Hard Rock Songwriting Examined

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Nikki Sixx of Motley Crue recently tweeted out a Psychology Today article entitled The Brutal Honesty of Hard Rock Songwriting by Micheal Friedman, Ph.D. – and asked his fans their thoughts on it.

I think Dr. Friedman gets it – and summarizes things quite effectively.

The author interviewed Nikki, Jacoby Shaddix of Papa Roach and Zoltan Bathory of Five Finger Death Punch in order to “…understand the art of hard rock and heavy metal songwriting and why the songs of these genres can be so compelling and inspire such devotion.”

The best way to sum up this article is to highlight a few of the rather insightful quotes:

  • Author: “…these artists created a mindful and meditative place where they and their fans can explore their own struggles without succumbing to them — simultaneously having one foot in the darkness and one foot in the light.”
  • Author: “Sometimes this truth is not necessarily verbally transmitted, but rather is conveyed through the feeling of the music.”
  • Author: “There are several mechanisms by which songwriters and fans of heavy-metal music can connect to a song in a way that improves well-being. Many songwriters will tell of experiencing a meditative state while creating the music, as will fans while listening to the music.”
  • Bathory: “If you can shut that voice that was talking to you your entire life, finally you will have lived a moment of silence. It’s extremely difficult to shut down this voice…[y]ou have to lean away from the conversation and not engage…[m]usic actually creates this…you are able to shut down that inner dialogue and absorb yourself in the music…[i]t becomes a meditation…[t]hat’s the only thing that shuts down that inner dialogue, and you are freed from it.”
  • Author: “Another route by which music can improve well-being is by helping someone understand, rather than suppress, their negative emotions.”
  • Sixx: “I think that life is a struggle. We are born through trauma – birth is usually not a peaceful experience  – it can almost be considered a violent start to a life full of hurdles. And those hurdles are experiences that if you can scale them and jump, you can learn from the times that you [sic] trip you up. And you can pass that on to other people.”
  • Shaddix: “I believe it’s a safe haven for some people to walk through some really dark shit.”
  • Author: “Part of the issue that often faces hard rock and heavy metal musicians in their songwriting is that people sometimes confuse confronting an idea with embracing an idea.”
  • Bathory: “So the exploration of a song is in the journey. I would compare it to the teachings of the Buddha. Every time it means something else.”
  • Sixx: “I believe that there are two experiences happening when I’m performing. One is, one person is watching me and knows me and is having an emotional experience because of the lyrics. And another experience, the person right next to them might totally be engulfed, entranced by the appearance only, and the music is the background to that experience, to that truth.”

The author also brings up a recent study that showed that “…these forms of music aren’t harmful…they can actually be helpful and fans of heavier forms of music are, for the most part, peaceful and well-adjusted.” And remember Tipper Gore and the PMRC? Well, “…research actually demonstrates the opposite of the PMRC’s claims; namely, that for people who like more intense forms of music, not only does this music not incite aggression or violence, it actually helps the person become more peaceful.”

Sixx also states that “[t]here’s no room for ego in songwriting. There’s no room for fear that you’re not good enough or he’s better. Fear and ego are the same thing for me; ego is just the face of fear.” I think any writer, whether songwriter, novelist or blogger, can relate to that. It took me two years to actually publish my first blog after the thought actually occurred to me to start one – it’s scary to put yourself out there.

The author goes on to address the stereotypes of heavy-metal musicians and fans – that we are all “…fueled by drug addiction and…dangerous.” That still holds true for me today in interesting ways. When colleagues learn of my past life as a rocker in the Sunset Strip scene I get the oddest looks.  To quote Nikki, “[w]e’ve always been glad to disappoint people when they find out who we really are.”

There are so many things to examine in this article – so many more ideas on songwriting than those that I highlight. Why we are able to relate to the songs, whether through the lyrics that mean something different to everyone – or through the music itself – is one of the great mysteries of life. At the very least it’s simply something to be thankful for. Or, if you’re like me, something to ponder and explore. Either way, research shows we’re all better off for it ;o)

Copyright 2015 Rocksandy. All rights reserved.


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