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Cliché, Yes, but the Journey Actually IS What It’s All About

I was sitting on a couch in my friend Joe Hammond’s recording studio the other day listening to the song we’d just recorded when suddenly I felt completely empty, even a little depressed.

The recording was great, probably only 70% finished but definitely a successful and fun day’s work and easy to see how from there it would be plain sailing to finish it off into something to be proud of.

 

 

I had been waiting for the day in the studio for weeks. Catching me humming a little happy tune while doing my least favourite chore the night before (dishes), A Certain Lady commented, accurately, that I was obviously looking forward to spending a cheeky Thursday making music.

So, come 7pm that Thursday, given all was well, why did I feel so empty? No idea. But I have noticed it before.

Truth is when I get what I want, I very often feel like this and so I can understand how people who get everything they want often lose it.

It’s often bandied about that you have to do what you love in order to succeed – and I think this is true – mainly because you need that passion to push you through the hard bits. If you weren’t passionate enough about your work, the trials that inevitably befall any project worth doing would cause you to give up the fight.

 

 

But there’s another reason I need to love what I do – because I have noticed on quite a few occasions that when I get what I want, even though it does feel very good, the feeling doesn’t last. Soon after I feel kind of empty, tired and blue.

That’s why it is so important to love what you do – because success is a fleeting pleasure and because it’s the “doing”, the striving, that takes the most time. So if you love that process, then life is bliss, because once the momentary thrill of success, large or small, is over – you take a little R & R and then just get back to doing “it”, the thing you love, all over again.

Sweet as.

(Photos by Spindickle – thanks mate)

 

 

Nothing Happens Until Something Moves

You’ve made the plan. You know what you want and have a good idea of how you might go about starting to get it. It’s all there – all you’ve got to do is make the call, spend the money, have the difficult conversation.

Often this is the point where the detailed plan gets put aside for a little bit, maybe for too long. If you leave it long enough then the plan becomes redundant. A part of you, the part that likes the safety of dreaming and planning, likes that tactic, because it just gets to enjoy creating a vision all over again without having to do the difficult work. That’s why “vision quest” type books and workshops sell so well, because they allow us to justify procrastinating indefinitely.

I remember once asking someone how they went at a motivational seminar they had just attended. “Awesome!” came the reply, “I felt a real shift!”

“Shifts” are nice – and important (I enjoy a good shift as much as the next guy) but Einstein was right – nothing happens until something moves.

Next Gig: Feb 17th – Melting Pot CD Launch (I am featured on their 1st compilation CD), 7pm, Seraphim (formerly Vibe On Smith), 123 Smith St Fitzroy, Melbourne

Middle Age is the New Teenage

I think middle-age is a lot like being a teenager, you wind up back where you started, bored in suburbia, sitting on the couch thinking: “Is this it? Surely there’s more!”

When you are a teenager at home abiding by other people’s rules and when you are all grown-up with responsibilities, you have something to rebel against. When you’re in your ’20s (or just generally pre-mortgage / babies) you sort of don’t. Life is then as perfect as it gets. You have energy and health and get to please yourself a lot more than at any other point in life – so what’s there to rebel against? Sex with perfect bods and immunity from hangovers? Not!

Rock Begins At 40

(OK, 38, but close enough…)

People who kick-arse begin with a vision that is apparently ridiculous and then successfully engage a critical mass of people with that vision until their support helps it actually become reality.

U2 got a critical mass of people buying into their “impossible mission” – that a bunch of kids from working class Ireland could possibly become rock stars. This seems plausible to us in retrospect, but to your average person of limited vision this would have been laughable before they did it.

Here’s my crazy vision: To prove that dreams can come true – even for middle-aged musicians – thereby inspiring people to determinedly pursue their passions, no matter what their age or situation.

Think about it – middle-aged “popular music” musicians almost never rise from obscurity to establish a viable career as entertainers. All the working rock stars over 30 established their brands in their 20s. It’s an expectation waiting to be defied, and it has a massive “what’s in it for me” factor for loads of people – Hope (not to mention great music).

