Although I rarely shy away from an opportunity to bloviate about the state of the music business, it would be a very generous interpretation of the truth to suggest that I've ever had more than a peripheral role in the industry. The subject of this interview, however, has managed to hold down a job in the thick of it, and to his credit, he has maintained his dignity, integrity, and sanity through it all. He's a good guy.
So...this is a few weeks late. But I think it came out nicely, and it'd be a shame not to post it just because it's not the topic du jour anymore. With no further delay, I present to you an interview with an anonymous radio programmer at a wide-reaching alternative rock radio station about OiNK.
Mike McClenathan: You're a radio PD. Let's start there and talk business (not necessarily music business). What do you do every day? Who do you talk to? Who are your customers, and who do you answer to?
Anonymous Radio Programmer: I have an endless supply of answers to the "What do you do" question, but there one or two primary answers:
The station I work at fosters a lot of new talent, so I spend the majority of my time training the staff that creates content on air. That includes, jocks, production staffers, news anchors, etc.
I work alongside our Music Directors to pick the music we play, and set the overall vision for the station. I maintain relationships all throughout the industry and stay in the know about the momentum of as many musical projects as possible. We interact with people all over the industry, but the bulk of our contacts are labels (RIAA Major, RIAA indie, and unaffiliated indies), band management, and booking agents.
MM: From the perspective of someone gainfully employed in the music business with ostensible access to all the legitimate free music you desire, what was the appeal of OiNK?
ARP: OiNK was the most deep, organized collection of high quality music that the mainstream sharing world has ever seen. It was mind-shatteringly good. You know the OST to the SNES game Chrono Trigger? It was there, in 3 or 4 different qualities, including lossless. You know the other disc with the jazz arrangement tunes? Yeah. They had that too. Mp3/Lossless. At 600k a second. Oh, you want every recorded version of Love Will Tear Us Apart? Original Master? Remaster? Re-remaster? John Peel Session? Good, cause they had them. Lossless. 600k/sec.
This interview was started months ago, and since, several replacements have started up. Some seem well on the way to OiNK's depth. So, even though OiNK is getting less attention nowadays, its piglets will take its place, quietly, until they're purged, and new replacements/paradigms grow from the ash.
MM:When you talk about OiNK and the future of music distribution with people who are cogs in the current machine, what do they say?
ARP: Some have some optimism about the future of a music business on new terms. Most get at least a little bit defensive. Most defend artists rights, as though all artists themselves are sitting at the table talking about what they want.
Its unfortunate. Rather than 100% villainizing these user-created systems, these companies should take P2P as market research. Sharing = a very intelligent, very passionate segment of their consumer base waving their hands and screaming that they want something.
Granted, the dam is broken. Maybe what they want is free music. A lot of those people will never pay for media again. But I'm not one of those people. If I could pay for a legal version of something like OiNK, I'd eat PB&J for a couple weeks to do it if I needed to. No question. But maybe I'm not a large enough demographic to warrant the copyright law changes that would fix all this.
MM: Have you spoken with any RIAA artists about this sort of thing?
ARP: Not directly. I've heard plenty of opinions on-air in interviews, and they run the whole range, from hyper-critical to totally-supportive. Many RIAA artists in the building have loudly hated on the tactics of the label they're signed to, even in the presence of the record rep that brought them to the station. The tactics I'm talking about are mostly related to slowness/lack of change, and usually contrasted against new distribution systems that their fans are using.
Generally, the actual people in RIAA companies that we work with are smart, friendly, and often very music passionate. Artists recognize this too. They seem to be frustrated with the content distribution issues.
MM: From where you stand, is a legalized OiNK equivalent even remotely possible in the short term? Nope.
ARP: Short term? hah. No. If by short term you mean 5-10 years, maybe. These days, I contend that the primary issue is in copyright law. Until these companies recognize digital media as something vastly different from a physical product, and lobby to have copyright law adjusted, nothing like OiNK will take place legally. I'm not saying I can cleanly spell out a copyright law that is fair to both artists and consumers in the age of information - maybe there were some savvy lawyers on OiNK that can help out more there. Then again, isn't that why the EFF exists? Surely, they're more eloquent and equipped than blabbermouths like me.
MM: What legal music acquisition service do you think most closely resembles the way it will/could/should work in the future?
ARP: I know one or two people hooked on emusic, as well as rhapsody. Amie St strikes me as a pretty awesome, forward-thinking model. I'm glad to see it take off as it has. But again I ask - can you get Chrono Trigger - The Brink Of Time, in a lossless open-format? Or in a high high quality Mp3?
Maybe that kind of deep/esoteric library would only be important to a handful of hardcore collectors (the types of people that would shop at the record store in High Fidelity).
Maybe it isn't a worthwhile enough market for anyone to really care/make a profit. Maybe Hannah Montanas will be able to roam the earth as long as mainstream media promotional tools supersaturate every nook and cranny of human attention.
But it obviously is a worthwhile enough principle for 200,000 or so people to spend their lives hooked to the internet, setting it up in their own time. Sounds like a volunteer public library to me.
MM: Any closing comments?
ARP: This is not a time of sorrow; it is a time of great opportunity. Clever minds and music passionate people have a future in this business. I have a little experience in the old-paradigm music industry, and I am confident saying that intelligence and music-passion are abundant. The people I've worked with are great. We all just need to embrace the changing technological/intellectual frameworks. Models will change, scales will change.. but music is still loved, and there is a place for people to get involved, and make enough money to support their families. There might not be as many Ferrari toting coke heads, like the 1980s churned out, but you won't find me crying a tear over that. It takes forward-thinking, some courage, and an appreciation for the increasingly-free flow of information, but I believe it's possible. Build new paradigms!
Excerpt below...full text over at Amie Street. While you're over there, why not sign up and download some music?
Amie Street: When you started this band, it was little more than a loose collection of friends. People played what they knew on whatever instrument they could, when their schedules permitted. From then to now, what's changed and what's stayed the same?
