Tuesday, September 24, 2013

My Ten Favorite Elliott Smith Songs


I'm sadly a late bloomer to the Elliott Smith fandom but I have to think this guy will be playing in whatever device I use to listen to music for years to come. He has such a gorgeous clarity to what makes him so unique; you know when it is his music from the way its recorded, written, and performed. 



Some things I like about Elliott's music:
-It always feel like a performance, not a recording 
-It is intimate, even if I can't relate to the subject matter, I can express empathy and expand my emotional range
-It is more complex chord and structure-wise than your traditional folk or pop arrangement 
-It is genuine; it is the result of happenstance; Elliott's self-discovery as a musician is here, in all its glory
-There is nothing pandering about it, at all
-The vocal melodies are certainly not what you would expect 

Though it would be arrogant to say that I think I have a good taste, I can be pretty sure in this respect that if you are not familiar with his music, you should check it out as soon as you get a second. It can be super powerful, and the following ten (10) songs are my favorite, so that might be a good place to start!

10. Ballad of Big Nothing
"Ballad of Big Nothing" is probably one of the more popular Elliott Smith songs, and I'd guess that's because compared to most of his catalogue, it is fairly upbeat with a rousing chorus. I think the reason I really like this song is because of that chorus; "you can do whatever you want to whenever you want to." Gotta love that nihilism! The way he plays the music reflects this attitude. This is a pretty carefree song that feels a little chaotic. Just in the right ways. 

9. Everybody Cares, Everybody Understands
In my conversations with people who don't know his music, there seems to be a pretty specific image of the music that Elliott Smith creates. "Everybody Cares, Everybody Understands" blows those doors wide open. This is one of his hardest rocking tunes; AWESOME backup vocals (which are an Elliott Smith staple). A very interesting chord progression with some fantastic guitar work; something I love about Elliott's music is that it always feels like a performance. 

8. St Ides Heaven
I won't come outright and say that I know exactly what he is talking about in this song. I won't. What a gorgeous melody. The vocal performance on this track compels it towards some really deep waters and it couldn't make me happier. That transient experience of being fully committed to precisely that specific moment in your life is really captured here. 

7. Punch And Judy 
A great tune about knowing you've stuck around a little bit too long, a feeling we are all too familiar with, being humans and all. I absolutely love drumbeat in the verse; sits so hard! Citizen Cope would be proud. And should cover this! 

6. I Didn't Understand
I love this song, and I put it on the list to show off the versatility in his music. This track definitely has a Beatles thing going on, but in true and familiar Elliott Smith fashion, it is much darker and bleaker. The arrangement is unbelievable; very rarely am I going to be a fan of an all vocal performance from a rock or folk musician, but he knocks this one out of the park. 

5. 2:45 AM
The first thing I love about this song is that there is a killer riff that keeps changing ever so slightly ever time. But I really like the message of the song; its about having a terrifying moment of clarity. This is why the riff keeps changing and the song eases its way into being more and more intense. Also, I have to believe this is the song that inspired the Matchbox 20 classic 3 AM. I musta be lonellllaaaaaay. 
4. Rose Parade 
The way these acoustic guitars are recorded and performed are insane. The panning is so clutch. This was the first Elliott Smith song I heard that made me "get it." It's a pretty sad song, lyrically, but it always gets me so pumped because its so good! Yet another beautiful example of how music can be intended to be received in any way and actually received in any other way. 

3. Alphabet Town
These are probably the most opaque lyrics I've encountered from him and will be fully honest in admitting to not knowing what the hell he is talking about here. Therein lay the beauty of this track; I can still feel the emotional energy from this recording as if its being expressed by someone I know right in front of me. The song is probably about a prostitute though. Don't underestimate how sad this harmonica line will make you. It is desolate.

2. Shooting Star
In my opinion the most sonically interesting Elliott Smith song out there. The recording feels chaotic and jumbled; lots and lots of tracks going all over the different ranges of the physical acoustic space the he created. There are weird kick drums everywhere. I love his disregard for keys in this tune. This song should have become a grunge classic. And the heartbreaking refrain "your love is sad, shooting star" is too much. 

