Musical Inspirations Vol. 2: Nobuo Uematsu

I know what you’re thinking: Who the hell is that?

Nobuo Uematsu is famous for his composition/arrangement works with the video-game company Square. He wrote most of the scores for over 30 of their games, including the core Final Fantasy franchise.

Also keyboard player for “The Black Mages” a group that took music from the franchise and turned it into a rock band.

Okay, but what does that have to do with you?

Glad you asked.
I try to find inspiration in every kind of music I listen to, and some of the best music I’ve ever heard has been written in video-games!

Don’t believe me? Can you recall the music from the classic NES game Super Mario Brothers? I bet you can. How about any music from The Legend of Zelda.. It’s iconic.

Personally, Nobuo is the reason I managed to figure out how to finger-pick on an acoustic guitar, and I’m honestly not too bad at at!
Specifically this piece of music:

It’s a beautiful piece of music and unless you know it’s from a video-game, you would never think otherwise.

His music is very technical and interesting. I think I hummed the boss theme from FF8 all the way through my 8th grade year of school, because it was such a memorable piece of music.

Then there’s the mighty symphonic “One Winged Angel” which sits near and dear to any RPG nerds heart.

I saw an interview once where Uematsu explained the writing process. It wasn’t meant to just be a symphonic piece. It was written in a way that it could also be a Rock piece. A perfect bridge between the big band style & the modern era heavy metal.

Isn’t that beautiful? I sure think so.

Being a long time band-geek has its advantages,

Through my early years of a musician, I learned how to listen to a massive group of people playing instruments, and being able to isolate each individual part, in my mind.

It’s one of the reasons I love modern progressive rock. There is SO much to listen to, I can sit and get lost in the music, without being bored with repetition.

People who arrange pieces of music like this, are the types you should be listening to. They are smart about writing. They know how to take an idea, and implement it through a whole arsenal of tones and sounds.

 

So, I challenge you:

Next time you’re listening to music. Actually listen to the music. Don’t idly drone words and zombie your way through albums. People put every single detail into a song, for a specific reason. It’s our duty, as fans, to find those details and appreciate the beauty of what’s been written for our entertainment. Really think about the way the music feels.

If we had more people like that in the world, music would be a hell of a lot more fun to write!

 

Thanks for reading! I hope you’re all enjoying this look into my musical inspirations, as much as I am!

Musical Influences Ep1: Victor Wooten

If there’s something I can talk about, until I’m blue in the face, it’s music.  From theory, to its effect on our mood, deep lyrical ideas, to chord changes that give you goosebumps… it’s something that is such a large part of my life, i find a way to integrate it into every part.

I’m going to try a ‘series’ of posts talking about my biggest influences, as a musician. These are in no particular order (well, maybe this one is the most important, but the rest won’t be..), and I will write them as I think of them!

Does the name Victor Wooten mean anything to you?  Funny, that you probably haven’t heard of a guy who is a recipient of 5 Grammy awards; as a bass player, written 3 books, is an all around decent man, and an incredible teacher.

Probably because he isn’t a pop-star. He’s just talented beyond your wildest imagination!

I got to meet Victor briefly, and I promise I’m not going to romanticize this meeting. I was starstruck. My jaw hit the floor as I stood in front of the man who has no idea I exist.  What he didn’t know is this: I picked up the bass guitar from watching a VHS tape my dad had recorded of some Jazz festival in the mid ’90s, of two songs Bela Fleck and the Flecktones played.
After a few brief moments of silence, as I stood in front of my biggest influence, my friend Matt looked at him and said “He’s a really big fan.” I shook his hand, then ran into him later after his show. He signed the pick guard for my prized mid-80’s Fender Jazz bass, and I went on my way.

“The Sinister Minister” is the song that made me want to play the bass. The funky groove, high energy, and that damn bass solo.. From a song that didn’t even have spoken lyrics, is what captivated me to start plucking on a bass.

