Saturday, November 29, 2008

My Influences

Tonight, as I was waiting for my kids to be ready for bed, and I was winding down, I was watching a documentary that I'd Tivo'ed a long time ago, about the history of heavy metal. It traced its roots from working class England in the 70's, to the debauchery of 1980's LA, through the angst of the 90's, and on to now, where it's kinda become a montage of the whole.

It's really a big history of my own musical progression. I started to think about my own musical influences, and they are many. Some of them, you can't really hear in my music. I think that's mainly because they may have influenced me in other ways that music. Anyway, here they are, with some thoughts. I'd welcome your comments, and who were the bands influential in your life (not necessarily musically).

My influences

Steeleye Span was an old british folk band. They took old folk tunes, and redid them with rock instruments and arrangements. I liked them a lot. I didn't know that they weren't cool. I just liked them. And I likedy them even though hardly anyone else had ever even heard of them, and that was in the days before "indie cred"

Rush The first rock song I ever learned wasn't "Stairway to Heaven". That was the second. The first one was "Bastille Day" by Rush. Many years later, I still love to listen to then. I went with them through the progressive art rock years, the techno keyboard years, the guitar revival years, and I got to see them in concert again last year. I loved them for the musicianship, and the thoughtful lyrics. They weren't lewd or just another party band. They really made me think.

Cinderella, for the blues. Their first album was pretty pathetic. Just another flashy glam hair band. They coulda been one-hit wonders. Their second and third albums, however, were incredible. I loved it. They had nailed the concept of heavy blues, and it was great. Sadly, nobody else in the world seemed to think so, and so they faded off into obscurity. But each of my albums seems, somehow, to have a heavy blues tune. They helped me to realize how cool that sound is.

Queen, for the diversity. One thing I loved about Queen is that you never knew what you were gonna get. They flipped from bubblegum pop, to heavy rock, to arabic rai, to experimental choirs. Often within the bounds of the same song. Certainly every album was a bizarre mix of styles and sounds. But, it all seemed to sound like Queen. I've tried to do that in my own quest for a "Signature sound".

Queesnryche I am a totally unashamed 'Ryche fan. Everything they did in the 80's I loved. And even some of the stuff they did in the 90's. I think "Empire" is my favorite 'Ryche album. They had everything. Great writing, great vocals, great production. Thinking man's rock. Good stuff.

Yes, for the complexity. I remember going to see Yes on their "Tormato" tour. I was just into high school, and the only way I could get permission to go was to drag my dad along. My dad, "Mr Classical". Yes was probably the only band I could have ever gotten him to go see. It was an incredible show. I have always loved Yes for their musical complexity. I have to admit, though, that I don't get the lyrics. They seemed to be able to pull of obscure lyrics much better than later bands like Duran Duran would, however.

Slade, Twisted Sister, Georgia Satellites, Joan Jett, and a million others for the simplicity. Complexity and intellect is great. I love intricacies and subtleties. But sometimes, ya just gotta turn it up and make some noize. There's a certain cleansing power to loud, mindless, driving songs like "I Wanna Rock", "Run Runaway", or "I Love Rock and Roll". Somehow, when it's all done, you shake off your troubles and you feel all cleaned out inside. Yeeaah!

The Who, for the black eyes. I've often said that there are times when I feel like, in songwriting, if someone hears my song and doesn't get a black eye or a bloody nose, then I haven't done my job. Yes, there's a place for creating beauty and being inspiring. But there are other times when you've got to grab someone by the shirt collar and shake him up. The Who taught me how to do that.

Metallica, for the deep ugliness of art. And just the same, there are times in life that aren't pretty. And art shouldn't always be still lifes, florals, and beautiful landscapes. Sometimes we need Guernica and Jackson Pollock. When I was writing "Millstones", I realized that I couldn't treat that topic with any other sound.

AC/DC, for turning me away from the lewd and the lame. Sometimes, you've gotta come face to face with the extreme to see just how bad it is. For years, as I was growing up, I listened to a lot of hard rock, and I'd try to convince others (and myself) that the words really weren't all that bad. Then I came up against AC/DC, and I realized that, yes, it really was that bad. Add to that the fact that they're musically pretty lame, and I started to see that many others (WASP, Motley Crue) etc, weren't really all that uplifting, either. To this day, there's only one or two AC/DC songs I can tolerate.

Stryper and Petra, for helping me see what I'd believed for a long time, that you can sing about God in a rock tune.

I'm sure there are many others. I could keep going on and on. But I'll let it go. You pick it up. Let's meme this baby. Write in a comment or in your own blog, "What music influenced you growing up, and how did it impact you?"

Mark Hansen

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Love Your Enemies?

I've had a little bit of time to think about the reactions to proposition 8, now.

