What is Hexspa? Part 5

Parts one, two, three and four.

So it’s come to this.

It was the EDM revolution.  America remembered it could dance.  How fitting that Dubstep had no identifiable dance.  Good time to shake off the rust I suppose.

Working in the Pro Audio department of the Stupidly American music store, I was surrounded by a DJ and a grad of Pyramind.  Between these two “colleagues” and being lambasted while jamming Bossa Nova with some old guys I heeded the Electronic call.  I knew I wanted to release an album but that was too much work.  Work sucks.

I took a Coursera course on The Beatles and discovered their strategic use of the EP format.  When I realized I could get music out faster, but still not release random singles, I tacked on and finally released the first half of the Uncomfortable EP this year in spring.  The second half should go out in December or January ’17.  Being a one man band isn’t fun or easy though.  Plus there’s all those synths to learn..

In the meantime I’ve been synthing it up with the 8 Bar Embryo series, going pro with my One True Path Acoustics brand and all the while trying not to go bankrupt.

26 years goes fast.  (So does 5 parts of autobiography).  I’m currently struggling to not compare myself to younger, more successful artists.  The truth is, and it’s not an excuse, but I’m on a religious path.  Long days of grinding it out are not appealing to me.

Music, for me, is a great way of expression, a brain workout, very rewarding and even a bit fun.  I’ll be offering some things for sale soon and anything I can earn would be great.  For now, the best thing is being able to do what I enjoy, sharing it with others and, hopefully, one day being able to make something that the world can appreciate as much as I do.

Ok?  Ok.


What is Hexspa? Part 4

Parts one, two, and three.

So there I was.  2008.  A MySpace girlfriend and a new name.  Service weapon of choice: guitar and voice.  MOS: Songwriter.

In 2009 I went to school for music.  For three weeks.  It was a tad shameful of an experience and I’ll leave it at that.  Basically I didn’t want to be “just” a guitar player.  I wanted moar.

Moar I got.  Back in El Paso, and after I’d picked up my first audio interface, I started exploring the world of DAWs and Plug-ins.  It was during these next two years I also studied up on small room acoustics, improved my singing and songwriting and released my first tracks (and picked up a little bjj).  Kinda hated the El Paso though.  I hadn’t lived two straight years anywhere since being kicked out of my house at 18.  I was restless and wanted new opportunities.  Hmm..  Where’s a wandering troubadour to go?

California.  Again.  More songs.  More performances but this time it was different.  I didn’t want to pay anyone to record me.  I always loved production and dreamed of just releasing everything on my own.  After debiting two more years from the Bank of Life I had a certificate from Berklee  and a whole crapload of anxiety about what to do with it.

At this point it’s around 2013.  For the past 12 years I’d been bouncing around trying to find due North.  It wasn’t until working at a Sucky Ass music store and hearing some brostep that I knew where I was headed.  Ah yes, those lovely wubs – as sweet as the violin’s siren so many years before.  A sound, a signpost and the gateway to the future.

Continued in Part 5.

What is Hexspa? Part 3

Part one and part two.

It started with MySpace.  It always used to start with MySpace.

In the Army I met a girl.  Late 2007 we moved into a roommate situation.  I was preparing for a music school in Hollywood (deliberately not naming it).  I’d pushed back my entrance for whatever reason (slacker).  So, early 2008 I was considering what I’d publish my music as.  The motto for the battalion I was in was “per ardua ad astra” which means something like “you’ll get to the stars if you suffer enough”.  I’m also prone to random reads on Wikipedia so I took inspiration from the Sigma Six protocol.  I don’t know what Sigma Six is all about but I think it’s something to do with managing improvement.  It all sounded pretty Latin so I smooshed it together to get Hex Sigma Per Ardua which essentially meant “struggle to improve”.  It was then shortened to Hex S.P.A. before just becoming what it is now.  I’m afraid to know if it actually means something in Latin.  Actually, it probably means swiss cheese fetishist.  I could live with that.

