I get it guys, I honestly do. You’re a musician and you want to break the mold, stand out in the crowd, and be fucking special and different. But the fact of the matter is we’re not talking about space travel or engineering, we’re talking about making music and whether you like it or not, there are guidelines that make sense and have been refined over centuries with the purpose of creating beauty, then you, special person, came along.
The guidelines I’m very specifically referring to are called genres, and while a great many of you are likely to show up at my door with pitchforks (or even just my email because my timing in writing this is fucking spectacular), I don’t personally give a fuck, because you, my dear reader/composer/whatever you wanna refer to yourself as today, need to come to terms with a few things.
First and most importantly, you are not “experimental.” This isn’t fucking chemistry class. You’re not cracking the cure for cancer, and just because you wanna play a metal riff,then a punk one, and then some crap you heard out of a fucking circus one time, doesn’t make you clever, it makes you a teeny tiny bit of a jackass for making people honestly try to listen and support you without getting a full case of fucking whiplash. Same goddamn thing goes for the term “extreme” I see tossed around left and right. Wanna fuck around with time signatures and tempos? Cool, you’re progressive. Wanna dance around with song structuring and textures or whatever shit? Maybe you’re post. Wanna add some instruments that no one has ever heard of or even style bend a little bit? Awesome, you’re likely avant-garde. There’s a name for everything and you are more than capable of doing your homework and knowing what exactly to call yourself. so I the writer, don’t then need to try and interpret this like a grade school finger painting. Think of it like a periodic table of elements, and just because you shat into a microphone by whatever means you so please it, doesn’t mean you’ve necessarily discovered something.
Now I know what your next move in this imaginary argument we’re having is going to be. You’re going to go and name drop on bands like Meshuggah. That’s easy, that’s not an experimental band, that’s a progressive death metal band. Then you’re going to try and go obscure and drop Zeal & Ardor on me, and I’ll be proud of you young hipster, but that’s a gospel inspired black metal band, or if you wanna take it real easy, avant-garde metal. Hell, you can even hit me close to the heart and go with Sleep Token, to which I’ll slap you back with progressive metalcore no matter how many fucky synths and wild compositional choices you wanna throw in there you gorgeous angels. The fact of the matter is you’re more than capable of defining what you do, and your overwhelming desire to style bend and claim uniqueness out of indecisiveness doesn’t make you a better musician. Oftentimes it means you’re hiding the fact that you haven’t properly taught yourself your instrument but you want so badly to skip steps.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t be creative, and I’m not saying everything that comes across my ears labeled “experimental” is bad. What I am saying is be real, learn your shit, play to your strengths, and if you wanna pull a Thank you Scientist and call yourself something wild like “Post Genre Sweet Potato Polka” after you’ve attended fucking Berklee then who the fuck am I to stop you. But if you take yourself too seriously in this pursuit of changing the game to better suit your desires of being the next Neil Peart (rest easy you groovy saint), then don’t always expect a pundit like my excessively grumpy self to take you seriously. Call me uninspired, call me stiff, hell you can call me whatever you like, but call yourself by a proper genre and stick to the fucking program.
Written by Jason Greenberg
*Edited by Dominic Abate