Jake Padilla, on improvising in both music and life

by DGO Web Administrator

Jake Padilla and I are having a beer together when we get to talking about playing guitar, preferring not to plan things out, and how those two things actually correlate. I tell his story here, in his own words.

I’m in a punk band now. It’s fun. Punk rock with riffs. Coming from a metal background, riffs are just sort of in you. You come up with a riff, rather than just chords and accompaniment. It’s fun stuff to play because you can make loud, heavy music catchier. The only bummer is that I’d like the songs to be a little longer. They’re all over in two minutes. Play the first riff, then play the second riff, then you’re done. [laughs] Short songs make it easier to thrash around and actually move though, so that’s more fun. I don’t have to make sure that I’m playing exactly the right notes all the time. That’s the kind of thing that turns a musician into a statue. [laughs] My last band changed a lot of things on the spot, we improvised a lot, and so I doubly had to make sure that I was spot-on. It was kind of annoying. In terms of music, I’d rather be more thought out, composed, and methodical in my presentation. I think there’re a few different types of musicians: those that’ll figure it out as they go, and those that like to figure out what they’ll do and then do it. I’m the second kind.

You know, it’s kind of funny. In my normal, everyday life, I don’t like to plan things. In fact, when I get together with friends, I’m always the guy saying, “I’m not sure I wanna do that. What if something else comes up?” My friends hate it. They used to call me Jake the Flake. I don’t like being “that guy,” but I also don’t know that I want to change it. I can make a plan, but I prefer not to. I’m getting better [at planning things] to my dismay. I don’t want to be a slave to time, I guess. I see a lot of people making plans, and they’re very regimented – and that’s the other thing, I’m not a very regimented person, either. If I have a day off, I may wake up at 6, or I may wake up at 11. It depends on how I feel at the time. Which sounds so ridiculous, but it’s true. I’m just not worried about the clock, and I don’t want to be worried about the clock. It’s always going to be running. Who cares?

I look around sometimes and think that people are just being oppressed by time. It seems like they’re single-tracked, one-minded, regimented, and I feel like – well, OK, [laughs] my girlfriend is a really good example. Let’s go there. [laughs] She loves to make plans. She and I are still figuring out how to make it work, but we’re getting there. It’s always a big deal when something gets worked out. It’s an accomplishment that we celebrate. [laughs] She’s a dancer, so she has a pretty specific version of time. Every time we wake up, she’s already reading out the agenda for the day. I’m just waking up, and I want to say, [rubs eyes as if waking up] “Can you give me two hours?”

She takes it in stride, mostly, but she’s a little impatient with me in the morning. Then again, I’m a little impatient with her at night. She falls asleep at 8:30, and I’m over here saying, “It’s still light out. I’m just getting my wind!” But I think that’s pretty common with planners. They hit the day running, get their stuff done first, and then have free time later. Whereas I prefer to be eased into things. I would say that about everything. Any plan that I make, any time that I have, I like to get warmed up for what we’re doing, rather than a cool down.

So I guess this all correlates to where we started. I feel like the warm-up is my chance to deliberate within myself, plan, and then once the time comes for performance and execution, I’m ready. Do it, done. [snaps fingers] My girlfriend’s preferences come out in her performances, too. All of the high-intensity, hard stuff comes out early on. She’s teaching a summer session in San Francisco right now, and she was totally freaking out before she left. Kind of freaking out before, during, and after the first day, too. But the exercises that she’s having her students do are really heady, emotionally vulnerable, and heavy-duty. But near the end of the session, they’re just kind of going to be cleaning up the small details. They’ll be ready for their performance well before the performance actually happens. Crazy. I’ve never thought about that.

Cyle Talley is perpetually late, and also constantly checking his wristwatch. Go figure. Email him at: [email protected].


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