Sunday, May 14, 2017

Delicious Uncertainty

Delicious Uncertainty

Music has always been a central and fundamental part of my life, ever since I pulled my parents "hifi" speakers from their proper placement to sit only inches from each side of my 9 year old body. I proceeded to completely immerse myself in the Bee Gees Tragedy, thrilling at the mouthed gun shot sounds Barry Gibb was making to punctuate the chorus. The music permeated my very being and planted something very deep.

When the time came for school band, I chose alto sax, largely because that's what my uncle David played. He was something of a family celebrity, renowned for his stellar work on the Edina High School band's live recorded rendition of Harlem Nocturne.

A painfully cautious and careful child by nature, I ended up staying in band all the way through my brief and disastrous attempt at university. This story has been told many times in other places so I won't get into it here except to say that I went in to a Kenny G show a sax player and came out a bass player. Thank you Vail Johnson! (No offense Kenny)

My point here is that I completely missed the part of life where most rock musicians really get their chops and "find" themselves on their instrument through endless garage jams with friends. There was certainly a lot of value gleaned from my traditional music education, but it wasn't so readily applicable to writing rock songs or playing bass with friends in bands.

It took me almost 25 years to get to a point where I would even get comfortable enough and have an opportunity to play live in a band. I was always one that needed to be unmistakably impressive before I would venture forth and put myself out there. My career has certainly benefitted from this character trait. I did my time in the guitar making trenches before hanging up my own shingle and the success has been steady and pretty much continuous since. (For this I'm deeply grateful.)

But my music took a LONG time to happen because of this. And it probably wouldn't have happened as it did except for one massive disruption in my life - the end of my marriage.

It was this pivotal event that broke me. It broke who I thought I was. It broke my deeply unconscious notion that I could control what people thought of me.

While my sixth-sense sensitivity worked really well for my career, it was paralyzing for developing any degree of musical ability. Risk aversion subverted much, if any, progress here.

Like so many whose lives are disrupted in such a manner, I immediately went looking for a therapist so I could fix what had broken. I would not ever let that kind of thing happen again. In an incredible stroke of luck I found a man that would prove pivotal in helping me find my way home to myself. This might start to sound a bit "new agey" here, but I don't care. Take it for what you will. The journey I started at that point has been amazing and painful and rewarding in ways I don't think I can ever fully communicate. And it's directly tied to how my musical life has opened and expanded and grown far beyond what the old me could have ever dreamed.

Let me see if I can flesh this out in a clear manner. I feel it's so important I don't want to underserve the message. I found my own path to a deeper understanding of my unconscious conditioning which lead to a deeper more authentic and meaningful life. And, not to sound too grandiose, but I believe that this seeking of one's own path is critical for the future of humanity, with the central part of this being that my path is mine and mine alone, as your path is yours and yours alone. This kind of self discovery is the only way our world will change for the better. See the famous quotes "Be the change" from Gandhi and "We are all just walking each other home" from Ram Das. Also, see J. Krishnamurti, Truth Is a Pathless Land.

But it cannot be done alone.

In my case this self discovery happened with the assistance of the man I mentioned above, Michael Sieck. I don't want this to get too long and convoluted so I'll try to make this succinct. I started therapy. I made rapid progress learning the mechanics of what had happened to break my marriage. (I was determined to be very good at doing therapy!)

I then learned that I was conditioned in such a way that it made true relationship nearly impossible. My adaptive self had put together ways of being in the world that had made me "safe". Unfortunately these ways also kept me from taking risk and being fully authentic. This lead to a build up of pain and anger that came out in destructive passive ways leading finally to the destruction of the primary relationship in my life.

I started to work on undoing this conditioning. And work it is. ( I never liked the word work - yuk, and ironically, the work never ends.)

One of the ways we undo this conditioning (using a method Michael calls Three Fold Way) is through ongoing group work. For me this group work has happened at retreats on a roughly quarterly basis at an amazing place in the hills above Lake Elsinore called Pine Manor. We gather, typically between 10 and 16 of us, for a long weekend that consists first of a teaching/learning phase where Michael does his best to lead us to an understanding of the ways we have adapted to life in a painful world that so often says NO to us in no uncertain terms. Next, we do a sort of group therapy where each of us, lead by a pair of facilitators, has a chance to "process" in a loving and affirming container created by the energy of the group and the facilitators. This safe space allows one to find a way into "what wants to happen". And it's here that the mirror of relationship can allow us to reprogram and loosen the hold of our automatic and triggered response patterns.

Through this process we realize that there is a dimension of existence beyond what we often end up unconsciously caught in. This is the very presence that effective meditation (or prayer) promotes. When we undo our reflexive automatic patterns we begin to truly be with what is and then our underlying authentic self has the space to emerge.

For me, that underlying authentic space is one full of unending music, curiosity, and creativity, which leads me to the reason for this post here today. The music that has come from that authentic place, that was co created with my dear friend Edward, is finally ready to see the light of day.

We started work on this batch of songs in some cases over 4 years ago. But most of it has come about over the past 2 years. All of these songs are a result of finding that creative flow and letting the music emerge of it's own volition. Truly the manifestation of what wants to happen in a musical context.

We've used a handful of instruments that I've made, and some that I've found along the way (which of course we installed our pickups in). I've built a studio space over the past 3 years that has been absolutely fundamental to this project happening (thank you Universal Audio!). I've spent countless hours watching tutorials on,, and I've paid deep attention when I've been fortunate enough to be around successful musical folks like Joe Barressi, John Paterno, Justin Chancellor, Tim LeFebvre, Hershel Yatovitz, James Santiago, Lucas Pimentel, Rafe Bradford, Howard Ulyate, etc. The list is almost endless and I'm truly grateful for how my career has allowed for such things to happen. I'm also grateful that my business has been successful enough to allow me the incredible luxury of the time I need to learn and grow musically in such a manner.

Mostly though, I've learned to pay deep attention to myself. And to Ed. And to the music and what it's trying to tell us. And I've learned to feel what needs to be felt. And to me, this is the magic of music. It's always an invitation to a deeper state of existence. Always an invitation to feel more, hurt more, love more, live more.

Our project is called Moba Jones. For now you can stream premastered versions of the songs from Soundcloud. Soon, our fully mastered songs will be available to stream, download, and even purchase in physical form (cd's and vinyl's!) And they'll be available to enjoy, hate, criticize, love, take or leave. That part is not up to me. And I'm ok with that. I have put myself into the music with the most authenticity I've learned to find.

But I'll be honest and say I really hope you enjoy it. Because I'd like to keep it going (as would Ed). For the rest of my life. And an affirming response will make that a lot more fun.

So as I sit here writing this on Mother's Day I feel a bit as though I'm standing on the edge of something I can't define. There's a sense of excitement. There's a sense of trepidation. There's mostly a sense of delicious uncertainty. What happens next is not fully up to me or Ed. It's up to the music and that crazy big wide world out there. I wonder what it'll look like to read this a year from now...