Mike Miller: it used to be easier to look at it like it was just one guy's band, meaning me. i guess i was the only one really "in" it at first. everyone else was only in the band while they were playing. now, it makes more sense to say that we're all in it, even when we're not all playing. there are close to 20 of us who do this these days. we don't all play the same show, of course. when we leave for tour on saturday, we'll be a seven piece. but that won't mean that the other thirteen people aren't in the band. they're just not there that night. i don't know exactly when or how that shift was made, but i know that it did, and i can't imagine thinking about it any other way now. but it's still somehow managed to keep it loose enough so that no one feels obligated. to us, it just seems unnatural to have to play in a band the same way you have to go to work or go to school - with a bunch of rules and times and all that stuff. a lot of bands can work that way, but i don't think i could ever do that.
AS: I've heard you say before that The Beagle Club's guiding principle was that anything "uncool" should be avoided at all costs. What effect does consciously avoiding uncool things have on life in a band? Shouldn't every band work the same way?
MM: most bands probably do work that way. but it gets tricky when you think about the fact that there is a difference between "not doing something because it's uncool" and "doing something because it IS cool," you know? and it's just our interpretation of what's "uncool" that we're going by. it's not about pandering or endearing ourselves to someone else's expectations. it's just about a set of principles that i noticed and related to and respected back when i first got into music that mattered to me, especially punk rock.
there's this really weird objective point of view that runs through this band for all of us. it's very strange. there are times when it feels like we're just a bunch of kids having a sing along, like when you'd go to a party and an impromtu "weezer cover band" would start up, just because everyone knows how to play those songs. so, it doesn't even have to be all that much of a conscious decision, honestly. i don't know quite how to say what's "uncool" and what isn't, but i guess it's sort of like the supreme court's definition of pornography: i know it when i see it. we're never ever ever trying to be cool to someone else, just not uncool to ourselves.
AS: Tell us a little bit about Johnstown, PA.
MM: johnstown, pa used to be a big steel city, like most of western PA. it was at one time on a nazi hit list of places to bomb in order to cripple american economy, so it used to be a very big deal in that regard. it's still a city. the mills are still here. they just kind of sit, though. my friend jacob koestler is working on what will be an amazing book of photography about the correlation between that sort of working-class, blue collar ethic that our parents instilled in us and how it still comes into the lives and methods of the artists who work here now. the city was still booming back in the late seventies/early eighties, but all we have to go on is stories we've heard and old run-down buildings. but it's beautiful to me, and to all of us, and it's my favorite place i've ever seen in this world. and good things are happening here as far as art and music goes. there's a new artspace/warehouse opening up, great new bands that truly sound like they're from here are starting to make some really great music, and a lot of the older "scene" kids who moved away for college are coming back now that they're done with school. we all keep joking about what we're calling the "johnstown renassiance," but in all honesty, i think we're all only kind of kidding. things feel good around here, even though it's starting to get cold at nights again.
AS: What are some of the less obvious difficulties of a DIY approach to rock and roll?
MM: i honestly believe that the DIY approach is the only way to do it. nothing else makes sense. the difficulties that come to mind right away are things like filling in every date of a tour, getting time off of work and still having enough money to do whatever you have to do, having a van that works, getting gas money for show to show transports, all stuff that wouldn't be difficult with a big label, or a big hype machine, or a booking agent. all that "uncool" stuff, really! but i love every part of it and i wouldn't want it any other way and i honestly don't think it's all that difficult. it just is what it is, i guess.
AS: What is the single most rewarding thing about being in THIS band?
MM: for me, the most rewarding thing about it is just how naturally and easily it all comes together. we never practice, but we always sound perfect to me. and when we write songs, they come together pretty quickly, like it's just what it sounds like whenever this group of people make music, without even trying to make it sound like anything in particular. it works that way when i write the words, too, like it just comes easily at this point. it makes me feel like it's what i'm supposed to be doing as an artist, like i've finally found a voice and a place, and that's the most rewarding thing i can think of, period. sometimes it seems like everything in society is working against the people who have to live in it. like money and government and work and all that is doing everything it can to keep someone from finding their voice or finding their place. so it's pretty rewarding to have something that makes you feel like you beat the system in some small way. small to anyone else, that is. to us, it's the whole world. and that's what music was to me when i first started to get into it, and that's even more the case for me these days.
Once upon a time, in a land not so far away, recorded music was a consumer product. Sold by judgmental and hygienically-challenged clerks in dingy indie stores to be displayed on a shelf as a badge of honor, or repackaged into NOW! compilations and sold in brighter, cheerier places for the faint of taste*. Radio and MTV moved product. Movie soundtracks were sure-bet cash cows. Everyone in the music foodchain (even sometimes artists) made money.
Of course, all that's changed now, and you don't need me to tell you so. A solid decade after the mass adoption of the .mp3, the moneymen still standing remain tragically befuddled about the whole technology thing, and as a result, the music industry is in danger of losing its direct contact with the consumer marketplace completely.
Oh, the major labels will never go away. Not really. Unless copyright law dissolves completely, there'll always be a way to make money off old IP. But because of its baffling unwillingness to serve individuals in a way that's agreeable to the customer, the music industry continues to become less and less able to get its hands into consumer pockets without the help of a third party (movies, television, video games) that still knows what the f it's doing in the marketplace. Imagine a clothing retailer realizing it couldn't figure out how to deal directly with customers anymore, and going into the zipper business instead. Providing indirect, ancillary value to the same market to which it used to provide direct value.
This is why the ringtone business was once touted as the ailing business's savior. Cellular providers were willing to play by the rules that music customers had ceased to directly accept from the music business: polish turd, overcharge, repeat. For a while, anyone who wanted to hear "Who Can It Be Now?" whenever their phone rang had to pay for the privilege. Shareholders rejoiced.
But most people these days can find ways to get their ringtones for free. You know what they can't get for free (yet) though? New Rock Band tracks! Kaching! The business is saved!