At that time I was learning covers and writing originals on the good ole’ acoustic geetar.  I was also in the very early stages of my learning to sing.  I emphasize very early, as in, don’t you dare look for evidence.  You’ve been warned.

Ugh, I’m trying to keep these posts under 250 words so in Part 4 I’ll ‘splain you from 2008 till now and how the EDM revolution ruined my life.

What is Hexspa? Part 2

Continued from Part 1.

Failure is the shit out of which new fruit grows.  I should start an orchard.

The band was falling apart.  People were leaving, new lineups weren’t as solid and my musicianship needed work.  A chance encounter during an altered state of mind was the first clue as to what my future would hold.

It was the first time I’d ever seen one in real life.  The MPC 2000 was the mythical sampler that Hip Hop guys used.  Being a Tool fan, it wasn’t on my short list of must-have-gear.  The fact that those two guys could make an entire song with minimal drama was a revelation.  I made sure to pick up an ASR-X Pro and started learning the craft.  That’s when things got tricky.

Between my network falling apart and my over-inflated sense of entitlement (hey I played with the best guys) I decided to move to California.  What followed was about three years of nebulous wandering, auditions, and lackluster performances then an additional two years of military service.  I’d joined to get my education.  So that brings us to a total of 10 years I was out-and-about trying to get my bearings straight.  When they say time moves fast, they weren’t lying.  Whoever “they” are.

In Part 3 I’ll explain how and why Hexspa itself started and maybe by the end of if you’ll care more.

FLOW 1 – Arrival (Overview)

Hey guys.  In this post I’ll be describing the contents of my first video of the FLOW series.

Basically FLOW is a real-time behind-the-scenes look at my DAW workflow when creating the 8 Bar Embryo series.

As you might know, 8 Bar Embryos is the name I’ve given to my EDM-based pursuit of improvement.  In other words, since I have a Groove Metal background as a guitarist, I wanted to expand my sonic palette.  I’ve always liked Dance music (actually, late 90’s House was the first genre I liked) so I figure by making 100 tracks I’ll be good enough to charge.

So until then I’m offering you all to come along with me on my journey.  Some of you are more experienced and others less so.  Whatever your experience level, please be sure to engage with me via comments, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram so we can have a conversation.  Two layered leads are bigger than one!

In this first FLOW video you’re welcomed with a session-in-progress.  I’ve already mapped out my reference track and have begun sound design and arrangement on my track.  If you are wondering why I’d do those things then be sure to ask and I’ll explain.

Anyway, check out the video and let me know what you think.  Enjoy!

What Is Hexspa? Part 1

Hexspa is death.

Actually, Hexspa is my life.  In a sense Hexspa is death since I’ll probably be doing it until then.  Hexspa is my musical activity.  Music=life, life=death; Hexspa=death.

The seeds of Hexspa can be traced to my first years as a violin student beginning in second grade.  A local orchestra came to Lincoln Elementary School in Brookfield, Il around 1989.  The idea was that they had teamed up with Quinlan & Fabish Music Co. (both still around I’m surprised to learn) to blow our little minds (and earn some rentals) by introducing us to the glories of Classical music.  I’d have to say they were quite successful.

That day they did a short ensemble demonstration followed by short solos by the various instruments.  They must’ve played through the brass, woodwinds and other stringed instruments before they got to the violin.  I tell you what, that sound has never rung out of my ears.  Just like that parade of instruments I moved on from violin after two years to the obligatory recorder, snare drum and a brief DJ phase before getting exposed to Heavy Metal and switching to guitar.  That was a critical moment.

Guitar and Metal led me to meeting dozens of other kids that played.  Through that network I was able to play shows with a number of different bands and grow closer to the music I loved.  It was during this time I realized that music was all I really wanted to do with my life.  For better or for worse, though, a failed near-miss in impressing a Roadrunner Records-signed act led me back to the music production I’d initially admired.

To be continued..

