Someone forwarded this to me. yEAH, big surprise. If you put on a show, people like it better than if you just stand there.
If you wanna be all "serious" about your "art", you better be really really good. Like, The Cars good:
They didn't have to move to be awesome. But there's still some guitar face, and their songs are so good they can't help but get into them a bit.
But you know what, it wouldn't have hurt them to throw some rock jumps in.
I'm not saying you need coordinated dance moves like Prince makes his people do (and by the way, he is ruthless about that - he expects you to nail your parts, play with heart and soul, follow his every move, AND you have to dance...)...but come on. People come to see a show. You better put one on.
Look, it ain't easy. especially as you get older. You can look back over the history of pop stars, and nearly every big shot today has photos they wish they'd never taken, but at the time looked AWESOME.
Go take a look at any band from any era. Ridiculous.
There's very little difference between this:
At the same time, you gotta NOT look like you just walked out of the crowd and got onstage.
Unemployed, I guess. Or "funemployed", as the kids say. Ain't much fun about watching your bank balance go down while you can't do anything about it.
Short version is I couldn't sing for the last 4 months or so. Looks like I'm on the mend, but sorta like breaking your leg, you don't get the cast off and start running marathons right away.
By the way, I've also been running a lot. I'm in great physical shape, so i fit right in today's pop landscape: Look great, can't sing so good!
Anyhow, gonna be in voice training for a while, trying to figure out what I've got left here.
I can tell you this: being on the sidelines, benched, gave me a new appreciation for the game. I wanna get back in, blow you all away, and have a good time doing it.
My buddy and ace producer Chris Fudurich is still tweaking some mixes. Here's the latest versions of Automatic and Drives.
We're gonna finish that album.
We're gonna play some shows.
I will keep writing, too.
I'm too much of an entrapreintrepr businessman to sit around doing nothing. I've been working on various projects and talking to various companies about being a creative inventor spokesperson like some of my contemporaries.
I'll keep ya posted. Stay young, fans. Life is short.
If not, you end up dead in some shitty hotel room, your last meal cheap booze you snuck in, your last sight some fake impressionistic hotel art.
Or you end up unemployable, wandering around the last town you thought might be fun. People stare at you every now and then, but instead of the glint of "aren't you famous?" it's the pity/laughter of "weren't you famous?". What are you going to do, be an accountant? Get a law school degree? Invent some kind of stupid internet thing?
Regardless, Bowie's a master. Absolute master. I guarantee this new album is more compelling than anything the Rolling Stones have released since about 1983, and more adventurous than Johnny One-Note acts like AC/DC (who create nominally "new" albums to ever-decreasing effect).
Bowie has also resisted the lure of the cash-in tour. He could have reformed The Spiders From Mars and made a mint wheeling out Ziggy in a wheelchair. Or played nearly any of his albums in entirety. I sure would have paid bank to see that, and not for reasons of snark or throwing tomatoes or subpoenas.
Like all of us, Bowie is vaguely ridiculous at times. Like all of us, you'll really miss him when he's gone.
But unlike all of us, he is a true artist, and knows how to write songs.
"All my life, all I ever wanted to be was a rock and roll star...I got an electric guitar [and started a band]. That was 20 years ago. Today, and god knows how many bands later, not much has changed. Not the gigs, not the clubs, and not the money. Tonight we made $13.50 each..."
The movie's a bit too slick. The performance aspects aren't authentically grimy enough - the stages are way too big and well-lit, as is the "rehearsal warehouse".
The performances too clean, tame, and under-powered (I'd have tracked/filmed it all live, clams and all), and the songs commit the cardinal sins of being preachy, boring, or both.
The ladies are too pretty to sell things quite right, but many of the other details are pretty spot-on.
The hoofing of the gear. The porch and the house. The drinking and cans of beer. The smoking. The drugs. The weird manager guy. The hope and desperation and professionalism and naivete.
If you can look past the TV-movie sheen, excessive lighting, soundstage vibe, flat and clunky dialog , some awkward performances, and the ridiculous ending, this is about as good a movie as you're likely to find about being old and not making it.
Plus, Gina Gershon.