1. Needle In The Hay
I don't believe a more intimate sounding recording exists out there; certainly not in my collection. "Needle In The Hay" feels like I'm not just peering into the soul of its composer; it feels like that soul conjoined with mine. Maybe this song is literally about heroin, but the emotional content expressed is so true and genuine that the content matters little. This is a haunting melody. And not haunting in the music journalist sense of the word. Haunting in the dead civil war soldier who killed himself in a lighthouse way. Yeah, that! Also, remember that scene where Luke Wilson tries to kill himself in The Royal Tenenbaums? That was this song making you feel those weird things! 



Tragically, Elliott Smith has been gone for almost 10 years. I never got the chance to meet Elliott, but I certainly am thankful for his contribution to our musical community. I participate in a community where a lot of people are out for a quick buck; or, in a way that disgusts me even more, out for fame or recognition. Elliott Smith didn't entertain either; he created music that shows effort, skill, empathy, and courage. 






Let's all live with effort, skill, empathy, and courage. And let's all get better at guitar, yeeeeeesh please,
Benjamin Ryan Williams 





Monday, September 23, 2013

Have a Cancellation Fee


I just have to drop in with a quick tidbit of advice for professional musicians. 

If you are contracted to do a gig, include that you have a cancellation fee. This cancellation fee is defined as a small percentage of your overall fee that the artist has to pay in the event of a gig cancellation. That way, if the artist cancels last minute, you aren't out a paycheck. This is especially helpful if you have to commit, or already have committed, to unpaid rehearsal. 

Now you may ask yourself; what if a singer/artist says that no one stipulates a cancel fee and that it seems, to them, unnecessary? 

Bet on yourself 

Don't work with people who aren't interested in being a basic goods employer. Those exist out there; not all bands are terrible businesses. But be careful to spot them. If someone doesn't want to pay you a cancellation fee, then they don't value your services. 

We shouldn't put up with this behavior just because it is already in place. And that isn't just a music industry thing; its a life thing.

Take a chance on yourself and if someone doesn't value you; screw them and find another band. 

AND MAKE IT RAIN (cash AND love) 

Rock on,
Benjamin Ryan Williams 

Sunday, September 22, 2013

MOOOOOOOOOOOOOOVE ON!

One of the hardest parts of playing a show for me is not getting frazzled by a mistake. 
One of the hardest parts about living for me is not getting stressed by a road
BUMP
veers us off-course
towards a destination sour
like a peppermint wind stuck in the pantry
from a holiday season long ago, and maybe not even true 

            one of the hardest parts about thinking is thinking just the right amount
                     one of the hardest parts about being present 
                                                           is thinking
without 
(remembering) 

Musicians don't often talk about their mistakes, but I don't even really consider myself a musician anymore. Don't put in a box like that. I'm everything and anything and no one else. It's quite nice this way. 

As a performer, and in many ways as a person of the earth, I have a responsibility to act as an agent of the highest transcendence. It's my job and a weight I've played on myself to lift people into the present moment as much as I can. And of course, I have to be there to drag people in. 

It's only natural that I make mistakes on stage every now and again. I like to think that I make far less of them than other bass players and my ability to retain my gigs for a while probably says the same thing. But mistakes happen; and they happen a lot.

Unfortunately I can think of a few very specific examples. Probably more than a few. But to paint many vivid pictures in the same style, we can just examine a single incident of my finest handiwork. Central Park this past summer. Indigo Girls with Joan Baez. Big crowd; high stakes. REALLY wanted to show off in front of the people in my band how good I was (and this hubris certainly was my downfall, but more on that another time). 

This hurts me to tell this story, but I had had a wonderful day walking around Central Park listening to the J-Cole album (it had just come out that morning and I was freaking). It was a really fun day; I made a lot of emotional progress in coming to peace with a rough part of my past, and I was feeling very light. The show was one of the most fun we had played, and then I ruined it!

I made an awful mistake during "Share the Moon." I had played this song a million times before with no problems, and all of a sudden I heard myself playing the wrong notes. 

The audience may not have noticed what had happened, but when you are the reason for the mistake, you feel like a mistake. All your negative feelings become super intensified. 

my intense self-loathing face
In my head all of this negative self-doubt was going on and I could feel myself dripping out of central park. It was an out of body experience in the bad way. Sometimes you feel an out of body experience where you feel like a puppet master controlling the marionette city of your reality. This was one of those times when I felt very out of control; very stuck in a faraway place. 

But I remembered something Kobe Bryant had said about missing shots. Now Kobe knows something about missing shots.

Zing!