Everyday is Overrated – The Case for 3 Times a Week

“Let come what comes, let go what goes.  See what remains.” – Ramana Maharshi

You’re pulling yourself apart like a giant piece of string cheese. The phrase “tearing out your hair” must have some truth to it. We live in a culture that favors the ambitious, the wealthy and tend to overlook the subjective experience of those idols. We forgo aesthetic, present living and artistic fulfillment. We forgo religion and patience and instead pair with aggression and absent-mindedness. We’re competitive and yet we go nowhere.

Some of us rebel against the mainstream. We become outsiders, outcasts, burnouts, drop-outs, ironic hipsters or addicts. We see the frosty landscape of humanity and decide it’s not worth thawing out. We turn our affections toward bitterness and cynicism in the name of creativity. But are the artists really even living? It’s tough to feel completely fulfilled when you’re at odds with half the population. Not being able to see the doctor for lack of funds has it’s own special kind of downside.

What I’m proposing here is a marriage between the fighting yoga and the loser bhoga. I think that whenever we pick, we necessarily decline half of our being. I guess this is a call for choiceless awareness. Maybe it’s time we stop fighting and denying our whole being and learn to float between two banks. A perfect metaphor, or rather concrete example, of this idea is in the balance between work and play.

Let’s say you want to work on something full-time.  Maybe you’ve found your calling.  Maybe you want to get ahead at work.  We all know that this approach leads to burnout and lack of inspiration before long.  Creativity needs space and rest.  Science has shown that the brain works in two ways: one tense and one diffuse.  Focusing is like a sprint; it can’t be done forever.  The recovery period is where you really grow.  Plus your best work is done when you’re happy.  The longer you drag on, the worse you feel, the more you’re creating an imbalance in the natural flow and your work, and chutzpah invariably suffers.

You also want to eliminate bad habits.  You throw away all the cheese in your refrigerator.  You wake up early to work out.  But before long you’re tired.  You’re lacking the vibrancy that those extra chocolates used to give you.  Cranky and sleepy, you know you can’t continue this forever.  You’ve cut yourself off from your childlike flow so you become bored, anxious and full of conflict.   Cheat days give you fun and diversion.  The downtime helps spawn new ideas.  But partying can be taken to an extreme.  If you do it every day it dampens health, becomes less exciting and less inspiring.

Mentally, we always want to do our best.  But the mind makes a better servant than a master, as they say.  Instead of working on the same thing every day, be willing to give up a little progress in the name of balance, diversity and enjoyment.  Whether it’s work, art and hobbies or a few soapy pints – too much is too much.

Hence, rest and labor balance each other.
Do not favor one or each will suffer.
Work when you feel you’re able.
Rest when you feel like resting.
Leave the rest in the hands of the unknown.
Then your path will be inimitable and you’ll feel whole.


The Road To Mastery (How Long Till I’m Good?)

“It’s a long way to the top if you wanna rock n roll.” – AC/DC

You’ve failed.  You tried, failed and wondered why you’re not good enough.  Maybe you don’t have what it takes.  Maybe “those people” have better parents, grew up in a fostering environment.  “Actually,” you reason, “it’s karma.”  Maybe that’s all true.  Despite these outward conditions, I think we all go through a similar inner experience on our way toward mastery.

I’ve tried many things in my 33 years.  It started with girls.  Maybe it was violin.  In fact, I think I started on those two roads on the exact same day.  That’s unsurprising because I’ve always been involved in multiple fields at any given time.  Naturally, I’ve made slower progress than someone who may have specialized at one thing.  When it takes awhile to get good at something, you find yourself pondering the process; the past present and future.  “This is how it was when I started, this is what I have to work on now and in X amount of time, I’ll be good.”