It was very interesting to me to watch people around me, at work, on twitter and blogs, at church, making comments and pressing forward with their beliefs. I didn't begrudge anyone their opinions. I have my own as well. But as the debate got more and more heated, more and more people took sides. And as the sides were chosen, the battle lines were drawn. I knew that there were strong feelings. I guess I had just expected that once it was all settled in the vote, that it would be accepted and we would all move on.

I know that those that are pushing for gay marriage wouldn't quit, but it seemed to me that they would more likely look ahead to the next challenge instead of getting vindictive.

And when we talk about loving our enemies, and doing good for those that despise us, what does that mean? I hope nobody expects us to back off our stance or our beliefs. We're being labelled a church of hate. I don't see i that way, of course. So, in order to be a church of love, do we have to change our fundamental beliefs and accept the ways of our accusers? Do we have to agree with you in order to win your seal of approval?

Up until the end, I saw this whole experience as a wonderful example of democracy in action. It's like in the book of mormon. In Helaman, chapter 1, the story of Pahoran, Pacumeni, and Panchi gives an excellent example of how elections work. And two dynamic examples of just how different reactions to election results can be.

Anyway, it's late, and I'm rambling...

Mark Hansen

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Job and Me

So, lately I've been struggling a lot. I've been feeling quite down, and playing the victim very nicely. While, intellectually, I realize that there are people who've been hit harder by this economic turndown than I have, I'm still playing it for as much sympathy as I can.

...And it truly hasn't been easy. My income has fallen to about a little more than half what it was in the early parts of the year. My position in the company I work for is no longer what it was. The cars in my driveway have all decided they want to stop working at the same time as my laptop, and, of course, I can't afford to get them fixed.

On the surface, it would seem that I'm coming up to Thanksgiving day, with a lot of not-so-much-to-be-thankful-for on my plate.

But when I look at it from another perspective, I am very blessed. It's true that my job situation has changed drastically, but I am still employed. There are many in this country who are not. I still have a home. Many do not. I can still make my mortgage payment (even though it is more difficult). Many cannot. Even though my wife and I have both been sick lately, Jacob hasn't.

So, I've been reading in the Old Testament. For about two years, now, I've been on a slow and steady quest to complete that. I've got probably another year at the rate I'm going. But the other day, I'm sitting at work, and on my break reading along. I come to Job. As I read along, I realize that he's my bro, these days. He's not sure why he's suddenly hurting, but it's there. His friends tell him that it's his fault. He sinned, so now he's being punished. His wife tells him to curse God and die. Now, I know I'm not sinless, and my wife's been very supportive, even though she's been afraid, too. But good ol' Job says, basically, "I don't know why God is letting this happen to me. Who really knows God's plans anyway? I just know in the end He'll bless me for faithfulness!"

And so I need to be as well. I don't know what's going on or where it will lead me. I just need to press on and be as faithful as I can be. Just like Job.

Mark Hansen

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Songs of Zion

General Conference’s Greatest Hits
The Mormon Tabernacle Choir, with Special Guests

Most of the time, when I’m in here reviewing musicians, and their CD’s and songs, I’m dealing with the indies, the edgier side of LDS music. Today, I’m talking about the Mo’ Tab. The is no musical group in all of LDS music that is more mainstream than they are. Their performances in the conferences twice a year set the bar, the standard, and the model for church choirs all over the world. They define what LDS worship music is. Ya can’ get mo’ mo’ mainstream than that!

Yet, I’m a big fan. I love to hear them sing. Their arrangements and execution are always incredible. There have been many years where, as inspiring and instructional as the talks are, the music has been more memorable and more impactful to me.

…And now, I can fill up my iPod (or whatever) with it!

At a page in the website you can now download mp3’s (as well as other media) of the musical performances of the choir!

Some of my favorites: The reverent and tranquil rendition of “I Know that My Redeemer Lives” is amazing, as is “I Need Thee Every Hour”. The more rousing ones, like “Rejoice, The Lord is King”, are great, too. Some are more straightforward arrangements, some are more innovative.

A bit of a headsup, some of them, like “High On the Mountain Top” are covered with the announcer’s voice. I just deleted those when I listened.

It’s pretty exciting news, to me, a musician and ward choir director.

Mark Hansen

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

The Songs Of Zion

Well, the election is over. I’ll let other bloggers sort out the chaos that will undoubtedly ensue. I will, however, say this: I was impressed both by McCain’s concession and Obama’s Victory speeches. After all, they both handled things with dignity. Wasn’t that what I was asking for?

So, tonight, I’m going to blog about something totally different.

The Songs of Zion

“The Showman Empire”
By TJ Fredette

The LDS hip hop hall of fame is a pretty small, it’s true. But if there were to be candidates and inductees, I’d recommend two: Arhythmatik and TJ Fredette. These are musicians whose songs I actually like. I mean there are a lot of LDS artists that I like and I support simply for their novelty. They’re unique and I like that. But these are two guys that I keep in rotation in my mp3 player. I can actually “sing” along with some of their tunes.

