Sunday, May 31, 2009

Don't be more about money than music (You can still make a living)

I was reading John Zorn's introduction to Tzadik's Radical Jewish Culture series where he states 

" There have been occasions when the jewish content of the music delivered has been unclear, or even non-existent. My role as executive producer in these instances has been to question the artist. If the
 answer is simply "I'm jewish—this is what I'm doing—that makes it jewish music"—the project is rejected, returned to the artist to do with as they wish. If they can articulate a well thought out response and their sincerity and honesty is clear and unquestionable—I go with it—even if I don’t entirely go with the program."

I find Mr Zorn's attitude exemplary, to be lauded, as it shows  a commitment to a specific vision, one about the content itself, rather than as a catch all gimmick, or a purely economic driven model.   Unfortunately few share this predilection.  More often than not what begins as a labor of love (and a very specific love at that) bogs down in the day to day battle to stay afloat.  And once the money starts rolling in, god help your soul. 

I know it's the music business, but cutting corners is not where it's at.  The externalities are not as obvious as in fabric dying, or oil drilling.  No one is getting cancer because a label is dealing in sub standard esthetics.  But we all suffer from the cheapening of our life experience.

I guess what I am really on about is living a right life, and so setting a good example through right deeds.  You may say "choose your battles, the ones that really matter".  And yes switching to Mass Transit, increasing  local organic farming, reducing carcinogens, and upholding freedom of assembly are all more important.  But where does the slippery slope start.  

The powers that be show us how to live like sharks.  How to be predators, consuming whatever is in your path, and leave nothing but your waste behind. Just enough to feed the hungriest of the little fish.  It is the message we get on the news,  in the movies, in the history we are taught.  I find it to be a false message leading us further down a dead end road.  

So I am starting with our own actions on a daily basis.  The ones we actually control, like Mr Zorn, who makes conscious choices based on his ideas, rather than what his community or his accountant says.   You do what you can find in your heart to do.  I just hope your expectations for life, yours, your circle, and all of us, are large enough to take the road less traveled, instead of being herded down that dead end. 

Thats it for now



Friday, May 29, 2009

Sound Quality is great, but what about the quality of the music?

So I was in the car today, flitting about, destroying the environment one gallon at a time.  It was the time of day that radio, especially left wing talk radio, was at it’s most unlistenable.   I only have so much space in my head at a given moment, so that tuner needed to move over rover,  for what ever CD was in the glove-box. In this case there was a compilation I bought a number of years ago put out by Dakar Sounds.  It was their 1st sampler, and when I first bought it, it stayed in the changer for quite a while.  I am particularly found of music from Senegal, Mali, and that not quite North African Saharan region  (a broad swath of cultures, but much of it grabs me).

 The CD leads off with Niety Noon by Etoile 2000 . A roclikin tune with a crazy guitar rhythm and a cutting sax.  The perfect lead in to this Senegalese dance party.  So I am bouncing in my cushy leather seat as I head down the road, when it dawns on me.  the actual sound quality of this CD, while not absolutely crap, is not so pristine.  Those Dutch cats at Dakar Sound  are reissue experts. And I owe them a certain debt for turning me on to some of the great bands they are rereleasing.  I am sure they worked hard on the old tapes and other possible source material, and in the real world, this is the best sound they could replicate.  Because

51VXE5ED22L__SS400_for them, it is all about the GREAT MUSIC, in the whatever form they can put it out. 

Now I know that our Dutch friends are out to make a buck.  But the road less traveled is never an easy road.  So I am assuming for them it is 90% about the music.  They can listen to a scratchy old record, recognize the greatness, say to themselves, lets  put some effort into this, and get this music out there.  And really, the results are mostly stellar.

So why, in our perfect digital wonderland of take 407 vocals, and take 629 guitar solos, in a music industry that takes 2 to 3 years to put out a bands next release, when every tiny detail can be perfectly controlled, why I ask you is the majority of new music release today such absolute dreck.

Dakar Sounds dutch grave robbers putting out brilliance from an earlier age and thousands of miles away.  Record companies in Los Angeles, New York, and wherever unable to unearth the great bands that are pounding on their office doors. Radio, even local college radio, is the same story.  Why would you demand a level of technical brilliance, but not a level of musical brilliance.