So the new Metallica single might make its debut as a Rock Band track. Think for a minute about what that means for...I dunno...fans of Metallica. Unless they own a next-gen video game console and spent the cash to pick up the game, the first time they'll be able to hear the song is probably going to be on YouTube, sounding about as good as this. And if they want to (gasp) buy it? Well, they'll just have to wait.
Believe these two things: there are a lot more Metallica fans in the world than there are Rock Band owners. And a lot more of them than would usually do so are going to find a way to steal this song and not even feel bad if it's released this way. Metallica and their people are chasing a guaranteed paycheck and in the same breath hastening the demise of recorded music as a valuable, purchasable product in and of itself.
Yeah yeah, I know. It was going to happen anyway.
* Actually, this second part still happens. But (crosses fingers) that well has to dry up eventually.
Autumn Fallin' is, for longtime fans of the bi-continental songstress, exactly what we've been waiting for: something to wave about in the air* as proof for any hold-out nonbelievers that we were right along.
I'm with another boy; he's asleep, I'm wide awakeWhenever I try to introduce someone new to Jaymay, it's that line, from "Gray Or Blue," that I fixate upon. There's a paragraph of text in that pause. I'm not sure I've come across another song in my life that says so much in a breath. It kills me every time.
And he tried to win my heart, but it's takin'...time
...He tried to win my heart but it's taken. No! It's taking time. You're losing me, slowly. You could have me if you came for me now. Later, you won't be able to. You're the one I really want, but I won't hang around forever...
Shit, she's good.
And she doesn't disappoint at all on this record. "Sycamore Down," "Ill Willed Person," and the title track are fresh evidence that the depth of the Sea Green, See Blue EP (where the Autumn Fallin' versions of "Gray Or Blue" and its own title track first appeared) was no fluke. Long-prognosticated studio versions of live favorites "Blue Skies" and "You Are The Only One I Love" -- like new haircuts on old friends -- take some getting used to, but in the end are just as lovable as their minimalist counterparts. These five songs are must-haves. You must have them.
Even still, Jaymay's lyrics, and the playful, lilting cadence with which she delivers them, aren't all that make her worthy of your undivided attention. There are also, for example, her playful arrangements that have only gotten more boisterous as recording capabilities have increased (she really wears her Dylan influence on her sleeve in the 10 mins of just-because-I-can oom-pah that make up "You'd Rather Run**") . Then there's the quirky scat/human-trumpet break that follows directly after in "Hard To Say". What's not to love?
Hell, you'll probably find ten things on the record that resonate with you that I've passed over. If I've convinced you to give it a listen at all, then I've done my job. And I hope when you do, you'll let me know. I reserve this level of evangelism for a precious few artists (cough), to whose music I feel a very personal affinity. Telling me you agree would be like handing me the last ice cream sandwich.
BTW, Jaymay's playing the Mercury Lounge on 12/12, right after (swear to God) some guy from Vertical Horizon. She can't be found in New York too often these days...you'd be a fool to miss her.
* Figuratively, of course, since you can't exactly wave .mp3s around in the air and who buys CDs anymore?
** I'm a big fan of Amazon's download service, that's why I keep linking there. No DRM, high quality mp3, etc. If it's not on eMusic, Amazon's the way to go for sure. But seriously, guys, $1.94 for a song? Sure, it's 9:51 long, but honestly...this is why variable pricing is bullshit.
The Brooklyn Tea Party is located at 175 Stockholm St. in Bushwick, Brooklyn, in the Tea Factory Building. We are four people and one cat. All of the people make music. The cat is a cat. We do shows for our friends in the city and from out of town, fun get-togethers for people we love and respect. We can't make you famous, but we can share our warmth with you. All shows at our house cost $3-5 for touring bands and general upkeep. Here are some ground rules we'd like you to follow at shows:I wish I had more self control in metering out lavish praise. I wish I had the foresight to hold back and just say something is good, not always great. That way, I'd have a better arsenal of words with which to call your attention to something really special, when something special comes around. What I'm saying, I guess, is that I wish I had a bunker-buster to cut through the 30 feet of concrete bullshit you've already come across on the Internet today, and tell you (again and again) that if Endless Mike and the Beagle Club aren't on your radar, you need to turn in your Rad Club card immediately. I wish that you could have been where I was Sunday night. I wish you could have seen what I saw.
1. Pay the Bands
2. Respect Chuck Noblitt
3. Don't drink what you didn't buy (w/o asking)
4. Smoke on the roof, drink in the house
5. Don't fuck up our stuff (materialist as it may seem, we like our house and we like having shows, and would hate to not have either).
The Brooklyn Tea Party (as you've probably surmised) is a loft. People live in it. There are beds and a kitchen, and it smells sweat, beer, and hot soup. As is the nature of a loft, it has high ceilings. But the bedrooms have low ceilings, a few feet lower than the real ceiling, so guests can climb ladders to sit on the roofs of the bedrooms for better views of the permanently installed stage. It's super cool and you absolutely must check it out.
Endless Mike and the Beagle Club played 3 new songs that night, 2 of which I can remember the name of, all 3 of which were excellent. This is the part I was talking about above with the whole bunker-buster thing. There were lyrical moments in both "Oxygen Tank" and "56" that floored me. I wish that in describing them, I could pay that flooring forward. But I can't. So I'll just ask you to please remember that I told you so when you get your chance to hear this stuff next year. The other new song was much louder and the PA couldn't hang tough enough with the guitar amps, so I couldn't hear the words. It definitely rocked though.
God, this band is so good. They're so good that I can't even write intelligently about them. This is all blah, blah, blah. Oh, here's something! Johnstown, PA's My Idea Of Fun artist collective has a great recording of the endless Mike Miller playing all of The Husky Tenor solo with an acoustic guitar. It's a cool take on a great record, and you can download it for free here. It's called Endless Mike vs. The Beagle Club.