"It never occurred to me that I might make it...at what point do I become a joke? In 2 days, I'll be 40. Surprise, surprise, I ain't no rock star. I could quit and become the bitter old bitch who devoted her whole life to rock and roll and never succeeded...or I could stick with it and become the bitter old bitch who refused to give up... Either way, 'bitter' and 'rock and roll' end up together."
Not as good as the stellar and highly recommended "Still Crazy", which was about being old having made it once (all of my "peers" doing victory laps and playing their 30-year-old hits should see this).
Not as disturbing as "Hard Core Logo", either. And certainly not as intentionally funny as the Ur-film, "Spinal Tap".
But it helped pass the time.
"Do you ever think about quitting?...being 50 or 60, hauling our gear around, fighting with the bartenders and sweating the rent?"
For all its significant flaws, it was written by someone who understands/understood band life.
"It all comes down to these few minutes of playing live..."
NAMM. For a few years, I was in it. I was in the shit. Good men died, and bad men prospered. It was a jungle. The noise was deafening, and it left you with nightmares and the shakes.
But the merchants prospered. This article gets it pretty much right: A wonderful hell.
I miss it, and I miss lusting over gear and being pretty sure that if I just bought that sampler or that drum machine or that Fender Custom Shop Tone King Amp for $2,000 ($4600 in today's dollars) that of course, my art and career would totally take off.
That's never the case, but that doesn't stop an army of longhairs and wannabes and has-beens and the occasional "holy crap is that STEVE VAI?" from turning up at the show to marvel at the latest batch of noise makers, and pick up both promotional materials and 8 different infections diseases. As well as every knob they can pry off of a piece of gear.
Yeah, I even worked at NAMM a couple times. Standing in a bootth, looking cool. I thought I'd been hired as a gear endorser, and showed up ready to meet my adoring public. Turned out my manager owed the vendor a favor for oneof his other acts that had an endorsement deal, and "free labor" - specifically my free labor - was part of the deal.
I walked away that day a wiser and richer man. The vendor tipped me a hundo. And I tipped myself a pedal or two when they weren't looking. I would tell you what they were, but I only endorse gear when I'm paid! DRUMROLL! Thank you!
Anyhow. Yeah This Year's NAMM has some things I'm definitely intterested in, notably the new Prophet-12 synthesizer:
I (and pretty much everybody else) used a Prophet-5 back in the 80s. This is at LEAST 7 better. Plus it looks rad.
I'm also probably going to get one of these Fender VI reissues. Steve Kilbey from The Church played one on Priest = Aura and Robert Smith of The Cure used 'em a lot on Disintegration.
Go buy some records so I can afford this stuff, please!
Gear gets stolen. That happens a lot. Doesn't matter whether you're us, Sonic Youth, or Duran Duran (sorry guys, that keyboard is MINE now...)
I saw a band called XOXOXO a few years back while I was playing synth for Luxxury. On stage, this 3 piece had probably $20,000 of vintage synth gear. It was astounding. It took them a long time to load in. I saw a Moog Voyager, a Jupiter 6 or 8, and a bunch of other real analog synths. For a band that used a lot of sequences and backing tracks and MacBooks.
It didn't make sense to me - would have been smarter to bring cheaper virtual analog gear or use software on those computers. But I guess that doesn't look as cool or something.
If I were those guys, I would have been crazy worried about all that stuff getting stolen or broken or beered. Then gain, if I were those guys, I would have had great gear and been 20 something and WOOO WHO CARES ROCK AND ROLL!!!
Still, no matter how young and hot you are, that sinking feeling you get when you walk back to the van in the morning and see a broken window and/or door ajar is awful.
You can avoid this by not being lazy. Don't leave your gear unattended, ever. Don't leave it in the van overnight unless there is someone sleeping in the van or near the van. Load it out into whatever place you're staying. Yeah, it's heavy and yeah, you just played a kick-ass 60 minute set after waiting around for hours and now you're drunk and horny and it's 2 am. But do you really want to wake up tomorrow to no gear?
Good but rich musicians get insurance. Through ASCAP, for example, you can get full replacement insurance at a 1% annual premium (you tell them how much your gear is worth, then pay them 1%). That seems high until you realize they cover you for everything, more or less no questions asked.