 It boggles the mind what people are settling for, and what they turn away from. The trappings of professionalism are just another sham to perpetrate sameness.  We have become lazy listeners suckled on the comfort pap of recognizable melodies and beats.  Sounds that do not make us work for our pleasure.

Meanwhile, out on the long tail, things are getting interesting.  Off in the land of hundred sellers stuff is bubbling to the surface. If you waiting for the usual suspects, the standard bearers of reduced standards to drop it on your plate, don’t hold your breath.

Thats all for now.





Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Desperate for validation by the Blogosphere. Can you help.

It's not easy being a product of the mishmashmix of Jewish and Americana. Some how no one believes your really any one thing, because your not. You go to temple and dig the cantor, but you fall asleep with the transistor radio next to your ear full of the Supremes or the Doors, You know you should not love Buck Owens on Hee Haw, but you do.  

So you wander in the wilderness for 40 years (or 49, but who's counting). Somewhere along the way you amass a wild array of experiences, ideas, skills. And if you are any good. If you have something to say or share thats not just a repetition of the next guy in line. You let it out. Now maybe the geniuses of this world can let it out any way they want. Maybe they can make perfection out of the either it self. Not me. It all comes out through that early life filter. That digging the cantor supremes on the radio filter.  

As I am making my way creatively all the bits and pieces are still clinging to my clothes, falling out of my hair and into the soup. Sounds messy because it is, but beautiful and wonderful too. And feeling music is a collaborative process, between performer and audience, or within a group, I seek out those who have something to add, rather than only choosing people on the same page. It's a marketing nightmare.. let me tell you.

If I were stronger, or a trustafarian, I could not care. Get up on my high horse and cruise off in
to the sun setting just beyond the field of dreams. But thats not me. Mr of the world, in the world, people loving person. And who doesn't want to be loved, and be told "YES YES YES... you have IT" (as Neal Cassidy would say), or at least "Darling, ve had zuch a goot time. Didn't ve Ethel".

So my friend, can you spare a moment to help out a guy in need. Can you reach into your back pocket and hand me a bit of that stuff I have seen you spending elsewhere. Just a few lines would do. Click here Go Van Gogh write anywhere.

Thats all for now.



Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Mommy why is the man next door yelling at you

As a musician, living here in NIMBY city has it's moments.  Never have so few felt entitled to so much, and me and mine are not exempt from that phenomenon.   I certainly feel it is my right to utilize my living space within the limits imposed through noise ordinance and common sense. However not all San Franciscans adhere to this notion, and like the state under Stalin, or Pinnochet, feel it is their paternalistic right to stick their oar in.
Connie, who plays Sax and leads Go Van Gogh, recently told me some entertaining stories of neighbors past and present.  Apparently there are residents of our fair metropolis who are easily unhinged by a little music in their day, and according to Connie, every block has one.
While living on Market Street back in the day,  Connie's neighbor across the courtyard, and over the back fence was Eric, who would replant his garden at 3 AM.  Flood lights blazing, happily raking and hoeing, their was Eric on a quarterly schedule.  But at 3 pm, a single alto note would send Eric into a screaming rage.  "Shut UP...SHUT THE FUCK UP" would sail into Connie's Window on a regular basis. Connie was somewhat immune to this, having recently moved from living over a glass shop on Sanchez.  There serenaded by the sound of grinders all the livelong day, Connie would occasionally work on a tune. Inevitably, a bearded man would appear under her front window.  He would pace back and forth, face reddening, eyes glazing in FURY.  Finally unable to contain his rage, out would come "Stop..STOP, STOP that NOISE".  Of course Connie would attempt to ignore him.  Like Eric, he did not even live in her building, and the grinding of the glass shop grinders was far louder and persistent.

Not all these complainers were screamers.  These days Connie lives in a cute little cottage, nestled back off a busy street behind larger flats.  No building abuts hers, and the folks downstairs, like all the previous folks  in all the previous downstairs, are not bothered by, and actually enjoy her melodious offerings. 

