Tabs Out has a mid-year tape-label roundup for 2013, including a great little write-up for Field Studies Imprint (on Tumblr also), and my CS20 “A Judicious Observation of that Dreadful Portent,” which I am totally flattered that they describe as “a beast,” along with the really awesome Zerfalt tape. Tabs Out is such a good podcast: the dudes are smart and funny as hell, and they play a lot of great music that can sometimes be hard to find. I’m about to drive from Chicago to Philly in a week or so, and I’m probably going to load up my phone and spend some quality time with these guys along the way.
The other bands that I was in — I think that either I or other people in the bands had some kind of, uh, expectation that it would take up the majority of our time. Right? Certainly when I was in Big Black, I only had a job because it was necessary, and if I didn’t need to have a job, I wouldn’t have, and I would have just done Big Black while it was active. But now, I kinda feel like having a job is great, and being in a band as a side project is great and not any kind of a compromise at all. And that’s one of the reasons why this band (the band I’m in now), Shellac, has been so durable. We just had our 20th anniversary, and I don’t think we could have survived that long—
Music means different things to everybody, right? Like some guys who are in bands, they think that it’s not — they’re not legitimate if it’s not their job, it’s not their profession, right? I don’t think that’s true because I have been moved by so much music that was made by people for whom it wasn’t their profession that I don’t make that parallel. I don’t see it as a lack of commitment to not try to make a living off of it. I see it — I see it like totally converse to that. I think of music as something that I’m willing to work 40 hours a week or more to support, like a wife and family, right? Music to me is that important. It’s so important that I don’t expect it to make a living for me. I expect that I will have to work a normal, regular job like a regular person in order to have the luxury of being able to play music.
That, to me, just seems like a totally sensible position, right? And also, once I had internalized that and made that my mentality, uh, I think that the reason that I love my band so much — and I do love playing with Bob and Todd, you know, to the core of my being, right? — the reason that I do is that I never have cause to resent it. There’s never a single time where I feel like, “Aw, crap, we have to go on tour?” You know, like, “Aw, geez, we have to knock out another album.” Those kind of thoughts never enter my mind. It never seems like an obligation, it never seems like it’s any pressure whatsoever. It’s just a pure, pure joy, you know?
Some thoughts from Steve Albini on the idea of music, or at least being in a band, as your job. I came to some similar conclusions as Albini’s here a while ago, so I’m in agreement with these sentiments. I’ll try and say something a little more eloquent about all this at some point, but not today.
From this awesome Low Times interview with Steve Albini: http://www.lowtimespodcast.com/lt_episodes/26/.
When Albini said this, it sucked all the air out of the room for me. Just awesome.
So, my friend Gabe Holcombe’s awesome CS label Lillerne Tapes has most of its catalog online right now for free, because Gabe is awesome and has a ton of extra free downloads currently. If any of my music- and scene/community -related tirades have ever been remotely interesting to you, this stuff is amazing, all originally put out on cassette, and exists out of what I can only describe as a labor of love on Gabe’s part. I take Gabe’s own project (Vehicle Blues) and the effort that he’s put into Lillerne to be pretty exemplary of a lot of the things I continue to care about in the DIY music community, although I’m saving a more detailed excursus on all of that for later, when I actually have the time to think it all through and get some more eloquent thoughts down on paper. For now, I also really highly recommend the interview/hosting Gabe did on the Notes and Bolts Podcast a while back (#095), a great podcast on the scene, tape culture, etc., well worth checking out if you’re interested in knowing more about where all of this is coming from, how it works, and so on.
If you want some recommendations as far as downloads go, obviously snag the Lillerne compilation, anything with Potions, Katrina Stonehart, Baby Birds, Vehicle Blues, Gelatin Kids—probably you should just download all of it, but I’d say those are good places to start.
Really great review of my recent CS20 “A Judicious Observation…” on Field Studies Imprint by Canadian (I think) Professionals Zine (email@example.com). This little blurb totally made my day, especially after finishing up final mixes for the full-length yesterday. Professionals is a nice, old-school minimal zine, plenty of good reviews of great stuff (definitely going to check out some of the other releases reviewed in this June 2013 issue), well worth checking out.
Kevin from Bridgetown just posted this incredibly weird exchange he had with someone. I wholeheartedly agree with where Kevin is coming from (as usual), but I think for me the fact that this guy who contacted him doesn’t seem to know how to write or communicate at all would’ve ended the whole thing then and there. These emails read like one of those fake bot-generated spam letters about “a golden opportunity,” or Craig’s List scammers. The spelling, grammar and punctuation is just fucking disgusting.
That said, the other thing that really bothers me about the conversation is simply that the person who emailed Kevin just has no clue what he’s talking about, whether that’s in terms of “electronic” music, or music in general. Electronic music is all stolen? On what planet? Synthesizers, sequencers, various software—these things are instruments, just like a guitar or a trombone or anything else. And as instruments they take a long time and a shitload of effort to learn to use, let alone to use well. If this moron thinks that electronic music is 99% stolen, he has clearly never tried to make beats. Further, programming and sequencing are skills, skills performed on instruments, which, again, take a long time and a lot of hard work simply to understand the mechanics and become halfway competent, let alone good at. The fact that this person would even assert that probably means he or she is about 16, or just a fucking moron, and probably doesn’t have that much experience in this or any other scene.
