Essays

A collection writings and thoughts by artist Gary Llama.

Twenty Years: On Making and Recording Music

Continuing to reflect on things from twenty years ago, I realize this topic is actually something I’ve been doing a few years longer; Writing and recording original music.

I started making my own songs when I was eight or so. I couldn’t really even play guitar, but I could write lyrics and play along, kind of. Unfortunately, I had no way to document the songs, either in tabulature, knowing the names of notes, or in recording, so songs were a fleeting thing.

Then around age 11, I began recording them. I’ve documented that here.

Once I learned to record, my recording area, usually a place in my room, and the associated equipment, became my sacred space. A place where we could reach out from now, and touch the future. We could make statements, and they would stick to a permanent record via magnetic particles and tape. The song recorded today, could be played back tomorrow. It could give permanence and weight to an idea, and with accompanying music, became a record. This concept was the most amazing thing to me. And so listening to the wisdom of Hendrix and Bob Marley, I realized that the writing and recording of music is a powerful tool. A weapon, even.

And so when I played shows with bands, it was great, but it was never able to touch making records. With a show, we are the entertainment, or at worse, a distraction. But with records, we are artists, we are political forces. We are able to set forth change.

And so when I got back into recording more in my late teens, I re-discovered the sacred space. And I felt fully comfortable being solely a recording artist, rather than a performing one. Cuz I’m not here to entertain. I’m here for the permanent record. And so my growth as a musician, and as a recording artist, has never seperate the act of recording from the act of performing, or writing. They are, in my mind, all part of the same process, which makes it truly weird to realize that the majority of musicians just work on one side of it, performance, and leave the other side to a professional. Doubly fucking amazed when they also don’t even write their own songs. Accordingly, I begin to understand why the music industry and it’s surrounding professionality can seem like such bullshit, a fact I realized once I began working as an engineer on the recording end of it, professionally.

And there is that word, professional. I’m suspicious of it. I can’t say I’m against it, because some folks need good recordings and cannot record themselves, just like we need good doctors, or architects, or construction workers, or engineers. But it resonates a little different for me, when my reality is of a three part process being one and the same.

***

With any art, once repeated a few times, we, as artists, must figure out a way to adapt to the continuing habit. And that is something I’ve taken issue with. In the early years, the equipment required cost a lot of money, so a person had to be willing to sacrifice great chunks of their life in order to afford the ability to record. And so through my life, I’ve had great recording setups, and meager setups, and amazing ones, and disappointing ones; all varying with how I was doing monetarily.

And creatively, the habit has waxed and wanned. Sometimes being prolific, other times vary dry. Sometimes feeling like I was a recording artist, other times wondering if I’d ever record again.

I was almost scared to plan on it’s future occurence, as I worried that I would be disappointed if it didn’t come, or that I may jinx it. The thing that would ‘come’ being, the creativity, the song, the urge. So accordingly, one may be a bit reluctant to rearrange their life to obtain recording equipment.

But where I sit now, having released a fucking ton of records, I’m beginning to think that maybe it’s going to continue. That may sound crazy, but I really don’t trust it. Hell, I’m even scared to jinx it by writing this now.

***

Regardless, I just want to try and convey the importance at which I hold the act of recording, and the beauty and amazement I feel in the magic state surrounding the production of recorded music. It’s been one of the most important, and empowering things I’ve ever done in my life. And it’s something I’ve been doing for about 26 years now. And for that, I am so very thankful to have learned to do it.

About The Site

Llamatism is a collection of things, a cabinet of curiosities, and reports from explorations on things, by Gary Llama.

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