A story about my life in music and links to six free album downloads.
A music video I made about mental illness and big pharma. This original song is called Cold Turkey.
A small collection of some of my favourite random recordings of me.
These are some of my favourite production projects. I record, mix and mastered all of these tracks with the exception of the Above & Beyond remix vocal stem.
I put together a trio and recorded this demo of three songs live (stereo mic'd) in my new studio space.
Producer Cameron Lawrence was gracious enough to ask me to write and sing the lyrics and melody to one of his amazing tracks.
If you're crazy enough to have been watching the news lately, it may feel like we're living in troubled times. I got together with producer Cameron Lawrence and he had a very intriguing challenge for me. He had this track recorded instrumentally, but no melody or lyrics. We managed to score two hours of studio time in a pro-studio and I wrote the lyrics, felt out the melody and laid down the vocals for this track in the allotted two hour time. I think it turned out great and I got to express some powerful feelings I was having at the time. Here's our track Troubled Times.
I decided to sing my heart out in The Vault, showcasing some of my latest songs (live off the floor) with an intimate acoustic trio. If you would like to download these three tracks, they are available free on SoundCloud for a limited time.
These are a collection of recordings that have stood the test of time. We decorate walls with art, we decorates time with music; And these songs paint an abstract picture of my life in music. Covers, Orphans, Demos and the obscure. I think it's pretty obvious that I love music and that it's a deep and permanent part of my creative life. I hope you find joy, love, consciousness and maybe some distraction from these sounds of my past, both recent and not so recent.
This song depicts the emotional struggle I went through on my journey getting off of mental health pharmaceuticals. It is an artistic depiction of approximately a year of my life as my brain readjusted to being drug free. It was a living Hell and I sincerely feel for anyone that has gone through this process or similar situations. All the power to you for choosing to live a sober and conscious life. It is %100 worth the immense efforts that it takes to reclaim your mind, body and soul. Read the story below for more details.
You decorate a wall with pictures, you decorate time with music. My music is a diary of my growth though time. I don't really choose to be a songwriter. It's much more of a compulsive need for emotional release to cope with the crisis of existence or existential crisis. Life can be very troubling and upsetting at times. That said, it can also be every exciting and joyful. It's a challenge for me to cope with the spectrum of experiences and the emotions, as I'm sure it is for most human beings. So, for me, it is a necessity to my survival that I must write and perform music. I am compelled to write, create, vent and sway with the music or else I get overwhelmed and become very ill. I've proven this time and time again when I neglect my musical maintenance cycle. The prospect that I can actually perform these musical diary entries and other people might relate to them and take some solace in my art is a very special side effect of this predicament.
I have been writing and performing since I was fourteen years old. I began performing when prompted by my Grade 9 guitar class teacher, the beloved Miss Harker, at McRoberts Secondary School in Richmond, BC. She saw that I was shy and prone to anxiety (and likely dancing somewhere within the autistic spectrum), but I also carried a lot of emotional and creative potential. While the class was busy learning the 'C' chord en masse, I was given the opportunity to seclude myself in a lovely little soundproof room and learn independently. The caveat being, that I was to perform the music I was studying, one new piece of music per week. Hot crossed buns soon turned into David Bowie covers and that little music room turned into an escape for a socially beleaguered young man with a tumultuous home life.
Year after year, I returned to the sanctuary of that music room. I was given access at lunch time and occasionally after school, to explore music and have a safe space to express myself. In hindsight, it was one of the most important places for personal development during my formative years.
Shortly after learning guitar and joining jazz choir, I began to organize my own productions. I started the Groovey Karma Cafe at a local heritage site called Britannia Shipyards. I borrowed equipment and lights from various sources and would book other local songwriters to perform on a makeshift stage in a beautiful heritage building. The Boat Works building was a special City allotment where highly skilled woodworkers made and repaired wooden boats. I always thought it was quite an honour that the boat craftsman would move these massive projects aside and clear a space for us. I eventually found myself with a hand full of volunteers and, ever the entrepreneur, I would charge a two dollars entrance fee. The coins would then immediately be pooled to buy pizza for all the musicians and volunteers that helped make the events happen. And so, my career in music began.
I made my first album in 2006 by setting up a Shure SM58 microphone in front of my computer and singing my heart out. The lo-fi recording was full of youthful idealism, passion and angst. Do to its rudimentary nature I called it Cold Winter Drafts. It was very well received by my friends and community. I even had a small review write-up in the local paper (by my childhood neighbour Marty Sills, he was very generous and gave me 4 out of 5 stars, stating I had real potential.)
