What are your influences? This is the single most annoying question I get from people who find out that I am a musician in a band. In a large part, it is due to the fact that my actual influences, vs. what I listen to vs. what my band sounds like are three separate things.
Symfinity sounds like orchestrated modern rock, somewhere in the middle of the spectrum between Nightwish and The Moody Blues. And I typically listen to symphonic metal or melodic metal bands, but my influences are a much larger story.
Part of why I am writing about this now is due to the fact that U2 released an album that was forced upon anyone with an iPhone and people are complaining about it, as they probably should! What people don’t realize though (since I’m a little older than some of our fans and I remember the 90s) is that U2 used to be cool back in the 90s. In fact, I have a couple U2 albums, and while I wasn’t the biggest fan, they have some great songs. Were they an influence? Maybe. I have to assume that everything I have ever heard is a potential influence, because that’s the way my composer brain works. It assimilates all kinds of music whether I want it to or not!
While we are on this topic, I’d like to bring up all my embarrassing listening habits that I’ve had over the years and leave them out in the open! I’m not here claiming that any of these are good (although I think some are). I’m just giving our fans a wide perspective on who I am.
1. I do in fact like some old U2 songs. As I have mentioned, they were pretty popular back in the 90s and in a GOOD way.
2. I used to listen to Nickelback. Ah, the most dreaded and hated rock band for the last decade probably. And certainly for a reason. When I first heard them, I heard the song “This is How You Remind Me”. And while it was nothing spectacular, you have to realize that as an aspiring rock musician, this was way better than listening to Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake. So I didn’t mind Nickelback for a couple albums, until they released that AWFUL “Photograph” song which I STILL hear on the radio. You want to know why Nickelback is the most hated band in the world? It’s because they wrote a terrible song that their label spammed on the radio for the last decade effectively KILLING rock music as we know it and allowing indie pop to oust hard rock and metal from the radio. Of course people are going to hate rock music when they think of Nickleback every time they think about it. This has been a major source of frustration for me over the years, but I can see things changing now finally, which is really exciting for us!
3. Load, Reload and the black album are my favorite Metallica albums. I’m not sure of the order (I probably like the black album the most). Call me a fake Metallica fan if you like, but I like the songwriting. That being said, I absolutely love Master of Puppets, Ride the Lightening and I’ve even come to like …And Justice for All a lot in recent years. It’s just St. Anger that I struggle with and especially that Lulu album that I can’t even stomach. Of course my actual favorite album of theirs is the one with the San Francisco Symphony.
4. I used to listen to Coldplay. Honestly, even though I don’t really listen to them now, I do think that A Rush of Blood to The Head is an interesting album and still has a couple songs I really like. Similarly to U2, it’s the songs from the 90s I can listen to.
5. I used to listen to Maroon 5. Though I’ve always found them a little annoying, their early albums are very creative and well arranged. Now, they have devolved into something horrible. I’m not sure what. It’s not even close to rock…maybe more like a really terrible version of Bruno Mars except much MUCH worse.
6. I LOVE nu-metal or however you want to define it. Linkin Park, Evanescence, Disturbed, Adema are some of my favorite bands, and they are HUGE influences of mine. I was even an extra in an Evanescence music video (What You Want) and if you haven’t heard their new album, it’s worth a listen. So many people fell off the Evanescence bandwagon when their second album came out, but not me! That being said, I like Lacuna Coil (my favorite band) MUCH better. I’ve never been a big Korn fan or even a small one, but I’ve accepted that these bands were all directly influenced by them and I can tolerate Korn now.
7. Avril Lavigne and Michelle Branch both have songs that are listenable. Again, they might not be anything impressive, but with Britney Spears and the Backstreet Boys as contemporaries, pop rock didn’t seem so bad. And yes, whether I like it or not, I am influenced by them.
8. It took me forever to like Nightwish. Yes, I am a Nightwish fan. But I had to be an Evanescence and Lacuna Coil fan first. Power metal didn’t used to be something I liked, but after hearing Once with a live recorded orchestra, I was finally convinced. Sometime after this, I realized that if Nightwish can do it, I can do it too!
9. I don’t listen to jazz. Ever. Call me not classy, but I don’t. I’ve played jazz in big bands before and had a good time, but for me, jazz is a lot more fun to play than to listen to. I have a classical background and a composer mindset, and music that is improvised simply goes over my head. I mean why not? It’s only intended to be performed that way once anyway….in the ear and out the other so to speak. That being said, there is almost zero jazz influence in Symfinity songs anyway. Random fact: I have written two pieces for jazz band in the past and they have even been performed.
10. I don’t listen to classical music as much as I should. I went to school for classical composition. I grew up playing Bach, Mozart, Chopin and many other composers. For me, I’ve latched onto something more modern and currently relevant to widespread audiences. However, I think Mozart and Chopin are VERY easy to listen to, have catchy melodies and they are HUGE influences of mine. For those who have heard my “classical” music, this influence is very apparent. I could never get into 20th century music for the most part and as it was frowned upon to compose music with any marketability in that world, that is why I left it to be a rock musician.
I hope our fans find this interesting if nothing else!