Ending Life Slowly
The new album from solo metal band Autumns Eyes
Available At the Following Stores:

Category Archives: OpEd

How I Lost and Found My Creative Motivation

An idea is born within your twisted little head, and suddenly all is well with the world. You’ve cracked the code to the ultimate solution that will cure your creative slump. You begin to set foot on this journey into your newfound world of ideas, only to find the landscape ahead of you is plagued with desolation. You can see your destination far in the distance, but the path to get there is completely abandoned. You’ve entered a void of creative motivation, and are about to dive head first into a pit of bland mediocrity.

This pretty much describes what Ive been going through lately, a complete uninspired mess with motivation nowhere to be found. Despite how hard I try to finish what Ive started, I just cannot find reason or strength to interpret why Im even doing this in the first place. So many questions race across my brain, some of which frighten me. Have I truly lost interest in music, the one thing thats kept me going for as long as I can remember? That would be impossible, wouldn’t it? Well, when you become consumed with such lack of motivation, its easy to accept your fate as nothing short of failure.

Fortunately this uninspired wave has long since washed away from me, and given the opportunity for hindsight to reveal some clarity on what this all means. More importantly, how to deal with it in the future. I struggled with the thought of even writing this article to begin with, but eventually decided it would not only be good therapy for me, but also might have the potential to help someone else out there dealing with similar issues. We can learn a lot from difficult moments in our lives, and taking any kind of benefit from them will transform that negative moment into a positive one.

Feeling What You Have, Not What You Need

When I entered this creative void, the first conclusion I jumped to was that this happened because I just didn’t feel like doing anything. I had no motivation to do the things I used to love doing. I convinced myself that I could no longer feel anything, and was void of all emotion. Meanwhile, the whole time I was actually feeling several emotions, just not positive ones.

Shame, guilt, envy, and failure seemed to circle around my head like vultures plotting out their next meal. I was feeling something after all, but I was giving in to the feelings that were not going to get me anywhere. Negative emotions like that will only hold you back, hence why I was never making any progress. Now that I figured this out, how was I supposed to fix it and move forward?

Look to Your Past to Fix Your Future

Many times when I was in my funk Id reminisce about the past, and how life was so much better back then. I started compiling a list in my head of things that used to bring me happiness. The list from my head soon made its way onto paper, actually a note taking app on my phone to be more specific. I began jotting down albums, movies, foods, and even smells that reminded me of my youth.

For example, one of my favorite memories comes from a time when my friends and I would visit a local book store that was surrounded by trees. We’d sit and read books on the occult while the smell of hazelnut coffee brewed behind us on the table where they served coffee and snacks for guests.

The next day I did just that, I brewed a cup of hazelnut coffee, grabbed a few goofy old books on the occult, and sat outside surrounded by trees. To my shock and surprise, it actually worked! This tiny little idea took me right back to that place from long ago, and suddenly I had a smile on my face again. It was just the small glimmer of hope I needed in order to pursue the rest of my nostalgic list.

I continued on, watching old movies I loved, listening to old albums, cooking the food I grew up eating. Slowly but surely, my sense of purpose started coming back to me. I was finally feeling like myself again. I kind of relate this idea to driving in a sense. You might be driving forward while looking through the windshield, but your rear view mirror is there as a reminder of whats behind you. Does that make sense? In other words, its important not to always dwell on whats behind you, your past in this case, but that doesn’t mean you cant use it as a tool to help you move forward.

Enjoy Even the Smallest Achievements

Now that my motivation had slowly crept back into existence, I still had another challenge to conquer. Ive always had an issue with never feeling accomplished. A day would go by, and Id look back on it thinking “What the hell did I do today? I got nothing done!” and repeatedly beat myself up over not being productive. Stepping back and looking at the situation from afar, I noticed one common factor. Id always take on the weight of the world and expect to fix everything in one day. In order to solve this toxic behavior, I started small.

