experience


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For the past 10 years or so, Nick Cave turned his raucous career into quiet, beautiful (albeit dark) ballads. It’s sort of a typical phase of an artist growing old and mellowing out. I followed for awhile, and then drifted away, as I’ve still got a taste for the raucous. During this 10 year phase, I saw him on Letterman a few times, at a grand piano, telling a story I doubted the tens of millions of viewers were likely to get, or be interested in. Nonetheless, his songwriting was inspiring to me, and I trusted everything he did. I just stopped listening.

Then, along comes 2007, Cave grows a fu-manchu moustache, and starts a garage punk band called Grinderman. It is one of the greatest rock and roll albums I’ve heard in a long time, capturing the energy of his early Birthday Party stuff, as well as highlights of The Bad Seeds peak moments of intensity. Pleasantly brutal stuff, and a total surprise for him to whip this out after a decade of winding down. Genius. I’m listening again.

Who of us will have the energy for this level of reinvention when we’re the age of Mr. Cave? Who of us even has it now?

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Some of you might recognize the title of this post as the eighth article of the Punk Marketing Manifesto. It’s an obvious approach in music and business in general. Of course, everyone wants people to want more of what they do. Don’t play too long, don’t play too often, but find the balance where people’s interest remains strong enough to make them come back next time. This also applies to attitude and personal dealings – don’t oversaturate how people perceive you.

When Mark and Richard wrote the manifesto, they likely were thinking this concept through even further. It’s not just about restraint, but also about thinking of things you can do to carry people’s interest. How do you design your music, package, etc.? How do you stay in touch with your audience? How do you deal with dissatisfied ‘customers?’ How do you make people want more of what you do?

This is merely one point of a manifesto that raises questions each of us can apply to our work. Check it out.

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In April 2007, I did a short tour in France with Nom Tom. The set-up I use for this trio utilizes a small amp, a small mixer, and between 2 and 4 cassette decks, as well as 2 snare drums. This produces a fairly specific sound, particularly with what I knew the amp could do with it’s inherent gain settings, etc. So, I figured since they were all small pieces, I’d bring them with, so as to not have any surprises with borrowed equipment. Not being very versed in electronics, I relied on the expertise of my local Radio Shack employee to lead me in the right direction in the way of power converter, since Europe works on a different voltage. The employee seemed very confident in his recommendations so I made the purchase.

Arriving in France the following week (I will omit describing the ordeal involved in hauling this equipment from Chicago to Paris…), we visited the studio of Pascal Battus. I set my equipment up, plugged everything in, and then went to hit the power switch on the power strip, and BOOM, everything blew up. I believe the power strip was the culprit, leaving the amp completely dead, the power strip burning, but fortunately the mixer still worked. We hooked up another amp, and I made do, wondering how I was going to manage for the rest of the tour, which hadn’t even begun yet.

We found an amp for me to borrow, so all seemed well. And it was. However, this changed things slightly as far as my capabilities go. This is the kind of situation one can find themselves in any given day, but when it comes to music, it often seems more critical to have things exactly a certain way. I could comment here about drum tech horror stories, but I won’t. The point I’m trying to make is that as both a musician and a person, we need to be prepared to act in any situation. Not having certain things, or having things just as we want them shouldn’t inhibit us from doing what we do. Find a way. It’s an aspect of improvising music, and it should certainly translate into daily life.

I think the name of our li’l blog project is quite appropriate… I generally feel like I’m getting it From All Angles, like everyone wants a piece of me and there is rarely, if ever, enough time in the day.

It seems as though the to-do list only gets longer, the scope of ideas and dreams and possibilities ever wider, and the time with which to accomplish all of this passes more quickly, hour by hour.

But it’s ideas and dreams and possibilities that stoke that creative fire inside. It’s the very fuel of my entire existence. Without them I’d be another blank-faced bargain shopper wandering the local mall, searching for something new-and-improved, unaware I was as empty as a post-Halloween candy aisle.

Even though I’m exhausted at the end of each day, I can’t imagine doing anything else… ever.

And it’s the music that makes it all worthwhile.

If it weren’t for the music, paying bills would just be accounting, instead of buying an opportunity to chase my dreams.

Meeting with attorneys would simply be a colossal waste of time, instead of navigating the waters of a potential creative partnership.

History would revert to the most boring subject in school, as opposed to a lens through which all events occur on a timeline of musical moments.

I think some my most creative moments in this business have been solving the problems that stood in the way of an opportunity to make music. And to be totally honest… I have to make it work. I have no other marketable skills. I’m worthless to society if I’m not contributing music. Necessity is the mother of invention creativity, at least for me.

Back to the Lab for now. I’ll try to come up with some specifics for future posts about problems solved, crises averted, and dreams realized through creativity in this business of music.