Not too long ago, after playing a successful coffeehouse gig. I
found myself engaged in a very heavy conversation with a fan.
He is a university professor who instructs a course in one of
those classic American subjects that are always different than
the high school version. Going deeper in to the conversation, he
asked me about the challenges that I go through to improve myself.
Not just musically, mind you, but in life in general. Being a
sucker for this kind of talk I delved in deeper.
"A challenge to myself?" I thought. "In
what way?" "Well, DeLonde," the Prof began,
"Are you able to step back from the big picture and ask
yourself, what's wrong with the picture?" "You mean,
what could I do to improve it?" I asked back.
"Exactly," said the Prof. "Is there a willingness
not being satisfied and moving on?" With my mind still in
post-gig mode, I was still thinking about music. What could I do
to improve it. Where would I go from here? What are my
challenges? I then thought about the Sheep Fiends. I did. Really.
A few memories were triggered...
December 28, 1995. Lunar Cabaret... Our first
real gig. Sure there were a couple of shows and a party here and
there, but this was the real deal now. We sent a tape to someone
we didn't know and that someone listened, liked us and gave us a
chance. Yeah, we sounded good. But it still felt like a typical
jam. Put together on-the-fly, somewhat confusing, quite loud and
incoherent in a few spots. It took forever to set up, too.
Several decibels and an hour and a half later, the owners thanked
us and invited us back. Success. Then a challenge... Could we
perform our jams without breaking the mood or the music?
March 12, 1996. The Heartland Cafe... All the
songs were called "Spacey Jam," dedicated to Deb. All
the songs flowed; we listened to each other. Experimented with
dynamic textures more. Used more percussion and less guitars. We
relied more on the vocals and pocketed the groove so well that
something happened that never occurred at any Sheep Fiends show
or jam. Those who listened, danced. The next challenge was clear.
We had to write songs.
September 26th, 1996. Lounge Ax. We're
headlining. Within a record four weeks, we cull together five
songs, put together in such a fashion that it could have been a
symphony for rock band in five movements. Effortlessly, the music
moved from a neo-tribal drum circle, to a quiet acoustic guitar
instrumental, to the trademark jam, building up to chaos, ending
in a blues song. People danced. Minds were blown. We were asked
to come back. Success. The next challenge ... um ... What is the
January 26, 1997. Brian Cameron's living room...
The day was just too damn snowy. To get to the new rehearsal
space. We, being myself, Brian, Paul, Phil, Dave Ladd and Kim
remember how to rig the system, living room-style. We just
brought ourselves back to ground zero. Putting ourselves in
"the moment" and waiting for the perfect riff, the
right sound. Just enough distortion... We left that jam with two
new songs we promise ourselves to fix, rewrite, learn, or maybe
find lyrics to sing along with.
"So," the Professor asks me, breaking my train of
thought, What's the challenge of moving on?" "Um, the
challenge of moving on is... moving itself?"
"Exactly," the Prof says with a smile. Luck guess I
thought. "So I guess," I tell the Prof, "I step
back and look at the picture and asks what's wrong?"
"Uh-huh. And what do you see what's wrong?" Long pause.
Longer than silence pause. Then I confess: "I don't
know." The Prof smiles. "Good start." Ah, Zen and
the Art of Music. "And here is where you start a new
painting" Thanks Prof. Gimme the brush.
-DeLonde J. Bell 8 Mar 97