1. What is your take on how we arrive at being artists? Do you think it's natural, we are born with it, or do you think its a choice? (I am not talking about professional artists here).
There are many reasons to be sure, and I have observed many of these reasons in myself and others I have met. They range from a desire to express the creative muse that burns within, to a childish or narcissistic need to be liked. Because pop music appears to be an easy road to fame and fortune i.e. write a three chord song and become a mega star, many people I have known become caught up in that illusion, rather than actually perfecting the craft, and learning the professional skills to survive in the music business, because it is a business, and all the three chord mega stars are merely fodder for the manufacturers of their music.
For every rich and famous songwriter there are a lot of fairly well-off unknowns and probably 1,000 unknown amateurs, so anyone contemplating song writing should understand the odds, no matter what their motivation is. These days it seems everyone is having their creativity encouraged, and the tools are so accessible, so really being an artist is becoming a more and more common thing. Being a good artist that anyone gives a damn about experiencing your artistic output is another issue altogether.
I got into music to 1) express myself freely, 2) To make money doing that and 3) to get laid.
My grandfather was a very successful composer, writing music for Hollywood films, including a couple of Alfred Hitchcock movies. He was head of Warner Bros Music Dept and BBC Music Department in England for many years. My uncles also were talented musicians and writers. So I guess talent could be a slightly genetic thing. I started playing and writing at a very early age, and naturally fell into playing in bands in school and after school. After initial immediate success that I had in my local region as a performer of my own music, the band split up, and I found myself forced to continue performing to earn a living to get by financially, as it was 1) easy and 2) what I enjoyed doing 3) made it easier to pick up girls. Things have changed a little since then. My creative muse burns stronger than ever, but my need to earn a living out of music is dwindling.
Unfortunately, without the right vehicle for my own music, since chemistry is such an important aspect of the success of a combo, I had to play predominantly cover versions to make money. This did allow a great training ground to learn the styles and feels of a great variety of music, which I can now draw upon in my writing and performing. So I guess you could say I was born a gifted musician, but I fell into being a career performer, through lack of options at the time. There was no Internet, multimedia or JJJ Unearthed back then. I had no financial support from my family at the time and music is an expensive hobby, so I had to keep making the good money playing covers to buy all the professional equipment to make the sounds I wanted.
Music is about the only career, besides maybe radio, film, TV or advertising, that you can take recreational drugs on the job and actually enhance your job skill set and get promoted and more popular just for being wasted. Jimi Hendrix, Oasis, The Beatles, Eric Clapton, the list is endless. Given this fact, I have been very conscious not to fall into this trap, and have only used drugs for creative purposes in extreme moderation.
I have seen many musicians get hooked on all kinds of drugs, because their heroes were doing it, but they forgot that their hereos actually practiced and perfected their craft long before embarking on a career of being shit-faced all the time. It is easy to become an artistic drug addict rather than a drug-taking artist. Certain drugs can enhance the perception of music, which is why so many of the greats have indulged, but the techniques of playing instruments and recording music become rather more difficult when intoxicated. The exception to this would be the "uppers", like speed, cocaine and ecstasy. It is common knowledge that many a studio musician has a line of something to give them the "edge" when they are laying down their tracks. Now with Techno and Rave music being so popular, both the creators of the music and the listeners are indulging, and in fact some of the musical styles of today have actually been designed to be experienced exclusively in enhanced states of consciousness. It is no different to the drinking songs of the past, ("Red Red Wine" or the jazz styles that were developed while everyone was into the whacky weed, but nowadays the choices are far more diverse, making it much harder to 1) know what is right for you and 2) not let the drugs take over. Of course you can still make music without drugs, and that is probably the best thing to do, and the highest standard to achieve, but it is almost a given that somewhere along the manufacturing chain in the recording business, there is a drug-user contributing to your career. I include alcohol in this, since alcohol is a strong drug. The legality or illegality of drugs is irrelavant, I think, in a discussion about art and life.
2. Do you think that there is a difference between art and craft? This might be good for the songwriters to write back - do you think that songwriting is an art or a craft which you apply skills you know to do the task? Is it a mix of both?