Kobe knows a lot about winning, being a team player, having passion, etc. There may not be a lot of similarities between Kobe Bryant and I skill-wise, but I like to think we are both on a constant stream of self-improvement AND team improvement. Kobe Bryant can shoot a basketball much better than me. 

But even he misses; a lot, even. But he doesn't let it effect him. A shot is taken; a shot is made or a shot is missed. It has little effect on whether the next shot goes in. 

"Stop feeling sorry for yourself, find the silver living and get to work with the same belief, same drive, and same conviction as ever."-Kobe Bryant 

In fact, the audience wants to see you make mistakes, really, because they want to know that you are a human pushing yourself to the edge of your ability, maybe even beyond. I won't pretend and say that I don't think about how much money concert tickets cost. Today's economy sucks, and there are a million other things to distract you, both mentally and financially. I appreciate the concert going audience so much, so I have to push myself. 

People want to see effortless mastery, but no one wants to see a robot. The only way to differentiate yourself is to recover from mistakes with grace.

There is no one on earth better at this than Amy Ray. Although I have to say that Amy is an awesome guitar player (and even better in the sense that she seeks improvement constantly), but she, like everyone else, screws up every now and again. But she just keeps rolling with any and all punches because, when you are up there…what else is there to do?



She not only recovers from her mistakes with grace, she recovers from mistakes with swagger!

Sidenote: Amy is also HANDS DOWN the best at hearing whenever I screw up. But, in typically OG-ATLIEN style, she usually just turns around and laughs at me. A good kind of "you are still hired" laugh. 


No mistakes in this video though...see? I'm capable!

There is a life lesson in here. We are on the stage of life until we die and then that is probably it. We could waste time arguing about life after death but the after party for life's rock show certainly isn't a guarantee. While we are up on this stage for the amount of time we are here, we have to be in the moment and we cannot get flustered. 

We are going to hit the wrong note on the wrong chord; sometimes we will be out of tune. We are going to forget where to come in and, whether its intentional or not, we are going to ruin someone else's solo from time to time. 

But we have to forge ahead with a fearless attitude for the next song. 

We don't have to forget our mistakes, but we cannot have them be the most present and focal thing on our mind. We all have a responsibility to be a beacon of good things for others. That simply isn't possible when all you are thinking about is how terrible that dropped chord on the second verse was. 

Today, let us recover from our mistakes with grace. Everyone screws up. Not everyone bounces back like a superball. 

But we all can!

So just move on,

Benjamin Ryan Williams 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Compliment Others; Don't Just Care, PROVE IT!


One of my major musical goals this summer was to have a better time on stage with the people in my band. I really get along with most of the people I play live with these days, so it certainly wasn't that hard, but I have to say I really accomplished my goal. There was a time period where I had to go totally inward to put on a fun performance for the audience, which I believe was really good for me, but this summer I wanted to come out of that shell and really join a collective consciousness.  

I played better this summer than I had in seasons past, but what really got me stoked was the way I felt about better about the chemistry on-stage. I was having fun with my friends (the audience and the band). I was having a good time creating and expressing. It felt transient and spiritual. 



And I think a lot of it had to do with the fact that I actively tried to show the people around me my appreciation. Even though I knew that they knew I appreciated them. 

One of the strongest forces of inspiration in my quest for improvement is the homie Gretchen Ruben. It was while reading her work that I discovered a brutal and brilliant statement: "there is no such thing as love; there are only proofs of love."

This idea hit me at once like a scalding uplifting volcano, and putting it into practice has been so much fun! Love and appreciation are out there, flying around in the air, everywhere. We have the opportunity to harness it and grab it out of the ether, but most of us never do. Even when we know it is there, it can comfort us, sure; but if we don't reach out and grab it and then give it to others, how will anyone ever feel it?

Since this realization hit me, I've been really careful to write positive letters about people I encounter in stores, respond to emails from fans (not that there are that many of those, but a few); I've been actively telling people that I appreciate them and for what reasons. I've been asking a lot of questions and really trying to appreciate the vastness of answers. My friends and the people I'm around are so smart and awesome, the least I can do is let them know. 

If we all endeavored in that task, it'd be assured that the world would very directly be very improved.

Our friends and coworkers may know that we care about them, but what good is that? There is comfort in it, small amounts, but when the night gets cold you want more than a single blanket. 

I think it's drastically important to have a culture where people give gifts and appreciate each other. Whether it a home culture, work culture, or even relationship culture, I don't think we should ever take for granted a good thing. 

