

NP: I upload things I think will interest people. So if the stuff I’m interested in shifts, then I guess my uploads will change too.

 

LL: Are you the type of person that finds it easy to start something?

NP: I think I am. But I’m always cautious about making any pronouncements about what kind of person I may or may not be. That’s a question for someone who knows me!

 

 

LL: For someone watching a video of yours for the first time (or attending one of your gigs), what is the message you’re hoping they’ll take with them?

NP: It depends on the video. A bit of entertainment, some info they might be interested in, something to briefly raise a smile. Whatever it happens to be.

 

LL: What makes your soul sing?

NP: My kids.

 

LL: What do you find is the best way to connect with people who admire your work?

NP: Twitter and my public Facebook. Or just chatting after a show.

 

LL: Have you found your tribe yet?

NP: I’ve always felt like a sole agent. I bounce around and am happy in a lot of people’s company (although usually I vastly prefer one-to-one over big group interaction), but I don’t really feel like I belong in a particular ‘tribe’, as you put it.

 

 

LL: What kind of opportunities are you looking forward to?

NP: I’m looking forward to getting the Dive Dive and Sad Song Co. albums out this year. Otherwise, I like to be surprised. Opportunities present themselves, I just have to be open to go “yeah, ok!”

LL: In what way do you enjoy helping others?

NP: I taught on a BND Music for a long while, and I enjoyed trying to inspire kids through that kind of course. Other than that I try to make my default position to be ‘generous’, but again that’s something to ask a third party, rather than me pompously talk about how great I am.

 

 

 

* Nigel Powell is a drummer based out of Abingdon. You can check out more of his videos here and learn more about him on his Wiki Page.

 

 

 

 

 

Source Material and Notes: The material posted is based on correspondence (April-June 2015) between Nigel and Leigh. Content has been edited for length, and the final version has been reviewed and approved by the interviewee.

Leigh Lim is a musician based out of Sydney. You can find a sample of her music here. To reach out to Leigh, you can do so via this form or a direct message through YouTube. (Curious to find out if she’s your kind of person? You can check out her slightly cheeky FAQ.)

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Q&A #21: Scott Raines

 

Scott talks about his journey as a guitarist, the importance of spending time with your chosen instrument, the importance of having a coach (no matter where you are) and the reason learning/practicing for him was never a chore.

 

Editor’s Note: Before you start reading Scott’s Q&A – play at least minute of his cover of Billy Joel’s ‘Just The Way You Are’. Let those chords and notes get in your veins!

 

(Word of warning: after checking out Scott’s videos on YouTube and reading his Q&A, you might be struck by the desire to fly to where his next solo show is going to be)

 

Leigh Lim: Hi Scott, thanks for taking the time to do a Q&A! Looking through your YouTube videos I notice that you have quite a variety of artists you cover. Is this a reflection of your own listening habits?

 

Scott Raines: With covers, I generally play what I like (my taste has a wide range). Sometimes I’ll learn or play something special for someone just because or if it’s something I like and is requested at a gig 😉

 

LL: Can you give a quick summary in terms of how you got to where you are with your playing?

SR: I was about 8 years old when my playing journey began. Growing up in Slocomb, AL, there were no local “mentors” or influences really. When I was 9, I had a really good friend (Johnny Hendrix), who was my age and knew some chords and played CCR [Creedence Clearwater Revival]. Sometimes we had music books with chords, but mostly we learned by ear.

Randy Thomley moved to Slocomb with his family from Michigan.  He turned me onto great rock like Ted Nugent, Montrose, etc. Of course, as I got older and travelled, I had many influences and mentors.

 

2 of my best friends, my older brother and I formed a band at very young ages and were playing honkytonks at the ages of 13 & 14 (my brother was older). We didn’t know what we were doing. We just knew that we needed to sound like the records we were listening to. So we would put the needle on the record and learn stuff note for note. There is no better ear training than that. We didn’t have another band in town with which compare ourselves, but only to the bands/artists themselves on the records. We blew everyone away from very young ages. The older bar cats/musicians didn’t know what hit them.

 

I grew up in the Church of Christ (no instruments), which is known for their awesome singing and vocal arrangements. I was hearing harmonies from the womb. I have always had a natural ear for harmony because of that.

 

 

LL: What pulled you to travelling?

 

SR: I knew I wanted to play music from a very early age. As soon as I was old enough, I hit the road. I took a break from traveling while my daughters were very young. They are older now, so I am enjoying traveling more again.

 

LL: Were there any challenges that come to mind during your learning process?

SR: As a kid, my problem was keeping my fingers from bleeding from playing so much on a very cheap guitar.

