“Who are your influences?” “What influences you?”
Those are a couple of classic questions musicians get asked all the time. And it’s something I’ve been thinking about often lately. While I’ve been thinking about this, I’ve come to really understand the impact of influences. I think originally, I would feel that influences is what pointed you in the musical direction you want to go. You know.. influence you to do something. Later I started to believe that it was more related to a philosophical approach. The influences are like building blocks helping you decide what you like, and what you don’t like. You know the pretentious, hip, I’m cool because x,y and z are my influences.
It’s possible that they’re both true and there is nothing wrong with either. Over the last couple of years though, I started noticing some things. For me, I started pulling out old cassette tapes of me playing – which I brought up here, and started to listening to bands that I was super into (ie: the Church, the Cure, New Order, etc) back in the day, but with a more focused approach and I started noticing things about my guitar play.
I started noticing a subconscious application of licks, tones, style of those bands in stuff I’m playing. Sure, that is what I call my ‘root rock’, but while I’m writing a lead part or melody line, I don’t consciously say I want it to sound like this band or that band. I notice it later when I hear a song, and I go oh sh*t, I totally got that lick from this song. It’s also interesting, that I never spent any time figuring out that lick in the past, and it was my interpretation of that lick – on the fly – to a song I’m working on now. I want to say I feel like the band and our songs aren’t a copy of the influences, but there are definitely little nuggets that pop up. And when you mix other musicians with their subconscious influences, things get interesting.
To me, this is the power of influences. Sure, influences could be the building blocks of your guitar playing. And sure, influences may have guided you to the player you are today. But at it’s core, influences also are helping you craft the song in your head and potentially helping you get that melody out through the hands.
While I’ve been thinking about this, I wanted to really identify influential guitar players that affect me. All are post-punk UK guitarists oddly. I like melody.. I like it a lot. I like melody lines (which aren’t ‘leads’), and I do like melodies in leads vs. ripping solos. Also, with that said, I like counter melodies with dual guitars. To me, Robert Smith of the Cure is the master of the melody line and the melodic solo.
The other musician, that happens to be a bassist that I feel comes through a lot for me, is Peter Hook of Joy Division and New Order. Frankly, I was surprised by this revelation, but it’s quite clear. Again, a master of the melody and I enjoy his non-traditional approach to bass .The Hook bass lines are classic, easily identifiable and are catchy as hell.
Finally, another part of guitar play that I like is the unpredictable, sometimes violent, sometimes unpleasant, guitar explosion. For me, Daniel Ash (Bauhaus, Tones on Tail, Love and Rockets) is my guy. Specifically Bauhaus era. When I listen to Gemma Thompson of Savages today, she gets it. When I play and I want something weird, loud and unexpected, a little Bauhaus squirts out.
Let me know if you guys feel the same way I do about ‘influences’. If so, hit me with a few of yours by commenting below.