Hello fellow Boxheads, if anyone actually reads this blog anymore! Its been a long time since I have posted. I could string off excuses and move on, but I need to be honest, I have been going through a cigar box identity crisis. What is that you ask? Let me explain.
When I discovered cigar box guitars 6 years ago, the “revolution” was beginning to build. Just a few folks on yahoo forum was just beginning to branch out. It was exciting. Folks were building, sharing music, discussing building. Then a small fire storm of opinion erupted on the forum. Folks bashing others for beliefs and points of view. So another forum popped up for the “opposing” thought. The remedy it seemed was to bring everyone together in the framework of a social networking site. Cigar Box Nation was born! It was great, you could share pictures, audio, video, live chat, forums galore. But, I have to admit, that’s when my excitement began to wane. It opened the flood gates to something that I had felt was a unique, underground music movement. Only it wasn’t really a “music” movement was it? A majority of the chat, forums, and groups were about building. It was becoming a hobbyist’s movement, at least that’s how it felt for me.
Now don’t get me wrong, there were always folks pushing the music side it. Shane Speal, One String Willie, Gerry Thompson, Johnny Lowebow, these guys were making music. Shane and One String Willie were always (and continue to) push folks to build themselves an instrument and play it.
It was out of that kind of motivation that led me to start 7 Hills Stomp. Now it wasn’t just a simple as “I’m going to start a band!”. It was more divine intervention, or fate, or karma, or Ka (if it do ya well, aye) that formed the band. I had actually known Elemental before I stumbled across cigar box guitars online. I was electrical service tech and Elemental was a counter guy at the local electrical supply house. It was during a conversion about, instruments, or bands(I forget now actually) but the subject of me building cigar box guitars came up. That initial conversation led to an invite to a “jam” session at Elemental Studios, a home made recording studio of sorts in his basement. “There was more to this counter guy than meets the eye” I thought. He was a drummer, guitarist, tape op, and in many ways an artist.
Now, assuming you are aware of the music and sound of 7HS I’ll skip some of the history. But it was my passion for the homemade instrument and his abilities and resources that made the band possible. We have a simple philosophy, we don’t try to force anything on each other, we don’t try to take it to seriously. We keep it easy, bring what we have to the table, and flesh out the songs. It’s through that process that keeps the sound of the band evolving. Where, in the beginning, we were practicing songs to an exact performance, we now are more likely to improv and play loose. The early 7HS was a straight “punk-blues” band. I would describe us almost a prog- garage band these days. Though, there is still the underlying punk-blues feel. The songs have deconstructed a bit, with longer jam style soloing that is practiced, but not necessarily rehearsed. We decide on a set structure, with named songs, but the way we may have played it one week, may not be the same the next. Some songs have gone through 3,4, or 5 different versions over the last few years.
So, how is this a cigar box identity crisis? For me, it was the need to confront that I was the “cigar box guitar” guy. I felt I had to justify my place in music, and in the Cigar Box Guitar movement or “revolution” (if some still consider it so) by being the cigar box guitar guy in the band. As my skills progressed, I began experimenting with other instruments, banjo, ukulele, and 6 string electric and acoustic “factory made” guitars. Though I had played guitar as a teenager, I never really gained any skill on it. It was through the 3 string fretless cbg that I cut my teeth on stringed instruments and could then chew on the other offerings.
I was, am, and maybe always will be known as the “Joker” in cigar box guitar circles, but I feel I am beginning to shed that persona I hid behind and be myself in the music. I have some anxiety about bringing a strat to the cbg party, but in order to achieve self expression, I feel I have to.
And besides, with Elemental playing a Lowebow now, it feels we’re more united in our involvement rather than it being the “cigar box guitar” guy and his drummer.
The Timebomb won’t be going away. It was built by my hands, for my hands and will continue to be a part of our unique sound. I feel though the deviation from it being the forefront of our sound, allows us to move beyond the constraint of being a “Cigar Box Guitar Band” and become a unique rock band who is known for their sound. A sound that comes from sometimes utilizing homemade instruments and drawing on the music they are rooted in.