Yes. The art is the inspiration and the deep inner voice or urge to express something important to the world in a musical and/or lyrical form, and the craft is the ability to not make it sound like crap. Some songwriters have a high degree of art and a low degree of craft, and others vice versa, but with the appropriate combination, a successful mix can be achieved. Nick Cave, for example is highly regarded by many as an "artist" without playing more than a few chords and never training his voice, whilst Stock, Aitken and Waterman can have world-wide hits that everybody loves, simply by contriving the entire thing. I have no doubt that there is an ART to what they do as well, but it is the polish of their craft that makes their brand of music work. I like to think that I have a very even balance of art and craft. I have been playing and learning instruments all my life, trained my voice and learned how to perform through acting classes, but I have always believed in my inner heart-felt urge to create and express something meaningful to make me a complete performer. Even while playing covers, I like to think that I bring my own emotions and expression to all the songs I sing, whilst also doing very authentic technical "covers" of the musical elements of the songs. Now that I am more focussed on performing my own music, this is becoming more and more apparent. The technical side comes easy, and it is the artistic side that I am really trying to capture. It also requires a great degree of artistic empathy from the engineers and musicians I work with to make this happen. I have recorded songs with highly technically proficient musicians and audio engineers that sound rather flat, and others with less proficient people that sound great.
3. Why did you become a professional artist? What made you decide that you wanted to make a living out of your art? Do you see the word 'profession' as including more than just 'making money'?
See above. I was forced to make a living out of it. I think that had I made a living from something else, I may have been an amateur artist for just as long, as you don't make a good living out of art until you begin achieving some kind of popular success. Sure I could have done a few festivals and gigs here and there. Over the years, I have probably made more money out of music than most other performers and artists, including many big stars.
Of course profession means more than just making money. There are a lot of rich people who aren't necessarily that professional. It comes down to who you are. Being easy to get along with, not burning too many bridges, showing dedication and a belief in what you do, not giving up too easily, continuing even though things don't go exactly as you had envisaged, and being open to strategic alliances. A lot of artists are so self-absorbed they forget that it takes a huge network of people to create success. They think that they can just be extremely talented and money and fame will naturally flow from that.
I always look at the "thank you" notes on albums to see just how many people made it happen. It is usually quite a large number. Family, friends, fans, believers, empathisers and good business people. It is much easier to make it big if other people think they can make money out of you too, and I think it is the challenge of every artist in this capitalist society, if they want to succeed, to convince at least one other person, who is not an artist, that money can be made if they support your activities. The exception is, of course, if you can convince someone that by supporting you they might lose money, but it is a good tax write-off and they will get the satisfaction of being able to tell their friends they are your patron. I think this happens quite a bit, maybe in Europe more than in Australia, though I have seen examples of it here. Wealthy people who have paid large sums of money to help someone record a CD without really caring if it sold any copies - they can pull it out at diner parties and talk about how they made it happen, and that is enough for them, and a great learning experience for the artist.
4. What is your take on this term 'work and play is one'. That is, by making your passion, your art, your business and life, how do you feel about saying that work and play is one thing for you?
There are aspects that may not be enjoyable, like bills, fixing gear, doing tax, but in the big picture, it is all worth it if my dreams are being fulfilled. I tend to enjoy what I do, and the things I don't enjoy are made less painful by knowing that they are all contributing to my success. Recently I stopped enjoying playing cover songs in pubs, so I have stopped doing that. I need to know that what I am doing for a living is an enjoyable experience.
5. If you were to send a message to people endeavouring to become a professional artist, what would be your message about turning your art into good business practice? i.e the notion of being a good business person as well as being an artist.
I would suggest that anyone who wants to succeed in any field should probably study business and marketing as well as their chosen field. I would also strongly suggest they consider taking courses in personal growth, as quite often the biggest restrictions to success are the ones we place on ourselves. The world is full of millions of opportunities, but often fear or other blocks to our true purpose prevent us from seeing the right path. In the mean time, I would suggest that they get as much experience as they can in a whole range of things, from working in groups or teams, to performing in various formats, to spending time with other more successful people. Look at those that you admire and ask yourself 1) Why do I admire that person and 2) What is it about me that recognises that in them. Sometimes we admire people for the wrong reasons and we really can never hope to be like them, so we might need to look for better heroes. We forget the fact that their life is unique and the circumstances that brought them their success are entirely different to our own. Maybe you like their style, and you like to do a similar style of expression, but how you succeed might be an entirely different path.
