Thursday, June 7, 2007

oh, for f$%@s sakes....

I won't post a link. I won't point out who it is. It's not worth it.

But someone out there in the internet is getting very very whiny about the state of the music industry, and it's implications on his releasing an album.

Summary: "People pirate music. I have an album complete, but it will just be pirated. Fuck the pirates, everyone can *suffer* having never experienced my genius creation since I refuse to release it to this cold, dead, world. If only a label could come and pay for my release, then it would be OK."

Here's my take on the current music business situation: I write music. I write music as an outlet. I work with others collaboratively to create music as an outlet and as a means to accomplish something collaboratively interesting. There's a billion other reasons why I do it, but that's a good summary.

So once it's done, it gets released, maybe online only, maybe CDR in small batches through CD Baby. I'm small potatoes. It may not be in stores outside of this here internet, and it will probably see sales in the tens to hundreds if I'm lucky. And no, I can't live off of it. I'll probably continually pump money into this money pit I call an outlet for the rest of my natural life. And people may pirate it.

You know what? GREAT! Take it all. I have enough cajones to publically state that I GET OFF KNOWING THAT PEOPLE LISTEN TO WHAT I CREATE. Those that appreciate it enough will pay for it. Those that dont and walk away having listened to a track or two for a few minutes, well that little bit of time was my chance to interest them and it didn't work. So what. I'd wrather have 10 people listening to and enjoying my songs regularly that DIG into it, than 500,000 people with it in their iPods on some playlist that they pop on once every few months.

Everyone wants to be a rockstar to a degree - we love to feel attention, to feel admired or even pitied. But the financial ramifications are pretty bleak - making a living as a musician in a band is extroardinarily hard these days and it gets worse every year. Live music is a money pit, recording is a money pit, promotion is a money pit, and signing to a label is something that could strip you of your rights to your music and leave you poor, without your creations, and with nothing to show.

My opinion is my opinion. If you're a musician and you feel like you have what it takes to make it - go for it. I am, I'm trying my damndest. I've got a day job, I've got a life, and I've got a drive to create like you wouldn't believe, and every chance I have to expose people to my creations I will gladly take.

So if you see my music on filesharing - The Wretch, Etherine, Ivilion, Sythilix, Zerodivided - STEAL IT. Listen to it. Send me an email if you like it. Do what you want. If you like it enough, it's easy to find most of my stuff on iTunes or Magnatune to pay for it. Throw it on podcasts, put it on mixtapes, make crappy skateboarding videos with the songs as soundtracks to post on Youtube.

The audience should never have become the enemy. That's not the point. The enemy is the record industry, but that's old news. I thought by now everyone realized that going outside of traditional distribution methods was the way - finding the audience means you have to follow them and they sure as hell aren't going to record stores anymore.

As one last note - noone owes you a living. Humans are adaptive, when we're hungry or cold, we are very resourceful at making sure we have those things provided. Money is a necessary evil for these things nowadays, and sometimes you have to swallow your pride and do something you hate to enable you to do something you love - that's adaptation in the modern age.


Thursday, May 3, 2007

Hiatus over

So it's been a bit since I've posted, but I hope to be posting more regularly now.

Administrivia: is now slightly redesigned, it'll be relaunching slowly with new content and will act as my "distribution" arm for all of the music (and maybe from my friends as well)

Anyway, I need to keep on point. If there's one thing I've realized - it's that I'm opinionated but stay relatively moderate out in the world of the web. I take the middle road. I take the easy way out. I'm not confrontational. I keep odd bedfellows in that regard - most of my closest friends are outspoken, opinionated and downright brazen.

Screw it. Say goodbye to the old Mike.

So let's start on a subject near and dear to my heart: music

In the past couple of months I've picked up a couple of newer releases (direct order or actually walked into a store and bought on release day)

Skinny Puppy - Mythmaker
Nine Inch Nails - Year Zero
Download - Fixer

I'll focus on those three for this edition.....

Background: I am a diehard Cevin Key fan - I've followed puppy, download, and most of the inter-related projects since I first discovered puppy back in junior high. I had a passing interest in NIN in high school but pushed it away in a hurry when I discovered "true industrial" and bought the line that he "stole his ideas from puppy and made a fortune".

I was under the impression that of the three albums above being released in the same calendar year, I would be partial to the Key related releases.... but shocker of shockers, Trent and crew have TROUNCED puppy and download on the scales.

While I'm not 100% impressed with Year Zero overall (never been a huge fan of his lyrics, and some of the sounds do kind of fall into the "not so new to the IDM world" category) - it has more interest, layering, groove and composition than either the Download album or the Puppy album could hope to achieve. Something happened somewhere to Cevin and collaborators that is now pumping out sub-par listenining music.