As has become the custom when The Beagle Club plays Brooklyn, Drew & the Medicinal Pen was on hand as well. With the exception of "Hole in my Sail," his set was entirely new to me. And not just because of the new songs, but because this show was only the 2nd show he played with his new band. Dream, Dream, Fail, Repeat hasn't left heavy rotation around here since I got my hands on it, but having now sampled some of what might comprise Drew & the Medicinal Pen's future recorded output, I'm already chomping at the bit for a follow-up.
Addendum: there's a girl named Kathleen who calls herself boy, who started playing right after I showed up at the loft. She made everyone stand up, pack around her real close in the center of the room, and proceeded to coax people into singing along to songs they'd (or at least I'd) never heard before. There's a video of her performing somewhere else for many less people embedded below, but it loses something in the not-being-there. Check out some more produced stuff on her myspace to get a better idea of what she's capable of. And check out the guest vocal on "Feathers."
Another Addendum: Brook Pridemore played as well that night, but because it was getting late and the crowd was staying noisy, he played on the roof. I opted out of the open air finale, mostly because I think I have pneumonia. I like his stuff too, though.
Clear your calendar and reschedule your girlfriend's birthday dinner, boy, because you've got somewhere else to be.
The video game business is good these days. Really good. The moneymen in the marketing department don't even need to read the proposals they sign off on too carefully anymore apparently. That's why Halo 3 got a soft drink, and that's why, in what can only be described as an unspired (see what I did there) game marketing maneuver, Rock Band is attempting a "tour" to promote its new rhythm game. Oh I know, me too.
Rock Band outfitted tour rigs will spread across the country on a 24 city tour – from California to Cleveland, Atlanta to Arizona and everywhere in between – to give music fans the chance to play on a full concert style stage with all of the lights and monster sound systems they’re used to seeing at a classic arena rock concert. Whether consumers are instrument experts or gear rookies, everyone will get a chance to rock with Rock Band.Although I don't understand why anyone would prefer picking up a fake guitar to a real one, I try to accept it. But if people actually show up to be spectators at this kind of thing -- to see shut-ins with fluorescent tans "rock out" on stage with guitar-shaped controllers -- I'm going into seclusion.
Click the poster to enlarge, but here's the pertinent info:
175 Stockholm Street, Brooklyn.
Endless Mike and the Beagle Club
Drew and the Medicinal Pen
Naughty Naughty Nurses
Not even Halo 3 will be able to keep me away from this party. You should think hard about coming along as well.
And if that's not enough Hold Steady on Art Brut action for you, check out this Pitchfork transcript of Craig Finn and Eddie Argos talking about...stuff.
I absolutely did not bother writing about it when Prince (or someone representing him) tried to stop the Internet from using his likeness, name, or symbol-as-name. Mostly because I like the guy, and I couldn't tell if the whole to-do was even real. Idolator did like Idolator does, so if you're totally in the dark re: the backstory, you should just read about it there.
The denoument, if you will, is Prince giving away^ this 7 minute ripper of a track. As mea culpa? Regardless, it rules.
Prince - PFunk
* Okay, so I can't actually find confirmation on 3121.com (Prince's site) that this song is free to download, but it's HOSTED there, so I'm gonna go ahead and assume it's cool.
Saw two music biopics this weekend at the IFC Center, and left both with a sense of bemused surprise. Surprise that I liked (nay, loved) one more than I expected to, and surprise that the other left me fairly cold.
Joe Strummer: The Future Is Unwritten is a 2-hour montage of interview clips, personal accounts, and distracting animations that, in the end, accomplishes little more than namedropping some of Joe's more impressive friends. It's nice to see John Cusack, Flea, and Bono around a campfire waxing rhapsodic about Joe's finer qualities, but the film fails to truly capture the essence of what Strummer and The Clash meant to rock and roll, or to penetrate the more interesting subtleties of Joe's character. Almost without fail, interesting bits (like the then-unknown Sex Pistols opening for Strummer's pre-Clash band The 101'ers) are glossed over, and what little narrative continuity the movie does have is constantly interrupted with barely relevant Big-Brother-is-watching-you clips and borderline unintelligible off-the-cuff testimonials.
It's not all bad: there are a few neat insights into some of Strummer's more opaque lyrics (wtf is "Rock the Casbah" about?), and some of the old clips of The Clash on stage are worth the price of admission alone. But when it was all over, I walked out of the theater lamenting the film's unevenness and wondering why Steve Buscemi got so much screen time.
Pete Seeger: The Power of Song (trailer above) was another story altogether. It might very well have been the best film I've seen yet this year, and is absolutely the first during which I have ever shed a tear (just one, but still). I don't expect this will ever see wide release, but if you can't get to a theater that's showing it, you owe it to yourself to save it on Netflix now so that you can put it in your queue when it becomes available.
Although there are occasionally awkward reminders of the unavoidable fluffiness of the film resulting from Seeger's own participation in its production, the film succeeds in telling the extraordinary story of a man so certain of the power of music to move people that for him, it actually does. With some really great testimonials sprinkled liberally in (Springsteen cautions that the blacklisting of an artist like Seeger is never too far off when the administration in power is given to personal attacks on its detractors) The Power of Song is all-at-once nostalgic, poignant, inspiring, and inspired. I'm not a film critic, but for what it's worth, I'm calling this an absolute must-see. For what else it's worth, the critics agree.
Stars is the latest in a growing list of bands teaming up with the Maine-based organization Reverb to make their fall tour as green as possible. Reverb (started by Gusterrhoid Adam Gardner and his environmentalist wife Lauren Sullivan) helps bands to mount big, bad tours with as little environmental impact as possible, offering services that range from recycling guitar strings to supplying biodiesel for buses and vans.
With the help of the sale of offset-buying stickers ($5 suggested donation) Stars' fall tour aims to be carbon neutral when all is said and done.
