Under the Influence

In my lifetime thus far, I went from buying music that fit with my personality to changing my personality to fit the music I was listening to and back again. Oh sure, we always hear how impressionable the youth can be, but one doesn’t begin to realize just how much until one hits that turn-around point. After that, I started experimenting with this discovery – experimenting with just how much influence the music I listened to had on me.

First, I started out the day carefully selecting what CD I would put in for the drive to work. I noticed that when I had played something a bit aggressive, I would be a bit aggressive that day at work. For example, if I was listening to Ministry or Bad Religion that morning, I found that my patience that day was a bit shorter than usual. Also, my tolerance for taking shit from anyone ran on empty. However, I did notice a difference between these two bands as well. Sure, they both sang about political topics and the misdirected progression of our society, but they do this in two completely different ways. Ministry has always been a bit more direct with their words and a bit more, shall we say, “violent,” while Bad Religion had always been more intellectual about this with heavy overtones of sarcasm and a sense that anything self-serving or driven by self-importance was a fallacy.

On the days I had listened to Bad Religion on the way to work, I was also a bit more intellectual with my attacks. I would challenge authority with philosophy as opposed to just challenging them with attitude alone. I was acting out on those thoughts which attracted me to these bands in the first place freely, yes. But, I was also acting out under the influence of the mood the music had put me in as well.

So, with that in mind, I started thinking about what kind of day I would have if I had played something else. The second stage of my experiment started out with older favorites of mine – the music of my earlier youth, like Jimi Hendrix, B.B. King, and Led Zeppelin. On those days, I was happier. I took more shit from those I had to and I was a bit more productive with work (which, by the way, was creating graphic arts at the time).

That seemed to make those around me more comfortable, which was cool. But, I was also feeling as if no one took me seriously on those days. Most of the suggestions I made at meetings on those days were simply shrugged off like the silly words children say when trying to sound mature and people seemed to have that urge to treat me like I was teenager. That, needless to say, bothered the hell out of me.

So, I decided to try something else. In fact, I decided to try something which had always inspired me to be creative: Primus. Now, this is a band that is all over the place with their songs. Some tracks are funk-punk ballads about sitting at the DMV all day or about some of those colorful folks Les had met in his travels, like “Harold of the Rocks.” Others are a bit more political in nature. “Too Many Puppies” is a perfect example of that. But, no matter what Les was singing about, the sound that is Primus – that signature sound this band creates has always made me smile in ways that usually make people worry about me. The happiness I got from their tunes was an emotion those I worked with could not relate to or empathize with me on. That happiness was mine alone – unique in every way. On those days, I produced the most… and everyone simply left me alone to do it.

So, now… years into this experiment, I have applied this tactic to other aspects of life. For instance, before a photo shoot, I first think of what kind if shoot I’m doing and select something to listen to accordingly. If I’m doing something with stage blood, grit, and raw fury, I usually put in something Skinny Puppy or Rob Zombie in and allow my mind to wander while driving to whatever location I’m doing the shoot. If I’m planning to create something melodic and beautiful with my captures, generally my tunes of choice fall upon Bauhaus, Sisters of Mercy, and Jane’s Addiction for inspiration. See where that’s going?

I also have music I like to put in to get myself in the mood to write my crazy stories. The novel I’m finishing up now, The Misadventures of Mason Stone, Private Eye, was largely written with Dick Dale and His Del-Tones playing in the background. Of course, I do wonder if my readers will be able to tell when I was listening to something else when I wrote certain sections of the book. Guess that will be something I’ll look for in the future.

I’ve asked around on many occasions to see how many people did something like this for themselves and I have been surprised on many occasions to find that I was not alone. See, I had thought that most people just had music they would put in to help set that romantic atmosphere they were creating, music for relaxation, and what they would put in while cleaning house. I was wrong. However, I was just as surprised to find that these same people didn’t even think too much about this or why they did it. Crazy, huh?

About Mihkael Fournier

Photographer, Graphic Artist, Writer/Novelist, Clown Magician
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