Tuesday, August 31, 2010

It's not where you're from- it's where you're at that counts.

Question: Hi guys I´m reading your blog on regular basis. My question is. Is it true that the place from where is coming the band has big impact on if they get signed or any attention from labels?I know there was a question about big vs small cities bands here already. But I´m speaking internationaly. For example we just recorded EP with well known UK producer (John Mitchell) and recorded it with Roland Grapow BUT we are from far EAST (Slovakia) where is literally no musicbiz. So I´m starting to think if this is one of the disadvantages or reasons why labels are scared to risk sign a band which is basically based in "no scene/no biz territory" compared to west Europe


Answer: Earache as a rule signs bands first and foremost because we like them musically, location is not that important so long as the songs are killer, and the band is willing to travel & tour.
In the 90's we signed bands from Sweden (Entombed) & Poland (Vader) when it was highly unusual to do so, because since almost the beginning of the rock/metal scene there has been an in-built Anglo-American bias. This is mainly due to the fact that the music industry which surrounds the scene is extremely well developed and organised in US & UK. Its been estimated there are over 300 labels just based in New York City, and about 100,000 people in London make their living from the music industry (recording/publishing/concert/touring/venues etc) alone.For some reason, signing bands from our home countries makes them easier to work with, I guess they are just more familiar to those people in the biz.

On the other side of the coin, Earache has also worked with a higher than normal proportion of bands from our home town of Nottingham, UK- its only a smallish town in the midlands of England, but bands like Iron Monkey, Heresy, Fudge Tunnel and Pitch Shifter were all released and promoted by the label. It's almost a requirement of a local label which is doing well to help out its local bands.

Nowadays in the era of home recording and the internet, I don't think it matters too much where a band is based, - we have in recent years worked with bands from Russia (Forest Stream) and Australia (The Berzerker) and we do find that bands from countries with a less developed Biz do need way more career guidance and instruction on how to build a career than US or UK bands. It's not instinctive to them. Sometimes they think being signed is the pinnacle of their career, and stardom will surely follow, when the reality is its just the beginning, the first step on the ladder. Inking a contract instantly raises the stakes and pressure on the band to succeed and this fact mystifies many bands.

The story of Brasil's SEPULTURA is one of the best examples of a metal band coming out of a country with a less developed Music Biz, and by some lucky breaks they broke out of the country to relocate to USA and became huge stars. Roadrunner took a huge chance on that band and deserve all the credit for their incredible insight.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Peter Hook's £600 edition of his 'Hacienda' book + Ltd 10 inch

Question: Hi Dig
As a follow on from the new underground metal fan, what's your opinion on heritage acts seemingly milking their audience dry. For example, Peter Hook has been flogging basses made from the Hacienda dance floor and has recently compiled a 10 inch with his book and is asking for £600. http://foruli.co.uk/music
Is this justified because of the downturn in legally bought music or is it musicians sticking their arm in? From: neworder2006@hotmail.com

Answer: I really don't think Peter Hook has to justify his actions to you or me, or to anyone for that matter. Don't forget that for the £600 you get some amazing original artifacts from the original Hacienda thrown in- a piece of the wooden dancefloor and a piece of the granite bar top, this is genuine gold for fans and collectors alike, and I reckon the bits from a genuinely historical UK music site make it a bloody bargain.Peter Hook himself in the liner notes says it might appear to be a gouging of fans, but the time and effort put into the project and its rarity value makes the high price justifiable.

I've never met the fella nor did I ever visit the Hacienda club when it was going but after witnessing a really early Joy Division show in Derby Ajanta with Ian Curtis doing his trademark whirling dervish dance, it was obvious they were destined to become pretty huge. Curtis' tragic suicide and the subsequent rise of New Order on the musical map led to them-rightly- becoming global superstars.Hooky and his band(s) literally changed the whole landscape of music in the UK for over 20 years. The club is famous because it ushered in "Dance Music" to the UK masses for the very first time.
I really can't fault him for trading on his past as a nostalgia trip for the collectors market.Special editions in limited quantities are the only things selling these day-especially, as you say, nobody buys regular CDs anymore, you can download it or get a legal free stream on Spotify anyway.

His book about the club- The Hacienda- How Not To Run A Club is a genuine must-read for anyone remotely interested in music history. It's brilliant, and after reading it you can't help but admire the bloke. Most bands who sell millions of records typically spend their money on big houses or flash cars, but New Order wanted to build a club and do something for the local friends and early fans instead.

Hooky tells in alarmingly frank detail how the band were so wealthy from record sales that it seemed a wheeze to set up a brand new club in Manchester, more or less on a whim, just so they could have a drink and a laugh with their mates in cool, contemporary surroundings, while listening to the latest house music imported from Chicago.

