Krys is one of my most favorite people on this planet. I’ve known him since I was in fourth or fifth grade (we went to the same church), and he was a year older (and probably didn’t even know who I was.) We became friends somehow or another during those years growing up, and we were in the same pack of awkward/emo/drama-kid/musician group of friends in high school. Krys is hilarious. And wicked smart. He’s loyal and brave. He’s one of the good ones.
(photo credit: Jamie Mulhern)
Jamie: Tell us a little about yourself.
Krystofer: We moved to AZ from California when I was 2, so I’m dang-close to being a native. That doesn’t mean I’m particularly fond of the weather or our national perception. I spent a little time at a handful of colleges, including a PC hardware certification program that led to a couple years of working IT for Tempe-based MicroAge (still kind of alive, but a shadow of its former self).
I started doing church music with a guy named Jason Borrmann, he’d wind up to be one of the most influential men in my life. He gave me the opportunity to intern at my home church in Mesa in 2000 (for those of you who keep track of this kind of thing, it would be classified as a megachurch – for the rest of you, yes that’s a thing). I worked there for six years and learned a lot about working in a creative team and leading people. I believe leading volunteers has made me a better manager of employees for a variety of reasons.
Jamie: Aside from being your boss, who was Jason to you?
Krystofer: Jason was the consistent older male in my life, my musical role model, my best friend, a shaper of my humor, eventually my boss, then my professional peer. Arguably the most influential person in my life (sorry dad).
While working there I met Melissa online. We celebrated 9 years of marriage on August 29th.
(photo provided by krystofer)
Krystofer: Then I spent two years as the arts pastor for a “church plant” (also a thing) in north Phoenix. It was a great experience to have more responsibility and creative freedom coupled with a smaller budget. I don’t mean that sarcastically – scarcity of resource can work a different set of creative muscles.
Then another influential man in my life extended me a job offer. Brandon Willey needed help with his growing web development company and asked if I’d like to leave church work and work with him. I am so glad that I did. Brandon introduced me to Twitter, and encouraged me to use social media for networking and marketing the business. Getting into Twitter, social marketing and going to Ignite Phoenix impacted my life greatly. It isn’t an exaggeration to say that these things altered the course of my life. I have always been an introvert, sometimes painfully so. But putting myself out there in social and on the stage at Ignite helped me become more comfortable with another version of myself- one that is confident in who I am. Working in church ministry can lead to always presenting the “right” version of yourself. I call it “the illusion of authenticity” – the leadership wanted me to seem authentic without crossing any of their comfort lines. I owe much of my current life path to Brandon.
(photo provided by Krystofer)
Krystofer: In this season, we had two beautiful daughters. I am ridiculously in love with them. Being a proud parent, I am prone to talk a lot about my kids, and I know your childless hipster audience doesn’t want to read about it. (For those that are interested, the girls have a Tumblr)
(I met Krys for photos, and his girls were drawing and coloring. Yaya wrote me a song, and it is called Unicorn. All the lyrics are “unicorn.” And I am pretty sure she wrote it in binary.)
(photo credit: jamie mulhern)
Krystofer: On June 19, 2010 Jason killed himself. That sucked. It turned out he had been trying to tough out some mental illness on his own. This experience has made me more sensitive to mental illness, and also led me to ask a doctor about my own depression. I am now on Prozac. I am just as smart and capable without it, but it helps me keep from being overwhelmed by things.
Jamie: That was an awful thing. I’m glad that it pushed you into looking for Prozac though. Was it something you immediately faced or was it something that slowly emerged? I took an antidepressant for a couple of years. I’ve just decided to try again without them…we shall see how things go.
Krystofer: I had dealt with irrational thoughts on and off for years, but never really thought much of them. By irrational thoughts i mean always being afraid people will think I’m a fraud, waking up and saying to myself “I hate my life” even though I have a great job and a beautiful family, stuff like that. About a year after Jason’s death I started noticing that I was getting easily overwhelmed by things at work. I was also getting very insensitive to my family’s feelings. I finally talked to the doctor about all this stuff, they put me on Fluoxetine (generic Prozac) and as long as I remember to take it, I’m much more effective and pleasant to be around.
Jason’s story has helped me separate the person from the condition. If you have heart disease, there’s medication to help that. If your brain chemistry is off, it may be alleviated through medication. I would like to encourage any of your readers who deal with anxiety, depression, or difficulty dealing with their own feelings/thoughts to talk to someone about it. It doesn’t mean you’re crazy; you may just need some help with your brain chemistry.
(photo credit: jamie mulhern)
At the end of 2010, I stepped out on my own to freelance multimedia production and social strategy. The design and marketing connections I had made came in handy to get me work, but it was a tricky time to set out on a new venture as the sole earner. Another Twitter connection connected me with a content marketing agency in Scottsdale and I worked there for a few months producing infographics, working on Facebook pages, and learning more about SEO. I’m very grateful to the people I worked with there. In July, 2011 I was approached by another Twitter friend to come work for a larger digital marketing company. I now lead a social media team and love it.
