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The shock of the new

They say the music you like when a teenager sticks with you for the rest of your life; it influences your musical choices later in life whether you realise it or not. It makes sense to me.

When I was young I loved bands which were… well, different. They didn’t fit in with what was popular at the time. John Peel would play them on BBC radio late at night, but no one else did. Van der Graaf Generator was darker than a coal mine with the lights out. The Sensational Alex Harvey Band was just plain weird. Then there came the Sex Pistols which most dismissed as not musical at all. I loved them all, and I still do. Today, only the Black Keys gives me hope, their songs sounding as raw as red meat hanging in a Detroit garage.

For nothing seems available to shock us these days musically. Anything that comes out of the radio or Spotify is over-produced and conforms to some mystical industry standard. Maybe we cannot define it, but we know what doesn’t conform to it. Johnny Cash’s Folsom Prison Blues wouldn’t stand a chance these days.

If this is commercial music, amateur efforts in the community are much the same here. Even ‘original’ songs sound hauntingly all too similar to something else we have heard before, with love as a theme done to death.

Andy Greenlay’s excellent post on Phuket Musicians (9 October) said it all via a video of Frank Zappa who would never get a recording contract today. (Click here.) Neither would his schoolmate Captain Beefheart.

It takes courage to take a risk, to pick up an instrument and try something really different. People will laugh at you, even physically attack you (as they did with the Pistols). But someone has to have the guts to do it if music is not to stagnate and be emotionally unstimulating.

Music is much less creative today, and we are all the poorer for it. We need to be challenged; we need that shock of the new.

Someone has to do it. Someone has to try.

2 replies on “The shock of the new”

I appreciate your take on this, and to be honest. I’m not even sure why I’m weighing in on this conversation. I, too, grew up with the Pistols, and I played in punk bands when I was in my teens, then went on to work in the music industry for two decades. I still have many friends who are musicians, broadcasters and lowlifes ;-). Everything has changed, I mean everything. Kids are putting together blistering guitar parts one note and one bar at a time. Digital editing, vocal auto-tune, incredible drum and bass software. You and I both know of DJ’s who call themselves musicians with ten or more albums of material, and they can’t play or read a note. In 1977 Punk rock was a new genre. Now there are over 30, yes, thirty sub-genres of Punk. I am not kidding. Look it up.

There are musicians out there making incredible music, and most are independent. The record ‘Industry’ is, as the Pistols said once ‘, flogging a dead horse.’ when it comes to the power they once had. I can’t entirely agree with your comment about Spotify, and I have found some fantastic music on there by simply looking below something I like and seeing the suggestions and running off with that. Same with Bandcamp, excellent indy, cutting edge musicians.

Musicians aren’t just musicians these days. They’re digital editors, digital marketers—the better the marketer, the better the results. Musicians need to know about search and social algorithms and how they work. I’m not much into rap, but people like Tom Macdonald just got his 16th Billboard Number 1 this week. All done from his home studio, including videos made in his backyard with his girlfriend. He is one of many who stay focused and learn what’s needed to be successful independently. Never sell out or sign those shitty deals because you think it will never happen again. And ‘it’s all about the fans’ A mate of mine, James Norbert Ivanyi, is another example of independent success in the prog guitar genre, with several albums, sponsorships and no record label. These 360 deals labels offering these days are just wrong. They are now trying to sign musicians and take percentages of media channels many aren’t even using, like ‘we own 50% of your future podcast.’

I’m writing this from my home studio on Samui, where I have recording gear, instruments, digital cameras, lights, everything I need to produce a Billboard Number 1. Oh, except I’m missing two things, time and talent…

Peace, KP

Thanks Kristian for this. That is why I did the blog… to get intelligent input about such matters relevant to Phuket, particularly original music. My beef is with Phuket rather than Spotify and the bands there we never get to find out about. I admire Gary Crause and his efforts, and those of his son Blase, Rob Cook too, but music creatively is pretty stagnant here. When I try to do something original, I am told (this is true) to play Eagles if I want to succeed here and no one wants to hear original songs. It’s frustrating, but Rome was not built in a day! Best wishes and sincere thanks for your comments and feedback. ATD

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