Across the way, however,  in the next lot, in a large and noisy apartment house, in a large and noisy city, a city full of street cars, sirens, and intoxicated partying youth, lives W (name masked to protect the guilty).  Poor unhappy W.  Not too many years ago W lived elsewhere.  It must have been heaven on earth there, and no noise must have ever intruded into W's consciousness.  Now W lives next to a SAX DEAMON, playing night and day.  NEVER GIVING W A MOMENTS RESPIT.  Or so W says.  He expresses his displeasure by throwing paper airplanes notes of extreme protest into Connie's yard.  Practice at 11 AM....get a note, have a compositional sectional for Sax, Violin and Bass at 7pm  get two notes.   Connie, being tenderhearted retreated into the back of her house, closing all the doors and windows, but it was not enough.  Paper airplanes rained in Connie's yard.  One could wonder why W won't get a life.  But anyone who spends months in a one
 way non dialog by paper airplanes is likely to be socially challenged.  

And W is not alone.  This has become a San Francisco treat for the seriously self entitled.  Think back to that thriving hub of San Francisco nightlife on 11th street.  Sidewalks and clubs packed night after night.  Live music spilling out of restaurant and bar doorways.... oh yeah, thats no longer so.  The well healed folks who bought lofts and TICs in Soma put a stop to that.  This abrupt end to our good time, and cultural renewal aided and abbetted by the make a buck machinations of our real estate elite, and all the new homeowners looking at their investment, instead of what makes a home (as it is not just the 4 walls dear) .

I have noted elsewhere how we have over regulated ourselves to the point where little in the way of culture can grow. The plot thickens when put together with the money big real estate spends greasing the wheels towards a more unaffordable tomorrow.  Now that they are aided and abetted by a short sighted citizenry out for a capital gains liquidity event, we have a very unappetizing stew. One bite is all it takes, to turn your rainbow world beige.

The impact of this pot full of poison pills goes way beyond "where can culture happen".  It goes after the root itself, leaving us with the fundamental question "can culture exist in a broad sense at all if there is no place craft can develop".  

Now out in the wide open spaces where your neighbor is a ways down the road this may not prove such a problem. But most people live crammed together in cities and towns. Think of all those city kids horrendously massacring Mozart, Gershwin, and Copeland. Shredding away at those Jimmy Page licks, or Johnny Thunders chords. Trying to blow hot on those cool Miles and Train modal motifs.    If Eric is out in the back yard screaming, bearded man is down in the street shouting, and W's paper planes are falling like cherry blossoms in the yard, the poor little dears will be scared for life, never manifesting their own piece of the puzzle.  All that will remain for our edification and enjoyment on the aural tip will be software installing knob twiddling headphone wearing techno pumping futurists, endlessly sampling the finite output from the good old days, or the homespun few country cousins able to make it out the gate.

Yet, one must ponder how this used to work.  Did we not always have these issues of space and noise.  Were we kinder and more accepting.  Were the walls thicker.  Did music have a more accepted role in our lives, not just the choice between managed perfection of the self initiated experience of Ipod, Itunes, I tuned the rest of you right out.  Versus the ever present public soundtrack for easing the consummation of the commercial interaction. Has this dampening down of natural environmental experience, this ongoing interference of meaningful intercourse, made us so sensitive to any actual flowering of reality in our home spaces, that the most bruised of us must act out in rage and intolerance, or risk the madness of recognizing the true hell of everyday existence.

Perhaps musicians should organize into real estate clubs.  Put in our spare pennies to develop little high-rise  ghettoes.  All banded together in our urban enclaves, living 100 to a building with rehearsal spaces in the basement, and night clubs in the lobby.  Think of the cross pollination of sounds, when Pedal Steel lives next door to Kora, and Flamenco has dinner with Rocksteady. We can make as much noise as needed.  We can endlessly entertain ourselves, and leave the faint of ear to their own prechewed clear channel lives, while we dance together and play room to room.

 Thats all for now.




Sunday, May 24, 2009

The one man band, possibly bland.

The corporatist world would have us believe in the Army Of One.  It's what the personal computer industry is built on.  It's the wet dream of your boss at work. But I just don't see it.  If you really think that dance your doing by your self is the Tango, well good
luck to you friend.

Yes, yes,  I know I went into this all before, but recently I was mixing some tracks at 
Wally Sound's studio.  Wally was at the controls, and he has a lot of controls under his control.  Not only does he have all the old school 2 inch 24 track gear, but he is up to date in the digital world. When you need to make that sax sound like metal birds chirping for 7 seconds, Wally just happens to have bought a plug in with that in mind.  

Plus Wally has great ears, and can slice and dice your bits and bytes with easy going alacrity. Wally does charge for his expertise, but gives good value, and at the end of the day, you end up with tracks that you wont be shoving under the counter at your online store "oh that track, well... I sorta didn't... well,, it's not quite..., here look I got this better one".  You know it's true.  When you don't take care of business, you gots no business to take care of.

