Here’s something beyond interesting for you. Just before typing this up, as I was starting another piece, I stumbled upon a video cover of a song off of After the Burial’s new album. The song was ‘A Wolf Among Ravens,’ one of the lead singles for the new record. This cover was something else though. Let me quote the youtube description found with the video…
“This is the Djentstick, one stringed fretless low tune instrument i’ve made myself featuring an active EMG81 pickup thru a Line 6 Pod XT. All the audio was recorded only using the Djentstick! Believe it or not! Enjoy!”
At first I laughed my ass off. This is hilarious. Dude’s playing a wooden stick for christ’s sake. I mean how goddamn funny is it that this dude is playing along to After the Burial. On a wooden stick. And it sounds good. Listen to it, I’ve included both the djentstick video and the original audio. Jesus H. Christ that’s a gnarly sounding stick. But then I started thinking. Man, what a joke some of this djent has become. These are professional records, played by professional musicians, and they can be reproduced on a stick with a string. Kinda sad. Even worse is the sound of the stickman’s setup. He’s playing a piece of leftover wood strung with one string, with the oft shit-talked emg 85 pickup, about 100 bucks brand new, through a pod xt, which is I dunno a hundred bucks or so and he’s tonally reaching the standard that people claim to need 5000$ custom shop guitars and 2500$ Axe FX systems for. What does that say about the prices of and consumer snobbiness surrounding these high priced pieces of gear? I dunno, you tell me.
So I thought a little harder. And what this video is for me, and should be for the entire metal and musical community, a wake up call. And a big one. To start, quit the gear arguments and self-righteous bullshit. Gear is nothing without a player. A human being brings the gear to life. A human being creates music. But honestly, if someone wants to spend 10,000 bucks on a Blackmachine guitar, who gives a shit? Everyone is entitled to spend their money how they see fit. On the alternative, however, gear is a means to an end. If the desired tone can be found with a stick and a line 6 pod, then that’s all that matters. If cheap instruments and gear can make the artist satisfied that’s really all that matters. No seriously, I value solid production and am a self admitted tone junkie in my own work but sometimes you make due with what you can. Getting the best sound possible out of your unique set of gear is an often undervalued talent. This piece of wood is just the hyperbolic end of the idea.
Furthermore this video has sparked up a conversation inside my head about our idea of musicianship and music in the metal community. It doesn’t matter how many notes you play. It doesn’t matter how many strings you use. Or how complex your composition is. Or how theoretically advanced your song is. None of it matters. None of it. Music, just like gear, is a means to an end. The end this time is pleasure and emotion. These two things are what every piece of music, no matter the characteristics, seeks to create. None of the characteristics of the composition, whether its radio pop, classical music, grind, or prog metal, matter if the desired ends are created. And regarding the individual, as one youtube commenter pointed out, shout yourself out in the comments if you see this and want some credit, professional, classical musicians dress up in suits and head to fancy venues to perform only a few notes. A cog in the machine of the piece. So are we, members of a musical community who value and emphasize open-mindedness and musical exploration, going to limit ourselves to ideas of musicianship more narrow than that of the supposedly rigid genre of classical music? That doesn’t seem right to me. So if a musician wants to make his music on a 100,000$ self tuning Gibson LP he bought on ebay, let him. If he wants to play a one-stringed guitar and play a total of about 6 notes, like the folk artist I’ve provided below for another one stringed example, and make that instrument the focus of the piece. Let him. And shut up while you’re at it and remember that music is a means to an end.
Miguel Yépez: Youtube