The Quote Jar: Twenty Three

Following each Q&A session I post a separate entry including quotes from various sites and publications from the web. Clicking each of the links will open a new window containing the full article or video (if publicly accessible).

The names below were mentioned by Matthew during his Q&A.

I’m just doing music the way I learned how to do it back in the 70’s” – Oscar Hernandez, Spanish Harlem Orchestra

“Music is something that that is really big in my life, everybody knows that, but my first love was traveling. I saw the ships disappearing whilst I was in the island of Mauritius at a very young age and that sense of wonder that is in my music came about before I even played a note of music.” – Jean-Paul Maunick, Guitarist – Incognito

Notes:

  • Corrections and additional information: Spot one? Let me know!
  • If you share a quote from your favorite Q&A on Twitter/Facebook, don’t forget to use the hashtag ‘#WNEQA’!
  • The Q&A also has a home on Facebook! 🙂 In the feed you’ll find related readings from past Q&As as well as curated posts to help artists find new ways to engage with their fans.

What are some of your favourite quotes?

🙂

** For feedback and comments that you wouldn’t mind displayed publicly, you’ll have to publish it on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook then reach out to me directly to send the link, once I receive it, I’ll embed your feedback or comment!

Q&A #12: Aaron Strout

 

Aaron shares his journey as a consumer of music, the importance of Spotify in his listening experience, and how he took awhile to fall in love with The Beatles’ White Album.”

 

Leigh Lim: Hi Aaron, thanks for taking the time to do a Q&A! Looking through the different categories on your blog, I noticed that there isn’t a separate category for music. Does that mean that music is so much a part of you, it would be rare not to talk about it?

 

Aaron Strout: Leigh – Music is a passion for me. But really only as a consumer. I am an avid listener of new music (thank you Spotify!), consumer of live music and I love to share what I’m learning with others. However, I haven’t ever translated that into writing about music. I reserve that for mostly professional areas like mobile/location-based marketing/social/digital.

 

LL: How has your music tastes changed through the years?

 

AS: The first albums I ever remember listening to (this is in the mid-70’s) are the Beatles, Cream, Paul Simon and Led Zeppelin. My dad was an appreciator of good music so I came into this world listening to some great bands.

As I moved into my teen years, I moved from Van Halen, The Doors and The Kinks into early Rap (Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, Run DMC and the like). That morphed into bands like Bon Jovi, Rush and others early days of college. Like many others, I then went through phases of dance music (Nina Cherry, Rob Bass, Digital Underground), Grateful Dead and then alternative (Cure, Smiths, Sinead O’Connor and Living Color).

Grad school was hardcore grunge — Alice in Chains, Nirvana, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Screaming Trees (plus Nine Inch Nails). Now I really like everything save pop country.

 

Sunset at 2013 ACL Festival  Photo: Aaron Strout

Sunset at 2013 ACL Festival
Photo: Aaron Strout

 

LL: Artists that you loved from first listen, until now?

AS: Beatles, Rush, Nirvana, Alice in Chains, Rage Against the Machine, Norah Jones, Pink Floyd, Doors, Billy Squier. Early Run DMC and Public Enemy. Pretty Hate Machine in particular by NIN.

 

LL: Are there certain albums (or tracks) you avoid listening to because of nostalgia?

AS: There aren’t really any but Prince’s Purple Rain was that way for a while. I’m over it.

 

LL: Do you make it a point to catch live music (as it is being played/recorded) regularly? (or do you prefer attending ticketed events — or go for archive convert providers like wolfgangsvault.com)

AS: Probably more of the first two. And to contradict a little of what I said earlier, we have a video show called Live from Stubbs. We are starting to push harder into music and actually did an interview and recorded four live songs with the band, Lord Huron.

 

 

LL: What’s are your most listened to tracks?

AS: I keep an ongoing list on Spotify at any given time. My current one is called “Run Boy Run.” Three songs on that list that are earworms for me are Gin Wigmore’s Black Sheep, Manchester Orchestra’s, Top Notch and Wolf Alice’s Moaning Lisa Smile. Red Hot Chili Peppers, Black Keys and White Stripes are go-to artists for me on any given occasion.

 

LL: Does having an online playlist help a lot?

AS: Yes. I live by my online playlists. I have two that I listen to regularly – one that is a go to called “House List” – this is what I run to. The other is my collection of what I am listening to. A mixture of recommendations from friends, things I’ve Shazam-ed and such. Run Boy Run

 

LL: Albums that took you awhile to fall in love with?

AS: Hmmm… The Beatle’s White Album comes to mind. It’s esoteric so it took a while to grasp. Now it’s one of my favorites.

 

LL: Have you travelled to a specific area just to catch a performance?

AS: Sort of on one — my wife and I planned a trip to Portugal to visit friends but we specifically timed it to coincide with the 500th anniversary of Lisbon. The band, Morphine, was playing. I had never seen them live. It was ironically one of their last performances before lead singer, Mark Sandman, died. The other which was in the U.S. was Rage Against the Machine. I travelled by myself to LA Coliseum to see them perform with Muse, Rise Against and Lauryn Hill. It was an epic show.

C3 marker (Austin City Limits Music Festival) Photo: Aaron Strout

C3 marker (Austin City Limits Music Festival)
Photo: Aaron Strout

 

 

 

LL: What’s your rule when purchasing new music?

AS: Because of Spotify and Pandora, I don’t actually buy much music now (I do subscribe to the premium version of Spotify). Once in a while if I want to support a particular local artist/friend OR in certain cases like Tool and AC/DC who don’t make their music available via Spotify, I will go in and buy entire albums off of iTunes.

 

LL: Are you also intentionally going for digital rather than physical copies?

AS: Yes. I really only do digital/streaming these days. It’s more because I travel so much and move around a lot when listening to music.

 

LL: Would you watch documentaries related to the music you listen to?

AS: Yes. Love the documentary called “It Might Get Loud” which is a movie about Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin, The Edge of U2 and Jack White. I also have a copy of Dave Grohl’s Sound City but haven’t watched it yet.

 

LL: Do you bring music while you are out and about?

AS: Yes. I have it on my iPhone. I also have the house wired but also have a mobile Bose speaker. Music is with me wherever I go.

 

LL: Do you try to avoid listening to music via headphones or earbuds — and as much as possible in a way that you can share it with others around you?

AS: It’s a mix. Plane and office time is strictly earbuds. At home, it’s all speakers!

 

LL: Did it take awhile for you to decide which ones to put at home? (speakers, amplifiers…etc)

AS: We moved into a house that was already wired. So no, I didn’t spend much time on speakers/amplifiers. But I do have an awesome mobile Bose speaker that my friend, Jason Keath, gave to me. I also use Sonos via my home stereo. That allows my kids and me to DJ off our phones when we are at home.

 

LL: A music purchase you regret you didn’t make?

AS: I wish I bought more original physical albums like Nirvana’s Nevermind and Alice in Chain’s Dirt. Beyond that, probably not.

 

LL: What’s the best (music related) gift you’ve received?

AS: My first CD player from my parents in 1989. It changed music for me forever.

 

LL: Memorable recommendations from ‘kids, neighbors and colleagues‘?

AS: My oldest daughter turned me onto Bad Suns. She also is exploring a lot of new music so she is keeping me current. Truth be told, I ask from time to time on Facebook for new music recommendations and that’s where I get a lot of my new music.

Those three songs I mentioned above are from my Facebook requests. My friend, Kyle Flaherty, and I share musical tastes so he turns me onto new stuff from time to time like the Bands Hozier and Broken Bells. To that end, I go to Austin City Limits Music Festival every year. That is also a big driver of new music for me.

 

LL: Do you still listen to radio?

AS: I do. I listen in the car about 50% of the time. I have a pop station, alternative, classic rock and modern rock station that I usually hit up. I actually Shazam those regularly to get new music choices (not so much the classic rock station).

 

 

LL: While you were writing your book, did you listen to specific albums? (or did you have a specific playlist going to keep you writing consistently — and to keep you in the ‘zone’ as much as possible?

AS: Mostly chill music. Stuff like Massive Attack, Norah Jones and the like. I definitely can’t listen to heavier stuff when I write.

 

LL: Do you prefer smaller venues (with as little amplification as possible) than stadium type ones? (for live performances)

AS: Yes. Not so much for the “as little amplification as possible” but more for the intimacy piece. I also find that that bigger stadiums tend to be more cookie cutter and harder for the crowd to get into the show.

The Black Keys* in Austin (2012) Photo: Aaron Strout * One Aaron's 5 favorite bands!

The Black Keys* in Austin (2012)
Photo: Aaron Strout
* One Aaron’s 5 favorite bands!

 

LL: Do you have a favourite live album?

AS: First would be U2’s Under a Blood Red Sky. Second is Nirvana’s Unplugged. AIC’s Unplugged is also awesome. Regarding Youtube, there is a version of Graffiti 6’s “Stare Into the Sun” that is acoustic and AWESOME!

 

LL: Is knowing the song’s lyrics important to you?

AS: Sometimes yes. If the song is meaningful to me. But I can get into the soul of a song even without knowing the lyrics.

 

LL: Aside from music, are there certain things you ‘geek out’ about?

AS: My kids, Boston Sports, Barbecue, photography… to name a few.

Aaron's daughters (oldest and youngest) in front of the “I Love You” wall in Austin. They both LOVE music and are an inspiration to Aaron. Photo: Aaron Strout

Aaron’s daughters (oldest and youngest) in front of the “I Love You” wall in Austin. They both LOVE music and are an inspiration to Aaron.
Photo: Aaron Strout

 

LL: Do you get drawn in by various other forms of art?

AS: Definitely photography. And usually it’s the reverse, I see visions of certain things/scenes when I am listening to certain songs. For Sarah McLachlan, there is a song called “Fear” on her Fumbling Toward Ecstasy Album. Every time I hear it all I can envision is a cool second floor room at sunset with the windows open and white sheers gently billowing. Not sure why but it is a very clear visual.

 

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

AS: Yes. Food, books, places to travel to.

 

LL: Where do you go for inspiration?

AS: I rely pretty heavily on my social channels. But often, going for a long drive or a long run can help me clear my head and give me perspective.

 

LL: What makes you smile?

AS: I love all three of my children to death but my seven year old daughter says things sometimes that I just can’t help but smile. The things she says come completely out of left field sometimes. My other go to is the line from Good Will Hunting where Will asks one of the Harvard Student’s if he likes apples. The student (on the other side of a restaurant window) shrugs and says “yeah?” Will says, “I got her number (Skyler), how d’ya like them apples?!?” Not sure why but I love that line.

 

LL: What’s your view about social media?

AS: Embraced it early on (2006) and have never looked back. Surprised actually when others don’t embrace it.

