San Diego Music Scene What-Have-Yous

Wake Up Call

Dave McGraw, Cattle Decapitation

Once in awhile reality checks you and throws your situation, or rather, your pretenses about your situation into sharp relief.  This happened to me a few days ago on a seemingly benign trip to Guitar Center.  I strolled into the store minding my own business, and headed straight to the drum department after grabbing some bass strings for Casey.  Upon arrival my ears were greeted with the furious humming of a double bass drum pedal rattling off various permutations of 32nd notes accented by syncopated snare hits.  This percussion was accompanied by double guitars and operatic vocals, the telltale signs of power metal playing over the PA.  No big surprise.  I mean this is Guitar Center and the folks who work here love to showcase, or rather ram down your throat, their various tastes in music.  As I rounded the corner past the congas and hand percussion, I realized my assessment of the situation was completely wrong.  I was astonished, perhaps dumbstruck, to realize these drums were being played on an electronic set, in perfect time and correct timbre as the song playing over the PA.  Standing mouth slightly agape, I tried to comprehend what was going on in front of me.  This wasn’t a customer banging out half cocked nonsensical fills on a display set in some half cocked effort to impress someone.  This was an employee laying it down for no reason but his own enjoyment.  The relaxed, almost lackadaisical look on the drummer’s face signified a seasoned professional, and the long ponytail accompanied by all black attire screamed metal.

It wasn’t until I looked at his face did I realize who this shredder was; none other than Dave McGraw.  As in drummer from San Diego’s very own death grind aficionados; Cattle Decapitation.  It’s not often you get to see a master at work, so I took this opportunity to soak it all in.  Not until he stopped and asked, “You need help?”, did I realize I was standing there staring at him like an idiot.  Managing to spit out something like, “uh yeah, drum pads” he translated that to mean drum mutes and asked how many I needed.  I told him and he escorted me to where they were stored.  After collecting me somewhere near eighty dollars worth of useless neoprene pads, and warning me I might not like the feel of any except the bass pad, I left the store, somewhat dazed.

On the drive home I tried to contemplate why I was so amazed by a seemingly insignificant event.  I mean, I’ve been around music my whole life, play in two great bands, and have seen some of the best musical acts in the world perform right in front of me.  Why was it then that I was so astonished by this dude at Guitar Center playing drums?  Then I realized my faux pas.  I’ve begun to take music for granted.   I’d become jaded.   I stopped striving to make myself better.  To play more complex music.   To do the things I used to do, like hear a good song and learn it on drums.  To constantly seek out the things in life that make me happy and chase them.  This guy works a regular 9-to-5 grinder just like everybody else but in light of that, or perhaps, in spite of that, still takes his music seriously.  And takes it seriously with unadulterated passion.  He realizes this is a gift granted to those who take the time out of their day to sift through the bullshit and find their thing.  It made me realize I’ve started to worry more about the idea of being a musician more than the act of being one.  Which is why we start doing this in the first place!  So short story long, this is how reality can shake you out of your stagnation and get you moving.  Or in the very least, get you to start practicing again.

– Vincent West