In 2009, in the midst of mental health challenges and a rather heavy prozac/ativan dependence, I decided to take my music a step further. I basically locked myself in my bedroom for 3 months and, by using loops and various recorded instruments, I produced a much more complicated record, Angel Of Victory. The music was solid and much more pop/rock oriented. It sounded professional and I was quite happy with it. At the time I thought it was my ticket to stardom. I even received heavy rotation airplay from the first track off the album, Battered One, on Caper Radio in Nova Scotia. Though it was a well put together solo effort, my community was much less supportive and the efforts felt like a disappointing failure to young man with greater than reasonable expectations. Looking back, I am still impressed that I pulled off ten songs with full production with very little outside help. That said, I should thank Ross Fairbairn for giving me a computer to record on, the encouragement to persevere and for pressing record while I was in my clothes closet performing.
After the less than star studded reception of Angel of Victory, I fell into a deep depression. I was seeing a psychiatrist that, in efforts to make me feel better, prescribed a vast array of intense drug trials while digging into childhood traumas. The process made me more and more ill. Memories get pretty foggy around this time. I tried to keep gigging and had some good shows and house gigs that made me pocket money, but all in all I was very ill and very confused. If you can avoid taking pharmaceuticals (generally) and specifically anti-depressants and psych-pharmaceuticals, do just that. Avoid them! Exercise, sleep, healthy food, and lifestyle changes that get you out of bad and stressful situations are the keys to a healthy drug-free life. That's my experience.
After a time I started a trio called Beautiful Sound Machine. For a time it was going alright, but with my mental health deteriorating and a lack of much needed support from band mates; Things ended less than amicably. The pressures of being a band leader and health troubles proved more than I could handle. We tried to patch together a record with a lovely producer who goes by the name of BigRed, but sadly the groups performances weren't up to a level that I could feel satisfied releasing, so I paid off the band buried the recordings; Until now. You can hear, Black Coffee Weekend, my drug addled renditions of some quite lovely songs by downloading the album from the link below this article.
After the bands ugly breakup, things got very dark and in a very upset state I decided life was too hard to go on with. In hindsight, I needed better friends, more support, some serious self-worth development and a psychologist, NOT a drug pushing psychiatrist. Long story short, I ended up in the hospital once... and then again; Where I was finally taken off all my medications, cold turkey. For an artistic depiction of what that was like please see my music video (above this article) for the original song I wrote and recorded with producer Neil Miskin, Cold Turkey.
Luckily, I found the strength to turn my back on the medical system that had made me far more ill than I had been going into it. I found a wonderful female psychologist that agreed to work with me, even though I was still very very mentally ill and refusing biological therapy (a deceiving term for drugs.) Once I developed the courage to finally leave my darkened bedroom and get out of the house while enduring severe panic attacks and agoraphobia, a process that took about a year, I would go to the gym. My psychologist convinced me that I could build knew healthy brain tissue exercise and meditation. So, I would bring a book and exercise on the elliptical machine while inevitably and consistently crying public. My brain chemistry was just so fucked up. Every day the cycle continued, but I maintained faith that some day things would improve. I would wake up with a panic attack and shiver and shudder my way into a hot shower to get my muscles to calm down enough to dress and get some food and water in me. Then back to the elliptical to burry my face behind a book and cry while exercising. Why was I crying? Good question. Nerves, stress, the loss of so many years of my life to bad therapy, my mind readjusting to the damage done my SSRI's (and all the other pills...) All of the above and more I guess. But, the important thing was that I was out of the house and doing something. The fact that I was crying all the time in a public gym may have earned me the reputation of that strange big guy that cries all the time, but people accepted me and/or ignored me and that was a huge point of progress. I could be myself, however I was at the time, in public. Occasionally people asked if I was alright and I would graciously thanks them for their inquiry and set their mind at ease. I was being brave! And once I wasn't embarrassed as much, I could reflect and see myself as being brave. That was a huge self-esteem milestone.
This process continued for approximately a year, accompanied by daily meditation for about an hour a day. I got very good at meditation and learned so much from my inner journeys. The kind of lessons that you don't quite understand and could never put into words, but they helped big time! Time passed and I did improve and continue to improv exponentially to this day. Self-actualization, self-awareness and self-love are all practises that are based on progress and not perfection. I will practise developing these skills and more, as we all will, until the end of my time in this body and beyond for all eternity. But that's a topic for my RobLog. Check out my blog postings on all sorts of topics here.
As my recovery rolled forward, I came to a cathartic crossroads that I decided to capture in the best way I knew how. I found out that my parents had decided to sell our home, the home I had lived in (more or less) my entire life thus far. In the town where I am from, money has been flooding in from China for quite some time and an old 1950's house was not in favour for the speculative housing market of Richmond, BC. Canada. My childhood home was going to be torn down. But, before it was torn down, all items packed and shipped away, I brought out my camera. I documented every room of the house. I took photos of all the nooks and crannies that held memories from all the years gone by. I remembered my formative Christmases and skinned knees. The blueberry bushes out back and the garage where my Father taught me so many skills that would last a lifetime. I was the last person to have a key to the house and I wasn't going to miss that opportunity.
