Heavy and Weird – Anniversaries – 1987 – Albums Turning 30 – January 19, 1987 – “Warehouse: Songs and Stories” by Husker Du 

The final album from Punk Rock pioneers Husker Du is also one of their strongest statements. Despite tensions within the band causing a clear division in what direction the sound was going to take, the end result is a cohesive collection of songs which display that they were always one of the worlds greatest pop acts. 

The formula established on earlier albums continues but Mould and Hart display a greater level of maturity in the execution of their songs. The music feels more urgent in its catchiness with the heaviest moments being enhanced by the personal conflict within the band. 

Ultimately it is their finest hour musically but once again, as is the case with most of closed minded punk rock pests, it was overlooked and negatively critiqued by the bands hardcore fans. Had the band stayed together and continued to evolve the sound found on this record there is every chance they would have tasted mainstream success courtesy of the big alternative rock boom of the 1990’s. 

Unfortunately that was not meant to be but if you listen carefully you can hear Husker Du’s influence all throughout the 90’s in bands who broke the mainstream. 

Favourite Track: She’s a Woman (and now he is a Man)

By: Dan Newton 

Listen to the album on the following link:

Heavy and Weird – Anniversaries – 1977 – Albums Turning 40 – January, 23 1977 – “Animals” by Pink Floyd

One of the most overlooked albums in Pink Floyd’s discography is 1977’s “Animals” – a record which seemed to be the one most punk rockers pointed to as an example of how bloated rock music had become. It was unfairly judged and misunderstood by both the fans and critics of the band. 

Continuing the progressive sound forged on “Wish You Were Here,” “Animals” goes deeper lyrically in expressing Roger Waters disdain towards how society was progressing using three animals (Dogs, Pigs and Sheep) to illustrate this. The music is rawer and heavier with more traditional rock aesthetics helping assist the psychedelic sounds reach those far out places required. 

In a lot of ways “Animals” is Pink Floyd returning to the earlier formulas of records such as “Atom Heart Mother” and “Meddle” but with more confidence and overall direction. All in all the music is a strong reminder that despite their knack for extreme experimentation, at the core of Pink Floyd was a rock band capable of connecting to you emotionally with a great groove and heavy riff. The other bells and whistles only helped enhance those simple dynamics giving them a unique place in the rock n roll history book. 

The irony is that this album is more punk rock than the bands and artists of the era give it credit for. This is typical of how most punk rockers think and a true reflection of how punk rock was invented long before a group of trendy assholes in England formed the first manufactured pop band (Sex Pistols). At least Pink Floyd got a bit radical with punk rock and “Animals” for that reason alone is an essential punk rock classic.

Favourite Track: Dogs

By: Dan Newton

Listen to the album on the following link: 

SINGLE REVIEW: “Cheap Wine” by VOIID

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There was a quote from Kurt Cobain at some point during his life where he said that the next great rock revolution would be lead by a woman or something like that. Whilst I don’t want to get too political I think it’s a relevant stance because in this godforsaken local music scene known as Brisbane, the only relevant music being made and the only music that resonates with me is the stuff driven by Female Human Beings. Make of that what you will but you know, there is only so much “hell fuck yeah” I can fucking take and I feel like VOIID might be the antidote to all that white middle class macho rock bullshit that is swelling both above and below ground at the moment.

The bands sole recording exists via the following SoundCloud and YouTube link and it is a 1 minute and 18 second pure kool thing lo-fi rock n roll thrill – put on the headphones and turn it up loud:

 

 

The production is supreme and perfect for this musical communication delving deep into the whole late night party drunk as fuck boredom shtick. This approach truly amps up the vocals and adds a nice contrast to the crunch of the guitar as it creeps along like a distorted washed out sigh. VOIID combine smart lyrics with simple pop melodies all the while slapping together some righteous chords that mix the hiss of shoegazing and the dust and dirt of the whole Sebadoh aesthetic. It has one foot in the past and one foot in the future and displays a desire to at least re-shape some of the established dynamics of the genres influencing them. Whilst the music is more party than arty there are hints of surrealism and dadaism weaving in and out of their overall presentation. There is a mystique to it all and that mystery begs repeated listens. This song along hints at future punk rock greatness and I can see this band taking it all the way, from the house party to the festival stage.

 

 

This is smart music and I’m a big fan of what VOIID is communicating. I get the feeling that in 12 months time they’ll also be everyone else’s favourite band as well but for now, keep them as your own little secret before you have to share them with the rest of the world.

By: Dan Newton

Useful Links:

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/voiidtheband/

SINGLE REVIEW: “Beautiful Violence” by Quintessential Doll

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There are moments in my life where I fucking hate rock music with a passion. It can produce some of the most uninspiring art in the world and when it’s bad it is really bad and when I hate rock n roll, I really want to destroy it. All of the leather pants wearing fuckholes, the guitar solos, the fucking rolling stones and all of their disgusting songs, all of the fucking humans who pretend to be Dandy Warhols, all those fucking 60’s / 70’s / 80’s revival throwback bands, all the fucking grunge revival bullshit and the army of humans who just love love love rock n roll and live life on the edge by adhering to the sex, drugs and rock n roll ethos. Fuck it makes me so very sick to witness and it honestly stands in the way of progress, you’re holding up evolution fuckwit, but I digress. Sometimes I just need to break free of it and to escape into something a little less generic in terms of musical communication.

This is not a new feeling for me, I’ve had it for as long as I’ve been listening to music and through the years this disgust with (sigh) “rock n roll” has lead me to some truly radical places. One artist who has been the shining light for me for the past few months has been Quintessential Doll. The freedom of her music really left me feeling inspired because I’m always on the search for new extremes and new ideas when it comes to the punk rock spirit. It seems that she has birthed a new kind of creative language for the riot grrrl scene (at least that’s how I interrupted it) and instead of being literal with her influences and sound she scatters all kinds of art reference points across her brand of pop music.

Quintessential Doll is one of the most original artists coming out of Brisbane at the moment and her sound is absolutely fascinating to me. That is how a lot of the music I invest in starts off, a fascination and an attraction to the way an artist conducts themselves and how they use their creativity to communicate to the outside world. A lot of this fascination starts because of the mystery and wonder of this particular person or persons and it just drives me to the point of wanting to know and hear more. I like to think of myself as a human that is genreless, I think art is about communication and I’m only ever attracted to those who are masters of communication and Quintessential Doll is brilliant with the way she communicates via her art.

This brings me to Quintessential Doll’s recent song “Beautiful Violence” which was released earlier this year.

Here is the film clip to the song:

 

Once again I’d like to use this review to get a bit controversial in terms of how and why I think Quintessential Doll is the perfect remedy and true evolution of psychedelic music. In order to do that I guess I have to outline my problem with the modern psychedelic movement happening across the musical community of late. I’ve got a big problem with all of the modern psychedelic bands popping up here there and everywhere. The reason why I find them difficult to enjoy is because they add nothing to the evolution of the genre of psychedelic music. They simply replicate what has come before them and it essentially starts to sound like a whole range of different tribute bands simply doing psych music circa 1960’s / 1970’s and whilst enjoyable it just adds nothing to our humanity. The music press certainly eat it up and shit out reviews praising the mediocrity of it all but those of us with seasoned ears and a desire to move the world into a place of equality for all, just hears a bunch of fraudulent humans adhering to a formula that can’t fail and that will help them achieve an empty kind of success.

Upon first listen of “Beautiful Violence” by Quintessential Doll I started to feel like that finally we have the first real movement of music that will help push and evolve the idea of psychedelic music into the new decade. This is a song and artist that is trying to reach some kind of true sonic revolution.

Now before the internet warrior humans pull my review apart (I’m mainly talking to the straight white males who work in guitar shops with this next sentence), let me dull down your fiery trigger finger by outlining to you that in order to evolve any genre aesthetic you need to do a bit more than purely replicate it. Proving that you can do intricate Beatles harmonies and adding some weird orchestral twists and turns and other psychedelic flourishes does not show that you are evolving the idea of psychedelic music, you’re simply paying tribute and pat yourself on the back sunshine you’ll make a lot of money in the process being a fucking fraud. All the bros will love your band but your basically just a covers act.

That is why I love “Beautiful Violence” by Quintessential Doll so much, because her music has this quality where it certainly exists within certain pop music structures and hip hop genre dynamics but it still stands alone as a unique musical communication. After listening to “Beautiful Violence” you can tell just how important it is for Quintessential Doll to present her music like art as opposed to just an exercise in commerce. It is her fearlessness that will allow her to not only be successful but also to do it with a unique creative dialogue.

I’m pretty confident not a lot of humans will buy into my assessment of Quintessential Doll being a leader of the evolution of Psychedelic Music but you see that’s just the problem with the world that Quintessential Doll is also attempting to rebel against, most humans automatically assume that the kind of evolution I was referring to was and will still come from a group of weak bodied white male humans playing guitars and potentially have a horn section or theremin or sitar for good measure. Sometimes this world has the capacity to make me feel fucking sick with the way it breathes in and breathes out.

This review of “Beautiful Violence” by Quintessential Doll is starting to potentially sound like some kind of feminist rant and for that I make no apologies because I am a fucking feminist you stupid jerks. Sorry, I forgot that music is subjective. My mistake, I’ll keep my pleas for equality and the way forward to making the world a better place to myself. You’re free to go back to sleep and live under the 1960’s / 1970’s / 1990’s rock that you all love so much, you know the one where revolution and evolution comes in the form of white middle class males.

Anyway, fuck it, I don’t really care too much what you all think of my crazy theories, yeah, yeah, musical taste / resonance and subjectivity and all that, I get it fuckwit, but trust me when I say that “Beautiful Violence” by Quintessential Doll is the way forward and considering we still have humans pretending that it’s 1960, 1970 and 1990 it’s fucking refreshing to have an artist pushing sound into some truly evolutionary places. I am just glad that finally somebody is trying to fucking be a bit creative and artistic with their music and that someone from Brisbane isn’t using bad Dandy Warhols or Brian Jonestown Massacre riffs to communicate how “out there” and “weird” they are – fuck, you don’t know how refreshing that is.

The new single from Quintessential Doll is called “Beautiful Violence” and it is a modern punk rock / psych rock / pop music classic and trust me when I say that she will be the Tom Waits of our generation.

Shut your fucking mouth and just listen – she’s a healer

 

By: Dan Newton

Useful Links:

Official Website – http://quintessentialdollmusic.com/

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/quintessentialdoll

ALBUM OF THE WEEK: “Full Closure and No Details” by Gabriella Cohen

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The debut album from Gabriella Cohen is called “Full Closure and No Details” and it is a fantastic journey of avant-garde framed pop music full of poetic lyrics and intense emotional stories dripping in heartache and the overall sting of being disconnected from the modern whir of circa 2016 culture. White Middle Class Male Cockheads will say such bullshitery as “She is an old soul” and all sorts of other dick stained opinions but the truth is Cohen makes music for the true aliens and she is not interested in the past or the present, she is all about the moment which will always mean she is 100 per cent authentic and an artist in the truest sense of the word.

 

 

Most humans will only focus on the instant and familiar aesthetics that jump out at them when they hear Cohen sigh and ache throughout this album but if you dig deeper you hear that she is someone who is more in debt to radical artists like Bertolt Brecht, Marcel Duchamp, Hugo Ball, John Cage, Merce Cunningham, Laurie Anderson, Salvador Dali, Allen Ginsburg, William S. Burroughs, Jack Kerouac and of course the Poetry and Novels era of Leonard Cohen. These revolutionaries provide the heart and soul for what makes Gabriella’s music so special and this is why it avoids the cliches and instead favours pure emotional expression.

This is art for arts sake with all the dust and damage turned up to high in order for Cohen’s imaginary world to explode out of the headphones and to stain the listeners psyche birthing an extreme stimulation of the senses. It almost makes you numb with satisfaction after repeated listens giving your heart and soul some spiritual oxygen to help you suffer through this life with a bit more comfort. It helps remind you that sometimes being the alien is the easiest path to divinity.

Cohen’s music is designed for those of us who swallow the cliche’s and shit out quiet revolutions whilst the white male elite attempt to harvest our gold but never truly understand what true heartache and alienation feels like. Each song in the track-list is the sound of modern anti-music / anti-art designed to destroy the world that continues to make false idols out of white middle class privileged males. I can’t stand to see an album this forward thinking destroyed and buried under the kind of regime that supports that kind of big budget mediocrity.

This is an album that needs to be experienced up loud on the stereo of your speeding car as you are escaping the city late at night when you are exhausted by the weight of existence. Music this powerful can only be consumed alone. Such consumption is sure to breed some unique fans for Cohen because she sings so confidently about the pain of disconnection and yearning. The swoon and shiver of the vocal arrangements all across this record is fucking hypnotising. I found myself delving deeper and deeper into those lyrics, trying to find some kind of meaning to Cohen’s mysterious wordplay. It’s hard to focus in on the words because her melodies and backing vocals are  beautifully constructed. The various vocal effects and arrangements help build a wall of protection around Cohen’s emotions making sure that as close as you try to get you will only merely glimpse the true meaning of what she is trying to communicate with her art. This is what makes the listening experience of this album so exciting, it keeps you on the edge and always eager to press play again after it is all over.

I don’t want to make this a political issue but fuck it, I’m going to – if the white corporate male music elite spent more time putting artists like Gabriella Cohen on the cover of their magazines instead of boring middle class white rock boy nostalgia fiends who offer nothing more to the creative landscape than “hell fuck yeah” then maybe just maybe we’d see peace restored to the galaxy. Unfortunately we don’t live in that world and corporate music magazines still fucking suck but that doesn’t really matter because Cohen is building her own secret history and is going to triumph and trail-blaze without the assistance of the fuckhead rock n roll boys club back slapping and dick massaging.

I don’t want to live in that world, you know the one, the one where we once again have to be subjected to a bunch of stoner fucking idiots playing guitars and riding skateboards – I want to live in a world were Gabriella Cohen has the spotlight because she is willing to go deep and dark in order to scatter some new dynamics onto the table. She lives deep in her imagination and her music is an invitation for us mere mortals to come in and indulge and escape and just for one moment realise that the best pop music is made by human beings who are weird aliens bent out of shape by the suffocating rules of societies and scenes.

Perhaps even Gabriella Cohen doesn’t even realise how vital she is but either way her new record is poised to be the launch pad for a career artist who is no doubt scheduling in more masterpieces for us to devour in the not too distant future.

Gabriella Cohen reminds me that girls invented punk rock and that Yoko Ono will always be my favourite Beatle – in the spirit of Patti Smith, Cohen is about to go beyond gender positioning her as one of the first real new millennial avant garde poets.

By: Dan Newton

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(photo by: danni ogilvie)

 

Useful Links:

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/gabriellacohenmusic/
Buy The Vinyl Here – https://dirtypowerstudios.squarespace.com/shop/

 

INTERVIEW: Andrew Stafford – Author of Pig City

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I had the pleasure of interviewing one of my heroes recently, Mr Andrew Stafford who is the Author of PIG CITY which is essential reading for anyone who respects Music. In 2014 PIG CITY turns 10 and is being re-released. I’ve been a long time follower of Andrew’s work so it was an interesting insight for me as a writer. I’ve always respected Andrew’s passion for the music he writes about and the accurate way he has managed to describe so many artists that I’ve both loved and hated. To this day I still feel that having Andrew like anything you release as an artist is a badge of honour because he is such a dedicated follower of the arts and is the kind of music writer you can trust because he himself has such a wide vocabulary of tastes.

So here is the interview for you all – be sure to check out all the links and for anyone considering a career in writing or in music, you need to pick up a copy of PIG CITY and get fucking educated.

 

H&W: Your book “Pig City” traces the development of the Brisbane music scene from the early 70’s to the late 90’s giving a full history of the bands (both mainstream and underground), 4zzz, Punk Rock and of course the political climate across the three decades you cover. What was your first overall introduction to the Brisbane music scene and what was your initial spark to tell so thoroughly the story of Brisbane?

[AS]: Well, my parents moved up to Brisbane from Melbourne at the tail end of 1986, when I was 15, and I was just starting to get into punk (in particular) and all things rock & roll generally at that point. In fact my first great love musically was Midnight Oil, which was about as punk as things got for a teenager in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne at that time! They were a political awakening, as well as a musical one – I think it’s forgotten how important they were, really, especially since Peter Garrett went full time into politics. I saw them live and they took my head off.

In terms of Brisbane, it happened organically; I started going out and seeing bands here simply because that’s where I lived. I subscribed to 4ZZZ in the late 1980s; I went out there during the occupation in 1988, after the UQ Student Union tried to boot them off campus. As I got into punk, I became aware of the Saints, probably from seeing that legendary clip of them playing live at Paddington Town Hall (in Sydney) on Rage. And (I’m) Stranded, of course – that was a Rage staple.

I actually discovered Sydney’s Radio Birdman first – their T-shirts were everywhere in those days – though the Saints ended up having a far bigger impact on me. Of course, I’m talking about the original version of the band, with Ed Kuepper – they were way more raw and primal, and soulful, too, after they introduced the horns. Even so, I can’t remember owning Stranded (the album) until at least 1992, when I got my first CD player. I definitely had the Birdman record on vinyl well before that.

As for the Go-Betweens, they were all a little bit genteel for my tastes early on. I was a bit suspicious of anything that featured non-distorted guitars in those early days! So I never saw them in their classic period, either. I probably didn’t warm to them until around the early 1990s.

The original spark to tell the story came when I saw Savage Garden play the Olympic Games in Sydney in 2000. I was just watching on television, of course, but I was gobsmacked and fascinated by it at the same time. I knew that like the Saints, they’d grown up in the boondocks (the Saints in Oxley/Inala; Savage Garden in Logan) and it seemed like a weird kind of circle for Brisbane to have turned. Plus I couldn’t resist the alliteration – From The Saints to Savage Garden! There was a book I really loved at the time about the New York scene called From The Velvets To The Voidoids, by Clinton Heylin – I don’t know if many people picked up how much I stole from him.

Plus and most importantly there was the whole political element of living in Queensland. It was only a few weeks after I arrived that the journalist Phil Dickie started writing the first of his reports in the Courier-Mail that led to the Fitzgerald Inquiry, which triggered Joh Bjelke-Petersen’s downfall. That was really formative stuff. Queensland was such an extreme place back then that it had the effect of instantly radicalising otherwise quite normal people.

H&W: Leading into writing of “Pig City” what was your experience with the Brisbane Music Scene and at what point did you start documenting it via your writing?

[AS]: Apart from just being a barfly who (in those days) didn’t actually drink, I got my writer’s training wheels as a staff writer for the street paper, Time Off, from early 1994 to late 1996, filling in as editor a few times when required. It was a good time to be there, because the Brisbane scene was exploding then; all the obvious bands you can think of (Powderfinger, Custard et al) were all coming through, but there were dozens of others – some of whom had more going for them, in my opinion, than the bands that “made it”. It was an incredible time to be in Brisbane, too, although it would be unrecognisable today. I moved to Sydney for a few years after that, and came back at the beginning of the year 2000. Personally I wasn’t in great shape by that point – I had no job and a lot of time on my hands, for all the wrong reasons. I needed a reason to be back in Brisbane, so I found one.

H&W: I want to focus on “The Saints” for a moment – after reading “Pig City” it is easy to tell that you are quite an avid fan of the band. A lot of the material contained in “Pig City” about “The Saints” is well researched and gives an incredible glimpse into the history of the band. How important were “The Saints” to not only you the Author but to the Brisbane Music Scene as a whole?

[AS]: I’ve answered that in terms of my own experience above. As far as Brisbane goes, it would be impossible to overstate their influence or importance. Sure, there were bands in Brisbane before that, and good ones too, but the Saints were the catalyst for pretty much everything that came afterwards. An entire scene formed in their absence after they left for England in 1977. With apologies to Railroad Gin, things were pretty dreary in Brisbane before that! Even though they didn’t call themselves a punk band, the fact was punk was such an important fulcrum for Brisbane in a volatile climate, and the Saints were at the forefront of that. Speaking of which, internationally their importance is only occasionally recognised to the extent it should be: they were doing their thing before any of the English bands, and better than most of them, too. Basically they just took Brisbane by the scruff of the neck and shook the life out of it. Not that many people noticed at the time – they were the proverbial pebble in the pond, but the ripples didn’t take long to start spreading.

H&W: Talk us through your research for the book – was it a hard process in working who and what to include considering the vast amount of music produced by Brisbane?

[AS]: It didn’t seem that difficult at the time! I had a good idea of which bands I thought should be included and they seemed obvious enough. The thing is, there just weren’t that many groups that had really broken to a wider audience outside of Brisbane, and I didn’t want to write a parochial account that would only be of interest to people who lived here and had lived through it. That said, there were some legendary people whom hardly anyone even inside Brisbane had heard of that I wanted to include – Pineapples From The Dawn of Time, the Leftovers, the Parameters. Most people who never listened to Triple Zed have no idea where the title “Pig City” even comes from. Later on, of course, I got a lot of heat from people who were upset that I hadn’t included them, and complained that I wasn’t here and hadn’t lived through that time, etc, etc – which was true; at least up until the late 1980s.

My defence was always that I wasn’t trying to write an encyclopaedia of Brisbane music; that was never the point. It was supposed to be a book about Brisbane, and that’s quite different. Actually, what was difficult was tracking down all those Triple Zed employees for their recollections – but, this being Brisbane, there weren’t too many degrees of separation between them all, once I found the first few!

H&W: Are there artists and various people that you were unable to interview or who didn’t feel comfortable in participating in the project?

[AS]: Daniel Jones from Savage Garden was the only one I can remember actually flat out refusing. He just had no interest in it whatsoever. Everyone else was keen to talk, especially when I explained what the angle was. A lot of people who lived through the Bjelke-Petersen era still wear it like a badge of honour.

H&W: Did you find a common mood or creative state of mind exclusive to Brisbane linked in with all of the bands and artists you interviewed or do you think that the only common connector was the geography of it all?

[AS]: I don’t think geography had much to do with it at all actually, at least not if you mean the physical landscape. I reject utterly that there was ever a “Brisbane sound”, although there are a few who like to claim there was. At bottom I was trying to answer a question; to what degree did growing up in Queensland, and Bjelke-Petersen especially, influence the output of its writers, artists and musicians? The people I spoke to were more or less united in their opposition, but their responses to him varied enormously. These things are never as simple as people make out.

H&W: What was your relationship with the more mainstream artists like Savage Garden and Powderfinger, were you a fan of them or were they merely used as an example of just how successful Brisbane had become at producing some of the most important music in our cultural lexicon?

[AS]: The fact that they had become successful didn’t interest me particularly, although it did provide the book with something of a narrative arc. Their success was partly a by-product of the fact that their music was less insular and more outward-looking than almost everything that had come before it, and that told you a lot more about how far Brisbane had come, in my view. I admired both bands without especially being a fan. Powderfinger’s early records aren’t great and they’re the first to admit it, which is something I respect about them. They really nailed what they were about with Odyssey Number Five; that’s a good album. So is Vulture Street. They both get a spin in my house occasionally.

