Torian, by popular demand

by Susan Ettinger | 5/12/93 10:00pm

When Jay Torian '94 found an old guitar in his attic at age eight and asked his mother if he could learn to play, he didn't anticipate becoming the talented musician he is today.

Torian said that he hated his first guitar lesson. "I wanted to quit, but for some reason my mother wouldn't let me. She would start a timer and make me play for an hour or more every day," he said. Eventually, he was glad he stuck with it, and by the time he was fourteen he began his first band called Black Tie Required.

These days he is not the only one who is glad he persisted. Nearly every week, flyers announcing his gigs decorate the campus. Torian has performed everywhere from the Asgard coffeehouse to the Bones Gate fraternity basement. "Things have really picked up for me this term. People are actually coming to me and asking me to play for them, instead of the other way around," he said.

Torian, who been involved with campus bands Panacea and Big Sun -- among others, now plays bass in the new band called Crazy Jim, as well as playing guitar and singing with Megan Mitchell '94.

Crazy Jim, a band that began this term, plays strictly cover tunes from hard rock bands such as Van Halen, the Cult and Aerosmith.

The music he plays with Mitchell has a softer acoustic sound. Torian said he enjoys playing with Mitchell so much that he writes many songs to be sung specifically by her "beautiful voice." Approximately half of the music they play together consists of original songs -- the other half is cover songs.

Torian said he is excited about what he and Megan are doing because he thinks they have developed a great new sound. "Lately I have really been getting into writing lyrics that have some real, serious meaning," he said.

He keeps a tape recorder in his room loaded with a blank tape. Whenever he gets an idea he sings or hums or talks into it before he forgets what he is thinking.

Torian has a repertoire of over 200 original songs. Although he said that his "ideas come in spurts," he writes an average of four to five songs per week. When he plays cover songs, he usually modifies them. "When I go to figure out a song I tell people 'no, don't play the tape for me.' I like to play it the way I remember it in my head, even if it's not exactly the way it was done by the original artist," he said. "I don't like to do the same song the same way twice. That way, the music stays fresh."

As if his musical talent isn't enough, the well-rounded artist sings, too. "My voice used to be terrible. I've worked on it all these years, and now it's finally to the point that I can say it's interesting. Not great, but interesting," Torian said modestly.

Torian spent the Winter term in the Virgin Islands, where he did a considerable amount of songwriting and played in a few clubs, where he received a favorable reception. He said he enjoyed playing outside of Dartmouth because the music scene here is "something that can really flatten one's creativity if you listen to people too much." Torian encourages people to "go out and just do what they can ... express themselves completely through whatever medium they choose."

After Dartmouth, Torian is headed for Austin, Texas where he plans to give the music industry a shot. He may meet up with vocalist John Sellars '93 and keyboardist Chris Bahng '93. The three are working toward a sound that Torian calls "totally new." Mitchell may also join them in Texas.

If the tape Torian recorded last summer, which sold all 100 of the copies he produced, is any indication of what is in store for him, he should have no problems. Entitled "Into the Lookinglass," the tape consists of seven songs that he wrote during his freshman year. "There is a lot of stuff I wish I could have changed, but working in the studio gets expensive, so we had to hang it up after 13 hours," he said.

The album, featuring drummer Sean Paley '94 and bassist Greg St. Pierre '94 with production help from Jon Kehl '94, is a wonderful mix of acoustic and electric sound. The vocals include a lot of harmonies. The music is by no means be described as hard rock but rather slow, soft rock.

Torian can be seen performing with Mitchell at Hovey's on May 14 and 28 and at Dartmouth Unplugged on May 22. Crazy Jim will play at Bones Gate's Tea party Friday, May 14 and on the Green sometime during Green Key Weekend.