WEEKEND GUPDATE – Why I Rock (the calling…)

[Editor’s Note: You know how in some video games there is a “secret door” that leads to more riches or super powers? This blog post is like one of those. I think if you read it to the end, you will leave empowered. I could be wrong, but I guarantee there are some “secret doors” in here (links) that will lead to cool things…]

Hi Guppies.

The New Year is always a good time for reflection, to assess one’s life and dreams and goals and aspirations.

I wanted to take this opportunity to share with all of you the reason why I “rock-n-roll.”

Simply put, it is my CALLING. I’ve always been good at music and enjoyed it my whole life, as a hobby. About five years ago I received what some would call a MISSION FROM GOD, but being an atheist heathen, I just called it a VISION. It was Memorial Day weekend, 2004. I had just made the decision to quit drinking alcohol, for health reasons, and I found that I had tons of reserve mental energy as a result, that I needed to channel into something. Perhaps it just started out as a distraction – the way some people, bored with life, distract their minds with video games, I turned to the real life version of “Guitar Hero.” But I soon found myself on the edge of a cliff, looking out over my future and realizing that I had a VISION for rock-n-roll music I needed to pursue with every ounce of my being.

And so my quest began, rather humbly. I had had this VISION all along, but for a large part of my young adult life, I think it had been obscured by the realities and obstacles of life, not the least of which was my habit of partying a lot. Thus, when I quit drinking, some of the fog was lifted and that gave me a clarity to see the (potential) future. I saw the VISION of the music/band I wanted to create and I was able to look at my life and circumstances and make the changes that would get me there. Note: I still party just as hard…I found out I can be just as retarded socially without drinking as I was before, so nothing really changed for me there.

I could have let the dream die. But my soul would have died with it. That would be sad. I have seen too many people sacrifice their dreams in pursuit of material things, because society told them too. I don’t want to live as a zombie. I like having a soul. That is what they mean when they talk about “selling your soul.” Not me, man!

I started GUPPY EFFECT for a simple reason. It was to rock – that is, to create a special high quality rock-n-roll experience like how it used to be before THE MAN corrupted it with bland commercial drivel. I wanted to put on a unique, energetic, interesting rock show, different than any other. I wanted to be the next Led Zeppelin, only better. I wanted music that broke the rules of the conventional. I wanted rock-n-roll for ME!

This is my chosen purpose in life, and I work hard every day to achieve it. Am I there yet? Heavens no! Some days it seems like a distant will-o-the-wisp, always out of reach. Other days, something magical happens and we pull off something AMAZINGLY COOL! Yet still, I pursue the dream regardless. The goal is to bring the VISION to reality, by whatever means necessary, and even though I may never get there, the calling is my journey of life, the daily struggle to produce the kicking-est assing-est rock-n-roll I can. That is my quest and it fills me with glee to do battle with the forces that try to crush the soul of good rock-n-roll music.

I am not alone. There is a legion of awesome rockers out there. It is just that you will rarely hear any of them on commercial radio. Or if you do, it usually isn’t their best work. I’m not even suggesting I rank very high in their numbers. There are many more rocking than me, and I have a long way to go. But a lot of what makes rocking so great and filled with passion is the STRUGGLE itself. That comes through in the music, transcending it in that way that can only be described as “the rocking.”

GUPPY EFFECT is the manifestation of my rock-n-roll VISION. You can call it a “brand” for lack of a better word. It is a purified, distilled, clarified, crystallized, focused version of former band incarnations that were more random and directionless than GUPPY EFFECT. A few things are constant…

1. The band is always a power trio. Three is the MAGIC NUMBER and less is more.
2. The music always rocks, even the slower material (which is rare).
3. The art is uncompromising, autonomous, and unspoiled.

Everything else is frosting on the cake, the random variation that makes it all interesting and unique every time. Yeah, we have about five different drummers on call for live shows. This always makes it interesting and forces us to mix up the set list and try different things. Some people think it is weird for a band to cycle through various session drummers. We don’t care. That is part of the GUPPY EFFECT brand. Some day we might settle on a permanent drummer, but right now all the drummers prefer it this way because they also play in other bands, and that’s fine. We make the rules. That is why our rock-n-roll is so great. Because it is FREE, in the sense of independent. THE MAN can’t touch us or our rock-n-roll, and boy does HE hate that! (That is why I am always saying how your SUPPORT goes indirectly to thwarting THE MAN at every turn…it does so just by our existence, and your support amplifies our ability to make taunting faces at THE MAN, as he glares at us from a distance…).