H&W: I guess focussing on those bands – Powderfinger and Savage Garden – for a moment, do you think their success and the launching pad for Brisbane as a cultural hit of sunshine is the end result of the hard work done by all of those lesser known underground bands of the 70’s, 80’s and early 90’s who really pushed through the political intensity in order to pave the way for the modern music scene as we know it?

[AS]: Yes and no. Both were a case of right band, right songs, right time – as is the case for most successful outfits, but that’s not to downplay the incredible amount of hard work that went into their success. Powderfinger built on what came before them at least to some degree. They had to have an Orient Hotel to play at, just for starters. Savage Garden didn’t; they were pretty much a recording project that went straight to stadium stages, so they had no need for a local scene to nurture them. If they had played those smaller stages, they probably would have been bottled off! They owed more to George Michael and Michael Jackson than anything that had happened in Brisbane, and that’s not a criticism at all; that’s just who they were, and their music was a truthful expression of that. I can never understand why people bag them – they were as honest as the Saints, in their own way. Whether you happen to like their music or not in the end is a matter of taste and beside the point. People occasionally complain that they shouldn’t have been included in Pig City at all, but I was trying to write a history, not re-write it.

H&W: This year is the 10th anniversary of “Pig City” – what do you have planned in terms of a re-issue?

[AS]: Not much, in terms of actual content. There’s a new introduction that tries to put the book in context now that Campbell Newman is the state premier. Readers coming to the book for the first time will hear echoes of the past in the present; history sadly has a way of repeating itself. It’s definitely aimed at a new and younger audience. Other than that I’ve pretty much let it be. It’s not updated – the book was only ever meant to be a snapshot of a particular time; it’s not a rolling chronicle. Talking about all the new bands would be almost another book entirely, and I didn’t want to do that. One change I did make was to take out the discography at the back of the original edition, which was kind of a shame, but it had become obsolete in the age of Google, iTunes, eBay, etc.

H&W: In the past ten years since the release of “Pig City” how have you felt about the current scene of young musicians and bands? Do you think that there is substance amongst the modern scene and what do you think the Digital age has done to the Brisbane music community?

[AS]: I think it’s amazing; it’s better now than it ever was. The Saints and the Go-Betweens aside, most of my favourite Brisbane bands live in the present – HITS, Blank Realm, Some Jerks, Lords of Wong, Seja Vogel, Carrie and the Cut Snakes, Kellie Lloyd; every single one of them have or has made really cool records in the last couple of years. And I hope no one (especially my wife!) feels overlooked by my singling those people out. I think there’s more talent here now than at any time since the punk era, across a wider range of genres. People take a lot more chances, because they’re not answerable to anyone at the end of the day. For both better and worse, it’s actually more DIY than it ever was, because (a) record companies aren’t investing in young talent the way they used to, and (b) recording technology is so much cheaper these days, and people know how to use it properly. You can actually make a really good sounding album now for a few thousand dollars. The downside of course was ever thus: it’s all but impossible to make a living out of it. When I say it’s more DIY than ever, I mean bands have to do EVERYTHING. Most bands fall over at one or more hurdles.

I do think HITS and Blank Realm are both absolutely astounding. Both have made phenomenal albums this year. I’m happy to single them both out for special praise and anyone that is aware of my gig-going habits around town knows that. If I was lucky enough to live in New York City in the 70s I would go and see the Ramones every single fucking chance I could, too. I’m just happy to be in Brisbane as long as they’re around; we’re spoilt to have the two best bands in the country (in my opinion) on our doorstep. They are fabulous live bands; their records will last forever and happily they are all extremely nice people, too, so I know none of my babbling will affect them one iota.

H&W: As a writer in 2014, what kind of struggles do you face to keep up with the pace of technology and do you feel that the internet has helped or hindered the accurate documentation of history?

[AS]: Wow, you saved the toughest question until last there. I’m a bit of a Luddite I guess. I adopted Twitter a while ago, that’s pretty indispensable for a journalist, but I’ve only been on Facebook for a bit over a year. I hated the whole idea of it for a long time, but eventually I realised people weren’t going to stop using it just because I didn’t happen to approve. I didn’t get a so-called smart phone until well after they first appeared, either. It’s held me back in some ways compared to younger writers coming through. Overall, I’d describe myself as a late but enthusiastic bandwagon-jumper.

As for documenting history, the answer is both. The speed of it pretty obviously comes at the expense of both intellectual rigour and accuracy. On the other hand, it’s more accessible to a wider audience than it ever was. People are both more and less informed at the same time. Unfortunately they have a tendency to believe everything they read, and usually think they’re smarter than they actually are, too; probably myself included.

 

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Interview Conducted By: Dan Newton

Andrew Stafford photo taken by Richard Waugh – http://richardwaughphotography.com.au/

On Saturday 9th August 2014 Andrew will be speaking at the Brisbane Powerhouse in relation to the 10th Anniversary of PIG CITY – you can check out the following link for more details

http://brisbanepowerhouse.org/events/2014/08/09/pig-city-from-the-saints-to-savage-garden10th-anniversary/

SHOW ME YOUR RIFFS – Volume Ten – Bianca Valentino

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When I started Heavy and Weird there were a few different people who inspired me to do so. One of the main humans responsible was a local writer by the name of Bianca Valentino. I had been a fan of her writing for a good number of years and I admired deeply the way the way she would conduct her interviews, especially the ones contained in her Conversations with Punx series. The joy of Bianca’s work stems from the fact that she is a true communicator who understands the value of listening to her subjects. When Bianca interviews someone she not only illustrates a great degree of respect by doing a heavy amount of research but she also goes out of her way to construct a series of questions that boycott the laziness of copy and paste journalism. Bianca is a fearless leader who uses love and light mixed with her own vulnerability and darkness to chase her own passion in order to bring to the world some of the greatest writing ever. Further to this she is an incredible mentor to many, myself included and I’m constantly on a journey to be as powerful and as effective as Bianca but in the process to nurture my own individual voice.

I was lucky enough to interview Bianca for my Show Me Your Riffs series and I’m incredibly excited to share this with you as it is a brilliant insight into Bianca as a person and a true master class for anyone wanting to be a writer:

 

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H&W: For those who don’t know who you are, introduce yourself:

BV: Hi! I’m Bianca Valentino. I live on the Gold Coast. I create zines, enjoy writing, love interviewing people and have a lot of fun doing art stuff, especially screen printing shirts with my favourite person ever, Jhonny (Mystery School). I adore hanging out with my mini foxie dog friend, Vincent and I Love listening to records, reading biographies, watching documentaries and thrifting. I’m the creator of the blog, conversationswithbianca.com and have had my work published in Rolling Stone, art and design magazine No Cure, on Everett True’s Collapse Board and I’m a staff writer for Tavi Gevinson’s teen girls’ mag, Rookie. I do collaborative projects with awesome LA-based publication Sound Colour Vibration too. Very soon I will be writing for a couple of other outlets: a collective of kick ass female creatives from around the world and the other is a fashion collective. I believe in self-empowerment and betterment through self-knowledge, DIY, Magick and PMA.

H&W: How did your journey with journalism start?

BV: I started out making my own independent publications – zines – when I was 15-years-old and it grew from there. I started writing for (now defunct) Brisbane street press Rave Magazine in 1997, reviewing live shows, music and interviewing musicians (I did around 200 live reviews and 400 interviews for them). The editor gave me the green light to write for them after I had a meeting with him and showed him my zines. I contributed to the publication for around 15 years mostly doing all the punk stuff.


H&W: Your resume is full of a lot of really engaging interviews where your subjects really go deep and open up to you. What is your process when it comes to conducting a meaningful interview with an artist and what level of discipline does it require?

BV: Thank you Dan. I’m glad you enjoy my work, it means a lot. What you’re doing with Heavy & Weird is pretty cool too. It’s nice to read thoughtful, lengthy features online. I like that you don’t follow formulas or rules and that you don’t just copy and paste press releases and content from other sites. Both you and your writers exercise your own opinions and write from the heart.

As for conducting meaningful interviews, I believe that the following is important: curiosity, lots of research, genuine interest in the person you’re interviewing and their work, solid questions that haven’t been asked of them before, listening is very important and using your intuition. I was watching an interview with journalist/media personality Larry King the other day and he said, “I never learnt anything while I was talking.” I think that’s a great thing to remember, I feel the same way. I’m also really good at tuning into people’s energy. I seem to find people to interview at really interesting, challenging times, often when they’re at turning points in their lives.

Knowing as much as you can about your subject is important. The more you know, the easier it is for you to go wherever the conversation takes you. A lot of books on interviewing that I’ve read have said that the journalist should be in control of the conversation, I don’t believe in that totally though. In my mind we’re both artists and it’s as if we’re working on a collaboration together. I’m not into fulfilling the artist’s publicist, labels or management’s agenda. I am mindful of what the artist is promoting and working on, but there is so much more to an artist than what they’re selling. As you’ve observed, I like to go deeper. I find the best conversations happen when you don’t have a rigid agenda. Depending on which publication I’m writing for, it can also influence the way I do the interview. I’m lucky that I get to write for a variety of publications that have different tones and personalities that enjoy and value my work.

When it comes to my work I’m pretty much always on, always absorbing stuff, always keeping notes. I am constantly working on my craft. Reading and watching lots of interviews helps you to get to know what works and what might not, question-wise, in interviews. I always keep a note book and pen with me too, because I’ve found that inspiration strikes often when you least expect it.

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Bianca with Tavi Gevinson

H&W: As an artist yourself, do you find that it is easier to connect to the people you are interviewing because you understand and respect the unique process involved with creative communication – regardless of whether the subjects medium is art, music, fashion etc – and how do you as a writer gain that respect from the artists you speak to?

BV: I think one of the biggest reasons I connect with people I’m interviewing is the fact that I care and my questions show that. As I’m sure you’re aware, sometimes bigger artists do days of pretty much nothing but interviews, so the same stock standard questions most mainstream publications and media outlets ask, get tiresome. When they get to someone like me with fresh, thoughtful questions that show I’m knowledgeable about their body of work and career they get excited and are more than happy to open up. I want to talk about what the artist wants to talk about. An interested interview subject will engage with you. I don’t shy away from asking tough questions either. I have a lot of creative friends and I like to interview them, so if you have a pre-existing relationship with someone that can also produce an engaging interview. Same goes for interviewing someone repeatedly throughout their career, you build trust and connection. Over time I’ve become friends with many people I’ve interviewed, which is nice.

 

H&W: I’ve been a big fan of your writing for quite a while and one of your most engaging pieces of writing has been your Conversations with Punx project. How did this project come about?

BV: I’ve always been inclined to lean towards mysticism, ancient knowledge, the esoteric and the spiritual. As a kid I had a lot of books on myths, ancient civilizations, witchcraft, and stuff like that. I am incredibly fascinated by history and documenting things. When I started the project I was diagnosed with severe depression. I was questioning a lot of things, like people and situations in my life, most of all myself. I had some bad people in my life that didn’t have my best interests at heart, when people show you who they really are you should believe them. I have a tendency to see the best in people and focus on the positive which sometimes can get you in a not so great place; I’ve learnt to find a nice balance these days. At the time I started to search for something more, something better than where I was at. I decided to explore that through the medium I knew best—punk rock. I did my first interview for the project in 2003 and now in 2014 I’m pretty sure I’ve done my last interview…I did it only a few weeks back and it was really powerful, revealing and made me face stuff that I’d been pushing down deep inside myself and that was blocking me to finishing the project. That conversation kicked my ass you could say.

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Copies of Bianca’s Conversation With Punx Series

H&W: With the rise of the digital age, we’ve seen the dumbing down of engaging and meaningful communication. How do you keep your message full of light and love in an era that no longer favours depth and intensity?

BV: Well, what’s the alternative to having a message of light and love? I have no interest in the opposite of that…I’ve experienced too much pain and negativity in my life that I have consciously chosen to fill my life with love and light and to promote that. Have you ever read the book, The Four Agreements? One of the agreements is to be impeccable with your word meaning, “Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the Word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your Word in the direction of truth and love.” There’s already too much negativity in this world, I will not add to that. I will do what I do regardless of trends and what everyone else is doing. You know, I have bad days just like everyone else but everyone doesn’t need to know my problems, they have enough of their own. I’m a pretty private person and I get conflicted about how much of myself to share, especially online. I have a hard time being in the spotlight, I like my work to speak for itself.

 

H&W: In 2011 you were the Zine maker of the year. How important has fanzine culture been to your creative evolution and in the digital age, how important is it to keep the underground music scenes alive through this vehicle of communication?

BV: Most of the time I feel like an outsider amongst outsiders…to be honest I’ve never felt part of the zine culture so much. I started working on remedying that and trying to get involved more with other zine makers by starting the zine collective, Paper Cuts Collective with zine dudes I know, Staples and Matt Limmer. I really love Justin George’s zine, Wasted Opportunities and I love fellow Rookie contributors Suzy X’s stuff and Brodie Lancaster’s Filmme Fatales.

 

H&W: What connects you so deeply to the art that you write about and why is art so important to your existence?

BV: Art needs to move me in some way, if it doesn’t I’m wasting my time. I get things pitched to me all day long by PR people, management and labels. It’s very rare I connect with what they’re selling. I’m online every day actively seeking out new music and art. I love mixtapes and mix-CDs too. If someone has taken time to lovingly curate a mix, more often than not it’s going to rule.

As far as my own art, I’ve been exploring what I can do creatively. It’s not even always about the final product of the art, it’s about the process and the connection that comes with sharing. Until now I’ve always been kind of scared to share my own art. My whole life I’ve been surrounded by such talented people who I always saw as true artists and well…I didn’t think of me as one at all. I just make stuff. I’m getting better at owning what I do. I had a really interesting conversation with my friend Ian from Japanther about this last week, you can read it here: http://conversationswithbianca.com/2014/06/07/japanther-interview/

 

H&W: Who has been the most influential person in your life when it comes to your writing?

BV: There’s a few. Anthony Bozza, if I could write half as well as him, I’d be happy. Everett True has helped me a lot to be more confident in what I’m doing; I joke with him too that I usually do the opposite of what he suggests, or how he does things…his passion for music and championing of female artists is incredibly inspiring. Tavi and the contributors at Rookie are just the greatest extended family a gal could ask for; each one of them is crazy talented and inspire me every day with their work. I cry reading Rookie all the time because it resonates so much with me. My homie, Erik Otis from Sound Colour Vibration has one of the most inspiring work ethics ever and his words are poetry—he really cares about what he does! I’m also inspired by songwriters like Matt Caughthran from The Bronx, Jesse Michaels, Jennifer Charles from Elysian Fields, Elisabeth Esselink aka Solex…I could go on for days here. I love word play and poetic licence. The rhythm of words fascinates me too. In life in general my Jhonny inspires me more than any other person ever has, he’s the most phenomenal soul I’ve ever known.

 

H&W: You’d had the opportunity to interview some of the most influential figures in Punk Rock, how has that helped change and evolve your understanding of what Punk Rock is and circa 2014, what does Punk Rock mean to you?

BV: Punk to me is about: individuality, creativity, posi energy, fearlessness, community and togetherness. I’ve picked up little bits and pieces along the way, there’s too much to explain it all here. When you read my project’s book you’ll get a much better understanding.

 

H&W: If you engage the various music publications, both physical and digital, you find a lot of lazy and clichéd forms of journalism and a lot of negative reporting. What do you think is the main influence of the laziness that can exist in the mainstream music media?

BV: For the most part, I don’t really care what other people are doing. I like to focus on my own work. To answer your question, maybe stuff like writers and journalists not truly caring about what they’re doing, treating it just like any other job…being enamoured by celebrities etc., free perks etc. rather than the actual work and craft. I make my own media and teach others to make their own media through workshops.

 

H&W: How would you describe your dedication to Spirituality and how does this influence your writing?

BV: My writing and interviewing is part of my spiritual practice. I am dedicated to it for life. It is my life. Spirituality is life.

 

H&W: What is your definition of bad music?

BV: As I’ve said before, I like to concentrate on, and promote positive things I enjoy. Bad music is subjective to people’s taste. People can listen to whatever they want. There’s room for everything, except (in my eyes) racist, sexist…you get the picture, kind of stuff. That being said, raises the idea of freedom of speech and free will; should people be allowed to say and think what they want? It’s a complex issue.

 

H&W: What is your definition of bad journalism?

BV: Pretty much the same as what I’ve said for bad music. Getting specific I would add though: cutting and pasting press releases; journalist not asking researched questions; reviews written to a formula, ripping apart something to get attention; misleading headlines…those are a few things that come to mind right now.

 

H&W: What is your definition of bad art?

BV: I don’t like labelling something that has come from a fellow Creatives heart as bad. It might be very important to them or cathartic for them dealing with stuff in life. You have no idea what battles most people face in their daily lives, art is something that can offer relief from that. I encourage as many people as I can to create, especially the ones that don’t believe they are creative. I believe we’re all creative in some way. We’re creations our self after all. I even support my friends that do art whose work I might not personally be into, it’s important to nurture that creative spirit in people and to encourage art. Being an artist has helped me navigate life without killing myself.

 

H&W: With such a rich dedication to the history of music, who are some of your favourite musical acts?

BV: I love people that do interesting things and that are always challenging themselves. I like people that help foster community too. Some favourites off the top of my head are Japanther, Regurgitator, Monsterheart, Mystery School, Le Butcherettes and Bosnian Rainbows, CSS, Nightmare Air, Against Me, The Units, Del The Funky Homospaien, Pyyramids, Little Trouble Kids, Millionaire, Arcane of Souls, Santigold, Quintron and Miss Pussycat, Secret Chiefs 3, 13th Floor Elevators, Mark Lanegan, Gogol Bordello, Chad VanGaalen, Gary Numan, Designer Imposter, PJ Harvey…

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Bianca with Gary Numan

H&W: What projects do you have coming up?

BV: My new Conversations With Punx zine #9 “Magick” will be out by the end of this month. It features chats with OFF!’s Keith Morris, ex-Blondie bassist and esoteric writer Gary Lachman, Wade Youman from Unwritten Law, Ian from Japanther and Don Foose from the Spudmonsters. I also have like 16 interviews in the works for my site. I’m putting the book version on CWP together. I’m shooting to have that out next year.

 

H&W: I believe that an artist’s role within society is to tell the truth. I see all the work you do as not only some of the most vital pieces of communication I’ve ever read but as a work of art itself. To my eyes when I read it, it comes together like a song and is full of different emotional dynamics that help it connect to the reader. In a world that values censorship and fevered egos your existence within the reporting of the art world is a treasured one. How important is it to stay true to your morals and belief systems in an industry that generally favours shallowness and fear? What is your advice to young artists and writers who are trying to make a difference and find an audience whilst staying true to their own truth and moral codes?

BV: It’s everything. Truth is the ultimate. It’s the highest. You can’t escape yourself. You need to be able to put your head on the pillow at night and know you’re living your truth and that you’ve done your best. If you’re not being truthful you’re not being your best. My first CWP zine was called “Truth” because that is super important to me. As far as advice, just do you. Don’t try to be someone else or fit into what you think others want you to be. Write and create from your heart, that’s what will make your work special and yours because no one else can do you. Don’t be swayed by others, think for yourself.

Thanks for this interview Dan. It’s weird for me being the interview subject…ha! Thanks for the work you do at H&W, glad you guys exist.

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Useful Links:

Conversations With Bianca Website: http://conversationswithbianca.com/

 

Interview Conducted by: Dan Newton

 

 

 

 

 

HEAVY AND WEIRD – END OF YEAR LIST – VOLUME ONE – TOP ELEVEN AUSTRALIAN ALBUMS OF 2013

 

It is my favourite part of the year, the time where I get to sit down and work out all of my favourite releases of 2013 and today I want to share with you the top eleven albums released by Australian artists in 2013. There has been an amazing amount of music released from Australia in 2013 and I got to review a lot of it. Here are my picks in terms of the best – please read and enjoy


Top Eleven Australian Albums of 2013

1. “In Blood Memory” by Jen Cloher

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When I reflect on what makes a great album I think about the way an artist attacks all my senses. There has to be an initial explosion from the moment you turn the album on that pulls you in and just takes over your world. A great album will infect you deeply with every inch of it swirling in your head. It will be all you think about, it will consume you to the point of needing to clear schedules just so you can hear it. You’ll arrive to work 15 minutes late just so you can hear that bit more of it in your car stereo. A great album will block out all of the cruelty of the world and in its place create a world of beauty designed by your own imagination. Some albums simply sound great and you can acknowledge the craftsmanship that went into its creation. Other albums, the ones that matter and the ones that are timeless will never need to be explained beyond the way it leaves you changed. An album is merely a piece of dialogue between you and the artists involved, sometimes it can be simple small talk but other times it will erupt years of meaningful conversations and answers to your questions. It will serve as the ultimate imaginary friend and will help you celebrate life no matter the occasion or emotion. A great album will be a timeless artefact that helps give meaning to your life and act as the best voice for that internal yearning that you feel.

That is what happens when I listen to “In Blood Memory” and it is only in its infancy in terms of its release and the time I’ve spent with it. It is the right album for the space I find myself in at this current moment and regardless of what people believe or interpret as “being successful” I know within my own heart and from listening with my own ears that Jen Cloher has made a new modern classic that should be worshiped and ripped off by anyone and everyone looking to make a timeless piece of art.

2. “I See Seaweed” by The Drones

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I don’t think I could ever give a bad review to The Drones. I believe that it is impossible for me to ever find a fault with the music that this band makes. It is everything I love about rock n roll and they always explode all kinds of revolution when I listen to them. I don’t mean to sound crude or competitive or “well you just have no taste” but regardless of my “don’t get offended you fevered ego” plea you’re probably still going to take it wrong. Blah, fuck it, I’ll say it – I think The Drones make the entire modern legion of Straylian band’s sound redundant. If that modern legion was a food group they’d be the empty (and very dangerous) calories contained in fast food and The Drones would be a well prepared (possibly fully organic / potentially vegan) feast. You leave satisfied and content, not bloated and full.

Blah blah blah blah blah though, I don’t want to tangle this review up with paragraphs of why “sample a” is better than “sample b” because honestly it is none of my business what music people choose to like. My job is to review the new album from The Drones called “I See Seaweed” – so let me go from the a to the z of why this album is a brilliant piece of art.

