“I TEND TO BE STUBBORN IN THAT WHEN a lot of people jump on whatever the new bandwagon might be, I tend to jump off and look for another direction. It’s difficult to grasp where my particular impatience comes from. It’s an ongoing search for new kicks and new stimulation— it’s keeping myself interested. I find what excites me are things where I’m not necessarily operating from a point of view of the guitarist template of technique and licks and all the rest of it. I think—first and foremost—it starts from the point of view of art. I know that’s an overblown word, but it’s sometimes useful to think about things as being a creation of some kind, and it doesn’t necessarily matter that they’re musical. It can be some kind of vision, some kind of realization—a dream of something—that brings something into the world that’s interesting to me first, and hopefully to other people, as well. Then, I look at the tools I have in front of me. Some of those tools are guitars, some are keyboards, some are percussion instruments, and some are recording instruments. All of these things offer me a whole variety of expressions.
“But now, you have to ask yourself, ‘Well, where do I start?’ So if you’re a musician, once you’ve put in a certain amount of years of practice, and have an understanding of what the instrument does and where things are, it’s no longer a matter of sitting down and rehearsing chops. It’s a matter of trusting the instrument, and trusting your own instincts with it, and seeing what happens. And if a mistake happens, then go with it and turn it to your advantage. It’s an adventure in that sense, and the best performances are completely unselfconscious. You’re inside the music, and it’s leading you, and you just follow it where it goes. There’s no thinking if it’s right or wrong, or if it’s entertaining people. That’s all out the window. The minute you start to analyze what you’re doing, the music is no longer this organic, living, breathing thing—it’s something you try to knock into shape with a set of rules you’ve picked up over many years. But if you can let go, it becomes a blissful experience to play, and you may experience those moments of being completely one with the music. The hard part is that this is not something you can guarantee every time, no matter how you approach it. It’s the magic—the X-factor—that still makes life interesting for everyone who is listening, and for everyone who is playing.” —Excerpted from Michael Molenda’s piece in the March 2004 Guitar Player