 

LL: What are your favourite sites at the moment?

AS: Medium is pretty cool from a blogging perspective. Otherwise, I bounce around a lot thanks to Facebook and Twitter.

 

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

AS: Medium – very clean.

 

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

AS: A little Jack White or Skrillex always get me going when I’m down.

 

LL: What has been the most memorable time a band connected to you?

AS: The day that Chris Cornell tweeted me was a major highlight. I’ve always been a huge Soundgarden fan.

 

LL: What makes your soul sing?

AS: Running. Spending a night out on the town with my wife. Austin City Limits Music Festival.

 

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

AS: Facebook for sure.

 

 

 

* Aaron Strout is based in Austin and the Managing Director of WCG. You can find more about his book here, his entries here, and Tweets here .

 

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

Leigh Lim is Mini-Bio Photoa musician based at 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 tweets and personal entries.)

Notes:

  • If there are things that you’d like to know about Aaron that I have not covered, please do leave a note (using the second form gives me the opportunity to share your request with the WNE community and also to give Andrew the option of answering).
  • Corrections and additional information: Spot one? Let me know!
  • Q&A Suggestions (individuals or groups) and feedback (specific or general) are always welcome. 🙂
  • If you share a quote from your favorite Q&A on Twitter, don’t forget to use the hashtag ‘#WNEQA’!
  • This post has been tagged so it could be considered for Long Reads. 🙂

Interested in reading more?

  • Following each Q&A session I post a separate entry (The Quote Jar: Eleven) that would be a companion piece to Aaron’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. 😀

 

** For feedback and comments that you wouldn’t mind displayed publicly, you can use the ‘leave a comment link’ below.

Q&A #11: Andrew Simple

“Andrew shares his journey as a musician, why his Gibson J-45 is his go-to guitar, and the effectiveness of sleep.”

 

Leigh Lim: Hi Andrew! Thanks for being open to do a Q&A! I noticed you have a couple of lyric videos up on your YouTube Channel. Do you like doing them?

Andrew Simple: Yeah, I have some friends that are great at it, so any good ones are made by them. I’ve slung a couple together on iMovie after getting some requests, but you really want to do them right. After Effects, Final Cut, etc.

 

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

AS: I started by wanting to write, and immediately learning the major and minor bar chords on the guitar and then just writing a bunch of songs based on that. I always recommend learning the bar form first, to get a quick win. It sounds good and is a formation you can easily just slide up and down the neck without too much thought.   It made guitar seem easier than in really is, but it kick started my writing.

As time went on, I gradually discovered more and about the guitar on my own. As far as arranging, I have been fascinated by the symphony orchestra since a young age, and that always gave me a good sense of the various elements that need to work together to create a piece of music. Prokofiev’s ‘Peter and the Wolf’ probably was the most influential to me when I was quite young.

 

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

AS: Since I have had such a piecemeal musical path, its hard to suss it all out and recommend it to someone. After a few years in the wild, playing in bands, and learning on my own, I did go to college and studied music academically. That helped with a lot of “aha” moments, especially the music theory.

I believe in an individualized plan of education across the board, so whatever the interest is, I say follow it hard however that might look. Music school isn’t for everyone, practicing isn’t for everyone, writing isn’t for everyone, etc.

 

 

 

LL: Would you say it was discipline that got you to where you are now?

AS: This follows from the last question, and its discipline that is key.

If you follow the elements of music that you are interested in, study the greats in that field and soak it in, and then apply it. For me, it was breaking down the chord structures of Stevie Wonder, Beach Boys, Billy Joel, etc. And those artists all made really interesting arranging choices too, so learning from those artists was really important for me.

Guitar was the first “composition” instrument I used, and then I added piano when I couldn’t get all the voicings I wanted, which in turn lead me back to guitar to experiment with alternate tunings.

 

LL: Do you incorporate alternate tunings when you write?

AS: I like simply dropping the low E to a D. It allows me to get some richer inversions that I can play more easily on a piano.

 

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

AS: I think deadlines are the only thing that really gets me to finish something when I don’t feel like it. Rehearsing, practicing, etc. If I have a gig coming up where I need to learn new songs or something, just that fact alone forces me to put in the time. Recitals were the same way in college.

 

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?

AS: Besides the above, maybe try to build on any knowledge you already have. If you are wanting to learn guitar, and you already know some piano or theory, I think drawing some basic threads together would be good. Such as noting how the guitar is tuned in 4ths, or how the frets are chromatic, like going key to key on a piano.

I also recommend just learning 2 chords so you can dive in and at least get through a song, like Do Wah Diddy or something. Having a quick win like that can fuel more wins, getting more challenging each time, and hopefully learning the theory along the way.

 

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

AS: My go-to guitar is my Gibson J-45. I like the Fishman Spectrum DI for live playing. As far as picks and strings, its Dunlop Tortex mediums and Curt Mangan light strings.

 

 

LL: Did it take awhile for you to settle on the gear that you like?

AS: Yes, it did. For instance, I settled on the Fishman DI for live playing, only after having an LR Baggs DI with a separate compressor, and since the Fishman was both a DI and a compressor, it helped lighten the load. You just make those tweaks all along the way. Settling on the guitar was the most significant thing. Once you play a guitar that really is inspiring to play, you just have to find a way to make it yours.

 

LL: With your Gibson J-45, do you think that what attracted you (and made you think: “I must make that mine!”) was the sound and feel?

AS: J-45’s are just a really nice, loud, balanced brand of guitar. They are famous for it. So when you pick one up for the first time, you go “oh, I see the light!”. But really, their strength, to me, is in their fullness in terms of EQ curve.

 

LL: Has any of your equipment undergone customisation?

AS: Just in swapping out bridges, and stuff like that, with my guitar guy in Nashville. Nothing major. I have some nice bone bridges on my guitars and ukes.

 

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

AS: I’ve written so many songs, I’ve had to use the tablet as a cheat sheet, I admit. Mental notes can fail you, haha!

 

LL: Were you just “fondly” recalling some gigs when you didn’t have some notes handy?

AS: If you play enough shows, eventually you will have times where you forget lyrics and get lost, etc. So at some point, it’s just nice to have a home base to look at so that you start verse 2 correctly coming out of a chorus for example. Also, once you right enough songs, its just harder and harder to keep them straight.

 

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

AS: I don’t think about it too much – I just start playing what I like in the green room or wherever – jamming, etc. You’ll get warm whether you want to or not. That way its not too structured and potentially stressful.

 

LL: Description of your playing style?

AS: I’m a singer-songwriter, so I rely on fairly basic picking strumming and I used finger-style on a few tunes, flesh, not nail. I am really choosy if I play any solo stuff – I leave the tearing it up stuff to my band.

 

LL: How about your voice? Did you have to put a lot of hours to get it to where it is now?

AS: My voice really just naturally developed. The hours were put in, but not consciously. Early on I was all over the place pitch wise and dynamically, but [it has] really evened out over the last 3 years or so.

 

 

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

AS: I think, just in general, musicians get the classic bad rap as slackers or something like that. In my experience, musicians are some of the smartest cats around. Just not getting taken seriously when I was starting up years ago, but that’s to be expected, I suppose.

 

LL: What’s next for your playing?

AS: Playingwise, I feel like I’m fairly happy where I am. Honestly, I am always trying to find ways to condense, even just writing songs with two strings on the guitar.

 

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

AS: I think bass is harder on the body that guitar, and maybe a padded strap is more important there. With acoustic guitar, I’ve never felt a need to use anything besides a basic strap. Just having good posture in general will spill over to playing music. Since I started on drums, posture was a huge factor in being able to play properly, so I’ve always been mindful of that.

 

LL: Guitar Maintenance and Storage?

AS: I’m bad when it comes to putting my guitars away…they tend to lay about the room so I can grab them quickly. I get bummed out when I have to open a guitar case if I am wanting to play the guitar, haha. That sounds bad, but it’s true.  

All over my house are guitar stands and guitars in several rooms of the house so there is always something to grab. I’m not one of those that cares about keeping the guitars ding-free. Though there are cases, where that is in order. Otherwise, some lemon oil with a cloth up and down the fretboard is a good thing to do regularly for cleaning/conditioning.

 

 

LL: Would you recommend buying consumables in bulk?

AS: If you can, bulk buying for small stuff like strings and picks is wise.

 

LL: Your music has been used a number of times in ads — is that something you are constantly excited about?

AS: It’s a surprising twist in my musical journey – that my songs seem to work well for various film and TV applications. I love the exposure, and it’s just fun.

 

LL: Do you have a regular schedule of posting videos? (Or it depends on when you think of something to share?)

AS: The latter

 

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

AS: I geek out about bird watching and philosophy/logic. That’s pretty bad.

 

LL: Are you still a big listener of music?

AS: I really don’t listen to much music these days. I’m creating it so much, there’s just not time. Maybe a couple times a week I will throw on an old record, but its mainly to zone out.

 

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

AS: I think just being in the music business, I hear all the new stuff from various sources naturally.

 

LL: Where do you go for inspiration?

AS: I think films are heavily inspiring for me. Its such a rich art form, it stimulates on nearly every level.

 

LL: What helps you focus on your uniqueness?

AS: I don’t guess I focus on uniqueness per se. I just hope I naturally am “me”.

 

 

LL: What’s your view about social media?

AS: I’m fairly reluctant about all of it.

 

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

AS: Sleep

 

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

AS: I collaborate all the time with other artists. It’s a big part of my world.

 

LL: Are you interested in technology?

AS: I use technology out of necessity. Pro Tools is my go-to recording software on my Mac Pro.

 

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

AS: Always open to new things

 

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

AS: I like some of the live acoustic ones best probably. That was a fun concert.

 

 

 

 

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

AS: Sure, inspiring others to create is always great. I don’t know if there is a single message, but that’s certainly one of them. If they find something they like and that they can incorporate into their jam, all the better.

 

LL: What makes your soul sing?

AS: I think just creating music, really. Basic as that!

 

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

AS: I think the mailing list does a good job of it

 

 

Andrew Simple is a singer/songwriter currently based in Nashville. You can check out his videos here and learn more about him here.

 

Source Material and Notes: The material posted is based on correspondence (October 2014) 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 Mini-Bio Photoa musician based at 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 tweets and personal entries.)

Notes:

  • If there are things that you’d like to know about Andrew that I have not covered, please do leave a note (using the second form gives me the opportunity to share your request with the WNE community and also to give Andrew the option of answering).
  • Corrections and additional information: Spot one? Let me know!
  • Q&A Suggestions (individuals or groups) and feedback (specific or general) are always welcome. 🙂
  • If you share a quote from your favorite Q&A on Twitter, don’t forget to use the hashtag ‘#WNEQA’!
  • This post has been tagged so it could be considered for Long Reads. 🙂

Interested in reading more?