When it came to sizable tasks that needed to be completed, I made a list of everything that needed to be done. At one point I was working on a very large website that had always been such a heavy weight on my shoulders. It was an overbearing monster of a project that would constantly cause stress and keep my supply of Advil running strong to combat my headaches. After listing one by one, each and every aspect of the website that needed work, I was able to systematically complete it piece by piece, rather than diving into it blindly.

Day one would go by, and Id check off the first three items on the list. Just the feeling of checking something off like that was enough to cure my previous feeling of guilt ridden failure. Should a day come where I sat around watching horror movies all day, Id embrace the fact that I had time to just lounge around and watch a few movies that inspired my creativity. The day might come when I have a family and don’t have the time to do this, so Im going to enjoy it while I still can. Speaking of having a family, is that looking too far into the future? Am I getting ahead of myself here?

Never Get Too Far Ahead of Yourself

The last and most important piece of knowledge I picked up from this experience, was to stop looking so far ahead of myself. Id always look so far into the future and come up with so many ideas which Id then share with the world in a furious rage of excitement. “Im going record ten albums in five years, and then Im going to shoot 20 music videos, and then Im going to direct a horror movie, etc…”. It got to the point where I could never keep up with all the ideas.

Eventually I started seeing people react as if my future proclamations were just the incessant ravings of a confused person crying wolf. By focusing more on the present, and current tasks at hand, I was able to slowly build that trust back. Not just with other people, but myself. I started seeing results from my work, and in turn that motivated me to pursue my goals even further.

So everything is fixed now, right? Not quite. There are always going to be ups and downs in life, and its important for me to remember that everything happens in balance of each other. Good must exist to prevent the bad, and bad must exist to give perspective on the good. At least thats what I believe, take it with a grain of salt of course. As I continue to work ahead on all my creative endeavors, I do so not completely cured, but with a new set of tools that can help me break through the walls that once stopped me in my tracks.

New to Autumns Eyes? Let’s Get Introduced!

What Is Autumns Eyes?

Autumns Eyes is a one man metal band inspired by Halloween and Horror Movies. The band started back in 1999 as a sadistic hobby, and later developed into a full time project run by its charismatically creepy creator from Connecticut, Daniel Mitchell.

What Kind of Music Is It?

Imagine if Tim Burton and Danny Elfman started a metal band.

What Bands Can You Compare Autumns Eyes To?

Type O Negative, Dream Theater, Dimmu Borgir, Cradle of Filth, In Flames, Moonspell, Danny Elfman, etc…

I Hate Metal. Will I Still Like Autumns Eyes?

There are many songs by Autumns Eyes which could easily be confused as weather channel music. So the sound is quite expansive beyond the “metal” category.

What Songs Should I Check Out First?

Here are a couple songs which give a taste of the diversity found in Autumns Eyes music.

Where Can I Buy Autumns Eyes Music?

Aside from the big retailers like iTunes, Amazon, and Spotify, you can purchase all Autumns Eyes music by visiting the music page here or at autumnseves.com

How Can I Interact With Autumns Eyes?

For any type of social media interaction, check out Autumns Eyes on Instagram, and Twitter. To contact Autumns Eyes directly, visit the contact page here or shoot an email to dan@autumnseyes.com

Dealing With Color Blindness As An Artist

Many people automatically assume that once you admit to being color blind, you are only able to see the world in black and white. While this may be true for a small fraction of people, the majority of color blind people only have trouble seeing certain colors. For me, the colors which tend to cause trouble are blue/purple, red/green, yellow/orange, and green/brown. Normally this wouldn’t be such an issue, but having an artistic side makes this issue much more difficult to manage.

It wasn’t until High School when things started to become irritating, and most of that was caused by my art teacher. I was told early on that it would be a problem for me to pursue a career in art due to the fact that I was painting my oceans purple, and my skies pink. The teachers negative influence got under my skin to the point where I actually gave up my artistic journey. It wasn’t that bad of a decision since it led to me focusing on a music career instead, but it still remains a decision I regret.