The music touring business isn't going anywhere soon, and it's encouraging to see big bands and small bands taking a hard look at the way their business impacts the environment. If only all businesses were so conscientious...
For more about Reverb, check out this NYT article or this profile on TreeHugger.
For fear of giving UNKLE too much attention lately I was all set not to post this video. Until I watched it. Some bands just never miss with videos. UNKLE is one of them.
War Stories is out now. Download a megamix of the album for free (until the link expires) here.
Autumn Fallin' comes out in just under 2 weeks (at least in the UK), and I'm only now having my first listen to "Sycamore Down" (hear it at myspace.com/jaymay). It's times like this that I wish I wasn't so prone to hyperbole, because artists like Jaymay deserve praise unencumbered by all my past cries of "wolf." Please go listen to "Sycamore Down" for yourself.
In the age of In Rainbows and Niggy Tardust, I'm considering shelling out the $33 to import it, rather than wait any longer than I have to to own this record. That's how good I know it's going to be.
*UPDATE: I guess I can wait an extra week or so and just get it in the US. Autumn Fallin' comes out stateside on 11/27. Here's Amazon's mp3 download page. Or you know, just waltz into a record store on the 27th and buy it that way. No skin off my back.
I'm very late on the news, so let's be clear about what's happening here: I'm only bothering to post this in order to gloat. Josh Pyke took home an ARIA Award for Best Adult Contemporary Album. I understand that's the Australian equivalent of winning a Grammy, so it's simultaneously a pretty big deal and completely meaningless. But I'd imagine that once one gets to the point in one's career that nominations for these things* start coming along, it's nice to win one. So congratulations, Josh.
The gloating: Back in may of 2005, before Josh's first EP Feeding the Wolves came out, and only just after he began playing under his own name and not his original moniker Night Hour, I was lucky enough to have Josh Pyke play in my studio at PulverRadio on his first visit to New York. 4 songs, interspersed with what seems to me now to be a fairly pedestrian interview on my end. But he was GREAT then, and he's only gotten better. It's no surprise he's finding the success he's found Down Under.
So the point is, I can pick 'em. It only took two and a half years for Josh to go from playing in my studio to playing on the red carpet outside an awards show that I understand Nicole Kidman attended. And then winning an award inside. So when I tell you to keep your eyes on Endless Mike and the Beagle Club or Jaymay, you should do it. It's only a matter of time.
* This wasn't Josh's first nomination, but last time he lost.
Before the release of Ben Kweller's ultimately underwhelming eponymous record last year, a record that began with driving rockenspiel (this is my blog and real words just get in my way) was basically guaranteed my seal of approval. But I've learned my lesson, and now, even when a band wears a bit of Springsteen-fluence on its sleeve, I have to listen twice before I'll recommend it. Today I'm listening to the new Steel Train record Trampoline for the second time. I still like it.
I saw Steel Train a few years back play with labelmates Hellogoodbye and House of Fools at a CMJ Showcase, and was duly impressed by the band's live chops. I was disappointed afterwards listening to their first record, which while having its moments (like "Road Song"), seemed mostly to fail at capturing the band's live vitality.
Trampoline accomplishes this important thing: It's a notch in a doorway somewhere in the offices of Drive-Thru Records, marking the progress Steel Train's recorded output has made thusfar. It sounds a lot more like how I want a Steel Train record to sound, my first impression of them having been their live show. There are some tracks on Trampoline with nasally vocals and electric guitars that border on run-of-the-mill indie rock, but for the most part every song on this record stands on its own as something you'd be happy to hear when it came up on shuffle. It's got personality. Especially check out Leave You Traveling and Firecracker to see what I mean.
Drive-Thru has been extremely successful in a capacity that many similarly sized labels have not: career development. Although Steel Train represents a departure from the mostly pop-punk fodder I and Drive-Thru grew up with, it's refreshing to see the label sticking to its roots and nurturing this band, like it has many bands before, to come to its full potential on its own terms. I like Trampoline, and I'm already looking forward to Steel Train's next record.
Early in the summer, ZOX announced that they would take a rare (especially for the summer) few months away from the road to work on their new record. At the time, I wondered whether the increased recording budget that likely comes along with a decently-sized label like Side One Dummy would help the band to top their fantastic previous record, The Wait.
I now realize two things:
- That speculating about a recording budget's ability to elevate a band's performance is an annoying and totally head-up-ass thing to do, for which I am sorry. I've grown up now and I won't do that anymore.
- The answer might be yes.
If Brand New's past release schedule is to be any indication, it might be a very long time before fans have a full-length follow-up to the phenomenal The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me to sink their teeth into. Which is why it's cool of the band to throw a bone out now and then. On Tuesday, Brand New will release a song called "(Fork and Knife)" on the usually suspect music download stores.
And of course, they're going on tour with Thrice, who rule. Dates at myspace.com/brandnew.
According to a Brand New Street Team email, "(Fork and Knife)" will sound awfully familiar to you if you're in possession of the leaked demos that came out prior to the latest record. It was the 7th track. Now if we can get #'s 1 and 2 released sometime too...
Here's the link to get it on Amazon's new download service, with no DRM: (Fork And Knife)
One of the eggs I most regret breaking to make the omelet of a real-life life is the lack of attention I've been able to devote to blogging lately. I didn't always work so much. Now I do. It happens, I guess.
A few weeks before I got hired into my new gig, I frantically and excitedly bought tickets to see UNKLE play their first ever show in New York City. Fast forward. The new job demands a lot of late nights, in a lot of remote places. Committed to working on Staten Island until 10pm last night, I was resignedly accepting of the fact that my tickets to UNKLE would go to waste. Still, I had them in my car, in case by some bizarre twist of fate some Staten Islander wanted to meet me in a parking lot and take them off my hands for the low price desperately floated over craigslist at the last minute.
Then a coworker with a CMJ Schedule told me something that in hindsight I absolutely should have checked for myself: UNKLE wasn't going on until 11pm. What followed was a pedal-to-the-metal 10:35 departure from Shaolin, culminating in being turned away from a filled-to-capacity parking lot on 12th street, only to find an open parking spot on 11th street, right in front of Webster Hall. FTW.
