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Nobody said they were handsome...

Nobody said they were handsome…

I’ve been a fan of Phish for many years, but I was a HUGE fan back in high school and college. I’ve seen the band live 36 times, and I actually feel like a bit of a noob because that number seems to be so much lower than the average Phan I encounter.

So that means I contributed to these astounding numbers… stats that completely defy the modern assumption of how to make a buck in the music business. Way to go, Phish.

 

This is a rad move by Mike Johnston. I love everything about this.

“Satisfaction with results is the death knell of progress. No man is good who thinks he cannot be better.” Charles Spurgeon

I came across this quote just now, and it reminded me how deep the well of music really is. Growth is always something to shoot for, and is always available to you if you seek it.

HT: John Piper

The Great One. Buddy Rich. Don’t mess with him. He knows what’s up… buuuuuuut… not so much on his explanation of why traditional grip is superior to match grip.

“You can move around the kit better.”

That’s all I hear him saying. Really, Buddy? I can move around the kit better if I use traditional grip? Why though? What about traditional grip let’s you move around the kit better? Oh wait… are you saying that YOU can move around the kit better with traditional grip? Well, sure. Traditional grip is what you use, so I’m not surprised to hear that you’re “better” when you use traditional grip. But why should I use it? Is there something inherently or objectively “better” about the traditional grip?

He never quite gets to that part. In other words, he never actually defends or backs up his statement. He just makes a statement.

Oh well. Nobody’s perfect.

Screen shot 2013-04-14 at 10.20.14 PM

Attention all drummers who wish to sound good in a studio setting: Read this article immediately and don’t try to argue with it.

Ok, ok… maybe I will argue with it a little. Clamp the hihats closed? A well-placed slosh hat groove rules and everybody knows it. Don’t use a crash as a ride? If it’s the right crash then riding on it sounds amazing and everybody knows it.

But the main point of the article still stands. When Michael Bland first introduced me to this concept it changed my life as a drummer.

HT: Brett Bullion

Owl City at USF Meadows, Tampa FL.

Soundcheck with Owl City at USF Meadows, Tampa FL.

I used this incredible “vintage” Yamaha Recording Custom kit (it was an ’83, and Yamaha only began making this line in ’77) for backline on a fly date the other day. Gosh dang it. Those drums sounded killer and reminded me how much I love birch shells.

Birch has so much smack and thickness to the tone. Sure, maybe the pitch isn’t as “clear” or “true”… but I feel like the words “thick” and “smack” more accurately describe what I want drums to do anyway. I have an early 90’s Premier Genista (birch shells) that I use for all my “rock” sessions and it’s got the same vibe. A generalization that I will confidently stand by: birch shells are super rad, especially in the studio.

Also pictured above is my Canopus Ash snare. The “vintage” quality that the drum is designed to have is totally accurate. A little drier with lower overtones… so nice.

Then we met up with our normal tour bus and gear, which for my rig consists of acrylic shells on the kick and toms and brass snares.

So… no maple shells anywhere for me this past weekend, and I’m really not using many maple drums at all anymore (aside from a 60’s Ludwig 3-pc kick or my blue sparkle RD’s… and an Anton Fig snare that I love). This is noteworthy because magazines and the wider drum culture repeatedly hail maple shells as “the best.” I guess I just don’t agree. And I don’t think many other drummers would choose maple either if they were to do a blindfold test.

Does your mind immediately go to maple whenever you think of the best-sounding drum shell option? If so, is it because you’ve experienced this personally or because you’ve always just assumed it based on the hype?

1) Missing Persons – Spring Session M… early 80’s new wave with crazy complicated grooves and patterns. Terry Bozzio on drums and his wife Dale on vocals. Legit.

2) Justin Timberlake – 20/20 Experience… No live drums on this one, but the programming is endlessly interesting and inspiring. The grooves are just infectious, and the liner notes attribute all vocal production to JT himself, which was a pleasant surprise to discover.

3) Leagues – You Belong Here… Nashville hipster rock. The sonic landscape of this record is AMAZING. And the always inspiring Tyler Burkum on guitar. Check out this recent SXSW performance.

4) Sara Bareilles – Kaleidoscope Heart… Matt Chamberlain shared the drum chair with Victor Indrizzo on this record, but it’s one of those situations where I don’t know officially who played on which track. Either way the performances rule, and Sara’s songwriting and vocals are equally compelling.

5) James Blake – Overgrown… I’m on a huge James Blake kick right now. His new record, released last week, is STUNNING. British electro-pop for the win.