Again, like all of the bands previous albums this record is an exercise in making sure that you listen without distraction. Clear your schedule, take the day off work and avoid a Friday / Saturday night of partying to stay inside glued to your headphones and this album. This is a journey album, you hang on every note and you go on the ride. There are some new cosmic touches that are added to the usual dust and crazy horse slacked out guitar noise. The music on “I See Seaweed” surrounds you, it engulfs your environment until you are in a cocoon of nightmarish divinity and stark late night highway swirls. There is a loneliness and spooky feel to it all and somewhere buried deep inside the stories being spun there is a real sense that loss has somehow themed these songs. I always get deeply moved at the way songs flirt with a sense of beauty but then before they get too refined and layered they rip themselves apart and become excursions into pure self-destruction and chaotic bliss. Over the course of eight tracks the band unfolds deep noise meditations that appeal to everything that aches within you. More aftermath than initial detonation, each track creeps then floats then elevates to a preacher screech and within seconds resurrects a haze of space that heightens the suspense and thrill of the chill. It rarely gives you a chance to remain grounded and you’ll unlock new levels of emotion and also wonder what the fuck just happened. Like a foreign injury, your heart and soul will never truly be the same again and when the noise settles and resolves the smile will return to your face. This becomes the moment that you understand the power of sound, more than before and you’ll mourn the fact that there isn’t enough time in your day to listen to this album on repeat. You’ll walk around your house searching for ways not to return to the album and try and throw yourself into something else but while you attempt to be still your mind will be humming every note inspiring you to boycott routine and return to the album, like a hit and run lover. You won’t get answers, only questions and that is what good rock n roll should do.

3. “She Beats” by Beaches

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As an album “She Beats” is an extreme exercise in divinity and as the album stretches out you find yourself hypnotised by the messy swoony ached dynamics of each song and you just bliss the fuck out waiting for that late night breeze to save you from all of this despair. This is some truly stunning guitar noise and unlike the science of other current psyche rock humans this music is totally free with the improvised moment being the pivotal instrument in orchestrating such soul power.

Fuck, this is the band that should be worshiped instead of all of that indie hype machine psyche rock trash agenda being pushed by more popular outlets of radio and media. All of that hype machine psyche rock trash misses the soul power and BEACHES are way more fucking divine in the way they communicate musically that I find it difficult to put words to how beautiful it is.

Don’t waste time on the popular vote, invest now in BEACHES and do everything you can to source a copy of “She Beats” and make sure you fucking pay top dollar because BEACHES deserve all of your love and your money.

I may be late to the party but I’m sure as fuck not going to be leaving any time soon because BEACHES make the kind of noise that I love to get lost in.

4. “All Our Wires” by Seja

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I could listen to “All Our Wires” for days and believe me when I say that I have. There is a considerable amount of intensity swirling in and out of the sunshine pop. All of the songs carry those hits of late afternoon sun and surround you with their warmth. There is however a degree of emotional chaos inside the warmth and the album itself never lets you rest easy. This is clearly pop music made by a broken hearted human for other broken heart humans who at the best of times feel misunderstood by the world around them.  The sadness all throughout this record is overwhelming and the deep heavy ache that I hear in every song is a thing of beauty. There is no agenda to this music other than honestly expressing the rawness of being open to other humans in the hope of being loved back.

On “All Our Wires” SEJA opens herself up, as she always does, and shows a degree of vulnerability lyrically that allows you the listener to connect to these songs. Each song illustrates what a master communicator SEJA is as a creative human being and as I continually point out again and again, if you want to be an artist that connects with other humans you got to be a great communicator. Dynamically and Stylistically SEJA crafts a wonderful wall of mechanically aided landscapes through various keyboards and synths but although a large portion of her arsenal is of this nature musically there is a very human element to it and its warmth and sincerity is what allows for the mood of the album to build and rush in and out you, it’s a fucking thrilling experience.

The real highlight of this album though is the wonderful fifth track “Imaginations In Hyperspace” which is just such a right on piece of pop music. I’m fairly certain all of the other humans reading this will understand what I’m talking about when I say that I want to marry this song and live with it forever. There is nothing more amazing then when you have a song just hit you and it flows through every inch of you and heightens your emotions to a point where you feel this kind of yearning that almost makes you want to burst it hurts so much. That is the kind of song that “Imaginations In Hyperspace” is and it just takes me away man, far far far far away from the absolute chaos of this fucked up world and I love that, more than I love anything else in the world. To have a beautiful piece of music just transport me away like a fucking spaceship to some other dimension where I can breathe in something more beautiful than the mediocrity of this place called earth that I have to share with these animals known as humans is a healing experience indeed and “Imaginations In Hyperspace” provides this kind of escape. This is by far one of the most beautiful songs of 2013 and you’d be a fucking fool to ignore it.

At the end of the day that is what the whole album does to me, it just acts like fucking rocket ship that takes me so far away from myself and you have no idea how beautiful that feels as a human being who struggles to feel like they belong in this ocean of chaos known as life. That is the power of a great song and a great album and “All Our Wires” does that to me and then some.

Believe me when I say that your decade will be improved once you listen to the wonderful sound that is “All Our Wires” by SEJA who remains to be one hell of an amazing artist that deserves all of your time, money and love because we need her music in this world.

There is nothing more refreshing then hearing and feeling something this real, thank you SEJA for making a fantastic album with “All Our Wires,” you are a star.

5. “Winter Haunts” by The Rational Academy

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So what makes “Winter Haunts” so wonderful and important?

Well the easy answer is the great care that has gone into its creation but I reckon I need to go a bit deeper to sell you the spook. The music has a loose feel but there is also a strict pop discipline pulsating through every track. All of the musical experimentation and noise helps give context to the pop songs lurking underneath. It isn’t about showing off either skill, each song is a meeting place of extreme ideas condensed into smooth pop communications. You can tell that each band member is well versed in the history of music and the way it can influence your sonic dialogue. This is the album the band has been building too for their whole career and even though they have always been unique, the sounds that seduce you on “Winter Haunts” are their strongest yet. The album is a masterpiece of aches and shakes full of hypnotic swirls that take you away to landscapes of beauty and inter-dimensional time travel. This is inside music, to be consumed on your headphones alone, with the lights out as you contemplate every corner of your existence. As the title suggests it haunts and it is clearly coming from four haunted individuals who are collecting all of their internal worlds and through the power of music painting us a picture of their spooky shivers. This is indeed music for people who feel and who need to go deep when they invest in sound. There is not one bad moment contained throughout this album. To reduce it to even simpler terms, “Winter Haunts” gives me the same feeling that I get when I fall in love with a beautiful human being, that feverish feeling of being consumed with that famous Pisces prayer of “I love you so much, it makes me sick,” oh yes indeed you’ll crush hardcore on the sounds of this album.

So what the fuck are you waiting for, move, move, move and fucking buy this amazing piece of art and tell every single person you encounter about it.

6. “All Day Venus” by Adalita

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I cannot express enough just how majestic this record is.  Adalita Srsen is an achingly talented, beautiful musician.  From the opening strains of ‘Annihilate Baby’ through to the closing notes of ‘Rolled In Gold’, All Day Venus hit me in the gut and clawed at my heart.  The melodies, musicianship and songwriting take me back to a time before I started writing music myself; a time before I analysed songs and pulled them apart to figure out how they worked.  This is an album I just want to absorb in its entirety.

7. “Sounds From The Other Side” by Tumbleweed

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Look, I’m not going to dissect this album scientifically for you because it doesn’t deserve that. What this album deserves is for you to buy it, put it on your stereo and to turn it up very loud and let the worries of the world pass you buy. I know that in 2013 every one is busy talking about how great bands like Violent Soho, Dune Rats, Bleeding Knees Club, DZ Deathrays, John Steel Singers, Cloud Control and Tame Impala are at making alternative rock n roll that is linked to all things stoner, psyche, pop and rock. I just don’t have time for those bands because they just don’t have it, all of those bands are like a collective weak handshake compared to Tumbleweed.

Believe me when I say that Tumbleweed still have it and then some. On “Sounds From The Other Side” Tumbleweed prove that their return is not an exercise in Nostalgia, this is about the evolution of the riff and the evolution of all things great about psyche drenched rock n roll. From start to finish this album is a journey that showcases a band whose maturity has lead them to make a sound that is familiar yet still about pushing the boundaries of their original dynamics. This album is about the amazing chemistry that the original line-up of Tumbleweed had and still has; this is unfinished business and a totally mature take on the already flawless sound created by the band between 1990 and 1995.

There is a new progressive spirit rolling in and out of the mountainous riffage with more focus on the psychedelic side of things with Richie’s brilliant melodies giving so much beautiful emotional direction to the behemoth guitar riff orchestras on display. On top of the riffage there is an amazing swagger from the rhythm section with that beautiful Jay Curley Bottom End giving an ugly yet soulful intensity to the sludge of the guitars.

For a very long time I thought that “Mumbo Jumbo” represented the natural evolution of where Tumbleweed had to go as a band. After sitting through “Sounds From The Other Side” it has become quite clear that this is not the case because the music made by Tumbleweed circa 2013 is more intense, heavier, and weirder and covered in a hell of a lot more psyche and prog dynamics than Tumbleweed circa 2000. What “Sounds From The Other Side” represents is the natural evolution of the Tumbleweed sound circa 1995. Much like the re-united Dinosaur Jr whilst the band leans on the spirit of their formative years (1990 to 1995) the creative growth the band illustrated post Galactaphonic (Return To Earth and Mumbo Jumbo) is still on full display even though only three of the five members were present during this era.

Career Logistics aside, the main point to focus on is that this is not about Nostalgia and it is the first new steps of a new path for Tumbleweed. There were always going to be similarities stylistically to the bands older material but like Soundgarden did with King Animal, there is also a new mood for a new decade of progression. The importance of “Sounds From The Other Side” is in the fact that it re-establishes the band right back where it belongs, making incredibly vital alternative rock n roll.

As a fan of Tumbleweed I get chills every time I press play on this record. I am literally flawed with how brilliant the album is and I feel blessed to have Lenny, Jay, Steve, Paul and Richie back together making noise once again. When I first heard Tumbleweed, the term Stoner Rock was not something that existed in my vocabulary, but as the years progressed I started to understand that the love I started to have for “that sound” all started 18 years ago with Galactaphonic. In 2013 I feel like I’m a bit of a Stoner Rock fiend even though I hate the genre term myself but I guess I just love “that sound” which it’s attached to. To hear one of the pioneering bands of that sound making something so vital and so progressive in this current climate of mediocrity is so fucking refreshing.

I am in love with this album and I’m still discovering it which thrills me even more. There is longevity to this album and I feel like it will take me months to fully find all of the wonderful little nuances of each and every track. I may be a fan of lot of different genres of music but nothing gets me off like a really great rock record and “Sounds From The Other Side” is a fantastic and totally exquisite piece of rock n roll.

I can’t wait for the next ten years of Tumbleweed history, thank fuck they are back.

8. “Self-Titled” by Spiderbait

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I’ve found it hard to turn this album off because Spiderbait are incredibly smart with the way they weave pop skills in and out of their music. What really hit me about this album are some of the darker lyrical tones and themes of the record. I felt like I’ve possibly made this point about a lot of bands I’ve reviewed recently but there are some heavy themes of loss and musings on mortality on the brand new Spiderbait record. There are an incredible amount of references to escape and whether it is a heavy dose of fiction or a truthful tale of desire and need for disconnection remains to be seen. There are some truly beautiful moments that erupt as a result of this darkness and although it’s not a new dynamic within the sound of Spiderbait it certainly carries with it the wisdom of age and a maturity of humans who have collectively seen and felt a lot of varying emotions since we last heard from them.

Three songs in particular that demonstrate this darkness are the beautiful intergalactic space jam balladry of “Supersonic” the mournful funeral march sunshine of “Mars” and the kaleidoscopic simplicity of “Goodbye” all of which carry an angsty dirge and reflective pace. Whilst these songs are carefully placed within the brighter rock / pop tones of the rest of the album these are the songs that jumped out at me when I listened to the record as they carried with them a new kind of ache that I hadn’t heard inside the Spiderbait sound before. A terrible sense of loss radiates from these three songs with a heavy sense of sadness.

This mood infects the rest of the album in more subtle ways with lead single “Straight Through The Sun” carrying the same kind of angst but trades sadness for a middle finger and the freedom of saying “Fuck You” to the world around you and just going full speed ahead into the unknown. This punk rock gallop via Motorhead snarl is continued on album highlight “Miss The Boat” which is one of the best Spiderbait songs you’ll ever hear, just balls to the wall rock n roll goodness. To harp on an earlier point, I really must refer back to the brilliance of “Supersonic” which quite frankly is one of the most beautiful songs ever written. It’s no secret how much I love the sound of Janet’s voice and the way she can spin all kinds of beauty with it. On “Supersonic” Janet is in fine form and showcases her flawless talent for being a pop singer with the vintage synth sound and Carole King AM frame of the song separating it as the best thing on this record and no doubt a future hit single.

There is so much I could say about the new “Self-Titled” Spiderbait album but I think the beauty of this record is that it opens up a new decade for the band. There is an incredible amount of evolution present on this album that will allow for another 20 years of music to be made. I love Spiderbait and once again they have proved that the importance to making timeless music is to dig deep into your soul and communicate honestly. The darkness of this record is what thrills me and whether or not the band are musing on loss related to death or just the turmoil of human relationships it suits the band and I look forward to this darkness being explored deeper on the next couple of records.

This is a flawless collection of pop music that bows down to the bliss of rock n roll fury and like all good music, takes you to some pretty intergalactic places when it’s just you  alone in your bedroom with your headphones and your thoughts.

9. “Hidden Horizons” by Ghost Notes

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All of the joy and disappointments pour out of these songs and the lack of vocals add to the intensity because you as the listener have full artistic license to dream up your own meanings and landscapes purely by digesting the emotional performances of each song.

The intense Australian sense of melancholy on display is in line with the stark yet beautiful ache illustrated by artists like Dirty Three and Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds. I also hear the yearning and swoony late night doom-jazz sounds of a band like Bohren & Der Club of Gore but I also wonder if a band like Boards of Canada didn’t also influence the direction of Ghost Notes sound. All of these comparisons aside, it is safe to say that even though I use the above mentioned bands as a way to compare it needs to be said that Ghost Notes truly have their own sound and “Hidden Horizons” is the perfect example of how unique this band is.

Look, you can be the kind of human who looks to impress other humans by remaining plugged into what hip modern culture sells you as art soaked independent music or you could actually really colour outside the lines and stand behind a band like Ghost Notes. You may not impress the hip modern vultures but you’ll at least have a pure heart and clean soul for rejecting the beige regime of people just playing “songs” and finally engage something truly unique, envelope pushing and genuinely emotional.  When I muse on the power and importance of Brisbane music bands like Ghost Notes are the ones I’m willing to stand behind and be proud to say are from the same music community that I participate in.

Ghost Notes are an absolutely fantastic bunch of humans making future music for those of us who desire something unique. Their brand new album “Hidden Horizons” is a flawless illustration of when art triumphs over commerce and that the most relevant, dangerous, experimental and emotional independent music is being made by the humans completely disconnected from the cocksucking thundercunts of that big indie dollar machine.

10. “This Is Not The End” by Baby Animals

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Suze DeMarchi has possibly the greatest female rock & roll voice of all time.

It’s an absolute pleasure to hear her in front of a virile, muscly rock & roll band again.  Sonically, not much has changed since 1991, DeMarchi is in phenomenal voice throughout the entire record, and the band sounds like the late 90′s and 00′s never even happened.  This is an unashamedly big, stadium rock record, full of Dave Leslie’s guitar solos, a rock-solid rhythm section, and that voice.

That voice also has a lot to say.  The album kicks off with lead single ‘Email’, a volatile stab of anger that sounds like it’s aimed squarely at DeMarchi’s ex-husband Nuno Bettencourt.  Real heartbreak and anger seem to be at the heart of the record, and this means that nothing comes across as manufactured or forced.  The end result is that in this day in age it sounds completely refreshing and new, even if the band is stuck in 1991.

11. “I’m A Bird” by Sam Buckingham

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I have loved listening to this album for the past week, fuck; it is so amazing that I find it hard to find the words to describe it. There is just an amazing quality to the songs and the tales being spun by Sam and the album has been birthed from an intense amount of heartbreak experience.

The other wonderful thing about “I’m A Bird” is the humour sprinkled across these heartbreak tunes. I love the beautiful cynicism of the lyrics, direct and cryptic but full of stories that you can tell were lived quite deeply by its author. I hope she fell in love with her muse after all the drama, I hope it was worth the fight because this album made me want to fall in love, with something, with someone. I found myself yearning for that youthful exchange of asking a human out for a coffee and that “whatever happens” adventure that can occur after that moment, you know where you summon the courage to steal a kiss or two. That is what this album inspires in me when I listen to it, the romantic and the need for a romantic connection with another human being.

I’m sure glad I discovered this album, because it has been the perfect late night soundtrack for standing on my back deck as I sip chai tea, smoke a cigarette and just indulge the silence of late night bliss.

Stay tuned for our Top Eleven Australian Singles / Ep’s of 2013

By: Dan Newton

All Reviews written by Dan Newton except “All Day Venus” by Adalita and “This Is Not The End” by Baby Animals which were written by Clint Morrow

 

 

PEARL JAM – No Code – A Reflection

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Whilst I find it extremely difficult to nominate my favourite Pearl Jam album the one record that I keep coming back to is the bands fourth record “No Code” which was released on the 27th August 1996. What makes this record such an exquisite movement of music is the way in which it allowed Pearl Jam to break free and really establish certain dynamics creatively that would help them survive for the next seventeen years of their career. For the humans who weren’t there when this album was released I suspect that they won’t have a handle on just how much division this album caused upon its release. It was indeed a very challenging record for any Pearl Jam fan but in 1996 at the height of my angst I felt extremely challenged by this record. A number of things, courtesy of hindsight, have helped me understand this album more but it wasn’t until I was 18 years old in 2001 that I truly started to see the power of “No Code” as a record.

In 1996 no other band mattered more to me than Pearl Jam and since I first discovered them in 1994 until that present moment, no other form of music made me feel the way they did. A lot of the power of Pearl Jam’s music at that point in my life came from the rush of all that distortion and heaviness. The mid-tempo songs and the ballads provided a good balance dynamically on the band’s first three records but it was the rage and the rock n roll that really resonated with me. Without much musical knowledge at that point in my life, I thought it was just a more refined version of heavy metal. I’d heard the words “punk rock” thrown around in regards to Pearl Jam back then but I still really didn’t understand what that was. The best part of the band’s sound I thought was the intense emotions communicated by Ed Vedder; it was really dark and matched a lot of how I was feeling at the time. At that point in my life I felt incredibly alienated from humans my own age, so the loud intensity of Pearl Jam was destined to connect with me.

In 1996 when the band announced that they were releasing a new album I automatically felt that we’d get a more intense version of “Vitalogy” which was at that point my favourite Pearl Jam album. It’s probably hard to imagine for humans now but back in 1996 the only way that you could hear a bands new single was if the Radio played it. The internet was not a common household thing and the only way to find out about new music was via the radio and of course a range of different print media. The first glimpse of “No Code” came via Triple J who at the time worshipped at the altar of Pearl Jam. All of those Seattle bands dominated Triple J back in 1996 so naturally they were going to have the exclusive. I can’t exactly remember when it was debuted but I have a distinct memory of hearing the first single “Who You Are” on Triple J with my Brother. We of course recorded the thing to a cassette tape as it was happening and thank fuck we did because to be honest the song itself really confused me. This was indeed a very different Pearl Jam that was coming out of my stereo speakers and I was not sure if I did or didn’t like it.

It of course feels silly now in hindsight for me to say that because of how much I now love that song, but I was 12 going on 13 and did not have the capacity to cope with the new level of maturity Pearl Jam were displaying. This maturity in sound both intrigued me and alienated me at the same time, I knew that I liked it but I was also not expecting it considering the bands previous albums. I had such young ears back then and was still not totally plugged in to the politics of creative evolution and a bands need for change musically in order to feel fulfilled as artists. I had so much to learn about the punk rock spirit at that point in my life.

Another massive part of the “No Code” era is the way in which the band completely overhauled and took control of their image. This is not to say that they were controlled by the corporate machine early on, but after all the fame and the hype the band started to adopt a bit more of a faceless approach taking the focus off them as individuals and instead putting the spotlight on what was important to them, the music. This deconstruction of the bands image had started with the release of their second album “VS” with the bands commitment to not releasing video clips and other related stances being a big part of the change. In terms of the reason why the band went down this path has a lot to do with them regaining some control over how the corporate music machine wanted the band to operate.

Slowly but surely the band started to shake off a section of their audience that they deemed inappropriate to what they were about as five individuals. Regardless of who was driving this deconstruction, it was quite clear that a big part of it was driven by Ed Vedder in an attempt to distance himself from celebrity culture so that he could be taken seriously as an artist. There was a lot of criticism leveled at Pearl Jam in the early days with a lot of the more pure punk rock souls labeling them as “corporate rock stars” and really calling into question the bands credibility.

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 A lot of this kind of stuff was lost on me at the time because I didn’t really understand the whole social hierarchy that existed between mainstream and underground artists. For me it was pretty simple back then, if your album was available in a record store, your song was on the radio, your film clip was on TV and your band was in a magazine then I thought you were a rockstar making a living from playing music.  To me, the measure of a bands popularity or “mainstream appeal” stemmed on how many people at school like them and how many didn’t. Even though Pearl Jam were incredibly popular where I went to school it still didn’t resonate as something “mainstream” more a reflection of what youth culture was attracted to at this point in time.

All that aside, what the band was attempting to do with “No Code” – becoming a faceless band – really started to work and I noticed a lot of the cooler humans at school begin to distance themselves from Pearl Jam and for the first time in my life I started to encounter that terrible imposter stain of “I only like their first three albums” syndrome that usually kicks in for most bands once they make a radical change creatively. I repeat again, the people who say this kind of thing are a bunch of imposters but you know that’s a debate for another time.

Moving back into my relationship with “No Code” as an album, although I had a heavy amount of indifference towards the first single from the album I learned to love it and the fresh new rhythm provided by the bands new drummer Jack Irons really gave a new direction and pulse to the sound of Pearl Jam as a whole. This was also a point in time where Pearl Jam had started to hang out and begin a very fruitful relationship with Neil Young.

It wasn’t until I was 18 years old that I discovered how important the influence of Neil Young was on “No Code” and although I was aware of who he was I didn’t investigate his music until I was, as I have mentioned, 18 years old. Pearl Jam themselves had just cut a record with Neil prior to “No Code” called “Mirror Ball” and also acted as his backing band for one of his tours. This experience clearly changed and matured the band to a point where they were able to keep the rage and angst but shed the juvenile nature of these emotions and adopt a more grown up approach to expressing the ache caught deep inside of each member.

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The first thing you notice on “No Code” is just how emotional a record it is but instead of the previous focus on full on attack / rage, “No Code” sees the band deliver more intense performances via the more subdued and quieter tracks. The opening track of the album “Sometimes” is a perfect example of this and stands to be one of the most important opening tracks in the history of Pearl Jam’s career, both past, present and future. The power of a song like “Sometimes” is its ability to say so much in such a short space of time and to also do it with an epic amount of space and heavy mood.

