Aside from being a research geek, I am also a guitar geek. I grew up in an era when guitar driven rock and metal was king. It was everywhere from the radio to TV. I used to sit and listen to stuff by Van Halen, Ratt, Joe Satriani, Steve Vai and many others and be in awe of their skills. At 15 I decided I wanted to learn to play the guitar. At the time, my parents were running a music shop in my hometown owned by my grandparents. One of the brands they carried was Samick. They made okay stuff for pretty cheap prices. So I had a bare bones six string electric that I was able to pluck a bit on.
I learned some from my father who had played guitar and bass for years. He provided me with a good grasp of the basics but I never practiced as much as I should have. So I tooled around on guitar off and on throughout high school and a little bit when I started community college. Then, right before my 21st birthday I joined the Navy and that put my guitar playing and learning on hold for a while. A few years and a medical discharge later I found myself back home and wanting to pick up guitar again. This time was different. I delved more into learning and most importantly, actually composing songs. However, some of the lyrical content quality was questionable with some real Grammy award winning stuff like “Sweaty Palms, Raw Meat”, “Don’t Screw My Groove”, and “Bitch Queen”. What can I say, I was 24 and armed with an Applause acoustic (a cheapo Ovation) and a Samick six string electric with a Samick 15 watt practice amp. Not the best set up but I didn’t make much cash as a lithographer. If you’ve never heard of a lithographer, look it up and you’ll understand why it was a wise choice I didn’t make that a career in the early 2000s.
Anyhow, I ended up focusing more on perfecting my technique, phrasing and learning to solo outside of the little pentatonic box I was most comfortable playing in. Over the next few years I hit a few rough patches and had to sell my guitars and amps. I also ended up going back to college in 2003 and buying a Seagull acoustic – a really nice sounding guitar. I also ended up with another cheapo Samick guitar – antoher strat copy and a small Crate 15 watt amp. Despite my gear handicap, I forged on learning some more and picking up a few cover songs here and there. Around 2004/2005 some friends and I attempted to form a band – Porkchop Express, named after the truck in Big Trouble in Little China. We came up with some ideas, I wrote down some stuff, it didn’t really do much. We were more famous in San Marcos, TX for our karaoke antics at the bar than any music we wrote. Don’t get me wrong, we came up with some decent stuff here and there but it was to never really see the light of day. At the time a friend of ours had fit the bill for me to play through a Randall RG100 with an extra Randall 4×12 cabinet. The amp sounded great and by then I had purchased a Washburn X16 electric guitar which I still have to this day.
I moved to Dallas in 2006 to go to school at the UT campus there and spent a good amount of time playing guitar in my apartment. Then, a year later I moved to San Marcos to go to Texas State University switching from Neuroscience to Health Psychology. I played off and on for the almost two years I lived there before having to move back home due to losing funding for my research assistant job at the university. It was at that point in late 2008, early 2009 that I really dove into my playing. I experimented with all sorts of things I hadn’t before and I think it was at that point I started learning more than I had the previous 15 years.
I eventually snagged a job in San Antonio, moved there and continued to write and also record ideas and coming up with riffs and compositions. I had bought a Line6 Guitar Port to record stuff onto my computer. I still have those recordings to this day as well as all the tab I wrote. I didn’t have an amp anymore and sometimes was able to borrow my brother’s Kustom 2×12 amp. By this time my parents had their own little shop and I drooled at the possibilities of grabbing a really nice guitar I had always dreamed about buying like a brand new Jackson or an Ibanez shred machine. Unfortunately, it never happened. Lost my job due to funding issues and had the pleasure of getting a divorce. It wasn’t a great time for me around 2010 and I ended contemplating bailing out of my graduate program and just making a career out of my job with the State of Texas, my small salaried (very small) job with the State of Texas. I lost access to the amps I once had and played through some models at the store when I could and loving the sound of the Kustom, AXL and Raven amps. However, I at least had my Line6 Guitar Port which was already 6 years old and ancient technology by then.
I soldier (or I guess in my case, sailored) on and starting dating my (soon to be) wife. I also finally finished my master’s program and scored another research job in 2012 back in San Antonio. That helped boost me into some more playing and it was during that time that I was the most musically productive I had ever been. We moved to SA in December of 2012 and we’ve been here ever since. There’s been some ups and downs and we’re still dealing with the aftereffects of those downs.
Over the next 4 years I played off and on but nothing really steady. Then over the last couple of years I hardly even picked up one of my guitars. I ended up selling my Seagull – there’s those hard times again. But I also was able to buy a nice Takamine acoustic to replace it. That puts me where I am now. With a Washburn X16 and a Takamine six sting acoustic and no amp. My skills have degraded noticeably and I’ve set about trying to change that.
I’ve set my sights on a nice Fender Mustang modeling amp – a 100 watt 2×12 amp. Also, instead of forking out hundreds of dollars for a shiny new Charvel retro 80s guitar, I’m taking my Washburn and beefing it up to become the shred machine I’ve always wanted – new Seymour Duncan pickups, new locking tuners, brand new Tune-O-Matic bride, a new bone nut, cleaned and treated fret board, new input jack, and a new set of Heavy Core strings will round out the mods. The guitar itself is a basswood body, maple neck with rosewood fret board with 24 jumbo frets, so not too bad and definitely worth working with. Now, if it were a cheapo little crap starter Fender Starcaster or something, then, yeah, new guitar shopping I would go. However, hot-rodding my Washburn will save me mucho dinero which I can use to buy other stuff.
To get back up to speed with my playing I’ve dedicated 30 minutes on Tuesdays and Thursdays during the week to play and at least one hour on the weekends. Yes, it’s not much but it’s just the goal which I can exceed if I am able to. Once I get my new amp that will most likely happen as I learn to program the tones and start working on putting together some new material.
Eventually, I would like to put together a band with some other like-minded middle aged guys and play some 80s style tunes – some covers and some original stuff. Some people will say that it’s hair metal, glam metal, AOR, hard rock, arena rock, classic rock or whatever – I’m just going to refer to it as Dad Metal. Which is weird how that came to be because a small number of kids online (along with pages they follow that they are unaware are satire) who worship bands like Asking Alexandria, Black Veil Brides and other crap, refer to the old school metal as “Dad Metal” because it’s what their dads listen to. The Honda commercial for the Odyssey minivan with Judas Priest’s “The Hellion” playing didn’t help the image either.
My hope is that I can play good enough to introduce some kid to that style of music and have them become just as fascinated as I was and lead them to their own journey into the world of guitar. That, and I’ve always wanted to play a show and be paid in beer.