Christ, I just wrote 3 paragraphs without telling you a thing about the show or the band. I'll make it up to you.
I've often heard people shit on the sound system at Webster Hall, but for my money, there are few better systems for the kind of band that UNKLE is: heavy on the bass and the atmosphere, loud and proud. Sure, It sounded like James Lavelle had marbles in his mouth every time he came out from behind his console to address the crowd and I couldn't understand a word of it, but when the band was playing, I could FEEL the songs in a wonderful way. Every note seemed to vibrate my clothes, but not hurt my ears. Rad.
The band was content to play most of the show in darkness, the stage backlit by some better-than-most film clips that ranged from would-be-cool-if-i-was-stoned geometric gyrations to Max-Headroom-ish singing heads for the songs (Burn My Shadow featuring Ian Astbury, Mayday featuring Leila Moss) the band performed with prerecorded vocals.
They were good. A little rough around the edges ("It's my first gig!" one cries after starting the wrong song, necessitating a do-over), but with sufficient swagger and chops to pull off a decidedly cool stage show, regardless of the few prerecorded vox. They played mostly War Stories stuff, but mixed in enough Psyence Fiction to keep the "old school" among us happy.
The encore began with the Thom Yorke vehicle "Rabbit In Your Headlights," which should have been really rad, but which basically amounted to putting the video (below) on the screen and playing the record. If anyone in the band was doing anything at that point other than pressing play, I couldn't tell. Mercifully, they only played a verse or so before ripping through a noisy as hell rendition of "Eye for an Eye," also video accompanied (also below). I left entirely satisfied, and thoroughly worried that my car wouldn't be there when I got outside, because no way a spot as awesome as the one I parked in could be legal. But it totally was. Victory.
Oh yeah, this was cool: At the show they were handing out a CD. It's a "megamix" of the record my some dude named Psycho Pab. On the CD it says to "Rip it/Burn it/Share it" and I'm taking them at their word. Here's a Yousendit link for as long as it lasts: UNKLE - War Stories (Psycho Pab's Def-Mix).
I kinda called this.
If I were a record company executive, I would not be sleeping so well tonight. But I'm not, and I just paid exactly 1 pence (plus 45 other pence) for the new Radiohead record. I'll sleep very well indeed.
Monkey Town bills itself as an "audio-visual venue," which is a fair enough description. The front room is actually a small restaurant/bar (try the burger), and the back room, where the reservation-only shows take place, is basically a 50-seat cube, the 4 walls adorned with giant projection screens upon which slowed down scenes from obscure films and/or relatively inaccessible visual art pieces are shown not only between sets, but straight through performances. Low couches line every wall, behind low tables with full place settings for those in the audience wish to honor their commitment to the $10 minimum with food. In the particular cases of Jaymay and the ukulele-toting Michael Leviton (her supporting act), the stage (or lack thereof) consisted of only a modest chair, a lonely looking boom stand, a few tuning pedals, and a mostly-unused 8 channel mixer, awkwardly clustered together in the center of the room.
There are no spotlights. When the house lights go down and the performer begins to play, they are lit only by the light coming off the projection screens. If it's a dark scene on the screen then it's dark in the room; there's only the music.
Both performers commented on the almost-uncomfortable intimacy of the space. Sitting or standing in the middle of the room, one can clearly see every face in front of them, and is painfully aware of the other half of the audience staring intently at one's back. The intimacy wasn't only unnerving for the performers, however. I wouldn't have dreamed in a million years of pulling my camera out, and nobody else in the audience seemed anxious to do so either. All I could do, all any of us could do, was sit and be wowed by Jaymay's first performance in New York since the spring, and her first performance in weeks since an unfortunate but unsurprising battle with food poisoning.
I don't really feel like I can even say any more about the night. I just wish you could have been there.
And despite the fact that it takes a little getting used to, I must recommend you trek out to Monkey Town sometime soon and see a performance. It's a neat space.
You haven't yet completely missed your chance to catch Jaymay while she's in the States either...she'll be at Rockwood Music Hall on 10/4. She's of course also still opening for Jose Gonzales Friday 9/28 (details).
Previously - Jaymay interview.
The cover will appear on No Man's Woman, a record full of Australian male artists paying tribute to "women in voice." Not the kind of thing I usually gravitate towards, but I'll listen to anything once. Josh Pyke's Kate Bush cover is absolutely worth a listen, and is a nice bonethrow to fans who've worn the 1's and 0's of Memories & Dust down to nubs. Check it out at MySpace.
The Powderfinger/Portishead track is kinda fun, too.
* Bonus: check out this torturously horrible video to remind yourself what the original sounded like:
Sure, it's a way of blanketing the spark before it becomes a fire and hopefully minimizing the "WTF WHARE'S MAI TOM WAITS!?!" complaint emails, but it's also the kind of measured sensetalk I've come to expect from eMusic's chief executive. Read it for yourself. He's right.
eMusic users are some of the last remaining paying customers in the American music market. And per capita, they spend about 14 times more than the typical iTunes customer. There is money changing hands here.
Of course, labels that leave eMusic do so because they want a steeper cut of the proceeds. I can't speak to the pay structure because I don't know it and I don't really care to find out. But if you're pulling out of this deal because your price negotiations are hitting a wall, you're cutting off your nose to spite your face. You are leaving money on the table. You're willing to take none because you can't get more.
Bottom line: almost nobody buys music anymore. The people that still do can only be found in a few places. Just like the old school music business, distribution is still king. Only now, it's easier. Just make digital copies available every single place people have shown a willingness to pay for them. Because if your music isn't available at their store of choice, willing shoppers become reluctant thieves.