If Trent can fill stadiums and get the kind of coverage and exposure for this album that he will no doubt continue to get, then good for him. He deserves it. He's integrated ideas from disparate places and genres, kept his usual modus operandi intact enough for his "die hard" fans to still recognize this as a NIN album, and it looks like he had a damned good time making this record.

I don't want to go into a full on critique of the albums in question, I'm not a music reviewer. I just know that of the three albums, Year Zero actually made me excited to listen to it, and the other two are now stowed on a shelf and they will most likely not appear in an iTunes playlist anytime soon.

I think I lost my train of thought. Oh well! I'll find another later.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Bob Lefsetz says the darndest things

So my lovely girlfriend tipped me off to a newsletter - Bob Lefsetz is an industry veteran who seems to speak off the cuff on all matters music industry related, especially in regards to DRM and the business model of the Big 4.

Yesterday, he shot out this newsletter:

It had me nodding my head the entire read. I'll be sending him this response as well...

Open Response to Bob Lefsetz letter from 3/9/07

Bob, you hit so many nails on so many heads that you may need to create a new hammer for the job.

I am, to be completely bluntly honest, a square peg in a square hole in the music business: I'm a loner electronic musician working in relative obscurity in a glorified bedroom studio creating notoriously "niche" recordings. But my experiences over the past 5 years hit on alot of angles of the new machine that I felt I had to tell my story.

I grew up an avid music listener, spending lunch money on tapes and records, constantly re-listening to my favorite albums and songs to learn every note and every lyric, basically surrounding myself in the music I loved. That pushed me into college radio, as well as club DJ'ing, which then gave me the punk-rawk inspiration to go at it myself.

In 2000 I began writing music for the first time in my life, with my computer and a crappy little midi keyboard I had from an old Nintendo game. Time moved on and I had a couple of albums worth of recordings. I started to explore online communities, in it's first incarnation, and started to get crazy ideas about turning it from a hobby to a public project.

I was welcomed into the Magnatune ( roster in January of 2004 - I signed to them on the strength of the idea of their business model: online distribution without DRM, released under a Creative Commons license, and they made full-quality WAV, AIFF, etc available to the purchaser, all with a user-definable scale for payment (minimum $5 per album, but pay more if you want). I was quite surprised that people on average were paying a minimum of $10.00 for the albums once sales started moving, in some cases going as high as $15.00 for an album download!

Over the next few years, I built a solid network of friends and collaborators. One customer of mine on Magnatune asked about remixing my material - he's now working with me both live and in the studio. One forumite I met while talking about equipment is now working with me as well. The internet as social networking and collaboration tool lives and breaths in my music - without it I'd still be alone, but now I'm moving in the direction I need to be: becoming a viable live act with a stable of truly talented band mates and a supportive label that embraces a very necessary new and open business model.

Last week I was interviewed for a documentary to be aired March 21st on NHK in Japan - they were put in touch with me by Magnatune. The piece is a 2 hour special on Creative Commons, online music sales and online collaboration. We talked about several things, most of which was the idea behind Creative Commons and the increased need for not only keeping Fair Use a viable concern, but EXPANDING the listeners rights over the art they buy and support. I spoke to it enthusiastically - sampling is important to a continually growing culture, it's going to happen regardless of the legality. By stamping a release with a CC license, you can extend more rights to the customer and allow your art to become a collaborative tool out of the gates.

I think that we're definitely seeing the end of corporate-based hype machines; appealing to the lowest common denominator with an art form only makes it invalid, with a short shelf life, and ultimately leaves a bad taste in everyone's mouth. Your comment on each band becoming it's own system is perfect - each band knows what they're trying to accomplish, and if they do it right and with integrity the fans will follow and support them as long as they stay "real". The audience will gravitate to what they want, word of mouth and person-to-person relationships are tried and true methods to build hype and carpetbombing press kits has always been a waste of expense for anyone not in the top-40 demographic already.

I'm pretty sure I've rambled a bit here - alot of what you say has resonated very loudly to me as a musician getting ready to try and make a big push both with a live presence and a new album/single launching this year - your words have helped solidify what I already thought was true, so thanks for that.

Keep writing - I'll happily keep reading!

Michael Weeks


So, I find myself on the eve of an adventure - March 24th I'll be flying in to beautiful Frankfurt, Germany for Musikmesse.

I'll be there as an emissary of Metasonix, showing the public the crazy stuff one can do with magical yellow boxes.

Not much more to say, save for I'm looking forward to seeing alot of people I haven't seen since NAMM '06!

Ok, now back to more posts....

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Recording Philosphy

So, over the last couple of years I've had people ask me tons of questions about the gear I use and my process. I've always answered at length, and I always am happy to share tips and tricks.

I'm a "process" guy - I've always been that way with everything I do, visual art, music, cooking, you name it. I think the act of writing is actually more important than the end product in a lot of ways.

