Lately I’ve been pondering if people would have cared about certain bands if they looked different. It’s no secret that some humans prefer to listen with their eyes as opposed to their ears and the whole music industry is built on image conscious people with no one being spared. Some great artists have suffered because of the way they look where others have flourished, simply for looking the part and showing up. It is a fickle debate to enter into but my interest in the topic was once again sparked when I heard King Buzzo from The Melvins say something interesting about Kurt Cobain. He mentioned that besides writing great songs Kurt Cobain also looked the part and that was part of the reason why the major labels loved him because they could sell the full product. As King Buzzo pointed out, if Kurt Cobain looked like him or was overweight or ugly in any way that the major label Geffen may not have signed them because they couldn’t have marketed them and that sometimes looking the part is what can win the day. I’d never really put Kurt Cobain in this context before because he was the king of alienation and pain but it did open up some ideas in my head and for the purpose of this experiment let me pitch this to all you humans out there, would have the world brought into Nirvana if they looked like this:
If this human was the person singing Smells Like Teen Spirit would have he changed the world
Would the power of “Nevermind” have been lost if the above humans were the people who released it?
It’s a very confronting question because I bet all of you are thinking to yourselves that the power of what “Nevermind” was would have triumphed and it would have still connected. Would have the major label been interested in just the “songs” if Nirvana looked like the humans above and would have just the “songs” changed a whole generation?
I honestly find this a hard question to answer and I’m sure you do as well, the truth of the matter is I don’t think just the “songs” would have made an impact which is sad because they are great songs but somehow – and this is me be incredibly honest with myself – if Kurt Cobain looked like Tad Doyle the Nirvana revolution wouldn’t have happened. A sad fact of the shallow world we live in and it breaks my heart to be so extreme but I just can’t bring myself to believe that humans were capable of embracing Nirvana if Kurt Cobain looked like Tad Doyle.
So who is Tad Doyle and who is TAD?
Well I suggest you watch this video:
and Listen to this album in full:
All of a sudden that new Violent Soho album doesn’t sound so appealing and fresh anymore does it pussycat?
So what does this all mean at the end of the day?
Well to me this is an issue that plays into the equality debate and how the issue of equality goes a lot deeper than the surface minority related issues. Every inch of our behaviour plays into our relationship with equality and the extreme corporate saturation of every industry, no matter how pure, has allowed for so many humans to be forgotten or overlooked simply because they harbour some kind of different human aesthetic that causes other humans to delve into fear. When this fear is fully engaged, either consciously or subconsciously, you feed the beast that is inequality and that my friends is how we have arrived at such a lack of freedom in this so called free world. Don’t try and argue your way out of it, you may have your left wing or right wing politics brand all worked out but that is surface level stuff really, if you dig into the unconscious way you consciously interact with something as basic as music you start to uncover just how much growth you have to undertake as an individual to be a true instrument of change.
So I ask myself again, what does this all mean at the end of the day?
The music industry is a place I like to call home in terms of career interests. I play in a band, manage that band and engage in all of the “Brand Conscious” activities in order to survive an industry that has become so severely soaked in corporate structure that it is hard for anything truly radical and forward thinking – strictly speaking in relation to the manipulation of sound as an art form – to be pushed and promoted through those wonderful money making channels.
I hear your internal dialogues right now, you all probably think and assume that this “corporate structure” I’m referring to is limited to the mainstream areas of the industry. You’d be correct in assuming that this area of the music industry is full of a vicious cycle geared towards image and making money but that is way too easy of a target to pick on. Every human with an intelligent pulse understands how that system of government works, what I’m referring to when I speak about “corporate soaked” facets of the industry is the underground / independent / DIY scenes of music, the place where I dwell most of the time and the place where the so called alternative is meant to exist.
To return to my initial point for a moment, I want to focus on the question that I proposed which is this, would Kurt Cobain mean anything to you if he looked like Tad Doyle?