There is a beautiful plea from Vedder lyrically about the pressures of success and how in the post-Cobain landscape a lot of people started to question what was really achieved by the rise and fall of the alternative nation. There is a funeral march to “Sometimes” and an incredible amount of shiver and fragility in the vocal delivery especially when the song rises ever so slightly in the middle. The bittersweet emotion is a lot louder than anything previously released by the band and after spending the best part of five to six years fighting for some kind of control within the corporate rock machine, Vedder echoes the feelings of the band by just sounding burnt out and defeated. This defeat can be aimed at the Ticketmaster fight, the fight to be taken seriously as artists, the fight for control of their own creative destiny and the control to be understood.

The loneliness vibe of a song like “Sometimes” is scattered all throughout “No Code” and it is the kind of loneliness that comes from finally having your art swallowed up by millions of people and still feeling incredibly lonely and misunderstood. As a listener this pain displayed by Vedder is to our benefit and connects directly to us as we apply it to our own lives, but if the song “Sometimes” taught me anything it was just how defeated Vedder and the rest of Pearl Jam were and how this disconnection and deconstruction of their sound was vital for their survival as human beings and as a band. There is an exquisite beauty to the way Pearl Jam almost used “No Code” as the sonic representation of just how much private emotional turmoil each member was facing and instead of avoiding the turmoil they let it be reflected through the music. This is one of the most emotionally open records released by a rock n roll band and it is this openness and vulnerability that allowed those fans who loved Pearl Jam to fall deeper in love with their sound and the humans involved with making it.

This loneliness is further explored later in the album on the brilliant sixth track of the album “Off He Goes” which a wonderful country song dirge about the politics of long term friendships.  Once again this song carries with it an intensity that speaks louder than the distorted moments and sees Vedder take on the “storyteller” dynamic lyrically which allows for a fresh perspective on his internal emotional world. It is an easy tale to relate to and although I related to the overall sound of it when I first heard it back in 1996 it wasn’t until I was deep into my twenties that I truly understood the depth of this song’s lyrics.

What “Off He Goes” speaks about is the yearning for your best friend, not the person who you involve yourself with romantically, but your best friend and how through the cruel rhythm of time and “growing up” you find that you spend more time apart than you do together. Going deeper into that there is also a lot of regret radiating through “Off He Goes” which strikes deep into the heart of us all when we know that we’ve been a terrible friend. A song like “Off He Goes” will always be relevant to me because the ever changing cycle of life has the ability to push you closer and further away from human beings you want to spend decades with, not just a few hours. 

To focus on the quieter moments of the album however is to ignore the new sense of fury that was scattered all through the more rocking numbers. Two songs in particular that share a common thread on “No Code” are the brilliant second track “Hail, Hail” and the wonderful seventh track “Habit” which are two songs that further explore the more garage proto-punk sound that the band delved into on “Vitalogy” and of course both songs deliver quite the cathartic release.

By far the most interesting moments of “No Code” occur on three of the more mid-range songs that balance the rock n roll fury with some new rhythmic dynamics to allow for the mood and emotion of the tracks to build at a steady pace with the final payoff being a range of different musical crescendos not yet reached by Pearl Jam as a band, this was some new musical territory that the band would further explore in the next 17 years of their career. The tracks I’m referring to is the Fourth track “In My Tree” the Eighth track “Red Mosquito” and the tenth track “Present Tense”  all of which showcase some brave new sonic territory which gave Pearl Jam some new directions to chase as a band creatively. These three songs document Pearl Jam’s commitment to evolving the rock n roll language and on a totally shallow level these songs are just exquisite examples of the power that Pearl Jam can summons when they communicate musically as a band.

What “In My Tree,” “Red Mosquito” and “Present Tense” offer is a balance in terms of dynamics whilst also stretching the creative template of Pearl Jam’s rock sound. As I mentioned above, Pearl Jam are a rock band but unlike your standard balls to the walls rock n roll approach there is an artistry to the way they communicate and craft their music. What Pearl Jam do as a band is make art for the sake of art not rock music for the sake of rock music and trust me there is a big difference. Rock may be the genre vehicle that the band uses in order to communicate their emotions but the songs they write are treated as pieces of art as opposed to simple distorted attack. It is about total escapism and “In My Tree,” “Red Mosquito” and “Present Tense” are exquisite pieces of art delicately crafted and executed with a level of beauty and raw emotion that very few bands in the rock world come close to matching.

The commitment to making art over just flat out rock music also extends to the visual presentation of “No Code” which is quite a treat and experience for fans of the band that also helped push the “faceless” band ethos to a deeper level. I would define what Pearl Jam did with the album packaging of “No Code” as quite unique and it is rather hard to document with words just want makes it so unique and I guess with the hindsight of time people probably won’t really understand. In 1996 however, Pearl Jam were one of the first bands with a mainstream audience to really move away from the standard Jewel case and using instead the old vinyl presentation for the CD format. The band had debuted this approach on their previous album “Vitalogy” but on “No Code” it was taken to a whole new level. To those humans that were alive during the golden era of vinyl I’m sure what Pearl Jam offered with the packaging of “No Code” was probably not as fresh but for a new generation of music fans who grew up with primarily the CD and Cassette Tape it was revolutionary.

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The cover itself is made up of a whole heap of Polaroid photos that when opened up looks like the above photo. Further to the cover the album also included a set of Polaroid photos inside that had various song lyrics on the back. Each album had a different set of Polaroid photos inside it. My brother purchased “No Code” before me and he brought the CD version, about a month or so later whilst on holiday in Sydney I purchased the cassette tape version which simply contained a single Polaroid photo as the cover and little booklet with the relevant photos and album details. Every cassette tape version of the album had a different Polaroid photo as the album cover; it was an incredibly unique move by an alternative rock band at that point in time. It certainly pushed boundaries and put a focus back on the importance of the physical product being something tangible and artistic so that it matches the music. It was very reminiscent to how bands of the 60’s and 70’s packaged their albums and believe me, it added to the experience of owning “No Code” and how you interacted with the album.

In this current climate of digital downloads an album like “No Code” would be a rarity but I can’t illustrate enough how the artwork of a physical album and the packaging could change the way you related to the record. It won’t always automatically change the sound or appeal of the music but it helps with the mood and how it connects to you. Good album artwork and packaging can build a level of mystery and is a portal into what the band may be attempting to communicate with their music. It’s an incredibly important part of releasing an album proper and I reckon Pearl Jam have always made a continued effort to present their albums with interesting and intriguing artwork. Sometimes it is collaborative but a lot of the times it is driven by Ed Vedder and Jeff Ament. All in all, this band take the full experience of releasing an album very seriously and having been a hardcore fan of the band for the past nineteen years of my life I can safely say that part of the thrill of a new Pearl Jam record is how the band will present the artwork.

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There are also a collection of songs on “No Code” that help the overall flow of the above mentioned tracks and in the process add to the emotional depth that this record has. A lot of imposter humans would refer to such tracks as “filler” but in the case of Pearl Jam this is a false way to refer to these songs because they are the glue that helps bring the more progressive moments of the album together in order to make one cohesive piece of communication. This is not exclusive to just Pearl Jam, any band that I love is renowned for their ability to write the “glue” songs in order to help piece the full scope of a record together. These songs may not hit you instantly and may zoom past as you ache to hear the more progressive / interesting moments of an album but over time as an album makes more sense some of these “glue” songs can become more exciting and relevant to you.

The first example of a “glue” song on “No Code” is the fifth track “Smile” which comes after the freedom bliss of “In My Tree” and plays out just before the country dirge of the sixth track “Off He Goes.” As a song “Smile” is perfect in terms of helping the continuity of the first side of “No Code” and it flat out rocks as a song.  A blues jam at heart with harsh harmonica stabs to help with the dissonance and communication of longing that drips from the song. The intense refrain of “I Miss You Already” is a joyful explosion framed by some heavy hurt and when it hits you there is nothing else you can do but join in on the sing along nature of the song. There is also some other worldly guitar playing from Mike McCready during the course of “Smile” that really lift the song up and in the process takes it to another planet completely. As is the case with most songs on “No Code” the emotional terrain covered in the lyrics focus on the downer of distance and how missing friends and family can be a crippling blow to your mental health.

The second example of a “glue” song occurs in between the eight and tenth track and is the punk rock rush of “Lukin” which is Ed Vedder at his punk rock best. The song “Lukin” goes for barely a minute but in that minute the band pack more angst and rage inside of the song that it really begins to outshine their previous more angry material found on earlier albums. As a punk song it is perfect, as a Pearl Jam song it is a great example of their ability to communicate fury and rage along with a light hint of comedy (check out the lyrics and the history of Matt Lukin to understand the comedy angle) and as the ninth track on “No Code” the rush of “Lukin” provides the perfect bridge to one of the more interesting and most reflective moments on the album, the tenth track “Present Tense” which really remains the centerpiece of this record even though it is packed so deep in on the second side of the album.

The final collection of “glue” songs happen after the tenth track “Present  Tense” and are the eleventh track “Mankind” and the twelfth track “I’m Open” both of which offer some extreme alternatives to what had occurred on the first ten tracks of the album. The main point of difference is that “Mankind” has guitarist Stone Gossard taking over as lead vocalist and what is interesting about this is that he adds a bit of light relief to the intensity communicated by Vedder on the previous tracks.

When “Mankind” kicks in you are almost awaken from the deep escapism of “Present Tense,” a song which puts a massive focus on the whole life and death question. That first riff of “Mankind” wakes you up from this and helps you to put your feet back on the ground for a moment. Where Vedder sings about the wonder of what is beyond us Gossard tends to focus on some more real world “right here, right now” type lyrics. It is a refreshing change of gears but things continue down the path of Vedder escapism once “I’m Open” begins to shiver out of your stereo.

There is a beautiful level of artistic indulgence that happens on “I’m Open” and while most fans probably bypass this track I think it is one of the most important tracks on “No Code” and a stunning piece of emotional communication. The basis of “I’m Open” is a spoken word poem by Ed Vedder that muses on the desire for escape and the need for a brand new self. Although Vedder is leaning on fiction to communicate his desire for escape it is quite clear that the character reflects Vedder’s own desire and need to escape to a new life away from the craziness and the hype of fame. When I listen to “I’m Open” I often wonder if Vedder wants to escape to the past where things felt more innocent or whether it is a need to escape so far into the future that he somehow becomes anonymous.

Regardless of Vedder’s desires, the plea and ache of “I’m Open” is about his desire to remain open to the joy of the world and the people that inhabit it whilst also wanting to remain anonymous. It is a beautiful ride and an important song in the Pearl Jam catalogue that rarely gets sourced, referenced or played. It helps bring context to the “No Code” journey and just what it is that that Pearl Jam are trying to communicate as a band with this particular album. After studying “I’m Open” I am convinced that a big part of “No Code” is about the band, Vedder in particular, trying to find some kind of redemption from all of the pressure and intensity that came along when Seattle became the most talked about music scene in the world. It feels like what Vedder is wanting most is a chance to fit in now that the craziness has passed but at the same time it feels like he remains conflicted as to what fitting into a post-hype world feels like, you can tell he and the band are chasing longevity but what does that mean when so many people are prepared to tune out now that world has moved on to the next cultural explosion. It’s very confronting stuff indeed and it was a question that faced not only the band but the fans as well.

If the journey of “No Code” is about finding some kind of redemption and or longevity after the craziness of fame and hype has disappeared then the final track on the album – “Around The Bend” – is the perfect full stop and point of resolve. There is a heavy dose of calm with the albums thirteenth and final track and like the sixth track “Off He Goes” the appeal of “Around The Bend” is in its country dirge and the way it uses a more subdued language to frame the pain.  The main difference though is that “Around The Bend” has a small peppering of hope scattered throughout the song. This is indeed a love song but it can be applied to a love of so much more than some physical human being.

The imagery of “Around The Bend” rests on the notion that for all the drama and all the chaos that change is always just around that bend and that holding on for that change is always worth it. As a song “Around The Bend” is the final lesson in the “No Code” journey and for all the confusion and rage and pain and longing that presents itself on the album, “Around The Bend” offers the freedom of the sweet hits of sunshine when the night begins to disappear and the morning is starting to birth itself. It is an incredibly beautiful piece of music to end the album with and really signals both an ending and a new beginning.

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All of these wonderful elements that I have spoken about over the course of this article took me a great many years to realise and understand. When I first heard that album as a 12 going on 13 year old I favoured the distorted moments because that was where my emotional intelligence was situated. I wanted the fury and the rage and although there wasn’t as much attack on “No Code” as I was previously used to with Pearl Jam, the few songs that offered this made it an album worth listening to. I was never deterred from the band or the album however, I may have been confused but I understood from the various interviews I read back in 1996 that “No Code” was about maturity and escaping the sounds established on the bands earlier albums, it was about becoming the faceless band that they – well at least Ed Vedder – desired.

When I re-visited the album five years later in 2001, I was 17 going on 18 and I carried with me a new level of emotional intelligence and understanding of music. I was also in the throes of becoming a hardcore fan of artists like Neil Young and R.E.M. who were big influences on both Pearl Jam and the entire alternative nation that I discovered back in 1994. It was through the wisdom of my good friend Brett Wyatt who I met in 2001 at my day job working in the Queensland Ambulance Service Administration Office back in Bundaberg that I started to re-visit the glory of “No Code” as an album. I remember clearly Brett praising the artistry of “No Code” and claiming it was his favourite album comparing it heavily to the music Neil Young made. My brother was also reaching a similar position and he also influenced me to once again delve deeper into the album to try and understand it a bit better.

It was that moment in 2001 when Pearl Jam became the focus of all my attention once more that I started to unlock certain parts of the sound that had escaped me earlier in my teenage years. The real joy this time round however came from listening to “No Code,” “Yield” and their most recently released album (at that point) “Binaural” and  combining this with the sentimentality of “Ten,” “VS” and “Vitalogy.” All of a sudden I started to worship the mature sound developed by the band from “No Code” to “Binaural” and it became more important to me than the first three records. You see, some bands learn how to survive and through that survival they manage to develop a longevity that is an incredibly rewarding experience for the fans.  

Although popular culture was turning further away from the healing power of Pearl Jam in 2001 I fell deeper in love with the band and from 2001 until 2013 I have maintained the belief that “No Code” is the bands greatest artistic achievement thus far. They have of course gone on to write better music but there is something important about “No Code” that allowed for that progression to happen for Pearl Jam and their career will forever be in debt to “No Code” and it’s place in their history as a band. There are a lot of different and amazing elements that help make “No Code” a brilliant album but I think the real appeal of it for me now is the way it helped set free the band and allowed them to last as long as they have.

 I touched on this earlier but a lot of the imposters tend to only ever talk about “Ten,” “VS,” and “Vitalogy” when it comes to the history of music made by Pearl Jam. Whilst these three records provide a flawless introduction to Pearl Jam it wasn’t until “No Code” that the band really came into their own and crafted out their own unique language. Some would argue they did this on the three albums prior to “No Code” but after spending 19 years of my life dedicated to this band I firmly believe that it is the work the band did from “No Code” onwards  that truly holds the revolution in terms of sound, image and their overall communication as artists.

When I talk about the artistry of Pearl Jam and what it is I want people to respect about them I’m always going to lean on “No Code” as the finest example of just how vital their sound and legacy is. It may be the album that “imposters” list as the album where the band “lost it” or “sold out” but you see the band did nothing of the sorts. It was the fans and the trend that “lost it” and “sold out” trading in the Seattle experience for the next trendy hit of culture. It wouldn’t have mattered what kind of album Pearl Jam made back in 1996, natural attrition tells us that most bands or artists associated with a pop culture explosion usually only have a good five years in the spotlight before they are replaced. That is not to say these bands themselves don’t continue on, there relevance depends on the real appreciators of music – humans who respect music – not the imposters to help aid the longevity. The other most important factor in a band surviving more than five years is their commitment to making art as opposed to just strict commerce.

Pearl Jam has always be a band dedicated to making forward thinking art music through the vehicle of Rock Music. To have lasted as long as they have is a tribute to the re-building of their band that happened with “No Code” and whether you agree or disagree with me you have to at least respect the creative risk taken by the band at such an important turning point of their career. I honestly believe that the reason we still have Pearl Jam in 2013 is because of the brave forward thinking music the band made with “No Code” in 1996 and with their new album “Lightning Bolt” I feel like the band is about to turn another corner creatively to help give the next twenty years of their career some real legs.

For now though, my advice is to turn this album up fucking loud and just enjoy the great rock record that “No Code” is and make sure you take the time to discover the whole history of Pearl Jam – you won’t be disappointed.

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By: Dan Newton

SHOW ME YOUR RIFFS – Volume Nine – Seja Vogel

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Earlier this year I got the chance to interview one of my favourite Brisbane artists, the amazing Seja Vogel. I’ve been a fan of her work for years and it was a real thrill to interview her about her creative process and career thus far. Here is how it all went down:

H&W: There is a darkness swirling around your playful pop sounds, what kind of emotions and experiences have gone in to funding your music?

SV: I think all of my songs are made up of a million different feelings and experiences. I was joking with my friends recently that I should call my new album ‘so many feelings’ because I love talking about feelings so much. It’s probably one of those jokes you would regret later though. A lot of ‘feelings’ definitely go into my songs lyrically, but they are sometimes purposefully vague or disguised to a certain extent to ensure that people can interpret them in their own way.

As far as melodies go, I tend to feel much more affected by a beautiful melody than a beautiful lyric. Especially when songs go somewhere you weren’t expecting them to go musically, or when a melody reminds you of something that has had an emotional impact on you in the past. I quite often find that the first few songs I listen to in the morning always have a huge effect on me, as though I’ve never heard music before in my life, so I am much more likely to be inspired to write at this time of day, or take inspiration from a song I’ve listened to first thing in the morning.

I definitely find myself having some glorious unconscious moments of genius when I’m just playing around on a synth.  Other times the parts that I find most meaningful or the parts people have talked about the most on my records have been incredibly premeditated and almost over-thought. My first album was definitely full of those ‘oh my god’ melodies and synth lines because ultimately it was all one big experiment. All those songs were demos which were released almost entirely as is. The new album (All Our Wires) I took the opposite approach where I didn’t leave too much up to chance.

There are many songs about confusion and joys and bummers. You have to get that stuff out somehow right? Might as well be in a giant synth jam and released out into the world

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H&W: Escaping the need for genre classifications how do you describe the music you make?

SV: I try not to describe it if I can help it. Or I am profoundly vague so people can search it out and make up their own minds. I generally say something like ‘girlie vocal synthie pop songs’. Very articulate

H&W: As an artist, what was the spark for you, tell me the musical story?

SV: I went to a Steiner School in Germany and Melbourne so there was always a lot of emphasis put on art and music from an early age. I played piano and violin for a long time. It wasn’t until my brother bought a synthesizer in 1994 though, that I started being interested in those kinds of sounds. Then I got obsessed with bands who were very analogue-synth-heavy like Devo and Kraftwerk, and wanted to know how exactly they made all those cool noises. I think that was the beginning for me. After my brother and his friend Simon bought synthesizers, they asked me to play some songs with them for fun in our bedrooms, which eventually turned into Sekiden. I never really had aspirations of being a performer really; I sort of just fell into it.

H&W: As a female musician, do you find it challenging to escape the expectations of a male dominated music industry? Are you attracted to elements of feminist culture? Do you feel like there are certain unwanted and unfair expectations lumped on a female musician that deals in stereotypes? How do you deal with a society who in general view rock n roll as a man’s business?

SV: I try not to market myself as ‘special’ because I’m a ‘female musician’. I think that’s bullshit. On the other hand, I think it’s important to keep fighting the fight because a lot of people don’t agree men and women are equal in this field. I’d like to think that I contribute to showing people that girls can be just as good at stuff, or be just as nerdy and interested in the technical aspects of making music as boys.

It’s nice to see a lot more girls on tour these days. When I first started playing in bands it was very common for me to be the only girl on tour with 10 other dudes. Now it’s quite rare that I am the only one, which is nice. When I was younger, I remember being very excited by the idea of strong front-women in bands. People like Kim Gordon, Kim Deal and Kathleen Hanna. I certainly had ambitions of being part of it back then, but I was a pretty shy kid so it took a while to become brave enough to get up in front of people and play music. Stereotypes are always going to be thrown around if you are in the public eye, regardless of whether they are talking about your gender, your musical style, or your achievements. It’s inevitable.

People love to classify things and put them in boxes. I don’t mind being put into the ‘female musician’ box if it means being amongst other local artists that I look up to. People like Kellie Lloyd (Screamfeeder), Kate Cooper (An Horse), Patience Hodgson (The Grates) and many others make it a pretty sweet box to be in.

H&W: A lot of my major influences in life and as a musician are female related artists, people like Patti Smith, PJ Harvey, Beth Orton, Sleater-Kinney, Kim Gordon, The Riot Grrrl movement and Tori Amos. These are musicians and bands that eclipsed the stereotype of “well what gender are you?” and proved the music industry standards and marketing machines wrong, that you can have strong and progressive musicians who are female. To quote Patti Smith, it goes “beyond gender” and any strong artist or human being has equal masculine and feminine rhythms. I find with the above artists they got the job done and took the focus off their gender. It was a lesson in true individuality. I also place you in this category, so I’m interested who are some of your reasons for picking up an instrument and making noise, both music and non-music related?

SV: That’s a very nice thing to say, thank you! I guess a lot of those women were my role models as I was growing up, especially Kim Gordon. There were a lot of bands I loved as a kid that had great female role models in them that also weren’t necessarily referred to as ‘girl bands’. I was really into bands like Cibo Matto and Stereolab; girls that seemed to know how to play their instruments well, understand technology and come up with great, quirky songs. There were certain artists who inspired me with their layered vocals and beautiful harmonies like Elliott Smith and Enya. I think those two in particular made me more interested in what melodies and harmonies I could create by making my own choir-type arrangements with my voice. Then there are just your usual juvenile-type inspirations, like wanting to be as cool as Debbie Harry or Nirvana or The Kinks. Also my brother was a massive reason for wanting to play music because he is one of those freaks who can pick up any instrument and be able to play it, and I suppose I wanted to be able to do that too.

H&W: Belonging to the Australian music community, how do you see your music fitting in with the varied sounds being offered? Who are some of your favourite local bands?

SV: I’m not sure I ever really think about how I fit in, but I am a fan of a lot of Brisbane bands: Texas Tea, Violent Soho, Gentle Ben and his Sensitive Side, Keep on Dancins, Little Scout, Undead Apes, Tiny Spiders, and No Anchor

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H&W: What is bad music to you?

SV: Unimaginative drivel

H&W: What is good music to you?

SV: Anything with meaning and passion

H&W: Digital vs Physical, what do you favour and will we ever see the end of the physical album?

SV: I favour vinyl. I hope we don’t see the end of that ever.

H&W: First record you ever bought?

