For a few years in the middle of my writing career, I didn’t focus on music. This was a bad mistake.
In the early 2000’s, I had my mind and body deep in something new and a little scary. The transition from high school to the university life wasn’t so much difficult as it was a culture shock. So what’s the best way to deal with an abundance of new electricity? You either get some great tires or you ride on the nearest electron into the great unknown.
Music festivals, weeks and weekends full of bad food surrounded by amazing people, hard work done, sweat sweated, and a decent helping of illicit drugs and nudity peppered the state university experience for the few years that I was lucky enough to be a part of something so wonderful. Something that you can’t capture in a bottle again, only because it was simply the culture of that time, that place, those smells, those people, the flavors that made the cocktail so abundantly exist that it can only now be found in oral history and nostalgia. College radio was that electron.
That time served to let me soak in things that you can’t learn anywhere else. Here are a stack of CDs, my music director would say. His stack amounted to a big fucking crate. I could handle it, as my frame at the time was 6’2” with broad shoulders. Thank Christ for that weight training I had been doing the last few months.
But in college radio, there isn’t just one crate of ORGANIZE THESE CDs, there are crates every day. Record companies from all over the hemisphere send in mail, hoping to influence the prickly new generation of hopefully-disposable income-holders, in the form of the 18-30 age demographic. Daddy’s money. Hard-working restaurant server money. Fraternity money. Gambling money. Youth-oriented money. Money, period. Listen to this CD and go spend your next $17.99 on our burgeoning artist’s newest studio effort. This was a model that worked back when music was physical, nearly the opposite of the music industry now. And much like your Netflix Instant Queue of today, the music overflowed…and filled dank, first-floor, low-ceiling rooms of KASC “The Blaze” 1260AM. I was in heaven because I allowed it to wash over me.
Being around this much music changed my DNA forever. How I would think in going forward as an adult would use these tones and rhythms as not just its soundtrack, but as how I would conduct myself. Sure, the music I grew up on listening to such Phoenix stations as 98 KUPD, KZZP 104.7, and Edge 106, would always be the most accessible. However, being immersed in the most direct way to so many musical talents would be the transmission and other necessary car parts of the living vehicle I was driving in for the next few decades.
Between 2008 and 2011, I didn’t drive this vehicle. I was too stupid to get tunnel vision on projects which music wouldn’t be a huge factor in. In those projects, I lost a part of myself. Perhaps this is why some of those activities didn’t bear fruit. Hindsight tells me that they were good experiences, but they could have been better.
So now it’s present day, and I am a writer of books. I’m putting three out this year. Music is entirely crucial to the myriad steps that come with making one of them as complete as humanly possible. Books are like government work, by the way: they’re never totally done. I only recently learned that. Must have music. Music makes a book. Music inspires, especially in the shower. (By the way, you should have something to write on and with in the shower, or at least near it. I can’t tell you how many times an idea has sprouted while I had a good lather going and I had to dart out of the bathroom to drench my laptop in wet hands and flustered soap suds.)
Digressions aside, you’ve got to be aware enough to know when the next bolt of electricity will present itself. Learning from your own history and others’ is a solid way to be of a mental state, ready to take the wild ride that you may just have been waiting for all along. Especially when certain bolts of electricity have a really bitchin’ Blaupunkt.