I recently mentioned to a friend, that my music is more about the concept than the quality, and even though it was somewhat tongue in cheek, there's alot of truth in that statement. When you're a bedroom producer, or someone with a non-commercial project studio, you constantly fight many battles and the biggest one is how to get good sounding recordings out of your gear. Some people take part in the arms race that is hi-fidelity, throwing down huge sums of cash for preamps, converters, DI boxes, monitors, acoustic treatments, fancy cables, and will go to extreme lengths to get the elusive "true sound" of their equipment.

Screw that. Seriously.

About three years ago I bought a MOTU 828MKII. That's my nifty audio interface - I use the built in preamps for my mic's, for DI guitar recording, etc. To submix into the 828 I use a couple of relatively budget Yamaha line mixers. I use Hosa cables. I spent less on that than some people spend on one good preamp, and I'm happy. Not that I wouldn't LOVE to have a pile of super-awesome rack gear fall into my lap, but I don't under any circumstances feel that I'm losing anything in my recordings using my "pro-sumer" equipment.

It's all about the elusive 5% - this rule applies to so much in life when purchasing things - you can get 95% of the way towards perfection for less than half the price of the items that would get you 100% of the way.

There. Mild mannered rant on that over - with one caveat: cheap and affordable are two different things. Behringer is the devil.

So anyway - concept vs. quality. I've got a very odd gear fetish. Tons of people seem to go through a 6 month fetish for old gear, for weird things and circuit bent childrens toys and various odd boxes that defy rational thought, then they get pissed off at their unpredictablity and penchant for odd noises and random hum and return to their in the box happy plug in land.

I've been embracing broken gear and crazy ass shit that fucks shit up for a while now, becoming a devout user of Metasonix equipment and proudly playing with an old broken Farfisa that barely emits sounds. But when that damned Farfisa does make sound, it's the most beautiful thing in the world.

Vacuum tubes. There's another fetish for you - people worship them for their use in amps, their "warmth", their "tone". That's the legacy that seems to be left for them, but it's just not right. Before people went solid state with electronics, everything was built around tubes - early synthesizers and organs, computers, they were everywhere and found in a whole range of consumer products. They were built for so many uses, and now they've been relegated to guitar players "magic lightbulbs" that make them sound like their heros.

So I discover Metasonix, and I realize that what Eric is doing is some of the most important R&D ever. He's an expert with these things, he's got all sorts of credentials, but more importantly he actually thinks about tubes and what they can do. He's produced some truly bizarre pedals and rack units, and now a lovely little synthesizer - all using NOS tubes in new and interesting ways.

If there was a family of products that deserve way more attention than they get, it's Eric Barbour and Metasonix.

The S-1000 Wretch Machine is the only tube synthesizer in current production - I'd hazard a guess it's one of the only commercial applications of gas-tube oscillators in a synth since the late 50's (I'm sure someone can correct me if I'm wrong). It's my new best friend - it defies logic and defies cooperation, but the way a writing partner should. It's got attitude and charisma and it never sounds the same twice.

So back to the manifesto: what makes me want to record something? Sound - something in the moment that captures that certain spark of interest. Something that if the tape wasn't rolling may never happen again. Something temporary made permanent.

I stopped using preset synthesizers about 2 years ago, and the hardware synths I have are all set up with initialized patches ready to be programmed on the fly (with a few exceptions). I started building a modular last year to further throw myself into that mode of working. Build a sound, find a melody or a movement, record it and move on. Harness the moment.

At this point I'm realizing I've wandered all over the place here, so I'll wrap it up for now and post something more succinct every once in a while about what turns me on and what makes me hit record.

Final thought: Pitch is relative, sound is temporary, silence is the space between surprises.

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

GR 300

Sent my way via Eric Barbour - a look at Roland's GR300 guitar synthesizer:

GR 300

I'm not even remotely a good enough guitarist to warrant exploration of guitar synths or the like, but the tech behind this is really fascinating. Worth reading!

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

What the hell happened to my shoes

I have an irrational love for all things "shoegazer". I'm a huge fan of guitar noise, walls of completely destroyed fuzzed out guitar mixed with drummachines and barely audible vocals. Think My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive, etc... I go through cycles, once a year listening and looking for new bands or new to me old bands that do something in that format.

So on this years incarnation, I've discovered something absolutely amazing: Loop

All of their albums are out of print, and the only one I've found is via emusic (linky)

Basically, they started out as a spacerock band ala Spaceman 3, and started to move more towards this album, which is a stunning blend of punctuated and droning guitars, and drivingly monotonous rhythms and arrangements that can only be described as the evil hybrid of Godflesh and MBV. Of course, irony of irony, they have been namedropped as a potential influence on MBV, and the guitarist Robert Hampson went on after this album to record with Godflesh on the album Pure.

Needless to say - I'll be hunting out the other recordings, and I'll be digging deep into some serious listening on this album for the next few weeks.