Sunday, November 22, 2009

All that you can't leave behind: Destroy what you've built

By Dan Horgan

I've recently become obsessed with the band Crystal Castles - an electro/dance/punk duo from Canada, famous for their home-produced recordings and sometimes rambunctious live shows. All of my punker-than-thou friends will probably hate me for even giving such a night-club band a chance, but I'm not letting loyalty to a specific genre of music cloud the new love I've developed for this eccentric pair - especially when I believe their story is paralleling my current life expositions.


Humans are builders. We spend our lives building things that we love and are beneficial to us - relationships, careers, art, you name it.

To tear down what you've built has been out of the norm and frowned upon throughout history. If you're a middle-level employee who for years has been working your way up at a big company, don't quit your job - the time you've spent climbing the corporate latter will have been wasted. If you're a lonely middle-aged man who finds a nice, attractive girl, don't go looking for someone better - such a steady partner may not come along again. If you're a promising young baseball prospect, keep at the sport - the prestige that comes with being a dynamic pitcher or shortstop is worth spending a childhood striving for.

There is immense value in sticking with something. Rocky marriages have been saved through patience and years of mutual hard work, and mediocre bands who started in oblivion have risen to stardom through non-stop touring and promotion. But there are times, especially in art, when annihilating what you've built is the best and most fulfilling option. It's reckless, risky, and even crazy, but sometimes you need to be a little crazy to accomplish great things.


Crystal Castles is one of the world's hottest new bands, and it started on a whim. Ethan Kath, the synth player, founder, and producer of the group, was in a popular metal on the brink of record deals when he "decided [he] wanted to try something different." He left the band, secluded himself for months, and crafted what would be the beats to Crystal Castles' first songs.

"Maybe I was insane at the time," admitted Kath in a interview.

Insane, that is, by society's standards.

In his metal band, Kath had helped to build a stable form of art with even more potential for growth. Art is near impossible to profit from in today's world, but his band was about to breach that seemingly unattainable feat. Why would he want to throw it all away?

The answer, I believe, lies in the unnameable power of artistic whims.

What if Kath hadn't had the desire to try something new? What if he'd ignored that desire to stay with his stable form of art? He would have followed the stream of stability most humans live by. But he never would have met Alice Glass, the fireball vocalist for Crystal Castles. The two would have never formed their wacky songs which have been played millions of times. And perhaps most devastatingly, he would not be happy making music he was no longer passionate about.

Fame, riches, and happiness aren't bad rewards for acting on a whim.

So how does Kraft's story relate to my current artistic endeavors? Let me digress a bit.

I've had my life's best success in two areas: boxing journalism and Boston punk rock. My Web site was the world's most monthly visited boxing site less than two months after it launched. My book "Bringing Back Boxing" led to me being interviewed on countless Internet radio stations and even a local Fox News broadcast. My band The Social Failures played on several huge local shows and our message-encrypted lyrics coupled with our intense playing style won us over a large portion of the Boston punk scene.

But all of that is now in the past, and I don't plan on ever going back. I've torn down what I built, started a new band and blog, and am taking a new approach on how I express my creativity.

Am I crazy? Maybe. I did, after all, spend thousands of hours writing stories for fight sites and trying to get my band's music out to the masses. Both parts of my life are extremely difficult to move on from.

But in the long run, I feel my choices will aid me in achieving what I want in life. I'd ultimately like to help others through inspiration, love every day like it's my last, and carry out the basic values I think God expects from every human. I couldn't do that in boxing journalism - a small, corrupt field - or through my old band, which was solid but generic. I can, however, take my shot at life through following my heart and hoping people enjoy the footsteps I leave.

So here I am, writing a new blog and book and recording songs for a new band. I've restarted my building process, and although I'm scared, I feel ready to take on the world. The Awesome Column was made on a whim as was my new band. Both moves are risky, but I shouldn't be afraid - the best things in life sometimes come on a whim.

Don't be afraid to be a little crazy.