We must be constantly saying thank you and we must be constantly in the act of proving that we love one another. Whether or not this is organizing activities, picking up the tab every now and then, inviting people to go run with you, etc. 

Love doesn't exist tangibly. All we can have is the ways that we express it.

That's why expression is so important to me, and that is why I'm so thankful for the opportunity to play bass. It is such an exhilarating way to express myself, and I couldn't be more grateful. 

Anyway, kind of a strange blog. Cool. Rock on.

You're doing awesome,
Benjamin Ryan Williams 


Monday, September 16, 2013

Honor The Earth Show in Madison; Music Can Move You; CHEESE Curds


We woke up in Madison and, after taking a wonderful shower, I hit a nice run around downtown. I've played in Madison a couple times before, liked the Packers as a kid, and I love the vibe of any college town, so it is always a welcome time coming back. Although I have to admit, it is a bit of trip frequenting a place so far away from home with a mission as silly as to create music. But more on that later. 

Also it must be noted that there are so many beautiful girls walking around downtown Madison eating ice cream. That isn't even a joke; its just an observation and a reason that I might be packing my bags and headed to the land of dairy to meet someone. 

Life has taken me in stranger directions on less well-conceived impulses anyway. 

On my run, while breathing hard, I spotted a venue that I had played in a much worse time in my career. Yeah, sure, we all hope to be moving vertically in our career trajectories, but this was a time period where I knew things weren't going well. It was when I saw the sign of this dingy (read: character-filled. serves High Life) venue that I was hit with an awesome realization; I am happier now than I used to be.

Isn't that the point of all this? 

A lot has happened since that time in my life, but I've kept my nose clean and my head up. With the help of friends and family, I've kept my dreams alive and I've kept climbing. There have been some hard times, but it felt beautiful to come back to Madison and proudly proclaim that I am happier now than I used to be, just a couple short years ago. 

I don't have a personal mantra; at least not yet, but if I did, I'd imagine it would be some sort of variation of that statement. Even if you are going slow, keep moving forward. 

We should always strive to grow, and sometimes growing takes pain. But what is important to remember is that pain and unhappiness aren't necessarily the same thing. Pain can cause happiness, but it can also cause the growth that takes us from point A to point B. 

It was fun to see the venue and have all these feelings flood in like the overblown water sequence in Creed's My Sacrifice  video (YESSSSSSUUUUUUUAAAAAH). Maybe I was hit by so much emotion because I was dehydrated.

Actually that was definitely it! 

Before the gig, I went for a nice coffee-walk with Jaron and we ran into some Jews blowing the Shofar. We had a nice shared experience with them, as it was Rosh Hashanah. I often think about how lucky I was to be born Jewish; there is a cultural experience that I share with not THAT many people, but still A LOT. And boy, do we ever like to talk about it together.

Running into those Shofar blowing homies really got me pumped to play the show! Which was a badass experience. The Shofar is essentially a super old instrument, and it supposedly broke down the walls of Jerusalem so the Jews could lay siege the city and take it as their own. While that is probably not true, the fact that so many people have been compelled to tell that story and lie about it to others and themselves really cements the fact that there is so much public importance in music and, more appropriately, sound. 

Music can move walls to a full collapse. And, in the case of the Shofar Jews and the Indigo Girls Jews, music can also move people together in a spiritual plane not easily defined, but still graciously accepted. 

Music can move whole audiences together towards stimulating and welcomed change, too. 

This show in Madison was the first Honor the Earth benefit show and it further cemented the thought that music can create foundations for skyscrapers of change. Music has moved me to make a life out of it; it can surely cause social change, whether it be on a macro or micro scale. 

It can move mountains. It can move you to be kinder to the annoying person you have to give a ride to from band rehearsal to their house. 

You move with it, and it moves you. 

Sometimes you dance together, and everything is in harmony. 



Anyway I ended the night balls-deep in a bunch of cheese curds. Not my best moment. But not every moment could be. 

Have the best 24 till the next 24,
Benjamin Ryan Williams 

Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Best Of The Beanbag Review #1: Lana Del Rey's "Born To Die."

Intro:

The tides of destiny hast thrown fate most perfectly towards my course
as I longingly waited 
a beanbag has graced me and my troublemind
and enabled my living room more than a womb
in hue, texture, and limitless 
spirit 

so I lay and contort in the most comfortable sense 
of the english or any
language

i become amorphous with the beanbag 
and like the silver of the moon
i am real as real can be
with no responsibility 

other than to light 

here is my first beanbag review of Lana Del Rey's "Born to Die." 