  • Following each Q&A session I post a separate entry (The Quote Jar: Nine) that would be a companion piece to Andrew’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. 😀

 

** For feedback and comments that you wouldn’t mind displayed publicly, you can use the ‘leave a comment link’ below.

Q&A #10: Sarah Goodreau

simple / mountains Illustration by: Sarah Goodreau

simple / mountains
Illustration by: Sarah Goodreau

Sarah shares her journey as an artist, the process she goes through when creating her drawings, and some of the reasons she absolutely adores her circle of friends.”

 

Leigh Lim: Hi Sarah! Thanks for taking the time to do a Q&A. I noticed you also have a Tumblr page. Was there a specific reason you wanted to keep linking to it?

 

Sarah Goodreau: Hi! No problem at all, I’m very happy to do it!

 

I actually began blogging on Tumblr way back in 2008. So it’s quite ancient. When I moved everything over to my current website it felt a little sad to just abandon the old gal. So I’ve kept posting on and linking to her.

 

LL: The site transfer process (from Tumblr), was it as easy as just doing a few clicks?

 

SG: This was pretty easy because I did it the way you probably aren’t supposed to do it. I just started completely fresh with my website. So anything that is on my Tumblr that existed before my website is not featured.

 

Sketches Photo: Sarah Goodreau

Sketches
Photo: Sarah Goodreau

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

 

SG: My art has gotten to where it is very smoothly, actually. I try to draw everyday and as time passes it evolves more and more. As a kid I was always the quote/unquote artistic child. I have been drawing for as long as I can remember. I would get in trouble in school for drawing in my books.

When it came time for college I went to the Savannah College of Art and Design and studied Illustration. There I learned all of the classic techniques and eventually settled on Ink as my method of choice.

Once I felt comfortable in both my style and technique I moved over to digital, while still creating as if I was holding a paintbrush. That is where I am now. In a few years? Who knows!

 

LL: When creating a drawing, which part takes the longest?

 

SG: I think I would have to say that the actual drawing part takes the longest. There isn’t anything that really takes too long, the sketch guides the final drawing and I always figure out the color palette before hand so things don’t get messy.

 

Ski Illustration: Sarah Goodreau

Ski
Illustration: Sarah Goodreau

 

LL: During your early days of learning, did you have a particular book that you found yourself referring to frequently?

 

SG: My first few years of training were all in classic art forms. Life drawing, still life’s, oil paintings, etc. So all my books were basically text books which was pretty boring. When I finally started taking illustration classes, I spent a lot of time in the children’s book section of the library. I’m not certain if i ever had one book that I referred to the most, though I do recall having a pretty serious Winsor McCay period.

As time went on I relied less and less on other peoples books and more and more on my own style and imagination.

 

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

 

SG: My journey has been a life long one, this is what I studied in school.

But I would have to say just draw every day. Try new techniques when you can, and if you find yourself gravitating towards a certain style you should explore that and train it. Like most things in life, that harder you work at it the better you will become.

 

Never Stop learning.

 

 

Sarah's Bookshelf Photo: Sarah Goodreau

Sarah’s Bookshelf
Photo: Sarah Goodreau

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

SG: I think that I am in a very lucky position where what I do for a living is a true passion of mine. I never really have to fight with myself to want to do work.

 

LL: Where there times when you didn’t want to draw?

SG: There haven’t really been times when I didn’t want to draw. There have been unfortunate periods where I have a pretty severe creative block (kind of like a writers block). I tend to get one every few years.

It’s very stressful because I want to be creating, it just isn’t coming out. I just remain calm, remind myself that this has happened before and will happen again and wait until the spark comes back.

 

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

SG: I always carry a small notebook and a pencil. For work I use a little laptop and a Wacom Bamboo tablet. People are always surprised when they see my work computer. It’s actually quite small! My sketchbooks are tiny too. I guess I just like to work in small spaces.

 

 

 

 

Sarah's Workspace Photo: Sarah Goodreau

Sarah’s Workspace
Photo: Sarah Goodreau

 

 

LL: How tiny is tiny?

SG: I have the 13 inch Macbook Pro, which was the smallest one I could get at the time. Do they make them smaller now?? I’ve never had a software issue, probably because I only use one or two programs on it. I like to keep things simple.

 

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

SG: This kind of evolved naturally. When I used to favor ink and water colors, my desk was a mess of ink bottles and water cups, scraps of paper, knives, tape and paintbrushes. Now it is quite minimal: laptop, Wacom tablet, sketchbook.

 

 

LL: Description of your drawing style?

SG: My style is a little whimsical and a little dark. I like to try to add a little humor in there too. I keep things fairly simple and I think my color pallets reflect that as well. I aim for simple with just the right amount of detail.

 

Behind The Tree Illustration: Sarah Goodreau

Behind The Tree
Illustration: Sarah Goodreau

 

LL: Did it take awhile for you to decide on the kind of header image you use for your site?

SG: I usually change these yearly! I like to keep my header close to what my current style is. While my style stays similar, I can see a definitive shift year to year. Just my illustrations growing I think. This current one was from earlier this year, I was going through a Sasquatch phase! This one is a Sasquatch doing calisthenics.

Though it’s nearly the end of this year, so it will be changing soon!

 

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

SG: I used to try to post everyday. Which was quite the undertaking. Then I noticed that I only liked about half of my illustrations when I was doing that, so I slowed down to 3 times a week. Quality vs. Quantity. Though, the schedule is never set in stone. Depending on what’s going on work wise, I will do more or less.

 

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

SG: This is something that I am trying to get better at. Right now I answer emails and try to respond to questions on my blog.

 

 

LL: Do you have some questions that you find yourself answering multiple times?

SG: A lot of time people ask how I make an illustration or what programs I use. That is definitely the most asked question by far. Then a lot of the ‘what inspires you’ and ‘how do you think of what to draw next’.

I don’t mind answering them at all! Though I think I have crafted very streamlined answers over the years.

 

Fish Emotions Illustration: Sarah Goodreau

Fish Emotions
Illustration: Sarah Goodreau

LL: Can you share a bit of how some of your drawings came about?

SG: All the illustrations featured come from my little sketchbook (I don’t usually post illustrations that I get paid to do on my blog). The first thing I do in the morning is sketch in it. Drawings just come to me, I don’t like to think about them too much. So, I doodle a little drawing in the morning, do the final illustration in the afternoon, and then post it on my blog.

 

 

LL: Do you keep prints of your drawings?

SG: I don’t really. Sometimes when I work on a book I will get a copy of that which is really, really, fun. But yea, I think the only time I have a copy of my work is when I’m going to gift it to someone.

 

LL: What would you like to learn about next?

SG: Right now I am learning how to Illustrate in a way that it can be translated into an animation. My boyfriend is a motion graphic artist and we work together a lot. We used to make a lot of stop motion animations using puppets I would make, but now we are moving onto 2D/3D animation. It’s really fun!!

 

My approach for learning really is to just never stop. Right now I am at a stage where I am pretty happy with my style, but I want to keep practicing and making it better and better.

 

Bird Watching Illustration: Sarah Goodreau

Bird Watching
Illustration: Sarah Goodreau

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

SG: This is a little weird but I love, love, love, concepting. I have such a great time coming up with ideas and figuring out how to bring them into fruition. Deciding if they should be a story or a drawing; an animation or an advert…

 

We like to host nights where we gather a bunch of friends at our apartment and we all talk about ideas that we have come up with and everyone helps to get them to where they need to be. Lots of fun.

 

 

LL: Are you a big listener of music?

SG: I do listen to music! I have old soul music tastes though… I love the Talking Heads, Them, Cat Stevens, Bob Dylan, Moondog, Elvis, Lee Moses. I have a stack of records with music from the 1920’s and 30’s that I love. But! A current artist that I am in love with is Future Islands.

 

I’m kind of the same with books. I’m making my way through the classics. I finished War & Peace last year and am now making my way through a few Hemingway’s and 100 Years of Solitude for the second time.

 

LL: What is it about ‘100 Years of Solitude’ that made you want to read it the second time?

 

SG: There is just something about the way that Gabriel García Márquez writes that is so inspiring to me, so I like to read and reread his work every so often. He really makes his characters with so much depth and there is always just a hint of magic in his worlds.

It’s kind of how I want my illustrations to be. Real and magical. It’s been a few years since I first read this particular book, so I just wanted to catch up with it again.

Books and Records Photo: Sarah Goodreau

Books and Records
Photo: Sarah Goodreau

 

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

SG: This modern world we live in, it’s impossible not to find new things daily. That internet is full of them. Plus just walking around the city, by the end of the day you will have a list of things you have written down to look in to.

 

 

LL: Where do you go for inspiration?

SG: I often take a walk to get inspired. It’s nice to just walk and think. Also, having a conversation with a friend usually sparks something. I am lucky to have some very funny, weird, creative friends.

 

 

LL: What’s your view about social media?

SG: I’m always reluctant about it. I’m not sure why but it makes me nervous. I once went 2 years without a telephone and I loved that.

I do realize that it is necessary though. It’s the best way to connect with others and show the world your art.

I do like Instagram. Most likely because it is easy to use.

 

LL: Which two years did you go without a phone?

SG: I got rid of my cellphone when I moved to the Netherlands. I planned on getting a new one once I had settled in but kept putting it off because I enjoyed not having a phone so much.

Eventually my boyfriend just gave me his old one! I think he thought it was getting a little ridiculous. I still don’t really use it, I actually couldn’t tell you where it is right now.

 

Flood Illustration: Sarah Goodreau

Flood
Illustration: Sarah Goodreau

LL: What are your favourite sites at the moment?

I am starting to like Pinterest. I’m enjoying that you can manipulate it to only show you things you like, plus it can become a kind of one-stop shop for inspiring images. Then you only have to go to one website.

 

LL: Do you currently post at any Forums?

SG: I don’t no. I always feel nervous about things like that.

 

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

SG: I play with my dog! And sometimes have a glass of wine…

 

Potemkin Photo: Sarah Goodreau

Potemkin
Photo: Sarah Goodreau

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

SG: Definitely. I have collaborated with a few friends before and it is always a lot of fun.

 

 

LL: Are you interested in technology?

SG: I feel like I should be, but a lot of that goes over my head. Hah, I’m really showing how Tech-UN-Savvy I am.

 

LL: If you were asked to pick from the drawings you have, which one(s) would be your favourite(s)?

 

 

SG: Oh, that’s a hard one. It is often a recent one, as time goes on I tend to dislike my older drawings. Right now I like Little Freaks, Sunbathing At The End Of The Word, and Strong Man Vs. Wizard.

