Inspiration is a powerful yet perplexing thing. It is often referred to as the ‘burning desire’ that drives people to achieve remarkable creative accomplishments. But what is it exactly? And how does one acquire it?
These questions, though straightforward, don’t necessarily lend themselves to easy answers. But before we seek for answers, we must first know the facts.
According to Encyclopedia.com, “Inspiration is a psychic state in which one becomes susceptible to creative spiritual influence or unwittingly lends oneself as an instrument for through-flowing ideas. It is the creative state of the artist, poet and author, traditionally believed to be amenable to the wisdom of the muses or inspiring gods.”
Simply put, inspiration is the ‘drive to create’. It is something that can’t be quantified but can be felt by the person concerned. But it doesn’t have to be an out of this world, mystical experience. To some, it’s just as simple as watching a moving performance.
This is exactly what ‘Shady Monk’ (David Gravagno), a 25 year-old Indie-Electronic Hyper Fusion artist based in Philadelphia and Hyperpop Netlabel co-founder experienced and felt when he watched electronic musician/producer ‘SAVANT’ perform live. Speaking with Bassfuck, ‘Shay’ (as what he’s usually referred to by his friends) had this to say about that transformative experience:
“In 2012, I started the ‘Shady Monk’ project after receiving a RUSH of inspiration following my attendance of a performance by one of my favorite producers, ‘SAVANT’. I’ve been producing mainly under this alias ever since, but I still have many side projects as well. These days, I help run a Netlabel called “HyperPop” that me and six of my best friends and some of the most talented producers I’ve ever met, founded together.”
Right from the very start, ‘Shay’s’ musical journey has always been guided by inspiration and influences from family members, heroes, mentors, peers and even his surroundings among other things.
“Growing up, I was constantly surrounded by many musical influences. My late Grandpa Lee, played upright bass in the Philadelphia Orchestra for over 40 years. He was a great inspiration to me growing up. My mom played piano and violin. My dad plays drums in a southern rock cover band, “ he divulged.
“I was a sponge, soaking in tons of inspiration from watching my older siblings play their video games. Everything from Sega Genesis, to Super Nintendo and all the way up. I hadn’t realized my passion quite yet for composing, but subconsciously I was taking notes from people like Nobuo Uematsu (Final Fantasy VII), Koji Kondo (Mario/ Legend of Zelda) and the likes of Yuzo Koshiro (Streets of Rage), Hayou Miyazaki films and their corresponding soundtracks by Joe Hisaishi as well as Jazz, Funk, RnB and Soul music from the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s just to name a few.
“Then middle school hit, and eventually my ears found the band ‘Nine Inch Nails’. It may not sound like it in my more recent material but ‘Trent Reznor’s’ works have some of the biggest influences on everything I do as a musician. Simultaneously, I was getting into the French house movement with dudes like ‘Daft Punk’ and the whole ‘Ed Banger’ label. I’d also grown a passion for more ambient, weird, experimental and textured music and so acts like ‘Aphex Twin’, ‘Boards of Canada’ and ‘Gold Panda’ naturally became favorites as well.”
These days, ‘Shay’ draws his biggest inspirations from his peers rather than some out of reach famous person. He revealed that he’s heavily influenced by ‘Maxo’, ‘Omniboi’, ‘Sylcmyk’ and everyone in the circles of producer friends and the creative communities they’ve all cultivated together.
Which makes sense because surrounding yourself with people who motivate and push you constantly to be the best at what you do is a much practical way of honing your creativity as they are accessible and within reach. But make no mistake about it, ‘Shay’ is not by any means, resting on his laurels.
“I couldn’t possibly settle on one inspiration, as there’s constantly new and awesome things happening all around me every day and new music being fed to me on the regular. It all goes in to the mental pot that I stir up and conjure my sounds with. Nothing’s off limits!”, he declared.
Creativity is a never ending endeavor and inspiration is the inexhaustible resource that fuels it–keeping the ‘desire burning’. To quote the great Leonardo da Vinci, “Art is never finished, only abandoned.”
In the same way, art is infinite. It’s never done but can always be refined. It teaches us to never stop growing, never stop exploring, never stop learning.
‘Shay’ seems to have taken this notion to heart as evidenced by these words of wisdom he imparted to aspiring artists and musicians like him:
“Be fearless! Don’t stop creating! Don’t worry so much about genres and fitting some sort of mold. Just be yourself, and try any ideas you might have. Don’t try to be too much of a perfectionist either. Art isn’t perfect and someone will always dislike something you do, no matter how good you think it is. Just follow your instincts and create what feels right in the moment.”
Check out ‘Shady Monk’s’ music below. It is imaginative. It is transformative. It is undeniably inspirational!