Jamie: You’ve been a musician as long as I have known you. What has that journey been like?
Krystofer: It’s strange, but it’s hard for me to think of a time when I wasn’t involved in music. There really isn’t a “pre-music” part of my life. As far as official training, I started playing string bass in the school orchestra in elementary school, took a couple years of piano and started messing around on guitar in junior high, then started seriously playing electric bass as a sophomore. That was the turning point. My sophomore year, I was in orchestra and jazz band at school, and playing with Jason in the youth group at church on Sundays. This meant an hour of classical, and an hour of jazz theory every weekday, followed by pop production on Sundays. That year is when music became very clear to me – almost like Neo at the end of the Matrix. After that I took music theory whenever they offered it at my high school, and I’ve always loved it. Many musicians endure theory to get what they need from it, but I love it. It’s the math and science of music.
I did a whopping one semester of music education at ASU, but didn’t attend all that much.
I’ve continued to play church stuff, as well as some session and sideman work. (session = studio, sideman = live paid gigs). I think I’ve played on 40 or so projects over the years. I’ll give you a spotify link to some of them. Playing session work is great, I absolutely love it. Between all the projects I’ve touched, there is a creative part of me that will outlive me, and that’s rad. Also, any time I get paid to do music I need to be grateful. I’d be doing music anyway, and in the hunter-gatherer sense, it’s not all that valuable a skill.
Jamie: So…what’s music theory? I’ve heard you mention it before, but since my single (much hated) musical skill is whistling, I never did learn much about the musics.
Krystofer: Firstly, I am supremely jealous of your whistling abilities. I need to record a beatbox + whistling jam with you.
Music theory is the set of rules that music seems to follow. In a way, it’s our means of interpreting acoustic physics in an easily expressible standard. It’s like a programming language that provides a framework for building songs. Each genre has a different take on the standard classical rules, but even turntablism and dubstep can be analyzed, notated, and compared to traditional tonal harmony.
It can raise interesting questions, like do we write music this way because it’s what our brains want to hear, or do our brains want to hear music this way because it’s the way we’ve always heard it? And if we met an alien race that did not hear, would we be able to prove to them that music is happening?
I don’t want to get too deep into the weeds, but here are a few things to check out if any of your readers are curious about the strange world of music theory…
Bobby McFerrin Plays The Audience – musical genius Bobby McFerrin demonstrates the pervasiveness of the pentatonic scale using an unwitting audience. 3 Minutes, totally worth it.
Axis of Awesome – Every Pop Song (NSFW) - comedy/music act Axis of Awesome shows you why so many songs sound similar (and why mashups are sometimes really easy). 5 minutes, but don’t watch it if you want to be able to maintain your childlike wonder.
The Rite Of Spring – In 1913, Igor Stravinsky’s ballet The Rite of Spring debuted. The music was so different and so much more dissonant than anything the audience heard, that their brains literally couldn’t handle it, and there was a RIOT. For reals. Take that, Woodstock. That Wiki entry talks about the ballet, but this podcast explains the neurological phenomenon at 32:15 – super fascinating to the likes of me. Anyone on the fence about the musicality of dubstep should listen to this 10 minutes for some historical context on pushing the boundaries of acceptable harmony.
(photo credit: Chanelle Sinclair, taken at Ignite Phoenix)
Jamie: What’s it like being so damned clever? Does it hurt?
So here’s the deal, I’m going to just come right out and say it. I’m smart. Being quick witted, into words, and being starved for paternal approval leads to being what some might call clever. And yes, there are times it hurts. Even though I’m pretty sensitive to others, there are times my cleverness has hurt others. That’s not cool. “With great power,” right?
Jamie: I knew you’d hate that question. I almost thought you wouldn’t answer my questions at all when I threw that one out there. I’ve been reading a little about spirituality and paradoxes (thanks Richard Rohr!), and he said, “Everything except God is both attractive and non-attractive, light and darkness, passing and eternal, life and death. There are really no exceptions…You and I are living paradoxes, which everybody except ourselves sees. “ I think that just recognizing ourselves for who we are frees us and leads to peace. But you are really clever and I admire that about you.
Jamie: Would you like to share an internet link or two?
http://krys.co/KrysRecords (spotify playlist of some of the stuff I’ve played on)
http://krysvs.com probably the easiest place to track me down
http://theoatmeal.com/ if you don’t know what this is, i have no time to be your friend
http://ignitephoenix.com only go to this event if you like cool things
for cat people: http://procatinator.com
for dog people: http://textfromdog.tumblr.com/
this actually brings me to another strange point. leading a social media team has turned me into a bit of a nexus of internet crap. people send me videos, memes, etc and expect me to send and post them. I’m like Mesa’s less interesting, less asian, less Takei, less famous George Takei.
Big thanks to Krys for his openness and willingness. Please feel free to continue the conversation in the comments.