Years later I returned to the art world when I took interest in graphic design and creating web pages. It took a lot of training but soon I became familiar with the numeric values of colors, which helped identify them without relying on sight alone. I was able to implement that knowledge into software like Photoshop and Dreamweaver for use in both graphic and web design projects.

dan-eyes-2

Eventually my understanding of color blindness shifted from being a problem, to more of a unique solution. It allowed me to be more expressive and stand out from whatever trends other designers would follow. Once I decided to embrace being color blind, I was able to let go of that pressure to create accurate colors, and pursue a style all my own.

Art is subjective to the person experiencing it, and there are plenty of artists out there who adhere their creations to standard color schemes. If you are color blind and trying to pursue a career in art, use it to your advantage. Being a color blind artist means that you are part of a small percentage of people who get to share their view of the world through a unique pair of eyes.

Any time you compare yourself to anyone else, you will always find negativity. Everyone is made to be different, and embracing those differences is what makes us unique. What you may consider a hindering disability now, may one day be considered a fortunate gift. So don’t waste your emotions on looking for faults, and rather look for ways to share what makes you so unique with the rest of the world.

Movies That Inspire Creativity

There is a lot of focus on horror movies which inspire what I do with Autumns Eyes, but there are plenty of films from other genres which can have just as strong an impact on my creativity. With song writing, I always tend to look in the opposite direction when it comes to sparking an idea. The same formula applies to visual inspiration, and often times a movie you’d never expect to influence a heavy metal band, will do so in a way horror movies could never come close to. These are just a few movies I can always reference for inspiration during a strong case of writers block.

The Virgin Suicides

I remember watching this with a friend, and after the film ended they asked what the purpose of this movie was. The question threw me off guard at the time, but my answer should have been that not all films have such a straight and narrow purpose behind them. Granted its a horribly depressing story, but the way everything here is crafted from the set design to the music is nothing short of brilliant. When everything falls perfectly into place like that, it provides a seamless transition for the viewer to feel like they are part of the story.

No Country For Old Men

The one aspect I took away from this movie was silence. Its a perfect example of how taking something away can add so much more in the overall scheme of things. Plenty of films feature a sadistic killer who’s hellbent on revenge, but the killer in this movie is much more unique and believable. His oddly shaped haircut, his denim wardrobe, and his disgustingly effective weapon are three unforgettable traits that stick with you long after the movie is over. Not a slew of one-liners or an abundance of quick cut action scenes. The use of silence in the dialogue is also matched in the vast baron landscapes which surround the characters. Yet another detail which makes this film stand on its own, and even sets itself apart from having a specific genre tagged to it.

Sin City

It took a lot of guts to make a film like this, especially in a time when comic book movies were straying so far from the original source material. Movies like X-Men were afraid to have their characters dress exactly how they were in the comics in fear of them looking horribly silly. Sin City went the opposite direction, and embraced the look which made the series so notable in the first place. Not only did they create similar characters with the actors they cast, but also in the set direction and shooting the picture in black and white. Bold decisions like that will always garner respect, and always serve as inspiration to those who choose to take the fearless route when it comes to creativity.

Inception

Hollywood is notorious for churning out repetitive nonsense every year with an abundance of remakes and ideas we have all seen before. Inception was a game changer not only with its unique story, but even the trailer which started the awful trend of other movie previews using the loud “BRAAAAAAMMMM” sound. Whats even more inspiring here is director Christopher Nolan’s decision to use practical effects for the majority of such a visually striking movie. Many filmmakers and studios would opt for using computers since they are cheaper and faster, but digital effects will never compare to the real thing. Which is why the hallway fight scene remains one of the best visual effects we’ve ever seen.

The NeverEnding Story

This is one of the first movies I remember watching as a kid, and while it surely scared the living shit out of me in some parts, I believe its easy to say this movie was the reason I opted to show interest towards the darker side of life. There were a lot of fantasy based movies during the eighties, but NeverEnding Story was the one film I often wished would come true. So many nights were spent hidden under a blanket with a flashlight reading fictional stories till my eyes could barely stay open. To see that same scenario unfold on screen, and have those stories come to life, was simply awe inspiring.