I want to outline my own experience in the field of music since that’s what I’ve been doing for longest, put the most consistent effort into and in what I’m presently involved.  You might be a Type A specialist in which case this may not apply to you.  This model has reared it’s head time and time again in my life in the fields of socializing, poker, martial arts and fitness.  Here it is:

The Subjective Model of Getting Good

0-1.5 years – “Noob”  You suck.  You probably have an interest and you might have some natural talent.  Overall though you have no skill.  This fact is irrelevant to you because you’re overcome with enthusiasm.  After all, you’re a beginner; you’re supposed to suck.  No one will criticize you (to your face).  If you tell someone, they’re like, “Cool.”  At this point I have benefitted from acquiring some sort of training – whether from a website, a class or personal coaching.  There’s so much you don’t know that you don’t know that teaching yourself at this point will probably be fruitless.

1.5-2 years – “Blue Belt” At some point you start becoming good.  Not “great” good but better than your friends who don’t do what you do.  You can play something for them (if you’re a musician) and they’ll probably be kind of stunned.  If you’re into martial arts, you can probably beat up your friends.  Those friends now brag about you.  That’s because they know someone good but you’re not so good that they hate on you because you’ve destroyed their ego.  You’ve probably inspired them a little bit.  You’ve also learned the lingo of your field and generally are less of a failure.  A musician will probably play some full songs at this point.  A martial artist might have a belt or two (depending on age and art).  A poker player won’t go broke each time they sit down.  You’re tense but you pull things off.  You’re no longer a newb but can now recognize newbs for what they are.

4-5 years – “Good” This stage is the breaking point; it’s by when most quit.  At this juncture you could easily have decided you’ve found your passion/calling and decide to go full-time.  You can at least visualize that possibility.  A poker player will start winning regularly at lower stakes around here.  A martial artist will be a threat in some way to virtually anyone (but probably won’t be due to acquired discipline and confidence).  Musically, depending on your peer group, you’re one of the best that you personally know.  You might be in a band and you probably have some skill that no one else in your group has – be it writing, playing or performing.  You win the talent show.  The key word here is “winning.”  You’re no longer constantly thwarted by your overwhelming ignorance.  However, here is also where you decide whether the effort involved is worth it or not.  You’re seeing that you’ve put in a lot of time and pain.  You realize you can’t become a master at everything so now you sink or swim.  Nothing wrong with that – honorable discharge.  This is really the transition point between being better than the general population and becoming good in your chosen field.  Choose wisely.

7 years – “Better”  Nothing really changes between being “good” and being “better” other than exactly that.  If you’ve made it through “good” then naturally you’re going to get “better”.  You’re not an expert yet but you know you’re good.  You’re better than you were when you were good.  It’s really self-explanatory.  The little victories are the rewards here.  You’re still making regular, consistent progress and that motivates you.  You’re starting to experiment with domain-specific nuances beyond what beginners comprehend.  In guitar playing that might be greater use of alternate tunings, strange rhythms and time signatures or you might begin really emulating a certain player or style.  Your skill level allows you to focus in on smaller details that before may have eluded you.  In jiu jitsu you might start taking a liking to x guard or De la Riva.  I wouldn’t say you’re “specializing” just yet but you’re leaving the mainstream here and there to explore other avenues and tributaries.  The key word here is “style”.  Again, you’re not yet locked into what you’ll ultimately become but you’re definitely defining the beginnings of it.  You’re beyond basic technical proficiency so the more emotional and aesthetic aspects begin to take relevance.

