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benjamin adrian

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On how to name one's creative figurehead. [Jan. 2nd, 2015|12:48 pm]
benjamin adrian
I have been going back and forth for a while on the idea of releasing music under my own name. A lot of people do it, and on the surface it seems like a very easy decision. For me, though, it's a bit more complex. Allow me to explain where I'm coming from.

In 1999 I got some better recording gear. I always liked to record my own bands, and I was also planning on getting more serious as a recording engineer for hire. Before I charged people to use this stuff I figured that it would be prudent to do some recordings to test of my setup and make sure everything was wired up correctly and working well. I began recording songs on my own; playing every instrument. Up until this point in my life I had only been in bands, with a band identity. In 1999 I was in two strongly established bands, and my musical identity was wrapped up in these bands. I didn't want to give the impression that I was "going solo" when I released these songs recorded for testing purposes and just to chase my creative tail. So, I decided to put them out under the name Guitar vs. Gravity. In essence, I'd hide myself inside the shell of a band, even though there was no band. I was just going to release this one thing and get band to my regular bands.

In late 2000 I moved from Indiana to the Bay Area. I quit or disbanded my serious bands in Indiana. I had not yet released the Guitar vs. Gravity album. It was almost done. I finished it in Oakland and released it under the band name as anticipated. I had the idea that maybe I should just make Guitar vs. Gravity a functioning band. So I went through a number of iterations, trying out people, even playing a few shows. I had joined Bay Area bands, but I never stopped writing for Guitar vs. Gravity. Finally in 2008 I had a solid, working lineup and started playing regular shows. I had written the songs, but I wanted the musicians to add their personal ideas. From 2008 until 2011 we were quite active and productive. It was still considered "Ben's band", but it was a working unit of three dudes.

In 2011 I relocated to Los Angeles. I finished up what I thought was going to be the last Guitar vs. Gravity release; traveling back to the Bay Area for a final band recording session. However, as this was happening, I began to write and record music at my house in L.A. It felt like a continuation of what I had been doing with Guitar vs. Gravity and since it started as a solo project, I figured why not just keep using the name?

For some reason those six songs took almost three years to record, mix, and release. During all of this I'm reevaluating myself as a musician. I was kind of afraid of using my own name for ego reasons. The idea used to make me quite uncomfortable. However, many of my favorite guitar players and musicians were now people who used their own name. I went back and forth, but since the material felt like a continuation of themes I'd explored in Guitar vs. Gravity, I decided to use that name for the release this past summer.

Now, I'm three months from turning 40, I have no band, I'm getting better as a solo guitarist, and I'm even sometimes scoring movies. Also, I kind of want to maybe be a sideman, do more composition, and perhaps drop myself into a variety of playing and recording situations. It seems to make a lot more sense to just be "Ben Adrian: musician" and not be "Guitar vs. Gravity: a band that is usually just Ben Adrian but is sometimes other people." Because of this, I've made a decision. I will be releasing one more EP that I have in the can as Guitar vs. Gravity, but my following EP will be release under my own name around my 40th birthday. From there on out, I plan to proudly make music under my own name. I'll still play in bands, but I won't feel like I need to hide my solo work inside a rock band framework. This excites me greatly and is producing a strong desire to get to work. Thanks!
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The flame that won't flicker our. [Oct. 22nd, 2014|04:45 pm]
benjamin adrian
This place is so funny. A husk of a former metropolis. LJ is like the abandoned city, the dead civilization, but a few stragglers remain. Whenever I post something long to facebook I'm often greeted with a friend jokingly telling me to put it on my livejournal. More than ever, this place feels like a private journal. People who still post here are more open than ever. I suppose it's why this is the spot used. It's almost like a dare. A semi-public exhibition, like typing up your darkest secrets and putting them on one telephone pole a mile away.

Things are good. Still trying to feel complete with music making, but having more fun now than any other time since I moved down. Slowly making friends. Slowly taking on bigger roles at work. Sick of the commute.

Be well.
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Hey you people. [May. 12th, 2014|10:02 am]
benjamin adrian
Things are great, overall. I feel like livejournal was where we all when when we were trying to figure out how to be adults. Now, like it or not, I'm firmly in adulthood. I still do everything I did 10-15 years ago, but I just feel more adult and secure about everything. Things are good.
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Italy [Jun. 20th, 2013|03:07 pm]
benjamin adrian
Italy was excellent overall. I'm happier than I've ever been before. I truly feel complete. It's awesome.

However, I think feeling all this goodness has opened up my heart to feel more darkness. Every day at work, at a job I love, I have flashes of intense loneliness. I logically know that life is awesome. I'm enjoying my work. However, I get these brief flashed of almost immobilizing melancholy.