The reason I’m so cynical about the people answering “yes, I would have liked the music because I’m all about the music and bro, have you heard how good Nevermind is” is because I’m fairly confident that no one wants to look like an obese human being. I’m an obese human being and I don’t want to be an obese human being. I am constantly on the quest of dieting so I can escape this obese shell. There is no fashion in obesity and I can’t really see a time in history where the whole obese look was a thing young humans invested in to “express” themselves. Further to this point, as is the case with most hits of youth culture rapture, there reaches a point where the revolutionary becomes a sex symbol. Through all that connection and desire to be understood it overwhelms our minds and bodies causing us to succumb to the primal urge to fuck and all of a sudden when we find that human in that celebrity / fame realm who acts as a saviour there is part of us that invests in this very basic / low realm ego response. We’re only human after all. So again, my cynical side says that no one would of felt a desire or need to engage this primal urge with Tad Doyle, which is upsetting because the guy is one of the most talented humans ever. I guess on a really shallow level from my point, and again this is purely based on my experience, I can’t really see all of those tragic trust fund “Abigail got her pony” female humans that I went to school with who had Kurt Cobain plastered all over their books wishing they could marry him feel that same way if Kurt looked like Tad Doyle. In the same way I don’t think all of the trust fund “Dad’s little Champion” male humans I knew who traded in their footballs and jock lifestyle for a guitar would have done that if Kurt looked like Tad Doyle.
I know that takes it to a really shallow level on my part but I feel that if I engage this question honestly the truth is no one would have cared about Tad Doyle if he was the one who made Nevermind. That really makes me sad because I care about and loved Tad Doyle growing up and I still care about his music to this day. I’ve followed what he’s done since and one day I hope I get the chance to meet him and to thank him for inspiring me. You see Tad Doyle was an equal hero for me, along with Ed Vedder, Mark Arm, Buzz Osbourne, Chris Cornell, Mark Lanegan and Kurt Cobain when I first got into the Seattle sound when I was eleven years old.
You see, music saved my life when I was eleven and the intense sounds from Seattle gave me hope. I wanted to not exist when I was eleven, I didn’t want to die but I didn’t want to live. I suffered at the hands of bullies and kept my pain silent. I reached a point where it was part of my existence. I figured and understood that I was different because of the way I looked. When I muse on it I had some truly heartbreaking things happen to me as a result of the way I looked. Although I’m not one for playing the victim I think for the purpose of this argument I’d like to discuss some of the cruelty I had to endure during my life.
As I mentioned I was an overweight human being and had suffered at the hands of Bullying for as long as I could remember. Ever since I was conscious enough to remember I knew and felt different. From my early years as an innocent young child to now I’ve had people point, laugh and go out of their way to tease and bully. It comes from people you know and absolute strangers. Going out in public from then to now has always involved the cruelty of people staring, laughing, pointing, yelling things at you and judging every single thing you do. The simplest of tasks attracts this ritual of abuse and a large portion of the time it is from strangers who just pass me in the street.
With age I’ve simply gotten better at accepting it and a lot of the time it just rolls of me but it doesn’t take away the fact that it still hurts and cuts pretty deep. My days at school were polluted with these experiences and on occasions it would be elevated to public displays of active abuse from those around me. During my primary school days a daily ritual would include people running behind me and stealing my hat and running off knowing that I did not have the capacity to chase them. In the designated lunchtime periods I would have food constantly thrown at me and advised to “eat it you fat fuck” and I’d also have people run along and steal my lunch as I was eating it claiming “you don’t need to eat that you fat fuck.”
One incident that is burned into my memory is something that happened one morning when I had arrived at school. I was in grade five at the time and when I went to the boys toilets all of the grade six boys were in there and they just cornered me. They then proceeded to rip off my school shirt claiming they wanted to see “what a fat fuck” I really was and then when they removed my shirt they spat on me and flushed my shirt in the toilet. I was beyond terrified by this. Instead of going to the principle and reporting it I stayed in the toilets all day until my shirt dried and simply waited until 3pm and left the toilets.
