The World Is What We Make It, So Make it Something Good

Oliver Ackermann (Death By Audio, A Place to Bury Strangers) shares his mantra for better music, better pedals, and a better life.

I want to live in a colorful, paint-splattered dream world with expressions of community plastered all over everything. I think it’s easy to get disheartened with the work we do and forget how it affects the people around us. I realize every manmade object that I love took conscious effort to design. I take this into consideration all the time in everything I do, and it’s viral.

Walking around New York City, I see so many cool projects punks and artists have forced onto the world, and I love it! Death with a cell phone, “NECKFACE” rollered on the tippy-top of a building … someone would have had to climb on the roof and dangle from their ankles, one slip away from certain death.

I love that someone actually took the time to build a treehouse inside their bar, or tack up thousands of things about pizza, or give up their living room to throw shows where kids of all ages can enjoy live music. The more creative graffiti, mural bombs, makeshift flower boxes, wacky entry ways, and flashing lights I see in a building, the more excited I get.

It’s easy to get discouraged and think that nobody cares when you don’t see the results of what you have done or how it’s directly influenced people. I have to tell you, I am always thankful when a place is organized in a way that’s intuitive and easy to navigate, when something is colorful and exciting, or when someone treats me with genuine interest and compassion. These decisions are made behind the scenes, but the thoughtfulness of design is felt by everyone, even if the person who made it happen works outside the spotlight.

It’s true of negativity as well. If someone pushes me, cuts in front of me, yells at me, etc., and makes me want to lash out at them, that only perpetuates negative feelings and energy. Sometimes we don’t realize that someone is doing something negative to us because something negative happened to them. I find this is usually the case, so I try as much as I can to have a positive impact on the people around me and this usually yields way better results!

I always do my best to make sure I’m not contributing to more crap made out of crap just for the goal of making more money—which is crappy.

I had a teacher in college who told us that we were the ones who are going to make the world what it will be. That really resonated with me. It was up to us to design the world, and so I always took that as a directive to work towards the kind of world that I wanted to live in. It’s easy to forget that every small thing eventually adds up and contributes to my surroundings.

If I am nice to people, they are nice to me back. If I paint a room in fun colors, it is more enjoyable and fun to be in. Sometimes I don’t think about the road I’m driving on or the fork I’m holding in my hand, and that it had to be realized by someone! As a designer, this is a big responsibility, and I always do my best to make sure I’m not contributing to more crap made out of crap just for the goal of making more money—which is crappy.

I always try to run Death By Audio for the people around me and the people who use our products. I want there to be more and more creative music out there, so I do my best to design musical tools that will push people towards realizing their goals, rather than inflate my self-interest.

I think the world will be a better place if we all start working on decorating from our imagination and supporting our neighbors and friends to create the places and spaces and music we all enjoy.

The emotional wallop of the acoustic guitar sometimes flies under the radar. Even if you mostly play electric, here are some things to consider about unplugging.

I have a love-hate relationship with acoustic guitars. My infatuation with the 6-string really blasted off with the Ventures. That’s the sound I wanted, and the way to get it was powered by electricity. Before I’d even held a guitar, I knew I wanted a Mosrite, which I was sure was made of fiberglass like the surfboards the Beach Boys, Surfaris, and the Challengers rode in their off time. Bristling with space-age switchgear and chrome-plated hardware, those solidbody hotrod guitars were the fighter jets of my musical dreams. I didn’t even know what those old-timey round-hole guitars were called. As the singing cowboys Roy Rogers and Gene Autrey strummed off into the sunset, the pace of technology pushed the look and sound of the electric guitar (and bass) into the limelight and into my heart. Imagine my disappointment when I had to begin my guitar tutelage on a rented Gibson “student” acoustic. At least it sort of looked like the ones the Beatles occasionally played. Even so, I couldn’t wait to trade it in.

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