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


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  2. Great list!

    You mentioned Stryper and Petra. I have recently interviewed John Schlitt, Petra's front man for twenty years, and Kenny Metcalf, Stryper's first keyboard player and the guy who introduced the members of Stryper to Jesus Christ before they were known as Stryper. If you'd like to listen to the shows, they're at and



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