I told absolutely no one out of fear because I was scared of these people. During my high school years the abuse kept coming with the same types of rituals performed and the same old taunts. The hard part about this was the dedication to diets and weight loss through all of these years and how people even when you were dieting would still bully me. They just didn’t know the hell I was going through in order to better my life and lose that weight. I’ve had positive weight loss stories but that cruelty sometimes is what pushes me backwards. I have incredibly bad body image issues and despite how happy I generally am I fucking hate this part of myself, the part that is obese and that it is all that some people see and judge me on. It is something I want to tackle head on and I can tell you that I reached a point in my twenties where I lost so much weight that I looked like this:
To quote my good friend David Zorzan, by the time I had reached this point in 2007 the damage was already done. I’d already suffered that life time of being fat and I didn’t have the emotional maturity to deal with that change. I had an incredibly hard time with it and I fell into a depression that caused me to eat my way back to this:
I’m currently planning to remedy this with my diet plan moving forward but for the purpose of this story and the internet warriors I think it is important for me to illustrate that the obese epidemic is not as simple as just “losing weight” and then you’ll be happy. I lost weight, but I wasn’t happy. I still had a hurt and a damage that I was unable to shake. I was still unable to love myself.
Through it all though, for whatever emotional damage it has done to me as a human being it has also birthed a drive and a desire for life. I was never interested in being a victim and those who loved me always were great protectors and encouraged me to achieve everything I wanted in life, they believed in my passion for music. Instead of giving into the bullies and becoming the “fat fuck” or indeed “the victim” I chose to outlearn the bullies and become emotionally and intellectually better. So I read books, watched a lot of great films and documentaries, got into music, learned how to create music, learned about poetry and just threw myself into self-education. Living well is the best revenge and chasing what you love is vital. Through the love and support of my parents, family, friends and the music I started to believe and understand that I was better than them all.
It was the discovery of music as more than entertainment at age eleven when I got into Pearl Jam that really changed the game. An eleven year old shouldn’t have suicidal thoughts but I did and if it wasn’t for the rush of Pearl Jam and the Seattle grunge scene who knows what would have happened. With music I had found my saviour and from eleven to thirty (my current age) a lot of bands and artists have continued to save my life.
So what was it about music that saved my life?
It was the way it sounded, the way the pain dripped off it and how it connected so deeply with me. It wasn’t because of how the humans in the bands looked, it was because of the way they manipulated sound and funded their communications with weirdness and emotion. This music helped me escape myself and it gave me the strength to exist. I didn’t want to make me want to get a better haircut or change the way I looked or what clothes I wore, it simply made me want to escape and to create. Through all of those musical discoveries I was able to learn how to express all of my emotions through sound. I was turned on and educated on the importance of self-expression through art. I felt understood and after a life of idolising comic book super heroes I had real life humans who were almost like super heroes because they sang and played music about the kind of alienation and pain I was experiencing. All of those humans whose music I chose to invest in were responsible for inspiring me to live and as I’ve grown as a human and an artist that is all I wanted to do, to heal people and give them a space to escape through the music I create.
Unfortunately though, as I discovered in my twenties, the music industry does not favour music for music’s sake. Thanks to the money making channels humans found a way to market to that “pain” dollar and instead of just a sound it became an image that has now formed the template for marketing campaigns for young youth culture bands. It’s not a new concept and is a process in the hype machine becoming the focus over the art and instead of humans making art that communicates their honest pain and emotional intelligence we have humans writing and creating music in order to fill a formula. Even in the alternative / indie / DIY scenes you have bands and artists whoring themselves to the radio formula and working on a visual image of themselves in order to have other humans make money of them via the music industry hype machine. That wonderful process of having people connect to music purely for the way it sounds has now transformed into people resonating with music because of how people look. It’s like this constant cycle of bad 80’s glam metal that won’t stop and each year it starts to become so painfully clear that everything and everyone is too fucking brand aware to take the power back.
So how does this link into equality?
