January 21, 2013
I’ve been blow away by the response to this Creative Spaces project. We’ve been lucky enough to speak with a ton of very talented, creative people over the past two months. I try not to play favorites but this week it will be hard to not mention that the individual featured played drums for one of my favorite bands of all time, Thrice. I don’t want to get too far off message for the project, so if you want to read my ramblings on what this band means to me you can check out this blog post.
Riley Breckenridge has spent the better part of the past decade and a half playing drums for Thrice. Each album Thrice ever released has had a portion of the sales donated to various charities (even when they were on Island Records). I think this speaks volumes of its members and shows exactly the type of people they are, and how they choose to live their lives. In addition to his music, Riley has been an active writer for the past few years, writing for a variety of outlets such as SB Nation Los Angeles, OC Weekly , and also runs Productive Outs, a baseball centric website, with a close friend. Riley spoke with us about the recent transition in his professional life, as well as what has influenced him as both a musician and a creative professional.
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Name: Riley Breckenridge
Hometown: Irvine, CA
Current Residence: Orange, CA
You recently had a huge shift in your career and day-to-day life; have you had to make any big changes in regards to keeping your creativity flowing?
A little bit. When Thrice was active, I was constantly writing music with the knowledge that I was compiling ideas for the next Thrice release. Now, with a couple of projects on my plate and no clear cut deadlines, things are a little more fluid (for better or worse).
I’m still writing music fairly often, but I’m slightly less obsessive about it since it’s not my livelihood any more. Rather than writing music everyday, I’m finding that I have to make a concerted effort to set aside time to write music whenever it works with my day job as a sports/music writer, whereas in the past it was the opposite.
Which is easier to break through, a creative block in music or writing?
Neither one is easy. With music, I found that a change of scenery (home studio, rehearsal space, studio) or changing the instrument I was writing on (guitar, bass, drums, keys, or programming) could break me out of a slump more often than not. And deadlines in the music business always felt less strict than deadlines in writing web or print content do, so I wasn’t as prone to freaking out about having writer’s block on the music side as I am when writing text. I feel that rushing ideas tends to complicate the creative process for me. Some folks perform very well in that environment, and I’m not sure I’m there. Yet. It’s something I’m working on.
With writing text, my tools are limited to a keyboard and my desktop or laptop. It’s not like I’m going to break out a typewriter or start handwriting pieces for the internet, and I don’t write well at the library or a coffee shop so the “change of scenery” fix isn’t much of a fix. I find it more difficult and frustrating to try to break out of a text writing slump.
Is there anything or anyone in particular that has had a major influence in helping your develop your skills?
As far as music is concerned, I’ve been influenced by a ton of incredible musicians who I’ve had a chance to meet and share ideas with through touring. I’m fascinated by technique and creative process and don’t believe that there is one “right” way to create music, so being able to pick the brains of people who go about their craft in a variety of ways has helped me create a method of my own.
Brian McTernan, who produced The Illusion of Safety and The Artist In The Ambulance also played a huge role in my development as a musician. He worked with Thrice at a time when we were all very young and impressionable musicians, and to have him stress the importance of writing as often as possible really helped me develop a solid work ethic when it comes to writing music.
Expanding the scope of the music I listen to has helped me quite a bit too. When Thrice started, my music library was very heavy on punk, hardcore and metal and the music I wrote reflected that. As I broadened my horizons and started listen to ambient, jazz, electronic, indie, noise, film scores and whatever else spoke to me on some level, it really helped me broaden the palette of sonic colors that I could draw from to create my own ideas.
How do you think your time on the road with Thrice will affect you as you move forward as a writer?
I think the thing has affected me most is that I had an incredible opportunity to see the world outside of the bubble in Southern California. I’ve gotten to meet people and see things that just don’t exist at home, and I think that has given me a greater appreciation of everything, really.
What are you hoping the future holds for you?
Opportunity, stability and happiness. I’m not big on the whole “In five years, I want to be … “, “In ten years, I hope … ” thing. That’s not to say that I’m not goal-oriented, but I tend to function (and stay mostly sane) by taking things one day at a time (sports cliche) and trusting that if I continue to push myself to make the most of each day, I’ll end up where I need to be.
Please describe your creative process in ten words or less.
A work in progress. Always.
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