But if you work with people who have real skills, both playing in the band, and professionals on the technical tip,  you have something lasting at the end of the day.  Something that you can
 play 20 years on and not cringe because it sounds dated, or under done.  Take for exact instance Go Van Gogh's latest single Cycek.   Not only is the tune extremely well 
played, but  Wally mic'd and mixed the band to a crunchy clear perfection.  Recording at home would not get us the same quality of sound, unless we had put in the years Wally has of accumulating great mic's and gear along with the time put in learning how to use those tools.

If you haven't got the money, and your lack of social skills mean no one in their right mind will work with you, sure, go ahead, make your art alone out in the barn, down in the basement, in your little room over the garage.  Geniuses can always milk fresh sounds out of whatever falls to hand.  I used my old fostex 2 track untill it died, followed by a yamaha 4 track, followed by Logic express on my mac.
All great for fleshing out ideas, but personally not being Beethoven, or Beck even, I find the Vaseline and handkerchief route is far less satisfying than playing together with others. The work I can hold my head up about, and without reservation ask you to PAY ME FOR  was 
created in collaborations where everyone brought the love and skills  to the table.  

Thats all for now



Friday, May 22, 2009

Why would I settle for the taste of a machine over almost any persons ?

I am not a luddite.  


I have been using computers in my day to day from 1982 on. Helped Go Van Gogh get online, and started an internet business, both in 1995.  I am all for tools of every sort if they improve the quality of life.

But....  letting a programed application be the arbiter of my cultural diet is even more ridiculous than hiring a robot to be a high end chef.  You can program in all the ingredients and measuments, but in the end that robots got no taste to speak of.

I enjoy what I can gleen from Pandora, Last FM, Mog and other sites of musical aggregation.  I adore the shuffle feature, both with Itunes, and LaLa.  I know those intrepid coders are working hard to parse the data of our  recorded choices, whether straight through the app, or by anaylizing our commentary.  I am sure they will eventually come up with a convincing replica of expertise in suggesting/feeding us that which we already like.  But dear reader, I doubt they will ever succeed in bringing that quantum leap that allows us to associate two unconnected things, and recognize the rightness in each, when no conceivable link is perceivable.  

That takes the visceral experience itself.  

"Ah" you say.  "That strawberry is very like Tuareg music".  "What" says the app.  "A strawberry is a piece of fruit, Tuareg music is a genres of electric rock from Saharan Africa.  These things can never be linked".  "Oh" you say. "But the Strawberry also reminds me of sex with Betty Balasko in the back of her mothers Buick sedan.  She was wearing a short short skirt, and we were coming from the store with fresh strawberries and heavy cream for desert, and a Muddy Waters song was on the Buicks radio as we made our pleasure, the boxes of Strawberries jammed on the floor in the back, it's scent mixing with the electric jump blues, echoing up through the years, as now Tinariwen plays on KPFA's world music show, and I eat my strawberry's and yogurt for breakfast."  

Ok so that is a bit over the top.  People turn me on to new things all the time, having nothing to do with Betty's mothers Buick.  And there are even people who consistently come up with gem after gem, jumping genres left and right, just somehow having their finger on the pulse.  Which is exactly what those dear coders are after.  

However statistics are not a replication of life, and the business model on the net is to give you the narrowest possible answer for the broadest possible question.  Otherwise how can their advertisers or the sites themselves sell you a widget, or a gadget.  If you like strawberries, they are going to try and sell you strawberry massage oil, or strawberry jam, a clock in the shape of a strawberry, a strawberry complexion face cream.  They are not going to try and sell you a CD by Tinariwen or Etran Finatawa .

So my dears, as we progress into the brave new web 3.0 world, and the data-mining of user generated content brings on cross selling opportunities for the emergent filter gods of the net, think before you just settle for the pseudo choice you are being offered.  Consider if there is another way to find fulfillment. Like doing the legwork you used to do, before the marketeers tried to relieve you of the guesswork.  The easy answer is not always the right answer. Be the arbiter of your own taste, and share those tastes freely.  It's only their world wide web if you use them as the only filter.

