This week I was staring at my laptop, looking at a mountain-range of vein-blue coloured inky squiggles that represent the hiccups and burps of a double-tracked vocal part. These days the ‘life’ of a musician is sometimes more akin to that of a laboratory-based scientist or cubicle inmate of an IT consultancy as we tap-tap away on our keyboards, doing the two-finger tango and the fox-trot four-step.
I’d lazily remarked (to whoever was listening) that I’d become a lesser guitar player over the years, as practise on my instrument had been overtaken by dexterity with the digits on first Cakewalk, then Cubase and finally Logic Pro software music sequencing programmes. I’d like to imagine myself as John Lennon, (complaining to everyone who was listening), that The Beatles had gone backwards as musicians, as due to the screaming fans, popping lightbulbs, Jelly Babies (thrown at George) and ever increasing studio sessions.
In my case, I’d just grown lazy. ‘Taxi’ split up so long ago and I had lost the natural desire I’d had as a skinny teenager to ‘leap on stage although I couldn’t play’ (apologies, Edwyn Collins for borrowing and adapting that line). The buzz of those first, ramshackle gigs with our home-made monitors, borrowed disco lights, Casio keyboard and a guitar that was possibly bought one Christmas from Ronco had long gone.
The thrill of rehearsing and performing two-hours worth of material (albeit mainly cover versions of rock standards that we assumed, wrongly, people wanted to hear) had disappeared down the same plughole that ‘Taxi’ had been so unceremoniously washed away one rain-soaked afternoon in Hatton Garden. Gigs became a chore, a burden and an unwanted distraction from my main love – writing songs. I’d lost my naive belief that I was a competent guitarist and so began compensating with my newly discovered computerised ‘toys’ – midi based strings and tin pot pianos, flutes which sounded more like tin whistles played by small children who have discovered annoying sound for the first time.
I came home from work this week and opened up my laptop. The coloured strips of audio and midi stared back, blankly. I gazed at the rows of digitised music, trying to remember what it was I’d planned to work on, as I lazily lent my head against the condensation drizzled window of the 345 to South Kensington, squirming on my seat next to a prickled, sharp-faced woman with steely-bladed finger nails, irritatingly snap snapping on her mobile phone.
The man in the seat in front of me wore an enormous pair of headphones playing music the whole bus could hear.
Two French students babbled excitedly in their native tongue, occasionally lapsing into English and I regreted my own lack of language skills.
A rotund, dessert plate-faced boy shovelled fast food into his button-holed mouth as fast as he could, which reminded me of my recent stay in hospital (although I rarely eat anything wrapped in greaseproof paper).
I sighed and shut the lid of my laptop. Work had won.
Music has long since stopped being the main focus in my life, at least in a ‘career’ sense of the word. I’ve long since stopped chasing the dream like an eager puppy chases a stick, even following it into cold, murky waters – returning again and again to the desolate cold, knowing every time the item I so desired would be swept away from my desperate grasp, thrown further and further into the distance until even the ever-optimistic and bright-eyed puppy in me relented with the game of fetch.
Somewhere, out there, is a magic formula to a ‘work-life balance’. There may even be time to practice the guitar again …