Popular bands can get a roadie/thug to watch their gear. The pro here is these people usually work for no money. The con here is these people sometimes ARE cons. In every sense. Maybe they're casing you guys for one big score. Or maybe they're...obsessed...with you. And will talk to you. A lot. Regardless, it's one more farting bag of meat to shove in the van and eventually, you will want to leave them at the Denny's in Tempe, AZ.
A better solution would be some sort of tiny RFID thing that you stick INSIDE the gear. Hard to find, easy to detect with a reader. Vendors at shops could wave an RFID gun over the gear and see if it comes up on a list of stolen stuff or not. I guess I should say "ethical vendors", because there's always someone who will do the wrong thing.
A low-tech solution is to tape a business card inside the gear somewhere. Most thieves won't open up all the gear with a screwdriver to check for such a thing.
Unfortunately, none of these options will deter people from taking your gear in the first place.
My take has always been "don't take anything on the road you don't mind losing". The world is a scary and unpredictable place. Unless you're top-of-the-world level and you can hire a minder for your favorite instrument, don't leave home with it. Keep it safe and secure. Get a stunt guitar or double for it. You'll thank me later.
This has been another Rock Life Tip from Sid Luscious.
The rehearsal space is an unpleasant hole in a not great part of town. Inside, I find our rock cell and undo the multitude of locks on the door.
I step inside and close the door behind me. It's mostly quiet, save some metalhead shredding down the hall. I like this time. It's a brief moment of calm before the storm. I close my eyes and try to relax.
I assess the situation. Guitar player 1 has his gear packed and ready. I disassemble Guitar player 2's rig. Most of the cables go into the rack with the effects unit. I bring his guitar and his backup.
I coil up the cables for my microphone and effects. Pro tip: always bring your own mic. It won't smell too bad, is unlikely to give you a social disease, and you know what it sounds like and whether or not it works.
I finish as the keyboard player arrives. It's just the two of us.
I am reminded of my first few teenage shows, loading all the band's gear into the back of my car. As we're finishing, the drummer arrives. He loads up his items and heads out. I lock up and head for the venue.
II. "Two minutes until Pants time!"
We've been here for 2 hours already, mostly sitting around waiting. There's a lot of waiting in the rock life. We watch the headlining band make typical musician jokes while the sound team fiddles with the PA, snake, and various microphones.
Now we're backstage. This is perhaps the nicest backstage area of any of San Francisco's clubs. There's a couch and some drinks and it's almost cozy.
The band talks nervously. These moments before we start seem to last forever.
The band files out onto the stage and launches into "Baby Space". I hang back in the dressing room, as much to savor this brief moment as to make a grand entrance.
I pull open the stage door, smiling, and leap onto the stage. I wave at the crowd. The venue seems full - it's hard to tell with my sunglasses on. (I do wear my sunglasses at night.)
I grab the mic and pull it from its clip, and stomp the effects box to life.
The next 45 minutes are typically something of a fugue state for me. I know my voice is strong and the notes ring out true and clear. The band sounds great. I move, I dance, I sweat, I talk, I sing, I entertain.
People don't dance. That's not unusual. I hope they are at least having a good time.
...and then suddenly it's over. No encore when you're opening. Which is fine.
While the adrenaline is still online I hoof as much of our gear off the stage as I can.
I move back into the crowd. I talk to my friends, to my fans, to the club owner. The headliner goes on. They sound great. Very professional.
III. I've returned all the gear to the studio with the rest of the band. Pretty sure we didn't leave anything at the club.
I drop Guitar Player off at his house.
The fog is rolling in. I'm tired.
At home, I park the car and listen to the hissing of the air at 1 am. I sit in the dark, a drink in my hand.
Being in a band is hard, hard work sometimes. Leading a band, moreso. Hard to understand unless you've done it.
The wind blows, and the windows rattle.
I don't know how much longer I can or want to do this. But I sure am glad I did it tonight.
There's few things that scare me more than having one of the Pants tell me they bought a new piece of gear. This recently happened. I was terrified that Dante was going to take up the guzheng in a bid to get out from behind the drum kit.
Instead, Pony said he bought a new guitar. It looks like this:
STEWART COPELAND, The Police: I grew to understand that videos were mainly about getting our singer's face out there. Because it was so pretty. That's the way it goes. Drummers learn that lesson pretty early in life. Guitarists never quite learn that lesson. Drummers and bass players, we're over it.
So true, so true.