In fact, here’s the exact video that sparked my obsession:

Now that you’ve seen that… and I really hope you did. Maybe you can understand a little more about me, as a musician.  When I picked up the bass, I wanted to be able to to that.  After years of practice, I haven’t learned all of his tricks, but I’ve taken bits from his style of playing and added it to my own mixed bag of styles to create MY sound.

Here I am, almost 18 years later, hailed (not by myself, mind you) as one of the best bass players in the area. People know who I am, and I have a local “following.” It’s a weird concept to me, because I’ve never really thought of myself as that.

Aside from being a great musician, Wooten is also a great human being. He’s very in tune with nature, one of THE most modest people you would ever want to meet, and very kind.  He speaks to young musicians in a way that will comfort them as they come into their own. One of my favorite quotes of his, that I use all the time “You are never more than a half step from a wrong note” encourages the idea that if you DO hit a sour note, just bend it up or slide down and you’re in the ‘right key’ Now, from a young aspiring musicians perspective, that’s some impressive advice.

His website had (may still have) some of his lessons, when I started really beginning to understand how the bass worked.  A couple were sort of life-lesson sort of things, but a few were very deep into his methodology of the bass guitar.  The one that changed my ideas on the bass forever was the “Thump, Hammer, Pluck” Technique, which took me forever to understand (mind  you I was 13-14 years old trying to decipher the knowledge of a life-time musician.   The idea that you don’t have to play every strike of a note with one hand, is the basis.  Thump – to strike a string with your thumb, Hammer – to hammer a note, and Pluck – to pull a string or ‘pop’ it with one of your other fingers. I would spend hours at school drumming triplets out on my desk in this fashion: Right thumb, any finger on my left hand, then my right index or middle finger. This eventually evolved into the tump,hammer, pluck,pluck, or the thump, hammer, thump, pluck.. or any variation of alternate notation… It’s how he plays so fast- with seemingly no effort at all. It’s genius ideas like that, that have made him the number one bass player in the world.

I hope you’ve learned a little bit today about music, its influences on me, and why I’m so passionate about something other people tend to overlook.

Thank you, so much, for your time! Hope you all have a wonderful day!
-Joe

Oppression, in Uniform

Uniforms...

Any blue collar worker wears them… I’ve worn many: From Pizza Delivery, to factory work, writing parking tickets, doing maintenance, and now my job as the Dispatcher of the city of Williamsport. Nothing makes me feel more restrained, at my workplace, than not wearing my own, comfortable clothes.

There is nothing like the joy of removing my work boots, pants, and shirt; then putting on my own comfortable jeans, chucks, and a T-shirt, it’s like a small victory every day!

Which brings me to this point: Just another thing I love about being able to do music, as a second job… wearing whatever the heck I want!! There really are a lot of perks to being a “working musician.”

  • I get to do what i love, and get paid for it…
  • I get to dress as I please, and people can’t tell me otherwise…
  • I am the guy with the microphone… This has more power than you can imagine.. I say things, and people have no choice but to listen. I can make jokes, tell them to give the bartender money, entertain them, and they have no choice because I am the loudest one in the room!

Back to the topic at hand… Nothing makes me feel more like a “number” or a “drone” than having to be dressed like the people I work with…

I even have to dress like I”m going out to pave, even though I”m in the office… Bunch of crap, but it pays the bills!

Of course, in the same breath, I played in the marching band in High School, those uniforms were uncomfortable, but damn we looked good as a group.. So, from a “team” perspective, I suppose it makes sense.

Ah well.. I suppose I can’t complain too much.. The real men in Uniform are our military services. Those guys have to endure the harshest conditions our world has to offer AND They have to do it while in uniform. So, hat’s off to the guys who REALLY sweat their nuts off! Just remember that when you’re ready to complain about what you have to wear to work. There’s people out there who pretty much live in their work uniforms, and do so WHILE putting their lives on the line!

Thanks to the great men and women who protect us, once again. It can’t be said enough, especially by people who claim to be artists, and are free to express in this world.

Have a great day, readers!

Today is National Donut day!?

