notes from waaay underground, Sept 2012
It’s hardly an original observation, but we’re in an unprecedented place with music right now. And that’s leaving aside the hopelessly blurred question of illicit downloads.
What we’ve got is an ever-more-entrenched top tier – the trad music biz – with a chokehold on all outlets still, despite everything. Shrinking but sucking up all the gravy, digging in, skimming off as much short-term profit on karaoke, lukewarm EDM and career-path indie as possible… (The money nowadays is in being a middleman – a 360-degree platform, or whatever… basically smoothing a load of unexpected bumps out of this level playing field, or claiming to.) And then there’s practically everyone else. Okay, there are exceptions when someone interesting somehow gets over the fence, but you know what I’m saying.
“Everyone else” being the huge semi-pro DIY mass, squashed in a corner, playing the long game. Doing it for the love of it, waiting for a break, gambling on longevity – or persistence – or bloody-mindedness… (If the volume of ever-accumulating stuff out there on the internet hasn’t made a nonsense of ideas like “back catalogue” and “posterity”, for unknowns anyway.) This in itself isn’t a new thing; it’s the extent of the lower tier that’s new. There simply aren’t enough outlets that pay – either in terms of making a living, or the finer commodity of sustained visibility. Of course the situation could eventually stabilize, even improve; something unexpected might come along and change the game again. Until then, though…
They believe in what they’re doing, these hidden musicians, so they roll the dice and carry on regardless.
As will I, despite the discouraging recent experience of having a band blow up on the launchpad. Discouraging, not fatal – with 20/20 hindsight it’s best in the long run, for reasons I needn’t go into here. Gave me ideas on how I’d like to continue, which is something; time now to get on with it.
Another year, another gamble: thankfully, the work is its own reward. Clearly lots of other people feel the same.
Last night’s Interrobang gig was great – good atmosphere and venue, receptive audience, lots of interesting stuff going on.
So – a good place to stop for a week or two, and think about how best to carry on. There’s only so much an acoustic guitar can do, after all; it’s kind of limiting the options. Might be good to try putting a band together… (Although ironically, the new material written for album #2 suits solo acoustic much better, so who knows? The last thing I want is to end up with yet another by-the-numbers indie band.)
With all kinds of as-yet unformed ideas, I’m taking time off from live stuff for a couple of months to try out different approaches. Last night was good enough to make me regret the decision, which proves it’s the right one – if that makes sense.
More fun in the capital. Every time I visit London now, a wave of nostalgia hits me – how could I have given up all this? The density, the dirt, the sense of great things doing? Well, I had little choice – but that’s another story. Besides, the feeling soon passes. It’s always good to come back for a gig, though.
So, played 93 Ft East on 28th March – and had a pretty good time, all considered. It’s interesting trying to convert a largely uncommitted audience who don’t know or much care who you are. It can go either way, but this time it worked; crested the uphill part of the gig, fought through the tumbleweed inertia moment, and by the end had largely drawn them in. Maybe it was the megaphone; I’ve always wanted to hassle people who bugger off for a smoke, and this is the ideal tool. In fact I’d better stop using it soon, or I’ll come to rely on it too much… But it helped, which was funny.
Afterward, someone told me my lyrics are “not what people want to hear” – whatever that’s supposed to mean. A compliment, in a way. YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH!!! Call me a pervert, but I was pleased. So I don’t deal in reassuring, feel-good platitudes; why is that any worse coming from a guy with an acoustic guitar than, say, two laptops and a strobe-light tied to his head? Someone explain it to me. Ah what the hell – some people dug it, the rest… just had to sit tight for half an hour.
Spent the following day in Brighton Electric Studios shooting test footage for a music vid. This is to accompany Hands Up, the second single (due in July, shortly before the album). Feels weird, miming – especially trying to play guitar at the same time and make it all look real. Can’t deny it was fun, like some kind of whole-body Karaoke. And some people do this kind of thing a lot – what does that do to their minds…?