Life goes by fast. Maybe a little too fast, if you ask me. Each year feels like a thief that creeps in the night, sneaks in through your window, and fades away just as fast as it came in. Most days seem to blend into each other, and become a big blurry mess where it becomes hard to distinguish each individual moment. Luckily, we have music to help us remember key moments and periods of our lives, along the way; a soundtrack to our lives, if you will. There’s a perfect song for every moment we live, whether it’s cruising on the highway on a warm summer day, a simple night out with your friends , or even a bad break up. Music not only provides a melody to our lives, but in some way, it also marks its different phases, and maybe even shapes who and what we become.
For my part, my early years had a very heavy pop influence.
I remember being a kid, and listening to tunes by Genesis, Haddaway, La Bouche, Scatman John, Ace of Base, Kylie Minogue, etc… you know, the regular 80-90’s stuff. To this day, I still listen to a LOT of pop, though I mostly consider it a guilty pleasure (oops). Generally my friends will run out of the room if I happen to get DJ-control over the music. Do not ever let me choose music, ever. You have been warned. I most definitely have my mother to blame for my awful taste in cheesy music, cause she would blast the damn songs through the entire house. Even if I tried sticking the equivalent of an elephant’s buttcheek in each ear, I’d still hear it! Seriously though, I still love it.
It’s weird to think about, but as I contrast my contemporary self as a “musician” to my childhood self, I realize that I didn’t have much of a curiosity about music. I very much enjoyed music, but I never sought to discover who the artists were, nor was I ever curious about learning to play an instrument. My dad even tried making me take piano lessons and I quit after the first one. Goes to show how much has changed (I actually kick myself in the head about it now). Realistically, the only times I ever listened to music was if someone else played something. I was completely oblivious to what was trendy for a very long time, and might as well have been an eskimo living in an igloo with his pet polar bear, eating chili con carne. Seriously.
It must have been around 1998,when I started getting a little more curious about music. I was about 12 when I noticed there was two different sides of me developing. My pop-driven self was on full-throttle with all the BSB/Spice Girls/5ive/<insert random boy band name here>-mania of the times, but I was also exposed to something completely new to me. Truth be told, I was a very happy kid. So happy that you might as well have thought I was high… all the time. That’s maybe why I enjoy(ed) pop so much. Though I couldn’t always relate to the lyrical content, it was usually up-beat and happy, so in that sense it spoke to me. Still, you can go an entire life without realizing something is missing, until you find it.
One of my friends, Stéphane, was constantly giving me new stuff to listen to. Because of him, I was exposed to rap and hip hop (Xzibit, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, Dr Dre, Eminem, Snoop Dogg, Cypress Hill) and underwent a phase of “I think wearing baggy pants that make me feel like a sperm-cell inside a swimming pool is cool”. The baggier the clothes, the cooler they were. We were actually stupid enough to make it a competition: find the baggiest pants. I could’ve just bought XXL size trash bags, and put ’em around my legs. I would’ve won easily. Thankfully, he also gave me my first encounters with alternative music.
Not going to lie, I was never much of a trendsetter
When I first heard stuff like Slipknot, my first thoughts were probably the standard shit that people say about alternative music: “Is that even music?” “Why are they screaming?” “Is he even saying anything?”… Ironically, that’s the kind of crap that pisses me off now, when I hear someone else say it. Still, there was something about that raw aggression that I found captivating. I started off listening to heavier music to be “cool”, and over time, it slowly took over me like a cheap whore. I had no idea it was okay to express yourself in such a way. Slowly, I exposed myself to Papa Roach (‘Infest’), and Limp Bizkit… I can still remember my surprise when hearing the many “fucks” delivered by Mr. Fred Durst. God knows, that is a whole lot of fuck.
It is going to be the absolute most cliche thing for me to say, but Linkin Park‘s ‘Hybrid Theory’ is probably the album that completely won me over, and represents the main soundtrack to my distraught teen years. My misunderstood self wanted to yell, and break just about everything, entranced by the conviction in Chester Bennington’s voice. I didn’t know why, but I felt more angry than a rabid hamster on speed. Still, I kept my cool, and simply enjoyed the music as a listener. In parallel to this, I also developed a very strong penchant for pop rock, through a band called Lifehouse.
I still remember hearing Hanging by a Moment for the first time, when Yahoo! Music (yeah, at the time they were the go-to Youtube type deal) randomly played it. From that moment on, Lifehouse had become my favourite band of all time. When I left Pakistan, a country I had lived in for 16 years, and was moving to the States, the album “No Name Face” was the soundtrack of my transition into a new life. It wasn’t so much that I found the music accidentally, but it felt a lot more like that music found me, and helped me through a rough period when I needed it the most. It must have been the mixture of Linkin Park and Lifehouse that gave me a desire to discover myself, and that’s when I started writing and decided to pick up a guitar for the first time.
I wrote for myself, and I played for myself
But never allowing my ambitions to go beyond the walls of my room. I was a good student, played sports, and generally a very quiet kid, keeping it together. I did as I was told, and had aspirations of becoming a psychiatrist after my studies. All of that went to shit when my sister gave me two CD’s for my birthday: “Tell All Your Friends” by Taking Back Sunday, and “They’re Only Chasing Safety” by Underoath. Gone were the good grades, and the scholarly ambitions. Gone were the quiet child who listened obediently. I had found my voice: I wanted to be a musician. The rest is history, as they say.
It took me a long time to get to a point where I am happy as a musician, and even though I’ve been doing this steadily for 9 years now, I am still learning every day. Granted, the first few bands I started off with were probably worse than your grandma’s 30 year old underwear (that she never washed)… but that’s not the point. The point is simply this: Music’s helped me through a lot of different phases. On top of giving me an outlet to channel every single thing I have ever experienced, music has also taught me that, even though I’m a bit of a dumbass sometimes, even a random kid who grew up in Pakistan is allowed to have a dream. More importantly, it doesn’t matter who you are, follow your dreams.
Without the music I grew up with (shitty pop and all) I wouldn’t be where I am today, and neither would you. The question is, where will you be tomorrow?
Why don’t you get off your lazy ass, find a song that inspires you, and figure it out!