Photography wasn't enough for my musical soul. There had to be a recording. I invited all my closest friends, set up the gear in my childhood living room, and played my guts out as a final goodbye. I called the record Home and accompanied it with the Home Photographic Compendium featuring my photographic documentation of my childhood home with memories written for each photo. I gave my Grandmother the photo book and she cried. She told me it was the best present I could have ever given her. She was there from the very beginning when the house was purchased in 1977, through the financial interest rate/mortgage crisis in early 1980's, through the big fire next door where we lost 3 of our beloved neighbours. My parents liked the book, but Grandma understood it. She understood the weight of it and what I was trying to capture. It wasn't just a house, it was a home, my home; Like a deeply loved relative was passing on for all eternity. When a childhood home is torn down, you can never get it back. Creative types see the deeper meta-physics of it all and sometimes....most of the time... I think that's more important than the phenom of "reality." The record Home and the .PDF version of the Home Photographic Compendium are both available in a free download link below, along with the other recordings I've mentioned previously.
Time passed once again, as time tends to do. I had a wonderful opportunity to record an acoustic EP with an old friend that I played in one of my first rock bands with. Stewart Hope was going through some of his own personal development and saw that I need an outlet for my new music and more importantly my emotions. He had the patience to work with me in his quiet library and we took a couple days to record The Hope Sessions. The original intention was to sell the record to raise money for a mental health charity. After an extensive social media campaign, not one person purchased the album, so the project was scrapped (in its official capacity.) It's now available free in a link below and I still think it's well worth a listen.
Then came a lovely take on my songs as encouraged by my wonderful girlfriend at the time. I performed all the songs in an intimate setting, just me and my acoustic guitar. These are some of my favourite recordings. The simplicity and the warmth of the performances ring true. This album is called For An Audience Of One.
That brings us to more recent times. Mental health, physical health and financial health are always challenging for good and growing people. I am doing leaps and bounds better than I was in previous times. I have a wonderful multidisciplinary art studio in my hometown. I have beloved friends and good family relationships. I have worked as an advocate in a range of avenues and taken on more artistic projects than I can count. I try to take things one day at a time and progress at a reasonable and healthy pace. I have much more love, support and understanding for the people that touch my life these days and I am ever so grateful that I have been given this opportunity to grow through experiences, even the dark and painful ones. I have a profound love for all things great and small and I try to maintain a positive personal attitude in the face of the hard truths that come to light more and more these days. The world is changing and the brave and creative souls will determine whether it changes for the better or worse. I intend to be in the change for the better category, if you haven't already guessed. Please feel free to indulge freely in the downloads of all the records I have mentioned previously in this article. Share the music with your friends and feel free to cover the songs yourself, if you are the musical type. I would love to hear your take on my songs. In preparing the files, I realize there are a few takes of the same songs; Typical results of perfectionism meets OCD. In hindsight I know that nothing is ever perfect and that in itself is the incommensurable perfection of the universe. Just know that the different takes are from different times and each hold a unique value at their place in that time.
These days, I am currently working on a vast array of projects in music, film, photography and visual arts. I am enjoying teaching guitar and other lessons from my beautiful new studio. My skills and passion for arts are great joys in my life. I like to keep busy and strive to make positive contributions to the world. I also have a new record in the works that I am once again self-producing. I look forward to painting the halls of time with yet another musical journal entry. Maybe I will make more regular journal entries in the coming years, I have a feeling that would be good for me. Thank you so much for reading this. It means a lot to me that you may be interested in my works, in whatever forms they take. May your journey be well my friend. Life is far too short, I hope that you find the chance to live yours the way you want and to its fullest.
Love to you and yours,
An intimate bedroom session for an audience of one that encouraged me to get back into performing after a long hiatus.
Recorded by producer Stewart Hope in his home library. A passionate acoustic rendition of some of my songs.
A live solo concert in my childhood home's living-room just before it was torn down. A passionate performance surrounded by a jam packed crowd of friends and loved ones. Includes an eBook with photos.
An album of my songs that I work on with band Beautiful Sound Machine. The album was never released. Produced by BigRed. See the article above this section for more details.
Self produced, recorded, mixed and masters during an intense three months locked in my bedroom. This full band album is one of my more proud accomplishments from my younger years.
My first album of original music. A heart full of youthful passion directed at a single Shure SM58 microphone. This remains one of my best collection of performances to this day and the album where my journey as a recording artist truly begins.
I graduated with a diploma in Audio Engineering from Recording Arts Canada in 2002. Since then I have been involved in more projects than I can count, on a vast selection of gear, all across Canada.
Throughout my career, I have been lucky enough to learn from some of the best in the music industry. I studied under Nick Blagona, Bob Doidge, Martin Pilchner, and many more longstanding legends in the music business while attending Recording Arts Canada. Then I had the pleasure and peril of working with more wonderful artists and various professionals than I can count and every one has taught me valuable lessons that I carry with me everyday.
Special thanks to Ms Harker, my grade nine guitar class teacher for believing in me. I wouldn't have made it this far without you.