I tend to steer clear of the show-boaty drum solo world, but DANG GURL… this guy is really something…

Observations:

– The triple meter stuff at the beginning is very well executed and full of interesting ideas. I for one find it significantly more difficult to make precision and creativity happen in the triple meter. 

– Very cool use of double kick stuff early on, instead of the standard chugga-chugga-chugga patterns.

– I could do without the Roland pad melody he plays (drags a bit there), but he’s definitely got some serious limb independence. MENTAL NOTE: A cool idea is sapped of all its coolness if one drags while playing it.

– The jumping thing toward the end is AWESOME. I’m totally gonna rip that off. 

– Personally, I find Aric’s performance to be WAY more entertaining than the winning performance. So why didn’t Aric win? I think it probably comes down to his somewhat shaky feel during groove sections. Carlos sits a little front side in the pocket, but his groove is cleaner and feels better overall.

Well… what an interesting twist to the music and commerce discussion. I honestly can’t decide if I’m with Stubblefield or not on this question. If he somehow gets money out of his efforts I’ll be amazed. But if it’s determined that he somehow DESERVES money for this situation… I think there will suddenly be a huge mess in the copyright realm of the music world (as if things there aren’t messy enough already).

All hail Clyde Stubblefield, but I don’t think his campaign is helping anything.

“Capitalism kills art.” – Desdamona, Minneapolis hip hop and spoken word artist (via Facebook)

“No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” – Jesus of Nazareth (Luke 16:13)

Over the years I’ve thought a TON about the correlation between art and commerce, and those of you who read my blog regularly are familiar with my interest in the collision of music and industry. At this point I’m starting to arrive at the conclusion, perhaps better phrased as a question: Could it be that art and commerce, though inseparable in the 21st Century, are actually enemies?

Here’s my thesis: Introducing the possibility that your art will/could produce a financial profit irreversibly changes your headspace in making the art, therefore altering the end product.

Example: this article from Somali poet K’Naan.

Art is all about the headspace – what one is AIMING for. Why create? Why pursue art at all? Most artists will tell you it’s kind of like the combination of birthing a child and speaking your mind. It’s simultaneously something you want to say and need to say, while also being painful and even dangerous if said incorrectly or at the wrong time. What if nobody thinks your offspring is cute? What if speaking your mind leaves you at odds with your friends and loved ones? (Bear with me as I rotate metaphors.)

In the current landscape of music, the motivation to accurately and genuinely convey an artistic message crashes uncomfortably into the desire for approval from one’s audience. But what/who is your audience? What are you aiming for from the outset? This is the crux of the issue, and my theory is that it is more difficult than we might imagine for an artist to intentionally cater to both an artistic audience AND a market audience. In fact, it may be impossible. And I’m not using “artistic audience” to refer to a gathering of people who only listen to indie rock and only wear vintage clothes. I’m talking about speaking your message to those who wish to really hear your message (an artistic audience), as opposed to speaking a message to those who only want a certain kind of message from you (a market audience). Can both targets be simultaneously aimed at?

This is not to say that artistic success doesn’t sell. Many artists have set out to convey a message that they really believe in and found to their surprise that the market also enjoys the message. But that is almost beside the point. What the market is buying has never really been about art. Commerce is based on pleasure and enjoyment – preferring one thing over another and spending your hard earned dollars accordingly. And sometimes the market takes great pleasure and enjoyment from unexpected places.

Sharp-shooting metaphor: One cannot, with the same bullet, hit two separate targets… unless perhaps those targets are directly in line with each other. But then you would have your aim set only on the first target, which would be the only target you could even see, and the second target would be an after-effect. I’d submit that the order of those targets, in order to hit both, MUST be art first, with commerce hiding behind it. The commercial gamble of the artist is to aim toward the artistic goal, not knowing whether commercial success is hiding behind it.

Summary so far: I want to suggest that one does not (maybe even cannot) land on a both commercially successful AND artistically successful statement by directing one’s aim toward both artistic and market audiences simultaneously.

If you replace the word audience with “master” you can see where Jesus was going with the New Testament quote I included at the top of this post. Jesus digs a little deeper into the hearts of human beings by using hard-hitting terms like “hate” and “devoted,” but the point still stands. Jesus says his followers must choose who they will serve, the Kingdom of God OR the Kingdom of Economy. Interestingly, only a few chapters earlier in Luke, Jesus also teaches this:

“And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.” (Luke 12:29-31)

Worrying about wealth/provision isn’t your job, but is rather God’s job. Focusing on serving God’s Kingdom is a better use of time, and God promises to take care of the other department. Could it be that this is also true for the artistic/commercial tension in music? Aim for the artistic target, and the commercial target will be added unto you.

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