Shane Carey [xienkari]
What do you do? What is your musical specialty?
Primarily I play the Chapman Stick (http://stick.com) and NS/Stick, and I sing.
I record songs (usually some variety of rock or metal) with the addition of sequenced drum samples and software synths. I have also been known to compose music for short films (usually for local film competitions).
My specialty is improvising music as accompaniment for local improv troupes. I am currently working on bringing my improvisation into a band setting.
My most recent work was an album of mostly classic Soul, and I don't feel like I'm finished working on that style, so it's possible that "what I do" has changed.
Do you work alone or in a group? If in a group, who are the others you work with?
My recorded work is almost exclusively solo. The improvised accompaniment is solo unless you count the improv troupe performing over it. I would like to get a band together, especially now that I have an album's worth of music to play, but if I don't have anyone to work with then I don't mind working alone.
Is there a web address where one can listen, see, or read some of your work?
http://shanecarey.net currently goes straight to the page for my latest album. There's also a "back to shanecarey.net" link which leads to the rest of the site, including a Music page with two other albums and many other singles I've released.
Please list discography in which you have participated.
2008: "Greatest Hits and Misses" is a 2-disc compilation of highlights from Nascent Music, my 2005-2008 podcast of improvised music on solo Chapman Stick.
2011: "Moon Valley" is a 7-song EP of extended cuts of themes created for the short film of the same name.
2012: "Stupid, Stupid Love" is 44 minutes of mostly classic Soul/R&B. Since the first album was an anthology and the second was an EP thrown together in a week, this feels like my first REAL album and I'm very proud of it.
How did you begin making music? Who introduced you?
When I was a baby, some (allegedly crazy) relative of mine told my mother that she'd had a premonition that I would be famous for music one day. I'm glad I'm not -- fame no longer interests me -- but I'm pretty sure that influenced my mom's attempts to make sure music was part of my life. One of my earliest memories is of playing around on the piano we owned when I was 5. When I was 12, I found my mother's violin in the closet, and took that up to play in the school orchestra. That taught me enough about musical notation to start writing down melodies and chord progressions that interested me, and to learn a few piano songs from sheet music, but it wasn't until I discovered Van Halen at 15 that I took up the guitar and became quite serious about pursuing a career in music.
What was your musical education?
After the aforementioned year in orchestra when I was 12, I mainly played by ear and taught myself to play the songs that interested me. By the time I took up the guitar, hair metal was in full swing, and the proliferation of guitar magazines exposed me to all sorts of guitar techniques and scales that I practiced extensively. At UCSD, I minored in music, and took plenty of classes that further developed my exposure to various periods of music (including one quarter attempting to learn the contrabass). My work on the Chapman Stick has been influenced by the various instructional books and videos that are available, as well as two Stick seminars in Southern California featuring instruction by Greg Howard, Don Schiff, and Tom Griesgraber.
So, I've been primarily self-taught, but with enough study that I can't claim I did it all by myself.
When did you realise that making music could be a way of life for you?
I couldn't tell you exactly when I set my sights on becoming a rock star, but it can all be traced back to my 15th birthday party. Someone gave me Van Halen's "Diver Down," and we played it as I opened other gifts. When "Cathedral" came on, I fell completely and utterly in love, and what had been a flirtation with music until then ignited into passion. In retrospect, this was The First Revelation.
The passion never died, but the desire to be a rock star went away not long after college. For about a decade, music was a very exciting hobby, with which I wanted to do more, but couldn't figure out how.
In mid-to-late 2006, I went on several road trips, to various improv festivals around the continent, with The Remainders, a musical improv troupe in which I was the accompanist. During those trips, I had The Second Revelation: a very acute sense that I had missed out on something; that the life of a touring musician could be very fulfilling to me.
To date, I am not yet a professional musician, but I would say that music has been "a way of life" at least since The Second Revelation.
This year (2012) has been one of great emotional upheaval and transformation. At the end of a doomed romance, I decided to write an album, and decided that it should be classic Soul even though I had never really listened to the genre before. I spent October writing and recording, and November mixing, mastering, and releasing, and for those two months it was almost all I thought about -- LITERALLY a way of life. This album also taught me a lot about connecting my voice to my emotions in ways I never had before. I suspect that I will look back on this time as The Third Revelation.