Another thing about learning about yourself is that you need to try to understand how the world sees you, because that often determines your success. If you dream of being a catwalk model but you are butt-ugly, chances are you may need to rethink. The same goes for Music. If your voice sounds like Barry White, but you dream of singing songs like Jon Anderson, from the band "Yes", think again. A tenor voice and a baritone voice and a bass voice have distinctive qualities and are perceived by audiences differently. Maybe you will never sing like you thought you could, but you might write great songs, or you might be a great organiser of people. You need to find out who you are and where you fit in, and you need to be happy with who you are. There is no point resenting the fact that you have a bass voice or freckles or lanky legs. You need to find your strengths and capitalise on them. I have seen people waste a lot of years under the illusion that they are going to become something that they never could become in the first place. It takes a long time sometimes to realise who you are and go with it! (Unless you are a twin.)
My other advice would be - listen to the "Sunscreen Song"!! Whatever you do.. listen to the Sunscreen Song…
6. What would be your other messages to send to those endeavouring in your chosen field of art? (tips, what to do, how to do it, which pitfalls to avoid)
Don't think that drugs or lifestyles alone will make you successful. They may inspire you, but they can hinder your professional path as much as they may be able to help it. I am sure that many stars of today are stars because they shared a line of something with a big-time producer, but for every one of those, there are ten thousand people in de-tox, AA, NA, or simply just not cutting the mustard. Be wary of the people you choose to work with. Do all you can to choose people that you can feel a real positive synergy with, rather than sharing the same desire to be rich and famous, the same bars, TV shows or strip clubs, or anything equally as shallow. If you feel like there is a lot of negativity in a working relationship - get out! There is no need for it, and it will hold you back. There is no excuse now as it is now possible to network around the world to find the right chemistry. Make the most of all your positive contacts. People who like what you do - you should keep them informed because one day they may be the one who introduces you to the person that gets you the break you need. It may not be tomorrow - it could be in 10 or 20 years from now.
Be patient. Be flexible enough to re-evaluate your objectives constantly. If your dream is to write a song - record it - become a superstar, maybe you need to be able to let other activities in, like learning your instrument, practicing your art, and discovering yourself. Life is full of miracles, but they don't always go at the pace you think you can dictate at a young age. You can certainly do all you can to make good things happen, but sometimes it is the combination of all your efforts combined with a chance meeting, or even a nasty accident that may help your dreams to begin truly unfolding. The entire universe is huge chance machine, with a nice bit of control somehow designed into everything - including us.
7. What does the word 'success' mean to you in theory? And do you see yourself as a successful professional artist? why?
Success is a constantly evolving thing. It is not a day that you look forward to that you can say "oh now I'm successful" You have to be successful every day to reach the dizzy heights of success you might dream about. I was successful when I was 6 years old. I sang a song and the audience clapped. I was successful at 20 when I auditioned for a band and they chose me. Every event has a number of outcomes. Sometimes it takes huge failures to lead you to ultimate success. I think the world at large will tell you that you are a success by giving you awards and money and accolades, but as we all know, many people who achieve all these things are miserable failures at life. Once the awards ceremony is over, the next hopeful is coming from behind trying to win. Success is the ability to ride the waves of life through thick and thin and be able to say that you are remaining true to yourself as best you can, and creating opportunities for yourself to express that which you really believe you must express. That kind of success will be shared by your friends and family and will be felt as a deeper, more lasting success. You can sit at your breakfast table each day and smile and say to yourself - yep, I'm doing it!!
8. Do you see any specific problems in your chosen field? (the hurdles to pass, society's ignorant views, overcoming perceptions and judgements, any others?)
The fact that everything is market driven. The fact that what might be popular today might not be popular by the time I manage to do it. The fact that it relies heavily on the subjective perceptions of others (this is both good and bad, as all politicians know :-). The fact that it is so competitive. The fact that the glamour can attract a lot of the wrong kind of people into the business. The fact that the media play a large part in deciding someone's success. Now that the internet is here, the fact that everyone thinks they can find an audience, which creates an ocean of flotsam for web-surfers to generally avoid. It makes it harder now to rise to the surface. There are certainly more opportunities, but the emphasis is on "doing it" rather than "doing it well".... and even if you do it well, there are thousands of others who do it well as well! It is hard to see the big picture of art as an endless output of some particular humans for other particular humans to absorb, and surrounding the artists is a huge layer of other particular humans who need to make money from the art. Some of these humans are the same person, naturally! (like you, Gilli :-) These include music shop owners, teachers, record shops, radio stations, publishers, second hand dealers, recording studio owners.... It is hard to see your art as being part of a food chain, but that's what it is. It is up to you to work out how you are going to prosper given this situation, or maybe how you are going to reject it all and create your own machine. That is what I am trying to do, but I know I must operate within the parameters of the global economy, to some extent.