Finally, sampling too is a skill, and doing it well is just as hard and takes as much practice as the rest of these things. There are also rules that people follow when doing it—legal ones, rules of simple courtesy and respect, and so on. If a producer (whether in hip-hop or another genre that uses samples) does sample something, they are obligated to acknowledge it, and get permission. I’m not saying I think Steely Dan should’ve sued De la Soul, but there has to be a way to have a dialog about this kind of musical practice that maintains a level of respect and a modicum of intelligence—neither of which the person who contacted Kevin seems to possess at all.
This conversation gets into other interesting territory really quickly. I’m thinking about the issue of covering songs, or of folk music in general, but both of these are quite different from sampling, let alone from sampling without either permission or acknowledgment. I think there might also be a huge and glaring distinction between “sampling” a phrase, line, hook or whatever, and just blatantly ripping something or someone off.
Last thing: If it is in fact the case that he or she is indeed just a kid, I really hope that this is, somehow, a learning experience for them, and that it leads to getting more involved in a more positive way with the scene (or whatever scene suits them best). Being excited about music and influenced by artists you like, especially people putting stuff out on their own and in small batches, is really great, and I would never disparage being influenced or inspired by that. It just looks like this person is a bit confused about what that means, and still has a lot to learn. I hope that they ultimately do have the opportunity to actually do just that, not just on the musical, but also on the social level of what the community can be at its best.
This is what happens when you plagiarize the music of one of my best friends and send it to me (and several other peers) as a demo.
I have never released a demo submission ever, and when it is just copying-and-pasting the work of someone I have released, it is definitely not happening.
Photo by the indomitable Tom Tian from last night’s collaboration with Eric Hanss, from the show with the Riggs-Labycz duo and Chris Corsano.
A nice excerpt from my set at “Tangy Zone” a few weeks ago. Really great show for a completely new audience. There are some excerpts from the other set(s) by Ted Gordon and Cameron Hu linked here too, well worth a listen. This set also featured a lot of audience participation: I passed around a tiny Saturnworks expression pedal knob thing that was hooked up to the frequency on the VCO, and people seemed to really enjoy it.
So my new tape, A Judicious Observation… out now on Field Studies Imprint, was featured on episode #23 of the always-awesome Tabs Out Podcast, along with a lot of other amazing music. Above all else, these guys even pronounced my last name correctly, which is the thing I’m probably most excited about.
#fender #1984 #americanstandard
Underground in Suburbia: a great, well made little documentary about Kevin Greenspon’s suburban Southern-California-based Bridgetown records, one of the many, many, many amazing DIY tape (CDR, etc.) labels putting stuff out right now and for the past few years. This is definitely worth 10 minutes of your time, whether you’ve always been involved in DIY music culture or had no idea there was anything but top-40 out there.
This is not only great because it talks about what Kevin and his friends are doing, but shows how these projects, shows, labels, releases and tours are representative of things going on all over the US and elsewhere. I have a lot to say about DIY scenes in general, but here I’ll just mention how happy I am that they emphasize that this is a suburban scene, not just for the fact of its geographic location, but for what that says about who these folks are and what they’re trying to do (and succeeding at it). This isn’t a rush to LA or NYC to try and “make it,” these kids aren’t “fortune seekers” who need absurd mass appeal or the acknowledgment of established channels—be that “big[ger]” labels, idiotic “next big thing” magazines, or bullshit self-congratulatory “taste maker” outlets (without naming names there: I live in Chicago, so you probably know exactly what I’m talking about), etc.
I just turned 33 two weeks ago. I started going to shows like these in the late 90s, and I’ve seen the DIY scene go through so many permutations in terms of musical content: from punk & hardcore (my own roots) to folk, noise pop, harsh noise, power electronics, and so on. Clearly, it is a testament to all of the people ever involved in scenes like these that so much of this music has been amazing. But there is also a deep and hard-to-delimit relationship between the content of this work and the form of community and the kinds of relationships within which it arises, takes shape, is cultivated, grows and departs. Anyone who knows me knows that I prefer the term “community of listeners” to “scene,” but only because it is a vastly better description of what we’re talking about. I like this little piece a lot because it at least gives a hint of what that can be, or what I mean when I say that.
So, again, fuck that stupid ass recent Vice article, whether or not it was a joke. The scene has given so much to so many people that I’ve been lucky enough to encounter across the country, as well as in Europe and Japan. The continuity that I’m hinting at here in how this works and what it does is so strong at least across my own life (and certainly way before that) that whatever the particular musical content—from hardcore to ambient noise pop—I do think it’s possible to refer to “The DIY scene” in a way that encompasses all of that, while in no way masking—indeed, while highlighting—the specificity of the unique communities of listeners that, as permeable, malleable (in a good way) nodes in a whole series of relationships give this broader picture its character and its form.
These smaller communities, and the musical/visual trajectories within them, can be frail and fleeting; their particular instantiations can disappear quickly, but that, I take it, is all part of it.
Anyway, I was happy to see this piece on Kevin & Bridgetown. We had a good time and ate some decent ice-cream when he played with us at my place last summer, definitely one of the best shows I’ve done and most fun nights I’ve had since I can’t remember.
#kevingreenspon #bridgetownrecords #danielwyche #cassettes #tapelabels