*Speaking of, I reached out to Joe’s assistant a little while back to do an online interview or Q&A, however you want to classify it. I got as far as having her ask me for some questions to pass on, which I did. Apparently they weren’t that good, though, as I never heard back. I’m sure Mr. Posnanski is a very busy man and I know he’s much more important than I am. I’m also sure most of the initial questions were a little bland and not terribly focused. That’s my fault, though. I should have had a better idea of what I actually wanted to focus on instead of offering up some initial questions and see what developed. I don’t have anything resembling that kind of pull to conduct business that way. Still, it stung a little bit not to get anything back. He’s a sportswriting hero of mine (maybe the only one, really), and I was really hopeful to get some real interaction with him outside of a question or two in a livechat he’s doing with hundreds of other people. C’est la vie, right?
My brother Ian did a fairly in-depth interview that was just posted today (as far as I can tell) that you might find interesting.* Some of it touches on how his musical foundation came to be, and I’m mentioned in it both in passing and by name. It all seems pretty well how I remember it, although I think he’s got his greatest hits mixed up. There was some Guess Who on some of those 70’s mixes, but I don’t think we ever had their greatest hits. We did have The Steve Miller Band and The Eagles, though. I probably listened to Steve Miller more, but I’m not sure which one he was thinking about.
*Related to that, you can hear his band’s first EP here. You can buy the first full-length album (all new material, by the way), over here. Also, I’m not upset about Ian getting the record collection, for the, um, record. No pun intended. It would have been nice to have, but I’m definitely more of a “just happy to be here” utility musician. Ian is and has always been the one actually focused and dedicated to making music his life in one way or another, so it’s definitely appropriate that he got those.
That’s somewhat beside the point, though. What is more interesting to me is our divergent paths (and the similarities, actually) when it came to music, even though we had fairly similar upbringing and exposure in our youth. Andrew also took a wildly different path, but I think that had more to do with wanting to be popular and fitting in, and then following that path once it has its hooks in you. Not really applicable to Ian and myself.
As you can read from the interview, we were both more or less brought up on a steady diet of classic rock. I know from conversations with Ian that many of the drives he and Dad would have coming to and from our house focused on music and there was a lot of introducing Ian to artist of the time period, furthering that sort of musical bedrock. I met up with Ian at LBC one night, and referenced a conversation they had about Jeff Beck in particular. I also cut my teeth on classic rock, particularly The Beatles and Billy Joel and Led Zeppelin in addition to the CD’s mentioned earlier.* I really didn’t listen to much of anything released after 1979 until probably seventh or eighth grade. Ian may have had a little more varied background than I did, but I think we both come at music from a very 60’s and 70’s foundation.
*Two notes here: I’m trying to be consistent about capitalizing “The,” but I can tell you it’s coming off a bit unnatural, so forgive me if a few slip by. Secondly, not mentioned in the article or earlier here is my dad’s sizeable selection of Jackson Browne. I never cared for him when I was younger, and I don’t get the impression (though I could be wrong) that Ian did either, nor that he has any real appreciation for him now. I know my mom doesn’t like him at all. I’m not a superfan by any means, but I did come to him later on, after I had branched out a bit. That was one area I circled back a bit.
From there, things went somewhat different. As I’m sure most who know me will tell you, I have a pretty strong affinity for what Kristine has termed “pussy rock.” While it might not be the most family friendly term, I can’t really disagree with her. What tracks would be worn out if my iTunes library was vinyl? Ben Folds (both solo and Five), (early) Death Cab for Cutie and the Postal Service,* Peter Mulvey, Beatles. Things that probably rate a five at most on the Mohs Scale, but average at more of a three. The Heavy Company probably linger around, what, a six or seven? Ian is probably more qualified to tell you that than I am, but that’s probably around where I would put them. Being stoner rock, they don’t typically hit the fast part of a seven, but it is heavy. I do quite like it, actually, but it probably doesn’t fit in with a lot of my library. That also seems to be where most of Ian’s reviews are when he does his music writing thing.** Or maybe a little higher, when it comes to more of the screamy stuff.
*I have Give Up on vinyl, and I do fully intend on getting the just-announced 10-year vinyl edition of Transatlanticism.