In 2012 I will have been gigging for 20 years – but I am really only just getting started and the best is yet to come.

To support my vision of geriatric glory you only need to do one thing – download some of my music for free. This will subscribe you to my mailing list so you can follow my further adventures in entropy, prescription drugs and rock n roll (you can unsubscribe later if you choose – although I may send round the heavies if you do).

Is The Internet Doomed?

Potentially, yes.

Really – do you think the suits in high places like us being able to disrupt industries, undermine monopolies and overthrow governments using upstart technology that they have no control over?

Could “stopping piracy” possibly be just a great excuse to gradually lock the Internet down and turn it into a top-down broadcast model that serves nobody well but big business and conservative governments?

OK – stealing other people’s art is not cool; I would obviously rather you paid for my music than nicked it. But reducing the Internet to a flacid corporate wasteland is NOT the answer. SOPA just might do this if allowed to go through unchecked.

PROTECT IP / SOPA Breaks The Internet from Fight for the Future on Vimeo.

So, About Those Voices In Your Head…

The Wrong Voice tells you to do things to make money. It says “Make money first, then you will be free to pursue your dreams”. But the Wrong Voice is full of crap.

The Wrong Voice comes from your Lizard Brain, the amygdale. It’s the reptilian part of your brain that is not very intelligent and is only concerned, in a kind of scared little animal way, with surviving in a harsh world.

In order to be butt-kicking superheroes, we need to identify this voice (which Steven Pressfield calls the Resistance) and laugh in his face. We need to learn and understand the power of the following simple quote by Steve Jobs:

“There is no reason not to follow our heart.”

At first glance this may seem like a clichéd line, and indeed “follow your heart” kind of is. But to me the real power that drives this statement is “there is no reason not to…”.

He was being literal – there truly is no actual reason not to follow your heart. There literally is no reason not to sing, write, paint, start your dream business, have a child, restore that old car or whatever.

It can be hard to hear your Right Voice, but it’s always there, patiently urging you to kick massive butt…

How to Clean the Fluff Off Your Brain in 7 Easy Steps

Brains are sticky, and unfortunately this means that as you suffer the inevitable rolls in the dust piles of life, fluff sticks to your brain and starts to build up. This is especially true for creative types. I think that this is because the ideas in our brains are inherently stickier, thus attracting more fluff.

Here’s how to clean that up in 7 easy steps…

…actually, I lied.

I don’t have any easy steps – can’t find them for all the fluff – but here’s a bunch of psychobabble that may or may not relate to the title of this blog post.

Last week, I left off with a discussion I was having with my two business mentors. They had dragged my struggling brain kicking and fighting into reality to have a look at what it was I was actually aiming for, what the nature of the success I craved was. Unfortunately (and predictably) we realised there were some flaws in my thinking, namely domestic paradise lost. Obviously this is only a problem if you have domestic paradise in the first place and wish to keep it. This I do – so how to work around it?

The Problem

My goal was simple: “become a successful musician and tour the world playing awesome gigs”.

All very well, but as my mentors rightly pointed out, unless I was prepared to sacrifice my relationship with my significant other and my children, being on the road for 11 months of the year could present logistical problems.

The Solution

Rely less on the gigs as the main avenue of promotion and income. Build an audience and sell them music recordings and other stuff using new technologies. After all, technology now provides these shiny benefits:

  • low overheads
  • don’t need a record company
  • no distribution problem (only a marketing problem … we’ll get back to that)

Then yes, still do gigs (playing live is my favourite part of being a musician, so not going to give that up ever) but do it in a civilised manner, so that I can still know my children and not have to pay alimony.

Pirates Are Only a Problem on the Actual Ocean

All very well, I hear you say, but isn’t the idea of living off selling recordings now an anachronism in the face of rampant piracy?