SV: I think it was East 17s It’s Alright single. I still know how to play the piano intro…

H&W: First live concert ever attended?

SV: Dinosaur Jr, Magic Dirt and the Melniks at Festival Hall 1994 or Salt n Pepa at the Entertainment Centre. I think they might have been in the same year…

H&W: Favourite band or artist of all time?

SV: Devo

H&W: Favourite album of all time?

SV: Beck – Mellow Gold

H&W: Favourite album of 2013 so far?

SV: Unknown Mortal Orchestra – II

H&W: A band or Artist you’re looking to get into in 2013?

SV: The solo projects of all members of The Byrds

H&W: Biggest musical regret?

SV: Ummmm maybe East 17?

H&W: Slipknot or Slayer?

SV: Slayer cause it rhymes with Seja. Also because they’re a really good band…

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SEJA’s fantastic new album “All Our Wires” is out now

By: Dan Newton

Useful Links:

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/Sejamusic
Official Website – http://www.sejamusic.com

SHOW ME YOUR RIFFS – Volume Eight – Melissa Tickle from Little Scout

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Little Scout are a Brisbane institution and remain to be one of the most exciting pop bands in our long history of exciting pop bands. Over the years, I’ve seen the name and sound of Little Scout develop from a by the numbers Indie Pop band to an incredible dream pop outfit who collect all kinds of spooks and shivers to communicate some incredibly deep aches. The band’s 2011 debut album “Take Your Light” is an essential piece of music that showed incredible growth and artistic integrity from a band who I originally had not connected to. It was deep, it was dark and it had an array of very smart pop skills, it made me a fan instantly. I have feeling it was all those Cocteau Twins references that made me connect with it and of course the fact that Little Scout offered something different to what was happening in our town at the time.

The bands second album “Are You Life” has just been released and it showcases a new level of confidence. It is quite clear upon first listen that Little Scout have once again gone a bit deeper into the history of music and come back to communicate a movement of music that is clearly superior to their debut album. There is a new sense of fire and lots of rock n roll creeping in and out of the dream pop landscape that the band once indulged in. It allows the songs more freedom to shine and shiver with the end result being a more cohesive piece of communication for the band and on a basic shallow level, it’s got a bit more swagger which always adds a million hits of light to classic pop skills. The album also boycotts but embraces the whole “psyche” sound that is creeping in to most modern indie human rock pop bands, but these small peppering’s of psyche once again have more to do with Cocteau Twins than they do Tame Impala.

Earlier this year I got the opportunity to interview one of the creative forces behind Little Scout, Melissa Tickle. The main thing I wanted to discover was just how the band arrives at their sound and what kind of emotional landscapes are they harvesting in order to build such vital dream pop music.

Here is how the interview went down:

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H&W: What kind of emotions and experiences have gone in to funding specifically the lyrics and melodies of the music?

MT: I suppose we hope that people decide that the songs are about whatever they like. Lyrically some of the songs do include themes of the ups and downs of relationships, but primarily the songs are observations. I’m fascinated by reality and perception, and how hard it is to differentiate between the two when you start to involve the uncertainty of human behaviour. I write a lot about what I see in the news and in current affairs, and about characters in books I’ve read. We try to push the boundaries musically and lyrically while maintaining those natural pop sensibilities.

We’re all very happy and comfortable people, but there’s a lot in there about middle class guilt, over-thinking and the fear of growing old and forgetting the things that make you happy – the reality of being a conscious person with an evolved brain. Monkeys have it so easy…

H&W: Escaping the need for genre classifications how do you describe the music you make?

MT: Well, the new album is a bit of a departure – it’s a lot louder. I have absolutely no idea how to describe it. When you hear it, I would love to know where you think we fit in terms of genre. I’m not very good at describing our work.

H&W: As an artist, what was the spark for you?

MT: My parents always played great records when I was a kid, and I started listening to good music because of my high school friends. I was a bashful kid – I still blush when people ask me to sing, so I secretly recorded demos and sent them to my friend Pat in my first year of uni. The rest is history!

H&W: As a female musician, do you find it challenging to escape the expectations of a male dominated music industry? Are you attracted to elements of feminist culture? Do you feel like there are certain unwanted and unfair expectations lumped on a female musician that deals in stereotypes? How do you deal with a society who in general view rock n roll as a man’s business?

MT: This is a loaded topic. I personally haven’t experienced a lot of sexism in the industry. I’m surrounded by a great group of men and women who are very supportive of each other and work as a big team. I’m a feminist in the traditional sense that I firmly believe in an equal playing field for men and women. There are certainly reviews written about musicians that focus solely on what they’re wearing and how they look – men and women. I’ve seen a few and they just make me feel a bit disappointed… I want to know if they liked or hated the live show/album, and read some constructive criticism. Get an idea about the atmosphere of the show, you know?

On another note, I’ve realised that sexism within the music industry is usually a side effect of the typical asshole with a low IQ. If someone’s an asshole, they’ll be pissed off about a lot of things for no real reason, and sexism is usually one of their favourite pet hates. They’ll be dicks to everyone about everything, not just girls.

Good music supresses the need to identify music by gender. And I’m not sure that we can control what we connect with musically, I think it just happens.

H&W: Belonging to the Australian music community, how do you see your music fitting in with the varied sounds being offered? Who are some of your favourite local bands?

MT: I love The John Steel Singers. We’ve been sharing a practice room and recording studio with them and I’m consistently in a state of wonderment over the sounds they produce. Other Australian bands I’ve had on high rotation recently are Cloud Control, The Drones, PVT, Bearhug, Tame Impala, Pond, Crowded House (shut up NZ, they’re ours), Tinpan Orange, Sarah Blasko, Deep Sea Arcade, Abbe May, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Grinderman, Songs, Kylie Minogue – I find this really difficult and feel a bit anxious because there’s about 150 more I could mention.

H&W: What is bad music to you?

MT: It doesn’t exist. You either connect with it in a positive or negative way. There’s a lot of music I hate that other people love. What can you do?

H&W: What is good music to you?

MT: The shit that takes you on a rollercoaster ride and makes you feel elated, all the while challenging you. Sometimes simple is best, too. I don’t know – if there’s a good connection then great job!

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The fantastic new album from Little Scout is called “Are You Life” and is out now in all good record stores and online.

To read our review click here:

https://heavyandwierd.wordpress.com/2013/09/08/album-review-are-you-life-by-little-scout/

By: Dan Newton

Useful Links:

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/LittleScoutMusic
Bandcamp – http://littlescout.bandcamp.com/

Live Photo Courtesy of Alexander Sheko http://www.flickr.com/people/phillipsandwich/

NINE INCH NAILS – A Reflection

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There is something unbelievably haunting about the sound of Nine Inch Nails. There is a deep sense of loss with a level of angst that flirts with the rage, joy and beauty of our existence. The music acts as a soundtrack to a life stalked by the very real silent spook that is death. When you slip into the bands many different sonic landscapes you are swallowed up and depending on your mood you either achieve an extreme level of resurrection or you dwindle into a black pool of sunshine, either way you experience a silent rapture that both heals and protects allowing you to ask more questions of the world you despise.

The music of Nine Inch Nails helps you escape and gives you the freedom to indulge the dark in order to reach the light. The music can be a warm hug for those true aliens who feel misunderstood by society but it is not music for victims or for those willing to consistently feel sorry for themselves. This is music that is designed to empower you and so that you can use all of that sadness, all of that loss and all of that anger to express your disappointment. Through using a band like Nine Inch Nails to express all of these negative emotions you surge forward and see the energy and rush of all this rage transform into something beautiful, the caterpillar to butterfly or maggot to fly analogy, so that you can soar and achieve some kind of happiness.

Through being a fan of Nine Inch Nails I’ve always felt that what I’m acknowledging to the world is that yes it does get dark but all darkness must pass to give way to the light and that death helps us gain an intense thirst for living. As I’ve learnt through the years, Nine Inch Nails are instruments of good and provide a divine sound for those with god shaped holes in their souls. 

There have been many moments in my life when I have had a crisis in faith due to a breakdown in my relationship with the outside world. In these moments I’ve felt so disconnected and so numb that I push myself into the ultimate state of cowardice where I don’t want to live but I’m too scared of death to invest in ceasing my existence.  It is in these moments that you desperately search for someone or something to act as a saviour.

In my darkest hours of retreat I’ve always found that the only music that resonates has been Nine Inch Nails. This resonance occurs not because it is some clichéd exercise in fashion but because the sound of the music accurately represents this breakdown of trust with the outside illusions known as the real world. When you question the very reality of your outside existence you don’t want to be distracted by the meaningless, you want to be dragged deeper into yourself so you can find that spark and in the process cause that explosion that will get you back to a healthy state of love and light. You want to find the meaning and you want satisfaction and on a basic level you want the face of love to stare back at you. When I think about the three moments in my life where I experienced this intense disconnection, it’s hard not feel blessed that it was music made by Nine Inch Nails that brought me out of my sadness slumber.

I could talk about each Nine Inch Nails album and its role in helping me reach my inner peace but when I muse on the truth of this situation it’s quite clear that the album by Nine Inch Nails that has been responsible for my redemption, time and time again, is “The Fragile” which is a masterpiece of sound and emotion.  From start to finish “The Fragile” offers a journey through darkness and numbness and beautifully soundtracks our need to sometimes disconnect from the world in order for us to plug back into it.

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 The very first song on the album “Somewhat Damaged” is the perfect introduction to that feeling, the feeling of knowing you’ve hit rock bottom and that darkness has once again framed your existence and that the sadness has caused you to lose hope. It isn’t about the ache, the ache is shattered – this is a sigh that wails deep inside of you after you’ve swallowed a lifetime of heartbreak and loss which has now left you damaged.

 This perfectly segues into the second track “The Day the World Went Away” which now gives a full setting to your escape and your hopelessness.

From here, the remaining tracks on the “left” portion of the album illustrate the descent and the weight of your hurt. There is a beautiful way in which this portion of the album drags you down with an almost sinking feeling that trades your anxiety for relaxation. Being dragged so deep into the darkness is allowing for calm to introduce itself back into your repertoire, as if you’ve accepted your fate and you’ve glimpsed peace.

Your retreat into the cocoon of darkness is sealed shut with the final track on the “left” side which is called “The Great Below” – a spooky but very apt title for your final moments trapped inside the weight of your existence and the prefect final goodbye.

What the “left” side of “The Fragile” teaches us is that sometimes you have to die a little bit in order to reignite that thrill for life. It reminds us that it is okay to dwell in a period of sadness and to collect all of your hurt providing it is leading you to some kind of redemption. If through this collecting of darkness you don’t find the way out then you have become an instrument of fear and that is a heavy thing to succumb to, that is a lifelong burden that has no joy or love or beauty attached to it.

After years of studying the “left” side of the album and having it soundtrack my own darkness I can safely say that Nine Inch Nails were indeed illustrating the power of the breakdown is to use it to rise up and to break through the fear, pain and weight of this existence.

This brings me to the second component to “The Fragile” – the “right” side of the album.

After the darkness of the albums “left” side the “right” side of the album opens with the glorious resurrection song “The Way Out Is Through” which is a wonderful collection of spooks and swoons that climax with a crescendo that strikes like a divine hit of fresh sunshine. It truly is the moment where you feel reborn and refreshed and willing to see the beauty of breathing once again. It is one of the most overwhelming songs on this record and like all good moments framed by rapture there are equal parts surrender and joy attached to the way the song is communicated.

Whilst the “right” side opens up with this hit of redemption, there is still a great deal of confusion running through the songs that follow. There is a rage inside each song but it is a rage that is coming from a renewed strength rather than the woe of it all. You have been propelled forward by the darkness and you can taste the light but the distance you have to travel to reach it is still a great many kilometres. This is when your anger turns into frustration and instead of fearing the world you want to take it on and express your disappointment. This is the moment where you start destroying the world around you to build it back up again. When I listen to the “right” side of “The Fragile” that is what the music communicates to me, that you have found your place and your peace but you are still not satisfied. You want to hunt down the darkness, building your strength to a point where the fear will no longer consume you. It is about getting the strength to move forward and to remain focussed.

The final moment of the “right” side is the beautiful “Ripe (with decay)” which puts the perfect full stop to the journey. This song allows for a moment of reflection on all of that hurt, all of that sadness, all of that loss and all of that darkness and how finally this brief glimpse of peace allows you to become one with the darkness. The power of what “Ripe (with decay)” communicates as a piece of music is that you learn that there is no dark without light and no light without dark and in order to have happiness you must have sadness and that all of that hurt is a reflection of the joy. Ultimately – in the end – Love and Pain are one in the same.  

The eerie moodiness of “Ripe (with decay)” brings your thoughts to the one truth, that we all die and that everything both inside of us and outside of us is a coping mechanism for dealing with the great unknown.  Normally, in your more fragile state, this kind of thought would cause an anxious storm to erupt but as you’ve now navigated the darkness you begin to realise the calming nature of such a thought. That for all the truth we can obtain that there is still so many unknowns and that it all ties into our fascination to what happens after we die. As you watch the sun rise you start to realise that there is good air to breathe and that death remains to be the greatest mystery but also the greatest adventure for you yet.

The heaviness of the music on “The Fragile” extends to each album released by the band but when I listen to Nine Inch Nails discography there feels like a clear divide between the albums that came before “The Fragile” and the albums that came after “The Fragile.” The albums that came before the “The Fragile” – Pretty Hate Machine, Broken (EP) and The Downward Spiral – illustrate the struggle, the darkness and the pain giving context to the complicated emotional world of the band and in particular Trent Reznor. All of this pain, hurt, sadness and loss climaxes to a beautiful crescendo of black sunshine on “The Fragile” as the pain finally gives way to joy and redemption.

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After “The Fragile” Reznor took the sound into new territories and evolved how the pain and the hurt felt, giving it a more external world context as opposed to the internal. On “With Teeth,” “Year Zero,” “Ghosts I-IV“ and “The Slip” Trent did a wonderful job at using the sonic landscape to illustrate his complicated emotions and how life does still manage to crush your heart but by using anger as an energy and as a form of self-expression you are allowing a degree of positive light into the world. That whole, it is all one in the same deal (as mentioned above) which helps give context to a continued discipline to the rage.

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When Trent Reznor decided to leave the Nine Inch Nails moniker behind I was not upset at all because I knew that he’d find his way back to his main vehicle of self-expression. As David Bowie once sang, it only took five years and within a matter of days we’ll have the brand new Nine Inch Nails album “Hesitation Marks” available to us all.

From the brief glimpses that I’ve heard I’m proud and quite excited about the direction Reznor has taken the music. It shows an intense growth that puts a spotlight on how he has managed to survive that darkness whilst still being stalked by it. Even though the music has matured it has not lost its rage or its ache, it is simply communicated with middle-age hindsight and understanding allowing room for some joy to poke out through the moodiness and darkness and rage of it all. I’m expecting a journey with “Hesitation Marks” and as a soon to be 30 year old human I’m looking forward to Reznor speaking about what pain feels like once it evolves and grows up. I’m so glad that Trent has decided to resurrect Nine Inch Nails because they are a beautifully unique creative enterprise.

Although I didn’t want to speak directly about my favourite Nine Inch Nails songs I thought that I’d leave this little article by sharing with you one of my favourite songs from the Nine Inch Nails discography. The song I’ve chosen is “Something I Can Never Have” which originally comes from the band’s debut album “Pretty Hate Machine” however the version I’ve chosen is from an EP that was released with the bands live album “All that Could Have Been” – the name of that EP is “Still” and it contains re-workings of old songs and some brand new tracks. It is one of the most beautiful pieces of the Nine Inch Nails discography and the version of “Something I Can Never Have” from this EP really steals the show.

I believe that this version of the song accurately captures what is so special about Trent Reznor and Nine Inch Nails and why they remain to be one of the most important bands in the history of music.

Plug in the headphones, turn it up loud and bliss the fuck out to this song and witness the power of Nine Inch Nails:

If she ever wanted to know or if she ever wanted to understand how you sometimes feel about her world, then I’d tell her to press play on this song again – it says everything and it leaves open a window for her to observe the disintegration of your yearning and how all of this desire and silent sighing is transforming into an ache that will leave multiple invisible scars. This song will always taste like her name and stands as the best sonic representation of how overwhelming the unrequited can sometimes be.

It is absolutely beautiful stuff and a prime example of why so many of us believe in the healing power of Nine Inch Nails and Trent Reznor.

By: Dan Newton

THURSDAY EDITORIAL: Listening With Your Eyes

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:

TAD1

or this

TAD2

If this human was the person singing Smells Like Teen Spirit would have he changed the world

TAD3

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:

DANTHIN

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:

DANFAT

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.

Big Love

Dan xo

TUESDAY EDITORIAL: Music blah blah blah blah blah blah

henryfinger

Hello to all our beautiful readers,

I had a whole big opinion piece ready to go for this week’s editorial but I grew tired of what I was writing and figured that these amazing videos from one of my favourite bands of all time “The Melvins” says it all:

The Melvins

I hope you all have a wonderful week

Big Love

Dan Newton xo

NOT ANOTHER FUCKING LIST: 2013 in Music so far – Heavy and Weird’s favourite stuff

H&W

Albums and Songs

Album of the Year so far

“…Like Clockwork” by Queens Of The Stone Age

Song of the Year so far

“Where Are We Now?” by David Bowie

Australian Album of the Year so far

“Vs Head Vs Heart” by Emma Louise

Australian Song of the Year so far

“Josie” by Go Violets

Rock Album of the Year so far

“Self-Titled” by Chelsea Light Moving

Metal Album of the Year so far

“Disarm The Descent” by Killswitch Engage

Pop Album of the Year so far

“Mosquito” by Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Re-issue of The Year

Above by Mad Season

Top Eleven Albums of the Year so far

1.”…Like Clockwork” by Queens Of The Stone Age
2.”mbv” by My Bloody Valentine
3. “The Next Day” by David Bowie
4. “Self-Titled” by Chelsea Light Moving
5. “VS Head Vs Heart” by Emma Louise
6. “Push The Sky Away” by Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds
7. “I See Seaweed” by The Drones
8.  “Tomorrow’s Harvest” by Boards Of Canada
9. “The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here” by Alice In Chains
10. “Oddfellows” by Tomahawk
11. “Disarm The Descent” by Killswitch Engage

People / Bands / Artists

Favourite New Artist of the Year so far

 Go Violets

 Band of the Year so far

 Queens Of The Stone Age

 Solo Artist of the Year so  far

 David Bowie

 Australian Band of the Year so far

 The Drones

Australian Solo Artist of the Year so far

 Emma Louise

Film Clip of the Year so far

“Swerve City” by Deftones

Gig of the Year so far

Deftones at The Tivoli

Top Five Brisbane bands / artists of the Year so far

1. Go Violets
2. Little Planes Land
3. Foxsmith
4. Emma Louise
5. The Mercy Beat

Favourite Live Music Venue of the Year so far

The Zoo

Top Five Bands who will take over the world in 2013

1. Palms
2. Go Violets
3. Foxsmith
4. Emma Louise
5. Baroness

Bands / Artists  who we reckon you should check out who have done or will do amazing things this year

1. Jen Cloher
2. Courtney Barnett
3. Kathryn Rollins
4. Amanda Merdzan
5. Pool Shop
6. The Androgyny
7. Babaganouj
8. Kellie Lloyd
9. We All Want To
10. Balloons Kill Babies
11. Ghost Audio

The 2013 Wishlist

1. Tool release a new album
2. Pearl Jam release a new album
3. Deftones release their lost album EROS
4. +++ (Crosses) release their third EP and a debut full length album
5. Soundgarden tour Australia
6. Nine Inch Nails tour Australia
7. Queens Of The Stone Age tour Australia
8. Palms tour Australia
9. +++ (Crosses) tour Australia
10. Melvins tour Australia
11. Fiona Apple tours Australia

and who do we predict will make the greatest album of 2013

This band of course

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with this amazing album (only seven days to go until it is released)

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Just listen to the amazing first single

and now listen to this as well, the opening track to the album

Big Love

Dan Newton xo

 

Heavy and Weird House Rules xo – Please Consider

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Some Points About Articles On Heavy & Weird

Given some recent feedback about some of our articles, it might be a good time to tell you a little more about what we do here and why we do it. This is a guide to musicians hoping to have their music or gigs reviewed, and for whoever reads the articles on this site.

1. Music is subjective. A music review is by definition an opinion piece. We have as much right to express our opinion of your music as you do of making it in the first place. The articles are the author’s opinion only. Just because one author in Heavy & Weird does or doesn’t like your music does not mean everyone else here shares the same opinion.

2. We do not get paid for this. This is not Rolling Stone and we are not journalists. We are musicians and music lovers. We write about music because we love music. If you want to read music journalism go and buy Rolling Stone. If you want to read about what music lovers do and don’t like, read Heavy & Weird, or any number of other music-related blogs.

3. We aim to express how music makes us feel, not give a blow-by-blow description of everything about the band, the song, or what happened during the gig we attended.

4. We will aim to, but will not necessarily review everything we get sent.

5. We will sometimes review music that we have not been asked to review. If your music is in the public domain it is fair game. If you don’t want people to talk about your music then keep it in the rehearsal room. Don’t play shows and don’t release records.

6. When we write we will be honest in what we think about the music. We’re not going to sugar-coat our opinions just in case someone gets offended.

7. We all get bad reviews sometimes. Most of us are in bands. You take the good with the bad, and believe me, we’ve all had some bad reviews over the years. We’ll always aim to tell you why we don’t like something, and sometimes even give our opinion on how to improve what you’re doing.

8. For every person who loves your band there will be someone else who hates it or couldn’t care less about it. If you get a bad review, don’t take it to heart. Your fans will defend you and your detractors will see themselves as vindicated. It means people are passionate enough about your music to voice their opinion. Remember, a review is one person’s opinion of your music. It’s not a personal attack on you. We have found plenty of music we love by reading bad reviews of bands we would never otherwise have listened to.

Heavy and Weird is committed to providing a high level of customer service and appreciates any feedback that you may have. Heavy and Weird apologises if we did not meet anyone’s service expectations and note that any feedback will be provided to the relevant parties. We would like to thank you all for taking the time to communicate your concerns to Heavy and Weird. It is feedback such as yours that enables us to further refine and enhance our level of service to the bands we review and the audience who reads our blog. We take this opportunity to offer you an apology on behalf of Heavy and Weird for any inconvenience you have experienced as a result of any review we have written.

Big Love to you All

The Heavy and Weird Writing Team xo

INTERVIEW: James Lees of Silver Sircus

James Lees has been hitting drums in a slew of Brisbane bands since the early 90’s, starting out in bands like Milch and Krud, which also featured a pre-Screamfeeder Kellie Lloyd.  If you’re a semi-regular live music goer, you’ve probably seen him behind the kit at some point in time.  These days his main focus is the genre-defying dark cabaret act Silver Sircus, which he formed with vocalist Lucinda Shaw.