 

Most of my challenges came later when I crossed into other genres or between playing acoustic and electric (which are really 2 different instruments technique-wise). I never had a problem with motivation. I was going to do it/learn it, period. I would just listen to and play with the music, jam with people and study until I got better. Learn stuff note for note, then use the concepts and apply them to my own playing, etc.

 

I get blocks and hit ceilings, as I’m sure everyone does. That’s when you go see live music, get on YouTube and watch some greats, go jam with friends or put on some old music that takes you back to what got you into music in the first place.

 

 

LL: Does that mean now you’ve learned how to pace yourself? (making sure that you don’t injure your fingers? Or did you just find a way to protect the tips of your fingers as a kid – maybe with something like Micropore Tape?)

SR: As a kid, small Band-Aids, then superglue worked well. After you have played for so long, you and your fingers get in shape and it doesn’t bother you any more. Playing regularly keeps them in shape. I often play with heavier gauge strings, which keeps them strong as well.

 

LL: Do you have specific books that you keep within reach that you regularly refer to?

SR: I was turned onto SCALES AND MODES in the Beginning by a friend (Mike Barnes) who was/is an amazing player who trained at GIT [Guitar Institute of Technology, now MI – Musician’s Institute]. I was already playing much of that stuff I learned by ear, but this book enlightened me on some of what and why I was playing some things (scales, etc.). I don’t think it really changed my life or anything.

 

 

LL: If you were to put together a learning plan for someone who has never played before, so they could have the capacity to play at your level and skill. What would it look like?

 

SR: For me, playing guitar is mostly right-brained. It’s a feel thing. It’s a passion thing. My thirst for theory didn’t come until later when I wondered why I played what I played. My advice would be to explore the technical side as well as the creative. Feel what you are playing, but also explore what is going on under the hood of what you are playing and why.

 

Take lessons, get mentors, jam with artists much better than yourself. If you are really serious in making a living at it, go to where the music business is; L.A., Nashville or New York City.

 

Start writing your own stuff from day one! Learning covers is good in that you pick up technique, feel, etc., but don’t spend too much time on it. Put a band together and write your own stuff, no matter how bad is sucks. Just keep writing!

 

If you are seriously learning guitar (or ANY other instrument), consistently practice with a metronome. Rhythm is your job. Take it seriously! If it is your job to start or count off a song in a pro show, you’d better have a click in your ear or metronome on stage in order to start it at the correct tempo. There are too many factors that can affect your inner clock (butterflies, adrenalin, distractions, etc.).

 

As good as Tiger Woods is, why does he still have a coach? The best drummers in the world come to practice and to the gig with a metronome. That’s all I will say about that.

 

LL: Would you say it was discipline that got you to where you are as a guitarist?

 

SR: It was never a chore for me to “practice”. My body and soul become one when I have a guitar in my hand. I can literally feel my blood pressure even out. You hear people speak of God-given talent. Maybe there is some of that, but I tend to believe it is more of a God-given passion.

If you have true passion for something, NOTHING gets in your way and “can’t” is not an option. Yes, running scales can get tedious, but by keeping your eye on an end result/goal, it is just a necessary thing. Task over time is the only way to get great at something.

 

 

LL: How important was it to have someone help you learn a specific technique?

SR: Over the years, I have learned to not waste time inventing the wheel and go straight to someone who is doing what I want to know how to do and ask them. I call it Continuing Ed. Ask them, jam with them, pay for a lesson or whatever it takes. I have played with some amazing guitarists over the years and I have to give credit to Jack Pearson, one of my current coaches/mentors.

Jack takes playing guitar to a whole new level, stepping into multiple arenas (genres, techniques) and drops jaws wherever he goes. I try to see him every few weeks when I make it to Nashville. I will pay him for a lesson, we will go to dinner and then we’ll go out on the town to see some great players.

 

I learned a lot by watching and playing studio sessions. Good session players, engineers and producers are incredible to watch. The way they create such masterful arrangements on the fly is just amazing. Hearing myself on tape put things in perspective. I had to practice more!

 

LL: Would you mind sharing some of the recent lightbulb moments you’ve had during your time with Jack?

SR: Jack and I are friends. I have never really taken formal lessons, though I would have liked to go to a music college like MI if I could have afforded it. Teaching guitar is a source of income for Jack, so I support him by paying him for lessons and subscribing to his online guitar school while I get top notch jam time and custom direction on new perspectives of the fingerboard.

 

 

LL: What would you advise a songwriter (who has never played guitar before) wanting to accumulate enough knowledge and skill to be able to translate musical ideas using the guitar?

 

SR: Get a chord book/app, learn the basic chords and go for it. I enjoy picking up instruments that I don’t play and banging around on them. This has inspired some pretty cool original ideas for me.