 

 

Strong man vs. Wizard Illustration: Sarah Goodreau

Strong man vs. Wizard
Illustration: Sarah Goodreau

LL: What feeds your soul?

SG: Drawing.

 

LL: For someone watching a looking at your creations for the first time, what is the message you’re hoping they’ll take with them?

SG: Mostly I just want them to think, “Oh thats cute, and funny…..and weird”. I want them to feel like there is a story behind the illustration, and for them to wonder what that could be.

 

 

Mini Bio: Sarah Goodreau is an illustrator currently based in London. You can also find her entries and illustrations here. See things with her eyes by checking her Instagram feed here (and more Potemkin!). Sarah also welcomes music and book suggestions.

 

Self-Portrait Photo: Sarah Goodreau

Self-Portrait
Photo: Sarah Goodreau

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

Leigh Lim is Mini-Bio Photoa musician based at 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 tweets and personal entries.)

Notes:

  • If there are things that you’d like to know about Sarah that I have not covered, please do leave a note (using the second form gives me the opportunity to share your request with the WNE community and also to give Sarah the option of answering).
  • Corrections and additional information: Spot one? Let me know!
  • Q&A Suggestions (individuals or groups) and feedback (specific or general) are always welcome. 🙂
  • If you share a quote from your favorite Q&A on Twitter, don’t forget to use the hashtag ‘#WNEQA’!
  • This post has been tagged so it could be considered for Long Reads.

Pick one of the forms below and I’ll get back to you. 🙂

Interested in reading more?

  • Following each Q&A session I post a separate entry (The Quote Jar: Nine) that would be a companion piece to Sarah’s Q&A.
  • How about checking out all the other Q&As?

 

** For feedback and comments that you wouldn’t mind displayed publicly, you can use the ‘leave a comment link’ below.

Q&A #9: JR Smith

Sunset Photo: JR Smith

Sunset
Photo: JR Smith

 

 

JR shares his journey as a photographer, his love for film, and also his hope that more people would spend more time with their surroundings (not their phones).”

 

 

Leigh Lim: Hi JR! Thanks for taking the time to do a Q&A. Upon visiting your blog, I took a few moments to admire the subheading: “Rediscovering film while reclaiming my life”. Did you consider using other subheadings, before settling on the one you have now?

JR Smith: Photography has been the one constant, with some starts and stops, in my life. I went through a very difficult time 12 years ago and had to sell all of my cameras and photography gear. Once I put it all behind me, I started putting myself back together and rediscovered photography again.

Digital photography didn’t inspire me, so I set about rediscovering old film cameras and film photography. It’s been creative therapy for me. I lost myself for about a decade, and slowly I’m rediscovering film and finding myself..

 

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

JRS: I started learning photography as a teenager. In those days, lots of people developed and printed their own film. I had very little money, used a hand me down camera and did odd jobs to buy the stuff I needed to set up my home darkroom. I think only through the process of taking a photo, developing the film and printing your images yourself, do you connect the whole process.

I started looking at the work of Ansel Adams and I read everything I could that he wrote. Adams was an artist and a scientist–always working to perfect not only the taking of the photograph, but the process of developing the film and printing his negatives to end up with the image he wanted. Through Ansel’s books, I learned about burning and dodging when printing–things you can do now in Photoshop.

Before the internet, I bought lots of books on technique as well as coffee table books containing the best work of photographers. I’d remember the images that pleased me–mostly landscapes, still life and found objects. I knew that was the kind of photography I wanted to do.

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?

JRS: First, I would tell someone to slow down. Digital photography, by it’s very nature, encourages shooting lots and lots of photographs without thinking about them too much. When you load a film camera with 12 or 36 exposures, you have a limited amount of frames to shoot, so you tend to think more about what you are shooting.

That being said, I would suggest anyone that is serious about learning photography, start with a film camera. Get one with dials and levers so you get a visual and mechanical understanding of shutter speeds and f/stops. Pick one type of film and shoot only that. Learn it. Learn how to use your camera. Speaking only for myself, I would start with black and white photography because it forces you to learn how light is the very essence of photography.

Take the camera out of automatic mode and shoot manually–even if you goof up most of your shots. We learn by making mistakes.

 

LL: Favourite time of the day to photograph?

JRS: The books all tell you early morning or late in the day, because the shadows are more interesting. But some of my favorite shots were taken mid-day. My favorite time to shoot is whenever I have a camera in my hand.

 

LL: Do you plan when you take photos?

JRS: I do. I start out thinking if it will be a monochrome day or if I want to shoot color. I consider if I’ll be walking a lot and that will determine if I want to carry a heavy medium format camera around all day or a lighter 35mm one. When I go out, I only bring one lens. Too many photographers lug around a bag of lenses–and that just slows you down. And I only shoot with prime lenses. Zoom lenses are for lazy photographers and even the best zooms aren’t as fast as a good prime lens. I bring several rolls of film and my light meter.

 

35 Summicron F:2 ASPH Photo: JR Smith

35 Summicron F:2 ASPH
Photo: JR Smith

LL: Do you have a favourite prime lens?

JRS: My 85mm f/2 Nikkor is my favorite. The focal length seems just right for most things. And I love the dreamy bokeh. Next up would be the 50mm Summicron f/2 DR lens I use on my Leica M4. It’s amazing that man could make a lens so sharp and so well made.

LL: How would you describe your style of Photography?

JRS: That’s a hard one, because my style is evolving as I am spending more time on making better images and not fooling around with lots of old cameras. A good friend of mine told me that my style is “lonely.” He said even my shots of flowers and sunlight beaches suggest a photographer who enjoys isolation to social interaction.

 

LL: Do you think that description is accurate?

JRS: When not taking photographs, I’m around a lot of noise (both technology and people wise). I suppose that is why I cherish alone time with my camera and why I’d rather photograph places and things rather than people.

 

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

JRS: That I am old fashioned because I shoot on film. I choose to shoot on film because I like the organic connection to the process, I like the look of film and I appreciate being able to use superb old film cameras that I could never afford when they were new and now can.

 

LL: Are you learning something specific at the moment?

JRS: I have finally set aside time to learn The Zone System. It’s fascinating and I have been inspired to learn more.

 

LL: What’s your go-to set-up?

JRS: My go to kit is a Nikon F2AS and 85mm f/2 Nikkor lens. I pick up the Nikon F2 more than any other camera because I know it well and I don’t have to think about

where all of the controls are. It’s meter never fails me and the camera literally disappears in my hand allowing me to focus on making the picture and not fiddling with the camera.

I use the 85mm focal length because it’s just the way I see the world.

 

125PX Photo: JR Smith

125PX
Photo: JR Smith

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

JRS: Yes. Lots of cameras. Trial and error. A camera is a highly personal thing and it takes a while to find one that feels just right.

 

LL: Have any of your equipment undergone customisation?

JRS: All of my Nikons have been completely rebuilt by Sover Wong in the UK. Sover is the world’s best Nikon F2 repairman. He only works on F2s. Since these are old cameras, they require cleaning, lubrication and adjustment. When they come back from Sover’s shop, they shoot just like new. In addition, I add diopter correction to most of cameras to aid in focusing.

 

LL: When your Nikons were rebult by Sover, were they all done at the same time?

JRS: I acquired my Nikon F2 bodies at different times, so as I purchased one, I boxed it up and sent it over the pond to Sover. I trusted the US Post Office on the way over and The Royal Mail on the way back. While Sover is working on a camera, he sends photo updates via email, detailing his work.

 

 

LL: Do you have a cleaning, lubrication and adjustment schedule for your older cameras?

JRS: All of my mechanical cameras have been serviced. They’ll need no further service as long as I own them. They will outlive me. The cameras I own with electronics on board, film or digital, will die at some point. Newer cameras are disposable.

 

LL: What parameters do you use when choosing a camera bag?

JRS: Function and style. Most of my camera bags are functional and not stylish. I just went with one that is both: The ONA Berlin II for my Leica system.

 

Sign and Flip Flops Photo: JR Smith

Sign and Flip Flops
Photo: JR Smith

LL: With film, do you stick with one brand?

JRS: For black and white, I shoot primarily Kodak Tri-X and Plus-X. For color, I shoot Kodak Ektar 100. I practice what I preach–find a film you like and shoot it often so you get to know it. Trying lots of film is fun, but adds variables.

LL: Should photographers take the time to test out printing services?

JRS: Wherever you live, do online research and read the reviews from other photographers about the labs they use, why they like them and why they don’t. Find a good lab and stick with it. They’ll get to know you and develop and scan your images the way you want.

 

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?

JRS: I bought a Hasselblad 503CX because I wanted to use the fabulous Hasselblad Carl Zeiss lenses. I haven’t used it much because it’s big and heavy. It’s a wonderful camera though. I have purchased a few other cameras that were classics and I wanted to try.

A few I sold and a few I have gifted to other photographers. It gives me great joy to see one of my cameras being used by someone discovering old cameras and film.

 

LL: Have you been always mindful of ergonomics each time you shoot?

JRS: I haven’t given it much thought other than I am aware of how a really heavy or awkward camera can slow me down enough to keep me from taking good shots. I have learned to carry the lightest camera possible and pack only what I need. Some photographers think you have to bring everything you own every time you shoot. I don’t.

 

LL: Equipment Maintenance and Storage?

JRS: Cameras are in a cool, dry place in their camera bags or cases. Film is in the refrigerator.

LL: Do you keep prints of your photos?

JRS: Mostly no. I archive everything on iPhoto and online on Flickr. I have made huge prints of several of my favorite shots that I have hung in my home. I may print more soon as I have been asked to do a show here in Northern California (Yikes!)

 

PCH Photo: JR Smith

PCH
Photo: JR Smith

LL: Is that (The Zone System) a future blog entry?

JRS: I touched on it briefly in a recent post about my light meter. But I intend to write more as I learn more. It’s a complicated process and if I can share what I learn in easy to understand terms, maybe it will help someone else.

 

LL: Do you keep your negatives?

JRS: I keep some, but primarily keep the scanned images on CD.

 

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

JRS: I mostly post when I have something interesting to say and think it something my readers will like to read. I do try and post every Monday–I call it One Minute Monday and it’s a quick read post to start the week.

 

LL: Is there a way to search your blog?

JRS: Funny you should mention that–I added some additional search functionality this past weekend.

 

LL: Did you go straight to a .com?

JRS: It’s WordPress hosted.

 

LL: Was it a no brainer to choose WordPress?

JRS: It’s my first blog. I really didn’t know what I was doing at first and am still learning. I went with the easiest choice

 

LL: Has your approach to learning changed?

JRS: I find myself doing a lot more research now before I buy a camera or lens or try a new film. Prior to that, I would always just dive head first into things and wonder why I wasn’t getting the results I wanted. Again, slowing down has helped me.