I feared the same, so I did some research. Turns out the answer is “No, actually”.

It seems the people being “hurt” (and I use the word loosely) by piracy are the record companies and the major players in show biz – the U2s of this world. They all used to clean up majorly from selling the album format in CD but now, while actual transactions are up, most people buy singles now and this means reduced revenue. And of course, people pirate a lot of copies of the Joshua Tree or whatever now. I don’t really approve, but it isn’t going to last long I don’t think. The establishment is marshalling its forces and will increasingly regulate copyright law with an iron fist, mark my words (unless future history proves me wrong, in which case feel free to gleefully unmark them).

Also media consumption has fragmented, we are no longer tuned into the same few radio stations and TV stations that sell us all the same shit. Instead we pick what we like from a much greater pool of choice and we block out the rest. Big Music hates this because they consequently sell less, but they are all still friggin’ rich so, besides them, who cares?

For the rest of us, New Media is mostly upside. Yes, I think there is a down side – a lack of mass shared pop-cultural experience – but essentially, it’s all good.

What this means for Small Music – i.e. independent musicians – is that there is a much greater chance of earning a decent living selling music recordings. OK so most still won’t, but that’s because most are either crap or lazy or both, but more musicians than ever now make money selling music recordings. You haven’t read this in the mainstream media reports because it doesn’t make as cool a headline as…

“Sir Elton-John Forced to Rent Out Rooms to Cover Flower Costs – Blames Pirates”.

… nevertheless it is apparently true (it must be; the Internet said so).

But What About All This Fluff?

OK so the opportunity is there to sell music recordings. Gatekeepers and distribution are now no excuse, but as I hinted earlier, hopeful musicians now have another problem – ok two problems if you are still concerned about the fluff on your brain – the other being The Marketing Problem. How do you get people to give a toss about your music?

I cannot claim to have the answer to this. Regardless, I will prattle on about it in an authoritative tone in the next post, because the Internet says I can.

 Next Gig: Market Noise! Acoustic Music & Arts Festival – Sunday Dec 11th Brunswick (click link for details) I am on at 3pm-ish

A Bear of Very Fluffy Brain

Yesterday I sat in meeting with my two business mentors and realised that despite what I like to tell myself to the contrary, I am a fluffy-brained creative type, not a hard-nose businessman.

Both of these guys are very successful businessmen but in a grounded low-ego kind of way. When I say successful I mean they run multi-million dollar businesses and buy yachts and that kind of thing, but they aren’t, as the poms would say, “flash gits’. Consequently, I respect them.

I was actually with them to discuss business in the context of my day-job but talk soon turned to my music career aspirations, ridiculous as they may be.

My two hard-boiled businessmen friends genially began tearing my thinking apart with the conversational equivalent of pick-axes. With a knowing twinkle in my eye, I confidently leaned back on my chair only to discover that my Magic Difficult Scenario Escape Portal was on the blink yet again.

Bugger.

I scrambled for Plan B, realised I didn’t have one, landed on my back foot and began stuttering and hemming and hawing as they asked me brutal questions like “What do you actually want?” and “How much will you need to turnover each month to achieve that?”

Direct questions like this about specifics tend to leave me flabbergasted. I can see so many potential outcomes that I may or may not be cool with, that to choose one and start making up figures to support it just seems like an exercise in hypothetical nonsense.

And so I would start to answer with statements like “well, I want to build my music brand in a sustainable and profitable-“  only to get cut off with cries of “Waffle!”. The question was repeated:

“What do you actually want?”

I hemmed and hawed and came up with something apparently just as waffly and shoot-to-the-ground-worthy. This lasted a couple of rounds until eventually, in desperation, I threw up my hands up and said: “Look – I just want to tour the world playing music to large crowds of people who totally dig my vibe and I want to get paid enough money never to have to worry about money”.

“OK,” came the reply, “Now we are getting somewhere.”

“Do you want a band to tour with you?”

