By Kevin Martin of Candlebox
When I was asked to sit down and write an essay for this publication I had a shit ton of ideas. I thought to myself, ‘maybe Gun Control?’ Maybe I’ll write about the second amendment rights argument and how one-sided it is? Then I quickly remembered that it’s off limits for musicians like me to have an opinion on such a topic. If we do make such statements, we risk losing fans. Of course, no musician wants to lose or alienate their fans, that’s the kiss of death for a band’s career. Scratch that idea. I’ll stick to music and leave the politics to the politicians, as I’ve been asked to do so many times.
Then I thought, ‘Ok, music it is.’ I’ll write about the current state of Rock/Alternative radio and its lack of risk taking. I can talk about its incessant fear of playing and/or breaking new and refreshing bands. Yea, that’ll be awesome. From there, I can go off on RADIO’S minimal support of local bands, except for on Sunday nights, that’s when everyone is listening, right? The ending will be ‘Hey, have you heard the new Candlebox track Supernova? I think so and so is playing it.’ But then that would be too obvious, right?
I shot down my ideas, one by one, until I settled on this:
Why are we living so sheepishly as musicians? Why don’t we say what we feel, regardless of the consequences? Why are we afraid to take risks, musically? Why do we choose to play what we think the audience wants to hear? Wouldn’t we rather lose a few hundred fans because we want to write and play what we want to write and play? When did we lose touch with the anarchists inside us? Aren’t we, as musicians, supposed to piss people off? Even our own fans? Aren’t we duty-bound to open their hearts and minds and encourage them to think for themselves instead of what’s being spoon fed to them?
People ask me all the time about Seattle and the 90’s music scene. What made it so special? Why haven’t we seen anything close to its directness, or its sincerity? And why do I think it was an era that had some of the greatest music ever to etch itself permanently into the memories of millions?
My answer is always this: It’s because those musicians didn’t give a shit about anything other than the music! They weren’t thinking about whether or not you or your friends liked it. They played what they were driven to play. They sang what they were inspired to sing. It existed because of how badly they needed it to exist!
I’m not going to sit here and write a piece reminiscing about the good old days of Seattle and how awesome it was back then. Most of you all already know how brilliant that scene was, and for some of you, it might even be the reason why you decided to pick up an instrument in the first place.
What I’m saying here, and what I want to know is, when the fuck did you lose faith in yourselves? When did you stop trusting the music that so graciously continues to give itself to you, the lucky ones that are able to be moved by it, touched by its beauty and are maybe, just maybe able to share it with an audience?
Music is a constant in our daily lives. It surrounds us, feeds us its melodies, as if to make sure that we are breathing, seeing, feeling. How do we pay it back? We do it with basic, uninspired drivel. Is Rock dead? C’est Possible!
If I hear another song about California I’m gonna puke! I live in California so I know how rad it is. But guess what? There are other rad states out there that can be used as a catalyst for a song.
Cover songs released as singles? Honestly? Listen, I get it, there are songs out there that are an absolute blast to cover. We’ve done ’em. However, we have never released one to make sure we got radio play, or with the hopes that if the masses hear our version of (insert lame ass pop song here) they’re gonna listen to the songs that we actually wrote ourselves. It’s all just become so safe and, frankly, boring. I mean think about it, do we want to live in a world where the music that is supposed to inspire us is actually dissuading us from thinking creatively? Why would you want to live life like that? (OR: anything remotely close to that?) That’s what society has been trying to get us musicians to do all along: Conform. And that, my friends, is the real kiss of death for an artist.
So what if what’s-her-face in what’s-that-town called doesn’t like your music anymore because of your opinion on religion? Fuck her and the horse she rode in on. She can’t actually care that much about your songs anyway, since she doesn’t realize how she has likely turned to them even more than prayer to get her through the tough times. Music speaks to me more viscerally than God ever could. At least I know for sure that it’s real.
What’s-his-name in wherever-it-is wants you to “go fuck yourself” because he doesn’t like your opinion on police brutality or a woman’s right to choose or let’s say gun control. Yes, I said it, gun control. Well, fuck him, too. It’s your opinion and you’re moved to write about it, so that’s what you’re going to do. You’re going to sing that shit at the top of your lungs because it hurts you to think about how many lives are affected by it. If he doesn’t like it, good, he’s not the kind of fan you want to listen to your music or come to your show and start a fight. He lacks empathy and compassion. He has no soul. It must suck to be him.
You see what I’m saying? We as musicians were not given this gift to play it safe. We were meant to tear down walls, break down barriers, get society to question authority, challenge them to think for themselves, argue the existence of (insert religious icon here) and at the end of the song, hopefully, move their souls. This is what music is supposed to do. If you have a meltdown on stage in front of 500 or 50,000 people, so fucking what? That’s Rock and Roll. Sure, it might get plastered all over the world wide interweb but who fucking cares? For every person who hates it, there are two more who are guaranteed to talk about the time they saw so-and-so lose his shit and man was it fucking AWESOME!
There is no apologizing in Rock and Roll. Get it?
Stop watering it down, dammit. You like Rage Against the Machine? Of course you fucking do because they take no prisoners. Never have. Never will. Metallica? Maybe they lost it for a minute or two but it sounds to me like they found that shit again and its blistering my fucking ear drums and you know what? I LIKE IT!
Maybe I’m being a bit of an ass here, and certainly the old “it’s just my opinion” card can be played. But hey, I was asked to write something that I am passionate about so there you go.
Am I an authority on Rock and Roll and the art of song writing? Maybe not. But I have sold a few records. I have had a career that most musicians can only dream about, I am humbled by it and eternally grateful for it. Not a day goes by that I don’t pinch myself for the life I’ve been allowed. I’ve toured with some of the greatest and most profound musicians to ever grace this planet. I learned a lot from their integrity, musicianship and passion for what they believed was theirs to share. I’ve never forgotten those lessons. I never questioned the direction or path that I took as a musician. I never tried to write a “hit” song or tried to “fit” into the mold that they wanted me to. I did what I wanted, how I wanted and when I wanted. I can honestly say it has cost me, A LOT. I’ve lost momentum, made mistakes, fucked shit up and lost plenty of fans over it. You know what? I wouldn’t change it for the world.
Take this with a grain of salt, if you will. I’m certain that the comments are going to be fucking brilliant and supremely intellectual. I encourage them. It means I’ve inspired passion, and done what I set out to do.
Challenge yourselves. Piss people off. And MAKE MUSIC GREAT AGAIN, goddammit. It’s why you’re a musician. It’s what you’re here to do.
– Kevin Martin, Candlebox
in collaboration with/produced by: Jeff Gorra
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