At 16 I left high school to pursue an engineering degree at the University of Strathclyde. With hindsight it probably wasn’t the best move. I wasn’t really mature enough to handle unlimited access to alcohol and girls. In first year I was able to coast through the modules through natural ability, but second year was an entirely different kettle of fish. For the first time in my life I needed to study, but I didn’t know how. I also didn’t really feel motivated to park myself in a quiet spot to study when I could be in the pub socialising; I spent a serious amount of time in the Students’ Union, specifically in the Barony Bar and the Pool Hall. The jukebox was full of tunes from the last decade, and it exposed me to the influences of others who just happened to be in the same room as me, whether they travelled within the same subcultural circles or not. More than any other time I believe that my environment was influencing my taste rather than my social group. Guitar bands had been in vogue since Blur and Oasis rekindled their chart form in the early to mid ’90s. The songs I recall the most from the Union were probably the following:
James; “Sit Down” and “Laid” : The Dandy Warhols; “Get Off” : Junior Senior; “Move Your Feet” : Jamiroquai; “Little L” : Semisonic; “Closing Time”, “Chemistry”, “Secret Smile”.
Nothing beats a bit of knee drumming in the pub to Laid… I was developing an appreciation for less aggressive forms of rock and guitar music, but more so for song that had great vocal hooks.
Increasingly, through this period I found myself purchasing single tracks on iTunes rather than buying whole albums, in physical or digital format. As I’ve mentioned in my Top Ten All Time Records blog, I think that this change in music consumption led to a different understanding of music. I was cherry picking the songs I wanted, but removing them from the context of their albums. Generally, I found that I was still going to gigs regularly, but I had no drive and passion for creating music, save my contributions to Coven between 2003 and 2005. I found myself concentrating far more on my athletic pursuits than my music, so it got pushed to one side and only occasionally surfaced when I decided that I had time to jam along with my iTunes library.
By mid 2005, I had become a curator rather than a participant. The next logical step was to inflict my taste on others, and for the first time I began to flirt with the role of the club DJ, running the nights in the students’ association for the Rock Society. I was normally supplied with a steady stream of song requests from our membership well in advance of the events. It was always interesting to hear some of the odd stuff that some of the members with more nuanced tastes would fire in my direction. I wouldn’t say that they informed my taste, but they certainly opened up new areas for aural exploration.
For some time now, I’ve believed that you truly discover yourself through adversity. Injury and a prolonged recovery prevented me from pursuing my sporting ambitions in 2007 and the loss of a good friend in 2008 pushed me back to where I could seek most comfort. Whenever life goes to shit I surround myself in music. It has the power to make me feel good. It has the power to empathise with my feelings. It has the power to be a distraction from pain and improve relaxation (Colwell, 1997). Creating music has always felt therapeutic, so the logical next step of my physical and mental recovery was to throw my hat back into the ring and get involved once again.
Back to Timeline.