The unimpeachably marvelous Jaymay is coming to New York in the near future and will play 2 shows stateside before jetting back to London. If you've seen her or if you haven't, I'd highly advise making a point to get to one of these:
hi! im gonna be in NY for a lil while playin a couple solo shows . . .
58 N 3RD ST - BROOKLYN, NY
MON SEP 24, 2007 - 7:30PM DRS - $10
Monkey Town is a reservations only venue.
Please make reservations here:
THE BLENDER THEATRE @ THE GRAMERCY
SUPPORTING JOSE GONZALEZ
127 E 23RD ST - NEW YORK, NY
FRI SEP 28, 2007 - 8:00PM DRS - $20
Already planning to see Jose Gonzalez on the 28th? Great, show up early. Don't know who we're talking about here? Prepare to be amazed.
Find Jaymay on MySpace, visit her official site, and read the interview she so kindly granted us here at wealsoran.com.
Not that I can find really good proof of this online (not that I looked very hard) but the impression that I get is that Boston College's "Master Class" lecture series is basically a pretty cool way to get guys like me to think "Hey, I guess a few cool people claim BC as their alma mater," for a split second until I click on to something more thought provoking.
Craig Finn is pretty cool though, and he will be heading to BC on September 25th (2 days after Springsteen's birthday, btw) to discuss how his time at Boston College enabled him to be able to write so eloquently about ill-advised sexual encounters and wanton drug abuse.
Mike Miller told me once that one of The Beagle Club's missions was to avoid doing "uncool" things. To try to always see the band, no matter how big or how small, as a fan might see it, and not to ever do anything a fan might perceive to be lame. He reiterates this conviction in a comment below this post, but he did in fact say the exact same thing to me years ago. I mention this because I consider it proof of his integrity: Mike's avoidance of the uncool was then and is now a defining aspect of his character, and I hold him in the highest regard.
A decision has been made to turn over the task of cranking out copies of The Husky Tenor (the contents of which I disected here) to the very-not-uncool Crafty Records. A record yet to be named will be released on the same label sometime in 2008(!!!). You can read Mike's whole post about the deal and the circumstances surrounding it here. While I really respect his unwavering desire to keep his fans informed and feeling good about the band, I'm sorta surprised at the apologetic tone. It's not like Rick Rubin is producing the new record.
Look at Crafty's site. Seriously, look at it. Does that smell like selling out to you?
So the new Radiohead record is done. What's exciting about this isn't that they used a choir of kids for something probably creepy. Or that the album will almost definitely be fucking awesome. Ok, I guess those two things are kinda exciting too.
But what's really exciting to me is that the band is currently without record label. Their EMI commitment is up. From the Paste article linked above:
"We just had a meeting about that today," said Greenwood on September 7. "We’re very relieved to have finished recording, now we have to decide what we should do with it."Well Paste, I'm sure there are plenty of willing bidders. But I'll tell you what would really kick the ass of the music industry. What would and reach more ears and eyes than any record company's marketing team could ever dream to reach.
Radiohead completed its six-album contract with EMI with 2003’s Hail to the Thief and is currently unsigned. Can anyone say bidding war?
GIVE THE RECORD AWAY.
Thom & Co. don't need the record revenue. They'll make a king's ransom on the tour even if the record is nothing but a 48 minute fart. And they should go even further than Prince did. Distribute it online: torrents and zip files. Give the downloader his choice: mp3, flac, wav, or ogg. And release it now, right after announcing it, like Steve Jobs does.
And sure, still sell a physical disc if you really want to. Plenty of people will pay for the souvenir artwork, which Radiohead has always done right.
Basically, make it available to people the way they're going to get it anyway. If they want to buy it from a record store, encourage that. But if they want to torrent it (and let's face it, they're going to torrent it if they want to), encourage that too.
The video above plays "Kiss Me" from New Found Glory's From the Screen to Your Stereo Part II, because it's all I could find on YouTube. Their MySpace, sadly, doesn't have what I want to share with you either.
The whole record (covers of memorable movie moments, if you haven't figured it out for yourself yet) is a blast for anyone who likes their movies sappy and their punk poppy. Personally, I've been waiting for a pleasure this guilty and pleasurable for some time now. The absolute stand-out is NFG's cover of Lisa Loeb's "Stay," which is a duet with Lisa Loeb herself. Use your cunning w3bskillz to find it, and give it a listen.
Got an instant message last night from Brandon Locher, drummer for Elementary Thought Process, contributing member of The Beagle Club, artist, and most relevant to this post, proprietor of My Idea of Fun Records. When Brandon says to check something out, I always do. He's a trustworthy guy.
Siamese Dream - 1 was written and recorded within a strict 24 hour window. As such, it's more of an archived piece of performance art than a proper album. But it's got some really fun alt-pop moments anyway.
I recommend listening to the whole thing in one sitting because that's the best way to listen to anything (look, I don't presume to know you, but something tells me if you've got time to be reading this blog, you've got 15 minutes to listen to the whole thing). But if you've only got a minute or two, at least check out the first track for a taste of how good these guys are, and the fourth one for a song about rainbows and boners.
More on Brandon's stuff when I have the time...
"Is there anybody alive out there?"
Springsteen asked this question in concert long ago, immortalized on the first disc of the Live/1975-85 set. 30-some-odd years later, he's still wondering.
Go here. Scroll down. Not sure how much longer this promotion lasts, but while it does, it's a 128kbit .mp3 with no DRM. However, (because nobody can ever get anything 100% right) you're going to have to add the metadata yourself if you want to scrobble the shit.
**Update: Apparently it's also available for free on iTunes, although I don't know why you'd prefer that format to .mp3.
I saw the post on Stereogum, listened to the song (shitty quality rip, but it rocks), and went to lunch, with the intention to write a post of my own when I got back. Turns out in the 30 mins or so I was gone, the big bad wolf knocked on the 'gum's door. If you're resourceful, you can still find a way to listen to Magic's opening track "Radio Nowhere" (for now), but I'm not going to bother linking you to it directly. This house is only made of straw.