Thats all for now



Thursday, May 21, 2009

A bar is not a concert hall

I may be middle aged, but I am not dead yet.  I still enjoy evenings out, and being a huge fan of music (in its many forms) I love nothing more than to hear/see it performed live.  Here in San Francisco the options are many. Those with discerning tastes can usually find a good bet, and the undiscerning .... well they are after all undiscerning. 

But I must say I am rankled by the norm for many of these musical outings, and while I can fathom how we got here, I fail to see why this status quo remains. 

In western culture we have an essentially dichotomy.  The high culture was supported by the rich (read church until after the reformation),  and pandered to their tastes, with the myth being edification of God or a higher ideal.  Then their was the low culture. That of the people, by the people, and for the people.  This was often not well remunerated, as it was a community undertaking.  With the past several centuries of urbanization we have seen a middle ground emerge, the dance-hall, the vaudevillian stage, the supper club and any number of other entrepreneurial institutions. Now days almost all entertainment hovers somewhere in this middle ground,  the well healed rubbing elbows with the hoi polloi.  Musicals 
like Wicked are a current example of this phenomenon. Who can say (beside us) if it is all and fine that culture races to the middle, but let us look at what has happened to the age old institution of the tavern at the crossroads.  

Taverns, or bars as we now call them, have provided excellent service for millennia as community halls, gathering places for the citizenry, entertainment venues, social club, and refuge from alienation.  Somehow in our modern age of specialization the bar keep has lost sight of this cohesive calling, and decided that this is to tough a nut to crack. The ancient Romans paid no cover charge to hear the Lyre and the Drum, I doubt they had to wait till midnight for their favorite flautist and singing duo.  It's not that their was no scenes or subcultures in these bygone times, just that the division of age had not become such a division of taste.  Taverns were not geared solely towards youthful naredowells, but were places all people went.  When Bill Sikes meets Fagin in that London Tavern, it's not full  of a monochromatic crowd in any regard beyond economic class.  
It's the neighborhood place for social interaction, whether thats to get laid, plan a robbery, or kick your heals up.  So when we look at the modern San Francisco bar in contrast, the canned music, or even musical group is far too loud to plan a drink order much less a heists.  It starts so late, only the most desperate, youthful, or underemployed could possibly stay their long enough to meet someone new. And even if met, could hardly be able to converse over the 110 decibel beat.  So older folks, or those wanting more out of their time stay away in droves.  Thus the proprietor takes the road that is tried and true, a veritable self fulfilling prophecy , and caters to the same small slice of life, the aforementioned, young, desperate, and responsibility-less. 

Whereas the Concert Hall, no longer the church knave, or barons ball room, has attacked the problem from the other end, and come up with the inverse solution.  A bastion of intellect and skill, yet mired in a consevatism, self inforced by the both those who hold the purse, and the protectionist bent of the artists themselves.  This create problems when in a bid to appeare relevant, the programing strays from the  conventional fare to utilize something deemed safe in the popular sphere. 

Case in point.  We went to see the wonderful Cuban pianist Ruben Gonzales play at Davies Symphony Hall.  While the acoustics were great, the audience was stuck in their seats.  Instead of rocking the isle to some of the groovinist dance music ever written, they sat squirming in polite attention.  This must have been a great disappointment to Mr Gonzales.    Meanwhile back in the clubs, art bands with no swaying power, bash their drunken patrons over the head with deafening drones, as the crowd stands arms crossed in mute dullness.

But all is not darkness and gloom.  The community does attempt to get it's needs met, and some gal/guy out to make a buck will always rise to the bait.  In my little city it happens to be happening down at the Cafe.  The most exciting and interesting music in town is taking place at Revolution Cafe, The Cafe International, and a few other low profile, venues.  The shows start at a reasonable time.  With no sound system to speak of, the musicians tend to keep things to a listenable level.  They are not the best places for dancing, but that never stopped dancers when the beat takes, and no usher is rushing you back to your seat.

The drawbacks are obvious.  Without the demon alcohol, less money changes hands up and down the line, so a vibrant professional scene is not going to happen here.  Plus the modern world is full of RULES AND REGULATION, so it's easy to get shut down for lack of this permit, that permit, and the other permit you need to pay and pay and pay for.

So my friends, I see a dilemma. We need venues for culture, but economics rules the world,  and  money mixes with culture just the same as money mixes with politics.  Culture needs to be  kept broad, but how that happens is by "we the people" making good decisions in what we patronize, who we vote for, and how we interact with our existing institution, whether that be a bar, a concert hall, or city hall.


