PLAY THE KING
Perhaps there is nothing more frustrating for a student of art—any medium of art – than to be asked by a professor, “What does it mean?”. And there is nothing even more irritating than a professor who is certain he or she knows the correct response.
For hidden in the ink of written poetry, swirled purposefully in the paint, lurking in the brightness and shadows of a photograph or, in this case, strung between two or three notes of a chord is its meaning—meaning that is often personal and better derived than dictated.
The eye sees what it wants to see, the ear hears what it seeks. As for finding meaning in art, it is far more satisfying to do so with the heart listening and the brain sleeping.
Blake Ian is a musical artist in the mold of Bob Dylan, where words and melody come together to relay profound messages—messages that neither one is inclined to define for the listener. But whereas Dylan at times appear to mock the audience’s understanding of his music, Ian does not. In fact, he welcomes such individual interpretations. Unlike the teacher who demands you to know what the lyricist meant, Blake Ian asks, “What does it mean to you?”
“I have never been a fan of giving meaning of lyrics to people,“ the 33-year old musician and composer explains. “For me when a songwriter tells you what a song is about, it’s kind of limiting to the listener. I think a good song is about infinite situations representing the spectrum of experience and emotions we all go through. When you say it’s about a dead cat, it can no longer be about an ex girlfriend.”
Finding meaning is relevant in all aspects of Blake Ian’s approach to music composition and production. A fan of Paolo Coelho’s The Alchemist, a novel based on a boy’s quest to find his treasure of a dream, he has in many ways shared a similar penchant for signs as the characters in the novel.
The number 27, he explains for instance, has been omnipresent in his life. As such he applies the number appropriately in all his business undertakings: from naming his production company 27productions to co-producing 300 vinyl records of Play The King, perhaps coincidentally (or not) or subconsciously 270 of which ended up being his share of the lot.
Then there is the curious way in which inspiration for a successful song comes to him. Ian says there is no identifiable pattern to mark the genesis of such, except that it often seemingly arises from nowhere and its creation is neither provoked nor stoked. Such is the case with Play The King.
“Play The King” is a song, which was first released in 2010 and rereleased in vinyl last October. Ian recalls that the song “came to him after years of experimenting with sounds chords, bands and big production studios.
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“I sat down with my new baby Martin guitar, which felt like a small tool, so easy to wield in my hands, so easy to play,” Blake recalls. He said he just wanted to play something fun and simple and started to play the G5 bar chord in “the most popular progression of all time.” It’s a progression he describes as feeling “lazy if you are trying to reinvent the wheel, but fills you with energy when you aren’t looking to impress.”
“Like lightning from a bottle” he recounts lyrics shot quicker than he could type. Though never obvious at that very moment, such words and lyrics, he observes, are effortless because they “speak directly to thoughts and situations [ I ] usually had been in the midst of while writing them.”
“The best way I could describe it would be as if someone who had been watching me closely was taking notes, shaping them into lyrics, and then handing them to me all at once in a shot of inspiration.“ According to Ian, the song was finished in a single sitting. That is always a good sign. It had happened to him only five times that he could recall, and he considers all five songs his finest work.
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