The Scott Shaw Blog Be Positive

Mr. Drum Machine

I have always found it interesting how the people who don’t try are the ones who don’t succeed and flourish. When they don’t succeed, it always seems that they are the ones who become the most bitter and take their lack of achievement out on the world in various ways.
I mean, there is, of course, the other side of this issue, those who succeed when they don’t even try. But, I won’t go into that, at least not right now.
I believe that effort is the key ingredient to success. That seems pretty obvious, right? Of course, there are those who try and don’t succeed. I mean, there is no absolute formula for life success. But, most who fail are those who never truly try.
Coming of age in the time when Punk was born was an interesting evolution into adult life for me. I felt and feel lucky that there was a movement of pure unadulterated freedom being born at that point in my history. Certainly, Punk wasn’t as pure and/or as high-minded as say that of the generation that came before, dubbed by the media, “Hippies.” But, what Punk gave us/gave me was a reason to let go of the traditional.
As a musician, since an early age, I always strived to be technically excellent, at least as good as I could be. With Punk we/I could let all of that go. It was so freeing.
I don’t know if you’re a musician or not. If you are, you may understand that sometimes when you play your instrument it just becomes this freeform meditation where the notes simply flow. Punk was like that. Yes, more Hard Core, but free nonetheless.
In about 1980, the first wave of Punk was dying out. With that came a new breed of music that drew on Punk but could be more, (for lack of a better term), artsy. Me, I found myself truly embracing that point in music history.
Drum machines had been around since the early 1960s. They never really took hold until the mid 1980s. But, there was a period in there, when they were simple enough to use easily and effectively, while being technologically advanced enough for one to quickly lay down a nice bed of beats.
I guess it was in 1980, a new drum machine was released by Roland, who had always been at the forefront of drum machine technology.  It was the Roland CR-8000 CompuRhythm. It was great! With just a few button pushes I could get a great rhythm going. I named mine, “Mr. Drum Machine.”  
I had this friend who I had known and had been playing music with, on and off, since high school. We had jammed a lot following in the footsteps of bands like Black Sabbath in our early sessions but when Punk came around, we both dove in headfirst. Though we clubbed a lot together, we only played music with each other sporadically.
Anyway, with the CR-8000 as an inspiration, I had the idea that he and I should do a band together. The vibe would be beatnik. We would grow goatees, wear black turtleneck sweaters, black jeans, and black berets. You know, not so much mocking but embellishing an era. The hook was, we would have a mannequin sitting behind a kid’s drum kit, also dressed beatnik style. Obviously, the mannequin would not be playing the drums, that would come from the CR-8000. High concept, right?
Anyway, I told my friend of the idea. He liked it. With him on bass, me on guitar, and me pushing the buttons on the CR-8000, we started to practice. We played very well together and, as I had tons of songs already written, it was an easy fit. We were ready to go.
We did a couple of club gigs. They were okay. Not great. But, okay. We didn’t invite any of our people to those gigs, however, because we wanted to see the true impact the band had on a random audience. BTW, this was back in the day when every night people were out in the Hollywood clubs, so there was always an audience.
I liked what was happening. I knew we could make it better with time but I really thought we were onto something. But, that was not to be the case.
I guess it all started when my friend asked if he could play guitar instead of bass. No big deal, as we had played guitar together since our teens. It changed the vibe of the band a little bit, but whatever… The thing was, he didn’t own a guitar. So, I gave him one of mine. It was one of the first generation of Charvel guitars. But, I’ll get into that in a moment.
Anyway, right after that time, and our two gigs, my friend came over to practice and he said I don’t think this is going to work, you doing the drum machine and playing guitar. My response, “But it is working.” What came out next is that he just didn’t want to do it. “I don’t want to try, man,” were his exact words. His words, not mine. Wow, okay…
At that moment, I looked back on the years I had known him and every time we had something/anything going good, anytime he had something/anything going good in his own life, he would shut it down. I realized, I guess I should have known better.
As for the band idea, I don’t know??? It just kind of fell apart. I never recast his part. I went to grad school and was traveling a lot. I just found other ways to create music.
This friend passed away a little while back. At his funeral one of his friend’s kids spoke of the man and how when he wanted a guitar, he gave him one. In my mind I said, “I hope you realized that was a first generation Charvel.” ...Something that became an extremely valuable guitar. (Not like the mass-produced Charvels that are made today). He went on, “But, I never really played it and just threw it away.” What! This guy didn’t try either.
Throughout my friend’s life, I watched as he became more and more angry and bitter with time. The fights he would have with his female partners were insanely epic. He was always looking for a fight—always negative about everything. The man was not fulfilled. He became very angry. All he did was fill his time with the things in life that don’t really matter. But, then what? His/your life is over and all you have experienced is regret and anger at what you did not accomplish. Why didn’t he… Why didn’t anyone not accomplish? Answer, they did not try.
This is just a thought, told in the form of a story… You really need to try your hardest in life to accomplish whatever it is you hope to accomplish. There’s no guarantee that you will accomplish it, but at least you will have tried. You can be proud of that, if nothing else. Don’t be one of those people who lashes out at the world due to your lack of accomplishment.