Every couple of weeks or so I find myself in the same position. It’s about 2 a.m. and I’m in a club in Hong Kong waiting for a DJ to go on who most people would find indistinguishable from the last one to blow through town. I watch bottles being popped and always catch at least one person blithering on about how they’ve been listening to this artist for years – even when this artist has not been around for said number of years. It’s a scene that will give way once the music starts and will not stop until the sun rises or the artist wants to beat the rush to McDonald’s breakfast. How did I get here? Well, it seems as though it’s my turn to tell a story of how my musical tastes have evolved over the years. Strap yourselves in, boys and girls – it’s going to be a long, seemingly disjointed ride.
The first band I can ever recall listening to is The Beatles. They have always been big in my family, particularly because my mother met them when she was a young girl growing up in Europe. For many of my younger years I was surrounded by some of the more classic sounds such as The Beach Boys and Aretha Franklin. These are still staples of my household and it’s always nice to hear them now and again.
In the early days of middle school I honestly can’t say that I listened to much music, though I did very much enjoy Weird Al Yankovic because I found him hilarious. The more popular artists I’d heard on the radio and seen in videos on MTV (that statement makes me feel old) never really appealed to me. The only cassette I ever owned was Eiffel 65‘s debut album. I thought “Blue” was one of the coolest things I’d ever heard. Might be a laughable statement now, but it was so different and so fun compared to what was the norm to me that I couldn’t resist it. You can probably now see the making of what might define my current musical tastes.
Then along came Linkin Park. Goddamn do I love Hybrid Theory. I can honestly say that this is the album that got me into music – it kick-started my journey into a discovery of sounds and bands that has lasted a lifetime.
It was a bit of an awkward journey from there. I liken it to something like the term “baby’s first steps.” Some bands like Slipknot and Killswitch Engage crossed my radar but never made a lasting impression. My search for new music was about as well thought out as the plot to Scary Movie 3.
I can’t recall exactly when, but it was around 7th grade that I discovered punk while sitting in my friend’s basement listening to Anti-Flag for the first time. I immediately fell in love, delving into all sorts of against-the-grain artists from Minor Threat to Fang to Flipper. For years I enjoyed these bands – still do actually. Anti-Flag plays the Pittsburgh stop of Warped Tour every year and while it’s been ages since I sat down and listened to them, I still know every word.
I’m not sure when but I eventually discovered hardcore. I’d never known that music that combined punk sounds with heavy metal existed; I loved it. Even the worst local shows at the library’s open mic, I ate them up like candy. My god were some of those shows bad.
High school rolled in and with it came an exposure to hip-hop like I’d never had before, treating me to many of the classic artists like The Notorious B.I.G., Jurassic 5 and Slick Rick while indulging in some of the new artists on the block like The Game and T.I. I still listened to most of the previously mentioned artists as well. With so many people I’d seen, their love of bands came and went but mine lingered and never let go. Yet I still never had a favourite. Yes, there were artists I’d loved for years but none that really hit me like a band does that you think of as ‘your favourite.’ One night I was sitting in the back of my friend’s SUV, looking out the window at the trees passing by when Radiohead’s “Karma Police” came on. This was it; I absolutely loved it. The next day I bought OK Computer and listened to it constantly. Then came Kid A, Amnesiac and Pablo Honey; I was obsessed. A few months later In Rainbows came out and sealed the deal. This is my favourite band of all time.
At this point in time what I’d known about music was still very much what friends had recommended to me. It really wasn’t until my college days that I’d sought out music for myself. Get ready boys and girls – here comes the journey through the thick fog of pretension that was my phase with “indie music.”
It started at a party during my first semester of college. A friend of mine had on Girl Talk’s Feed the Animals. I found it amazing that someone could combine hip-hop with oldies tunes – can’t help but also love the fact that he’s from Pittsburgh. It was while hanging out with my friends that I’d discovered some means of finding new artists via things like Last.fm, YouTube, etc. Sure enough I became embroiled in the petty competition of finding bands few people knew about. Some good came out of it though, as I discovered bands I still love like Broken Social Scene and Animal Collective and some experimental artists that captivated me for only a while like cLOUDDEAD. The electronica of many artists I’d found fascinated me, but none stuck – except for one. A friend of mine told me his ace card when dealing with petty ‘indie band name dropping’ competitions: “Have you ever heard of Shpongle?”
Yes, back in 2009 this was not a band many people knew about – many still don’t outside of the circles. It’s tribal music made into electronica and I’ve played it everywhere from my car stereo to events I’ve DJ’ed; it really started my love of electronica. Then I found Justice. Their album † had to be one of the most thrilling things I’d ever listened to and their live album took it to the next level. I cannot begin to describe just how big an influence this band has had on me.
After this time I went into journalism. Loving both journalism and going to concerts, combining the two seemed like a no-brainer. A pretty girl got me got into hardcore, so I covered bands for the local paper. Bands like Dance Gavin Dance, Circa Survive, The Devil Wears Prada – I love all these bands and covering them as ‘work’ hardly seemed like work at all. Years later I continue this ‘work’ for MEB.
From there on out, my musical tastes fanned out to encompass so many things. I could go on for ages about how much I’ve grown to adore Old Crow Medicine Show or how Skrillex was the soundtrack of my senior year of college. This is the one section of this story where there is simply too much to tell. Music journalism has probably only ever earned me about $500 over the past four years, but the music and experiences it has brought are simply priceless. Plus getting into swanky clubs in Hong Kong for free is kinda cool too.
So here I am in Hong Kong. My ever-evolving taste in music brings me to places such as those previously described. Hardly anything seems to have disappeared from my music library; things I listened to back in 7th grade are things I still listen to now. There are so many more things I could go on about in this piece – my recent obsession with Mumford & Sons, finally getting to see one of my favourite electronica artists in Steve Aoki, or past antics at a Puscifer show. I was mostly aiming to hit all the important notes. I would not say that my taste in music has changed over the years but rather, it has grown. It is constantly expanding to envelope new bands and sounds while never releasing any back out into the wild. This continues here at Mind Equals Blown and I hope to share with you more antics of electronica concerts in the clouds of Hong Kong and a good metal show at Mr. Small’s.