I almost feel like providing a list of influences is self-condeming because many artists in the world today seem to think that you only play music like your influences play. The reality is, I get inspiration and influences from almost everything in the world. I can draw on emotions I feel about a certain moment in time or a certain place or even a certain state of mind that I am currently in and it may impact the music I write. However, I will do my best to give you an idea of the kinds of things that I listen to and have listened to and you might be able to pick out influences in my music but it will certainly not be just a carbon copy of the styles I like.
I learned the art of playing the trombone when I was 11 years old and although I was never some highly lauded trombone player, I did learn the basics of music theory, notes, chords, syncopation, etc from a classical angle. My mother is a pianist and so was my sister at one time so I learned how to play the piano by proxy and always had a piano nearby that I could play with. I also got a taste of pop instrumental music by playing in the orchestra at my church. If the mood suits me, you may find me listening to classics such as Mozart, Chopin, Bach, and many classical artists.
Furthermore, my father was a self-taught guitarist who learned how to play some of the more guitar heavy classics of the 1950’s and used it to woo my mother. He could play the Beach Boys, The Ventures, and many other songs in his heyday. It was by luck that he happened to keep his old Teisco Del Ray guitar under the bed at our house and his old tube amplifier. At first, I would play this guitar without his knowledge, hoping he wouldn’t get on to me for doing so but he eventually figured out that I was playing it and actually encouraged me quite a bit. On occasion, he would pick up his guitar after I played it and would try to play the guitar until his fingers would hurt (usually pretty quickly). When I purchased my first guitar on my own, he paid for me to get guitar lessons from a local musician and found that I did learn to play somewhat so he kept paying for lessons until my life got too busy.
I have played guitar for over 16 years and created my own songs here and there. I played with a few buddies in a band I called “Spectrum” until I moved to Memphis, TN for a year in high school and I joined a local punk group called Fabric of Noise. Our concerts never got bigger than a few friends visiting the house when we played but we had lots of fun! When I came back to Oklahoma my senior year of high school, I played for a year or so with my friend “Ase” Anthony Martin and a parade of local musicians who often left the group because we didn’t like them getting high and trying to play. Ase played drums and I played guitar and occasionally, I would run drums for him while he played some of his music on the guitar. We used to make recordings on an old shoebox tape recorder by sitting it in my dad’s living room in the middle of the floor.
While living in rural Oklahoma, my first car only had a standard AM/FM radio. No tape player, no CD, just a radio. I could listen to the local country stations (there were about 3 LOL) or I could listen to the Classic rock station so I spent most of my time listening to the big names of the 60’s and 70’s such as Led Zepplin, George Thorogood and the Destroyers, The Rolling Stones, etc. Even still, MTV actually showed music videos back in that day so if I was at home, I would listen to the 90’s rock, heavily grunge influenced music such as Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Stone Temple Piolots, The Wallflowers, etc. Plus, my brother had an extensive collection of CD’s and tapes with everything from The Cure to New Order or Pink Floyd so I spent a lot of time sampling his collection too. You can hear Southern Rock, Grunge, and many other styles in my guitar works.
I mentioned earlier that I did spend a year in Memphis, TN which was mostly due to the high tensions between my mom and dad as they went through a divorce so my compassionate brother and his concerned wife took me into their home to give me a taste of life with happier people. It was here that I got just… plunged into the world of Mississippi delta blues music because you can’t live in that city and not feel like the damp delta climate happened to soak you into the blues. I spent every possible chance I could wandering around Beale Street and the surrounding area. It was here that I would watch large black men with guitars thump out the blues for tips on the streets and I would hear a rockabilly style music resonating from the concert halls as I passed by their doors. To make matters more interesting, I spent a few years of my life actually living in the REAL southern Ghetto. My brother wanted to get me into the schools at Marion, AR (just a 15 minute drive from Memphis) but was barely making scraps as a teacher in a distressed school district and my sister in law worked mostly temp jobs in marketing and public relations so we didn’t have much. The only place we could afford was in Harvard Yard, a 98% black neighborhood just south of the dangerous city of Sunset, AR (as close to Compton, CA as the deep south really got). The house was barely big enough to have three people in it and we constantly got broken into. But on the flip side of that, I met an awesome guitarist who simply went by “E” (I think it stood for Ezekiel) and we would spend mornings sitting on top of an old cable spool that we used as a table and he would plug his bass up and I would plug my guitar up and we would ‘see what happened.’ I also spent a lot of time listening to hip hop and crunk rap.. you couldn’t get away from it… and it was even during this time that I had my one and only chance to meet BB King which is a story for another day.