 

Beach House Photo: JR Smith

Beach House
Photo: JR Smith

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

JRS: I could go on and one about everyone’s immersion into their smartphones these days–but no one will listen because they are too busy staring into their phones. I’ve noticed over the past decade that my local coffee shop has turned from a place where people sit and chat to a place where no one talks–they all just fiddle with their phones.

Technology has created it’s own form of isolation. Even though I love my quiet time, it would be very pleasant to have a conversation in line at Starbucks rather than just look at a bunch of people texting.

 

LL: Is there a topic that would get you talking endlessly?

JRS: I’m more of a listener. I learn so much by listening to what people have to say.

 

LL: Are you a big listener of music?

JRS: As photography left my life for the past ten years, so did music.

I spent some time as a disc jockey on the radio and music was important to me. After, I moved on from radio and still listened to music all of the time. Then somehow, it just disappeared from my life.

Recently, I bought a vintage audio system and a turntable. I am rediscovering the music I loved from long ago and some new artists too. I have a couple of blog entries on this.

 

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

JRS: If I find a topic that interests me, I will chase it to the ends of the earth. I saw a short piece in a magazine about Phone Phreaks–those geeks from the 1970s who discovered that you could do all sorts of cool things with the phone system. Steve Jobs was a Phone Phreak. I bought a couple of books after digesting lots of stuff online and ultimately connected with a few of these fascinating people.

 

LL: Where do you go for inspiration?

JRS: I am lucky to leave near the beach, so I go there often to walk, think and photograph. I love the sound of the surf and the smell of the ocean. It re-energizes me.

 

Rollei Vb Photo: JR Smith

Rollei Vb
Photo: JR Smith

LL: What’s your view about social media?

JRS: I’m not a Facebook or Twitter guy. Most of what I see on Facebook is just plain dumb and somewhat narcissistic. That being said, I do like blogs that have something to say, enjoy forums that share good information and chat rooms where interesting people gather. Unfortunately, most of social media should be called “I really don’t want to be social” media.

 

LL: What are your favourite sites at the moment?

JRS: Since I post to Flickr often, I guess I like it the best. I also visit the Nikon F2 Facebook page often because a lot of my Nikon F2 friends post there.

 

LL: Do you currently post at any Forums?

JRS: I post on a vintage audio gear forum, a forum for Leica users and a Nikon user group.

 

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

JRS: Put an album on my turntable, turn up my McIntosh amp and sip a glass of fine Pinot Noir.

 

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

JRS: Would love to!

 

LL: Are you interested in technology?

JRS: I’m a Mac guy. I have a MacBook Air, iPad and iPhone. iPhoto, Aperture, iWork

 

ASA:DIN Photo: JR Smith

ASA:DIN
Photo: JR Smith

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

JRS: I have many. If I had to pick just one, Horses on the Dunes which really delivered the mood of the day.

 

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

JRS: I always think of photographs that I am attracted to as seeing a beautiful woman for the first time. You see her, are attracted to her and think to yourself–“wow! she is beautiful!” You are attracted and you want to know more. It’s visual. It’s physical. Just as I look back on, for instance, famous women that I have found attractive, when I look at them months, years later–they are still attractive to me.

It’s highly personal. If someone looks at one of my images and finds it appealing, that pleases me. For whatever reason, they found it attractive and I would hope that it would inspire them to create images that would please others as well as themselves.

 

LL: What feeds your soul?

JRS: The ocean. Good music. Fine photographs. Things that last.

 

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

JRS: The comments I get on my blog or to the photos I post on Flickr give me the most satisfaction.

 

 

JR Smith is a photographer currently based in Bodega Bay, California. You can also find his entries about photography here.

000032790034 Self Portrait Photo: JR Smith

000032790034
Self Portrait
Photo: JR Smith

 

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

Leigh Lim is Mini-Bio Photoa musician based at 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 tweets and personal entries.)

Notes:

  • If there are things that you’d like to know about JR that I have not covered, please do leave a note (using the second form gives me the opportunity to share your request with the WNE community and also to give JR the option of answering).
  • Corrections and additional information: Spot one? Let me know!
  • Q&A Suggestions (individuals or groups) and feedback (specific or general) are always welcome. 🙂
  • If you share a quote from your favorite Q&A on Twitter, don’t forget to use the hashtag ‘#WNEQA’!
  • This post has been tagged so it could be considered for Long Reads.

Pick one of the forms below and I’ll get back to you. 🙂

Interested in reading more?

  • Following each Q&A session I post a separate entry (The Quote Jar: Seven) that would be a companion piece to JR’s Q&A.
  • How about checking out all the other Q&As?

 

** For feedback and comments that you wouldn’t mind displayed publicly, you can use the ‘leave a comment link’ below.

Q&A #8: Dean Wuksta

 

 

“Dean shares his drumming journey, being on YouTube, and his approach to mastering.”

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

DW: I started on ice cream containers and bamboo sticks. I’d sit in front of the TV and watch the morning music shows and play along. Got a drum kit for xmas which was snare, kick, one cymbal (no hi hat) and began playing real drums at age 8. Six months later got my first gig playing at my school dance, and a family friend gave me a hi hat. I’m left handed, but my friend told me to play right handed so it will be easier in my career if I need to play other kits, which it definitely was.

I played to vinyl records for many years and just tried to copy what I heard, no lessons. I began lessons to read drum music at 15, and also learnt about rudiments, mainly the double stroke and the standard paradiddle. I used ‘Advanced Techniques For The Modern Drummer’ and ‘Syncopation’ by Ted Reed.

I also had some books by Frank Corniola and several others, mainly concentrated on funk styles, lots of left hand ghosting patterns. I also went to live clinics, watched videos, hung out and watched other drummers all the time. I have always spent most of my practise time playing to music, and use it as a metronome while I go thru stuff i wanna work on, like fill combinations, rudiment applications etc. And even more so lately, I love to get lost on youtube and watch other drummers, its an incredible resource…taught me loads since 2006.

Seeing Buddy Rich on TV as a child blew my mind, I didn’t know it was even possible to play like that, and he’s the reason why I investigated rudiments, particularly the double stroke roll.

Then while still at school, I heard of Vinnie Colaiuta through some Frank Zappa recordings, Steve Gadd, Toto’s drummer Jeff Porcaro (particularly the stuff he did with Bozz Scaggs and Steely Dan). Later it was Dave Weckl, Manu Katche, Virgil Donati (which inspired me to play double kick in the late 80s, but I have since lost interest).

LL: Heel-up / Heel Down?

DW: I’m ‘heel up’ on kick and hats, but sometimes my heel is also down on hats, depending on what style I’m playing, I often go heel down on jazz type stuff, or lighter funky stuff, but I’m not really conscious of it, I just find myself doing it naturally.

 

LL: Drumming Shoes?

DW: When i was a kid (like 12-16) I would do gigs at weddings and have to wear a suit and good shoes, I tended to slip my shoes off during sets. My dad (who drove me to every gig) said it looked unprofessional, so I got used to leaving them on. Now, I always wear shoes, thin rubber soles are my preferred shoe, but I will play in whatever…it’s very easy to get used to, and you def get more power wearing shoes.

 

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

DW: My generic set up is a basic 4 or 5 piece kit, 2 crashes, one ride. less to set up, the better. I’m using a Pearl Session series maple 10, 12, 14, 20, 14” by 7” Evetts blackwood snare.

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

DW: I have a good selection of Zildjians, Paistes, and Sabians. My normal set up is Sabian 17” thin Crash, Sabian 16” thin crash, and 20” Rude ride, or 20”Paiste Big Beat as a ride and Zildjian 14” new beat hats. I use Vic Firth 5A wooden tip sticks, I have a Pearl World Series 14” chrome snare, Mapex maple piccolo 13” snare and the Evetts 14” X 7”

 

Photo: Dean Wuksta

Photo: Dean Wuksta

 

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

DW: Not really, I find it a bit laughable when drummers are so particular about their set-up, I spent so many years playing other peoples kits on stages, and sometimes i barely got a chance to adjust anything, there was no time.

I’m def much happier with my own kit, but I will play whatever, preferably with some time to adjust heights etc to my liking. I’m sure drummers in famous bands get fairly spoiled and have everything within a millimetre of perfection, but no, I’ve never experienced that kinda luxury.

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

DW: No, I will take notes to practise if it’s a particularly hard arrangement, but I generally prefer to commit it to memory.

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

DW: I’ve never really done it, I like what Buddy Rich says, he reckons his warm up routine was to take his hands out of his pockets, I concur.

 

LL: In your videos, you seem to be light-handed — as opposed to other drummers who seem to really lay it into the kit and cymbals. Would you describe your playing style as ‘drumming with a light touch’?

DW: I do use a lot of force with my wrist but at a low level, but I also play differently depending on the gig, but I do prefer a lighter touch.

 

Photo: Dean Wuksta

Photo: Dean Wuksta

LL: On your CD Baby page, there is a note that you played all the instruments yourself. Can you touch on your journey with the different instruments you play, and routines to ensure you don’t get ‘rusty’ in any of the instruments?

DW: In high school there was no drum teacher, and no drums, so I learnt guitar. I had already been playing drums semi pro for years, so I thought another instrument would good to learn.

Over the years I’ve taught myself bass and keyboards, but I don’t consider myself anything but a drummer, I know enough on those other instruments to write songs and communicate ideas…so it’s come in handy having a basic understanding of every instrument.

LL: How did you build up your bass and keyboard playing? (Were you going for being able to play a particular song?

DW: With bass guitar, I kinda got thrown in the deep end because of a school production. We had 2 drummers for the school production in year 9, I had always played drums so I decided to give bass a go, the student that had taken on the bass had problems learning the songs.

Being a drummer I already had a sense of what the bass guitar does in terms of following the kick drum, and I had already learnt guitar and could read music, so I didn’t find it that difficult. Once I learnt a few songs I began to really enjoy it, so kept practising.

I do not consider myself a great bass player, but I can figure out most songs and copy them by ear. With keyboards, I also never had any lessons, I have an understanding of basic music theory so I can work out where to put my fingers to make basic chords, but only well enough to add simple parts to my original songs.

 

Photo: Dean Wuksta

Photo: Dean Wuksta

LL: YouTube has a very interesting approach to copyright — how do you find it? I ask because I came across one of your videos (Custard Pie) and noticed that the audio has been muted. Was it a case of not having the words: “Led Zeppelin cover” in the video title? Because you’re other video (linear 16th triplet) had the ‘guide track’ details in the ‘about’ section of the video, and the audio of that wasn’t blocked.

DW: Yes, that was annoying, and not the first time that has happened. I generally take a chance and hope for the best. If it becomes blocked, that’s okay, I’m not really that bothered, just a small waste of my time.