Review: 

Part of the reason I am reviewing this album now is because I just listened to it in its entirety. With full disclosure and embarrassment, I thought I would hate it, so I didn't even give it a chance.

There is something to learn there.

But I put it on and it's all I've been listening to for a week. The album is sensational; the production is really fun! It sounds like the engineer definitely did his homework studying the work of Danger Mouse and all his proteges. The songwriting is on point; perhaps not fully relatable to everyone, but perhaps a interesting as a slice-of-life expose towards others who aren't about that life.

And the performance rocks! I love a girl with a deep voice. That is some powerful stuff. 

The record has some of the best representations of those brooding and dark Weeknd type beats, but with some more real live instrumentation. The whole thing listens like a dark film noir with a sense of cool melodrama. It's epic at times, but always feels too cool for its own good, which it is, but which ultimately is what makes it GOOD. 

I really respected the grandiose nature of the effort and execution. While I wish the lyrics were a bit more positive (I'm a sucker for an uplifting song), not everything is meant to hit you over the head with message. Her lyrics are so descriptive that even when they are over the top, she put me in a definite visual space. 

Lana Del Rey reminds me a lot of Fionna Apple, particularly my favorite album of hers "When The Pawn…" She also reminds me of a darker Norah Jones who grew up on Eminem instead of folk classics. 

I'm really excited for the future of her music and I hope she increases her scope, as she has crushed the niche that she has carved out for her career. 

Standout Tracks: Diet Mountain Dew, Dark Paradise, National Anthem
Standout Adjectives to Describe The Album: surreptitious, clandestine, furtive

Ben Del Rey...El Rey...Del Taco


Thursday, September 12, 2013

The World Is A Collaborative Place


After riding the bus all night and watching Game of Thrones, I woke up in Grand Rapids, Michigan and it was totally breath-taking. 

How lucky am I to be alive, playing music with my friends, for people who are appreciative of me?

I attempt to repeat this to myself every day because it is the truth; I really am grateful! But, I must admit, on some days it is easier than others.

This was one such a day. 

The weather was perfect and we were performing at a venue called Frederick Meijer Gardens, which, as the name might suggest, is a big garden. Beautiful plants and sculptures abounded our residence, and it was truly a sight to behold! Also, there was this HUGE statue of a horse.

Here is where I spent a pretty large portion of the day 




I spent a long time running around the gardens listening to music. When it wasn't thinking about how much less pizza I should consume on tour, I found my mind wandering to the collaborative aspect of everything. 

It took more than a single person to make these gardens beautiful. It takes the hard work of a groundskeeper to maintain healthy plants. It takes the strokes of brilliance from a coffee-riddled artist to create such visceral artwork. It takes the administrative resilience of the wonderful people at the venue to make such nice and easy to read pamphlets. 

It takes more than a single person to make these gardens beautiful. 

Let's extend that, even. It takes hundred upon thousands of years of the knowledge of the past being utilized into hard work of the present. This is what can create a more beautiful future. 

In any event, it got me thinking that the world, when working as best it can, is really a collaborative place. And what better place to experience this than in the context of a musical performance?

It was nice to get back on stage as the opener and the headliner, playing bass for Hannah Thomas and Indigo Girls. Both sets were fun, and its a really tough experience wearing two hats in two different mindsets, but its something that I look forward to and appreciate the opportunity to do. Most musicians don't even get to wear one awesome hat, and I am blessed to have several. And, in the case of September 5th, 2013, I was fortunate to wear two coveted and priceless hats at the same damn time. 

I tried hard throughout the show to really collaborate with the people in my band, the people in the crew, and the audience. We made those gardens ROCK, for sure. 



Even when we are working, in isolation, we must consider the frame of our art. The frame is the entire world and universe. The frame is everyone at the same damn time doing everything that they do. Even when we are working alone, we should constantly be thinking about how to impact and be impacted by others. 

We must consider we. 
Everyone as important as anyone. 

My mindfulness is stronger than ever while playing. I had to work on it for a long time, but I now am finding it much easier to be in the moment, fully aware of my surroundings and what I can bring to the table. It's a great feeling.