Remember yesterdays post, about eating better?  Now would be a good time to go read that: It’s like they know I need to lose weight

This, in my opinion, is another major downfall in our country.

We, as Americans, promote obesity,

and we are afraid to tell people that they are overweight, because they may feel shame…

Just like Thanksgiving, National Donut Day is an excuse to eat unhealthily. Why? It’s because we are Americans, and we can do what we want.

That mindset needs to go.

I hate to be the guy to ‘ruin a good thing,’ but that’s just the type of person I am.

It’s this shameless marketing scheme, the world is now built on, where we want instant gratification, all of the time. It’s why gas stations are open 24/7 and businesses force their underpaid employees to work on Holidays.

What happened to us? Why are we giving up on the important values, we once held, as family driven communities?

Clever marketing happened. You believe that you are to feel good, all the time, that nobody is allowed to tell you you’re wrong, and that the things you want are instead things you need.

I could ramble on about this, for days, but the cut-and-dry fact of it is this: We, as a people, need to quit being so damn greedy. We need to quit catering to our wants, and worry about what’s really important.

Anyone else remember the ’90s?

  I remember my parents having cookouts for our neighbors, instead of worrying about what they were doing on the other side of the fence. I remember going trick or treating, with a group of my peers, and not worrying about anything. I remember getting on my bicycle, on a Saturday morning, and riding around my neighborhood, with my friends, until the street lights came on. We didn’t stare at our phones all day, we didn’t have the world’s entire encyclopedia of knowledge at our fingertips…

and ya know what? We were happy.

 

So, My challenge to the world is this: Go introduce yourself to your neighbors. Go to the grocery store, buy some chicken, pork chops, steaks, vegetables; or whatever it is you like to eat. Invite those neighbors over, learn about them. Be social, without staring at your phone… Don’t be so afraid of the unknown. Don’t be afraid to admit that you’re wrong, or that you don’t know something. Google may have all the answers, but sometimes you have to figure things out for yourself.  Stop being so offended by everything. Embrace your flaws, and learn to love yourself, before you can eliminate the things you are ashamed of.

I’ll be back shortly with the “Daily Prompt” I just had to get this off my chest.

As always, thank you for reading!

It’s like they know I need to lose weight

Portion Control

Uh oh… This one’s aimed right at my gut…

Look, I’m not a mammoth of a human being, but I’m a hell of a lot heavier, than I want to be. Can I get an Amen, who isn’t?

Taking a desk job has just about been the literal death of me, and things got very real at my last annual checkup. I’m all about getting high scores in the videogame world, but blood pressure of 165/90-something is not a high score to be proud of.

So, what have I done to fix it?  I didn’t do body wraps, or THRIVE (I have my own rant about that crock of garbage), or any of these gimmicks…. I started exercising and controlling the amount of food I eat!

Now, I love food… a lot.. I love cooking it, smelling it, eating it, everything about the endless combinations is fascinating to me… Unfortunately, when both you and your wife are exceptional cooks, you tend to eat a lot. Here’s a few things I’ve tried, to curb my tendencies to overeat:

  • Buy smaller plates: This sounds ridiculous, but it works. 8″ paper plates, from Sam’s Club, are the way to go. Only fill them once, with whatever you have for dinner, and JUST EAT THAT
  • Stop Buying Lunch: Spending 6 dollars a day for lunch at work, is just ridiculous. Plan something tasty and that is healthier than your current eating habits, and stick to it!  OR, Since you didn’t eat so much for dinner, take some of those delicious leftovers!
  • Cut Down On Drinking: I’m no alcoholic, but I do love to unwind with a tasty beverage in the evening. Whiskey and Vodka don’t have the calories that beer does, but mixing it with coke is waaaay worse. If you HAVE to have a drink, try mixing it with Coke Zero, Pepsi Max, or Sprite Zero. Less calories and sugar = less fat.
  • Stop Eating Garbage: I know, you work hard. You don’t feel like cooking, and it’s just easier to order out. Not only is it expensive, it’s really REALLY REALLY unhealthy.
  • Vitamins & Water: Remember, your body tells you it’s thirsty, the same way it tells you that you’re hungry. I drink about 3/4 – 1 Gallon of water A DAY.  In the same breath, you’re probably not getting all of the vitamins you need.  Find a good well-rounded multivitamin and TAKE IT EVERY DAY!