 

LL: Can you share three music theory related ideas that helped you become a better musician?

SR: The Nashville Number System (Number System is part of general music theory) has been the most useful for me. Generally, I can hear a song for the 1st time and have it mostly charted by the time it gets to the end. Great tool in studio sessions. Most of the jam sessions in my life, players are yelling numbers to each other, not chords. It is also invaluable when the singer decides to change the key of the song. The 1 is the 1 no matter what key it happens to be in.

 

Sight Reading staff certainly has its place.  I just never find myself in those places.

Not really music theory, but I have to mention that if you want to be a great musician, it is VERY important that you learn to listen to what else is going on. Do not stampede on top of vocals, someone else’s solo, etc. What you don’t play is MORE important that what you do play! Playing music is not everyone banging out the same chords from start to finish.

The arrangements are carefully designed for the instruments (including the voice) to work together. This may mean that you don’t play a single note until the bridge and when you do, it is only 3 notes (maybe not even chords). The same goes in jams. When someone else is singing or playing a solo, SHUT UP or at least bring your volume WAY down. It is a conversation. Let the others speak, too. All this depends on the genre as well. There are exceptions 😉

 

Another thing that has helped me is learning other instruments’ parts in songs. Organ voicing is very fun on guitar. Sax solos are very similar to guitar licks and lend another perspective/approach. Piano parts are a lot of fun on guitar. I have played guitar synth and would learn many parts like organ, horn lines/stabs between guitar parts, etc.

 

Finally, BE NICE! Just like everything else, it is all about relationships. Learn something from everyone you meet and be nice to your fellow musicians, club owners, managers, producers, etc., but especially your fans. Nobody wants to be around an ass—.

 

 

LL: Do you do your own chord experiments?

 

SR: Every time I pick up a guitar! I play with inversions, especially on an electric. One of the best things you can do to learn your neck is to jam with a song a thousand times and play it different every time. Play each chord in different locations of the neck every time it comes around, on 2 strings, on 3 strings, skip strings, play the chord in 3rds, 4ths, 5ths, with the root on bottom, 5th on the bottom, 4th or 7th on the bottom, etc. There is no end to how many ways to play a simple song like Take It Easy. Per my answer above, learning other instruments’ parts helps with this, too.

 

LL: What’s your view on alternate tunings?

 

SR: I have played with alternate tunings in other artists’ music, but haven’t really gotten into it with my own music. I enjoy drop D, open A, D & E for slide. I wouldn’t hesitate to go there if I heard something I needed to capture that couldn’t happen in standard tuning.

 

 

LL: Description of your playing style?

SR: Yeah, there are endless ways to approach playing this song (and most songs). Depending on my mood, I may play a song different every time. Sometimes I want to play very sparsely to let a song breathe and bring more weight to the voice/lyrics. Sometimes I will play a piano line/part instead of guitar, etc.

 

Being a hired gun, my playing will have different colors, depending on whom I’m playing with, what instrument I am playing, the setting or music style. My playing style will always complement the song or type of music I am playing.

 

I do a different thing with my right hand, in that I hold a pick, but still use my other fingers for picking (unless it is a full on strum). I use this technique with acoustic and electric guitar.

 

LL: What are some misconceptions you come across about you — as a musician?

SR: Musicians/artists come in a wide variety and unfortunately many generalized opinions of them are justified by the actions of the egotistical, undependable, entitled and generally unprofessional actions of more than a few. It is a tough business and it is an uphill battle to make a living as an artist. Too few artists know anything about the “business” of their craft. It is very important to learn that side as well.

 

When I was young, I played by ear and would nail the songs I had learned. I had no idea what I was playing or why, but anyone who heard me thought I was amazing. This was NOT the case! Sometimes I would land on the wrong dot 😉 Ouch!

 

It’s funny when you see someone who shreds some song(s) and you want to jam with them and explore with them, but in reality, they can’t as much as open jam on a 1-4-5 blues. All these great clips on YouTube are cool, kids playing Eruption, or whatever, note for note, etc., but I always wonder if they have anything else. I like to think so.

 

 

LL: Are you learning something specific at the moment?

SR: I’m almost always happy, but never satisfied with where I am knowledge-wise in general. I’m a student in life and am always hungry for knowledge, especially musical knowledge.

Right now, I am working on my voice a lot. After singing all of my life, I have only recently learned about chest voice, head voice & the mix. There again, I’ve done it for years, but never really knew what I was doing and why.

I am currently spending a lot of time writing for a couple of different projects.

 

LL: Do you think you’d be on the lookout for a vocal coach as well?

SR: I heard a lot about Brett Manning in Nashville as the guy the record companies sent their new artists to in order to dial their voices in. I ordered a couple of programs from him that really helped my technique. When I am in Nashville, I like to schedule a one on one session with them.

 

 

LL: What’s part of your guitar arsenal at the moment?

SR: D’Addario electric strings and Elixir acoustic strings. I mostly use V-Pick for electric guitar (mostly a custom Tradition) & mandolin. For acoustic, I mostly use Dunlop Tortex (1.14mm). I use heavy pics unless I am playing a strumming rhythm acoustic track in the studio where you want to hear the sound of the pick on the strings, which syncs with the drummer’s high-hat.

I have many guitars. Which I use depends on the gig or style of music I am playing. My favorite is Fender Stratocaster (I mostly play a Jeff Beck model). I like the percussiveness of a nice clean single coil. It can get very funky.

I have Strats, Teles, Larrivee, Taylors, Peavy Wolfgang, Ovation, Brian Moore, Kramer, mandolin, dobro, ukes, etc.

 

LL: Do you go for D’Addario strings for your electric because they have extra flex in them? (for bends…and other nutty electric stuff. I have the impression that Elixir is great primarily for their longevity. Are those part of the choices for you?)

SR: I don’t break D’Addario strings like I do other brands and they sound and react really well. Elixir strings are for the lively sound and yes, for longevity.

 

 

LL: How would you describe your go-to set-up?

SR: Different gear for different genre/gigs. I use different amps for electric; Rivera, Fender or Marshall usually. If backline is provided, I usually get Fender, Marshall or Blackstar, depending. I’m pretty much ready for anything in my pedalboard.

If we fly to a gig, there is backline provided, so I will only bring a guitar or 2.

 

LL: Did you have to do any set-ups adjustments to any of your guitars (strings closer to the fretboard)?

 

SR: I’ve never had a guitar come straight from factory perfectly set up for me. The setup depends on what I’m going to do with it.

 

LL: Did it take awhile for you to settle on the kind of set-up that you like?

 

SR: With experience, you learn what you like. If I’m playing slide, of course, I don’t want the strings lying on the neck. Unless I am playing really hard rock, I like my strings up a bit so I can get percussive without splatting out.

 

Acoustics have a better tone when the strings are not right on the neck. Heavier strings help, too. I use .013 Elixirs on most of my steel string acoustics.

 

 

LL: During a gig, do you keep some notes as a guide?

SR: If I’m doing a cover solo gig where people make requests, I have my iPad to pull up lyrics from the Internet so I can play songs on the fly. Plus, I can pull up songs to see what key they are in so I can get as close as possible. I play many songs on a gig that I have never played before. The ones I like, I’ll fine-tune later and keep.

 

If playing a show/concert with one of my regular bands, no. We follow set lists for those.

 

If I am hired for a show or session, I will have charts, probably on an iPad.

 

And of course there is always this mental note: Don’t screw up, because if you do, it will show up on YouTube and you’ll have to live with it the rest of your life!

 

No, seriously, don’t be afraid to make mistakes. EVER! Everyone makes them.

 

LL: Would any clips from solo gigs end up on your YouTube channel in the near future?

SR: Other people upload most of the videos I see on YouTube, so I imagine they are out there. I know the APB videos pop up all the time from videographers and people in the crowd. I like it. I can critique myself.

 

 

LL: What is your warm-up / practice routine like?

SR: Before a show, I warm up with scales on guitar. Some voice warm up. Then I’ll sing and play a bunch of songs with my acoustic to get all warmed up. Ideally, I like an hour to warm up.

For practice at home, it depends on my mood.

 

LL: Have you always been mindful of ergonomics when you play?

SR: All that just comes naturally. For guitar or voice, you should be very relaxed. That being said, I don’t like to sing sitting down. Even on solo acoustic gigs, I stand up for a better voice. Economy of motion is very important when playing any instrument.

 

LL: Do you have a piece of equipment (or software) that you thought was a good buy at that time, but you eventually didn’t use it as much as you hoped?

SR: Since I have regretted almost everything I have sold, I pretty much hang on to my gear. I love going through old boxes and finding cool pedals I forgot about.

 

 

LL: Do you buy consumables in bulk?

SR: We have string and pick endorsements. When I buy, I always buy in bulk. Saves $.

 

LL: Guitar Maintenance and Storage?

SR: 50% humidity. Most of them are hanging in my music room, ready to pull down and play when the mood hits.

 

LL: Would you have a humidity monitor in the room?

SR: I have a temperature/humidity monitor in the room. I use humidifiers to keep the level at 50%.

 

Editor’s Note: Scott tells me that this picture he shares on his Facebook page belongs Jake Peavy (a dear friend of Scott’s and current baseball pitcher with SF Giants). Scott clarifies that his (with 50% humidity) is similar, but smaller.