How lucky am I to be alive, playing music with my friends, for people who are appreciative of me?

we're up all night to get lucky,
Benjamin Ryan Williams 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Oldies But Goodies

     I had a great quick run playing bass for Hannah Thomas and The Indigo Girls thru the upper midwest. The shows were powerful; I felt great about my playing and my communicating with the other musicians on stage. I saw some beautiful sights and got in some intense workouts, so it was a pretty boss experience! There will be some in-depth blogs to come, but they are on my laptop which is still riding the bus back to Atlanta. 

     I have resolved to throw up a blog AT LEAST once a week, however, so I figured I could come dump some videos in here.

     The following videos are from a badass show at the Grey Eagle in Asheville. That night, I played bass for a band of great dudes out of Atlanta called The Shadowboxers (their music always reminded me of a more soulful 98 degrees) and Amy Ray, who can play a million different styles and just totally crush them all. 

     These videos are from the Amy portion of the show which feature Amy Ray on Guitar/Vocals, Kaia Wilson on Guitar/Vocals, Mel York on Drums, and Julie Wolfe on Keys/Synths/Organs/Vocals. Heather McEntire, of the awesome band Mount Moriah, is a guest vocalist on the tune "I Didn't." 

     And a babyfaced Benjamin Ryan Williams is on bass!




     It is always such a wonderful opportunity to make music with everyone in the world. I don't want to go to the movies with everyone I meet, and I certainly don't want to take a lake trip with all of them. However, it is always a positive experience communicating thru my instrument with people thru theirs. It keeps me feeling good, bad, and more importantly, growing and present. 

More blogs to come. Also, I have to leave with this...

MEL YORK is one of the best drummers alive. I've played with a lot of them, and she SMOKES most of them when it comes to feel, power, energy, dedication, respect for form, and originality. 

Had to get that off my chest. See y'all soon.

drummers rule,
Benjamin Ryan Williams 

Monday, September 2, 2013

September 2, 2013: Ask Questions?


Sometimes, it helps me to think of music as an organic conversation between musicians, their surroundings, and those listening. 

Not much is truly said (lyrics are said, but understood with a wholly different meaning typically), but everyone is often speaking at the same time. There is a beauty in this chaos, much like the beauty you can find when you sit alone on a public transportation train. Or its something like that strange beauty you get with the vanishing conversations and evaporating lives that one passes thru at an airport. 

But all this noise can be overwhelming; in airports, in waffle houses, and especially musical ensembles. 

So its a conversation; we are all shouting at the top of our lungs. There is pageantry, sure, and everyone is having a grand time, but what is being accomplished? How do we hear and really feel what we are saying? 

And, in what is the most important question one must ask themselves every single day, how do we use this as an opportunity to grow?

The answer is that we must ask questions, with our first question being why in the hell would I ever think this hat is a good stage look?



The idea of being able to alter our perspective in a given moment is such a powerful concept. The other week I went for a run through my lovely Brookhaven neighborhood. This was one of the many runs I do around the area, and of course I've gotten into the routine of just completely the run. It's always a beautiful path; there are trees brimming with visual excitement for the fall. Dew hangs off the greenery in the mornings like all the positivity in the day is about to cascade down a slippery, palmately veined gingko biloba tree, right into my eager body. 

But I could feel a routine shaping in; routines can be comforting, certainly. Stretching before shows has become a huge comfort of mine, and it helps me get in the right frame of mind to perform. And yet, sometimes, you must turn your back on routines in order to grow.

How do we fight routines? We ask ourselves…why?

Why does my brain notice those trees in that way?
Why doesn't my brain only categorize the flora by color?
Why not shape?

Questions are important because they help us appreciate perspective. There are infinite ways of looking at infinite things in our infinite universe. This is a crushingly powerful concept to me. 

Questions help us see the similarities and differences in any given scenario. 

I love horror movies and I may ask you if you want to watch "The Descent" with me. You will say no, you hate horror movies. Then I will ask what exactly is it about horror movies that you do not like. 

I'll ask you to dig deep and you will. You'll tell me and, sure enough, at the crux of your argument, you hate horror movies for the same reason I hate something else. 

We are now bonding over hatred.

The point of asking questions is to change our perspective by digging deep and trying to empathize with the fact that another mind will always have another answer. However, at the same time, another mind's answer will probably be closer to one of your own thoughts than you had ever expected.

