Friday, February 1, 2013

My Musical Background - An Intro to Curtiss Grymala

As one of the newest members of this blog, I felt I should introduce myself by giving a little bit of my musical history.

When I was very young, my musical influences were rather scattered. My father spent most of the time listening to talk radio, so I didn't get to hear much music when I was with him. Occasionally, he would put something other than talk on the radio, and we'd listen mostly to classic country and bluegrass, with the occasional 60s folk tune thrown in for good measure. It wasn't until later in life that I learned he's also somewhat into "classic rock", and was even present at the final concert Janis Joplin performed before her death.

My mother, on the other hand, was very much into the Top 40 music of the 70s and 80s (the kind of stuff they play on "easy listening" stations now), spending much of her time listening to Elton John, Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen, etc. She also had roots in the psychedelia of the 60s, though, as I found out when I dug out her old Jefferson Airplane and Beatles records.

When I listened to the radio on my own as a young boy, I found myself listening to the "oldies" stations quite a bit. My very first audio cassettes were a collection of Leslie Gore's greatest hits and Dion's greatest hits. As time went on, I listened to bits and pieces of the music my brother brought into the house, including albums ranging from Beastie Boys to Rockwell to Garth Brooks. I also picked up on music from some of his friends, such as R.E.M.

As a young teen, though, I started to discover heavy metal, and that's when I really started to find my own musical interests. Between the release of Metallica's "black" album and Megadeth's Countdown to Extinction, I knew I'd found something special. I began to develop an insatiable appetite for gritty, fast, heavy, intelligent music and picked up albums from Sepultura, Ministry, Iron Maiden, Anthrax, Dream Theater, Danzig and many more over the next few years. I religiously watched Headbanger's Ball. Oddly enough, I also started to get into Public Enemy really heavily, and dipped my toes into the various musical projects of Ice T.

My pop sensibilities were still in tact, as well. Throughout the 90s, I found myself thoroughly enjoying groups like Blues Traveler, Weezer, Collective Soul, Better than Ezra, Del Amitri and many more, complete with a soft spot for Meat Loaf. This is also around the time I discovered Pink Floyd, The Doors and Jefferson Airplane (though I never could get into Led Zeppelin or The Grateful Dead), and rediscovered The Beatles (who were also played quite a bit on the oldies stations I listened to as a kid).

Throughout my high school years, some of my friends also started to introduce me to "college rock" from groups like Catherine, Catherine Wheel and Ned's Atomic Dustbin (it was also around this time that I started to get back into REM, though that ended pretty abruptly with the release of Monster, and didn't come back again until around the time they released Accelerate). As time went on, these tastes would help fill out a decent portion of my album collection, as many of those albums are from "one-hit wonders" of the 90s (in both pop and metal).

Around the same time in my life, I was learning more and more about creating music of my own. I became involved in the band that played music for various church retreats, and really started to pick up on some of the "contemporary Christian" music that was out there. In 1995, I was introduced to Living Sacrifice (death/thrash metal), Sixpence None The Richer (folk/pop), Brainchild/Circle of Dust (industrial) and more on one sampler from a defunct record label called R.E.X. My best friend at the time also introduced me to some amazing speed and thrash metal from Tourniquet and Deliverance. Over the next few years, I discovered some fun pop-punk from bands like MxPx, The Huntingtons and Ghoti Hook; some bouncy ska and swing from groups like The W's and The OC Supertones; some solid pop from bands like Audio Adrenaline and The Newsboys; one amazing hip hop group called G.R.I.T.S.; and some extreme metal and hardcore like Strongarm, Focal Point and a seriously dark and heavy band called Crimson Thorn.

Later, I entered college and really started to round out my taste for college rock and to discover punk. Working at the college radio station, I picked up on groups like Propagandhi, Anti-Flag, Spoon, Screw 32 and more; while my best friend also turned me on to The Misfits and The Clash, while also leading me down the road to great hardcore groups like Damnation AD, Hatebreed and more. At the same time, another friend introduced me to Matthew Sweet. I also started to pick up more on the great artists of the 80s like Men Without Hats and Billy Idol.

By the time I left college, my CD collection had ballooned from somewhere around 100 albums to more than 600 albums. The majority of my collection could be split into metal, punk, 80s/90s pop and college rock, but there are sprinkles of country (most notably Johnny Cash), R&B (I do own a few Janet Jackson albums, among others), jazz and hip-hop (more than 50% of which are Public Enemy albums).

Although my collection is rather disparate in musical styles, there are really two themes that seem to pop up over and over again: musical talent and intelligent lyrics. Of course, there are albums sprinkled throughout that buck both of those trends (such as Wesley Willis and Lawnmower Deth), but, for the most part, my albums could fit easily into one or both of those categories.

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