Producing awesome live and recorded ORIGINAL rock-n-roll music is my vision and my dream. I am compelled to do it, even if not a single one of you feels compelled to come see a SHOW or listen to a SONG. While it saddens me if people who should hear my music don’t, that has no bearing on my making the music. I have to do it. I do my best to publicize it, but you can only lead a horse to water (that’s why I am often encouraging you to tell a friend – not because I need some kind of public approval for my rocking, just because you might have friends who don’t suck and would appreciate this rock-n-roll…but even if they don’t, it doesn’t matter. Does GOD need approval from mortals for what he does? OK, bad analogy…).

I do rock-n-roll for the PURE CREATION itself…for the manifestation of the BEAST I have branded GUPPY EFFECT with a red-hot branding iron forged in the pits of Hades. Those of you who have seen a show or downloaded a song know the GUPPY EFFECT brand of rock in all its glory.

But you probably don’t know the blood, sweat, and tears I pour into GUPPY EFFECT behind the scenes to make the recorded songs or the live shows you hear so great. And I don’t really care. I don’t need your sympathy. I only want to create the best possible rock-n-roll experience I can with the resources I have available, primarily talented and dedicated musicians who share my passion and vision, as well as modern technology that allows me (and you!) to now inexpensively record high quality music in your own home. I love it when you enjoy MY MUSIC, but I don’t quit rocking if you don’t.

I built my own home studio so that when inspiration knocks, I can grab it without fear or any hassles. I can go to my studio whenever I want, any time of day or night, and I often do. I invested a lot of money up front to build it, but now I have very low overhead. I don’t have to pay an overpriced professional recording studio or travel anywhere, and I have full autonomy over when and where I produce music. THE MAN can’t thwart my rock-n-roll just because he holds the money. Money is irrelevant now.

Rocking is something that I have to do and if I am not doing it, I am empty inside. Which is why I am always doing it. It is kind of like how Batman feels compelled to fight crimes. It is his calling and he cannot resist the call. The same goes for me, with rocking. I guess you can say rocking is my “super power” and I use it to make the world a better place. My arch enemy is mediocrity and bland, commercial, uninteresting music. Sometimes I get my ass kicked, just like Batman sometimes does. I make mistakes and miscalculate. Or sometimes NATURE chucks an ice storm at Wisconsin right before a big show. Or sometimes I overestimate people’s desire to party on a school night. But I get right back up and keep fighting. And I want to thank everyone who has ever given me a word of support or a helping hand to make sure I keep going strong. When I do eventually die, my music will be my legacy and everyone will probably want it then, even if they don’t now. But why wait? It’s still the same high quality rock-n-roll and it always will be.

Sometimes, it has been hard for me to find people who share my VISION to produce a better brand of rock-n-roll. I can’t impose my calling on others. All I can do is look for like-minded souls willing to give their all to create something awesome or die trying. A lot of the musicians I have tried to play with have their hang-ups and stereotypes about what rock-n-roll is SUPPOSED to be. Some think it is all about partying, with music secondary. Others simply think it is about laziness and so they never turned up to rehearse or learn new songs, and the music stagnated. Others had delusions of grandeur unconstrained by any speck of reality, so the music suffered in silence. Occasionally, I found a compatriot who shared my desire to create a singular and unique rock-n-roll experience. Guitarist Stefan Chandler is one such artist, and sometimes he even puts me to shame, taking the initiative to do things I might have only mentioned trivially in a passing conversation. Stefan is an inpiration who makes me keep my shoulder to the grindstone and that’s exactly what my rock-n-roll VISION requires, hard work and dedication. I can’t slack off for a minute with Stefan on my rock-n-roll team.

Then there is drummer Greg Schmitt. He is one of the many session drummers who cycle through GUPPY EFFECT’s transom, and he is probably the most regular and reliable. If we ever did have to settle on a permanent drummer, it would likely be Greg, because he has the best attitude of any musician I have ever known. He is good-natured and willing to work hard to get the music sounding good. He knows what’s expected and he likes to bring the rock-n-roll THUNDER.

The evil forces of THE MAN are no match for this team of rockers.

