Infinite: How Anxiety Inspired an Album
This entry was posted on April 22nd, 2013 in General | 0 comments

There are times in most people’s lives (I’d like to believe) where they reach a pinnacle doing something they love and decide to either walk away from it forever, or settle and ride the remainder out for as long as possible. It could be a career, or maybe just building birdhouses. I think this is quite evident in the entertainment business, whether it’s as an entertainer or someone who creates things for people’s entertainment. When faced with the pressure to maintain momentum at their peak, it often leads to most bowing out, never reaching that level again, or simply running their careers into the ground. Very few, if any, rise above it without breaking a lot of hearts in the process.

While I’m nowhere near superstar levels in popularity, the fear of falling into the categories of redundant, repetitive or burn out are still very much a thing. It’s led to a lot of anxiety-driven episodes where projects are scrapped, redone, re-scrapped, redone again and then completely trashed. Then usually starting up again at a later date. The process sometimes repeating itself. The ever-growing doubt that surrounds my brainstorming sessions has led to a lot of cancellations or complete overhauls that end up wasting a lot of precious time. My obsession to never stop creating hasn’t helped. Thus, when it came time to focus on a follow-up to Robot With Unicorn Horn, I crashed.

Nothing I wrote was working, and eventually it left me with a ton of samples, but nothing substantial. This didn’t feel like a usual creative block. I could write soundtracks for the games I were developing at the time just fine but the minute it was time to work on a non-soundtrack release, the optimism and drive would cease to exist, and my cynicism would go through the roof. Nothing I wrote felt new or fresh. It was a nightmare! Eventually the blocks lead me to form a theory, just to humor my sanity, and it would become the eventual foundation for the first version of Infinite.

The theory was simple: What if creativity is a finite resource? What if the best years of creativity are behind us and we’re simply doomed to repeat them with the impression it’s new and/or different? As weird as it sounded, there was inspiration to be found in such a thought and so Infinite began to form. The original idea behind the album, titled “inFINITE” (get it?) at the time, was to build a concept album around the idea that creativity was a finite resource. As an added challenge, it was meant to be an 80′s synth pop album. For some reason. Irony? I don’t know.

“inFINITE” was meant to be some grandiose commentary on the idea that creativity was finite, and that we’d come to the end, where nothing but the debris of our musical history remained. A musical apocalypse, I guess. It was a cynical approach that would suggest we’re all stuck in a time where there is no “new”. Instead it’s just a repeat of musical cultures of previous eras with a new coat of paint. It was a negative response to music coming from personal insecurities, and the entire project ended up feeling like a forced, pretentious attempt to appeal to the cool kids. It was horrible.

Infinite was re-written at least three times, all with different musical themes. By the end only one song managed to make it to the final release in some form. Oddly enough, that track was Infinite, and it was always titled Infinite. Spooky! After redoing the album multiple times, I decided to step away and refocus on game design for a while.

One day while reading something on the internet (can’t remember if it was a blog post, interview or just a random comment), there was a statement that said something along the lines of, “Sometimes, when writing music, it doesn’t have to be complicated. You don’t need a hundred layers, crazy time signatures or insane compositions to make an enjoyable song.” I somehow connected with the statement immediately. There was a sense of comfort that came with reading those words. It was weird. After such an extended battle with creative blocks and self-doubt, a simple statement, that really isn’t exactly deep, managed to reinvigorate my will to write music again. From there, “inFINITE” was trashed completely for something new: Something I actually enjoyed writing. I’d keep the “Infinite” title as a reminder, though.

The difference was night and day. I was no longer obsessing over subliminal nods, revolutionary commentaries and pretentious M.O.’s. It was about having fun and writing something that didn’t have any serious agendas or undertones. I wasn’t writing to emulate any of the composers I looked up to, and I wasn’t trying to become the next Trent Reznor. It was just me, with my tools, and that was okay.

I guess you could say the possibilities became… infinite? Hah!

For the longest time I’ve feared repeating myself and becoming irrelevant to my own work. I thought that if a follow up sounded like the album it was following, in any way, that it was bad. The drastic differences between The Resistance Divided and Robot With Unicorn Horn make this more than obvious.

Infinite is my attempt to break the cycle. The album is an appreciation of my past releases, and incorporates everything I’ve done before, but done to greater degrees while still trying something new. Instead of writing a ten-minute epic about how music today sucks, I wrote an ironic piece inspired by a move from Tekken. Instead of an album with a message, every song on Infinite ties back to the numerous concepts/ideas/usages of finite/infinite in some fashion. It’s an album with a theme, but it’s not tied to a concept with any sort of agenda attached. There were no toolboxes to go back to, and I don’t feel the need to justify anything featured on Infinite. It’s one of those rare occasions where I can say this is a project I’m completely satisfied with.

From its cynical beginnings, born from desperation, to a somewhat liberating theme to explore, Infinite has arguably been my most bizarre experience in terms of writing. But it was also oddly therapeutic. There could be a grandiose concept album in my future sometime down the road that incorporates ideas and techniques from some of my favorite composers while I try to also emulate Trent Reznor. Until that day comes, there will be albums like Infinite that will not only drive me mad to write, but also remind me that sometimes it’s okay to have fun with it. As for whether or not I’ve come to a conclusion on the “creativity is finite” theory… I’m still working on it.

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