Batman

There are a few memories in our childhood that stick out as life changing moments, and Tim Burtons Batman was without question the most notable in my youth. I had always been a fan of the character in comic books, but never imagined he would be visualized with such brutal honesty until I saw the first trailer for this movie. Soon after, there would be multiple trips to the theater so I could study this fascinating person. He was psychotic enough to embrace darkness and run towards it, rather than fear it and run away as most of us would. Thats the main inspiration I found in the movie, not just the cool visuals, but the fact that someone opened up my brain and told me its okay to embrace what scares you.

Songs That Extract Emotion

Nobody else is around, the weight of the world is on your shoulders, and the only way to cleanse yourself of this overwhelming emotion is to play a song which you have a personal connection to. A song that only you can understand because it penetrates deep into your bones, and targets every fiber of your being to the point where you feel it was recorded just for you at this very moment in time. These are the songs that extract emotion out of us at our most vulnerable moments. Im sharing a few of my own selections, but Im more interested in what everyone else has to share. So make sure to hit up the comment section below, or stop by Facebook and Twitter to join in the conversation.

Pink Floyd

Coming Back to Life

While the original track comes off Pink Floyd’s Division Bell album, the version I fell in love with was witnessing Floyd guitar player David Gilmour perform the song at a Fender anniversary concert. The lyric “Where were you when I was burned and broken?” cracks through a sorrow soaked guitar intro, and launches into one of the most lyrically poignant songs Ive ever heard.

Dream Theater

The Spirit Carries On

From the legendary concept album Metropolis II: Scenes From a Memory, this track is originally slated to fit inside a much bigger story. However, you can’t help but find a relatable message within the lyrics and apply them to your own life. What happens after we pass will always be a huge mystery for everyone with a beating heart, but songs like this help some of us ease that curiosity towards the unknown.

Anathema

Lost Control

Sometimes its important to embrace an overwhelming sadness so we can not only prevent it from infecting us at a deeper level, but also to teach us how to release such intense pain. Anathema has always been good at helping me extract some of the things I tend to hold on to, which I should be letting go of.

My Dying Bride

For My Fallen Angel

Not many metal bands have ever had such a somber impact on my own soul, and while there may not be any distorted guitars or skull crushing drums, the message of this song is translated perfectly with a tasteful string arrangement that’s sure to drown you in sadness.

Hans Zimmer

Rise

Batman has always been an iconic part of my memory ever since I was a kid, and while Im not obsessed to the point where I have my own bat cave, I will always be intrigued by the overall story. As a child it showed me how to be courageous and embrace fear, as opposed to running from it. Like many moments from our childhood, those feelings tend to get lost as time goes by. I never expected those emotions to return in full force during the final act of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, which was brilliantly scored by the always imaginative Hans Zimmer.

My Favorite Heavy Metal Guitar Tunings

If you’re a guitar player, by now you’ve probably tried your hand at a few different tunings. When you purchase a standard guitar, it’s strung with basic strings that are sized for standard E tuning. However, the lower you go, the thicker the string you will need to retain enough tension to pluck the string. This is where things get interesting, and we are about to go over a few of the most popular tuning methods for heavy metal guitar playing.

Tried and True E

E-A-D-G-B-E

Believe it or not there are plenty of metal bands out there sticking to their tuning guns by trusting good old standard E tuning. Bands like Opeth and Dream Theater are most notable for writing in E, despite the fact that John Petrucci has indulged in many lower tunings with his seven string.

Drop-D

D-A-D-G-B-E

It’s the best way to communicate a really harsh rock sound with a heavy metal edge, much like that of Anthrax or Melvins. Drop-D tuning has been a go-to standard in heavy music ever since Eddie Van Halen brought it into the limelight.

Standard B

B-E-A-D-G-B-E (7 String)
B-E-A-D-F#-B (6 String)

Say what you will about the band Korn, but if not for their exploration into the realms of seven string guitar playing, metal would not have progressed as a genre. As with any tuning, there is no idea who did it first, but there were those who brought it to our attention like Korn and even solo players like Steve Vai.

