If you read this blog regularly you know that I sometimes run sponsored posts, but only for things that I believe in and am comfortable with (and I turn down a lot of sponsored post proposals because I just don’t gel with the subject matter). So when I was approached to write something about the James Squire ‘Rogue Tale’ campaign, I was all on board. Particularly because I saw this:
Rogue Tales – A Quiet Man of Heavy Metal
Seriously dude! Guitars! Creativity! Art! Passion! I love this stuff! Tim Kill Custom Guitars! Dude!
And that leads to my own rogue tale. I thought it’d be in the spirit of the video to tell you about my own passion for the guitar. I guess it all started when I was quite young and I realised that my cousin Sue had a beautiful dreadnaught acoustic guitar (I believe it was an Ibanez copy of a Gibson hummingbird). I used to pluck each string one at a time and I was struck by how utterly majestic the low strings were. I had a quiet reverence for this guitar, and I was too scared to even pick it up. I’d just kneel in front of it as it sat on its stand, and I’d think about how awesome it would be to actually play one.
Although my immediate family wasn’t musical – nobody actively played an instrument in the house – my dad’s side of the family is particularly musical, and my Aunty Barbi is a great music teacher. I was always aware that she had this wonderful talent, and I thought she was the coolest person in the world. Still do. But it wasn’t until our next door neighbour gave us a couple of acoustic guitars (one of which I would later find out was a 60s Ibanez – funny how that works, huh?) that I was able to start making some noise of my own. I didn’t know how to read music so I devised my own version of tablature, without knowing that such a thing existed: I named the strings A, B, C, D, E and F, and I numbered the frets 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 etc. Of course, I didn’t quite understand what ‘tuning’ was, so I pretty much stuck to single-note melodies for a while.
Eventually Aunty Barbi came to visit and she wrote me out a chord chart. Various open-position majors, minors, minor sevenths… and she demonstrated them to me by singing “Banks Of The Ohio.” Whoa! Real actual folk music happening right there in front of me! It was a really special moment. I then decided I should become a folkie too, and it was then that I wrote my first song – a heartbreaking (for an 8-year-old) protest anthem about how we weren’t doing enough to aid starvation in Africa. It was called “No Food, No Freedom” and it was pretty terrible. But whatevs. I was making music happen.
Eventually I started taking guitar lessons with a great teacher named Peter Cominos. He taught me a bunch of the basics that I hadn’t quite learned when I was figuring out stuff by ear, and taught me how to play power chords, which Barbi had left out – I guess there isn’t much call for chugging fifths in folk music. Peter also had some really beautiful vintage guitars, so I was very lucky that the first electric guitar I ever laid hands on was a 1950s Gibson ES-175. Not a bad place to start, eh? Peter taught me about great players and great gear as well as stressing the importance of good technique, and although I don’t teach any more, anything that my students liked when I was teaching was inspired by his example. I stopped taking lessons when I started high school, picking up techniques and tricks from Guitar World magazine for a while, but went back to lessons after about a year, and that’s when I started to really appreciate the wide variety of what a guitar can do.
I was always a shy kid. I was never popular, I didn’t like the same stuff as other kids, and I just didn’t feel like I fit in anywhere. But the few times I had an opportunity to play guitar for my classmates – particularly at a couple of assemblies in fifth and sixth grade – I felt like a rock star. I played “Wipeout” for the whole school on Peter Cominos’s Washburn Explorer-alike at an assembly when I was in sixth grade, and back in the classroom afterwards the teacher told the class that the highlight of the entire presentation was my guitar playing. I was a hero for about a week. The adoration faded again after that but I never lost sight of the fact that it was the guitar and my relationship with it that had brought about this little much-needed self-esteem boost. From then on I knew that it’d always be with me, whether I was popular at school or not, whether I was happy or sad, alone or with friends. And it’s still like that for me to this day. No matter where I am, what I’m doing, how I’m feeling, I know that my guitar’s there to sing my blues, shout my triumphs and just plain look cool.
Here’s another great Rogue Tales video, which is also speaks to the balance between creativity, inspiration and dedication, much like the Tim Kill video:
Rogue Tales – An Artistic Hand, With An Iron Fist
You can see all of them on the James Squire YouTube channel.
Leave a comment below about your favourite of the videos, and then tell us your own rogue tale about something in your life that helps to define you, and you could win a $100 BWS gift voucher (Australia only, must be 18+). I’ll select a winner on December 18.