 

 

LL: With your videos, what process do you go through?

SR: The ones I have done, I just start the machine and start playing. The first ones I put up (after being urged by so many people to do so), I turned the recorder on and played about 20 songs straight through. I uploaded it, split them into separate songs, trimmed the beginning and end and uploaded them. What you see/hear is what you get. No editing. Plus I like everything dry. Just guitar and voice. If it doesn’t sound good, I have nothing to blame but me. Practice will fix it. Not reverb 😉

That reminds me of one of my favorite comments on one of my initial 20 videos. Some guy said something like, “Dude, you are awesome! You are good enough to go out and get paying gigs so you can buy a new shirt!”.


LL: Do you have a regular schedule of posting videos?

SR: I always have stuff I would like to record and upload. It’s just the challenge of time. I hope to get better at it.

 

 

LL: Were there instances when you hesitated about posting something?

SR: No, I just post what I want to when I have time. The idea of setting it up is a bit daunting. I need to do it more so I get more comfy with the process.

 

LL: What would you like to learn about next? Has your approach to learning changed in the last 5 years?

SR: I have grown more in the last 10 years than my previous years combined. I have craving for knowledge and for the betterment of me.

 

LL: Are you currently mentoring someone?

SR: On my life path, I try to learn as well as teach, serve or inspire any place I can. As humans, we have a duty to do these things.

 

 

LL: What do you do when you come across something that annoys you?

SR: I am rarely annoyed or offended. I have learned that it is really easy to shake things off and move on. Life shouldn’t be that serious. We fail, we learn from our failures and hopefully next time, we’ll remember the lesson we learned. #fallforward

 

LL: Are there certain things you ‘geek out’ about?

SR: Technology, business & investing (especially real estate).

 

LL: Are there artists that you would hope more people should listen to?

SR Music is a very personal thing. Some types of music or particular songs, solos, etc. touch everyone differently. Find something that moves you and get lost in it.

 

 

LL: What are you reading at the moment?

SR: Right now, I’m reading “How To Use the GoPro Hero 4”, by Jordan Hetric. For building a strong life foundation and attitude, I recommend books like The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (Stephen Covey), The No Complaining Rule, Energy Bus, Training Camp (Anything Jon Gordon). I like business news, I follow the stock markets as time allows, I like commercial real estate and retail stats and trends.

 

LL: Do you go out of your way to discover new things?

SR: Every day! I mostly Google to find information. If I want to dig deeper, I look for a book.

 

LL: In what way do you approach motivation and inspiration?

SR: I stay motivated because I’m always feeding myself spiritually, mentally and physically. I play guitar, read positive books, I avoid negative input as best I can (sometimes this requires staying off of social media…or ALL media), do yoga, bike, run, swim, workout, crossfit, etc.

 

 

LL: What makes you smile?

SR: After a couple of days on the road with the Artimus Pyle Band, my face hurts from laughing. Great guys that love to have fun!

 

LL: I’ve been checking out your Facebook page photos and couldn’t help but be amused! Is enjoying life (including not being afraid to look silly for the camera) what you aim for each day?

SR: Every day, I want to lift others up, learn something, better myself and HAVE FUN!  EVERY day.  And I am a HUGE t-shirt fan 😉

 

LL: What’s your view about social media?

SR: It’s a great tool and a curse. I jumped right in, however with all the political and social rants that has taken over; it takes a lot of weeding out and unsubscribing. I mostly just post and try not to browse much.

 

 

LL: Do you currently post at forums?

SR: I never got into forums much.

 

LL: Are there websites that you like to visit just because you like the design?

SR: No. I’m all about content.

 

LL: What would you do when you need cheering up?

SR: Grab my guitar or go for a run.

 

 

LL: What do you enjoy most when collaborating with other artists?

SR: I love that music in an international language. It has been the catalyst for dear friendships across the globe. We may not speak the same language, but we can speak musically endlessly.

 

LL: Are you interested in technology?

SR: After drinking the Apple Kook-Aid, I am mostly Mac now. I love my MacBook Pro. I could not function without Dropbox and Evernote. My home recording software is Presonus Studio One Pro. And I love building out Excel files for real estate investment and cash flow analysis.

 

LL: With your videos, are you looking to upload the same kind in the future? Or are you looking to do different things?

SR: Probably will change things up as needed. 

 

 

LL: If you were asked to pick from the videos you have, which one would be your favourite?

SR: I enjoy looking at videos that pop up on YouTube after a run of shows. I like getting the crowd’s perspective.

 

LL: Are you the type of person that finds it easy to start something?

SR: I’m a note taker. I have to get my ideas down and “whiteboard” them so I don’t forget or lose the vibe I had when it hit me. I can add to, edit or trash it later if it doesn’t do anything for me.