It's weird. I just had a nice vacation. I'm not used to being this emotionally open and vulnerable as an adult.

But man, Italy. Awesome.
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How I've changed as a musician. [Apr. 30th, 2013|06:00 pm]
benjamin adrian
I've always been a gear-head, and I think that is wonderful on so many levels. It got me my job, it helped me make the network of awesome friends that I have, and it gave me a place in a band. For instance, there is always the guy in the band who books the shows, and there is hopefully the guy than can get people to come out to the shows. I was the guy who could fix the gear, I could record the records, I could prepare the art for the print shop, and I even could sometimes fix the van on the road.

Because of my gear-head nature, I have enjoyed buying, selling, and collecting gear over the years. It wasn't always this way, though. When I got my first guitar and amp, I had that one guitar (a very solid Japanese Telecaster) and one amp. When I upgraded my amplifier, I traded in the old one. I slowly got some effects pedals, and while I was taking apart everything I owned to see what the insides were like, I only had one of each thing. My palette was quite limited. That aside, I never felt creatively limited. I had my good guitar, my good amp, and a few good effects pedals, and I made a huge wall of sound. Nothing seemed to be lacking at all.

I graduated from high school, and with some of my graduation money I got a second guitar, a vintage Gibson Melody Maker. It was great, but it really seemed to be best for harder rock. Luckily I was playing a lot more hardcore music. When my old high school band would have a rare practice during the singer's visits from college, I'd use the Telecaster. it just fit. Somewhere around there I traded in my amp again for a Marshall, and I was in hardcore punk heaven.

My musical tastes are quite wide. I ended up wanting to play non-hardcore music. I had traded away many of my effects. I ended up getting into multi-effects units. I bought a nice unit and I had to sell my Marshall to afford it. However, neither of my two guitars worked for this new music I was playing, so I saved up and bought a Fender Jaguar. A few years later, I started buying pedals again. With each new acquisition I found myself usually not having to sell my previous gear. Sure I sold stuff that I upgraded or I knew that I would never use again, but I didn't have to sell if I didn't want to. At the same time, I began buying things on whims to try them out, and then selling them or trading them if I didn't connect. I might buy a guitar for $400 and sell it for $350, but the $50 loss was a fine rental fee to keep a guitar for three months.

Something was changing though. As a young musician, I had no possibility of changing my gear. I had one guitar and one amp. there was no sense in worrying about switching stuff around, or how a song would sound with a different guitar or amp. I put all my energy into making the music. Now, over twenty years later, I still have that Telecaster, I still have the Jaguar, and I have four other awesome guitars from the years between then and now. I have an amazing clean amp, I have an amazing rock amp, I have an amazing small tube practice amp, I have an awesome, solid state multi-purpose amp, I have a vintage new wave amp, and a few other amps as well. I have my old multi-effects unit, I have the multi-effects unit that I make for my day job, and I have a solid collection of standalone pedals. I have a digital piano. I'm not trying to brag... I've been very lucky. Also, I've never drank heavily or done drugs. I'd rather have a cool new pedal forever than one night of partying.

It is my hypothesis that my collection and obsession of the gear has a direct result on my creativity and emotional connection to the music. I also believe that my desire to play multiple genres of music also affects this as well. This theory was reinforced by playing a number of hardcore/thrash shows early this year. the hardcore and punk-thrash scenes have very dedicated participants. I talk to the guitarists and they have their one main guitar, their one loud, rockin' amp, and that's pretty much it. It's raw, stripped down music, and the participants tend to be tightly focused in that world.

Another example was a query that was posed to em on the internet. Try to think of a guitarist who is known for their exceptional talent and individuality who also used a wide variety of gear. I started thinking of all my favorite guitarists and almost all of them are people who have used the same instrument for years. I believe that exceptional playing comes easiest when the player has an intense familiarity with his or her instrument, and that can't happen if a player is rotating between a large number of instruments.

To be fair with myself, I have pretty much used the same setup for years. When I'm playing mellow music I have a Tele or other Fender guitar, an analog delay, a nice flexible distortion, a digital delay/looper, and a nice Fender style amp with reverb. I had a version of this in 1993, and a much nicer version today). When I'm playing loud music, I have a simple, angry sounding guitar (now my EGC), a boost pedal, and a modified JCM800 style amp. I had this in my post high school hardcore band, and I have this now.