James&Lucinda

My own history with James only goes back a few years, but in that short time we have been in three bands together and lived as housemates for two years.  I would class him as one of the nicest and hardest working people in Brisbane music.  I recently caught up with James over a few drinks to find out more about his career as a musician, and what’s next for Silver Sircus:

Tell us a bit about your musical history.  What bands have you been a part of?

Hmm, let me cast my mind back….  I’ve been in ISIS with Lucinda Shaw, and I’ve been in Chalk in the 90’s, and I played with Tylea for about 3 or 4 years.  Am I missing anyone?…  I’ve also been in The Good Ship and I’ve also been in Thirteen Seventy, and I’ve been in Bertie Page Clinic.  When you asked me that I immediately thought 20 years ago! *laughs*

Well you could go back even further probably, couldn’t you?

I could, but how relevant that would be is another question.

It was more about getting an insight into your history in Brisbane music and how far back that goes.

Well it does go back a fair way, back to the early 90’s.  You know I could list all those names and talk about those bands, but if you looked at all those bands broadly there’s a really great diversity of style across them.   I think that reflects my diverse listening habits and my diverse musical interests.  I listen to everything from strange jazz music to Swans, to Cindy Lauper, to Eurythmics, to Talking Heads, to Lou Reed and back again.  It wasn’t really by design, but all the bands I’ve played with have been very, very different.  So I guess if I look back I would say there’s a huge amount of diversity there, and there continues to be.

So, you’ve worked with a lot of musicians over the years.  Are there any moments that stand out or are particularly special to you?

I think the very first rehearsal I had with ISIS stands out to me, because – and I don’t want to put anybody else’s singing down that came before that – but I went to that rehearsal, and for readers with shorter memories ISIS contained three fantastic female singers.  When I rehearsed with them the first time, which was actually a pre-production rehearsal for a recording, when they all sang it was a revelation to me.  And I just went “OH, they’re really good *laughs* They can all sing!”  That rehearsal occurred in The Zoo, on The Zoo stage fully mic’d up with Magoo in attendance, and that was creating drum parts for the ‘Ooze’ EP which came out in 1995.  And that was my first rehearsal.  So that was a moment for me.  I was also a real fan of the band, so it was actually sort of a fan moment – ‘I get to be in this band!’  I’d say that would be the moment I’d nominate.

Tell us about your history with Lucinda Shaw.  How did Silver Sircus form?

All these stories go back such a long way.  I was a fan of the band and I was writing for Rave Magazine.  I interviewed the band, but I didn’t interview Lucinda, and I was interested in her because I knew at that time she was the main writer of music on that first record.  The way that I got to meet her was by booking the band for a gig that I produced that was Tidus, Rob Clarkson and ISIS at The Capitol, which was at Wooloogabba.  So by booking the band I got to meet Lucinda.  I met her that night and we had a brief conversation.  That was about a year before I joined the band.  So we were friends for a year, and then obviously we did the work with ISIS, and that went for a few years, and when that finished a project called Sugafix emerged out of that and I ended up becoming part of that.  Then that changed its name to Silver Circus (with a ‘C’) and that existed for about 2 to 3 years, ’til about 2002.  Then we worked on a few things together that I musically directed.  Lucinda did a show for the Cabaret Festival and then we did two big Ziggy Stardust shows that I produced and she was a big part of that as a vocalist.  That show featured a range of lead singers, but she was also sort of my confidant through that process of putting those shows together.  There was a lot of discussion that she and I had that extended beyond her being just a lead singer on a few songs.  That recording’s going to be released this year by the way, because Mr Jeff Lovejoy’s mixed it, but that’s another story.

I think the way that the current version of the band started was by me being driven slightly crazy by the body of work that Silver Circus mark 1 had done that had had been played a little bit in embryonic form, but in the intervening years had grown in my mind into being something that I thought could be quite good but had no means to be expressed.  Quite a lot of songs that had no life at all.  So it took two or three years.

‘Sweet Amnesia’ from the Sovereignty EP

So it was your creative desire to finish those songs off?

Yeah, it was very much unfinished business and a lack of closure I guess that really drove me to go, “Why don’t we just do it?”  You know?  I think that came with getting a little bit older as well.  Maybe I was about 34, 35, something like that.  I think when you’re that age you start having a lot of thoughts about ‘you only get to be here once’, and I sort of thought how am I going to feel if I don’t see this project through or if I don’t breathe life into this work in 10 years?  And I imagined myself regretting not doing it.  As soon as I had that thought I picked up the phone and I rang Lucinda and I said to her for the first time in about 5 years, ‘Would you like to be in a band with me?’  And she was slightly taken aback and then she went ‘Oh, yeah, of course, of course.  What are we going to do?’  And I said ‘We’re going to do Silver Sircus, and we’re going to do these songs, and we’re going to make them really good, and then we’re going to release them.  And she went ‘Right!  Okay…’  *laughs*  And about a year after that the Soveriegnty EP came out, and then we did the Dark Back Garden EP shortly after that.  That was only 5 years ago.

‘DarkBackGarden’

A lot’s happened in that short space of time.
Yeah, we’ve made even more music since then *laughs* which is pretty good for a band that moves at the speed of a glacier!  But we did manage to produce an album eventually.

So you’ve just last year released your first full album, which is ‘To The Place That Is Home’.  Tell us a bit about that, the songs were all mostly older?  And then there was some new stuff that you-

From the beginning it was this whole idea of a whole lot of material that was kind of in a queue from oldest to most recent that we had to kind of swat away.  So the Sovereignty EP was the four oldest songs.  DarkBackGarden was kind of an extension of that.  That material was all from a certain period of time.  So what happened after that was that once we had those recordings out of the way in late 2008 we wrote ‘Come Back As You’ and that was the first song that Lucinda and I made, just the two of us.

‘Come Back As You’ from the album To The Place That Is Home

So that’s almost the birth of Silver Sircus now, as we know it?

That’s the beginning song, yeah.  So that started out as a very, very simple little song with the guitar being played on the verandah and turned into the seven minute monolith that’s on the album now.  That song does date back to then, but that was the beginning of the first step of, you know, the way the band is now, and our current way of working.  What we planned to do was record that song fairly quickly and release it as a single.

And what year was that?

That was in 2009.  But life had other plans and what ended up happening was that Lucinda and I both went through fairly cataclysmic life events that took quite a long time to resolve.  So what happened was that that turned into a series of delays.  Actually about 4 or 5 delays.  Now we’re gonna record it, and then this happened.  Now we’re gonna record it, and then that happened.  And then just on and on it went.  What ended up happening is that we ended up writing more songs.  So if we had gone through with our first plan that song would have come out on its own.  In the second instance it would have come out with a B side.  In the third instance it would have come out as a 4 track EP, and the instance after that it would have been a 5 track EP.  For a long time that was a 5 track EP and it sat that way for a while.

Even up to the time where we meet I think you were still talking about putting out an EP next?

Yeah, there was a period of about 6 months where we took the accelerator off the band.  I use the term ‘accelerator’ very generously.

Was that the time when you started playing in every single band in Brisbane?

Yes!  That was in 2010.  The band kept playing, but I guess there was a feeling of frustration as to ‘why is this so hard to make this music?’  And I know why that was, and oddly the reason for that completely informed and fed the final form that that record ended up taking.  It grew up to be a full album, it grew up to be about the reason it took 4 years to come out.

I actually can’t imagine those tracks sitting together any other way.

No, no, it ended up all landing pretty well.  But I think people do look at the band and go: there was this flurry of activity at the beginning, and then a lot of performances, and then a little break, and then all of a sudden this big record and 3 releases in one year, and both EPs re-released in one year.  So 5 releases in one year.  But then I look at Kate Bush and I go, well she took 12 years off, and then she took 6 years off and then released 2 albums in a year.  If she can do it we can do it. *laughs*

But it was a really interesting moment when we kind of realised….when we took what was stopping us and we turned it into the fuel, rather than the obstruction.  As soon as we did that it surged forward and it found its very strong voice.  And then from that point the project took over and we just followed it, and it told us what it wanted to be and what it wanted to do and what it wanted to look like and everything.  And that was very satisfying for finally that body of work to live and to tell us what it wanted to do.  Because we were pushing shit uphill for a couple of years.

So the songs kind of became their own muse?

Yeah, I guess so.  It just became a lot easier.  It was not 100 questions running around in your mind, it became very, very simple.  This is what we do.  It’s going to look like this, it’s going to come out like this, it’s going to sound like this, these are the songs.  It all just slotted into place.  I know that’s a rarefied sort of situation to be in as an artist and I enjoyed allowing that to happen.  It was good to get it out because when we released it, it also felt like I was able to let go of a lot of the content and emotion that was woven into that record.

‘What Is A Witch’

One of the more interesting parts of that song cycle isn’t actually on the record, and it’s a B-side called Sleepwalker-

Oh THAT thing! *laughs*

…and it’s a little bit different to everything else, both sonically and in the way it was written…

That is a track that’s largely instrumental that I wrote and it comes from a very simple piece of music that I wrote when I was 20, and that I plucked out of the past and completely reshaped and completely recast.

When we were living together I heard different iterations of that song for months and months and months before it became what it is now.

I had a strong vision of that piece and I knew that if I gave certain musicians in the band certain instructions they would respond in certain ways and deliver what the song required.  And I knew that the song, being very abstract, was going to be a lot harder for me to convey to them ‘this is what we’re doing.’  It was actually easier for me to go ‘play it like this, play it like this.’

It sounds almost like Jimi Hendrix talking to his band in colours.

Yeah.  Well I totally directed that, and I know particularly with Mark Angel’s guitars, which are very beautiful and very dominant on that track, Mark put his faith in me.  He didn’t know what was going on.  He didn’t understand the piece until he heard the final mix, and then he told me ‘Ah, I get it now!’ *laughs* And I said to him ‘I don’t think there’s any way I could have explained this to you.’  But he put his faith in me and in the song, and in Magoo too, you know.  Even though I wrote it, when we came to record it, it was very much a team effort.  Especially when it came to the strings, just saying to Wayne and Sally, ‘There are 3 chords, there are 12 minutes.  Go.’  And that’s it.  And they’re such open and interesting artists that that’s enough for them.  They just played all this stuff over the top and then Magoo chopped it all up and then I went out and shaped it.  I had this big fear that Magoo was going to really baulk at the length of it, but he didn’t.  He really loved it.  It made me remember that he and Tylea made an 11 minute track that had not a lot going on, so I thought ‘he’s the man for the job!’

‘To The Place That Is Home’ has beautiful dynamics, is this something you put a lot of focus on during the recording & mixing process?

Absolutely!  Yes, every note was agonised over, probably by me more than anybody else.

It would have been just a day’s work for Magoo.

Well that’s the good thing about Magoo, is that he has got a very calming influence and when I take my very complex and overwrought thoughts to him, and my confusion, he has this fantastic ability to simplify and straighten out, and to bring everything down to one sentence and just go ‘Ah…how ’bout we do this?’  And he just does it and then it answers 40 questions in my mind.

I noticed that when we worked together as well, you were really good with pointing out how the song dynamics shifted and working with a producer other than Magoo on similar things.

Yeah, well I think that maybe it’s the drummer’s job to do that, because in my experience there’s this great relationship between the drummer and the bass player that’s very traditional, but there’s actually a very, very, very important relationship between the drummer and the lead singer.  A lot of times the lead singer is also the lead guitarist or the rhythm guitarist as well, and in Thirteen Seventy that’s the case, in Silver Sircus that’s the case.  So if you could imagine, a lot of people talk about your formulaic band being set up with your drummer is at the bottom, then the bass player, then keys or strings, or guitars or whatever.  Then at the top of that is your singer, and so it’s like this pyramid.  This is something that I was taught by my father as a teenager when I started learning drums.  He is also a drummer and he told me this is how a band works.  So I took that on, and I’ve seen that to be true in a variety of situations.  But what it ends up doing is rather than thinking of it like a pyramid, if you think of it like a circle the lead singer and the drummer end up being next to each other, on opposite ends.

Like a big loop?

Yeah!  So it’s almost like the drummer and the lead singer are on a playing field at the opposite ends and you’ve got to connect that, and that’s your real job.  I definitely think since probably the third band I was in, which was Chalk, I saw that as a real responsibility of mine.  Also because James Kliemt, the lead singer of that band, had been a great friend of mine for years, even when we were that young.  By that point we had that connection, that relationship.  I guess I’ve always seen the band with the drummer at the bottom.   If you make all the right choices there, that’s setting you out on the right foot.  Everything else kind of follows on.  I think there’s actually a great responsibility with the drummer.  I’ve applied that in lots of situations.  I applied that with the work that we did.  And certainly I’m in a band with a lead singer.  Lucinda and I are the core duo of the band, a drummer and a lead singer.  So obviously the dynamics are a massive part of that.

How will the writing process for your next album differ from the way you’ve approached your previous recordings?  “To The Place That Is Home” is an incredibly dark and beautiful record.  Will the next one lead us further into the abyss, or pull us back towards the light?

I don’t know, it’s not written yet!  That’s not true…  Okay, so the first bit of that question was is the writing process going to be different?  The writing process is going to be absolutely different.  Absolutely different.  We are a fair way into the writing of the record.  I guess the main difference, right from the outset, is that for the very first time we’re working on a body of work that is all being made before our eyes and ears, right in front of us.  So I’m not having to straddle – here’s a song that’s brand new, here’s a song from 3 years ago, here’s a song from a year ago, here’s a song from 10 years ago and mix them all together.  Which I didn’t mind doing, you know, we wanted to do that, but we have truly cleared the shelf.

So you wanted to start from square one and write a record?

Yeah, we’ve never done that before.  So that meant, in the past we were writing music, but we were also corralling older stuff and assimilating it with now.  That process is completely not happening now.

Some of that would have involved other writers as well, wouldn’t it?  People who have since left the band?

In one instance it did, in all the others, no.  So I guess none of these songs have existed before 2012, which is a really refreshing feeling.  It’s just cast this whole other tone, this whole other feeling over working over a whole lot of music, that we’re working on stuff and none of it actually exists yet.  This is a difference.  The other major difference, and this follows on from that process, is that we are involving some of the other members in the band a lot more intimately with song writing.  We’re asking the people who have something to offer in that way to contribute if they want to, and several of them are.  The point we’re at now is that that is about to happen.  What we’re working on at the moment is a whole lot of words and a whole lot of music that has been music largely written by me, words all written by Lucinda.  So we’ve got quite a few sketches, but we’re going to introduce what I hope will be all these major spanners into the works from the other people, but I want that.  I wanted something really challenging and strange to happen, and given who we have in this band, I have every confidence in them!

And who do we have in the band in 2013?  It’s a completely different line-up to Silver Circus mark 1, and even Silver Sircus mark 1.1, really.

Oh, it’s completely different, yeah.  The main line-up of the band is unchanged over the last few years, so it’s a really nice connection.  Having made this record together, now, that has really unified us quite a lot.  We’ve made this record and we’ve all gone away and listened to it and everybody’s had their own little process of listening to that record later on.  Even though all their roles have been very, very different, that’s sort of….yeah, I guess that’s the right word to use, we’ve kind of aesthetically unified a lot more than we ever have been.  So over the next week I’m going to hear music from 3 other people.  So I’m hoping that’ll be…unexpected.  *Laughs*

Silver-Sircus-band
The current line-up of Silver Sircus is (l-r) Parmis Rose on piano, Terry Dixon on bass, Lucinda Shaw on vocals, Wayne Jennings on cello, James Lees on drums & percussion, Sally Campbell on violin, and Mark Angel (not pictured) on guitar.  Fi Ellwood also regularly contributes percussion.

So the material that has been written so far, is it going to continue to be quite dark, or is it going to be a little lighter now that those really big life things have moved on a little, and you’ve kind of cleared the decks?

Hmmm…I’ve got a feeling that it will be less dark.  I know there were certainly 2 or 3 moments on the album that we tried to go for something very, very dark indeed, which I think we achieved.  And that was very deliberate.  Tracks like ‘I Am Going To Find You’, and ‘Hold Them Close, Mama’, and probably the little instrumentals that are on the record.  We definitely tried to convey the feeling of an incredible amount of grief and loss and death and you know, all the great things in life. *laughs* I really wanted to express that.  I think there’s less of a drive to express those things so strongly this time.

There are other things informing the new work that are very, very different from that, like polarizingly different from that.  To give you an example, I’ve been looking for lots and lots of things that can provide inspiration from non-musical sources.  I’ve wondered how they can feed into music, how they can feed into lyrics, how they can feed into the atmosphere of a song or a record.  I’ve introduced those things to Lucinda, and she has taken them on quite strongly as well.  So to give you a couple of examples, one of the things that we’ve kind of tried to feed into this record is the story of the female pilot Amelia Earhart, who died in mysterious circumstances.  She was a celebrity female pilot in the early 20th century, and she disappeared somewhere in the ocean.  Her plane was never found.  She was a huge celebrity, and she was a big, early feminist, without actually being a feminist.  She was a very strong female in a man’s world, and she was almost this swashbuckling female pilot with no fear, and she got into these, you know, jalopy old ratbag planes in the 1920’s and 30’s and she flew around the world.  And one day she just vanished.  Of course, you know, there’s 80 years of conspiracy theories about her, but in all likelihood her plane had a fault and she crashed into the sea never to be found again.  So we’ve taken her story as an inspiration, and we’ve made a song called ‘Aviatrics’, which I suppose is going to be about her.

Another really, totally different sort of feed to us is the children’s nursery rhyme drawings of two women from the 1930’s and 40’s who were twins, and became massively famous.  They never took husbands and they lived with their mother.  They became very, very successful.  In the late 70’s when they were around their 50’s, one of the died in a freak household accident from smoke inhalation from a kitchen fire, and the other one, devastated, had to continue with all of the work that they had commissioned at that time, and she could barely do it.  Once she had done all that, she retired because she couldn’t draw without her sister.  They would work on two drawings at once, with their backs to each other, and they would swap drawings halfway through and then they would just keep going.  And so the actual authorship of all of their drawings is genuinely to them both.  They’re incredible.  In the 90’s, the surviving twin went back to illustrating, and for the first time in her life, in her 70’s, started illustrating solo.  So, she died in the early 2000’s.  Their story is incredible.  What’s also incredible is the beauty of the work, and they created all these images that a couple of generations grew up with in children’s, ah, they’re called something like ‘Dean’s: A Child’s Book Of Verse’, all these wonderful old books with these very beautiful, at times very creepy, quite sinister, almost adult kind of cartoon images.  They’re a big part of my childhood, and I rediscovered some books recently.  I researched them and I shared them with Lucinda, who just gasped when she saw them – at their quality and how sinister and strange they were, and how much you could get away with that in the 40’s and 50’s.  Children’s illustrations don’t look like that now.  We love them.  So we’ve written a song about them too.

What plans do you have for Silver Sircus over the next 12 months or so?  You’ve been a little quiet since the record came out.

As per the statement, which is still on our website, we are in the midst of a hiatus from performing.  The reason for this is because life moves very, very slowly in this band, and if we want to make a record, I felt that we could deliver that more quickly if we relaxed the incredible pressure on us to deliver one gig every couple of months. *Laughs*  That’s one thing.  Another thing was, for the same reason, what was happening is that we were doing show after show of the same music.  Some of those songs, even though we love them, are a few years old now, and I personally really needed to give them a rest.  I just think one of the really good things about Silver Sircus is that it’s an incredibly flexible artistic entity.  It can be whatever we want it to be, and if we want to temporarily retire from playing live and completely change the way the band sounds, we can do that!  Really any band can do that.  I think it’s a fairly brave choice, I think there are a lot of bands who would be really frightened by doing that.  They would feel like everybody would forget about them, or that if they did that the whole band would just fall apart.  But having been around the block a few times, I know that those things are not necessarily true.  I feel like it’s more important to be true to myself as a musician than it is to conform to what I think a band ‘should’ do, because I’ve done that and I don’t need to do it again.  So wouldn’t it be good to have a little break and reconsider everything, and actually stop thinking about it for a while?  I think I exhausted myself making that bloody record.

Well you weren’t just devoting brain power to that record.  You were doing so many other things at the same time.

Yeah, I was, I was, but most of my artistic energy was going towards that because I’ve got a much bigger role as a composer/musical director in that band than any other stuff I’ve done in the last couple years.

So, In terms of what’s happening, we have indeed been the very grateful recipient of an Australia Council grant to make a new record.  So this is the first time ever that I have worked with funding.  Every single thing I’ve done has been funded out of my pocket, or partially out of my pocket, or out of the pockets of the people who are leading the projects, like yourself.  So this is quite a different ball game, knowing that we’ve just got money to go and record.  So we’re very happy about that.  What’s going to happen is that there’s going to be two releases.  There’s going to be an EP, and all things going very well, it will be released by the end of the year.  Then the new album will follow in 2014.  The EP’s going to have four tracks.  It’s going to have very full, very rhythmic, very…it’s going to have a lot of heat, where the album had a lot of cold.  So it’s going to have faster songs, it’s going to have much denser arrangements.

Are these all going to be new songs as well?  Because I know there were maybe one or two leftovers from before.

Two of them are new.  One of them is an old song that we’ve hijacked from ISIS, and another song is an even older song that we’ve hijacked – from the sixties!  And that’s ‘Venus In Furs’ by The Velvet Underground, which we’re going to record.  And we performed that in our Velvet Underground show last year.  So that’s an EP that’s going to come out, and then the new album, which will be completely different in tone again, will follow that.  And it’s the album that has the arts funding.  The EP’s a little bit separate from that.  So we’re gonna go hot, then we’re probably gonna go cold again. *Laughs*

‘Venus In Furs’

How do you think Silver Sircus fits into Brisbane’s musical landscape/history?

I don’t think that it does, and I don’t mind.

Well, we have a pretty diverse music scene at the moment.  Are there any particular artists you feel are on the same wavelength?

No.  No, I find it hard to think like that.  I don’t really know what people think about the band.  I know that if we play and if we promote a show properly a decent sized audience turns up.  We did our album launch at The Old Museum, we sold it out.  That was nice.  I just don’t think like that.  For somebody that spends their daytime hours working in publicity and production, I just can’t think like that with the band.  It’s sort of my sanctuary away from all that.  The band was conceived purely as a vehicle for Lucinda and I to, firstly, publish ourselves as composers and songwriters, and secondly for us to further ourselves as artists and makers of music.  They are the only two requirements I have of Silver Sircus.  The intention from even before we played, to today and into the future, is that.  If we recruit audience along the way, and people come and see us and people enjoy us, people buy our record, all of those things are bonuses.  That’s how I regard it.  That’s kind of the key to it as well.

Do you have any musical recommendations?