10 years – “Disappointment”  After I’d been playing guitar for about seven years, I looked around at some more advanced players in my network and saw that, after 10 years, many of them were what I, at the time, considered “good”.  The thing is though, it is really a matter of perspective.  What you perceive is proportional to your experience.  In other words, someone who looks amazing to you might look like an idiot to someone with twice their experience.  Depending on your age or whatnot, this might be news to you.  The bottom line is that 10 years is a nice round number which has no correlation to reality.  10 years and 10,000 hours are concepts that sell books.  So many things go into what and where you are after a decade that it’s impossible to predict the outcome.  In my case, I hated practicing.  I liked writing and playing with my band but, after the 2 year mark, I never practiced really.  Therefore, when the 10 year mark came around, I wasn’t as good as I’d hoped.  It’s called a “learning curve” for a reason, besides.  The more time you put in, the more time and effort you need to improve.  Because you’re already good, your hunger might have died a little.  You might coast a little.  You might chill and feel like, “Ah, whatever.”  Those little things cost over the long-term.  Regardless, a little chill is necessary because if you’ve made it this far then you’re probably in for the long haul – life; no one can sprint forever and the clenched fist is ultimately relaxed.  I’ve seen this in brown belts who’ve lamented their deceleration of progress.  The only thing I’ve made it 10 years to is music – specifically guitar.  But in that span I’d also involved myself in recording, singing, writing, bass playing, drums and perhaps a little sampling.  All that experimentation you do at around year seven is going to diffuse the linear ray of focus everyone begins with.  That’s not a bad thing but it does result in a little disappointment at your diamond anniversary.  The key word here is “chill”.  You’re now somewhere in the middle of your field’s vastness and there probably aren’t any clear landmarks in sight.  You know how to swim but you’re no Michael Phelps.  This is a good time to relax for awhile and prepare to deliberately dive deep because that’s what you’re about to do.

15 years – “Domain Master”  Somewhere along the line between 10 and 15 years you decide to really get good at something.  No more waiting on the right circumstances, the right teacher or anything.  You decide, “Ok, now I study.”  You realize that waiting or wanking or hanging around isn’t getting you anywhere.  It was around this time I decided to begin learning music theory.  It was also around the time I moved away from my hometown and begun finding my own identity as a person and as a musician.  I started discovering music that I liked that was more-or-less unrelated to what any of my initial group of friends were into.  In other words, I was on my own.  This is a tough phase because you begin standing on your own feet.  One might think that standing on one’s own feet is the most natural thing in the world.  Any toddler would tell you different were they able to speak.  I found this to be a particularly painful period.  Notice the longer gap between this phase and the previous ones.  In a way, it might be like earning your black belt or first degree.  You’re no longer experimenting with styles and variations – you’re acquiring them.  I don’t use the word “master” here to represent the highest achievement available to you.  I use it in the sense that around this time you’re no longer depending on others for your progress.  You begin to value your own opinion as much as the experts.  The key word here is “sovereignty”.  Essentially it’s where you become YOU as a player as in “so-and-so plays like this.”  This is, of course, after the transformation you’ve gone through.  Somewhere between this and the next step you have a clear vision of the overview of your domain.  You see how things fit together.  You see the “why” behind how new practitioners are trained and how those methods either helped or hindered your progress.  You see behind verbal conventions like the words “rules” and “should”.  You can see the links between related fields; their similarities and differences.  It’s a good time to be alive and practicing.  You reap the rewards of new innovations because you’re ready to receive their gifts.

15-25+ years – “Professional”  I started playing violin when I was eight years old.  I’ve taken time off here and there and didn’t used to like practicing.  25 years later I’m trying to make the leap into professional activity.  I feel I’ve recently covered the ground of “Domain Master” and I’m ready to parlay that insight into creating value for others.  While I still have things to work on (of course – that never ends) I can now make things which I know others can enjoy and find useful.  I’m not inhibited by creative blocks and I see the current masters as inspiring competition rather than unfathomable titans.  I can look at experts in other fields and feel a kinship with them and feel like I share their insight into what goes into a life of consistent progress.  Of course, the levels and diversity of specialization and skill are limitless.  In the life of someone who’s deliberately developed themselves there is a beginning but perhaps no end.  There might be a peak time where an individual or team performs at their utmost and there may be a denouement but I can’t foresee an end to learning or the enthusiasm that comes from practice.  For me, at this point, it’s not even really about results as it was in the earlier stages.  Now it’s just about the joy of being able to practice my craft.  It’s no longer practicing in the sense of “to get better” but practicing like a Doctor practices medicine or a monk practices meditation.  The work is now more-or-less done for it’s own sake.  Sure, there are financial considerations but those are really besides the point – for me at least.  I see it as really just a gift to be able to create regardless of any outcome be it social acceptance, professional status or financial gain.  The key word here is “enjoyment” and I’ll just leave it at that.