So, when TJ sent me his latest self-published CD, “The Showman Empire”, I was excited.

I was also a little nervous. I mean, when I really like something that I’m hearing, this little voice in my head wonders if the next thing they do will be as good.

Well, it is.

One thing I really love about listening to TJ is his messages. They’re hard-hitting, but clean. One of my favorites is “You Don’t Know What Could Happen”. This is an in-your-face story of what happens when wrong choices get out of control. “Say One Thing Mean Another” is an indictment of the excesses of mainstream hip hop culture that doesn’t pull any punches.

He can also get personal. “Young Shadows” is all about how little kids look up to older family members, and how we need to be careful about the examples we live. Repentance is the subject of “I Didn’t Mean It”.

I really like his tracks, as well. I don’t know who produces them, himself or someone else, but they always have more structure than typical eternal loops that I hear in a lot of pop and hip hop. The minor keys he uses tend to lend an air of austere seriousness to the songs, but honestly, that’s the one complaint I have about this CD. Most of the tracks come with that haunting, sad tone, and a similar pacing in the beats. I’d say to mix it up a bit more, but then, I’m not the expert on hip hop production, either.

Well, now I have some more killa beatz to add to my rotation on my commute!


Mark Hansen

What Separates Us From The Animals

Well, the election is here, and it’s almost done. I got up early and voted. There was a line, but it wasn’t too bad. Maybe about a half hour to 45 minute wait. It’s a small price to pay for freedom, right?

Is it just me or did this election seem to be more divisive than those in the past. I mean, I’ve seen some pretty ugly mudslinging, but this one just plain got vicious. I don’t particularly mind it when the politicos criticize each other’s plans and policies. I just think it’s wrong when they try to undermine each other on a personal level. And I saw lots of it going around this time, especially on the ‘net.

I guess that’s just part of the test, the vetting process that we’ve set up for our president, right? If they can’t handle the election process, they can’t handle the job, right?

I just wish we, as a people, could handle it with a little more dignity.

Mark Hansen

Monday, November 03, 2008

Five Years in my Family

Five years ago, I started hearing about blogging. I’d actually been seeing and reading blogs for quite some time, I just hadn’t realized that was what they were called. I also started seeing the potential for promoting my music, and I thought about how I could join in.

That’s how Mo’ Boy was born. My thought was to just share my thoughts on Mormon life and culture, as well as an occasional foray into doctrinal stuff. But I didn’t do that very often.

And even though I’ve slacked from time to time, I’ve not given it up, which has earned the blog a slot as one of the oldest LDS blogs that currently exists. And I’m not hanging it up anytime soon.

I sat down with my wife last night and we talked about some of the things that have happened to us in the last five years, since I started. We came up with a surprisingly big list, and here we go (not in any particular order):

• Brendon Baptized – This was a big landmark. There was a time when we thought we’d never have kids. And here one of our kids was getting baptized. It was a wonderful moment. Now, he’s only a year out from the Aaronic Priesthood.
• Jacob Baptized – Baptizing Jacob was an interesting trick. We tried all kinds of methods. First a chair, then different ways of holding him. Finally, my father and I just held him, floating, on the surface of the water, said the prayer, and lowered him under. It was also a powerful moment.
• Bev Died - My step-mother-in-law passed from Pancreatic Cancer. It was a pretty long and slow death, and it was very difficult for my kids. They, especially Jacob, were very young, so they didn’t really understand, but they did miss her.
• Joan Died – Then, this last year, my wife’s mom died as her body shut down with Parkinson’s Disease. This one was actually a lot harder on my wife.
• Sold old house, built new house, moved – Two years ago, as her mom was starting her physical descent, we lived with them in their basement for a year and a half while our current home in Eagle Mountain was being built. It was great that our kids got to know their grandparents so closely before she passed.
• One United Generation – My first CD was released in 2005. This was quite an accomplishment for me, a real landmark in my life.
• Lost and Found – The second CD was also a landmark, but not so pivotal as the first one. I’m proud of them both, and I have a hard time saying which one I like listening to better.
• Don married, divorced, married, divorced – After Bev’s death, my father-in-law Don went into a bit of an emotional tailspin. Since then, he’s been married and divorced twice, and also gone through a couple of girlfriends. My boys tease him about it, which probably isn’t a good thing…
• Conductive Ed – A few years back, we discovered and tried a new program of physical therapy for Jacob. It was very hard, but it also worked wonders for him. Still, it was frighteningly expensive, and it was in Tucson. We did manage to bring it to Utah for a few sessions, but even that was more than our budget could allow.

There’s been a lot of changes since I started Mo’ Boy. It’s been a fun ride. Of course, it’s also far from over.

Mark Hansen


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