Thats it for now


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Where will the next Bravo contestant come from?

I was watching Bravo down at the Gym this AM.  It's the only time I see such things, as I am unwilling to pay  for  the privilege of being marketed to. There I was on the treadmill sweating away my considerable pounds, being regaled by the latest antics of the cast of Fashion Show (an even lower brow  replacement for Project Runway,  but no Tim Gunn).  During the commercial break while they touted their other shows such as Top Chef, it dawned on me "these shows are all about a world that is FADING FAST, and will soon be impossible to enact".

After all, in a world already dominated by Olive Gardens, Chevys, and other chain eateries, or Gapped, Banana Republiced,  and Hot Topiced retail, who will be left to provide the ounce of skill needed to compete in Bravo's fall line up.  

With retail rents jacked into the stratosphere (pushed up by the chains stores like Walgrens, and Starbucks), along with the lowered prices and esthetic expectations brought on by the sweatshop retailers mentioned above (Old Navy dresses for $10 bucks, come on)  where is tomorrows young designer going to open shop, or even find a small boutique willing to give them a start.  How will the skill's and expertise that can only be built from public experimentation arise, if there is no longer an outlet for the creativity of individuals.

And food. ho ho ho.  Are these contestants only to come from the few urban centers that have not fully succumb to the call of the mild.  Will the next top chef be smothering deep fried chicken in gloopy cheesy cream sauce, over a bed of curly fries.

As a San Franciscan, I can still avail myself of a fine meal, and a well cut coat.  But even here in this supposed bastion of the creative and bon vivant, the center will not hold.  The tide of capitalist centralization that long ago killed the mom and pop businesses of any town USA has made serious inroads here.  Matched with the mass market media, and the failure of the world wide web to deliver anything that is not pre wrapped by google, soon the only thing new and interesting on TV will be the latest side effects warning on the anti depression drug commercials. And even the monied class will be left with the choice of Bloomies or Barneys, as the rest will be swept away in the race to the bottom.  

But It doesn't have to be this way.  If we all stay awake long enough to make good choices, and act rightly, we will not be doomed to cheese sauces on curly fries and $10 dresses.  Don't be like the City of San Francisco using lowest bid contracts, that save pennies, but lose dollars in local taxes and local jobs.  Eat in local individually owned and run eateries.  Shop in mom and pop businesses, even if it costs a tad more. The service will be better, and you may end up with the things that works for you.  

Otherwise, soon your only choice will be to do copious research online to be able to make the most minute purchase, as the chain store employee wont know, and at those wages may just not care.  Oh and sorry that $10 dress colors ran in the wash turning all your other clothes Pink.  Didn't you know Pink is the new Black.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

I grow tired of the sounds in the modern world.

Due to the ground breaking work of King Tubby, Lee Scratch Perry, and other Dub pioneers, by the mid 80's we grew enamored with a variety of musical movements emerging from this marriage of technological possibilities and a evolving mix of esthetics. Great music was breaking out all over the world. From Cairo to Capetown, Kyoto to Karachi, using digital tape decks, hard drives, sequencers, and basic originality, the global dance floor was emerging. We were all benefitting from this wellspring of new flavors washing back and forth, inspiring and informing.

So what has changed

As in any other modern discipline, music has succumb to the sirens call of technology. I am in no way a purist/luddite, but it comes to me that the machines we use have become so difficult in their complexity, that we suffer from their ubiquity. With the democratization of music production and distribution, there is a huge potential upside. Any genius can record a masterpiece in their Cleveland Closet, and instantly distribute it worldwide. But how rare is that brilliant voice, and how vast is the dross pumped out like bilge, not just from closets in Cleveland, but board rooms from London to LA.


That a piece of software can replicate any sound or rhythm is of immense use. A person, with a great deal of skill, knowledge, and just a few affordable ingredients, can make a full orchestra appear out of the ether. My issue is with the operative "Skill and Knowledge" factor. Complexly useful tools may produce very exact results, which is great, however the amount of knowledge, and developed skill are far harder to come by then what is suggested by the sales figures for our modern range of midi triggers, pro tool packages, and programmable drum units. The majority of musicians are part timers, whacking away with their chosen axe in idiot glee and reckless abandon to varying results. In my considerable experience (I have the hearing loss to prove it), the majority of groups are poorly put together, unoriginal, and under rehearsed. So consider what this recent musical army of one explosion has unleashed upon us all.