Drop-A

A-E-A-D-G-B-E (7 String)
A-E-A-D-F#-B (6 String)

Now it’s beginning to get a little ugly in here, and fans of standard E tuning should be weary of what’s to come. Drop-A tuning is basically the seven string equivalent of Drop-D, but much lower of course. One of my favorite bands who use this tuning effectively is Fear Factory. It’s not an easy task to keep such a low tuning sounding tight with a kick drum, but Dino Cazares manages to achieve a tight sound with fierce accuracy all while maintaining such a low growl.

Meshuggah

F-Bb-Eb-Ab-Db-Gb-Bb-Eb

Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine one day we would see eight string guitars in heavy metal. The first time I heard Meshuggah, I was convinced they were using bass strings on their guitars. While that part was true, I had no idea what was to come. Ibanez introduced the eight string not too long ago, and it has since become a hugely popular trend in heavy music today. Unfortunately the majority of people trying to perfect this sound under such intense distortion fall flat of anything sonically recognizable. That’s why Meshuggah are absolute masters of their craft, and pioneers of guitar tuning. They continue to push the limits, and prove that sound can only be limited by your own creative walls.

Tara Vanflower Talks Lycia, Type O Negative, & Much More

She is the ambient angel who’s voice has seduced us all with her darkwave days as a member of Lycia, her hypnotizing solo material, and even lending her voice to the drab four themselves, Type O Negative.

Her name is well known throughout the landscapes of dark music, and yet it seems that we have never gotten a good look into the mind of this captivating siren. In the hopes of delving deeper into the darkness, I sat down with Tara on the shores of her majestic castle overlooking the Baltic Sea.

Okay, so it was actually just a couple emails back and forth, but I prefer the castle motif. Without further adieu, so begins our spotlight on one of the most talented creative minds this world has to offer.

Biography

In October of 1994 Tara Vanflower began her journey with the darkwave outfit Lycia, where soon after she would marry fellow band member Mike VanPortfleet. Along with her work for Lycia, Tara also explored a more personal creative outlet by releasing her first solo album in 1999 titled This Womb Like Liquid Honey, followed by the 2005 release My Little Fire-Filled Heart.

taravanflower-4

Her talents proceeded to blossom throughout numerous side-projects and collaborations such as Black Happy Day with Timothy Renner, Secondary Nerve with Daniele Serra, Oneiroid Psychosis, Numina, The Unquiet Void, Falling You, and Methadrone. Given her extensive resume working with other artists, one of Tara’s most notable contributions happened in 2007 when she sang on the track Halloween In Heaven by Type O Negative.

Vanflower has an immense passion for all things creative, and never has that shown more recently than in her time spent writing. With several books under her belt, she has released Lives of Ilya, Violent Violet Part One & Two, and will continue the Violet Series with several installments in the future, along with numerous other series which have yet to be completed.

Lycia

Grand Rapids

Lycia

Baltica

Tara Vanflower

Beneath the Moon

Tara Vanflower

Milk

13 Questions With Tara Vanflower

What was it that attracted you to the darker side of creativity, as opposed to say a career in pop or country music?

There’s no way I could pull off a career in either of those genres for one thing. LOL The other is I’m not interested in either. I do like country music, but not the slick modern version. I prefer the old stuff and bluegrass. I have a side project called Black Happy Day with Timothy Renner that touches on that a little. I don’t know why I’m drawn to darker, moodier forms of expression. I really don’t.

For lack of a better term, how has “goth” music changed since you started out?

“Goth” as I knew it is dead, or should be anyway. I think what people equate as goth is so varied it’s a disservice to all involved. I love moody music. I don’t really like campy clichéd crap. Unless it’s intentionally being that way for the sake of humor. And then it’s just mildly amusing.

Aside from music, do you partake in any other forms of artistic expression?

My primary form of expression these days is actually writing. I have a few books out. Generally speaking, my focus is mostly on writing these days.

Where do you draw inspiration from?

Dream Land, the sideways realm, alternate dimensions… whatever you want to call it. The atmosphere. Love. Those people who come to me in dreams at night. Surroundings I’ve never seen before.