Do I have any musical recommendations?  At the moment?  Well I think that in the absence of a Silver Sircus record *laughs* coming out any time soon I think that people should listen to the ‘Breathe’ EP…

Shameless plug! *laughter*

…where they’ll hear Lucinda doing a great vocal on the band’s namesake track, and on ‘Breathe’, which I play on too.  Recommended listening?  Do you mean in Brisbane?

What’s turning you on at the moment?

Okay, well I’m really enjoying the most recent NickCave album, Push The Sky Away.  It’s just stunning.  The title track is unbelievably, horribly good.  I’m enjoying the new album by Low.  It’s a really beautiful record, I love that band.  I’m also still listening to the new My Bloody Valentine album, and why wouldn’t you?  And I’m also listening to The Seer by Swans.  But when you come to make a record I often struggle with listening to other music, and I feel like I definitely don’t want to listen to music that I feel might be an influence, or music that I feel I might get really obsessive about or really passionate about, or really love.  So, yeah, I’ve been listening to the new NickCave record, but not for the last month.  I’ve deliberately put it aside.  The beautiful deluxe book is sitting on top of my piano, but I’m not listening to it, because I don’t want to accidentally get too close, or copy something.  These are all the artists that we look up to, like, what are they doing now?  So I’m actually listening to less music at the moment, and that’s deliberate, to try and clear musical bandwidth in my head.

Do you look at music as a business, a love, or something you’re compelled to do?

Something I’m compelled to do.  And the reason that I say that is because about ten years ago I stopped playing music, because I found myself in a situation where I’d put about a decade into several bands, all of which in their own ways had been quite successful.  I found myself not in that situation anymore, and I was a bit confused as to why that was.  And having turned thirty, one voice in my head was sort of saying ‘this is something that you did in your twenties, like a lot of other people, and now you have a career, and now you have a house, and now you have this, and now you have that’ and all these other awfully grownup things.  So I ended up having a break and doing a whole lot of other things.  It took four or five years, and it was sort of the birth of Silver Sircus that made me realise how unhappy I would be if I didn’t continue to be a musician.  I think a mixture of only having expectations for producing work that is to a very high standard and having very low expectations about how much money I might make, and also of being extremely persistent and never giving up, might be a good recipe for having a sustainable career as a musician for the rest of my life.  I think I worked out in my mid thirties that if I didn’t have music in my life in some way, that I would be deeply unhappy, and I would not be able to make sense of the world if I didn’t have that.  So I blame my father.  Again. *Laughs*

So James, tell us about your mother…

Ooooh!  Never again! *Laughs*

In an ideal world, how would Silver Sircus run?  Or is this the ideal world now?  Live work verses recording, digital verses physical distribution…

There’s no ideal world.  There’s no ideal.  There’s just how it is.  There’s just ‘this is what we’re doing today, this is what we’re doing now’.  That’s all there is.  Ideal to me is a ten year old idea, and there is no ‘ideal’.

I know you and Lucinda are supporters of gay and lesbian rights.  Has the recent public focus on the ‘gay marriage’ debate had an influence on any of yours or Lucinda’s new material?

Interesting question.  I will say that we have both been involved in the gay & lesbian community in various ways for quite a long time.  When we were in ISIS we stood for a lot of social and political values very strongly, and this was a big part of the audience that the band attracted as well.  We wrote music about those themes back in those days.  It was really nice back in December 2012, when the very last ISIS performance happened, but for the grace of God *laughs* for The Zoo’s 20th birthday, where we performed our song ‘Messiah’, which has got a very, very, very strong gay and lesbian and human rights message.  So it was really nice to perform that song again, 17 years after we made it, to find that it was as relevant as ever.  That’s not a song that will find it’s way into a Silver Sircus set, but to do that again with ISIS at the end of last year was kind of sobering, but full of joy and really fun as well.  It felt kind of really invigorating to go back into that really strong voice.

‘Pleasing You’ by ISIS

There was a lot of emotion at that show.  I saw Rosie cry on stage.

Did she?  Oh, she had her back to me, I didn’t see!

Yeah, there was a lot of emotion in that show, and you also looked like you were having a lot of fun.

Yeah, well I guess there was, there’s always been a lot of emotion attached to ISIS.  I guess that’s why people, you know, from a certain era love the band so much, including us.  I don’t know what else to say about that… *Laughs*

So is it informing any of your newer stuff, or is it something that’s now kind of an ISIS thing and Silver Sircus isn’t visiting that?

It’s an interesting question because you know, obviously Lucinda has written a lot of political works.  But really the Silver Sircus stuff, the universe that we inhabit is a lot more internal and introspective.  Although having said that I think now would be a really good time to write lots of political songs.  If ISIS were making a record now there would be so much to write about, but I don’t think we’re really doing that.  But we might!  I don’t know…  I’d say we’re about 20% into this record, so who knows? *Laughs*

I only have one last question for you, James: Can you see Silver Sircus growing old disgracefully with you?

Hmm…no.  I don’t think, or see like that.  I think in the past I’ve felt pressure to invest in the longevity of things, especially when you’re in your twenties, bands are so much fun.  You never want it to end, but they do end.  Look at the statistics!

You don’t need to tell me that

Yeah!  So all that’s here is today.  All that’s here is what’s in front of us right now.  We made ‘To The Place That Is Home’ and it was a massive full stop on a body of work, on a way of working, on an era in the band’s life, and I didn’t know what was next.  And I think one thing I’ve learned is to not be stressed or to put pressure on myself about not knowing what’s going to be next – in all aspects of my life.  Particularly with music and with that band, and obviously I hold the band very close to my heart, but at the same time I know it’s not something I’m going to do forever.  And it is quite, sort of, agonising hard work *laughs* in a lot of ways.  Silver Sircus is not a party band.

Well, I won’t invite you to play at my birthday this year then.

Well, if you want lots of songs about death and grief and loss…

That sounds right up my alley.

Great! *laughs*  So I…you want wonderful things to go forever.  But they just don’t.  They just don’t.  And that’s fine, that’s okay.  So instead of worrying about something lasting, or never ending, I think it’s a lot better to worry about what you’re doing right now.  And what we’re doing right now is making a new record, with this great financial assistance, and putting all these new energies in, and new ways of working, and new inspirations into it, and it’s just starting to grow legs, and it’s just starting to work out who it wants to be, and just getting past that toddler stage, which is very satisfying.  But it might be the last thing we ever do.  Or it might not.  I don’t know.  Either way’s good for me. *laughs*

 Silver Sircus_Live

Silver Sircus will be emerging from hibernation this Saturday, 25th May to support Underground Lovers at The Zoo.

By: Clint Morrow

 

FRIDAY EDITORIAL: Grunge Is Dead

henryfinger

Hello Beautiful World,

Let me open this week’s editorial by quoting a passage from the liner notes of the recent Soundgarden Anthology “Telephantasm” which is as follows:

“Then someone had to go and wreck it by giving it a label. The word “Grunge” was like talking to someone with bad breath. You could put up with it but you still wanted to distance yourself. In the 80′s / early 90′s, grunge was a wholesale term slapped on every Seattle band like a “My Kid Is an Honor Student” bumper sticker. That Time magazine in October of 1993 – and nearly every rock publication in the world at the time – headlined the shortsighted categorisation meant that they didn’t really get it. Or they just didn’t comprehend the myriad of intensely creative sounds and expressive “I don’t care”-isms. Can’t sell soup without a label.”

This quote is the best way for me to introduce how much I dislike the genre tag of “Grunge” and the way it has evolved over the past twenty years.

Now, let me begin by saying that I know nothing about nothing. I think on that basis alone I am the best qualified person to discuss the myth that is Grunge. Let it be known that a lot of the bands lumped into this Genre Tag – Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Soundgarden, Mudhoney, Alice In Chains, Screaming Trees, The Melvins and The Smashing Pumpkins (not a Seattle band but most young folk lump them in with the whole Grunge movement) – are some of my favourite bands of all time. These are bands that helped introduce me to punk rock and heavy metal and the basic sophisticated guitar music that came before it. The alternative nation of the 90’s was my entry point to listening to music for its emotional resonance rather than its entertainment value. It started when I was just eleven years old (I’m sure you’re all sick of hearing this story by now) and it hasn’t stopped. All of the musicians in these bands are iconic to me and are people I still idolise to this day no matter what phase of musical evolution I’m in.

Beyond the above mentioned bands, I’ve also spent a good portion of my life exploring all the bands Seattle offered, not just the ones that got popular during the whole “Grunge” movement. I’m talking about bands like The Wipers, Girl Trouble, Pigeon Head, The Posies, The Gits, Some Velvet Sidewalk, Dead Moon, 7 Year Bitch, The U-Men, Skin Yard, Tad and many many more. You see, when the Seattle scene came to my attention at a young age, I became obsessed and instead of just sticking to the surface I decided to dig deeper into the whole scene in order to get the full picture. What you had was an incredible scene of independent bands that drew from all corners of the music world to make some very loud and interesting rock n roll. Like every scene or movement however, a lot of those bands didn’t get the full spotlight and you could argue that this was a positive but it ultimately just highlights how much commerce was involved with the idea of “Grunge.” In short, the bands from Seattle didn’t stop being adventurous and progressive the media and record labels did and instead of investing and digging deeper into some of the more adventurous bands from Seattle, they moved on to the next thing that was going to make the money.

All of that aside, my job with todays editorial is to illustrate why I don’t like the word “Grunge” as a genre tag.

One of the main reasons I have such a dislike for the genre tag, is because of how lazy it is from both a punters point of view and journalist’s point of view. The last two bands I’ve played in over the past seven years have played sophisticated guitar based music. Any band I’ve ever played in has never set out to have a sound or a style or a genre tag. The only goal was to write honest sounding music. It seemed that every time we played a show where someone reviewed it, the first genre tag dropped was the word “Grunge” which ultimately frustrated me to no end. I didn’t mind being compared to the bands from Seattle because god knows I love a lot of them, but to simply refer to what we did as “Grunge” just because we had loud guitars and a bit of intensity and weirdness and did not really give a fuck about image or appearance really didn’t sit well with me.

Now, you could argue that I’m being harsh for feeling this way and for the most part you’d be correct, but let me elaborate why it was so annoying to be referred to as a Grunge band. Quite simply, it doesn’t paint an accurate picture of the pool of influences that each band member is accessing to create our sound. To me it was a sign of incredibly lazy journalism when we got lumped into the Grunge category. It also allowed punters and people who read it to assume certain things about our band and the kind of music we played, which is just incredibly false. Being classed as grunge allows people to assume that you must be a Clone Temple Pilot. That is not the case and let me assure you that although Galapogos have a healthy respect for all of the wonderful music of the 90′s, we’re not a fucking nostalgia act. We believe in making future punk, the same way the bands from Seattle did. Hence the dilemma, you align yourself with a band like Soundgarden who are just simply an awesome Psyche Rock Band and all of a sudden people assume certain things about what you are like as people and as a band. Those bands inspire us because they are all individual sounding and had a lot of character. That is the inspiration we take from them. ‘

This brings me to my next point, the dreaded Grunge revival.

Now, don’t take this wrong because ultimately I’m thrilled that a younger generation of people are getting into all the Seattle bands and are feeling empowered by the emotional connection they are feeling with those bands, but don’t call it a fucking revival. Don’t make it a fashion parade and piss on the legacy by simply wearing flannel and wearing doc martens. Seattle was anti-image and the recent Grunge Revival is all about the image. It plays by the rules instead of breaking them and it produces some of the most pedestrian sounding bands I’ve heard in recent times. It’s more Puddle of Mudd than it is Nirvana. I hate anything retro and to see youth culture slide the Seattle movement or grunge bands (blah) into this realm of cultural consumption is disgusting.

The Basic disdain I have for any human being who indulges in retro nostalgia is the way that they don’t offer anything new to the sound they are trying to mimic. Somehow modern youth culture adopted a rather devolved idea of creative evolution by buying into the idea that in order for something to be psychedelic it has to sound 60’s / 70’s or to sound Grunge it has to mimic the 90’s or to be Shoegaze it literally has to be My Bloody Valentine. Well done humanity, you have successfully missed the point of creative evolution, but hey at least you look great doing it, nothing says revolution like a cool pair of pants and intense haircuts.

Simply putting an old formula into a new era is not fresh or exciting, it is dull and predictable and if it was a colour it would be grey or a really dull beige. It’s incredibly unattractive and is the furthest thing from creative evolution. A lot of bands it seems just pick a handful of groups to mimic and then just do their best to interpret that formula. These are some of the same bands that complain about lack of success from their music and it surprises me that it hasn’t occurred to them as to why. Then there are of course the few nostalgia acts of the recent years that have ripped off an established sound, done it note for note and had it sold to youth culture as the new happening thing. It is a machine that makes me want to vomit all kinds of disgust but you know, I’m just an alien, this isn’t my planet so I’m free to shit on the carpet if I want to.

Bringing back to point, I find it to be an incredibly lazy and a cheap way to cash in on rock n roll history. I don’t believe any era is better than another. I don’t yearn for the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s or 00’s, I just yearn for the moment and what that can provide. No era of music is better than another, each decade has had great above ground and below ground sounds that were influential to the evolution of music. I see the need for genre segregation as the perfect mirror to the equality issue we face in our society. The more we try to segregate what we do the further we drive away from equality. It’s very simple for me, you either make good music or you make bad music. Colour it with any genre tag you like, it is a simple as this. Show me your soul, not how you put a million genres in a style blender to erupt into some new happening thing. I don’t care how popular or unpopular your band is, just show me your fucking soul through your music. Every inch of music no matter where it comes from has that ability to connect and no genre is of more worth than another, it is all fucking equal. Next time you go to sit down and make your genre health shake just remember what damage you are doing to equality, trust me on that one you are either part of the solution or part of the problem.

So, all I’ve done is list my complaints and not offered any real solution. Well, the truth is there isn’t a solution because the strength of the Seattle Sound is forever implanted in the word “Grunge.” I can’t change that and a lot of people will find the time and the words to tear my argument to shreds, you know those reigning world champions of the internet, the keyboard crusaders or as I like to call them, thundercunts. The truth is, I dislike that Grunge is a lazy way for people describe intense or loud rock n roll that isn’t quite indie and isn’t quite metal and isn’t quite punk. In the modern era, I just believe that in the spirit of evolution we should bury the past and move towards making new movements and new ideas. The bands from Seattle detested the way Grunge turned their town into a trend and into a fashion and I agree, because it was a tragedy at the end of the day. Ultimately, it was a cheap way for journalists to refer to one of the most vital movements in music.

I guess it’s all still rock n roll to me.

Fuck, I think at the end of the day I just really can’t stand human beings, where the fuck are the aliens?

Big Love xo

By: Dan Newton

FRIDAY EDITORIAL: Brand Awareness

henryfinger

Brand Awareness is now big business for the personality industry and although the idea of being “brand aware” was exclusive to corporate structures and industry (essentially entities and businesses) it is now a subconscious part of the human being DNA that has been on the rise since the launch of Social Media. What this alarming silent trend has caused in the community is a lack of individuality and depth. In its place we now see armies of people in little collective groups under a break away sect of individuality using the speed and pace of social media to communicate rather empty / recycled philosophies and truths that base themselves solely on the purpose of building their personality brand.

Now calm the fuck down everyone, I can hear you sharpening your digital knifes already in the effort to prove me wrong and point out why you are the world champion of the internet and not me. Just settle yourself thundercunt and make sure you read and comprehend my point before you get your book of clichéd radical thoughts out to bid for first prize. The cameras aren’t rolling, just indulge in a bit of shoosh please so I can finish my argument and please refrain from feeding my mouth with words I’m not about to say.

We Cool? good, now hug me you fucking cliché xo

Okay, so to show that I’m a well-balanced human being I’m going to lay out my flaws and ability to indulge in this idea of personality “brand awareness” that I’m attacking.

For anyone in my friends list on Facebook the most annoying aspect of anything I post is the sheer consistency of it. I like to be consistent when it comes to communicating what I’m passionate about. I made a decision a long time ago to keep my facebook for the simple parts of my personality, the ones that I’m happy to be public knowledge. So in the spirit of “brand awareness” I dedicate my entire content to music related things because that is all you need to know about me in that digital realm. That’s where it begins and that is where it ends and it is the only managing of my “personality brand” that I’m willing to enter into.

My choice for this is because I don’t feel any of you deserve to have access to my private life via a computer screen. I also don’t feel it necessary to waste the air time that facebook gives us with pointless musings on first world problems. I also don’t feel that my political or religious beliefs are up for you to discuss or tear apart. Ask me about music – both the music I create and that I listen to – and I will be incredibly open with you and give you everything, but my life outside of the social media world is not your product to consume. I am not your product, I am not your property and you can’t invest in my personality via my facebook page.

I’ll be quite brutally honest with you right now I am not a fan of the following things on social media:

– Selfies
– Hashtags
– YOLO or the general destruction of language via these pathetic digital shortcuts
– Atheist Propaganda passed off as fact (you realise that atheism is just another faith system)
– MEMES
– The total lack of facts, truth or history of any topic in favour of instant left wing / right wing approval
– Invitations to vote for your band to win anything

I bet you are asking yourself why I’m so upset or angry by these things. Well let me break it all down for you all into a few select things that irritate me more than anything.

One of the biggest things to frustrate and offend me is this constant debate about who is better, science or religion. Add into this the whole new age spiritual folk, the star sign people and the atheists and pretty soon you’ve got a diverse but incredibly boring “us VS them” group of internet arguments.

In the spirit of fairness – as I’ve probably attacked and offended everyone – I will tell you very simply what it is that I believe. In a perfect world I’d like to think what I’m about to say could potentially resolve the argument so we could continue our quest to explore space (both inner and outer) and save a lot of data fighting on the internet. Religion, Spirituality, Science, Star Signs, Atheism and anything else that falls into these “belief” fields are wonderful human artefacts that all have beautiful pieces of wisdom and knowledge attached to them. I don’t like to label myself as anything really, I think of myself as a human being who likes to experience new things. Being wired that way inspires me to delve deep into the philosophy of it all and to get to know every inch of those areas of thought. The constant principle that I keep coming back to when I muse on all of it is that no one really knows anything. All of this is rooted in leaps of faith and whilst science is the most credible source of “proof” in terms of mapping our physical world and existence it still adheres to my understanding of a belief system. That is why none of it is the answer and none of it is right and none of it is the right or wrong answer. All of it is just little metrics of control to distract us from the ocean of chaos known as life and in its simplest form is our basic fear driven need to help us cope with the fact that we’re going to die.

Every single person who reads this is going to die. One day you will not exist and that idea of death fuels a fear in us that cannot be controlled. It is the ultimate thirst and it will never be quenched because death is the only thing in this world that we can’t experience. It drives us to invest in many different coping mechanisms and causes us to have unexplained emotional reactions. Everyone is scared of it and no one is safe from it, it is the biggest mystery of all and nothing of this earth has the capacity to explain it or what happens when we die.

Let me repeat that again, we are all going to die. Your best friends are going to die, your husbands and wives are going to die, your children are going to die, your parents are going to die, your enemies are going to die, your co-workers are going to die, your boss is going to die, the strangers you see walking the street are going to die. You will die, you will experience death alone and you have to leave this all behind for the ultimate unknown. All your fear can be driven back to the one truth, you will die.

That knowledge alone deems all of the wasted time on the arguments on who is right and who is wrong redundant.

Still, in the spirit of being brand aware we must associate ourselves with one or the other. If we’re not mega staunch religious people then we are spiritual and if we’re not spiritual then we a staunch atheists and if we are not staunch atheists then we are agnostics and if we are not agnostics then we are humanists and if we aren’t humanists then we are scientologists and if we aren’t scientologists then we believe in science and then of course there are the wiccans and the warlocks and the Satanists and of course everything else in-between. Every single one of these segregated individuals has the capacity to frustrate me with the boring way in which they present themselves and how they take up so much time wanting to be right. Fucking get a life and live it, that is better than debating who is right. If you have a belief, live it but don’t preach it and make sure you open your heart to everyone and everything. Adhering to any faith does not give you the right to shut off your mind to other modes of thought or belief. That applies to every single one of the faith systems I mentioned above.

My wish is that instead of all sides of the argument being stubborn thundercunts, that they would really take the time to get to know their enemy instead of dismissing it. To me, a staunch atheist is just as annoying as a staunch Christian. The left and the right have that capacity to reflect each other with the way they behave, which is, incredibly unbalanced. It always has to be their version of the truth on display and anyone who doesn’t adhere to it or understand it is ignorant and deemed an enemy. You see now how this kind of thinking from both left and right breeds the divide and how the equality of humans is so far away from being a reality while we behave in this fashion.

Now I’m getting tangled in this issue and I’m drifting further away from what I wanted to communicate. That is how much rage this issue brings up in me and why I’d need quite a few more paragraphs to illustrate my disdain.

I don’t want to continue with that, I want to find a point and to me it is this. You are not a celebrity, you are not special, and you are all boring and contributing to the great divide in humanity by killing the ancient art of communication. Facebook is an instrument of freedom but it is a freedom placed in the hands of the first world a place that quite honestly doesn’t need any more freedom. Posting drunk photos of yourself and all of the fruitless pursuits you indulge in from Friday to Sunday prove that you are part of the world machine that is turning a blind eye to what is really happening in the world. TV is no longer the black paint to your third eye of perception, social media is and what it has created is boring scripted personalities who pledge allegiance to the left or right and all the demands that those political trains of thoughts require. You take the drugs, you drink the booze and you fund the wars and to ease your guilt you post a MEME on facebook about it thinking it will do something to save the planet. It is just a useless waste of data and you’re all a bunch of  fucking slaves.

The counterpoint to this argument is going to be “well why Bother Dan?” – I want you to bother, I want you to keep using social media as a new form of communication but I want you, not your brand to communicate to me. I don’t want the company that is your personality pitching itself to me like a fucking resume. I just want you, with all your flawed opinions and emotions to open up and show me what’s really inside of you.

Be good at life and be good at communication, don’t just be good at facebook.

Stop talking and start listening thundercunts, you’ll see that the world is a an easier place to live in when you shut your fucking mouth and listen to all of the voices on display.

Big Love

Dan Newton xo

SUNDAY EDITORIAL: The Music Industry and The Idea of Success

henryfinger

I find the notion of the “Music Industry” to be an incredibly laughable thing. So much importance is placed on displaying the correct behaviour in order to succeed within it and regardless of your genre the rules largely remain the same across the board. The high level model of “make the money now” is not an exclusive mission statement and is the same ethos adopted by many of the upper market independent labels popping up everywhere. The next money machine attached to the “industry” is the promotional companies who although are not record labels as such carry the same spirit of a label in terms of shaping your band so that it can successfully make someone else money. A lot of these promotion companies are the new business model for what used to be referred to as A&R and although there is still a focus on A&R from a major label level, a lot of the big money makers attach themselves to these smaller independent promotion companies in order to help weed out who will make the money and essentially who can successfully be pushed and marketed on the more mainstream level. It’s the perfect synergy of the small label Indies mixing with the major label fat cats and at every step of the process the focus is on marketing, brand awareness, image, empty calorie pop songs, censorship and a strict inside the box business model.