 

LL: For someone watching a video of yours for the first time, what is the message you’re hoping they’ll take with them?

SR: I hope to inspire.

 

 

LL: What makes your soul sing?

SR: Playing in front of thousands of people and directing/connecting them in unison (hand claps, applause, singing), flying down a mountain on a single track bike, jumping out of a plane, overcoming my limited mindset and pushing through a ceiling…any ceiling.

 

LL: What do you find is the best way to connect with people who admire your work?

SR: Messaging on social media is probably the quickest. I don’t think YouTube has messaging notification outside of email. If it does, let me know.

 

LL: What kind of opportunities are you looking forward to?

SR: I am open to all opportunities. I would love to jam with someone in every country on earth.

LL: In what way do you enjoy helping others?

SR: Our Church is very hands-on in the community and around the world. I don’t know an organization that does more in the world than ROTARY. I am an active Rotarian and the mission trips I have been involved with have fulfilled my soul.

 

 

* Scott Raines is a guitarist based out of Asheville, and is a walking jukebox (ask him how many tunes he can whip out!). He looks forward to realising his dream of jamming in every country in the world — and is open for an invite to visit a country he has not been to, and jam. You can see things from his eyes by checking out his Twitter feed or his Facebook page.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Source Material and Notes: The material posted is based on correspondence (October 2014 – July 2015) between Scott and Leigh. Content has been edited for length, and the final version has been reviewed and approved by the interviewee.

Leigh Lim is a musician based out of Sydney. You can find a sample of her music here. To reach out to Leigh, you can do so via this form or a direct message through YouTube. (Curious to find out if she’s your kind of person? You can check out her slightly cheeky FAQ.)

Notes:

  • If there are things that you’d like to know about Scott that should be included, please do leave a note (using the second form gives the opportunity to share your request with the WNE community and also to give Scott the option of answering).
  • Corrections and additional information: Spot one?
  • If you share a quote from your favorite Q&A on Twitter, don’t forget to use the hashtag ‘#WNEQA‘!
  • WNEQA is also on Facebook! 🙂
  • This post has been tagged so it could be considered for Long Reads.
  • To lock Leigh in to be involved creating your Q&A/FAQ for your page, contact her or fast track your request here🙂

Interested in reading more?

  • Following each Q&A session a separate entry (The Quote Jar: Nineteen) is posted that would be a companion piece to Janet’s Q&A.
  • How about checking out all the other Q&As?

Want to start a conversation unrelated to the Q&A? That’s okay too! Just use the first form below. 😀 (Or if it is your first time visiting the site — hoping you’d take the time to check this out.)

 

** For feedback and comments that you wouldn’t mind displayed publicly, you can use the ‘leave a comment link’ below.

Q&A #20: Janet Wasek

 

“Janet talks about her journey as a photographer and shares tidbits on maintaining a garden with squirrels nearby.”

 

Leigh Lim: Hi Janet, Thanks for being open to do a Q&A! Looking through your Photo feed, I’ve noticed you have a number of squirrels in your photos. Is that because of they are quite friendly when you are taking their photos?

 

Janet Wasek: Squirrels and I haven’t always been so friendly. I used to get angry with them when I’d find my gardens destroyed by their little diggy paws. But I made peace by teaching them how to take peanuts from my hand. My husband’s grandmother taught him how to do this and he showed me.

We had one very clever black squirrel trained, and the others caught on by watching her. Now we’ve got a few generations of squirrels that live in our mature oak trees, visiting for a free meal. They’re used to the sounds my camera makes as I photograph them. Squirrels, being very quick and well, squirrelly, challenge me to release the shutter at the right time. I usually miss.

 

LL: Can you give a quick summary in terms of how you got to where you are with Photography?

 

JW: Photography has been a part of my life since childhood. I used to love it when my parents brought out their Kodak Hawkeye and waited with great anticipation until the packet of prints was ready at the drug store.

When I was a teenager in the late 70s I loved going to rock concerts and would take my woefully underpowered point-and-shoot 126 camera to the shows. I’d have photos of little tiny smudges, but knew those smudges were the members of Queen, The Who, or Led Zeppelin.

Eventually I got a 35mm Pentax K1000 and was able to get decent images at shows. But I soon realized I had more fun taking pictures of my friends, family, and other things in my life that made me happy.

Soon the camera became indispensable to me, and eventually I made the switch to digital about 10 years ago. This opened up a whole new world, to be able to see my images instantaneously and make adjustments on the spot. Translating that imagery, how I “see” things, has always been my goal.

 

 

 

LL: If you were to put together a ‘learning plan’ or practice pack for someone who has never consciously paid attention when taking photos before, so they could have the capacity to capture photographs at your level and skill. What would it look like?

