Blog

January 17, 2014
Pick my brain. What music and art mean to me.
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I’ve been playing music my whole life. Well, as long as I can remember anyway. When I was a kid (beginning at age 3), I played violin. Then I started playing piano. I wasn’t bad actually. I could sight read music and entered some competitions and did ok. Then I switched to trumpet in 6th grade.  Liked it enough to earn 1st chair,
but those instruments weren’t exactly what I wanted to play. BUT, those instruments taught me quite a bit about composition, how to read music, understanding time signatures and tempo changes, discipline, doing something whether I wanted to do it or not, following through with a project to completion, and understanding terminology and being able to communicate with other musicians in the future.

Then I found the drums.

In 7th grade my mom got me a $300 drum set from a pawn shop. I played non-stop. I remember the first time I tried to play along to a song. I think it was off of the Offspring “Smash” album. It was hard. So I tried 1,000 times and finally got it.

I’m lucky my neighbors and Mom were so tolerant. Haha.

Then I remember I forced my way through Megadeth’s “Tornado of souls”. Kind of ambitious if you ask me.  But I had learned Wild Thing and some Tom Petty and of course, AC/DC which taught me how to play in the pocket and stay steady. So, Megadeth was the first metal band I learned anything from. I dug Nick Menza on the kit.

Then I found PANTERA. Mouth for War was one of the first songs I heard, then I heard this later and was floored. Haha

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Vinnie Paul blew my mind. The double bass, and just the drum sound in general sounded huge and caught me right away. But there was something that bothered me about the band when I first heard them. The screaming. Haha. I didn’t get it yet.

Initially, that kind of music attracted me because it’s so hard to actually play. I was in Marching band at the time and was learning some pretty complicated stuff and rudiments and technique, and had a pretty strict instructor……*ahem….*cough….Daryl Nerrenburn. ;) Which is a killer drummer. I was lucky.

So, I took what I learned from that and applied it to the drum set.

I would learn metal music at home, and then since I was one of the only kit players other than my friend Reece Collins, I ended up playing for Pep band, concert band, and jazz band until my senior year. I learned latin grooves, rock grooves, big band songs, blues, Ray Charles tunes, and my personal favorite, FUNK grooves.

Then I was in a metal band for 7 years after college. It was a good release. I can’t really describe the feeling a drummer gets when they lock into a steady groove at 220bpm.

You memorize the movements that give that song the most power possible.

Playing metal music is a powerful feeling to me. It really takes all you’ve got physically if you are feeling it. You learn to control the amount of energy you exert to save yourself for certain parts of the song. It’s very athletic. And when you write your own music, you get to express yourself through your musical parts. They are literally what your mind and body does to create that feeling your instrument provides. If you are thinking, you are probably going to mess up.

I was lucky enough to write my own drum parts for this contest, so I got to express myself exactly the way I would play naturally to the composition.

I didn’t gravitate towards metal music because I’m an angry person. But I do (just like everyone else) encounter negativity, negative people, negative energy, negative events……and it was a way that I could digest it. And instead of holding onto it, I could put it into a tangible form…..that is not negative to me at all……and after I was done, I had a pretty creative part on the drums…..and I felt great. And it seemed as though everything negative in life just kinda dissipated into the air. And it kept me sane at the hardest of times. It is my release.  And people respond very positively to it. So, if I can take that kind of energy and convert it into something that inspires people to not just do something similar as me, but to want to learn any craft in order to express themselves, or just plain entertain people, or to help themselves or other people in any way, that is gratifying to me.

Funk groove music gives me the same feeling, only much more relaxed and entrancing. My mind literally drifts away from where I am and my programming takes over. Plus playing in the pocket with this kind of music is really a great feeling.

I liked incubus because their drummer José Pasillas was great at fusing different genre’s of grooves together. Incubus’s science was an amazing record for this.

I chose to cover Redefine because of the funk action.

And I also chose to cover Nebula off the same record because of the break-beat style.

My most recent performance video is a cover of the band SLIPKNOT called “Duality”. I like it because of it’s structure and tempo changes and syncopation with the different grooves. It’s more of a rock song that a modern metal song really.

If I play something perfectly, I don’t remember much about the performance. If I mess something up, I remember it forever. haha. Then take a mental note, and never do it again. These video’s are an example of having to play a song right in one take….otherwise, you will see the mistake forever.

SO, I have learned how to use music and art and photography to cross market myself in a very different way than most people. People hear my music, and then they stumble across my artwork. Or vice versa. I’m constantly producing something, and I use that to advertise for myself.

I have always drawn since I can remember and I had a camera in my hand constantly since the age of 12 and got pretty good in a darkroom.  Same thing happened with drawing and photography for me. It’s was release and a form of expression. I drew and took photos of things I liked.  If I am hired, Then I am doing it for the client…not myself.

Moby Dick – personal work
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Breaking Bad – Personal work
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And that is what people have to understand about professional artists. Chances are, they got into art and music for themselves and the love of the craft. Just so you know, things change a bit when you start doing commissioned artwork for other people. You are providing what THEY (meaning the client) want. So we have to be on top of our game and versatile.

Old Courthouse in Evansville Indiana. My current studio space and office.
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Headshot session with blogger Bailey Gagliano
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Photographs taken during a wedding ceremony in Bangalore India
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“Drastic” Dan Farris….Pro Stunt bike competitor/Dad
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We prefer the visual and audible to numbers and code. We are protective over our creativity because it is a part of us. When people steal it or hold no value to it even though they want it for free to help their own cause and don’t even give us credit, it makes us angry. Our perspective is effective because we are developing it and constantly putting it out there to be judged by the masses. Being a professional artist is a test. Every piece an artist puts out into the world gets judged by everyone that comes in contact with it……if it’s lucky enough to be seen by anyone at all. Sometimes creatives are confident about a piece, sometimes they are not. Sometimes we are surprised by the reaction to our work whether it be good or bad.

