At what point do I stop imitating the voice of musicians I admire and start developing my own? I’m getting pretty confident that I’m reaching that point in my writing. I tend to mimic the style I’m reading at any given time to some extent but for the most point I think my writing is my own. I’m more concerned with my music. It could be that I’m not working on original material enough to develop it at all let alone finding my own voice. Take my work on Shadows of Immurement for example. The first album sounded very much like the underground “goth” and “cold wave” scenes from the eighties. I felt this way even more so when making the second album. A good chunk of it sounds very specifically like The Sisters of Mercy worship.
For what those albums were that was fine. I made them in a rush and purposely paid tribute the music that was affecting me at the time. But I wanted to move beyond that with the new material. I want to take more time working on it which means I may decide not to enter the RPM Challenge this next year as Shadows of Immurement. I might still enter under my own name and work on a style that’s less specific. But would it still be original?
By the way, if you’re wondering how the new Shadows of Immurement stuff sounds in my head, I like to put it this way: imagine if David Lynch and Ingmar Bergman collaborated on a horror film and you were forced to watch it on downers. That’s the effect I’m going for.
Anything that I’ve been putting out there under my own name still sounds to me like a lot of my influences. Not a lot of people can pick them out (partly because my influences run across the board and includes artists that nobody else has ever heard of). I have read that in writing one should purposely try to write like their favorite authors and their natural voice will develop naturally. If that’s true and it works for music as well then when does it actually happen?
For that matter should I even bother? I haven’t been killing myself trying to sound unique, just kicking myself afterwards for not doing so. But is it really that important? At this point in the history of recorded music a lot has been done already. Not only that but for anybody who’s a music lover they’ve heard a lot of different things that influences them whether they realize it or not. If I’m going to work on my own music should I avoid listening to music altogether? That would be achievable if it weren’t for the fact that I have to listen to music at work. Believe me, I would like to shut it out as a lot of it is crap. But whether or not I like it I have to hear it and if it’s all I hear it can still affect what I create.
Perhaps the trick isn’t so much to avoid writing like one’s favorites but to combine the styles into something “new.” A lot has been done with this. Just look at the Scandinavian folk metal scene that emerged over the last decade or so. It took the world by storm because it was a new take on two existing styles of music. Bands like Finntroll, Primordial and Korpiklaani (and yes, I know I’m leaving out a lot of different bands) combined old folk styles with derivatives of metal and made both sound fresh and exciting. I’m not talking about doing something that extreme myself but I should really think about combining some of my influences. It’s still a little early to think about it for the RPM Challenge but it’s something to think about regardless.