JW: I wouldn’t have the first idea how to accomplish this. I don’t give my photography enough thought to really examine what I do enough to understand it myself much less pass it on to others. It’s something that I feel rather than think about extensively. It has been a very personal experience, so I would emphasize that it’s important for people to discover what works for them, rather than try to copy someone else’s technique.

 

LL: Do you have a piece of equipment (or software) that you thought was a good buy at that time, but you eventually didn’t use it as much as you hoped?

JW: Over the years I’ve accumulated a shelf full of equipment that I no longer use, but all of it has been used at one point. I could mention the 35mm I had that fell apart repeatedly and was in the shop more often than not, but I don’t want to badmouth [the brand] since people seem to be satisfied with it.

I’ve purchased cameras that have rather fussy interfaces, and I tend to use them less. I favor straightforward equipment that does what I want it to do, rather than to have it second-guess for me.

 

 

LL: Favourite time of the day to photograph?

JW: I like morning and evening, when the light is long and soft. But the kind of light I like the best is a nice bright overcast when it seems like morning lasts all day. On sunny days I tend not to photograph, as full sun causes such harsh shadows and I don’t carry around equipment to bounce the light. If the weather is dreary or bad (fog, snow, even rain) I lunge for my camera and dash out the door.

 

LL: Do you plan when you take photos?

JW: I just assume I’ll always be taking photos, so to be prepared I go everywhere with my camera, and this was something I did before the advent of iPhones and tiny digital cameras. The camera is as essential as my driver’s license or wallet.

I tend to travel light, however, and don’t bring tripods or flashes or anything that I have to lug around when I’m out. I will use them at home, however. This is why I tend to favor bridge cameras with a large optical range so I don’t need to bring along extra lenses.

 

 

LL: Are there times when you bring more than one camera?

JW: I usually have my little Lumix point-and-shoot as a backup just in case I need it. Batteries die, cards fill up, lenses get stuck…so it’s best to be prepared.

 

LL: Are you learning something specific at the moment?

JW: I’m always learning something every time I use Photoshop.

 

LL: Do you have a specific site you go to for Photoshop tips?

JW: Flickr is a wonderful resource and I usually go into the Photoshop groups when I encounter difficulties or have an idea for an effect in mind but don’t know how to achieve it. Plus it’s always fun just to play around in Photoshop to discover new effects.

 

 

LL: Do you have a regular schedule of posting photos?

JW: I post photos on a regular basis, at least one a day. If I’m away from my usual computer I make sure to have some photos on a thumb drive so I won’t miss a day.

 

LL: How often do you back-up your photos?

JW: I back them up at least once a week – or I try to stick to that. I don’t always make it.

 

LL: Are you a big listener of music?

JW: I love the music of Kate Bush and have for decades. I love her fearlessness and loyalty to her muse. Being American, back in the early days it was difficult to find another Kate Bush fan outside my circle of friends. This was long before the internet, you understand. Things have changed considerably since the advent of the web. It’s wonderful to know there are so many others out there who feel the same way. It was a dream come true to see her perform live in London earlier this year.

I recently discovered the music of Marissa Nadler, and her soundscapes have a certain kind of lighting and color in them (does that even make sense?) that I find inspiring.

 

 

 

LL: Do you think it’s because you can imagine how Marissa’s songs would look like if they were a photograph?

JW: Yes, I do tend to interpret other art in visual terms. With Marissa’s work it’s something to do with the light, I get a feeling of that kind of light just before a storm.

 

LL: Do you go out of your way to discover new things?

JW: In the 1980s I’d find out about new music from reading imported British music magazines rather than depend on the desert wasteland of radio or MTV. Now I find out about new music from recommendations from like-minded people on the internet and from other sources like Pandora.

LL: Where do you go for inspiration?

JW: Often I find myself looking back on the photos I’ve taken in years past, trying to recapture in my soul whatever it was that spurred on those images. Or seeing if I can do better with the skills I’ve learned in the interim. Of course, seeing other people’s work on Flickr is endlessly inspiring.

 

 

LL: What’s your view about social media?

JW: The old bulletin board style social media from the 90s left me cold, so I wasn’t too keen on jumping back in. Therefore I was reluctant to get into the current crop of social media but I begrudgingly got into Facebook. I don’t do Twitter, but am curious about Instagram.

I loved Fotolog from the first time I encountered it, but over time the fun was lost there so I made the jump to Flickr and haven’t looked back. The people there are fantastic and inspirational, fun and interesting, happy and encouraging.

LL: Do you currently post at any Forums?

JW: I don’t participate. Just as I wouldn’t jump in to a conversation between strangers, I don’t feel right about doing so electronically. I guess my natural shyness extends into the cyber world as well as the real one.