What is your creative process?
In my improvised work, it's fairly simple: listen and respond. On those occasions that no response is available, I'll do something mechanical to provoke a response; then, listen and respond.
When writing a song, it usually starts with a single melody. With a melody in mind, I might use classical techniques to develop themes and variations, and then I'll start to think about how that melody or its derivatives might work with others I've been working on. Eventually I arrive at a rough arrangement, which suggests the beat and other accompaniment; and then I start recording them in reverse order, from the rhythm tracks up through the melodic accents, until I have a rough instrumental demo. Only then (and only if I don't want it to be an instrumental) do I start thinking about what sort of lyrical subject would go with that track, and eventually turn the subject into some concrete lyrics.
Occasionally, I'll have a lyrical idea so strong that it suggests the rest of the song. But this is very rare, as I have a much stronger relationship to instrumentation than to words.
When do you have your most lucid moments, in the morning or night?
Definitely night. I'm terrible at waking up, and too groggy when I do to get myself to work right away. But I'm also terrible at going to sleep, so once I get going in the evening, I'm able to work into the wee hours if it's going well.
Have you ever awoken with a melody created from your dreams?
No. Several times I've awakened with the memory of having dreamed a brilliant melody, but I can never remember what it actually was. I strongly suspect that these dreams are stimulating the part of my brain that responds to music, more than actually creating music; but I may never know whether that's true.
How do you know when a song is finished or needs no more changes?
For me, there are three states of "done" for a song:
1) By the time I get to lyrics, the instrumental arrangement is already finished, so once I'm happy with the way the two go together, writing is done.
2) Sometimes, I don't care about getting more than a raw recording of the song, to have a document of its existence. For those, the recording is done when the takes and mix are at least good enough to understand how it goes.
3) For songs that I really care about, I'll spend several days listening to various intermediate mixes, identifying mistakes that need fixing (as opposed to those which lend character), levels that need changing, etc., until finally I have a mix that pleases me for several days.
In all of these cases, I guess the short answer is: the song is done when I'm happy enough to move on.
How did you discover your creative territory? How would you describe it?
Van Halen and the late '80s lite metal explosion (affectionately known as "hair metal") were formative in my years of learning to write music with normal pop structures. Studying counterpoint and discovering progressive rock, particularly '70s Yes, in the early '90s transformed my style of composition for the following decade, although only a few vestiges remain in my writing today.
In 1999, three major events occurred: I started dating my future ex-wife, I became a King Crimson fan, and I bought the Stick. The lady was a big fan of "Whose Line Is It Anyway," my introduction to improvised theater, which has figured largely in my life ever since. Although I'd heard Liquid Tension Experiment a few years earlier, King Crimson made me think seriously about improvisation as a way of generating an entire piece, rather than just as an approach to soloing. And, rather than learning all my old prog licks on the new instrument, I decided to use the Stick as a vehicle to reinvent myself as a musician, and (because of the other two improv influences) did so by eschewing composition in favor of improvisation.
The result combines touches of hair metal shredding, heavy tones, extended arrangements, and a penchant for odd meters with an anything-goes improvisational base.
However, as I've noted in other questions, my territory may have changed. As I write this in December, 2012, my latest album is less than a month old, and in that time I have had a lot of trouble connecting with a lot of the metal in my collection. I've bought more soul music and even a little bit of pop. I seem to respond to music (and vocals) differently than before I started writing "Stupid, Stupid Love" in October. It's too soon to know whether this change is permanent, but stay tuned.
What part of your job is your least favourite?
Setting up hardware. Whether recording or playing live, the process of moving gear, plugging things in, positioning amps and mics, getting tones, and checking levels is all stuff that's necessary, but the whole time I'm wishing I could get to the part where I set some air molecules in motion.
How often do you practice?
In the absence of a project, I'll pick up the instrument a few times a week (which is much less disciplined than I'd like to be). When I'm in writing and recording mode, it'll be every day, and when I have a gig I'll spend the few days before it making sure my fingers remember what they're supposed to do.
I also am currently practicing/performing improv theater twice a week, which influences my music in that it helps fill the well and keep my mind in the habit of listening and responding.