Lastly, I just want everyone to know I don’t rock-n-roll for money or fame. I rock-n-roll for PURITY. I want to manifest my pure vision for awesome rock-n-roll in this world before I die. I would be honored if a few people listened to it and appreciated it, but I don’t need that. What I need is TOTAL AUTONOMY over my creativity and art. I won’t compromise it or prostitute it to please other people. That is what DAY JOBS are for…

What other band do you know puts out an alternative Holiday Christmas song called “Gingerbread (Zombie) Army” as a counterpoint to all the bland milquetoast material that is out there?

And then gives it away FREE!

Only GUPPY EFFECT does that, because we can. We don’t care what anyone thinks of this song. All we know is that we loved making it and we love listening to it. We know there are some people out there who will enjoy this rocking musical composition for its humor and its artistic integrity. Those people “rock” as far as GUPPY EFFECT is concerned, and those are the only people who I want to share my gifts with, people who “rock” like I do. The naysayers and the critiques and THE MAN and the culturally illiterate are completely IRRELEVANT to GUPPY EFFECT‘s music. And more importantly, they are POWERLESS against it, because I have built my own AUTONOMOUS rock-n-roll empire that is MINE and no one else’s. I can’t make a music fan like my music. I can’t make a music publisher accept my music for a film soundtrack. All I can do is follow my VISION and produce the best new rock-n-roll music I am able to.

This is also why, for a long time I worked a day job for THE MAN. I used to say THE MAN was my musical “underwriter,” even though HE probably didn’t see it that way. I didn’t want to rely on my music for money and survival. I wanted to be able to create my music as a FREE AGENT, and a day job allowed me to do that because it paid the bills and paid for my home studio and other things. But it never paid for the MUSIC. Because I created that with MY MIND and it didn’t cost a thing. It is my INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY, and only I can decide what I want to do with it. Right now, I want YOU to have it and enjoy it. I make it available cheap or free, even though it is priceless.

I had to “fire” my boss last April for being lame. That didn’t stop me from finding other sources of musical underwriting, because when you have a CALLING, you find a way. Some of the ways are even cooler than working for THE MAN and give me more autonomy than he ever did. I started doing freelance writing and I now rent part of my house to two super awesome roommates, which pretty much covers my only outstanding debt – a mortgage. I perform live music with a bunch of other bands besides GUPPY EFFECT to make music income that doesn’t compromise my values with regard to MY MUSIC. GUPPY EFFECT plays fewer live shows, because I want them to be QUALITY shows. GUPPY EFFECT is my ART not my LIVELIHOOD. Plus, being self-employed allows me to work on my own schedule. I am 300% more efficient and THE MAN doesn’t aggravate me anymore with arbitrary constraints like “business hours.” F THE MAN!

I don’t even care if anyone buys my SONGS. They are available for CHEAP DOWNLOAD, and some of them are even FREE. The contributions just further my rocking. The value of my rocking is in its PURITY. If rocking ever became my livelihood, it would lose its soul and be worthless. Now it is priceless, because it is FREE (for all intents and purposes).

I suffered my day job working for THE MAN for so long because I didn’t want to rely on my MUSIC for income. My MUSIC is pure and I do it for its own sake. I like money, but I don’t do my art for money, because money corrupts art. I do my art for its own sake, on my terms, and no one, not even THE MAN, tells me how to rock-n-roll. It’s really quite kickass. I strive for my ideal vision. It’s a never ending, iterative process and I get closer and closer all the time. If you are observing my progress, I am sure you are always entertained and satisfied.

A lot of people were shocked when I “fired” my previous employer. But I want to make clear I did not do so because I wanted to make MUSIC my career. Music will always be my art, uncorrupted by greed and external control by others.

No, I “fired” my boss because he was a soul-sucking energy vampire who crushed creativity at every turn, and it was taking a toll on my personal life, including my music. I couldn’t let HIS EVIL affect the one thing in my life that was PURE and GOOD.

So I started my own business. It is a music and writing business and it is in keeping with my values and my ART, but it is separate from it. The business focuses on some of my secondary talents – scientific writing, recording and producing music (Hey, since I have this home studio, I may as well let other people use it when I’m not…plus, it makes me better at recording!), playing live music (I’m a damn good bass player with a huge repertoire of cover songs under my belt, why not “practice” my bass playing in front of a live audience and get PAID for it by THE MAN?), landlording (I guess this kind of makes me THE MAN in some ways, but I’m not a slum lord, and living in the CACTUS JOE PALATIAL MANSION is a thrill ride of naked women and non-stop partying…OK, I exaggerate…slightly…), Internet Marketing (Remember how I said you can shop online via this web site and indirectly support us? It is a great way to F THE MAN and underwrite GUPPY EFFECT rock-n-roll at no cost to you. THE MAN wasn’t very smart when he devised this idea…), and part-time work as it comes along.

