Anthology opened its online doors in late 2009. But in a bigger sense, this all began a long, long time ago.
While many a long and winding road has lead to this endeavor, my journey really shifted into high gear back when I left the Midwest for Los Angeles to study music at the Guitar Institute of Technology in the late 80's.
Until that point, I was a rocker through and through, my young musical career limited to garage bands with set lists ranging from Zeppelin to Sabbath, or sometimes Judas Priest to RATT. At the time, if you'd mentioned Coltrane, Bill Monroe, or Yo Yo Ma, a glazed look would have fallen over my eyes, followed by, "Your what hurts?"
Well, the path to Anthology really began when my ears and eyes were opened to the much larger world of music. I will never forget the shock when I first heard bluegrass players tear apart any shredder I'd ever heard — or when I first heard the most transformational musician of our time, Charlie Parker.
Yes, there was more to music than my young mind had first understood. A lot more. And I was quickly on a quest to discover and devour it all.
My education at G.I.T. included master classes with some of the finest musicians on the planet. The variety of styles and techniques I was being exposed to was really opening my ears wide. But aside from style and technique, I learned the key ingredient to great music: passion.
This was driven home to me while attending a student concert from blues legend Albert Collins. On stage with Albert were a number of the instructors who were master technicians. This would clearly be a mismatch. Before the show, I assumed these monsters of the guitar would put Mr. Collins to shame. Oh, how wrong I was.
The instructors would break into impressive solos, and then make room for Albert. What I heard blew my mind, and blew the roof off the building. I've never experienced anyone pouring more emotion and passion into a single note. Albert made one note, or one simple phrase, mean more to the soul than the vast chops of the masters. Not only did the jaws of everyone in the audience drop, but you could also see all the instructors on stage just shaking their heads in amazement.
Once again, my understanding of music was profoundly changed forever.
Taking what I learned during my time in L.A., I set out on my music career, gigging and doing as much session work as I could find. After years of traveling this road, it became clear that something was missing from my musical experience. I looked back and realized that in spending so much of my time as a sideman, playing the expected part, I had neglected what really lit my fuse: creating music that was more experimental — exploring the vast array of possibilities that music offered.
And so I finally began to apply my energy more towards the art of music rather than the business, a shift in priorities that elevated my love for the craft more than ever.
The Design Connection
Ironically, feeding the creative process in that way opened a door for me to begin to explore another interest: design.
Something interesting happens when you give yourself permission to create without restrictions. Other parts of your brain are stimulated, and you find yourself hearing and seeing... well, more.
But like music, there is no easy path to mastering design. You still just have to pay your dues. I couldn’t simply learn Photoshop and call myself a designer. To do interesting things musically, I needed to commit to the study of music. If all I know were three chords, my exploration and expression would be limited to those chords. The same applies to design.
So I began to study the principles of design, and after a few years of study, I jumped into the professional world to hone my chops as a graphic designer.
Interestingly, there are many similarities between music and design. (Is it any wonder British art schools ushered so many rock greats into the world?) With both, you start from the same place: Nothingness. No sound. An empty canvas. From there you bring together a multitude of elements, styles, and influences in an effort to create something that communicates.
This part of the process is always the hardest. In fact, it can be excruciating. It’s the crux of the love/hate relationship we artists tend to have with the creative process. “Can I do it?” “Will it be good or terrible?” “How can I call myself a musician/designer?”
Only when you’ve done the hard work of exploring/experimenting, and come out with something worth sharing, does the process begin to pay off. Well, I came to love design.
Still, after working for 10 years in the field, a restless stirring began to take hold —something strikingly similar to my experience as a musician. My passion for design began to stretch beyond the boundaries of what the corporate world offered. I wanted a more personal, less restrictive canvas to work with. The seeds of Anthology ere beginning to hit the dirt.
But first, another medium would enter the picture.
Road To The Cinematic
Somewhere on the journey between playing music and graphic design, I stumbled into an affair with the art of filmmaking.
In many ways, film is a closer relative to music than design. Both use the vehicle of time to tell a story. Both begin by setting up the mood and tone of what you’re about to experience. Both take you through a period of conflict/tension/dissonance. Both take you on a journey into the unknown. Point. Counterpoint. Twists and turns on the way to climax and, finally, resolution.
Another similarity between film and music is that they can both be so mysterious. By that I mean you can’t just follow a series of instructions and end up with something great. It requires the hard work of dedication, not just to master techniques but to master the process of exploring ideas. Such exploration can lead to a dead end, other times to the profound. Ideas can be simple and beautiful, or complex and intense, and everywhere in between. There is always new territory to uncover.
But in the end, it’s all about story. Music, design, and film are all about life and communicating to others in a compelling, moving way what we’ve discovered on our road through it.
So to really take shape, my story, I started to sense, would need to combine music, design, and filmmaking into a singular passion project.
The Birth Of Anthology
1. A published collection of poems or other pieces of writing.
2. A collection of songs or musical compositions published on one album.
What does this definition have to do with musical instrument accessories, you ask?
I define “Anthology” as a collection of one's finest creative works and Anthology Gear Wear is more than a collection of products, it’s a quest to find and create something of value, personal pieces worth sharing with those on the same road to creative fulfillment.
In a sense, our guitar straps, gig bags, and the other pieces we offer constitute an open canvas. They are a direct reflection of my desire to create something of lasting and intrinsic value — functional works of art.
As a self-diagnosed obsessive perfectionist, I can assure you that the design of every cut, stitch, and rivet is worked and reworked until I feel it's worthy of presenting to likeminded musicians, individuals who value quality workmanship and design in their gear as much as I do.
Over time, I will also begin to add short films to this project; films that explore the relationship of musicians to their craft; stories of the personal path musicians have traveled to find their voice; films about songwriting, improvisation, varieties of musical approaches, and life on the road.
As a musician, I've spent a lot of time thinking about the common threads that make music from any genre something worthwhile and enduring. The artists that inspire me all have the following in common: they put in the hard work to master their craft and create music that's truly unique.
They’ve made music that leaves a mark.
This approach has inspired me a musician, designer, and filmmaker. And, ultimately, my hope is you’ll likewise be inspired to enter the Anthology discussion and explore with us, to become part of our family.
Welcome to where the roads rise together. Welcome to Anthology Gear Wear.