When I was about 12 years old me and my best friend Misha Gellman fell in love with music and the electric guitar. He bought a red Strat copy (matching his hair color) and I got a blue Ibanez “heavy metal” guitar with a Floyd Rose bridge and whammy bar. I remember playing our first coffee house at high school: we played a medley of riffs featuring Smells Like Teen Spirit, Come As You Are, Black Dog, and Enter Sandman. I still have a picture of that somewhere. Later on we started the band Exit Freedom, which would have several incarnations over the years. Starting as a 4 piece metal band we mostly did covers of 80s thrash bands such as Metallica, Slayer and Anthrax. As the 90s started to unfold something major happened to change our musical tastes, and it wasn’t before long that the band was playing mostly grunge covers: I remember the coffee house where we played Plush by Stone Temple Pilots, Somebody to Shove by Soul Asylum, as well as Crush by Canadian band the Doughboys: Formative times indeed.
A few years later we started getting into writing our own stuff, as well as the post rock and indie rock stuff coming out of Chicago and elsewhere in the U.S. Eventually we found ourselves in a pretty heavy, psychedelic rock band playing mostly Misha’s original compositions. 2 drummers, 2 electric guitarists and a bassist playing slightly proggy, instrumental music in our parents basements.
In time, as is often the case, Exit Freedom split and me and Misha drifted apart. Misha’s life took a much different path than mine, as I pursued academics while Misha traveled to India to pursue his longtime Buddhist faith. For a good many years I heard very little from Misha except for the occasional updates from friends and family. Misha moved around alot and was living on the streets from time to time. He was leading a semi-itinerant existence. However, along the way Misha kept his musical inspiration alive, which brings us to the music embedded in this post.
Listening to Misha’s two sound cloud sets, “Toronto” and “R.U.O.K” I can hear the influence of the metal bands we cut our teeth on, the grunge bands that defined our teenage years and the spirituality that has guided Misha’s life almost from the outset. These 3 things combine with a mystical, almost English folk sound, that brings to mind artists such as Burt Jansch. All told, I find that the music stands in a class of its own, as an example of the kind of original, unfiltered expression that can perhaps only come from the outsider community. However, even there, Misha sets himself apart from other outsider artists with his raw musicality and irrefutable skills on the guitar. Above all, what inspires me the most about Misha’s music is that it doesn’t pander, try to catch up to the latest trend, or appeal to any pre-conceived demographic. This is literally just a guy in his room connecting to reality and his world through music. If you believe that music is a power that can be transcendental then you need to listen to Misha Gellman.