Veteran fights PTSD through music

Jenny Caulfield
Creative Editor

Jenny CaulfieldJenny Caulfield|The Hudsonian

Jim Blanas used music to help him cope with his four years fighting in Afghanistan.

Twenty seven year-old Blanas spent four years in the United States Army overseas. Left with brain damage and post traumatic stress disorder, he turned to music to restore normalcy in his life.

“It’s about expressing emotion live to people who can share that emotion,” said Blanas about his music.

Blanas, who is the frontman and guitarist for his creation Animal Math, has been playing music for the last 13 years of his life.

Being inspired at a young age by the guitar solos from Pink Floyd, Blanas felt an immediate connection to the sound. “The melodic aspects of metal are something that you only hear with metal,” he said.

After first asking for a guitar at seven years old, Blanas finally got a guitar at 14 after being removed from school.

“I got kicked out of school in eighth grade for the remaining three months of school and my parents got me a guitar so I had something to do,” he said.

With his continuing passion for music, Blanas has continued with guitar ever since. Going into the Army at 19 as an attempt to mature himself, Blanas missed out on musical experiences he had at home.

Returning from Afghanistan and wanting nothing more than to be a musician, Blanas decided to go out and achieve his dream. For the past three years, Blanas has been looking for other musicians to join his project Animal Math, and this year finally found the people to fit his vision.

Finding their sound, Blanas is finally ready to live his dream of recording an album, and playing his music for anyone willing to listen.

“It’s not just about good songs, it’s about you putting that CD or album in and it taking you on a journey that you’re forced to go on with the music,” he said.

Looking to direct his music towards the progressive rock style, Blanas has plans to separate his bands from others in their genre.

“A lot of bands in the genre of rock you can predict where things are going to happen. You already know where the music is going and the idea behind our project is to make music that takes you to somewhere you didn’t know you wanted to go.”

Being experienced with guitar, Blanas has also started to work on vocals for his band by training to sing with a voice more oriented to the progressive rock style they perform.

Having his original style of vocals come from soul music, Blanas initially started singing with gospel influences.

“A lot of my singing is influenced by Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles and old blues,” he said.

Growing up with this vocal style, Blanas is now working with blending his gospel style vocals with the rock style instrumentation of Animal Math. Training himself to scream, Blanas has hopes to mix harsh vocals into Animal Math’s sound in the future.

“There isn’t any screaming at this point but there will be because the music distates where you scream,” he said.

Besides working to be a musician, Blanas is also the father of his six-year-old son Elijah. Blanas had his son after returning home from Afghanistan, and hopes the music he plays will inspire his son in the future.

“As [Elijah] gets older, he’ll hopefully grow up with a passion for music because he was around it all the time,” said Blanas.

Besides trying to be a role model for his son with music, Blanas also hopes to show the importance of education. Blanas currently studies chemical engineering at Hudson Valley with plans to transfer to RPI in the fall.

Returning home from the Army at 23-years-old, Blanas waited six months and then attended classes once more through the Vocational Rehabilitation Program, a program that helps disabled veterans find jobs and education.

Even though he plans to get a degree for chemical engineering, blanas still has music as his first priority.

“If I’m anything besides a touring musician by the time I’m 40, then I’m a failure.”

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