I have posted covers of loads of songs, but I don’t monetize them, just my original music. I’ve been a youtube partner for a few years.

LL: What monetising options are you going with (with YouTube)? The information page mentions there are three options. Can you comment on your experience with being a YouTube partner?

I applied to be a partner and got accepted a few years ago. I do not know what the deal is, I just monetize the videos that contain just my music or drumming, and youtube places ads on them. They used to send me a cheque from google but now it is deposited directly.

LL: Before putting your original music up on YouTube and CD Baby, what things did you do first?

DW: No, I never really put any research into where to place my songs on the net, like YouTube etc. I realize the chances of people using my songs without permission is quite high, as has happened in the past. Or people write to me and ask for permission.

But as far as making money these days on the net, it is very difficult, even for big stars, so much music is being downloaded for free. This is the reason why bands tour so much now, the income from recording sales is not what it was.

LL: Is there a specific reason you decided to go with CD Baby rather than itunes to carry your music?

DW: Not really, I use iTunes and CD baby, I think CD baby offers a better deal, and it seems to be popular with indie type artists. I have my music on other sites also.

LL: Did you have to jump through a few hoops to get your music on iTunes?

DW: I actually uploaded a track to CD baby (I think) and it automatically appeared on iTunes. I don’t know how that happened, maybe I accidentally ticked a box or sumthing when I was uploading, I have not ever specifically uploaded to iTunes.

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

DW: That varies, sometimes it’s done by the first take after I practise it. But then sometimes it will take 5 or 6. Not usually because of major mistakes, but usually because it just sucked a little. I don’t think I have ever uploaded a perfect video to YouTube, I tend to play better when the camera isn’t rolling…I dont mind recording the audio, but the filming thing puts me off.

I’m not an extroverted person, quite the opposite. The fastest I could do a video, 5 mins for recording (if I got the first take) then mixing it on the movie software takes about 30 mins…so yeh, about 40 mins from start to finish.

LL: With your recording equipment, what are the current specs you use?

DW: I use Pro Tools 7.4 software with a 002 Digidesign rack recording at 24bit/44.1 using about 10 mics on the kit. I have a sony HD camera which I set to highest resolution. I import video and pre-mixed audio into Magix movie software, bounce down to quicktime for upload.

My studio PC is very old, single core PC, 4 Gigs of ram with XP. My video editing is done on my Aspire laptop, windows 7.

LL: Have you previously used another recording/mixing software?

DW: Yes, I had a Fostex 4 track recorder, then I got an Akai DPS12i which was a 12 channel all in one digital recorder. Then I moved into Pro Tools.

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

DW: I have a template set up in pro tools. My go to settings are eq on everything, compression on kick and snare (I might use a slow attack and release on bottom snare mic, adds an interesting fatness) I sub the whole kit to an auxiliary channel, more eq and compression.

I don’t eq heavily, and often it’s more destructive than additive, trying to control low mid frequencies and spill without using gates. I believe the kit should sound pretty decent without any eq or effects, otherwise, I look at tuning and mic placement. I also add a little reverb, which I like the Waves Renaissance Reverb.

Photo: Dean Wuksta

Photo: Dean Wuksta

LL: Can you walk me through your mastering process?

DW: Once again, I believe to master properly you really need to out source. But when I make ‘fake’ masters, I use waves eq, L2 limiter, and Izotope. I mainly use destructive eq, pulling out the low mids, I use the exciter in Izotope and a little of the maximizer, and then I add the L2.

I go for an RMS level of around –10, I feel trying to compete with commercial loudness levels is dangerous, but my mixes aren’t too far off. I still retain dynamics, and most of what I do is usually streamed on the net, so no need to try and push loudness.

LL: Would you say you spend more time editing or mastering a track?

DW: I spend a lot of time mixing and editing my music, a song may take me half a day, but for YouTube, I spend very little usually. Often it’s just a pre-mixed playalong song that I might drum to and ake a video, and my drum template is set up, so there is very little to do. If I’m mastering my music, I will spend days and keep doing listening tests…but for YouTube, I just chuck an L2 Limiter on the master fader, mastering done!

I have done multiple camera videos and spent a lot of time editing, but my movie software isn’t very reliable, freezes up all the time, wont play etc…so I keep everything very simple. I may look at changing the way I do things in the near future because I do enjoy film editing, just don’t have the gear to do it reliably.

 

LL: Also, I’d like to link to one of your videos. Which one would you say is either your favorite, or the one you’d regularly send if you were asked for a video?

DW: ‘practising linear 16th triplet phrasing‘ — my favs change regularly, but this is the one I have featured on my channel at the moment.

 

LL: Thanks for your time Dean, to close our Q&A session, are there any particular people who you’d like to reach out to you?

DW: Yeh sure, I have done cover suggestions before, and I have also done collaborations in the past too. I welcome questions or even just chatting about drums in general.

I also have some subscribers who send me videos for advice, and i have also made specific videos explaining fills etc that have remained private, just for the benefit of the one particular subscriber.

 

 

 

Dean Wuksta is a drummer based in Rockingham. You can find his videos here and some of his collaborations here. and can reach him through the form below

 

Photo: Dean Wuksta

Photo: Dean Wuksta

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

Leigh Lim is Mini-Bio Photoa musician based at 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 tweets and personal entries.)

Notes:

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Pick one of the forms below and I’ll get back to you. 🙂

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Q&A #6: Brinley Hall

 

 

Brinley talks about his journey as a drummer, how he got into the habit of wearing socks during rehearsals, and why he chooses to ‘over-mix’ the snare when recording.”

 

LL: Thanks for agreeing to share a bit about yourself Brinley. When you joined YouTube, did you do so intending to create content?

BH: No problem! Yeah, when I first made my account it was to upload my first video, which was The Final Countdown, which now, inexplicably, has over 130,000 views!

 

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

BH: I started playing drums when I was 11 in school. I had lessons until I was 13 learning the Trinity Guildhall Syllabus of grades, I learned a lot of the rudiments during these lessons. I got to grade 6 by the time I stopped. That’s where I learned the basics. I’ve never really had any books that I’ve learned from. I listen to a lot of music though so I developed from my style from my favourite drummers.

When I first started playing drums I was really into Jimi Hendrix and Zeppelin so I tried really hard to emulate Mitch Mitchell and Bonham, those guys are still my ultimate heroes. When I started doing covers I was massively into The Who and Muse so that was where most of my videos were based from. Towards the end of school I did my grade 8 exam and that was a nice bit of discipline which really helped to calm down my playing.

Now I’ve been playing in an originals folk act for a while my playing has calmed down even more and I’m pretty happy about it. I’m happy with the level of my playing at the moment. If I had to name one drummer that got me to where I am, I would say it would be between John Bonham, Jeff Pocaro and Mitch Mitchell.

 

LL: You mentioned you did two years of lessons from the ‘Trinity Guildhall Syllabus of grades’. Being where you are now with your playing, would you still want to go through that route?

 

BH: Yes! I believe that you have to have at least 6 months of lessons when you first start playing. Things like learning to grip your sticks properly, basic rudiments and limb independence are probably the most important. If you don’t learn this early you’ll end up with a lot of bad habits that will be harder to get rid of later.

 

 

LL: Can you give some examples?

BH: Stick grip is the main one. You see some people who have been playing for a long time still holding their index finger on the top of the stick and pushing down – who thought that was a good idea?! Lessons do help with a lot. I learnt to tune my kit and how to set things up so they are easy to play, and so I don’t break anything. You see a lot of drummers with their cymbals horizontal and 3 feet above them – that’s how you crack a cymbal!

 

 

LL: How do you think doing the grade 8 exam calmed down your playing?

BH: Before I did the grade 8 qualification, I had been teaching myself playing along to tracks for 5 years with no one telling me I was doing anything wrong (apart from the occasional hurtful comment on YouTube, which were mostly about my appearance rather than my playing).

When I started getting lessons for the grade 8 stuff, it was nice to have someone to say “no”. My teacher would stop me if I’d get distracted and make me play it again right. I think that helped me think a lot more about what I was playing.

Now when I play with my main band, I’ve actually got fills which I’ve written and use every time. Constant improvisation is only workable until it goes wrong somewhere important!

 

LL: Heel-up / Heel Down?

BH: I play heel up with both feet when I’m playing most music. If the setting is particularly quiet I will play heel down. It does depend on style. It often varies on the drum I’m playing too. If the kick is small and has a long sustain, I will avoid keeping the beater against the head after the strike has been made – this is easier to achieve with your heel down.

 

 

LL: Feet location on pedals: Would you have your feet closer to the edge of the foot-board (away from you) or not? Or maybe you’d go middle ground?

BH: I’m pretty sure I’m a middle ground player. You can see from that Wattershed cover where my foot lies. The faster the linear speed of the playing, the further back your foot comes is the rule, which is why some players use longboards (Gavin Harrison and Chris Adler both talk about this in interviews).

 

LL: In one of your videos it seems like you are playing with only socks for your feet. Has that always been a preference?

BH: My parents have always insisted on me taking my shoes off when I walk through the door. This meant I always was shoeless when I was rehearsing and it’s a habit that’s stuck. I play gigs with my shoes on, so it’s not an essential for me, just something I’ve got used to at home.

 

 

LL: With footwear (shoes during gigs, and none at home), do you think that influenced your choice of pedals?

BH: Not at all! I have a set if Iron Cobra doubles here which I use with just socks and you barely notice the texture on the pedals. I have a Sonor JoJo Mayer single pedal as well, which is completely smooth brushed aluminium. I find this pedal is easier to use with shoes as it can be a bit slippery with socks.

My choice of footwear is based on whether I can drum in them however. I always choose snug sneakers with grippy soles. I used to wear Addidas Low Riders but then the discontinued them – I was heartbroken. Now I wear Onitsuka Tiger’s and I love them!

 

 

LL: Are you learning something specific at the moment to augment your drumming?

 

BH: At this very moment in time, I don’t have a lot of time to practise my own drumming. We (Tom James) are rehearsing, writing and recording getting ready for a summer of shows and festivals every day. If I’m behind the kit (which I am at least 2 hours a day) it’s with a band!

Having just finished university (I couldn’t have a kit there) I’m hoping to get some more lessons on general technique as I feel I’ve become rather lazy with my playing recently. I also aim to work heavily on my music theory, which I am appalling at, and my bassist/guitarist/keyboardist/good friend Ed and I are planning on working through the electric guitar grades together too.

 

LL: Did you have to go out of your way to find musicians to collaborate with?