Anyhow, this book is highly recommended. You'll note a shocking lack of stories about Yours Truly within - the product of the continuing industry omerta about Sid Luscious and The Pants, and what they did to us!
It turns out that one of Japan's newest pop stars is a fake.
The lovely and talented Eguchi Aimi of AKB48 does not exist. She's a virtual star, and one cleverly created as a composite of all of her bandmates. This sort of bums me out because I was working on a social media project which was going to have us Tweet virtual dates in real-time while simultaneously working on a special album collab project. But now the secret is out, and the project is off.
Of course she's Japanese. I've written before about Bandroids and Japan's cutting-edge technologies in this area. It would appear the Japanese, like me, realized that robots are too 20th century, and that going computer-generated/virtual makes a lot more sense: "no hardware". Hardware is complex, messy, and unreliable. Just like the humans you're trying to replace.
Software, on the other hand, is cheap, malleable, and just gets better and better. The pros have been using software instead of recording machines for 20 years. The last 10 years have seen software versions of instruments swallow hardware instruments like a python devouring a gazelle. Listen to most of the records in the top 10 right now: The vocals are edited, tuned, and overdubbed. The drums aren't real drums, or if they were at some point, they've been edited and snapped into a grid, and all "imperfect" hits replaced with better ones. The synths are software. Any old acoustic instruments you hear are almost certainly samples. If you hear electric guitar or bass, assuming it's "real", it's being run through a software amp simulator and not a hardware amp. And so on.
Before you guys go all country/blues/authentic on me and start complaining there's something wrong with this, remember that all pop stars are fake. All of them.
It was ever thus, but let's start with the current round of meatbag pop tarts (there are of course a few exceptional exeptions). They have fake names, "perform" other people's songs, often by lip-syncing to heavily processed backing tracks sung by other pros, while dancing routines a pro choreographer created or stole from someone else, while dressed in clothes someone else picked out and/or designed for them. You can put in Ke$ha's name here, or Katy Perry, or really any pop singer from the 1950s on.
How is this different than a cartoon? Or look at Gorillaz, who are literally cartoons!
Paula Abdul was sued many years ago. Allegedly she didn't really sing the tracks on her breakthrough album, and failed to give the woman who sang the "guide tracks" credit and cash. I have it on good authority that not only was this true, but that Abdul's people wiped the evidence from the masters during the trial.
None of that makes "Straight Up" any less awesome, or any of the hits under these pop brands any less fun, artistic, or great.
I mean, there's no guy named "Coke". The Keebler Elves aren't real. And Willard Scott aside, there has never been a real Ronald McDonald. Those are artificial entities created to sell product. Just like pop stars. And just as advertising evolves beyond using unreliable, fallible humans to sell their ideals, music is catching up as well.
Most of your country stars are about as "authentic" as Country Time Lemonade. Shania Twain is Canadian, and her then-husband producer was also responsible for such authentic records as Def Leppard's "Hysteria", The Cars' "Heartbeat City", and much of Bryan Adams' oeuvre. Most country stars sing hits written by the pro songwriter community, which counted the late great Scotsman Stuart Adamson (of new wave geniuses Big Country) and Diane Warren, a Jewish woman from Van Nuys (who wrote mega hits for Leann Rimes and Trisha Yearwood) amongst their ranks.
Sammy Hagar says he's only been to a few great parties in his life and has been mining those memories for lyrics and attitude ever since.
Ziggy Stardust didn't exist. There's no Sergeant Pepper and no Lonely Hearts Club Band. Mick Jagger wasn't a street-fighting man, he was a business student at the London School of Economics. The Beach Boys weren't surfers, they were from the suburbs.
You can go as far back as you want (Shakespeare's female characters were all Dudes Looking Like Ladies), but you get the point.
Look, it's about perfection and selling illusion (and that's all entertainment is - illusion). The audience doesn't want to see human beings up there (no matter what they say), they want Greek gods and embodiments of ideals.
That's what the audience has been conditioned to expect over the years. It started the minute we put someone on a stage, and as technology has evolved, the illusion has evolved, too. The internet is very nearly the apex, since it's nothing but doctored digital data about everything. Everything is permitted, nothing is real.
In this surprisingly good Pitchfork interview, Louis C. K. says:
Pitchfork: Right now seems like a particularly up moment in your career. Is there any security in that?