Returning back to Oklahoma as a late teenager, I was introduced to the world of Japanese Anime by a few good friends of mine and soon began listening to alot of J-Pop music that was popular among many anime of the time and even some I discovered on my own. I would listen to Megumi Hayashibara, Noriko Sakai, X-Japan, and even the fiery works of JAM Project. Although I wouldn’t say that you will find too much of that in my musical style, you might notice some of the background layers and other things drawing upon the lighter pop music of that style that sneak their way into my songs but I wouldn’t count on it.
You might even hear my hip hop/rap influences in some of the style of my music. When I came back, a changed person, from Memphis, I listened to some of the rap artists I had listened to there but I was introduced to the Insane Clown Possee (ICP). Don’t moan and groan! Not everyone likes them but those guys are about as real as it gets when it comes to expressing what it feels like to not really fit in anywhere. Futhermore, being an angry teenager, listening to ICP gave me a chance to spew out my anger in a song instead of on a poor, unsuspecting teacher. To this day, I still cannot find any group of fans that are more welcoming and open than Juggalos. If you don’t believe me, go to an ICP concert with an open mind. Sure, you might get stomped on during a song in the mosh pit but I promise you, people will pick you up and dust you off if they see you and people will start randomly shouting “Family! Family!” and it wont feel like a false statement, they mean it! You will probably hear some of those hip hop sounds mixed in with my stuff even though I don’t listen to the group as often anymore.
As I began to grow up and when I finally gave my life to God 100% back in 2005, I have grown rather attached to Contemporary Christian artists. I listen to Air1 radio some days and even if I am not listening there, many of the songs I hear there and those of artists I found on Air1 have made their way on to my iPod. Now, I am not as fond of the slower, quieter songs and artists unless I am in that mood or worshipping at church but I do really enjoy the more rock and punk inspired acts from this genre including Relient K, Thousand Foot Krutch, DC Talk (and now TobyMac), the southern inspired Needtobreathe, and even the hardcore rappers of the genre such as LeCrae, Manafest, and KJ-52.
As if I didn’t confuse you enough, I noticed that once I started trying to write electronic music that I actually had very little material to draw off as most of my experience with electronic music was based off of hearing only popular electronic artists like Fatboy Slim, Lo Fidelity Allstars, and The Crystal Method. That being the case, I created a Pandora station using a few of these artists and adding DJ Tiesto, someone that a good friend of mine from college was quite fond of. Now that I have listened to over 500 hours of elecronic music, I would say that I am drawing influences from some of heavy electronica artists like The Crystal Method, Asphalt Jungle, and The Prodigy and then drawing some more melodic influences from artists like Royksopp, Hyper, and Culprit 1. When I began the creation of the Currents EP album, I wanted to take in some concepts that were currently popular in the EDM space and I found my way to Skrillex, Zomboy, and the Qemists. As a result of that, the Currents EP has a prevalence of Dubstep, Brostep and drum n bass elements.
I am sure that as I continue to grow as a musician, this list will grow larger and larger. But for now, I think I have discussed my music influences rather deeply. But the bottom line is that the music I create is my own… no one can take it from me and no one can replicate it and keep the soul that makes it what it is. I hope that you have found this information useful but at least a few steps shy of boring.