“Yes, in a perfect world … of course I am prepared to compromise-“

“No, don’t think like that. Focus on what you really want.”

“OK then, yes, I want a band to tour with me.”

And then the maths started. Of course, being a Bear of Very Fluffy Brain, I have no idea what all those numbers they ran through were or meant, but suffice to say they were large and would take a lot of work to achieve. However, I am actually quite cool with that; one thing I have learned (at least) over the years is the skill of remaining unflappable in the face of large numbers. A couple of arduous years in advertising sales eventually cured me of that.

So for a moment I thought, “OK, let’s do this…” and was starting to feel less like a Bear of Fluff and more like the cigar-chomping music-mogul of my delusions.

But then the curve ball…

“Are you prepared to pay the price to make the kind of venture we have just described a reality?”

“Err…” I succinctly replied.

“Are you prepared to hardly ever be home, to always be on the road and to never see your wife and children? This will probably lead to stress and potentially the breakdown of the family unit. Are you willing to risk paying that price?”

“Err…” I reaffirmed.

“Or do you think there might be another way to go about it, a way that doesn’t require you to wind up divorced and with children you barely know?”

By this time, having run out of “Errs”, I defaulted to my other Ninja Conversation trick: complete silence. This is a useful skill that even Bears of Very Fuzzy Brains can (and definitely should) learn – that if you don’t know what to think or say, just say nothing. You look less stupid that way … but you must remember not to gape like a fish out of water – that ruins the effect.

The truth is I have been living with the dream of regularly playing music before large crowds since I was 12 or 13. I even got to do it for a while, before my twenty-something immaturity comprehensively destroyed a Good Thing, at which point I reverted to dreaming and playing in front of small crowds, which is fun but not quite the real thing. (Kind of, dare I say it, like self-gratification as opposed to actually bonking the object of your torrid desires.)

To be continued

 

Creatures from the Bog (Have Needs Too)

A new recording and youtube video by Seamus Anthony (err, as in, me)

I wrote “Creatures from the Bog” while driving in the country one day. My car radio wasn’t working so I just jammed the song up sans-axe, and then grabbed a guitar later and the chords were just there a-waitin’.

This actual version was recorded when I was visiting my birth town of Adelaide, Australia (I live in Melbourne). I popped in to catch up with my mate Barry “Spindickle” Cree at Nigel Koop’s flat. Nigel and Spinner are both really well known musicians in rAdelaide and before (Read more…)

What the %$#@ is a Zuiiza?

When Peter and Tony and I committed to starting a band, the search for a name was the order of the day. It had to be unique, not too long and we need to be able to buy the dot com … and (more of a challenge) we all needed to agree.

Well it took a fair bit of too-and-fro and an email thread of name suggestions as long as King Kong’s schlong but we got there eventually. I went scouring one night through a list of obscure Japanese Zen terms and eventually came to:

Zuii-za (“sitting as one pleases”; release from daily routine)

I liked it. I sent it to the boys. Pete seemed to like it, Tony was nonplussed. It was in.

No idea what happened to the hyphen; I’d already forgotten about it.

The meaning to me seemed very … err … meaningful: for all of us, starting a band was very much about reclaiming time back from the daily routine to sit – or more accurately – do what one pleases, which in our collective case is to rock and/or roll. Playing in a band is for us the (slightly more cultural) equivalent of going to the footy club for a beer or spending a Sunday arvo in the shed working on a car. It’s bloke time basically.

But how the hell do you pronounce it? Me and Pete decided it was pronounced Zoo-zah. Tony asked his daughter who is learning Japanese and she reported back that it is apparently pronounced “Zoo-ee-zah”, a bit like Louisa.

So, rightfully, Tony pronounces it like that. Me and Pete are sticking with “Zoo-zah”.

Logically, it’s now become the name of a planet; we refer to ourselves (and anyone foolish enough to pay us any attention) as Zuiizans. Go figure.

Seamus

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