I am kindly asked to write something about my musical life, which has now spanned several decades. No one had ever asked me that before. Well, I have been making music since I was 13 years old. My mother taught me how to play the guitar, at least the rudimentary playing she mastered. That was when I was thirteen.
Since then, I’ve been playing the guitar. It’s the instrument I desire in terms of beauty, sound, and challenge. In school, they told me I couldn’t sing. I did it anyway.
I’ve spent my life as a late bloomer, perpetually running to catch up. I was late into my teens before I even knew that I could sing, into my twenties before starting to play guitar, in my late twenties before I was in a band writing my own songs, and only years later would release my first album. Chasing the clock, hoping to catch up before time runs out.
I was born and raised in the hills and valleys of West Virginia, a land of contradictions itself – a place of conservative values and union labor, of startling beauty and stifling poverty, of struggle and soul. It was here that I had my first musical experiences, from the traditional country gospel of my ancestors to sneaking into my older sisters’ bedroom to pilfer and explore their collection of 45s, pretending I was giving concerts, using the bed as a stage.
I spent three or four years as a student in school and University, playing in rock bands and organizing music events. These years were the best of my life, filled with music, love, learning, friendship, and joy. It was also a tumultuous time, with stress, illness, and injury plaguing my life. In the band “Mint,” we played loads of gigs around my University town of Durham and recorded an album, “Leaving It Late,” which marked the culmination of our collective collaboration with a flourish.
After going “off the rails” slightly for this short period, I had to force discipline back into my life. I quit the rock and roll lifestyle completely and returned to being the hard-working, sports-playing, family-oriented guy I was before. I played rugby four times a week. I completed my degree eventually and got married to my girl.
Our story is that we have no story, at least not one that is interesting for a lot of people. We’ve always thought it strange that musicians need to have a story or an image for people to listen to their music when it is a purely aural art form. Our music as “Sound Furies” speaks for itself; it is its own entity that tells its own stories.
In May this year, I found myself becoming disillusioned with music, something I never thought would happen. No matter how many hours I’d put into creating pieces, they always felt hollow and meaningless – maybe a technique here or there was exciting, but for months, it all felt like nothing.
With roots firmly in ambient and noise music, this was an unsustainable position to be in, and I felt like giving up.
The most vivid artwork I’ve ever seen was a series of blank frames.
The first time I walked into the Dutch Room at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, I was gobsmacked. This room was the site of the most notorious art heist in history, where thirty-three years ago, two thieves disguised as police officers broke into the museum and stole half a billion dollars worth of masterpieces by Rembrandt, Vermeer, and Degas. I’ve never witnessed such a visceral display of the absence of art.
Subtle Amnesia is a one-person band prioritizing new sounds. With these sounds, I introduce philosophical ideas and the more grim aspects of reality to my music. I am a spiritual person who has had my fair share of mental health issues, and that ingrains itself into my music quite heavily.
Since I can remember, I’ve been performing. My earliest memories are dancing around my childhood home, singing along to my mom’s records, or doing what I can only describe as a cobra pose inside the giant planter boxes at our local shopping mall, pretending I was Ariel from The Little Mermaid. I used to feel like I could fly when I sang, like I had tiny wings sprouting from my back.
As I got older, my grandma taught me how to play piano, back when my hands were so tiny I couldn’t hit an octave. In school, I added choir, theater, and dance team to my repertoire, and I was sure I would be a big theater star one day. But of course, pragmatism won, and I went to college for something far less fun and ended up in a career even less fun, leaving a part of myself behind.
For years, my creative self was suffocated. I was dying to tap back into the freedom that came with being on stage, that rare out-of-body experience when you get to leave yourself behind and become something else entirely.
2023 marks 25 years since I started recording and performing music and noise. It is the year of retrospect and reconstruction of my first ideas and also the year of my first ever vinyl release under my birth name.
I started in 1998 with a classical guitar and a tape recorder. Those were the rimbaudesque days full of creative joy, escapade, expedition, and surprise – from first inspirations like Kurt Cobain, Syd Barrett, and Jim Morrison to other discoveries like Budgie, Nektar, or Hawkwind – when I started buying vinyl around the year 2000. Some of these recordings have been now released on a compilation album on the Polish netlabel Free Arts Lab.