My friend Eric has a vintage Oberheim Synth that he would drag out to play with us at the old Odeon Bar. It is a cantankerous machine, that in lesser hands would still produce sound, but Eric, being an amazingly skilled piano player, as well as a seasoned producer/recording engineer, would milk that machine for every drop of value it's designer crafted into it .

 That meeting of both technical and musical skills that elevated Eric's use, over mine for example, highlights the basic problem. Lee Perry, Suba, and the boys in Air all have a depth to their skill sets as musicians and technologist. Just because you can talk the talk doesn't mean you can walk the walk.


Unfortunately the flood gates are open wide, and if there is a buck to be made, bad culture will be promoted. One can make the same argument for the electric guitar (and I do), but just the guitar alone wont annoy more than those neighbors within the range of your amplification. Plus the guitar is a simple enough tool, and extremely visceral, that it welcomes individualization of utility in ways that knob twirling, fader shifting have not yet achieved.


All this mediocrity, on either or both ends of the tech savvy/music ability graph has created a rising tide of Sneaker Pimp sound a-likes and bedroom youtube divas. They are clogging the cultural highways and byways, like so much sonic cholesterol. I am praying for a massive musical coronary to kill the bloated beast.


In the mean time I find myself ranging far and wide looking for music not using a drum machine or canned sounds. Groups that are an aggregate of talent, rather than the vehicle of a single vision. Anything new, old, or new again that is music of flesh and blood, rather than the singular rationality of machine capitalism.


Thats all for now.



We Live In An Age Of Charlatans

We live in an age of charlatans.   Crooks rule the roost, and experts only excel at emptying our pockets.  The days of honest labor, and forthright principles are over (if they were ever more than a myth), replaced by the dog eat dog world of personal advantage of an anything goes corporatism. One thing is certain, those who live by the law of the jungle make poor citizens of the world.  Doubly troublesome, the beast kings not only rule, but set the standard that we are meant to follow.  If the bar of basic humanity is set so low, it is assured in the limbo- dance of life that none will make it under,  trapped on the beast side of the bar.

Each may have the ability to choose correct behavior.  But when the examples of rightness are few and fading, while beastliness is extolled from every screen, speaker, and page, the standards of conducting ones self in society, the world, even your most intimate relationships, soon descend to the lowest depths where fear rules the roost.  Fear of failure, fear of violence, fear of ostracism.

How stressful this modern life, where one is whipped on to compete, to conquer, to control, to endlessly struggle against the weight of carrying the king beast, like great apes upon ones back.  Needing exponentially greater effort day to day to keep the roof over your head, and the latest gadget on hand to assure your readiness for continuous exploitation.  Those who buck when the bit is places between their teeth are quickly  medicated, incarcerated, or marginalized.  "Stress", we are told by the mental health charlatans. is just a matter of how you view your situation.  I am sure that will comfort our friends in Baghdad, or residents of the Eastern Congo.  Life is stressful due to the complete disconnect between what we are given as expectation by our exploiters and their henchmen, and what we can perceive to be right action and healthy relationships, both to those around us, and to the world as a whole.

While we are not yet one giant work camp, Auschwitz like in its work makes free death march, we are on that path.  For many the treadmill of labor is broken only by the respite for propaganda in the form of thrilling spectacle.  The audience as victim is misdirected  to believe themselves participant.  But participating indicates an active creative roll, to do rather than to be done.  And the spectacle is all about  the opportunity to market product, lifestyle, world-view.  All of which are narrowly defined by arbiters with a  rigid definition of the acceptable or desirable.  

In our charlatan world success is only possible in terms of market, and market through the machinations of technology and legislation has come to include the complete array of possible purchasers. How unfortunate it is that instead of seeking to connect us all in that which calls to the highest ability and aspiration in each as an individual, instead we are pandered to at the most base and lowest  point.  Making anything produced for this global slop bucket of degraded ideas fit only for swine. 

You can go along to get along.  You can reach for the brass ring. But then what do you have, a brass ring.  Or you can stay awake. Not pass on what your fed, just because it easier than challenging fallacy.  You can choose to act rightly, and being awake, you will recognize what that means in all your daily actions.  
You can create for the better, rather than sell yourself short, and accept the lies told us by charlatans.