Music is the same; you have to be willing to ask questions. Why did you play that solo like that tonight? Why do you have you guitar strap that high? Why don't you feel like you have to improve on the guitar? Why do you feel like you DO have to improve? Why are you even up here? Where have you been that has taken you to this place? What are you trying to say? What do you want to accomplish? What makes you happy for no reason, and, when you truly think about it, WHY?

We are all unique; and yet we share a common experience. Some people say this common experience is a thing called life. To that I say we all live differently, but ultimately we all die the same. 

We are all together headed to death, sometimes even carrying similar traditional baubles and emotional trinkets towards our destination. However, it is our motives and personal reasonings that differentiate us. It is what is inward and can only be accessed by two or more people, digging deep, together.

So ask questions and listen to answers. And never stop. 

How was morning?
Benjamin Ryan Williams 

Sunday, September 1, 2013

September 1, 2013: The Sauce


Hello there, people of the internet. My name is Ben Williams and I'm here to show you how to add a bass player to your personality. But before we jump in, lets fire up our smiling muscles by laughing at this picture of me in high school being admonished for eating jelly donuts out of the trash!



Now that is over, we can truly begin.

Anyone who has ever taken a breath can realize that life is a pretty stressful situation. I won't really get into; who needs to? We've all gotten into it. In fact, we're in it right now. And we can't really get out, either.

It can get pretty scary out there sometimes. Maybe that's what makes it so fun; I'm a big fan of the horror movie, so I like being petrified. But that's another topic that I've written poorly about in the past. The reason I'm here is a lot more basic, laid-back, and downright phoonkyyy. 

Right now, I'm sitting in a Mellow Mushroom at noon thirty watching the marriage of a nice cold beer with a nice warm pizza (do they allow that in Georgia yet?). Actually, I guess I'm not exactly watching it, I'm eating it; savoring it. I'm really digging this pizza. Mellow Mushroom Za's have a serious vibe, ya know? 

While I eat this pizza and think about bass, I'm brought back to my first bass lesson; the time I discovered the bass player that held down the low end in my own personality. I really think it is our first teachers in music who really determine the musicians we become. I suppose that is true about teachers of any kind. I was lucky enough to have an outstanding role model for my first teacher. His name is Rob Schaefer, bassist and mathematician extraordinaire. In addition to being a total funk machine, Rob is a scholar; he really preached to me the importance of study and philosophy to music. Also, he is a man of great character and empathy, easily the most important qualities in a musician. 

Many musicians, or people in general, communicate in ways with a lot of jargon or specialized language. I could sit here and explain (poorly) the bass guitar's role in terms of frequency pockets and/or ranges, but for the life of me, that just isn't me. So, in my first lesson, Rob got me hip to the role of bass in music in a way that anyone can understand. 

"Music is like a pizza. Your drummer is the crust. People typically notice a good solid crust on any pie. Guitars, vocals, keyboards etc; they are the cheese and the toppings; they are what draws people to their pizza type. Usually this is the first thing that people comment on."

"You know what the bass is, Ben?"

"Of course not, this is my first lesson" (didn't say that one, but you get the idea…)

"The bass is the sauce. It's gotta tie everything together. When you eat pizza, you don't really think about the sauce. Sure, you notice that it is there, but you aren't really sure what to make of it, especially with cheese, olives, onions, pineapples, and something like 124!  potential permutations. But sometimes you'll eat a pie and it just won't taste right. The difference between a good pie and a great pie is always in the sauce. Think about it the next time you eat pizza."

I've been thinking about it ever since. I'm thinking about it as I shove my face right now. Delicious. 



The bass is a harmony instrument. While that may indeed be a piece of musical jargon, I think the bass player in your personality is the non-specialized definition. It exists in any situation in which you are trying to add harmony

The bassist in your personality is setting up others in your life for a better life. The bassist in your personality is the reason you stay in touch with friends. The bassist in your personality is the reason you stay grounded. The bassist in your personality isn't afraid to take a furious Rancid-style bass solo, but the bassist in your personality knows that the point of it all is to make the world around you a less stressful situation for everyone in the world around you. You must add virtue by living with virtue. 

This bass player in your soul has the most soul of all. It is downright nasty how much benefit you can add to your social ensemble. 

Make it dirty
Make it FUNKY
Make it groove
Make it feel good 
Make it your own 

MAKE THAT SAUCE and make it YOUR OWN,
Benjamin Ryan Williams