All in all it is a risk free agenda and through this process the bands and musicians are taken on a journey that essentially corrupts and fills them full of doubt as to why they wanted to play music in the first place. Some people are more geared and comfortable with playing within this risk free money making environment. It does allow for certain comforts to be given to you and it also opens up a pressure all of its own for the bands and artists that exist within it. Are you a bad person if you exist within and believe in this business model? No. Are you wrong for assuming that this is the only way to market and distribute music? Yes.

The music industry has so many different layers to it, and depending on your moral compass is not limited to the above business model. The evil aspects of making a profit are no longer exclusive to the major labels; it is a functioning machine across all levels of the industry. The shelter of remaining independent is not as simple as it used to be. There is the same level of “Motley Crue” hunger for money and success now functioning within the independent scenes. The business of art is now a very serious enterprise for the Indies and as a result a lot of mediocre and empty calories have ended up being the face of independent music.

The spirit of being adventurous in the music has been replaced by a new thirst and knowledge of business and making money. This has almost caused an “underground” in the “underground” to the point where the underground independent music scenes now also have many different layers and levels of structure. Ultimately it has been split into the groups of independent musicians who have a business strategy and the independent musicians who make forward thinking music and whose business strategy is to create, work hard, play shows, live rough and to avoid control being taken away from their experimental nature.

The other development within these music scenes is a new kind of younger musician who has taken the time to not only write songs but also do a music business degree. This may be a smart move at such a young age but when you have a whole scene of young musicians with this philosophy only so many of them will break through and the rest will spend their twenties in a state of bitterness or desperation. I have no personal dilemma with anyone having an interest in the business of art and taking the time to get educated in successful methods of conducting good business in general but there is the textbook blueprint and then there is the trial by error approach.

I have a lot of time, respect and love for all of the amazing people who work behind the scenes in the music industry and I don’t want anyone to assume that I’m in anyway bitter about the industry, I just believe that there are certain pages of the textbook not being taught to young musicians and at the end of the day the issue that needs to be addressed is the idea of what being “successful” really means.

To give a bit of context to the way I feel about the music industry circa 2012, I’m going to quote my hero, in both business and music, Mr Ian McKaye who responded in the following way when he was asked if there were other ways that he knew or had thought of to fight the whole status quo of the music industry, with the following being his answer:

“I’m not interested in fighting them. I’m interested in doing my work despite them.”

This is 100 per cent how I personally feel and I think it’s the kind of positive flip side I’d like to inspire in a lot of musicians who have been soured by their experience with the music industry because success is a multi-layered and beautiful concept that is not limited to how much money you earn and all the other fickle qualities of the current more popular business model adopted in the music industry.

To paint you a picture of this I’m going to lean on Ian’s band Fugazi as the classic example of how you can live outside the current ideals of the music industry.

Fugazi are an American band who came out of the DC hardcore music scene of the 1980’s and formed in 1987. They are noted for their DIY ethical stance, manner of business practices and have toured the world, produced six studio albums, a film and a comprehensive live series which has gained the band critical acclaim and success across the world.

After releasing some EP’s and the classic “13 Songs” compilation (a collection of the early EPs) and touring from 87 through to 89 the band released their debut album “Repeater” on April 19th 1990 through Ian’s label Dischord Records (I’ll touch on Dischord Records later in this topic) and although it did not impact any kind of chart or become a commercial success it did launch the band into the public eye quite significantly.

Through 1990 and 1991 they toured heavily behind “Repeater” playing a total of 250 concerts between March 1990 and June 1991 and routinely selling out 1000 plus capacity venues all over the world. By the summer of 1991 “Repeater” had sold more than 300, 000 copies which was an extreme achievement for a band whose own in-house label relied on minimal promotion. Major labels of course attempted to court the band but they made the decision to stay with their own Dischord label and refused all offers because the band was distributing their albums well enough. “Repeater” has sold over 1 million copies in the US alone and around 2 million worldwide.

Before I continue to discuss the amazing success the band had let me take a detour into describing some the business practices of Fugazi so that you can understand how the above mentioned figures were achieved. A lot of what I’m about to type is from information I’ve researched and in the spirt of accuracy a lot of it has been quoted word for word so that I can illustrate to you the point I’m discussing.

Fugazi worked out their DIY aesthetic by trial and error. The group’s decisions were partly motivated by pragmatic considerations that were essentially a punk rock version of simple living: for example, selling merchandise on tour would require a full-time merchandise salesperson that would require lodging, food, and other costs, so Fugazi decided to simplify their touring by not selling merchandise.

The band was also motivated by moral and ethical considerations: for example, Fugazi’s members regarded pricey admission for rock concerts as tantamount to price gouging a performer’s most loyal fans. Fugazi’s inexpensive target goal of $5 admission was spawned during a conversation on an early tour when the band’s members were debating the lowest profitable admission price.

In later years and at many venues, particularly on the east and west coasts of the U.S., Fugazi was unable to get ticket prices below about $10–$15 total. However, it never saw the $5 rule as inviolable, instead aiming to charge a price that was both affordable and profitable. Unlike some similar, independent rock contemporaries, Fugazi’s performances and tours were always profitable, due to the group’s popularity, low business overhead costs, and MacKaye’s keen sense of audience response in given regions.

Fugazi’s early tours earned it a strong word-of-mouth reputation, both for its powerful performances, and also for the band’s eagerness to play in unusual venues. The group sought out alternatives to traditional rock clubs partly to relieve the boredom of touring, but also hoping to show fans that there are other options to traditional ways of doing things.

In terms of their label Dischord Records, here is a bit of a history lesson. The label was founded in 1980 by Ian McKaye and Jeff Nelson and is based in Washington D.C. and specialises in the independent punk music of the D.C. area. The label is most notable for employing the do-it-yourself ethic, producing all of its albums by itself and selling them at discount prices without finance from major distributors.

Dischord Records believed in selling the physical products (CDs, Vinyl and Cassettes) at a lower price which essentially was what these physical mediums were worth minus the music industry mark up. So for instance all of the CDs were sold for ten dollars and came with a disclaimer on the back of each CD for you not to pay over the $10.00 price. The reason this disclaimer was there, and if you attempt to buy any of the Fugazi CD’s from JB’s and even your trusty local independent store Rocking Horse, was so that you were aware of the mark up. If you brought it direct from the band or a record store who applied a minimal mark up, that money went directly to the band but if you brought it for its marked up price in a record store, usually between $20.00 to $30.00, there was a total of $10.00 (at a price of $20.00), $15.00 (at a price of $25.00) or $20.00 (at a price of $30.00) that is not going to the band. ‘

Where does this money go? The retailer whose job is too simply stock it, who shouldn’t be denied a profit but also shouldn’t be allowed to blatantly access such a high profit and have such a significant mark up. So in essence if you consider the million copies of “Repeater” sold in America alone and if for arguments sake all of these copies were sold through a chain store who had a mark up from $10.00 to $30.00 on the cd then the band would essentially make ten million dollars and then the chain store would make twenty million dollars for essentially stocking an album on the shelves. If the album was attached to a major or even an indie label then the mark up and other costs would all be distributed between the various pieces of the pie that can include managers, publicists, producers and a list of other people who essentially aren’t the musician or band who made the music. The band would essentially get the $10.00 left over from every sale, if that, distributed between them. Although my accuracy in this situation may not include some information about how album distribution works, in terms of mark ups and fees and who gets what, it’s quite clear that Fugazi ran quite a successful business to make the kind of money they did and by keeping their product at a reasonable almost wholesale price and making a profit that goes back into feeding their own record label and touring pursuits.

That is why through all the chaos of financial crisis and the download era, Dischord Records is still a functioning and thriving enterprise. It’s a disappointment that their success and business model was not adopted by the major labels and music industry as a whole. It is an exercise in erasing ego and greed and although Dischord may have influenced countless of other independent labels throughout the world, the greed and ego of major label business structures have unfortunately polluted these other independent labels and the way they do business, but enough about that lets get back to Fugazi and their amazing career.

For Fugazi’s second album “Steady Diet of Nothing,” which was released in July 1991, the band had pre-orders, six months prior to its release, in excess of 160,000. For their third album “In on the Kill Taker” which was released in June 1993, the rise of alternative rock allowed for this album to breakthrough to a lot more people. It was the band’s first album to reach the Billboard charts and it sold 180,000 copies in its first week of release. This was again with no major label support or budget and an incredibly minimal amount of promotion. This was independent rock triumphing the way it was meant to.

The touring cycle for “In on the Kill Taker” saw the group selling out large auditoriums and arenas as well as seeing the band being offered more lucrative major label offers. During the bands sold-out 3-night stint at New York City’s Roseland Ballroom in September 1993, music mogul and Atlantic Records president Ahmet Ertegün met with the band backstage in an attempt to sign them. Ertegün offered the band a “anything you want” contract including their own subsidiary label and more than $10 million just to sign with Atlantic. Fugazi declined the offer. This is the kind of major label dream that so many bands would dream of, but in the spirit of having complete control over everything, the band stuck with their successful way of doing business. Lollapalooza also asked the band to headline their festival in 1993 but the band declined as well.

The band went on to release three more incredible albums called “Red Medicine,” “End Hits” and “The Argument” and went on hiatus as of 2003. I wasn’t able to get the sales figures for all their albums but here is a breakdown of some of the figures for a few of their albums:

  • 13 Songs – Total current worldwide sales of over 3 million
  • Repeater – 1 million US and 2 Million worldwide
  • In On The Kill Taker – 180,000 first week sales and currently over 1 million copies sold worldwide
  • Red Medicine – 160,000 copies first week sales
  • The Argument – 174,000 copies first week sales

For an independent band to reach those kind of first week sales to me is just incredibly amazing. Some of the empty calorie indie bands marketed and flogged by JJJ would fail to reach those kinds of sales and they have promotion companies working for them.

Since their hiatus in 2003 each band member has gone on to tackle new projects and here is a brief history of each member both during Fugazi and post Fugazi:

Ian McKaye

Currently plays in a band called “The Evens” with drummer and vocalist Amy Farina The band pride themselves on playing in non-standard locations, such as community centres, bookshops, or other atypical spaces. The Evens released their self-titled album in early 2005, breaking a three-year silence by MacKaye. Their second album, “Get Evens“, was released in November 2006. “The Evens are currently mixing a new record, due out at the end of this year (or early 2013 at the latest). In February 2004, MacKaye produced the recording sessions for John Frusciante‘s solo album titled DC EP. After working with MacKaye, Frusciante states “Ian is one of the only living people who I really respect and look up to, so it was an honour and a pleasure as well as a great learning experience to hear his perspective.”

Throughout his music career MacKaye has engineered and produced releases by a number of bands primarily on his Dischord label including 7 Seconds, Antelope, Bikini Kill, Black Eyes, Lungfish, Nation of Ulysses, One Last Wish, Q and Not U, Rites of Spring, Rollins Band, and others. He also does a lot speaking dates at universities across America. Ian still co-owns and runs Dischord Records and today more than 150 titles have been released by Dischord. The label has become notorious for its success despite its tendency to stray away from major label tactics for attracting monetary gains.

Guy Picciotto

Picciotto has collaborated and performed with Mats Gustafsson, Vic Chesnutt, and members of the Ex among others. He has also produced numerous albums including, The Gossip‘s breakthrough record Standing in the Way of Control as well as Blonde Redhead‘s Melody of Certain Damaged Lemons (2000), Misery Is a Butterfly (2004) and The Blood Brothers final album, Young Machetes. Picciotto played on the Vic Chesnutt albums North Star Deserter (2007) and At the Cut (2009), and accompanied him on a 2009 Fall/Winter North American Tour. He co-produced the film Chain with Jem Cohen (who made the Fugazi film Instrument).

Joe Lally

Lally founded Tolotta Records (distributed through Dischord Records), which was active from 1994 until 2001, putting out notable releases by such artists as Dead Meadow, Spirit Caravan, Stinking Lizaveta & Orthrelm. In early 2002, Lally joined ex-Frodus members Shelby Cinca and Jason Hamacher on a project originally called The Black Sea, which would change its name to Decahedron and release an EP and an album before Lally left the band. He has also worked with John Frusciante and Josh Klinghoffer as the group Ataxia, releasing two albums: Automatic Writing (2004) and AW II (2007). In 2006, Lally was playing solo shows on bass with slight laptop accompaniment in various college towns, which would lead up to Lally’s first solo album, There to Here, which was released in the fall of 2006. It features Jerry Busher, Ian MacKaye, Amy Farina, Guy Picciotto, Scott Weinrich and many other musicians from the DC music scene. In 2007, he toured the U.S. with the Philadelphia band Capillary Action and The Melvins and Europe and Japan with the Italian band Zu. His second solo album, Nothing Is Underrated, was released in November 2007. Lally released his 3rd album entitled Why Should I Get Used To It in April 2011.

Brendan Canty

Canty frequently composes soundtrack music, primarily for Discovery Channel and The Learning Channel documentaries. He also contributes to or helps produce other Washington D.C.-area recordings. During Fugazi’s post-2002 hiatus, Canty took part in a side project, Garland Of Hours, with vocalist/cellist/keyboardist Amy Domingues and drummer/percussionist Jerry Busher, both of whom have contributed to Fugazi recordings and performances. Their first self-titled album was released on the Arrest Records label founded by Busher and Canty’s younger brother James, formerly of Nation of Ulysses. Canty’s score for the Sundance Channel documentary series The Hill premiered on August 23, 2006. He continues to Score the National Geographic Channel’s “Hard Time”. In 2004, Canty and director Christoph Green co-founded the DVD label Trixie to release an ongoing series of music-related films entitled Burn to Shine. The series involves independent alternative music bands from a particular region showing up to perform one song live, without overdubs or corrections, in a house that is about to be demolished. The first volume was filmed in Canty’s home region of Washington, D.C., and features performances from Bob Mould, Weird War, Q and Not U, Ted Leo, French Toast, The Medications, fellow Fugazi member Ian MacKaye’s side project The Evens, and Garland Of Hours. A second volume, filmed in the Chicago area, was released in 2005, and a third filmed in Portland, Oregon came out August 20 of 2006. Three more volumes are currently in production featuring other cities. Using the same crew and filming style as on the Burn to Shine series, Canty and Green made a concert film of a Bob Mould show, entitled “Circle of Friends.” Canty not only produced this film but also plays drums during the show, which took place at Washington D.C.’s 9:30 Club. Canty and Green also made Sunken Treasure: Live in the Pacific Northwest, a 2006 Jeff Tweedy (Wilco) tour film, and the Wilco tour film Ashes of American Flags, which was released in 2009 and toured festivals extensively, eventually being broadcast on the Sundance Channel in the US, and being released on DVD and iTunes. In late 2004 and early 2005, Canty contributed drum tracks to Bob Mould’s 2005 solo album, Body Of Song. Canty was also the drummer for many dates on the winter 2005/2006 tour in support of the album. Canty returns as the drummer for Bob Mould’s District Line, to be released February 2008. He produced Ted Leo and the Pharmacists‘s Living With the Living and The Tyranny of Distance albums. He also produced Benjy Ferree, The Thermals‘s The Body, The Blood, The Machine, and French Toast records, as well as mixing the self-titled debut album for The Aquarium. He recently directed long-time friend Eddie Vedder‘s new solo performance DVD release, Water on the Road.

So as you can now see, the music industry is not an exclusive business model and success can be defined in many different ways. The fact that Fugazi are also anti-drugs, drink, cigarettes and are also against the idea of self-destructive sex as a conquest (an idea started by Ian during Minor Threat and terribly taken out of context by those damn straight edge kids) also probably says a lot for the success of the band. That kind of “sex, drugs and rock n roll” lifestyle was not for Fugazi and the way they broke down that kind of lifestyle and rebelled against it is also a powerful lesson for any young musician because the only way to get good and remain good is to have a good musical discipline and to focus on your art. The sex, drugs and booze does not help evolve that and is not part of the package of being a musician.

The Fugazi legacy is one of many stories of how bands and artists have taken the power back and managed to forge a successful career outside of the redundant major and now independent record labels business structure. What makes Fugazi so special to me though is how they have managed to do this without the support of your typical mainstream and now independent forms of promotion and hype. To have sold the amount of albums that they have and to do this by avoiding the path of mainstream and modern rock radio is truly an achievement.

I’m not 100 per cent plugged in to the curriculum of a music business degree but I’m fairly certain that like most mainstream education, some truths, like the Fugazi story, are left out of the manual. I’m not sure how many BigSound music type conferences share the story of Fugazi but I’ve never seen Ian McKaye on the line-up and he’s more of a successful businessman than most players in the music scene. I suspect that Ian has no interest in having a conference to discuss the business of art and instead focuses on getting the job done.

Big Love xo

By: Dan Newton

FRIDAY EDITORIAL: Record Store Day

henryfinger

Tomorrow sees the world celebrate “Record Store Day” which is a global movement to put a focus on the importance of buying physical artefacts from independent record stores. This is both a beautiful and ugly example of the modern world we live in. To focus on the latter for one second, it is ugly because much like the other celebrated isolation of days like “Valentine’s Day” it shows that a lot of us only have the capacity to commit to something once a year in that “novelty” kind of way and once it passes it is business as usual and the bad behaviour (in this case digital downloading) is favoured. That is a minor personal gripe that simply illustrates my consistent frustration with human beings and that bandwagon stench that they bathe in to try and give their personality brand some kind of respectable dimension. The real joy of “Record Store Day” for the true believers is the fact that we get to purchase a lot of amazing records from artists we love. Whether it is just another day of physical purchasing for you or a once a year sign of faith doesn’t really matter, the point is music is celebrated and the record store is supported.

I love buying records from the record store and life has reached a point where I actually budget each pay to ensure that I can buy some new CDs or Vinyl. Some fortnights I can spend well over $200 on physical product with a minimum of $100 always spent. Music for me is not some little hobby that I do for fun or to impress my peers or piss off my parents, it is a way of life that has been swirling inside my DNA since I brought my first cassette tape in 1991 (Bryan Adams “Waking Up The Neighbours). When I got turned on to Seattle via Pearl Jam in 1994 the art of purchasing music as a physical product and visiting my local record stores became a ritual that inspires more happiness than any human being could ever offer.

I feel pretty alienated from the world, I have a hard time connecting to most people and I’m consistently lead down blind alleys with various human beings the older I get. My alienation can be summarised by the sheer disappointment of being misunderstood by pretty much everyone I meet and although I always have the best intentions to navigate the diverse range of human opinion and connection I tend to become exhausted with the competitive nature of it all. My pain poker face is well rehearsed and I keep any of those aches for when I express myself with Galapogos. I let the world in let them get a glimpse and then build the wall, a wall that is vital to re-establishing my trust with planet earth.

It’s during these times of isolation inside that emotional wall that the Record Store and the ritual of purchasing music on CD and Vinyl become important. You see, when I get to just roam a Record Store with no agenda other than expanding my collection, my taste and my historical understanding of sound I am the happiest you’ll ever see me. There only a few human beings who have the capacity to participate in the journey with me (Dutney, Bohn and Zorzan) because a lot of the time it is a journey I like to undertake alone with no agenda of time or price. To just browse and take the risk or to find something you’ve needed to finalise a collection or a rare album that is either out of print or extremely hard to find in physical form. I just can’t get that buzz from looking at a computer screen and clicking on a download button allowing the transfer of data to my hard drive. There is no discovery or joy in that process at all. It is a very weak handshake and tends to be very insincere. I can’t hold that album in my hand, I can’t read the inlay card, I can’t study the artwork and I can’t display it with pride on my CD or Vinyl racks. The illegal download issue is too big to discuss right here right now but to deprive any artist payment by stealing their data from the internet is just plain wrong and only illustrates your lack of respect for music as an art form. If music is offered to you for free via the internet by the artist, take it, but if you acquire it for free just because you think it is your “right” then you seriously need to analyse your moral compass and understanding of theft and deviancy.

I don’t care how much I have to pay to hear music from any artist I chose to like. I love music so much that I’ll put that money in to buying that physical product. I’ve spent lots of money acquiring certain music collections through the years but for me the act of handing over money is not a concern because that music is so important to me that I need to own it and I refuse to resort to digital thievery in order to consume a piece of music. You can’t put a price on music and for me personally that means that whatever it is worth, I’ll pay it, because I know that it is an investment in that artist and music in general. I’d love to get into that whole “what is music worth” debate but that is something I will discuss in next week’s editorial, today is about favouring the physical artefact over the digital download.

Beyond being entertainment and an art form music is also a historical document that helps us trace our evolution as a species. A lot of significant cultural changes have been well documented in the timeline of music released by a range of different artists. That history has been allowed to live on through the physical artefact known as the CD and Vinyl medium. They don’t call it a “record” for nothing. That piece of vinyl (or cassette tape or CD) is a piece of history recorded and whether it only resonates with you or whether it resonates with millions of people doesn’t really matter, the point is it represents a piece of our culture. The technology provided by the advancement of computers and the internet should have allowed it to make it easier to catalogue and store this information not destroy the physical artefact known as the Record. Like every good idea though, it has a brilliant theory attached to it but once you introduce it to the diverse minds of the public it gets distorted and taken into a direction not originally intended. The IPOD should have provided you convenience not a reason to boycott buying Tapes, CDs or Vinyl.

Either way you consume music the fact that you are consuming music is a good thing and I’ll never discourage that. I guess I believe in a different kind of consumption to the modern world and prefer to pay whatever price is attached to it when I visit the record store. Music is something I plan to invest in for the rest of my life so it makes sense for me to pay for everything I consume regardless of its appeal to the modern world.

I guess I need to find a point to all of this. I think I’ll leave on this note – the joy of music is not limited to the physical or the digital. Whatever vehicle you choose to get you there is a positive thing but when you consider the idea of what an artist or what music is worth to you it makes sense to view the purchasing of music as an investment in art. If you choose digital (paid or unpaid) you only have to sit behind a computer screen or your smart phone or tablet visit a search engine and click download. It requires no effort and has more in common with the sloth and laziness than anything else. You speak to no one, don’t get to experience human connection and if you took a risk and it didn’t pay off, all you have to do is press delete. When you visit the record store you have to leave your house and get out of your surroundings. You get to go into a place where other people have gathered to consume new music. You get to connect with other humans and discuss music and you support the independent record store. I know which one I prefer and I think if the world really believed in equality it would see the value in combining the two mediums – digital for storage of data and the convenience of carrying your collection on a MP3 device, the physical a way to support art, artists, record stores and the future of music – so that we all get to contribute to the healthy advancement of music.

So Fuck Data, make record store day every day. You may think it’s modern and in the spirit of individuality to download (paid or unpaid) but when everyone else is doing it you have to ask yourself are you just part of societies herd being free to do what they tell you to do.

Don’t take that wrong (said Bill)

Big Love

Dan Newton xo