So I don't really change all that much. However, I THINK about changing all the time. I spend a lot of time looking for a more perfect solution, even though I have extremely nice and highly functioning solutions that are currently working well for me. Still, i can't help but feel as though my research-driven tech side keeps my creative side somewhat shackled. I'm still looking to really break free. I don't know if that can happen or if it's even possible. but I will keep obsessing in hopes that I find a way.
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Posted to facebook Guitar vs. Gravity page [Sep. 14th, 2012|10:58 am]
benjamin adrian
But I thought it would fit in here.

In my early 20s in Indiana I would spend certain Saturday afternoons driving to small towns to check out the local guitar stores. The best deals were always out in the sticks. They all closed at 6:00 or so. The trips always ended with me driving back home to the city across country roads at dusk.

There is a certain collision of feelings that happened during those moments of early evening driving. It was a melancholy of staggering proportions. There was a contentment and beauty, but there was also a longing for something more. There was the history of the midwest in the small, no-stoplight towns, and the practicality of a no nonsense life in middle America. There was a sadness mixed with an honorable acceptance of a practical life. Plus, it was that time in my life when I was no longer a carefree youth, but I certainly was not a responsible adult.

And then there was the sun going down in the west across the fields of crops or treelines. There was an abundance of warm light which sometimes blinded me, but always created wonderful, high contrast landscapes. It was fleeting, and in a few more moments I knew it would give way to another night time. Moods would change to reflect whatever we did at night; go to shows, go to a diner, have band practice, or just go hang out somewhere.

I think the new GvsG music captures that feeling of dusk in the midwest. It lives in that area of transition between the bright day and the social night, when a person can stop and admire the beauty and history of everything all at once, where the sadnesses somehow have a satisfying weight, and where we can't help but step back and have a little moment of silence for how astounding the experience of life can be.
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A reactivation. [Jun. 15th, 2012|03:50 pm]
benjamin adrian
Ever since getting back together with Claudia my level of emotions has been greatly extended. I was an emotional child and teenager. Then, in my early 20s, things ramped down and I figured it was hormones and just what came with transitioning to adulthood. I was still emotional, and by no means cold, but I just didn't go as far. Then, after our re-connection, I have found a whole new extension of emotions that I have not felt since our original relationship more than 20 years ago. It goes in both ways. I find it harder to pull myself out of funks, but I also get more gleeful highs.

I'm not complaining, it's just a surprise and an adjustment.
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The less I write.. [Apr. 30th, 2012|12:28 pm]
benjamin adrian
The less I write an reflect, the more I expect to have something big to say when I do stop to say hello here.

Things are great. My job rules. I'll be going to Hawaii soon to get hitched. I have a Cartographer show coming up. I'm playing music with a variety of new people, looking for the right fit.

I feel like I'm teeming with creativity that I'm either too busy or too exhausted to get out. There is a lot of work and planning going into the wedding and wedding parties. Claudia is doing far more of it than I am, and I'm grateful. Still, i have a large number of half finished projects that are yelling my name. I hope to be able to tackle some in the near future.

But that opens another crazy door. I feel like I need better planning and organizing in life. Then I spend an evening trying to think of better ways to plan and organize when I could have just worked on a project. I think I'm just maybe not that great on solo artistic endeavors.
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The private, public journal. [Dec. 8th, 2011|02:25 pm]
benjamin adrian
I think when I drive. I think about life and the world and I have personal revelations. I know I have friends with whom I would want to share these thought, and in turn I would like to hear their revelations about themselves.

Then I get home, or to work, and the next thing to do jumps in front of me, and I move on.

I suppose it's somewhat human nature to want to capture one's life. At the same time, it's human nature to want to move forward. I love to sometimes look at old pictures. I can't say I enjoy reading my old journal posts too much, and I never dwell in the past when I have an open door to a future new experience. Are all these reflections just the eventual clutter that I rarely reference.

There is no signpost that says "Stop and reflect upon your life so far here." Everyone picks their own time to decide if their life did or didn't have meaning. More accurately, if the contents of their life has measured up to their expectations of their life. I feel lucky. In almost every instance I've achieved above my expectations. Sure, I want more, and I can't say I really enjoy this slowing down that has been happening. At the same time, I do not feel unfulfilled. I actually feel like a lucky man.
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Classical Guitar [Jul. 8th, 2011|03:29 pm]
benjamin adrian
I've recently purchased my very own classical guitar, and I've been having quite a blast with it. I've been re-learning how to read music. NOw, i know had to read music in the sense that I see the notes and can tell you their names, and what key the piece is in, and many other facts about the music. However, I can't look at a string of music on the staff and then efficiently play it on the guitar. This is a challenge, and I love it.

I've always wanted to play classical guitar, but I always put it off. I was too busy, doing too many other projects, or just was in more of a noisy, sonic mood. I figured that I'd pick it up when I was older. I guess I'm older now.
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