C.K.: Oh, Christ, no. It's still show business and based on people going, "I like that guy," which can evaporate on a global level in an instant. Through all the years of ups and downs, I've picked up a lot of skills and learned ways to take care of myself. I do feel more security now, but it's because the recent downs have not been as bad; when I fall from where I am now, I won't fall as far. I'll be OK.
That is about as succinct an explanation of show biz and success that I can think of. The most well-adjusted show biz folks are the ones who are able to back off a bit and think about "doing what they want" rather than "everyone needs to like me".
Sometimes that means you take a smaller paycheck, sometimes it means a change in your risk level.
The Pants haven't played a lot this year, but we make each show special.
I watched this documentary "Still Bill" over the weekend, all about Bill Withers. Who is Bill Withers, you say?
Bill wrote some of the finest songs ever, including "Ain't No Sunshine", "Use Me", and "Lean On Me". His other big hits include "Grandma's Hands", "Just The Two Of Us", and "Who Is He (And What Is He To You?)". Any one of those gets you into The Master Songwriters' Club for life. Nailing that many gets you a chair with your name on it.
And Bill did all that without knowing, in his words "an F sharp from 9th Street". He also had a hardscrabble upbringing in a coal town in West Virginia. Apparently he stuttered badly until his late 20s.
But when you hear him sing, that voice...that is a timbre that you are just born with. Sid may have a nice voice, but Bill Withers has a beautiful instrument. His phrasing is masterful, instinctual, and just perfect.
His melodic ear is brilliant - his melodies can be melancholy, wistful, and slightly dangerous. His songs are both instantly familiar and yet surprising.
Despite all that, Bill is sort of a forgotten figure in the music business these days, and that's sort of how he wants it. Maybe. He made his last album of new material in 1985, a year after our own debut was recorded.
He says he's been writing this whole time, but not finishing anything. Working in his own studio a little. Scribbling tons of fragments here and there, all the time. But mostly he says he's been goofing off, being a little lazy, enjoying his comforts. Raising his kids.
This happens sometimes. The Muse is fickle, and the fire you have as a young person, desperate to prove yourself, can get stifled, dimmed, or put out by even a modest amount of financial success or emotional validation.
Put another way, many of my L.A. friends have all kinds of intimacy issues. They all wanted or needed to be on stage having hundreds of people professing their love because they couldn't find a single person offstage who would do that. And once a few of them found that bliss in their personal lives, their artistic life was done.
That don't mean you gotta suffer to create, though. Success in the biz comes through work. That means you pick up your axe and you write, you get out there in front of people and play. Because that is what you do, what you love, and because you need to pay your entourage. You have people depending on you.
One of my music teachers told me never to get a day job. He said "Don't do it. You'll end up with a good job, and you'll get a nice stereo and a nice house and a nice car and then pretty soon you'll get used to all of it and you won't want to give it up. And then you won't be able to focus on your music anymore."
I've seen that take down some folks too. I guess some people stop being hungry after they eat, you know?
I'm not sure if he just lost the spark. I know Bill really didn't like the biz part of the music business. He liked the singing OK, but the rest of it - the record company guys, the recording, the touring - not so much. He was lucky in that he got big enough that he could pick and choose, and had a good enough head on his shoulders to appreciate what he had.
Sometimes that machine just beats your desire out of you, and sometimes even moreso when you're successful. Once you've had a few Bill Withers-size hits, you don't need to take shit from nobody. You don't feel like making a record, you don't have to. And you sure don't have to listen to people who haven't (and never will) have Bill Withers-size hits tell you what to do and how to do it.
But maybe he just didn't want to cheapen his legacy. He's also a perfectionist about his writing, and says he just hasn't been that inspired. He doesn't want to repeat himself either. This, I can respect.
The downside to being a pro entertainer (as opposed to an artiste) is that you have to ship new product constantly. Many of the pros I know see their fanbase like a crop - they tend to them, water and feed them each year, and then harvest some cash by putting out something new. Doesn't matter whether it's "good" or "interesting" or "creative". It's something for the fans to buy. It's breakfast cereal, not timeless art or frozen architecture or whatever great music is.