My last job was working R&D at a small vitamin company for eight years. I learned a ton. The employer was OK, just not my life-force-sucking boss, so I had to “fire” him.

But was I going to let eight years of nutrition research experience and a Masters in Public Health go down the tubes because of THE MAN’s bad attitude? Heaven’s no!!!

I started my own ONLINE VITAMIN STORE called the VITAMIN FUN HOUSE, where people can find any vitamins and supplements they want, and I offer my expertise to them 24/7 as a real life human being. THE MAN was foolish in getting himself “fired” because he not only lost the opportunity to tap the power of a creative genius, but now HE has also lost business to “the competition.” That’s just FYI. If you have a nutritional supplement need, SHOP THE VITAMIN FUN HOUSE, and feel free to E-MAIL ME any time with any questions at all. This side business doesn’t impact my ART at all, and I love making the world a healthier place.

Do I like being self-employed and working from home? Sure. There are a lot of perks. I can work from the living room couch, take breaks whenever I want, make coffee whenever I want, eat whenever I want, stay at work as late as I want. Since I am doing work I love, it’s not unusual for me to be doing work in some form or another 12+ hours per day, when you include writing, band practices, recording, gigs, music publishing, bookkeeping, and whatever else.

But honestly, I don’t mind having a day job. It would be hard for me to go back to an office job as a writer unless it was perfect from a VALUE standpoint, and allowed me to be creative. The worst is when an employer is all about how AWESOME they are, regardless of whether they give the customer what they want. This was how my last job was, and YUCK!

We all have a responsibility to not be slaves to THE MAN or to sell out because of fear (I have shown that it is possible to “fire” your boss and make a perfectly decent living, if you are creative and think big and can deal with “less is more“). It is really critical that people keep in mind they are working for THEMSELVES, and they should not settle for an employer that compromises their values and aspirations. You have DREAMS and they probably aren’t to MAKE YOUR EMPLOYER RICH.

I “fired” my last employer basically because I was told there was no upward mobility for me and I wasn’t going to be able to create the work I wanted to create. My boss was too busy trying to be awesome, when he should have spent more time doing something useful, even if it was just slightly above average. The customers hated him because for all the fluff he manufactured, it was of negative value to the customer. He never could grasp that though, and my attempts to clue him in were rejected out of hand. The company logic was, “If we put this information out there, the customer will eat it up.” That illustrated a total lack of understanding of how humans think and behave, and the art of persuasion. The #1 rule is that the customer has to LIKE you before they will listen to anything you have to say or buy anything you are offering, period. Since my boss went around making everyone feel crumby most of the time, most doors were closed to him most of the time. It was sad to see, and finally, in frustration, I had to let him go.

The moral of the story is DON’T SACRIFICE your VALUES or your DREAMS for anyone else. You will be happier and it will never be as bad as you think if you have to “fire” an employer.

Well, that’s my once a year inspirational diatribe for you all. I won’t do it again until next year.

Remember, it is my BIRTHDAY on Saturday, January 9th. I will be 21 (for the second time in my life!) and my party will be on Saturday night at 9 PM at the HIGH NOON SALOON in Madison WI, hosted by three great jam bands – PHUN, RUN SIDE DOWN (reunion show), and PEOPLE BROTHERS BAND (with whom I have the honor of rocking the bass guitar…the only birthday present I ever want and usually get is to rock-n-roll for my PEOPLE on my birthday. So please honor me by coming down if you can!). It’s going to be really “phun” (sorry…).

WARNING: The following video rocks amazingly hard. However, it contains adult content and depicts one of the best battles between GOOD and EVIl ever depicted on film. Non-rockers should leave now.

For more where that came from – CLICK HERE.

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About Manwich B. Khakazzi

Joe is a songwriter, producer, performing musician, and free agent in Madison, WI. http://www.cactusjoeproductions.com

Posted on January 7, 2010, in random thoughts. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Thanks for pouring your heart (and soul) out to us, Joe! I really enjoyed this read!

    Like

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