How do you feel right before going out on stage?
Physically wired from an attempt to get the body limbered up, and mentally tranquil in preparation for being able to respond to the moment. I'm comfortable with an audience, so I don't get nervous, although, maybe once a year, there's a moment about three minutes into the show when self-consciousness hits me abruptly and I have to ease back into the flow of the performance.
Which musicians or groups have been inspiring to your career?
Of course, I've mentioned Van Halen as an early influence; Winger, White Lion, and Mr. Big also were big figures in my hair metal days. Then came the prog years, featuring Yes, Rush, Dream Theater, and King's X. King Crimson started as a prog influence and became a gateway to improvisation, with help from Liquid Tension Experiment, Attention Deficit, Greg Howard, and musical improv troupe Baby Wants Candy. My more recent work has been influenced, as you'd suspect, by Al Green, Marvin Gaye, and Isaac Hayes, as well as a bit of Hall & Oates, Stevie Wonder, and Michael McDonald.
List three songs that are key to your life.
Dukas's "The Sorceror's Apprentice" is my favorite use of themes and variations in music of any style or genre.
"The Gates of Delirium," by Yes, was a revelation to me about long-form songs in a rock context.
Greg Howard's "Water On The Moon," despite having been broken into multiple tracks on its first release, is a seamless hour-long improvisation on solo Chapman Stick, and after years of listening to it, I'm still inspired every time.
What should be done to stop piracy?
I don't believe piracy will be stopped until it has completely destroyed the music industry. Not music, but the music industry, that business which, with its predatory contracts, dodgy payment schemes, and ever-increasing homogeneity, sells fame before artistry and needlessly inserts business between producers and consumers. The days of rock stars whose fame is manufactured by record labels that recoup their costs through overpriced sales and legal settlements are swiftly drawing to a close.
New models are already coming along that directly connect musicians with fans. Maybe one of those will catch on, or maybe it will take a few lean years before music fans realize that their support is essential to providing an environment in which artists can afford the time and resources to create instead of having to deliver pizzas for a living.
What type of music do you detest?
There are many genres that don't speak to me, but I won't go so far as to say that I detest them. Some works are simply not created for me; some creators come from a point of view that I find totally alien; some are merely bland, derivative, or formulaic *in my opinion*; but, even so, I can still respect someone's sincere attempt to realize their creative vision.
Which is why the only music I truly detest comes from so-called "joke bands," because their intent is explicitly to be insincere.
How do you sell yourself? What has been your experience with record companies and representatives?
As I'm not a professional, this question may not be aimed at me, but I'll give it a shot.
Everything I've read about standard contracts, royalty payments, and other business practices of the music industry has made me glad that I'm not involved with it. There was a time that I wanted to become a rock star, even a very specific time when, but for a single choice, I might have actually launched a career; but the man I am now is of the opinion that the man I was then dodged a bullet.
I seek out other creatives to find ways in which my work and theirs will mutually benefit. I'm looking in multiple directions to find ways for the music to find its audience, even as I rearrange my life to give the music a larger role in it.
And, mainly, I play, and let the music suggest what I should do with it.
What other things have you done to make a living?
By day, I'm a computer programmer, and have been for almost 20 years. It's a very comfortable living -- too comfortable. My career is the result of bending to conventional wisdom about becoming a provider, getting married, buying a house, and all that. It's taken me this long to realize that the conventional wisdom doesn't work for me. I'm using the time I have left to remake my life into something that pleases me, but oh! What I could have done with those 20 years!
Who would you play with, without a doubt?
Emmett Chapman, Greg Howard, and Robert Fripp come to mind. But, in another sense, I'd play with just about anybody who's interested in hearing how what they do works with what I do.
What advice would you give to someone starting out in the business?
Recognize the difference between fame and artistry. Don't pursue fame if it doesn't serve your art (and it rarely does). Don't be a rock star; be a musician.
Do your thing as often as you can, and put it in as many ears as you can. Work with other artists, to expand (but not compromise) your ability and vision. Keep track of developing technologies and other channels that will make it easier for your fans to find your music.
Be cool, be available, be on time, and be prepared.
Chandler, AZ, USA