I mean, hell, I've written a few good songs and part of me wants to just throw my hand up like George Costanza and leave the room. What if my next song isn't as good as "Lifestyle Magazine Lifestyle"? What if my next 30 aren't? I sure don't want to make a record so bad it makes people think less of my good records.
So comfort, hassle, quality control...maybe some combination of those things is why Bill's shop has been closed for so long.
Bill is over 70 now, but you'd barely know it from watching him and listening to him. Tons of energy, sharp as a razor. I aspire to his level of calm, cool, and self-assuredness. I wanna be like him when I grow up.
In the last few years apparently he's gotten interested in working again. Maybe he's realizing he doesn't have too many days left. Maybe he's bored. Anyhow, I hope he does something he's proud of. I can't wait to hear what he does next!
Martin had a knack for taking "outside" music - electronic or punk - and making it not just fit on radio, but making it a smash hit without losing what made it unique.
Rushy engineered for some of the 70s biggest and best acts: T. Rex and Fleetwood Mac are the first ones that come to mind.
You know him best for his groundbreaking work with The Human League: he produced "Dare", their breakthrough album featuring "Don't You Want Me". He also worked with many other important bands of the 80s, including The Stranglers, XTC, and The Go-Gos.
I knew Martin best for the great job he did with Buzzcocks. He produced their legendary and perfect albums, including the essential "Singles Going Steady", the masterful "Love Bites", and the arty "A Different Kind of Tension". When I first heard these, they were all I listened to for about 3 months.
But the record that really blew me away was Pete Shelley's "Homosapien", which fused electronics to strummy acoustic guitar, rock beats to dance beats, and was able to be poppy like Buzzcocks but sounding unlike anything else.
This sound, this idea...that was all Martin. And that was the record that caught the ear of the Human League. Because they knew Pete Shelley couldn't play synth, and Martin couldn't play synth...so what was doing all that? It was a sequencer! And yet it was clearly a pop song and radio-friendly, not like the proto-industrial dirges they'd been writing. And The Human League started wondering what they could do with Martin...
"Don't You Want Me" was a big deal because it had tons of keyboards and a drum machine (all electronic, in fact), but it wasn't some novelty record. It was electronic music but not cartoony space robot music. It was a perfect pop song like any other that just happened to be synthesizer-based.
What few people did know about Martin was that he suffered crippling depression coinciding with (and possibly caused by) some issues with the bands he produced. In his words:
"I ended up a virtually bankrupt single dad with three kids, and had to sell my home and studio to pay off my bills…I didn't know what clinical depression was, but that's what I had. I could barely make a cup of tea and for a year I drifted like a soul lost."
This was a man who felt things. He understood the record business thoroughly. I desperately wanted him to produce The Pants' first album, and we were in discussions about having mix a track on our new record when he passed.
For better or for worse, there is a direct line from Martin's work to today's shiny pop music, including enabling technology to take over without anyone caring or batting an eye. Green Day owes their career to him, as do their totally denatured copycats Blink-182, Sum 41, and just about any other bunch of kids with colored, pointy hair and buzzsaw guitars, or a bunch of blinking lights.
I miss him already. I hope wherever he is, they have a kettle on and fresh tape on the reels.
"...hits really can be the bane of your life. People don't see that songs are like a diary of where you were at when you were 22, and then you're 23 and think something different and at 24 something different again. It's like you are forever tied to your hits and that's a fucking pain in the arse, because what is appropriate for you musically then isn't appropriate later on."
She's totally right. It's also tough trying to top yourself. Think back to when you were in your late teens and early 20s. Think about how perfect you were, how confident, how energetic, how young...hard to best that 20 years later.
Doesn't mean you shouldn't try, or that you can't do something different.
You can be smart as hell, know how to add / Know how to figure things on yellow pads / Answer so no one knows what you just said / but when you're all alone, you and your head...
The 80s are amazing compared to the 90s:
" the black hole of terribleness unleashed by the albums that brought “Achy Breaky Heart” and “Two Princes” into the world. Those two songs alone—not to mention Kenny fucking G or Whitney Houston’s treacle—are almost enough to negate anything good that happened musically in 1993.
How could 1993 look worse? Only one of the albums in the top 10 that year actually came out in 1993 (janet.). Ten came out Aug. 27, 1991, a week after Pocket Full Of Kryptonite. The others all dropped at various points in 1992."