Step 1: Have An Interest
Four years ago I decided that I needed a hobby. Something to get my mind off music/work and to make sure I didn’t grow a beer gut. Producing records produces beer guts, you see.
I had dabbled in the game of squash over the years. Played every fortnight at best, every four years at worst. When I found out about Blackheath Squash near where I live, I joined up with a mate. Our idea was to play every week regularly. Only, I got the bug and started playing against others at the club. I soon outplayed my buddy. He lost interest.
Step 2: Do It A Lot
I got addicted. I started playing 5-6 times a week. I took some lesson from the resident coach. After a year and a half of it some of the guys who ran the teams (the club plays team squash in the Kent County leagues) approached me asking if I fancied trying it in the teams.
Step 3: Do It Even More
I played for the teams at every opportunity – whenever one of the better players was unavailable. I progressed through the rankings and this year I started getting a regular place in the squads. Pretty cool, even if what we do is very much baldies v. oldies. It’s social, it’s fun. Even so, making it to the club tournament final is about the only sporting achievement in my otherwise very rock’n'roll CV.
Last week we got told our playing order for the coming season. To my amazement I was asked to play at the number 1 spot for the other of our two teams. Team squash works so that a team sends out their strongest 5 players to another club who put out their famous five. The ones play each other, followed by the fours etc. Whichever teams wins more games has won the tie.
Progress, baby! I know that I will get seriously spanked by players way better than me, but I’m really excited to be playing that high up the order, because I’m going to get better.
Step 4: Push Yourself Very Hard, Innit?
A few weeks ago I found about this guy Ben Ford, a world top 100 ranked player, who coaches in our area. Got him to come down to our club on Sunday mornings to see how it’s really done. I thought I was an OK player. Little did I know.
I’m writing this after a particularly gruelling drilling session that ended with court sprints. You sprint the length of the court for 30 seconds as many times as you can. I managed 12 sprints. Then you rest for 30 seconds and do it over again. And again. And again. Until your lungs are screaming for air and your legs are burning with lactic acid.
While I was recovering and trying hard not to die, the coach said that Peter Barker, England’s number 3, does a series of court sprints thus: 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 40, 30, 20, 10.
I’ve been rehydrating my body and contemplating the idea of committment, work ethic and devotion to the artform. I have come to the conclusion that to make it to the top your racket – whatever it is – you really have to work so unbelievably hard that words fail me.
Step 5: Don’t Be A Dick
So, next time you dismiss someone who’s made it to the top of the tree just because you think their music is crap or they’re a wanker… think again. This is fact: they have worked harder, longer and they’ve devoted more of everything they have to making it than you. That’s why they’re there and you’re not. Fact.
Don’t make any excuses. There aren’t any.
Just get off Facebook. Tune your guitar. Start playing. Call the rest of the guys. Tell them that from now on rehearsals are on every night when you’re not gigging. And that you don’t go to rehearsals to learn your parts. You do that on your own time. And that learning the parts is not enough. You have to practise your technique, too.
Don’t say that you can’t afford to rehearse that often. Just don’t go down to the pub that much.
Don’t say that you don’t have the time to practise by yourself. Stop watching that stupid crap on YouTube.
Many seasons ago the band I was with at the end of high school did a gig in our neighbourhood. It was an outdoor gig and you could hear the noise at our house, where my Dad was. I came home from the gig feeling like a rockgod and Dad goes, from his armchair: “And that is supposed to bring home the bacon?”
Ouch. Of course, he was right. It didn’t start bringing home the bacon until much later, once we’d put the hours in.
I’ve been lucky in that I’ve been able to turn into a livelihood something that I love doing. Making music is the best thing ever. Playing squash is fun, but I have no illusions… ;-)
Dear reader, I wish you well in your inspiration to do your thing. If all you want to do is make music, isn’t it about time you made it all you do?