OK, I know it’s been quite awhile since I posted here – about a month. My apologies to those yearning for regular content updates, but the truth is I haven’t much interesting stuff happening in my life lately. So rather than bore you with what I had for dinner, or what color socks I wore on any given day, I opted for just laying low and not cluttering up the internets with useless drivel. (If only others would abide by that rule. But I digress… )
As you know, we are all products of our environments and our influences. Musically, I had a pretty broad range of inspiration to draw from, and I soaked it all up like a sponge. As I began to write music at around age 9 or 10, I started to unknowingly incorporate various styles into my music. Many of these influences wouldn’t become obvious to me until much later. (Perhaps the most impactful influence on my bass playing wouldn’t become apparent until almost 40 years after I was first exposed to his playing – Motown Funk Brother, James Jamerson. But that’s a whole blog post in itself.) Reviewing this material dozens of years later, it is much easier for me to pick the specific licks, progressions, or styles that I was injecting into my work. Maybe it was a certain guitar tone (from a Steely Dan song), or a production technique (like a slap-back echo, made popular in the late 70s and early 80s), or certain chord progression (from a 1979 Neil Larsen record called High Gear.) I was browsing through some old recording I had made in my teens and early 20s, and I stumbled across a few things that caught my ear.
Neil Larsen "High Gear" album cover
When I was about 23, I was working at a small video & audio production facility in Toledo. We had started to do some industrial videos and were in search of some background music to use behind the voice-overs. My boss at the time, knowing of my musical background, suggested we rent some drum machines and keyboards and let me mess around for a week or so to see what I could come up with. Well, I don’t know that I created anything really useful for that purpose, but I did compose a few little tunes that were kind of interesting. Keep in mind this was about 1983 or 1984, and I was working by myself with a 16-track tape machine, a couple of keyboards that I barely knew how to operate, and of course, my über-lame keyboard skillz.
One of the pieces I came up with was a latin-jazz flavored, keyboard-centric tune I called “Latin Lovelies”. (I have no clue how I came up with that title.) Listening to it recently, it is blatantly obvious that it I was listening to a 1979 Neil Larsen album called “High Gear” around that time. Both pieces are posted here for your listening (dis)pleasure – see if you notice any similarities. Obviously, the playing skills are not one of those similarities.
“Latin Lovelies” – ©Jon Diener
Excerpt from “High Gear” – Neil Larsen
Here’s another piece I found that was written and recorded around the same year. This one was put together in my makeshift home studio on a 4-track Tascam PortaStudio, which used standard cassette tapes as the recording media. I remember the seed for this song was a drum machine pattern I stumbled upon, which reminded me of Pat Benetar’s “Love is a Battlefield”, which was popular around that time. I started adding guitar parts and experimenting with progressions until I came up with what you hear below. I think some of the guitar lines are reminiscent of Jeff Beck’s style, which was a big influence on me since the mid 70s. Let me be clear that I am in no way comparing my playing to Jeff Beck – I just remember trying to emulate his stylings when recording this. See if you can pick out these influences in the tune I called, appropriately enough, “Beck’s Battlefield.”
“Beck’s Battlefield” – ©Jon Diener
If I run across any more examples of my musical influences manifesting themselves in my music, I’ll be sure to post them here.