The excitement and dream of a life in music took on a significant weight as the years went on.
As I entered into my teen years, inner and outer changes occurred in my world which created turns in the road and a change in the weather of my journey. Life felt more difficult and dreary. I was afflicted by inner turmoil - rational and irrational, which shaped my perspective on everything – what I was taking in, and what I was putting out.
A child with a troubled mind. Age 14, 2007.
Musically, my tastes became darker and more aggressive. I was exposed to heavier and more extreme bands through school friends, video games like Guitar Hero, and late night video rotations on Much Music. I have a vague memory of thinking to myself, “Is this where I start getting into heavy metal to express how unhappy I am?” It seems like a cliché, but I was happy to adopt the new sensibilities. Heavy metal – and increasingly extreme forms of it – became my new musical and personal expression. Bands such as Shadows Fall, In Flames, Dark Tranquillity, all the way to satanic bands such as Mayhem, Gorgoroth, Burzum, were the newest extension of my musical pantheon.
This metal music – especially the satanic bands – embodied the ways of being that I came to resonate with: antagonists to a banal societal status quo which demands conformity and servitude from its adherents. I don’t believe I had what I would refer to as “evil” intentions, since I never believed and worshipped a literal deity of all evil and falsehood. Rather, what I saw in them was a supposed truth that came from inverting the false status quo, thereby resulting in what I thought would necessarily be true instead. “If Christianity is a false, dishonest religion, then surely its opposite must be correct and right.”
Existential considerations and dilemmas were indeed a hallmark of this middle-teens era of my youth. It was the first time I considered if we live in a benevolent universe or not, with all the suffering experienced across our world, and in mine. The satanic metal bands were effectively a highly stylized form of atheism, and even if I didn’t believe in a literal Satan, the falsehoods I believed in about society were effectively my literal devil.
Aside from the turmoil I felt, I was making strides in my musical skills. My guitar and drumming skills improved by the virtuosity of heavy metal music, and I also picked up the bass guitar and vocal microphone to round out my musical toolbag. I was becoming a one-man band.
My photography skills weren’t always on point, but I was a pretty good drummer.
Another crucial spontaneous development was the world of audio recording. I had a Dell laptop computer and some cheap mics, and I put them to use in the most basic way I could figure out to assemble my first solo music project. I was then recording low-budget but highly enthusiastic covers of my favourite metal songs, starting with a TERRIBLE cover of “Freezing Moon” by Mayhem, a quintessential track in the black metal subgenre. I can still recall the messy guitar solo, the out of time drums, the near-indiscernibly low-tuned bass guitar by my mistake, and other unflattering attributes. However, my recording prowess improved a bit over the next couple of years, if only in performance tightness, not exactly in recording quality.
It was just me during those days, that era. I was in a bubble or a vacuum at worst, or a vibrant inner world at best. The legends and myths of these bands out in the industry were my company in my solitude, like a lone meditator in a cave with the sole purpose of uniting their mind with the world of the gods and goddesses. Through persistent effort, their world revealed itself to me as I inherited the gifts to create and re-create sounds.
My immersion into their world continued even when inner and outer conditions changed. New surroundings and first public performances in later teen years exposed me to new sounds quite unlike the dark pantheon of metal, yet still within the realm of rock music. My musical horizons did expand, but I felt I carried essentially the same core inner sense, that of a staunch individualist waging cold war against the forces in the world which sought to control me and take away my personal power. Music, in all the expanding facets and forms that I absorbed and integrated, was part of that power.
Summer camp at Music Centre Canada, August 2009 – second ever performance.
Power within music started revealing itself to me at the time of those first performances. Between the summer camp shows at the back of the Music Centre Canada building, and the high school drama room lunchtime performances, I somehow found myself fronting cover groups. I was often the only one willing to sing in these groups of young musicians, and although I had quite a bit to learn about the vocalist and lead guitar position, I fell into it with as much natural charisma as I could muster after all the years of learning from my favourite rock and metal frontpeople. It wasn’t something I sought out, but the strength in the position of the frontperson in a group began to work its way into my artistic being, even if it took several yearns to truly be harnessed.
High school cover band Cyberpunk Dachshunds (that one wasn’t even my idea) AND WE HAD DARREL THE TUBA PLAYER