Alright, so I’ve been filling up my page with all of these heavy-handed articles on the music business, revealing to all of you the vast reaches of my critical nature. So, let’s have a little fun.
First of all, I want to tease you all and say that I have some fun projects in the works that you will be excited to hear about. New music being recorded, new video work, new performance opportunities. Stay tuned!
But today, I wanted to tell you about three bands that I love, and my guess is that it might surprise you. But, perhaps not. The truth is, I barely listen to Texas Country and the genre that most of you would call “Red Dirt”. It’s not that I don’t enjoy the genre. I’m a big fan of the likes of Wade Bowen, Turnpike Troubadours, Randy Rogers, and my newest favorite, Flatland Cavalry. But I spend a lot of time in that world, and so I don’t find any inspiration there. The genre also has a “sound”, a sonic stamp that makes it all sound the same to me, and I fear that over-listening might cause my own sound to inherit that stamp. There is nothing wrong with that, I just want to keep my music open to its own meanderings, and am cautious about where I take influence. So, without further ado, here are three bands that I listen to often, and truly enjoy, in countdown order:
#3: Porcupine Tree
Who? Yes, most of you are asking that question. I also asked that question a few years back. But Porcupine Tree has actually been around for quite some time. And sadly, the band is on indefinite hiatus at the moment, and probably always will be it seems, even though the band members are still around and on good terms. Porcupine Tree was the brainchild of Steven Wilson, British songwriter and musician, producer, and innovator. Early on the band received comparisons as a modern Pink Floyd. Mr. Wilson took great offense. Poor Mr. Wilson. I’ve often danced in and out of the prog-rock scene without fully diving into the deep end, afraid that I would never resurface from the obsession with constant time-signature changes, moody synth sounds, and mathematical rhythmic trickery. But Mr. Steven Wilson is, in my opinion, as innovative as they come in the rock world. Porcupine Tree occasionally verges on metal, with dark rich colored distorted guitars punching out grungy rhythms, and Wilson’s very unique almost atonal guitar soloing. But they are very dynamic, which is a tragically underused tool in most songwriting, including mine. They have the ability to be rocking your face off, and then immediately fall off a cliff into tear-jerking atmospheric nocturne-level sleep sounds. I discovered them upon the release of their critically acclaimed album In Absentia, which is still a favorite of mine. But I love almost everything I have heard from them. I’m also a sucker for good drumming, and Gavin Harrison is drumming deity. Doubt me? Then watch this…
Anybody who knows me personally knows that I have spent most of my life drenched in the Christian music scene, for better or for worse. It hasn’t always been good bands. But I tried to hold a high standard, and for the most part succeeded. For years I listened to a lot of very heavy Christian metal bands. Anything that didn’t violently shred your eardrums I considered to be wussy, all in the name of Jesus. I did a brief stint as drummer in a failed Christian rock band called Stained Glass View. Our lead singer was a fan of the semi-Christian band Switchfoot. When I listened to them, I thought I had never heard anything more sissy. Then later that year I saw the band in concert at a festival that I used to work at annually in Kentucky. Their lead singer, Jon Foreman, had this presence on stage, and a way about him that made me think, and truly believe, that he desperately longed to be one with his audience. As a matter of fact, he spent a great deal of the performance out with the audience, reaching for them, touching them, drowning in them. It really did move me, because it seemed sincere. It also helped knowing that the band had recently inherited Jerome Fontamillas on keys and guitars, former member of an old-time favorite Christian industrial metal band called Mortal. I enjoy very emotional music. I enjoy becoming emotional while listening to music. And Switchfoot’s music draws something out of me that nary another band on this planet can draw from my hardened heart. Hope. Connection. Desire. Hunger for Life. Very few bands achieve leading us to positive emotions without skimming the surface of cheap cheese. But Switchfoot does it with heart-rending honesty, acceptance of our humanity, and makes me feel like I’m in the band with them, hurting and hoping right alongside them. Favorite all time song, “The Shadow Proves the Sunshine”. Also, don’t miss out on the chance to hear Jon Foreman’s solo works as well, they are beautiful. He is a songwriter worthy of the best of them, but often overlooked because of his spiritual themes. If you want to really know what Brent Ryan is about as a musician, understand that if I could achieve even half of the honest inspirational effect in my music that Switchfoot has achieved I would be grateful that my music had done something good to this world.
Last but not least…
#1: King’s X
I have been listening to King’s X longer than most of you have been alive. This is another “who is that?” type of band. But it wasn’t always so. King’s X had an era where they were the big thing being talked about in the rock world. In the early 90’s they had feature videos on MTV, and were touring with AC/DC, and other proggy bands like Rush and Dream Theater. Quite truthfully, they are one of the tightest and all-around most talented rock bands to ever walk the planet. They do what they do with only three members in the band. Yet their small stage population doesn’t rob them of the ability to create an impressive wall of sound. How? Well, their bass player, Dug Pinnick, uses unique bass lines, and unique basses to do more than just plod along on a simple one-note bass line. He’s constantly moving, and frequently driving the main rhythm. Their guitar player, Ty Tabor, is quite frankly one of the most innovative and skilled rock guitarists I’ve ever heard. He rivals Eddie Van Halen in his ability to constantly be moving the notes, not just pounding out chords, so his rhythm guitar parts are very “busy”, but tastefully so. They say King’s X invented grunge before grunge was a thing. Their early albums were prog rock. Around 1994 they made a shift to a grungier funk metal sound. I enjoy both eras equally. I have seen these guys live in concert more times than I can count, and always relish the opportunity to hear them. While their music hasn’t necessarily inspired my sound, their career has. They’ve managed three decades of quality music, and continue to pack venues for their performances. Their fan-base is not large, but it is extremely loyal. I am among its members. Watch this video to the halfway point when they do the “stops and starts” on this song. For years this has baffled their fans, and to this day I really don’t understand how they keep it tight.
There you have it! I don’t know whether this reveal into my musical favorites will cause you to like me more or less, but it is the truth of Brent Ryan. Hopefully it doesn’t discourage you in thinking, “Man, I thought that Brent Ryan guy was really country through and through.” Well, that is sort of true. Perhaps in a future post I will validate that fact with you also. In the meantime, stand tall in the knowledge that you know Brent Ryan better. Until next time…