Howth head Ireland
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Mysore India
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People that aren’t artists usually don’t understand what it is like being an artist and trying to make a living constantly being creative. It’s a brain conditioning that we develop over the years. Being able to fire out decent and good and even great ideas at a rapid rate and hoping they stick. Having clients trust you with your skills to make their vision come to life can be nerve racking. Sometimes, we lack skills a project needs and we learn them as we go just to make the project work. Most creatives love their jobs because they created them. Or they personally developed themselves to be hired by a larger entity and chose that position and went after it. But, others can be terrified of putting their work out there….even when they are quite good. So yes, it takes a bit of an ego to have the sand to create something and put it out there to the wolves to be devoured critically.

And on occasion, we become overwhelmed with all of the work we take on.

Sometimes, I travel. Not always because I want to, but because I have to do it to get where people want our services.
It takes me to many different and interesting places, but I usually miss home if I am gone for too long.

Seattle
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Wedding in Jamaica
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Gojira opening for Metallica for the first time in Arras France. Circa 2008
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I personally think that it is ok to be confident. Although there is a difference between being cocky and being confident, but being cocky sometimes adds a little more character. Haha. And I like being surrounded by other confident people. Even people that are technically in “competition” or “better” than me. Those are the people that are motivational and inspirational to me. I like it. It seems to make me better. I like a challenge. And I usually know who I’m competing against and don’t care. I know what I am capable of. They can be confident, and I can be confident, and it doesn’t hurt anyones feelings and no one feels intimidated by anyone and everyone can see what everyone else can do and it motivates us all to be better.

My “Money Tree” in Indiana.
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Indiana/Illinois state line
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Sometimes we as creatives encounter people that look at our lives and are jealous and envious of our “freedom” and “love” of our jobs.  And that is a very nice way to think about it, and I can’t complain myself because I asked for this kind of work. BUT, the people that are jealous or envious were not there for the risks and rejections that came along the way. They weren’t there during the 12 hour shooting days for a month straight. They also weren’t there during the year and a half of shooting and 6 months of editing a documentary. They weren’t there for the 15 hour tracking sessions for 5 days straight (because that’s all the time you can afford)  in order to track and mix 4 songs for an EP.  And you had better finish the songs because there is a lot of your own money invested and people are expecting it to be good. They weren’t in the van for 30 hours before you played the first show of a tour with a band that you had never actually played with except for getting to play each song once and hit the road.  They weren’t there for the pressure you had on yourself to not screw up someones wedding. They weren’t there when you had to photoshop an entire person out of 14 photos and make it look like they were never there and the client still not being happy. They weren’t there when you got rejected from the job you really wanted so you had to figure out something in order to keep doing what you wanted.  They weren’t there when you were juggling 11 projects at the same time and killed yourself for 4 months over them, then got to go on vacation. They also weren’t there during the 20 years of extensive, obsessive practice sessions that it took your skill level where it is now. And they certainly weren’t there when things got so bad that you thought you might just have to give it up and pursue something else.

But it’s ok. It just might not be for them to understand.

A few costume composites for friends just for fun.
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Chimaria live in St. Louis
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Chimaria promo in Louisville
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We as creatives are protective over our crafts that we dedicated our whole lives to develop. And some of us are lucky enough to use that craft to attempt to make a living. And success to us isn’t the car and the boat and the house and the stuff. It is the very journey that we are on to see where our craft takes us. It is developing something that we can take anywhere with us throughout our whole life. It isn’t something that we can control most of the time. If we get an interesting opportunity, we are  probably going to take it. And keep in mind that when we go into certain jobs, we have absolutely no idea of what we are going to do until we get there. Sometimes it’s literally making something out of nothing at all. Sometimes we work as a team, and sometimes it’s totally up to us as individuals to pull it off.

LOVE and FREEDOM for our work are all relative. It comes with many pressures and risks at first. Most of the time, we LOVE it when we are finished with it and feel happy about the result of a process.  Just as an architect feels after he designs a building and gets to look at it after it is built. But until the metaphoric building is standing, it takes ALOT of work to get to that point. Is the architect a jerk for being proud of his work? Not to me. But maybe to some people. Poor things. God bless ‘em. But know you don’t get the freedom if you don’t get the job done.

Boscoe France opening for BB King in Evansville Indiana at Victory Theater
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So, as far as art and music goes, I do it because I love it. Even if I wasn’t doing it for a living, I would still do it. I personally don’t put pressure on music for me to make a living because I love it so much. It’s one of the few things that will always be there inside of me. And that is why I do it. Because I can. And that’s it really. The fact that people respond to my work positively is flattering and humbling and so many other things positive.

This is my first personal expression blog here. Just had a few things to say and now I can get back to work.

Best of luck to everyone out there genuinely pursuing their dreams! And to the people that aren’t, I honestly hope you get the chance and the courage to do try. Really hard. Get involved in your community. Help make where you live awesome. Use what you have to stay a positive person. Don’t fake it. It’s quite scary to not have a guarantee, but it is also quite exciting. And you might not know when you are ready. You may just have to take the plunge.

Thanks for reading.

Best to ya,

Alex

www.alexmorganimaging.com

Thanks to Chris Koyle for filming most of my drum vids, Ian McDonald from Sick Drummer Magazine for your support and friendship, Brett Mulzer at Moore Music in Evansville for helping track and providing a creative space I have tried to utilize to the fullest degree, Trick Drums for representing me and my playing, my tolerant parents, and everyone who has supported me through the years. You all rule.

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