I really like it. The lyrics are nothing to write home about, but it rocks harder and sweeter than anything off The Rising, the highlights of which were all the slow, contemplative tracks. I had been afraid The E Street Band had grown too old to properly rock. "Radio Nowhere" proves my fears unwarranted.
Tracklist for Magic here.
But what really piqued my interest in the band was their story. So when I found this website for frontman Adam King's recent campaign municipal office, I got in touch. Over the last month or so, we've been conducting an interview via Google Docs. It's not a month-long interview, but he's a busy guy (you'll see), so it took that long.
In Adam's own words, the band's history:
Amie Street: Earlier this year you released False Heroics' first full length: The Salvation Navy. For the uninitiated, can you give us a brief history of the band from inception to first LP?There's more on the band and the music in the full interview at Amie Street. Not to mention a brief account of a childhood in Bangladesh (Adam's parents were missionaries) and some insight into Adam's political motivations.
Adam King (False Heroics): I was in Grade 13 at a high school in Brantford, and really hadn't been back in Canada very long when Jon (drummer) and I started jamming. I think Jared (bass) and Mike (guitar) heard us perform at a coffeehouse, and afterwards ended up quitting the band they were in to join Jon and I. It was quite the scandal. The lead singer from their old band had a bit of a grudge against me for it, I think. Maybe still does. I hope not though...
Anyway, we were called Pure Nard, of all things, when we started. (Now the name of the little record label I run.) We played a bunch of all ages shows in gyms, church basements and such before finally changing our name to the False Heroics and putting out the Stars Gone Black EP in 2003. We did a couple tours--one around Ontario, another out through Quebec and the Canadian East Coast and it felt like we were starting to pick up some momentum; getting CD orders coming in from all over and playing a lot of shows.
But then, just as we were getting ready to record the album that would become The Salvation Navy, Mike was diagnosed with germ cell cancer. It was pretty advanced--all through his body. So, False Heroics went into hiatus while he was going through chemotherapy, and we just kept slowly working at the album as we had the chance. Mind you, tons was going on. We were doing post-secondary degrees, Jared got married; I ran for Canadian parliament and got married, then ran for city council in Brantford as well; Jon became a professional photographer while we weren't looking. It's hard to keep track of everything. Eventually, Mike's cancer went into remission, and we started back at the band, finished off the record and started playing shows again. That basically brings us up to the present.
For all the press that they seem to be getting in the UK (according to their MySpace page, anyway), WinterKids don't get much attention in The States. I keep expecting it to change, but for the most part, I'm still not finding a lot of buzz about them. Just over 100 posts on elbo.ws? NOTHING on MOG? I'm flabbergasted.
Get with it people. This band is good. Blog about them.
The same exact charts that are already available on Last.fm for free. Really.
The first charts will appear in trade magazine Music Week, which relaunches this week.I don't doubt the usefulness of the charts, especially for the radio programmer / music supervisor types that might very well subscribe to Music Week. And I'd probably be sickened to learn just how many of them aren't already aware of Last.fm. But this just leaves me a little bit uneasy.
Charts will appear both in print and on the Music Week website, and Last.fm plans to publish similar charts in the US.
A spokesman for Last.fm said the "hype chart", which is currently picking up artists such as Kate Nash and Biffy Clyro, is "the most important chart for the industry because it provides a taste of what we'll be listening to a few weeks ahead".
The same Last.fm data picked up the popularity of Gnarls Barkley's Crazy before it hit the mainstream charts last year.
Obviously it's a no-brainer for Last.fm if someone is offering them money to reprint their property, which I sincerely hope is how this deal came about. If this was Last.fm's idea, then the old-school new owners might already be steering a wonderful ship in the wrong DUHrection.
Here's an excerpt from an interview I did with Drew & the Medicinal Pen that's posted in full over at Amie Street. You can buy his record there for cheap.
Read the rest at Amie Street.
Amie Street: You're a jack of many trades. How do you spend your time when you're not playing guitar?
Drew: I like keeping busy with other crafty stuff, working on tape machines, silkscreening, drawing, writing, keeping up with my dream-logues, painting on walls, eating cereal and making booby traps... etc. When I'm not playing I'm working for Rooftop Films, and talking my way into other odd jobs.
AS: What's with the dead TV's?
D: I guess the Dead TV has officially become my unofficial logo over the years. I started doing graffiti when I was a kid, and it's just something that I kept drawing. I suppose the reason it's stuck is that it's got that DIY, anti-consumerism, get-up-and-do-something mentality behind it that seems to tie in to my music.
AS: I've started noticing a bunch of them around town. How many do you think you've done in total?
D: I guess it would be high in the hundreds? I don't know. I just go nuts sometimes and feel like running around the city climbing on things and painting them.
AS: Tell me about the xylophone from Sam Ash.
D: Right the xylophone... I was on a pretty tight budget recording dream, dream, fail, repeat, and there was a song that absolutely had to have xylophone, and my Muppet Babies xylophone was pretty cool but not really doing the trick. So I went to Sam Ash and bought this beautiful one with a nice hard-shell rolling case and everything for something crazy like $400. I laid down the track in the studio that night and returned it the next day. I think I told the guy it sounded too "metal-y."
The tracklisting (according to Wikipedia):
- "Radio Nowhere"
- "You'll Be Comin' Down"
- "Livin' in the Future"
- "Your Own Worst Enemy"
- "Gypsy Biker"
- "Girls in Their Summer Clothes"
- "I'll Work for Your Love"
- "Last to Die"
- "Long Walk Home"
- "Devil's Arcade"
So this is what this guy was talking about. I still stand by my doubts that such a release will do anything to save Columbia records, but I'm absolutely pumped anyway.
Colin Greenwood and Nigel Godrich took a page from Pink Floyd's book (and so many others) when they went on a field trip in March to the Matrix Music School to record something with a 30 or so kids that will presumably end up on the next Radiohead album. A bunch more pictures at the school's website.