So there you have it – my personal journey in music (with some other excursions thrown in).  Again, you may move faster or slower.  You might see things in a different order.  You may see things I don’t and vice versa.  That’s great because, as I mentioned, there are so many possible variations in any given field and they’re constantly shifting and evolving.

In the beginning, you should always start with something solid and reliable.  You don’t really need a teacher if you have great confidence in yourself but you need to pick a single thing and stick to it.  Later you can jump around and combine debris to make any kind of Minecraft-like raft, boat or yacht only to destroy it later and salvage it for parts.

In any case I hope this was helpful.  Maybe you’re looking to start something new.  Maybe you’re somewhere in the middle and you need confirmation of your skill.  Maybe you’re a grizzled veteran and I remind you of yourself when you used to think you knew anything.

That’s kind of the paradox – the more you know, the less you know.  It’s humbling.  That humility is important though because like Rener Gracie said, “We’re all a white belt in something.”



“If we learn nothing else from this tragedy, we learn that life is short and there is no time for hate.”
Sandy Dahl, wife of Flight 93 pilot Jason Dahl, in Shanksville, Pa., in 2002*

Here’s a history lesson for ya.

15 years ago, asleep in a single bed in my first studio apartment in Roger’s Park, Chicago I was awakened by a ringing Motorola cell phone.  “Uh, hello?” I answered.  “The Twin Towers are gone!” said my hysterical lesbian friend.  She was typically dramatic but this made no sense.  Listening to her elaborate further, I started to get the picture.

The thing was though, I was asleep.  Plus, I’d never been to New York.  Besides I’ve never been one to react to world affairs.  It’s not that I was insensitive, I was just disconnected – maybe in more ways than one.

Around that time, thanks to a profound LSD-induced experience, I started getting into meditation.  I was also beginning my solo career as what would later become Hexspa.  Lots of things were happening.

So here we are today.  My blog is back up, I’m still on a spiritual path and the Twin Towers still aren’t here.  All those things are the same.  What’s different though is the emotional tone regarding these things.

I want to mention Robert Adams first.  He was an Advaita teacher and told us not to react to the world for it’s ultimately a dream.  In essence, our identification with the body, the mind and world affairs keeps us bound to the cyclic drama of life.  That might not be your cup of tea but, when it comes to life-altering events, that bit of wisdom could offer solace to many.

On that fateful day, I was completely clueless about how I was going to perform the roles that, previously, talented musicians were filling.  The same technology that enables me to deliver this message to you has allowed me to confidently release music without the need for any collaboration or compromise.  I think that’s similar to how we initially find ourselves stunned or emotional about events but later manage to deal and heal.

And lastly, since I don’t want you thinking I’m selling out a catastrophe for readership, though the memory of what was in New York still remains, it seems like a lot of healing has taken place.  None of the quotes I read about this incident took on a hateful tone.  They all seemed to remember the brilliance of the departed and recognize the value of what’s actually here with us now.

So basically, in 15 years a lot has changed.  Some of those events have been challenging and some have been sweet.  Regardless, the only event we have available to us is now.  So bring your attention to the present moment, give your loved ones a kiss and do work that’s meaningful to you.

Who knows if we’ll get another 15 to neglect what’s important?


Image Source: (upload. wikimedia. org/wikipedia/commons/e/e5/North_face_south_tower_after_plane_strike_9-11.jpg)

Hey guys

Hexspa.com is live!  It’s taken awhile but I hope to keep this site up permanently.  Look forward to music, helpful how-tos and some offers for stuff you might want to buy to help keep me afloat.

In the meantime, click on the Social links to the right to see what I’m up to.