Monday, 15 August 2016

An itch that must be scratched...

This month, it is four years since I completed work on my album Inferno. And more significantly, four years since I signed up to the Bandcamp platform to test the water and have a go at selling my music online.

Four years and fifteen more albums later, I'm still there! I'm aware that having released fifteen albums in such a short space of time is quite an undertaking – but to me, making music is like painting - and when the ideas flow, you just have to go with it. However being an unsigned, independent artist leaves me free to self-publish my albums as soon as I feel they're ready. Granted, they don't go through a professional mixing and mastering process – as much as I'd love to do that, as a cottage industry if you like, I simply put out the best mixed/produced piece of work I can at the time – and for me, that is one of the advantages and appealing things about working so independently.

I have been making music under the name of The Light Dreams since 2006, but while I made several demo albums in those early years, it was all a very steep learning curve – and demo albums was what they were; rough and raw.

I found my direction with Into the Light in 2007 and eventually worked my way to the darker, more industrial-driven Mechanical Drive in 2009, but by the time I'd finished that project, I was burned out musically, and this was also around the same time I was rediscovering my love of art, and beginning to produce my own digital artwork, which eventually took priority.

But as any creative person will tell you, creativity in whatever form is like an itch that just MUST be scratched! Three years passed, during which time I was more than happy to work on my art and build my portfolio. But in the Spring of 2012, that musical urge was edging its way back.

I thought I'd made the best album I could with Mechanical Drive in 2009, so back then I drew a line under that, even removing all those rough demos and album ideas that I had posted online. Perhaps the novelty had worn off, and I'll be the first to admit that I simply had little confidence in my abilities. I concluded music would just remain an occasional private hobby. However, in those intervening years, something had changed, and suddenly I felt that I had something to say again musically – and with new software and a new keyboard, I started work on some new demo ideas.

But rather than feeling rusty and devoid of ideas, all the inspiration I had soaked up in my three-year gap was ripe and just bursting to come back out, and before long, Inferno was in the making. Making music was just as exciting as painting – I often compare the two because for me, it is a very similar process. However I seemed to have improved somehow, despite never having had any musical training.

I was so fired up with what I was producing that I thought to myself, "If I like it, then maybe other people will do too..." so I set about looking for a platform where I could self-publish my music without upload fees and other things that emptied your pockets before you'd even earned a penny.

This was going to simply be a success or failure experiment, and I was ready for either outcome, with nothing to lose. Bandcamp was the right platform for me, so in August 2012, Inferno, my first official release went online – and to my utmost amazement, people bought it. People who I didn't know, either!

As an unknown, unsigned artist, one cannot expect vast amounts of sales, but they slowly tricked through – and that is all it took to give me the motivation to keep making music. In fact, Inferno actually remains my best second best-selling album on Bandcamp after 2014's Traces.

However, still riding on my newfound wave of musical momentum, almost immediately after completing Inferno, I revisited both Mechanical Drive and Into the Light, remixing both albums and improving the production, and making both albums ready to add to Bandcamp. I actually did more than just remix Into the Light – I added new parts or re-played sections that didn't sound very good on the original, finally allowing that particular album (which is very close to me) to reach its full potential.

2012 was also the year when I was invited to join the Initiative for Interstellar Studies as an honorary musician and artist. It was more than just encouraging to be invited to join such an exciting organisation – for them to have faith in my amateur musical endeavours it was inspiration itself, and that gave me the drive to make the best possible music I could make and with each release, strive to progress my abilities and expand the musical landscape that I've been gradually creating.

It has been a fun journey so far - but I couldn't have done it without an audience, no matter how big or small. Anybody who has even bought just one album download has contributed to that motivation and encouragement.

I guess the lesson here is, not to be afraid to share your work, even if you don't feel completely confident in it. What's the point in making something if others don't get to see or hear it?