9. Do you see yourself as a student of life? Why? Can you offer any guidance about learning and study in your chosen field?
Yes. That is axiomatic. While you are alive, you are learning. I choose to heed my lessons as much as I can, while others may ignore them, but that is a lesson in itself. If you ignore your bronchitis from smoking for long enough it will turn into emphysema. You will be on your death bed saying "oh yeah, I just realised that smoking does kill". In the more day-to-day things, I learn with every encounter I have with other humans as well as encounters with books, music, internet, nature, inanimate objects, and even with myself, by looking inward and learning what makes me tick.
I suggest people attend personal growth courses - not with any committed belief in their effectiveness, but just with their ability to make you think about things a little differently. I encourage people to learn what things have affected them profoundly in their lives and ask if the effects have been positive or negative. If they have been negative, such as abusive childhoods, being a victim of a crime etc, you need to look at ways to fully come to terms with these things, use the emotional energy created by them in a positive way ie Write a song about it. It doesn't have to be a good song, but it is important that you get the feeling out, so these harmful experiences don't tarnish your life in other ways.
Read a lot. Read autobiographies. Read non-fiction books to help you understand humanity and society so you don't fall innocent prey to its ways, benign as they may be. E.g. if your teacher told you that you have to get a steady job, maybe you don't, but you won't know until you understand why he believed you did.
10. Where do you see the road in the future for the professional artist in your chosen field?
Many more opportunities and many more challenges. A wider playing field, but a far more level one, so the old idea of becoming a star may not be so realistic, but succeeding in life may be well within everybody's grasp. Musicians and artists have a new opportunity to do what the artists of the 60's did, which is change the consciousness of the world with their thoughts. The pen is mightier than the sword, and if you put it to a catchy tune, everyone can sing along. We can all see the planet now from a new perspective, with the information age, satellites and statistical analysis providing clear images and facts about what the hell is going on here. It is kind of scary and kind of awesome that we are all stuck on this planet together and ultimately no matter what God we believe in, if divine intervention doesn't take place, we are 100% responsible as a collective global society to manage the affairs of earth. The thoughts and feelings of the gifted people - the artists, the emotionally intelligent and empathic, expressive souls are hugely important at this time to help steer the human ethos as we evolve in harmony with technology and try to find harmony among ourselves. The artists must first understand themselves and how they fit into this global consciousness, and then they must try to find their own unique voice and create their own stage from which to resonate from. This may be a web site, it may be a newsgroup, it may be a lunch time concert or a march through the streets. It may be my forming alliances with non-musical people that are thinking and working along the same lines, such as social workers, activists, political lobby groups. All th while, though, there is still a need for those to sing and perform the more shallow pop music to keep the less enlightened souls happy, while the evolution takes shape and scoops them up somewhere down the track. If you are an artists and the best you can come up with is "I Love you baby, stay with me, lets go and sniff some flowers in the park, and drink some wine" go for it!! Your three minutes of frivolity will cheer someone up, I'm sure! Music is still about making people feel good after all, even though it is also a powerful force for making people think.
11. Any more info about you? What you are doing? What your goals are? What you've attained?
I am recording my own music. I am writing for a few magazines. I am performing - entertaining people at special events. I am developing new ideas and inventions. I run a Singles Site on the internet www.cyrius.com.au/singles/ I am training to be a radio and TV presenter.
I am networking with a large number of people to attain my objectives. These are to establish a successful business which will fund my other ventures, to get my music played to a wider audience, to market my board game, to write books, to have films made from my ideas, to develop products that encourage a sustainable future for the planet. To work towards healing the wrongs and the pains of the past - war and child abuse in particular. At this point I have completed 20 years as a successful live performer. I am being published in three different national publications as a writer. My web site has thousands of members and is growing rapidly, my web design business is growing, and I am about to go and record some more songs with my band, Avatar Crash.