Where do I begin….Posted by Tyson Meade on April 21, 2013 Blog | Tags: Haffijy | No comments
Maybe you have heard this one before but here it is, I had thought I was done making music. I had stopped being inspired. I didn’t want anything to do with the music biz. I was done. Making music no longer had any appeal to me.
That is until I happened upon a student – a violinist, a prodigy – who rekindled that fire, that passion for music that I once had, that fire that I thought had been extinguished. This happened completely out of the blue and so it was a shock. The metaphorical winter snows were melting; Spring was here.
As many know, I now live in Shanghai. At the time the rekindling occurred, I was running a boarding school at an international school within a public school. I shared an office with some of the public school teachers who were Chinese and taught English. I had told the teachers that if any of their students wanted to ask me questions, since I am a native English speaker, they could.
Shortly thereafter, a young man, a senior one (equivalent to an American high school sophomore), who goes by the moniker of Haffijy , came into my office to ask me questions. This became an everyday occurrence. He always had thought provoking questions, like ‘Why talk over something and not talk under?”
Often the questions he asked would stump me and I would have to think about them. And, sometimes I had no answers for him. I would tell him that is just how it is. That is how we say it. Sometimes after thinking about it, I could explain why.
One day when Haffijy was sitting with me, his Chinese English teacher told me that Haffijy plays the violin.
“Oh really?” I asked.
“Yes,” the teacher replied. “He is very good. He plays with the city philharmonic.”
“Oh yeah?” I asked intrigued.
“I love violin,” Haffijy added to this. He said nothing more.
“Maybe we should play together sometime,” I told him not really thinking much about it at the time.
Nevertheless when I left school that day, I was still intrigued. Some sort of strange seed had been planted and it was breaking through the soil in my mind. It had been years since I had played music for fun, for the sheer joy of it. This was odd for me. Music had once been my life, but then my life turned into press junkets, making videos, having meetings with record execs, having record execs tell me that album art had to sell in the malls, listening to execs talk about who would be the next big thing (the Brandos anyone?) and, of course, fighting fighting fighting, always fighting, to keep the purity of my art pure.
Now, I had the chance to play with someone who was playing to play, someone who had the innocence that I once had, that innocent love for music. There were no record company execs, no radio programmers. The fight was over. There was nothing but music.
A few day later, I brought my guitar to school. We played in the garden on the 4th floor. Birds sang in the trees, or actually they did not sing in the trees. They sang in the corner since there was a large aviary in the corner of the garden. The birds sang as we played. We played some of my songs. Many of the songs we played, I had written before Haffijy was born. The age gap was non-existent between us, generations melted away into sound. Had I found the fountain of youth?
Special, I suppose I knew this was special, but at the same time it was so natural. So natural that I went home and wrote a song, something that I had not done in a long time. I was not even sure if the song was anything special. The next day, in the garden, Haffijy and I played the song. The song had a sweetness to it. I decided we should record it. We did. We didn’t have a fancy studio. We were not paying thousands of dollars a day to get the right sound. We just recorded it in its purity.
Even then, I was not convinced by how special this was, this new found love for music. Nevertheless, I sent the song to a few friends to test the waters. The response was overwhelming. Now my decision was to do something or to keep my talent buried. Hadn’t I said that I would not be involved in the music biz again?
Well, the music biz had changed. The playing field had been leveled so to speak. Record companies no longer had the control they once had. No longer could I use this as an excuse. There were people out there, a nice little group of people out there, who had supported my artistic endeavors for over 25 years. This is why I had started making music, to appeal to a small group of devoted listeners. That was what I had set out to do in the early 80s. At that point, I had no ambition to be as big as Men at Work or Flock of Seagulls. Those bands, though masked as alternative, stunk of corporate focus groups, cocaine execs, marketing plans aimed at ironing housewives.
Disengage (from Robert Fripp’s Exposure), I was a fan of this. This is the sort of song, the sort of burst of emotion, that I held up as my template. This was the true alternative. I wanted to change the boundaries of music. Little did I know, while I was sitting in an apple orchard in Oklahoma, that quite a few others had the same plan. Quite a few others were disenchanted with Flock of Seagulls, Tommy Tutone, Men at Work, Thompson Twins.
Of course, in the garden, high above Shanghai, playing music with Haffijy, I was not thinking about all of this. I was not thinking about why I started playing music. I was not thinking about the record that I would be making, the record that would feature my friend Jimmy Chamberlain on drums. I was not thinking about any of this. I was only thinking about what a gift I had been given.
Actually, I was thinking of the two gifts I had been given. One gift was music; the second gift was the rediscovery of that first gift with the help and pureness of spirit of a young Chinese violinist.
To hear the song we recorded during the school garden days, go here: