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Monday, June 1, 2009

Land ho!

Why, hallo thar, new blog land!

Just to have this in the open right off the bat: I need another blog like I need a hole in my head. There's another attempt at a blog on Yahoo (was on the old, but that's just keeled over and died, so I had to move it next to my profile) and that was going strong enough for my taste. The problem I had with it was that it was right under my real name (d'oh!). Heck, I like my anon status more. On the other hand, my wordwarrior persona is getting more comfortable with each passing day, so I thought 'let's try a fresh launch, it can't hurt, right?'.

Oh, right. Introductions. So, I'm this annoying 'wordwarrior' person up on MegaTokyo forums. The handle is a carryover from an earlier community called Komodo Island (it's Komodo Rock these days, and it's no longer a pirate harbor). Oh yeah, it was a p2p hub of sorts, dedicated to music exchange and such. Anywho, the handle itself came from a free Intartubz IQ test. My results pointed to a personality more apt to use words that mathematical logic ; they dubbed it the 'word warrior' type. I just removed the space between words. :)

Things kinda grew from the day I joined MT forums. I was in need of a image hosting resource, so I now have not one, but two accounts on Photobucket. The old one was getting awfully crowded, so I took some things over from the my_name account to a wordwarrior_MT account. There's also a profile under the same handle, and a My Anime List (MAL in short) profile as well. This kinda says a lot about my interests already.

Where should I start with that ... right, the music first. Back when Yahoo Groups was a young and innocent thing, I joined a group there dedicated to the music of a Dutch hippie dude called Arjen Anthony Lucassen. Arjen is the name behind the Ayreon project, which is essentially him and assorted friends performing his songs about Scifi themes, time travel, aliens and whatnot. Although he's a full decade older than me, Arjen is very much into things that make me tick, from heavy metal and progressive rock to Scifi, concept albums, Blackadder, Alice Cooper, Monty Python ... must be a few other things I don't remember right now. Oh yeah, and analog synthesizers. :)

To explain this apparent paradox, I've been a metalhead (a.k.a. headbanger, in MTV lingo) since I was 18. My 'year of manufacture' (lolz) is 1970, so this was after the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal. On the other hand, I spent my tumultuous teens during the later '80s, so new wave was like the soundtrack to my angsty years. I was also mildly interested in electronica at that time, and I was at times pulled one way or the other, keeping an eclectic ear to the ground for new things. With a description like that, I guess you can tell right away that I like things like Rammstein, who combine both electronica and heavy metal.

Back to Ayreon then: the thing that attracted me to this music was the honesty of its inspiration - it's an open tribute to the things Arjen likes, and he isn't disguising things at all. You can clearly hear passages that sound like Jethro Tull, Pink Floyd, Focus, Yes, Queen, Gentle Giant - but they are meshed into new themes and melodies that are entirely Arjen's own. In order to bring his ideas to life, Arjen started Ayreon as a home production, hiring people only where he couldn't cut it. He's an excellent rhythm guitar player, with a wealth of sound textures and approaches to harmony playing, and he's also a mean bass player. While his keyboard playing is widely experimental, he always knows what texture he wants, and he's pretty good at loops (keep in mind these are analog keyboards we're talking about, not push-the-button digital orchestra emulators). His drum programming is well above average, but he'd rather have a real drummer reacting to his melodies; and, being addicted to electronic sounds, he's always hiring guest players for freak-out solos and extra input. He's not very confident of his own singing, so he's always shopping for new voices to act his parts. Last but definitely not least, he's a very meticulous producer, with very high standards. It certainly helps being able to play most instrumental tracks himself, but it's more about knowing very well what sound he's aiming for.

So that explains half of the attraction to his music: it's precise, orderly and inventive at the same time, and it draws heavily from things I already like. The other half is the people he has guesting on each album. It's a freaking Who's Who of contemporary rock. He even got Ken Hensley doing a Hammond solo on one of his latest albums. Derek Sherinihan, Mikael Akerfeldt, Devin Townsend, Damien Wilson, Michael freakin Romeo and 'Sir' Russel Allen of Symphony X, Andy Deris ... oh, and Bruce Dickinson. Fish. Oliver Wakeman. Tomas Bodin. And the list goes on and on. Jeebus.

OK, I think that about covers the music side. I still keep a keen ear to the ground these days, for things like FROST* or Pure Reason Revolution or Izz. I'm also a self-styled bass player, so I'm only half clueless when musicians start talking shop. :)

The other thing mentioned earlier was MAL, which means I must be into anime or something like that. To do a little recursive thing, this here entry on my old blog says all the important things.

So, this long introduction should be enough for now. There's only one last thing to add: this is my thinkbox, so it's my place with my rules. I have a mild infatuation with titles (have title, will rant; no title, no entry) and I ramble occasionally about creativity issues, but what you really have to watch out for is my verbosity. I hate short phrases with a passion. :) That being said, hey-ho, let's go.

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