BH: I’m lucky enough to have been good friends and band mates with Tom since we

Photo: Brinley Hall   (Self-Portrait with Ed Sirl)  Editing: Leigh Lim

Photo: Brinley Hall
(Self-Portrait with Ed Sirl)
Editing: Leigh Lim

were 12. When he decided he would like to have a drum kit in his set up I was the first person he came to, which is nice. Another very good friend of mine, Ed Sirl,

also happens to be a great musician. He plays with Tom too, and me and Ed have played together for a very long time. His YouTube username is ThymeFlies42. On

that channel you can see a few full band covers me and him have done of our favourite bands.

Aside from my close friends, I have found it very difficult to find other musicians I connect with. At University I had a shortlived band which I really liked. See “Start Again” on my SoundCloud (www.soundcloud.com/longstandingdead). Unfortunately, time constraints meant none of us could commit to rehearsal so the band never got off the ground.

 

 

 

 

LL: In what way do you think working on music theory could make you a better musician?

BH: It will give me a better understanding of the way music works. It’s healthy to understand everything you are doing on a musical level, rather than just recognising things by ear, like I do.I’d like to get to a point that I can sit in with other musicians (whether in the studio or live).

Most of the time you’re given sheet music and would need to learn how to ‘sight read’ — and for me, I still need a lot of practice before I can say I can.

 

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

BH: The kit that I would ideally play all the time is a one up, two down set up. My set up is often very much like Chad Smith from the Red Hot Chilli Peppers. He’s another big influence on me I didn’t mention before! Two Crashes, a china/ozone and a splash is fairly essential.

 

LL: With drum tuning, do you get pretty fussy?

BH: I tune by ear. I am fussy though. I like my drums to sing. I like a 3 or 4 second pure note decay so it takes a while to get to that tuning. For me, it’s a trial and error process as even though I’ve been doing it for 10 years now, I’ve had so many kits that I can’t remember what works for each kit!

Some live engineers hate ringy drums too, so sometime I have to tune a couple of lugs down to get a bit of pitch bed, which these guys tend to love!

 

LL: Did you only keep one kit at a time? (Can you talk about the kits you’ve owned in the past? The reason you bought each one, and when you decided that it is time to let go and find a new one?)

BH: Up until 2012 I only kept 1 kit at a time. I had my first starter kit – an Arbiter CB kit. Then I had a Gretsch Blackhawk, which I bought from my local music shop on recommendation of the owner. It was a great kit for the money and I loved it until I decided to make a big upgrade. I chose a Mapex Saturn because the reviews were so good. It was a lot of money for me at the time and it took 3 months to arrive. I loved that kit, it looked and sounded brilliant and went perfectly with my Blue Bell Ride. The kick was 24×20 however which was too big when I started playing with Tom. So I bought a Mapex Orion, which was great, and sold the Saturn. This only had two toms though, so I decided I should have two kits; a rockier kit and a Tom kit.

The Orion was my Tom kit and I bought a Highwood Custom Lite with 4 toms as my rockier kit. I had those to kits together for a year and I loved how different the kits were for different stuff. But I then fell in love with my Ultraviolet Sparkle Tama Starclassic so had to sell the Orions. Then I fell in love with my Birch Customs and had to sell the Highwoods. Now I have two kits which I love, and they are both great for different things. The Yamaha has a lovey 20×16 kick which is great for folky stuff and the Tama has a 22×18 which is great for rock covers which I do a lot.

I’ve also owned a lot of snares. I have 4 at the moment and I couldn’t get rid of any because they all sound great for different stuff. My Tama Warlord Masai is my favourite though!

 

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

BH: Now I have Pro Tools, I generally just use the EQ and reverb presets which come with the package. On the kick, I scoop out a lot of the low end and add a lot of upper mid frequencies for the click. On Snare, I cut the low end and add a tiny bit of upper mid.

On the toms it’s a similar setting to the kick. Overheads get a complete high pass treatment and lower mid cut, and a slight boost in the top end. I add some snare plate when I’m recording full tracks. I instinctively over mix the snare in terms of volume. That’s something I’ve grown up with. If you listen to Toto tracks, the hats and snare are terrifically over-mixed. It sounds right to me!

 

 

LL: With your ‘go-to’ mixing settings for the kit. Were those a result of trial and error?

BH: They were trial and error. When I got my first mixer (and started using more than one mic) I didn’t know a lot about kit EQ settings so I googled “Drum Kit EQ Settings”. One website had a great table of different sized drums and which frequencies to boost and that really help me work it all out.

With Pro Tools you get a lot of EQ options post recording, so now I record everything pretty much dry and then sort out the EQ after when I can listen to it properly and sort out what sounds good. A real recording engineer would never do that, but in order to get a decent pre-record EQ you need a separate recording control room and someone to hit the drums for you!

 

LL: What did you use before Pro-Tools?

BH: When I was first doing covers, I used some free software called Audacity, which was great considering it was free. Then in about 2007/8 I bought Adobe Audition, which I loved, but then it was discontinued and Adobe switched off the servers which allowed me to switch the licence between my laptop and PC. At this point I decided it was time to update so I bought Pro Tools 11 on the day it came out in a student deal and I haven’t looked back, the quality increase was dramatic!

 

LL: Do you have advice to those still preferring to use Audacity?

BH: I haven’t used it since 2007 so I can’t remember a thing about it! I would say don’t use G-Verb!! You’ll be surprised with the increase in quality when you move to a bit of software like Pro Tools/Cubase/Ableton/Sonar.

 

LL: Adding snare plate? Do you do that digitally? Or just listen to the track and decide which parts you needed added, then just make a separate snare plate track?

BH: On every track I’ve recorded recently I’ve used a bronze snare 14×5.5 snare tuned low so it sounds like someone is getting punched. This snare sounds a whole lot more epic with a nice plate on it so I’ve just put the reverb Plug-in on for the entire snare mic track. I never used to put any snare plate on – as I said before I always over mix the snare so I always felt the plate stuck out too much. Now my mixing is improving I’m more confident with putting the snare right in the mix so the plate fits a lot better.

 

 

LL: When recording (no matter the software), how do you deal with latency issues?

BH: I’ve never had bad latency issues. When I first get a new bit of software or hardware I just work on the settings until the latency isn’t an issue anymore. I have the advantage of having very quick computers so there is virtually no lag when I’m recording. Firewire desks like the one I have the moment have no latency at all as the data transfer is so fast.

 

LL: Do you do much video editing?

BH: The videos which have been posted on Thymeflies42 (http://www.youtube.com/user/ThymeFlies42/videos) have all been heavily edited and there’s multiple camera angles. Ed has been in charge of the video on those and I’ve done the audio so I haven’t been involved with that. In terms of my own videos, my expertise extends as far as getting the video and audio to sync up, and sometimes I can’t even do that!

 

LL: Have you been using the same video editor since posting your first YouTube video?

BH: I have. I’ve used the windows XP version of Movie Maker since the start. It’s very easy to use and has so few functions I can’t get confused. I would like to make my videos more visually stimulating but I only own one camera so there’s not much point really!

 

LL: It was interesting to read in your message when you said: “I didn’t know anyone was still a fan on YouTube” — Do you mean that all YouTube users have generated their own content and that would mean they are no longer ‘fans’?

BH: I meant that I haven’t uploaded many videos on YouTube in quite a long time, so I wasn’t aware that people were still following me enough to want a Q&A session! It’s flattering!

 

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

BH: YES! I am intensely into Arcane Roots, Vulfpeck, Theo Katzman, Natalie Duncan, Brother & Bones the olllam. Those are small bands though so I’m not surprised not many have heard of them. I’m in to Alter Bridge, and they’re not as popular as I thought they’d be.

 

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

BH: I try my best to buy a new album a week. When the BBC series Later with Jools Holland is on I pick my favourite artist and buy their album. I discovered Natalie Duncan, Drive By Truckers and Ellie Goulding (before she was huge) though that show.

I read Rhythm Magazine too, which has album reviews. If something catches my eye in there I’ll try that too. I discovered Killer Be Killed and Messenger through Rhythm, and I’m big fans of them too. Otherwise I get recommendations from friends.

 

LL: Do you have a go-to site for new music?

BH: I download my music through iTunes for the convenience and I know that the money is going to the artists. I’d say YouTube is good for it. Because I watch so much music on YouTube I often get some suggested videos which lead me on to a new favourite band! That’s how I discovered Vulfpeck (great band) and UZEB (80’s legends). I have a lot of musicians on Facebook too, so a lot of good music is shared on there.

 

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

BH: I used to go out and sit on a bench on the coast when I loved in town, but I now live 2 minutes from the bench and I have the same view from my house (I am very lucky) so I don’t need to leave my drum room!

I’m not a great writer. I am good at matching my parts with other peoples, which is why I love playing in bands.

 

LL: What are your favorite sites at the moment?

BH: I’m in the middle of exams in my final year of Uni at the moment so I haven’t had time to spend discovering new sites. I spend a lot of time on Facebook. The only site I can think of is Tickd.com, which is a meme site. I’m into it big style.

 

LL: What’s your view about social media?

BH: I love it. I’m on most sites and I use them every day. Facebook is good for communicating with my friends and making plans, and there are loads of groups for buying and selling music gear. I have bought a lot of gear through Facebook. I’ve never been nervous about using social media, as long as you know your privacy settings, I haven’t found there’s anything to worry about.

 

LL: Are you interested in technology?

BH: I’m only semi interested! I’m not a big software guy. Music technology interests me greatly and I try to keep up to date with new innovations in that field. I’ve never been a computer guy past knowing about general information – I’ve never changed my RAM for example!

 

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

BH: Not really, I’m not as big a web surfer as I may look! My bands website is nice and clean – tomjamesmusic.co.uk

 

LL: Website that you would go to when you need cheering up?

BH: Tickld it has to be for this one too!

 

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

BH: As I said earlier, I’ve recently just been doing full band covers with my friend Ed. I think these have a bit more value than just straight forward drum covers because you’re doing so much more. Having said that, I just uploaded a new drum cover! It’s of a Bruno Mars track where there were no drums originally, and I played bass, so I feel there is more value here as well.

 

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

BH: My cover of Anastacia – Left Outside Alone. I think it’s the tightest video I have up!

 

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

BH: Since last year I’ve been hoping that people seeing my videos for the first time think “Wow, he’s really tight”. I also always hope my playing comes across as musical. I try to listen to parts and play something that fits rather than play all over it. I also like to think people will be impressed by the audio quality on some of my videos.

If anyone was inspired to take up drums or start producing their own content because of one of my videos, I would be very proud.

 

 

 

 

Brinley Hall is a drummer based in Cornwall. You can find his videos here and can reach him through the form below. He currently performs with Tom James and also collaborates with his long-time mate Ed as a duo (Ed and Brin). Brin welcomes jam invitations, recording inquiries (remote session work), and gear recommendations (or questions!).

