With final prep for the Niagara Falls Party in full swing, we re-visit gear acquisition syndrome. Teaching. Malcolm Gladwell. Ten Thousand Hours. Behavior Modification.
Roger CortonSounds like you’re still getting over that virus?
JCHYep. Some surprising symptoms.
RCAre they gross?
I am constantly telling my guitar students: do not give in to your G.A.S. Fight it!
JCHGAS. Or rather, a total lack of it.
RCLet me tell ya, in my family, that would be a definite plus!
JCHBut of course, I’m talking about G.A.S. Not the… well, you know.
RCGear Acquisition Syndrome. Bane of musicians everywhere. The almost uncontrollable urge to purchase new musical stuff either to help one play better or…
JCHOh cut the comedy. Just because it’s FUUUUUUUN. It’s like NASCAR for kids with long, oily hair.
RCAre those the kids who still play rock guitar? OK, so why are thoughts of GAS (sorry) evacuating from you at this particular juncture?
JCHI love when you let loose. Enough. Look, I made my first ‘home’ recordings of my own singing, thirty five years ago with an SM-57 and an old Mackie board. Every so often, I happen upon some old tapes and ADATs of my younger self and I always come back to a truth that I have been unable to face.
RCYou had that surgery in Switzerland?
JCHNot that truth. I mean, I have always, deep down, preferred the sound of my vocals through an SM-57. There, I said it. And I have never been willing to admit it.
RCWow. I think we should take a moment now. You got any hankies nearby, son?
JCHNo, I’m cool. Let’s keep going, father. Seriously, I’ve spent thousands of dollars on pres and mics because I just refused to believe that a $100 beer-smelling stage mic could be the best choice.
RCRight, but I’ve seen engineers choose the 57 over the U67 or C12 so I know it’s a go-to vocal mic for certain big shot artists.
JCHI like to consider myself a practical person, but in this one regard, I have been completely irrational… I’ve never taken it to the point of buying a $5,000 Neumann, but if I had $5,000? I probably would do it. How does one get over that feeling? It’s a sincere question.
RCOK, I feel your pain. But. So. What? Why is this worth even talking about? You do realize that Oprah was cancelled a few years back?
JCHI am constantly telling my guitar students: do not give in to your G.A.S. Fight it! For my own work, I generally always played ‘cheap’ guitars… and with pride. But I put the ’57 on a mic stand and I feel bad… like I’m doing something ‘wrong’… even though I have decades of taped proof that it’s right. And if I can’t get past it, how can I expect those fresh young, Ayn Rand-reading youth of America to get it?
RCSo what you’re saying is that you’re a hypocrite. I’ll alert the media.
JCHI’ll grant you that this is probably not weird enough to get me on Jerry Springer, but it seriously does bug me. It’s like some audio version of ‘anorexia’… I can’t see ‘reality’ in this regard.
RCWell hang on a minute. Didn’t you start by saying that your G.A.S. had reached a low ebb? Doesn’t that imply that you’ve turned the corner on this?
JCHActually it does. But that’s the even more maddening thing. I can’t figure out how or why it evacuated. I certainly didn’t smell anything.
RCI was wondering when you’d circle back to that metaphor.
JCHBut I can tell you when it happened. And more importantly, I think I can tell you the why.
RCSo this whole thing does have a point.
JCHDon’t they always? I noticed it was gone when I started redoing the material for Epic. As you know, all these songs get updated with new versions. And so I’ve had to go back and re-visit all the old tapes and computer recordings over and over and over and over…
RCI get it.
JCH…and over and over and over…
RCDon’t make me pull the plug. You know I’ll do it.
JCH…and over. So I’m constantly re-working them using the same techniques I used back in 2005 or whatever. I’m not working on them as I would if I were starting fresh today. It would be too big a pain in the ass to do that. So I put up with the limitations of the era I recorded in. Does that make sense?
RCGot it. So you have to make the best of what you have… well ‘had’ to work with… back then.
JCHRight. And it’s frustrating for sure. But it’s also liberating because I don’t have to choose. For example, if I want to fix something, I’m stuck with the same guitar; the same mic; the same whatever. Get it? And I think at some point, I figured out that it still sounded fine. It’s not the 2005 tech. If it sounds good or bad, it was just the playing and mixing. Not the tools.
RCYour Dorothy And The Red Shoes moment.
JCHRight. So here was the insight I think I’ve gotten out of this. You know all that crapola we hear now about ‘ten thousand hours’?
RCThe Malcolm Gladwell thing. You need ten thousand hours at any task to become ‘a master’.
JCHRight again. So here it is. I think that also goes for G.A.S. I think it took me ten thousand hours of making myself work with the same old crap to learn to be cool with it and not be always having that nasty thought in the back of my mind
RC…if only I had the $5,000 mic, I’d sound way better.
JCHYou’re jelly on a roll, baby. At some point, I just stopped even having those thoughts. That little voice just went away.
RCSo to wrap this up. I’m glad that you got over your little problem. But going back to what you were bothered about.
JCHThe future of America’s Youth, no less.
RCUh, yeah, right. So where does that leave them?
JCHI think if I were starting out teaching again I would be a lot less lecture-y about it.
JCHYes, moi. I mean, what I didn’t realize is that even though I had gotten over my G.A.S. with regard to guitars, I still was subject to it with recording stuff and other musical gee-gaws. I didn’t realize that being immunized for one didn’t provide protection against the other. Every new skill you learn is a new opportunity to get that monkey on your back.
RCThat’s great. But what you’re saying is that you need more empathy. We already knew that. But what about doing something tangible to get people to focus on skills as opposed to buying more crap?
JCHLike I’m supposed to know? Shit, I thought developing a bit more empathy would be a pretty good days work for someone like me. But actually changing perceived needs, wants and desires? That’s above my pay grade.