Well, every time you find yourself in a position where you have to design your band / music to not only have a commercially appealing sound whilst also maintaining a healthy visual aesthetic you are feeding the inequality machine. What you are saying to the world is that you believe in the corporate structure in place across all levels of the music industry and prefer people to listen to your band via their eyes as opposed to their ears. You are feeding the inequality displayed towards other humans and are no better than the racist, the misogynist, the homophobe and any other measuring stick for inequality. You are putting appearance and fear front and centre of your campaign and while it may work in terms of allowing success to pay you a visit, you’re soaking what you do in absolute bullshit. What you are communicating to the world is that you believe looking good, looking the part and fitting inside the box (when you preach being outside of the box) is more important to you than taking a risk. You are illustrating to the world that you won’t do anything unless you get paid and aren’t willing to do it for nothing before people thing it is worth giving you something for your hard work. You aren’t connecting with people on a soul level, but purely a visual low ego level which acts as an optical illusion to what is real and honest about the art you rip off in order to create your music. Instead of fighting the corporate structure you are giving into its demands and you are the furthest thing from being a radical instrument of change. There is no sincerity or longevity to this plan and you are fucking up our planet.
The same goes for those that consume music aka the fans. As art it is a subjective thing, it can’t be seen as a terrible thing to consume a band simply because they look good because you know what resonates with you. You are fucking fast asleep and are the furthest thing from being free. You see, freedom is wasted on the free and as a result of your indulgence in the visual aesthetic you have tipped the balance of power to the corporate regime and you are feeding that machine as opposed to stopping it. Don’t fool yourself, just because you reject mainstream music and indulge the alternative does not place you in a different spectrum. You are just a consumer being marketed too every second of the day and it is all being cleverly targeted to you. There is a lot of money to be made from pain and because of your willingness to suck Satan’s cock and feed the corporate saturation of music you’ve allowed this to happen and have killed and ignored artists with the depth. The hype machine snuffs out the pure and only delivers you the people willing to be inside the box (whilst claiming to be outside the box). You are buying into the product and you sit comfortably at home with your hi-tech devices and telephone machines and consume, consume, consume without even questioning why it tastes like shit. Quite possibly you’d eat shit, real physical shit if it was marketed to you in the correct way. The new alternative, the new sound and the new voice of pain, will require you to eat shit, fucking yum.
All of this freedom has caused you to fall asleep at the wheel and caused you to be too comfortable and this ever evolving corporate structure that pollutes all facets of the music industry is further proof that we are being controlled and told when, what and where to consume. It is the enemy of freedom and deals in all kinds of inequality that you are feeding by participating and adhering to the corporate structure and responsibilities.
Sounds pretty grim?
Well it does but we created it and we also have the power to destroy it. You don’t need to look good, write radio singles, invest in fashion, have a costume, theme or gimmick to your band or music. All you have to do is learn how to connect with people. That is the secret to real success, because music is sound and music is communication and people receive music through their ears. If you love what you do and are selling that love and communicating honesty, passion and your truth it will resonate with people. That is your only aim, to connect with people. No business plans are required, be prepared to do it for nothing and be radical. We can tear down these inequalities that have become part of the corporate structure if we stop feeding it with our desire to be inside of it. You can’t preach about equality and our need for it if you are chasing fame and celebrity over a real genuine connection with people. To my earlier point, music is sound and was designed for our ears, not our eyes. All of that stuff about people listening with their eyes has been established because we allowed the corporate world to control us and dictate to us what success looks like. This formula treats people like idiots and when you treat people like idiots you breed more idiocy and a great misunderstanding and inequality is birthed because people begin to assume what a band or sound should look like. That kind of behaviour is just way to close to how a racist, misogynist and homophobe behave and I can’t stress this enough, you feed it if you choose to engage this behaviour.
To me there has to be a point and I think in order to illustrate this and save a lot of internet warriors tearing holes in my argument I’ll leave you with the following video. If you watch this video and understand the message and point of it then you listen with your ears, if it confuses you then you have to stop letting the corporate world control your existence and choose love over fear:
I love you all, even if some of you do use your eyes instead of your ears to listen to music.