I’ve been involved in what is called the ‘liberal arts’ for the majority of my life, albeit I have never had much to do with the ‘art community’, because to me, most of its members seem to be long on attitude and short on talent. The community seemed to be filled with a bunch of duckheads who were more concerned with ‘looking like artists’ than they were with the art itself.
As someone who considered himself a normal guy who painted portraits, I was put-off by the apparent facade of those who were in what I referred to as ‘The Warhol Clan’: those who had to ‘advertise’ their ‘weirdness’ through their dress, their consciously contrived physical tics, such as slurping their coffee or holding their cigarette in some stupid fashion, or some other such ‘abnormality’. Whenever I was around these fakes they exasperated me. Whoever propagated this nonsense about ‘artists on the fringe’ deserves to be shot.
Likewise, musicians have always been a notorious lot for keeping late hours, waking at noon or thereafter, gigging well into the night and tearing down their rigs long after the crowd has filtered into the darkness. This is primarily a matter of necessity, however, yet tends to create a routine which carries over into life and studio time, where many sessions are booked during these ‘peak performance’ hours, primarily to maintain some semblance of a schedule. It becomes common practice to such an extent that many of us think that this is simply the ‘lifestyle of a musician’, but this may not always be the case.
It has been indicated by others that yours truly observes an ‘unorthodox’ approach in contrast to the perceived norm, but throughout the years, I have discovered a slightly different routine more favorable to my creativity. I am simply not a night owl. I held to the generally accepted norm until I could not otherwise, then discovered quite by accident that the early bird system simply suited me much better. And I like to play to my strengths.
I stopped gigging years ago, and as a result I have probably become notorious for not being at the ‘right’ places at the ‘right’ times. In other words, I’m Johnny Nowhere, dammit. When I went into business for myself, I naturally (at least for me) preferred getting an early start, primarily because knocking off earlier appealed to me. After a couple of decades, this became an ingrained habit. I attempted to burn the candle at both ends for some time, jamming well into the night, but it didn’t jibe with the early morning ritual. Besides, I always felt my evening performances lacked a certain edge, mostly because I was tired as hell. After a couple of major life adjustments, I retired from the work force but, in accordance with the aforementioned ingrained habit, I continued to rise early. First, I simply love to go out very early before dawn, when all is peaceful and quiet, and meditate on the breaking day. High octane coffee is a prerequisite, of course. Second, I live in an area which occupies several acres, and is surrounded by lush summer greenery. On account of this, I am able, due to local ordinances, to keep chickens if I so desire.
And I so desire. I dig fresh eggs. They are worth the following caveat.
A flock of hens is not complete without a rooster. Chickens have very sensitive eyes, and can see first light twenty minutes before the human eye. When roosters sense the dawn, which in summertime is about 5:30 a.m., they do what most other birds do and begin to ‘sing’. Of course, roosters sing by ‘crowing’. Loudly. The coop is behind the casa, in close proximity I might add, within a larger enclosed portion of the yard. This, taken with the fact that I prefer fresh night air to cold, dry, ‘processed’ air, means that our windows are wide open. When the rooster crows, I awaken. It is still dark. No matter, I get up. Nothing unorthodox about that.
But what the hell can anyone do so bloody early? That part is easy for a songwriter who wakes up to tunes composed largely in his sleep. Don’t ask me how it works, but it’s pretty freaking convenient.
Subsequently, my gear gets switched on soon after I rise so that it is afforded time to stabilise. The soft yellow glow of the VU meters and the gentle whirring of the motor is inviting. My body is refreshed, my ears are rested, my mind is clear. Years of playing having taken their toll, my carpel tunnel takes about an hour to expand enough so that my chording hand doesn’t go to sleep five minutes into a take. By this time, the first organic notes on the acoustic guitar suit me much better than the late night roaring distortion at 90 dB through tired ears and a stressed body. Headphones on, and I’m effortlessly in the zone. One hour after sunup, I’ve gotten two acoustic takes, as well as a gently gurgling B3 bed tracked. By 9:00, my ears are becoming attenuated to the growing volume as the tracks stack up, and after adding bass and drum programming, I am, by now, more sonically prepared to hear my Tele’s choking top-end whistle through the headphones, or my own wailing vocal howl. By six bells, I’m hungry, the tune is in the can, and I’m proud of a job well done before many of my late-night colleagues have even begun to stir.
It might not work for everybody, but for those who are willing and able to break ‘tradition’, a revelation may await you in an early morning reveille.
Works for me.