**I told you he’s the one dedicated to music.
So, let’s just say most classic rock is about a five, right dead center on the scale. Why did I tend down while Ian tended up when we had such a similar background? And, maybe related to that, how did we both come to have this artistic streak? Maybe some more insight on our youth would help.
As talked about in the article, Ian and I are actually half-brothers, though I don’t think either of us really cotton to that term. We share a dad, different moms. Ian didn’t live with us, though he was around quite a bit when we were younger and an awful lot when we hit middle school/early high school age. We clicked pretty well at that point,* I think thanks to that creative streak. To be honest, I don’t know where that streak comes from. I think there’s some musical talent that runs through Ian’s mom’s side, but none that I really know of on either side of my family outside of my grandma playing piano pretty well. And accordion, for that matter, but that’s about it. There may be more than I realize, it’s not like I took a poll, but that’s most of what I know about. There didn’t seem to be a lot of artistic goings on in my household, unless you count Mom liking to color.
*This after a good period of friction when we were a lot younger, mostly because I was used to be the oldest and the boss. Things got better once that alpha dog shit ceased to matter.
I do think one big thing that helped in my case was a lot of freedom, at least in our house. We weren’t really held back from much. If there was anything off-limits, I guess Andrew and I never really found it. As long as we kept our grades up, which we did with no real problem, we could pretty well explore what we wanted. How that came to be mostly writing for me, though, I don’t really know. Ian had some more restraints growing up, as hinted at in the article, but obviously they weren’t too effective. The path may have been a little different, but the curiosity is still there.
But the question still remains of why the different paths. Things might get a little uncomfortable here, and I’m going to do my damnedest to present things as I know them without passing any judgement. Just be warned. I think the answer comes down to angst, just filtered out in different ways. In my case, I had (and probably have, if we’re really being honest) a somewhat crippling lack of self-confidence. Believe it or not, but I’m a pretty risk-averse person in general, and that’s usually because I normally don’t think I have the skills to pull it off. I usually only get into things with a pretty good push, where I normally find I was just fine or even over-prepared. There is, I suppose, that same kind of fear that Ian talks about in his interview. To me, when there is mystery and uncertainty, my default reaction is to build it up to the point where I’m sure I can’t cope with it. Like I said, it takes a certain amount of ego-massaging and forcefulness to get me over that hump. I think, thanks to that mindset, the ideas and feelings put forth by a Postal Service or a Ben Folds are awfully relatable and certainly in my wheelhouse. It puts forth feelings of uncertainty and smallness, for lack of a better term, which I’m comfortable and familiar with. I think a lot of my writing (where far more of my artistic output lies) reflects that, too. I notice I tend to write fairly passive protagonists. Things happen to them and they react as best they can with the information they have at the time rather than forcing the action. It’s not a style for everybody, I’m sure, but the similar options available tells me there’s certainly a market for it.
To continue with my armchair philosophy, I think at least some of Ian’s angst comes out more angry, which lends itself towards heavier sounds. As hinted at in the article, I don’t think Ian was entirely happy with his upbringing in his house* and clearly has not been all that happy with our dad. There is a feeling of being excluded there, and I think, at least at points, a feeling of having to prove himself. That understandably is not a real fun feeling to have, especially to your dad who likely comes off as uninterested. I would say I’d be angry, too, but my history and wiring would seem to suggest I would just be more depressed and paralyzed by it. But I would certainly understand anger.
*I wasn’t there, so this is some speculating and filling in blanks from conversation.
I would also certainly understand anger now. As mentioned before, one of the things that Ian and Dad did have in common was musical taste, at the least. Whether either one would want to admit it, Dad had a lot of influence on Ian’s musical bedrock. Normally maybe that would be a pretty minor detail, but when you’ve made it your life’s mission to create and immerse yourself in music as Ian has, well, it matters. That Dad hasn’t really taken an active interest in music he had a somewhat big hand in creating, if indirectly, is certainly frustrating to me. I can only imagine how Ian takes it. That said, I don’t know if I would really describe Ian’s music as angry, and maybe I’m attributing things there because what I’ve seen myself. But I do think there’s something there that makes heavier, louder sounds more appealing to Ian.
I’m sure there’s more here to mine, but I’ve played Freud too long today. Lighter stuff tomorrow, I promise.