 

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

Leigh Lim is Mini-Bio Photoa musician based at 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 tweets and personal entries.)

Notes:

  • If there are things that you’d like to know about Brin that I have not covered, please do leave a note (using the second form gives me an option of putting up your message.). And I’ll aim to get Brin to post the answer to your question here!
  • Corrections and additional information: Spot one? Let me know!
  • Q&A Suggestions (individuals or groups) and feedback (specific or general) are always welcome. 🙂
  • If you share a quote from your favorite Q&A on Twitter, don’t forget to use the hashtag ‘#WNEQA’!
  • This post has been tagged so it could be considered for Long Reads.

Pick one of the forms below and I’ll get back to you. 🙂

Interested in reading more?

  • Following each Q&A session I post a separate entry (The Quote Jar: Five) including quotes from the names Jim mentions.
  • How about checking out all the other Q&As?

 

** For feedback and comments that you wouldn’t mind displayed publicly, you can use the ‘leave a comment link’ below.

Q&A #5: Jim Bryan

 

“Jim shares his journey as a bassist, why he prefers headphones as monitors when recording, and how using Pandora led him to Blake Shelton.”

 

Leigh Lim: Hi Jim! Thanks for agreeing to share a bit about yourself. Looking at the videos you have on YouTube, at the moment it is geared towards different artists. What are your plans for the next videos you’re going to upload?

Jim Bryan: I mainly do covers of songs I enjoy, sometimes more popular songs to get some extra views! I do take requests and have done a bunch of them in the past. I’m currently working on covers of Train, Cutting Crew, and a few others.

LL: What were the last two requests you’ve gotten?

JB: The first was New Found Glory – Constant Static which was done recently… and The Airborne Toxic Event – Timeless that someone requested so they could learn how to play from my video.

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

JB: I started playing about 5 years ago. The very first thing I started doing was looking for tabs online of my favorite songs, from there I looked up how to position my hands properly and read various books/online lessons for beginners.

I eventually got into music theory and scales but I still have much to learn in that regard. Practice, practice, practice!

 

LL: Just five years playing? Amazing progress! Are you surprised as well as to how far you’ve come after 5 years?

JB: Not really surprised, I put a lot of time and effort into practicing and learning the instrument.

 

LL: Has the time you spent practicing during the last five years changed?

JB: I never had a set amount of time to practice, I would always just pick it up and play, sometimes would get really into it and learn more than one song at a time and just play for hours and hours.

 

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

JB: My warm up is usually just running up and down the fret board a few times for about 5 mins. After that I’m usually ready to go.


LL: Was there something specific that you wanted to learn that you struggled with?

JB: I struggled with learning the song Rio by Duran Duran. It’s a really difficult song and has you moving around nonstop for the whole duration. What I did was go really slow at first to learn the different riffs of the song.

I usually break a song into different halves and learn them one at a time. Such as an into, pre-chorus, chorus and outro. After playing it over and over I eventually got the speed and dexterity to play the song and I then did a cover.

 

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?

JB: I would recommend to get a music teacher if they have no musical experience. Learning to play on your own is really hard and it would be nice to have someone that knows a lot to help out from the start. Everyone is different, so it might come easier to some people than others.

 

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

JB: I mostly use the brand DR for my bass strings, they are currently my favorite since they have a nice sound and tend to last longer than other strings I have tried. I have a bunch of old picks my dad used to play with but I really just use my fingers to play.

I have an Ibanez sr600, Squier vintage modified 70’s jazz, dean edge 09 (my first bass), yamaha rbx a2. I use a Sansamp bass driver DI as my main pedal going through a Behringer BXL450 amp.

 

LL: What’s the story behind each bass purchase?

JB: The first bass I bought (Dean Edge) was a beginner practice bass, it was cheap but I just wanted something to start learning. After that one of my friends said he was getting rid of a bass (Squire Jazz Bass) and if I wanted it for a good deal. So, I said heck yeah I’ll take it!

He then later on sold me his other 2 basses (Ibanez sr600 and a Yamaha) since he wanted to focus more on electric guitar playing.

 

 

LL: What are the tell-tale signs you watch out for to remind you that it is time to change strings?

JB: The strings will start sounding dull and the sound won’t be as bright, a good rule of thumb is to change them for bass every few months or so.

 

LL: Do you have a Maintenance and Storage routine for your bass guitars?

JB: I keep 3 of my basses on a guitar stand, when I’m ready to play I grab one and start jamming. I do wipe them down often and I use Tone Finger Ease spray to keep the strings sounding bright. When changing strings, I really wipe the fret board and make sure it’s clean.

 

LL: Did it take awhile for you to settle on the gear that you like?

JB: My friend recommended I try DR strings and have been using them since. It did take me a while to find out what guitars I like, since there are so many different kinds/brands out there.

 

LL: In what instances would you use each of your guitars?

JB: I like to use the squire for slapping since I have the strings higher just for that reason, and I use my Ibanez for most other things since I put the strings really low.

LL: Did you do the set-up for all your basses?

JB: I did eventually change the bridge height/truss rod adjustments etc. That wasn’t until I’d been playing for a few years though.

 

LL: Did you change the bridge height/truss rod (adjustments etc.) because the bass felt different to play?

JB: I messed with those adjustments mainly because of sound and making it easier to play. Making the strings higher lets me drop the tuning of the bass really low without having the strings sound muddy and out of tune since I don’t have a 5 string bass.

Having the strings really low is easy to play since its less stress on the fingers to press down, so I have different basses set at different string heights etc

 

LL: What would your advice be for a bassist confused about the array of choices?

JB: It will take a while to find strings you like, so try as many as you can, and the ones you like stick with them! I would say buy a beginner bass package that comes with a bass and an amp, straps, picks everything you need to get started. After a while of playing you can then upgrade and shop around to see what’s best for your style of playing.

 

LL: Description of your playing style?

JB: I tend to keep it simple with a few fills here and there. I prefer playing with the fingers on my right hand since I feel I have more control over the sounds that I can make with the bass. I do use a pick sometimes but I’m not very good at it.

 

LL: What’s next for your playing? Are you working on something specific at the moment to spice up your playing?

JB: I’m not working on anything specific at the moment, and am happy with where I’m at. There’s always room to improve and as long as I play everyday, I’m always getting better.

 

LL: Have you specifically worked on something because of a suggestion from someone watching your videos?

JB: Yes, I have people leave suggestions on songs to cover or sometimes an easier way to play a part in a song.

 

LL: With your recording equipment, what are the current specs you use?

JB: I use a Sansamp bass driver DI plugged into a Behringer BXL450 amp that connects to the back of the soundcard of my computer.

 

LL: If you didn’t have a DI what would you be using?

JB: I’d be using a Digitech brand pedal that I keep in the closet just in case.

 

LL: I noticed that your earlier videos (like this) had the bass with a similar volume level to the music. Your Later ones have the bass playing a more prominent part, in your more recent videos — music seems to be 60% less volume than the bass. Was there a specific reason you decided to have that approach to audio?

 

JB: Back then I was using different programs and audio settings etc. I think that people watching a bass cover video would want the bass louder so they can learn how to play by hearing and seeing what I’m doing. If the music is too loud they might not be able to hear what I’m playing.

 

LL: Was there a specific reason you wanted to use headphones for monitoring (In your videos)?

JB: Since I use headphones for PC gaming its easy since they are right there to pickup, and also so my neighbors don’t hear me rumbling at 3 am.

LL: Do you have multiple headphones?

JB: I actually just bought new headphones and I am switching to them for recording/gaming also. They are Steelseries Siberia V2 USB.

 

LL: For gaming, are you partial to specific headphones?

JB: I usually use Plantronics or Steelseries

 

LL: Have any of your headsets/headphones ‘die’ on you?

 

JB: I break headphones A LOT, I just bought a new headset because my older ones broke haha

 

LL: Do they break the same way?

JB: Not all of them break the same way, it depends how they are made and the quality of the headset itself. It’s usually the wires that get yanked out or one the ear pieces loses sound. They usually last 6 months to a year. Sometimes longer if I’m really careful :p

 

LL: Yanked out!? Are you also guilty of walking away from your computer and forgetting that you are wearing a headset?

JB: Yeah i do that all the time, also if I step on the cord while Im standing up the headphones get thrown off my head

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

JB: Incubus, Silverstein, Blake Shelton, Black Label Society, and many others

 

LL: Blake Shelton!? Interesting! So different from Incubus, Silverstein, and Black Label Society. Is it because Blake did Footloose?

JB: I just heard a song of his on Pandora that I really liked, I think it was Sure Be Cool If You Did, after hearing that one I went on Spotify and listened to a bunch of his hits that I now like.

 

LL: Was the song a suggestion from Pandora?

JB: Yes it was from Pandora

 

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

JB: (What’s The Story) Morning Glory album by Oasis I listen to that A LOT at work.

 

LL: What are your favorite sites at the moment?

JB: Reddit, Youtube

LL: Are you interested in technology?

JB: I’m very interested in technology. It’s what has helped me get my bass playing on the internet for others to see and enjoy.

 

LL: Your YouTube Channel Banner looks great — is it one of your creations?

JB: I had one of my friends whose a graphic designer help me out with that one. I gave him the idea and I thought what he came up with looked awesome.

 

LL: Would you be open to ask your friend if he would be open to credit?

JB: Sure, his portfolio is at http://simplybiscuit.com/

 

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

JB: Velvet Revolver – Slither. It was a fun song to learn for sure.

 

LL: Have you collaborated with other artists?

JB: Yes, and I have actually done that a few times. I met a few people and we made a few songs together over the internet just recording our own parts and mixing them with audio software.

 

LL: Still open to do collaborations in the future?

JB: I’d collaborate with anybody, it’s such a fun experience!

 

 

 

* Jim Bryan is a bass player based in Wilmington, Delaware. You can find his videos here and can reach him through the form below. Jim welcomes messages containing collaboration ideas, bass cover requests, the name of a cool song you’d like to send his way, and other gamers wanting to connect (his Steam username is Dramacyde5 and his Facebook page is here).

 

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

 

Leigh Lim is Mini-Bio Photoa musician based at 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 tweets and personal entries.)

 

Notes:

  • If there are things that you’d like to know about Jim that I have not covered, please do leave a note (using the second form gives me an option of putting up your message.). I’ll aim to get Jim to post the answer to your question here!
  • Corrections and additional information: Spot one? Let me know!
  • Q&A Suggestions (individuals or groups) and feedback (specific or general) are always welcome!
  • If you share a quote from your favorite Q&A on Twitter, don’t forget to use the hashtag ‘#WNEQA’!
  • This post has been tagged so it could be considered for Long Reads.

Pick one of the forms below and I’ll get back to you. 🙂

 

Interested in reading more?