My musical mentor from my teenage years, the late George Horan taught me that navigating the elusive difference between character and caricature is one of the most important challenges for an artist. His face would turn red in frustration as he screamed: ‘Play with Character don’t make a Caricature!’ But one has to stumble through this dilemma first hand to really feel it sink in… and even then…

statik 2

My musical mentor from my teenage years, the late George Horan taught me that navigating the elusive difference between character and caricature is one of the most important challenges for an artist. His face would turn red in frustration as he screamed: ‘Play with Character don’t make a Caricature!’ But one has to stumble through this dilemma first hand to really feel it sink in… and even then…

The statik 2 single originally released in 1992 was one such lesson: It was both a total success and utter failure captured in the driving dance grooves of a pair of atmospheric acid jazz tunes. I briefly relived the anxious moment I released it when I posted it on soundcloud a few weeks ago: 30+ of my valuable followers soon jumped ship. Flash back to the early 90’s when I had formed a word-of-mouth fan base that fell one step short of making cult status of my previous releases animus, resonance and the jazzier numbers on statik 1. When I personally handed them statik 2, they initially grabbed it up like candy not yet having heard the tunes. Within a week however the spell was broken and I felt I had betrayed my followers with just a pair of songs. The more polite ex-fans mumbled their lukewarm feedback. While the more honest ones actually handed the cassette back to me saying it was not their thing (ouch!).

Here I thought I had created the perfect concoction, blending resonance‘s atmospheric jazz with modern club grooves. But what I had made was more caricature than character: the drum machine objectified the breathing and swinging grooves of their historical origins, the singing channeled potential poetic nuance into superficial choruses. But self-effacing criticism is not the point here: more and more a whole range of contemporary music falls into the realm of caricature. And markets tend to reinforce this in the attempt to polarize styles into packageable sounds that are more like ads than authentic creative efforts…

So how was statik 2 a success? As my sonic twin at the time Erik Carlson, aka area c of 16:16 was taking a year off, I became musically ‘promiscuous’ jamming with all kinds of amazing cats in the then burgeoning acid jazz scene in Charlottesville, VA. One night I played an impromptu live set of statik 2 and related dance tunes that never made it on this single. I was opening for the opening band that was possibly opening for Dave Matthews’ opening band. (One of those venues where you’re lost in a line-up of 5 acts). For the first time in my musical career the crowd ebbed, flowed, and got down to my tunes. Sitting in were the rabid jazz drummer and shredding blues guitarist of the next act and we improvised extended remixes that took on a soul of their own. The ghost of this charged performance still lives within these recordings if you listen closely.

George Horan never said authentic music and pop tunes are mutually exclusive (after all he used to work with Quincy Jones). Instead, the best music communicates viscerally with the body through the mind, transcending genre and style with character.

statik 2, released in 1992 features fretless bass, atmospheric guitars, drum machine, soprano sax, and voice.

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statik 2

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