I never bothered treking up to the North West to see it, because the local Nottingham punk/post-punk club The Garage had DJ Graeme Park- he was among the first to start to play House music in the UK, so what was once a cool hangout to hear decent post-punk switched to this new style House almost overnight. I disliked the scene and the music, it was just 'disco' to my ears, so I stopped going. The Hacienda website has great interviews with Graeme Park and more of the original DJ's. By co-incidence, some of the earliest grindcore shows by Napalm Death and Heresy took place at the same 'Garage' club later in the decade. Nowadays its a late night cocktail bar called `Lizard Lounge'.

Back to the Hacienda - unwittingly the New Order co-owners blew millions on the project because high profile club-running is a seriously cut-throat business.For a few years the club and its policy of flying in DJ's from the early Chicago house scene was achingly hip and fashionable, which led to its worldwide fame and success. On the flipside that fame led to extremely violent gangland/ drug dealer type characters gradually infesting the club. The club didn't keep pace with the rapidly evolving dance music scene either, sticking with an 80s House groove while ignoring the 90's UK jungle or German trance/techno scenes. This along with the regular outbreaks of violence eventually caused its slow downward spiral to bankruptcy.

Hey- if you really have cash to splash on a nostalgia trip, for about £50 you can also watch Hooky and his band playing the entire Unknown Pleasures album at the Vintage event at Goodwood racetrack next weekend August 14th.

Watch Peter Hook explain the clubs demise on BBC TV interview

And re-live that Hacienda late 80's boom period by checking the Stakker clip below.It was the period when straight up Chicago House music spawned the more radical UK Acid House scene.A new breed of young UK producers sped up the house beat and added squelchy Roland 303 "acid" noises to create 'Acid House'. Stakker defined the sound.

Stakker- Humanoid

Friday, August 06, 2010

The changing face of the underground metal fan in the MySpace/Facebook era.

Question: Hi Dig,

I'm a regular reader of the blog and I would be interested to know what your view is of the state of the live music scene today in underground metal. I attend a lot of small shows and it seems to me that low turnouts, hostile venues and general apathy is the norm nowdays despite some great bands and lineups on gigs across the country, but I remember gigs 10-15 years ago being a different matter altogether. I recall always turning up early to catch all the support bands for shows incase I should uncover something great - now I often see supports play to crowds that consist solely of their girlfriends and the other bands. I know huge festivals and arena metal bands are doing better than ever, but do you think its the case that for todays 'quick-fix' Myspace crowd the small scale gig has lost its lustre, or am I just having a case of rose tinted glasses?
Luke From: evilluke@rock.com

Answer: This is Reanimator Luke asking yeah? Hiya and welcome to the blog.I know exactly where you are coming from dude- apathy has always been there, but there's a new kind of problem at the smaller underground gigs where younger type metal bands play.I've seen the exact same thing as you many times - where a band takes the stage during a multi-band bill, they play a set only to their smattering of friends and girlfriends who go nuts to the band, then they quickly leave the club en masse, almost to show their active dislike of the next act. Meanwhile the next band take the stage, their friends and girlfriends take to the floor and the process repeats. All 'scene unity' as we used to know it is gone from the younger crowd. Teenage bands treat gigs as one big 'battle of the bands' now.

Its sickening for me to see, and the root cause is undoubtedly the massive rise and scale of the social networks in the last 5 years.Myspace/Facebook/YouTube have given instant power and information to anyones fingertips.Between them, they have actually changed the way millions of people go about their daily lives, and their cultural impact on the entire music scene is only just unfolding.It's altered what being a 'fan' actually means - clicking the LIKE button on Facebook is the new 'bought it on the day it came out'.

Back in the recent past, say up to 2006, there was still a cohesive scene where fans felt a belonging to a style of music. A fan felt a natural affinity to a whole scene and pretty much embraced most of the bands within that scene. Not anymore- the new crowd go to a show to see one single band only. Things are getting fragmented to the point of absurdity. Its worth pointing out that in my experience its mostly the new teenage Deathcore bands who seem to act like this- young Thrashers and the new young HM fans do thankfully seem to embrace the whole of the scene, not just one fave band.

Social Networks have also had the the opposite effect aswell- turning people more sheep like in their tastes. People are too lazy to make up their own mind, its just simpler to follow the crowd. The popularity of acts like Lady Gaga is unprecedented and keeps soaring- with 10 Million Facebook friends she is already the biggest Pop Star on the planet and will only get bigger- I think 50 Million is quite possible.The already big bands will keep getting huger, and the outdoor festivals will keep posting record attendance figures. Meanwhile the smaller bands on the circuit suffer from a fragmenting, niche-like fanbase.

The best example yet of this Facebook effect was the 'Rage Against the Machine campaign' for Xmas chart number 1 which was started by a husband and wife team in a suburban house, as a bit of a gimmick. This was so effective that 500,000 people bought the download, including me, and to the horror of Simon Cowell, the campaign placed Rage at the top spot of the charts -with a decades old song. It all seemed so effortless.

That campaign was a glimpse into the future and it changed everything. I honestly do not think the Uk charts will ever have a predictable Xmas number one again.For years to come, you can bet that a succession of faddish viral campaigns will be vying for the attention of the casual music buyers, and will fight it out come Christmas time.