UO Student reaches for musical dreams while juggling school, work, and a band.
By Rick Lindfors – J361 staff writer
Eugene, Ore — The room is 10 feet by 15 feet. A drum set occupies one corner, and guitar and bass amplifiers fill the rest. Foam panels on the walls help make the room as acoustically suitable as possible for a band space in a basement. The floor is covered with cables linking instruments, amplifiers and effects pedals to an electronics suite on a table in the next room.
A bearded man in a plaid shirt standing at a laptop adjusts sound levels and prepares metronomes and background tracks. The band members tune and test each instrument before recording music tracks.
“Stand by! Stand by!” Nathan Asman calls from his computer. He taps a key on his computer and steps back to let the drums record. After the drums are done, he leans towards the screen and keys an effect for his keyboard. He then presses the record button and plays his part of the music.
Asman is in his second year playing keyboard, synthesizer and electronics for Hamilton Beach. The name comes from a brand of blender suggested by a friend as a joke. “One of the songs I wrote was ‘No More Ice Chunks,’” Asman says, referring to the slogan on the box of the blender. Asman calls the band an “electronically based jam band,” mixing electronic and rock music.
The band is currently recording new music for a show at the Hult Center in Eugene. Hamilton Beach’s music has taken them from small stages in downtown Eugene all the way to the Sundance Film Festival this January. At Sundance, the band packed their venue full of fans and was one of the only bands to do an encore performance. Asman’s mind is packed with memories from big shows like TED Talks at the University of Oregon and WOW Hall in Eugene. “We have fun all the time,” Asman says.
Music is a passion for Asman on stage and in the classroom. He received his B.A. in music from Denison University in Granville, Ohio. After finishing his undergraduate work, he took two years off school and spent them working as a technician for a music shop in Salt Lake City.
Now, he is finishing his master’s degree in intermedia music technology in the University of Oregon. The degree mixes digital music composition and mixing the music with other art forms such as dance and film according to Asman. After finishing his master’s this spring, Asman plans to take a year off and then return to school, preferably to the University of Oregon, to work on a doctorate degree. During his year off, he will continue his work with the Hamilton Beach.
All of this comes at the expense of not having enough time for each project. Balancing schoolwork, Hamilton Beach and a job at a liquor store is hard work. School comes first for Asman, which can take time away from practicing with Hamilton Beach. “We try to jam twice a week…but it hasn’t worked very well this last term or the term before that,” Asman says.
Even when he is away from Hamilton Beach, his band mates understand his absences for school and respect what he is doing. Drummer Travis Lien thinks it is great that someone can be passionate enough about his or her art to pursue it academically. He doesn’t think Asman’s academic life interferes with Hamilton Beach. “I feel any one focus can pull you away from other things in life but if you can balance things right…eventually things will fall into place,” Lein says. He also says Asman is very proficient at getting the band into high-end shows.
“I feel like we haven’t suffered that much as a band,” Asman says. The band is able to confidently walk on stage without practicing for a few weeks because they play so many shows together.
After his doctorate, Asman plans on making music his career. He plans on teaching music, but dreams of composing for the big screen. “I really want to write film music. I love film scores and that’s ideally what I would do,” Asman says. He enjoys watching movies and television in his free time. He is always looking out for new and interesting shows or movies due to his desire to write musical scores. A professor recently approached Asman about creating music for a feature length documentary, which he will learn more about soon. He is excited about the project.
The band’s next big endeavor will be at the Hult Center in a show called Four Corners on May 31. The show involves several musical acts as well as dance elements and visual digital elements. “It’s going to be really, really, cool,” says Asman.
Asman plugs guitarist Keith Randel’s guitar into the electronics hub and presses the record button. Randel starts slowly, then his hands move faster and his intensity increases. Asman stops recording. He plays the newly recorded track with the background music. “Yeah,” Asman says, “this is going to sound awesome.”