 

 

LL: Are there websites that you like to visit just because you like the design?

JW: I really love the artwork on this site: https://artandghosts.squarespace.com/   Louise’s style is enchanting and I love to visit her site just because it makes me happy. I have some of her artwork framed and on my wall, and I never tire of gazing at it.

I also really admire Cate’s photography http://catedavies.com/ I find her style to be pure magic.

LL: What would you do when you need cheering up?

JW: I can always depend on the writings of Colette to take me into her world and when I return to mine, to “see” it better. Listening to Kate Bush’s Aerial – A Sky of Honey has the same effect.

 

 

LL: What helps you focus on your uniqueness? (either during ‘down days’ or when you get a disappointing result)

JW: Oh I have down days all the time, and am disappointed in my results more often than not. But when others see something I can’t, or have overlooked, that helps me look at my work with a fresh attitude. Feedback from the community is so important.

 

LL: Are you interested in technology?

JW: I’m a total Luddite when it comes to this sort of thing. Well, that’s not exactly true. It’s not that I don’t enjoy using technology and I do update my skill set as technology changes, it’s just that I’m not always looking for the next big technological change.

 

 

LL: With your photos, are you looking to upload the same kind in the future? Or are you looking to do different things?

JW: I seem to have a rhythm to my work that coincides with the seasons. Each year I learn a little bit more, and build on the previous year. But I don’t see any big changes. Then again, the big changes tend to be the ones you don’t see coming.

LL: If you were asked to pick from the photos you have, which one would be your favourite?

JW: Oh, I can’t pick a favorite. But I am fond of my autumnal collections, especially the images of things I’ve gathered. I like the soft light of autumn’s cloudy days, and the lovely shades and colors both bright and muted as nature goes to sleep for the winter. I’m gearing up now for Autumn 2014.

I find it strange that some of my favorite photos are barely noticed, while ones I’ve put in my reject pile get so much love from others. This one’s a perfect example of that.

 

LL: What are some misconceptions you find about you as a photographer?

JW: Now that everyone has cameras on their phones I find taking pictures is much more acceptable. But also there’s the feeling that photography is something anyone can excel at if one’s camera is good enough. Not that hardware isn’t important, but there is something to be said for the eye that’s behind it. That part often gets ignored.

 

LL: For someone looking at your photos for the first time, what is the message you’re hoping they’ll take with them?

JW: I would want them to take a deeper look at the things around them, to see them in different ways or imagine seeing things through another’s eyes. For writers, the golden rule seems to be “write what you know” and that can be turned into “Photograph what you know” just as easily. To be able to transform something familiar in your life into an image that inspires you and others is a magical feeling.

 

 

LL: What feeds your soul?

JW: Being out in nature with my camera, but also finding time to be with my dear friends. Also, I love to explore new places almost as much as I love returning to beloved places.

LL: What do you find is the best way to connect with your audience?

JW: I never set out to have an audience, I do this for myself. Although, it’s nice to be able to share and I’m honored that others find what I do of any interest at all.

 

* Janet Wasek is a photographer currently based out of Maryland (just outside of Washington DC). You can check out her recent photographs by visiting her Flickr Photostream.

 

 

 

 

Source Material and Notes: The material posted is based on correspondence (August-November 2014) between Janet and Leigh. Content has been edited for length, and the final version has been reviewed and approved by the interviewee.

Leigh Lim is a musician based out of Sydney. You can find a sample of her music here. To reach out to Leigh, you can do so via this form or a direct message through YouTube. (Curious to find out if she’s your kind of person? You can check out her slightly cheeky FAQ.)

Notes:

  • If there are things that you’d like to know about Janet that should be included, please do leave a note (using the second form gives the opportunity to share your request with the WNE community and also to give Janet the option of answering).
  • Corrections and additional information: Spot one?
  • If you share a quote from your favorite Q&A on Twitter, don’t forget to use the hashtag ‘#WNEQA‘!
  • WNEQA is also on Facebook! 🙂
  • This post has been tagged so it could be considered for Long Reads.
  • To lock Leigh in to be involved creating your Q&A/FAQ for your page, contact her or fast track your request here🙂

Interested in reading more?

  • Following each Q&A session a separate entry (The Quote Jar: Nineteen) is posted that would be a companion piece to Janet’s Q&A.
  • How about checking out all the other Q&As?

Want to start a conversation unrelated to the Q&A? That’s okay too! Just use the first form below. 😀 (Or if it is your first time visiting the site — hoping you’d take the time to check this out.)

 

** For feedback and comments that you wouldn’t mind displayed publicly, you can use the ‘leave a comment link’ below.