Whether they're on paper or screen, you're reading these words because you read Sound On Sound. So far, so tautological. But it's very likely that, as a Sound On Sound reader, you think about music gear a lot. Maybe too much.
Every month, when my copy of Sound On Sound arrives, I tremble with wrong pleasure. As I rip open the shiny white packaging, the front cover seduces me with knobular kinkiness. I usually read the Sounding Off bit first, harrumph my disapproval at whatever lunatic opinions are voiced there, and then...
And then I look at the gear reviews. On a bad month, it's all soft-synth kazoos and sample libraries of cowpats dropping onto marble (28.9GB, gonna have to update my actual house just to preview that sucker). This provokes minor tumescence in me, but nothing of any Tina Fey proportion.
On a good month, it's a new drum machine or synthesizer. Or racks on racks on racks on racks. It's GEAR. Shiny, enamelled, legended, glowing, lickable, blue-LEDs-burning-my-retinas GEAR. So, if I can afford it, I buy the shiny new thing. Sometimes (whisper it), if I can't afford it, I still buy it.
Thus I have a stupid amount of gear, as — I suspect — do a lot of you reading this. I include virtual gear: if you go to select a soft synth and the pop-up list is longer than an MP's expenses claim form, you're where I am. I'm not saying the gear I buy is all expensive; I had a spree a while back of buying toys from pound shops, and now they sit in a crate, next to my guiro and vibraslap.
I also get emotionally attached to every piece, from the lowliest stomp box to the rarest, coughing, dyspeptic vintage synth. I never sell anything, because I know I will miss it and cry one day. I sold a Waldorf XT 13 years ago and I still miss my crazy orange baby to this day. Yes, I am a gear whore, and I am out and loud and proud about that fact.
But the longer I make music, the less I'm interested in the gilding one can apply with all this fabulous, awesome, gorgeous gear. In production, whereas previously I would try to add, I now try to subtract. In mastering, less is always better, unless there's something very seriously askew. And in songwriting, there is a certain remorseless, beautiful logic to a song that I would compare to some arcane branch of maths if I hadn't failed so terribly at it. When a song comes together, it has its own inner elegance; it's like watching a protein fold. You don't write it, you discover it.
All this gear, all this stuff, is great and lovely and smashing and all that, if it aids you in revealing that beauty. However, the trouble with an infinite palette is that one can spend years deciding which colour to pick and never actually finish the damned painting. That time you spent scrolling through 300 snares is 95 percent wasted. You could have finished the song and moved on to a new piece with those minutes.
So, dear readers, I have a challenge for you: write, record and release a song today! Abandon your normally Rainman-inspired levels of quality control and tasteful production. Pick instruments and patches quickly, maybe even do an Eno and throw some dice to choose. Why not break all your snobby rules and, the horror, use presets? Enter your recording domain with excitement, with zealous fervour, and simply let what's inside of you come out. Spew it into your DAW or portable multitrack or smartphone, I don't care. When it's done, and this is very important, FOR GOD'S SAKE DON'T SEND IT TO ME. No — release it. On Bandcamp or Soundcloud or iTunes or whatever. Let your baby out into the world, no matter how unfortunate and lumpy you may think it is.
Tomorrow, tomorrow you can go back to fiddling and worrying and tweaking and muttering, appalled at how such banal dross can litter the charts while your immaculately-recorded threnodies to Baudrillard remain reviled.
But today... today is love and passion and music. .
Jyoti Mishra is the bloke in White Town. When not making music, his favourite hobbies include writing emo poetry, taking photographs of beautiful women and battling giant robots.