If there was a movie made about you, who would be best suited to portray you?

OMG, um wow. No fucking clue. I’d like to say someone awesome, but then that would be an inaccurate portrayal. Hmm, can Hodor play me?

What moments in your life would this movie focus on?

Probably my incredible baton twirling career from the mid 70s to early 80s.

Would this movie be released in theaters everywhere, straight to DVD, or only art-house hipster theaters that serve odd selections of coffee?

Probably on youtube and filmed/posted by David Slaya Smith. (shout out to DSS)

Are there any projects you have in the back of your head, or the front of your head for that matter, which you have been anxious to start working on?

YES! The new Lycia, which is the very early stages. This album will have David Galas, Mike, and myself. And a myriad of books that are in varying stages of completion. I need a doppelganger to work my day job so I can pull off all these projects!

You worked with a small group of up and coming musicians out of Brooklyn named Type 1 Positive, or something to that effect. How did this collaboration come about, and what was the experience like?

Quick answer: Josh asked me. LOL We were friends and he asked me to do some vocals on a track that never was released. So when they were recording the TON album he asked if I wanted to do vocals on Halloween In Heaven and of course I said yes. I recorded vocals in our studio and sent him the tracks via AIM. And that was that. I love those guys so it was awesome. I also got to sing the song live once with them and that was pretty incredible.

taravanflower-3

Is there anyone out there who you would love to collaborate with aside from Martian Manhunter?

Superman, definitely Superman. I don’t know. It’s so hard to get anything done creatively these days. I’m just looking forward to the next Lycia.

Do you see the future as a time of winding down for you, or an endless field of opportunity that has yet to be explored?

I don’t think I will ever be able to give up thinking I should be creating something. My life would be less tortured if I could.

Since everyone asks about the future of Lycia, I will ask something completely different. If we were in a time portal and drifted years ahead, what would Lycia be doing at that given moment in time?

Sitting on the couch watching The Justice League with Dirk VanPortfleet.

Everyone has their own unique path in life, but given the chance would you go back and alter that path in any way?

Yes. There were some decisions I made in life that were fucking awful.

Tara’s Top 5 Goth Tracks

This is gonna be hard!!!!!!!!!!! Keep in mind, I actually don’t think of any of the bands I will list as “goth”, and limiting myself to 5 is insane, but here goes.

Lycia

Granada

Swans

Blood and Honey

The Cure

Disintegration

Black Mare

Blind One

Joy Division

Love Will Tear Us Apart

In closing, its important to remember what makes us all individuals in this world. If everyone followed the flock so to speak, we would be saturated with such bland lives that could never prosper beyond our own mediocrity. Its people like Tara Vanflower who show us the definition of the word creativity. She is fearless in her stance against normality, and continues to prove that when you express your true passion in life, your legacy will live on beyond your years. In Tara’s case her songs and her words will forever inspire people like myself and continue to do so long after we are gone.

Lycia Official Website
Lycia Official Facebook Page

A Reminder of Why I Love Making Music

I received a pretty amazing email last night from a fan who’s wife gave him a unique gift for fathers day to celebrate their first son together. The gift is a framed photo of their son which is made up entirely out of lyrics to the Autumns Eyes song Ichabod, which I wrote as an open letter to my son before he is born. As a musician it makes this all worthwhile when you make a connection like that with your listeners. Regarding the email, I asked the fan if I could share it online to which he approved. Here is what he wrote, and the picture he attached.

“I wanted to share with you this gift that my wife gave me for my first fathers day. It is difficult to see in the photo but this picture is my son when he was just a few hours old, it is made entirely from the lyrics of your song Ichabod. Now that I have a son of my own, I have a new appreciation for the meaning. Just in case you were wondering, yes that is batman in the bottom right corner.”

ichabod-frame

While I often receive letters from fans all over the world, its always nice to know these songs have the ability to go deeper than just what you hear on the surface. Its a constant reminder of why I love making music, and how grateful I am to have such amazing fans.