Based in Northern California, Ed Layne's friends may joke he "lives under a rock!", but this rock enthusiast is far from hiding his rock sensibilities. Mostly self-taught, his driving guitar beats and determination to keep the spirit of this genre alive is impressive and a full-time gig in itself.
In a world brimming with independent artists and people juggling work and music passions, how do musicians devote their time to a style of music that demands you give everything of yourself?
With rock, there's really no place to hide – the sound is raw, the evocation is felt by audiences far and wide, and it has the capacity to transport you back to a time when life was a lot slower than the pace we are charging at now.
Ed Layne shared his insights on the journey so far and distils how injecting all of energy into producing music is a life force for him.
I read on your Facebook page, you started this album\project well over a year and a half ago. Can you tell me what the process has been like, what have you learned? What have been the highs and lows?
This album was actually started much earlier and, for the most part, could have been recorded twice. I completed the first version early in 2013 and started working on a second album thereafter. I was happy with the material, but the sound quality just wasn't sitting right with me.
I was able to contact a producer and mixing engineer in England who had credits on his resume that included some of the classic artists that I respect the most. He was gracious enough to spend some time listening to what I had recorded already and was willing to take on the project, but I was unable to include his mastery and expertise due to budget limitations on my part.
At that point, my wife had stated that "I had come this far already, so why not take a step back and spend some time learning more about how to achieve the result I was looking for." I heeded her advice and started watching as many audio recording tutorials on YouTube as possible. I retracked just about every guitar and bass part, and all of the vocals and rewrote a good portion of the drum sequences.
When that was completed, I started using the knowledge attained from the generous folks who had shared theirs to get the best mix and mastering results I could.
As for the highs and lows, I feel like I've become a much better bass player, actually creating a better unity with the drums. I've always been primarily a guitarist and could play bass, but I was able to really tighten up that aspect and develop my bass style. Vocals can be a high and a low almost daily sometimes!
I believe I have some potential as a vocalist but have always struggled in this area. A large portion of this is honestly due to a lack of focus on developing this area in the past. I've been working on this with the same method as the mixing, watching and learning from vocal coaches on YouTube! Sometimes I'll do a vocal take and it will be good and at other times I can work on something all day and have to scrap it and start again the next.
You are clearly a 'rock' aficionado, in a world filled with a lot of electronic music, do you think rock is making resurgence or did it never leave? What is it about rock music that we love?
This is a great question! In fact, I am working on a track about whether or not "rock is dead" at this moment. It will be on the follow-up album I'm working on now. I think rock will always be alive as long as artists will create it and fans will listen to and enjoy it.
It may not have the mainstream influence that it had in previous decades, at this time, but I think that could change in the future. I think a new generation is discovering the music that their parents grew up with and are turning to that in favour of what the mainstream is currently offering.
What I love most about rock is that so much great music falls under that umbrella. From the early blues pioneers at the roots, to Elvis, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin to more contemporary artists including Train, Jack White, Cage the Elephant, and My Morning Jacket, there is so much diversity and ability to create something unique, mysterious, and powerful that is still encompassed in the 'rock' genre. I haven't had the privilege yet to sit down and enjoy the entire discographies of all the newer artists mentioned but have thoroughly appreciated everything I've heard so far.
For Australian fans that may not know much about where you live, could you tell me what the music scene is like?
I live in a small Gold Rush town in the foothills east of Sacramento, so the main music scene would be in the city. I honestly cannot give a very accurate depiction of the scene in Sacramento. Between working a full-time day job and a hefty commute, and spending much of my free time writing and recording, I don't get a chance at this moment in life to get out and enjoy more of the local bands as much as I should or would like to in the Sacramento area.
Some of my friends think I not only record rock, but that I am also living under one!
I do, however, reside fairly close to a casino venue that offers some really great outdoor summer concert series and have had the great pleasure to catch Yes and Heart recently there.
There are also a lot of folk and Americana groups that come through and play at events here in town and all through the small communities that dot the foothills, so I catch as many of those shows as possible.
Have you been gigging with this album? What has the reception been like?
I haven't played live in over 20 years and currently do not have a group to gig with. I would like to get back to that place sometime in the future, but as I stated above, I'm compressing a lot of activity into every 24-hour day. I think it would be really awesome to put a group together and go tour, but for the present I'm hoping to build a fan base online as best that I can and maybe later as life progresses, there may be some shows!
The reception for the album has been great from the people who have been exposed to it. I'm really quite unknown, so I don't know how a wider audience would accept it, but all of the feedback I've received has been quite positive and encouraging.
A majority of comments have been in the direction that people can hear who my influences are, but that I've created something that is my own sound, somewhat retro, but at the same time possessing some modern elements. That was and is my goal for this first release and also for the one I am working on now.
Do you think it is easier or harder for independent artists to cut through right now?
I think the mechanisms exist for independent artists to break through and gain exposure, but along with the technology levelling the playing field, it's also made it a much larger field, so I believe many artists have to struggle more to gain a listener's ear than ever before.
I like the opportunities that the technology affords, but like anything, it can be a double-edged sword. Recently, I heard someone mention that the Information Age is over and now we are living in the Attention Age and getting and holding people's attention can be challenging.
I think as busy as so many people are, just trying to make ends meet, and it can be difficult to introduce them to your work when so many other artists are doing the same thing also. You just have to keep trying the best you can everyday and at the end of the day, rest in knowing that you gave it your best shot and that someone somewhere in the world may have gotten the chance to enjoy and relate to some art that you've brought into being!