    Here’s what my wife and I started doing: She did some research and found a pile of delicious crock-pot meals, then made up a large list of ingredients (we stuck to pork, beef, and chicken proteins with similar ingredient recipes). We then went to the Grocery store, spent less than $300 (I know it sounds like a lot, just bear with me.) and managed to make 32 meals out of it, that are frozen and ready to stick in the crock pot. No extra cooking involved, just toss it in, go about your day, minimal preparation, and we eat GREAT.
    * Buy crock pot bags, they make this all so much easier.

So, there you have it. You can do it, if I can. I’m down about 10ish pounds from where I was, and as I get more active in the Spring & Summer, hopefully I can reach my goal of losing 35 pounds.

Have a great day! Sorry I kind of fell off of the face of the planet.

I forgot to post… since Friday..

Hello, my friends! My micr-tour kicked my ass this week! Finally ends tonight, with a short acoustic gig in Montgomery.

I must say, though. 3 days in a row with great crowds was fantastic!!

I’m drawing a blank on the two most recent daily posts… maybe because it’s 5:30AM and I haven’t had any coffee yet… Maybe I’ll get hit with some inspiration later!

So, how are you all doing? It’s a beautiful morning. The birds woke me up at about 4:30… Of course I didn’t fall asleep until about 11:30… so, we’re functioning on fumes, here.

I just wanted to drop in and let you all know I’m still here. I haven’t given up on blogging yet!

Hope you have a great Sunday, I’ll try to post again!

-Joe

Stuck in Survival Mode

Survive...
I feel like I’ve sold my soul to survive.
The irony is, I feel less alive.
Give of myself, to make the months rent,
but money isn’t the only thing spent.
A part of me dies, with each passing day.
A part of my life, I’ll never repay.
The weight of the world, my boots full of lead.
The the hell I endure, to purchase some bread.
Yet I press on, drag feet through the mud,
survive daily battles, and pay with my blood.
The struggle is worth it, and you know it’s true.
For I’d give all my worth, to come home to you.

 

I’m not one for poetry… But this just popped into my mind.

I’ve been struggling a lot lately, with stress at my job. It’s absolutely exhausting to put up with the drama that these middle-aged angry men thrive in.
I’ve been craving a change. I’ve never been one to stick with a place of employment, when I know I’m not going anywhere. The job market just sucks right now, and I don’t make bad money.  I do feel that, this place drains me of my being and squashes my ability to create.

Fortunately, I get to go home to my family, every day, and they keep me going. Music, also keeps my head above water.

My wife and I have been discussing some major changes in scenery, and I couldn’t be more excited planning out our lives together. Even just exploring the ideas of being somewhere, other than this secluded valley we live in, excite the hell out of me! I think the both of us have been in survival mode, for so long, we have trouble being able to enjoy our lives to the fullest. Life with 4 kids, isn’t easy, but we are proud to say that they get the opportunities to do the things they want to do, unlike we did as children. We both came from not-very-well-off families, and have been blessed to be more successful, than where we came from. With that success, comes the chance to give our children the opportunities that we never had.  The only downfall of that is: a creative person, like myself, has to give up on some of my own dreams.  I’ve come to terms with the fact that I’ll never be a famous, touring musician a LOOONG time ago, and honestly, that’s not something I’ve ever been upset about. I enjoy being a local musician, and working with businesses in my region to try and get all of our names out there. So for my girls to be passionate about dance, singing, music, art, whatever they want to do.. is far more rewarding, especially with my ability to help them on some of it (mostly the music.. I’m not much of a dancer.. which is why I play music haha.)

Anywho, I’m done ranting. I hope you all are having a great week! My gig last night was a great success, and I’m on to gig #2 at the Four Friends Winery in Montgomery PA

 

Take care,

-Joe