Random Play by Graham Reid

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Random Play: So You Wanna Be A Rock’n’Roll Star

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  • Robyn Gallagher,

    Everyone in a band should read this blog and think about.


    I got an email from a friend once, urging me to see some band playing at the Kings Arms. "They're a really great local band," the email claimed, "so go and support local music!!!"

    I didn't go because I realised that if they were from any other country, touring here, I wouldn't see them because I just didn't really enjoy their type of music.

    By urging audiences to support local music, it sort of suggests that these bands aren't good enough to command audiences on their own, and I don't think that's helpful.

    Raglan • Since Nov 2006 • 1946 posts Report Reply

  • Richard Llewellyn,

    Completely different industry I know, but your points sound very familiar to some of the advice being provided to globally ambitious NZ companies during this years Export Year initiative.

    The gist of it is; while its OK to aspire to the bach and the BMW here in NZ, if you truly want to build a global business, you have to get out on the road and slog your guts out finding and talking to your global market. Its simply not enough to have a killer business idea, you have to invest time and money building a market for it, and that means putting in the hard yards.

    Mt Albert • Since Nov 2006 • 399 posts Report Reply

  • Simon Grigg,

    Graham...

    My belief is that too often artists here -- and I am listening to two local albums at the moment which, while well intentioned, I wouldn’t give you tuppence for -- don’t have their work critiqued at every step of the process: in the writing, the recording, production, even the running order on an album.

    bang on....and the mastering...generally..oh dear....hate to kick a man when they are down, but the mastering on the Dawn Raid material was appalling....flat, lifeless...it's a New Zealand issue and it's so important

    Just another klong... • Since Nov 2006 • 3283 posts Report Reply

  • merc,

    I'd love to hear a sound engineers take on that.

    Since Dec 2006 • 2471 posts Report Reply

  • Simon Grigg,

    I'd love to hear a sound engineers take on that.

    you don't need to....grab a Kiwi Hit Disc...listen....then put on, say the new Arctic Monkeys, or even that wonderful recent live Neil Young album (mouldy old tapes revived via wizardry) and listen to the sonic gulf.

    Just another klong... • Since Nov 2006 • 3283 posts Report Reply

  • merc,

    Yeah I agree fully, I am genuinely interested in why the poor mastering (I'm aware of it) and wondering if it's a cheap studio call?

    Since Dec 2006 • 2471 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Stowell,

    You've nailed something, Graham.
    Bands can slog- tour hard- simply for "PR" and the love of making music only for so long. They also need to be hard-headed about whether the touring/playing gigs is paying the bills. 'Cos recording may just make their fortunes, but it's a long long shot.
    If you can have fun and make money playing live, you've got a shot at a long-term career.

    Whakaraupo • Since Nov 2006 • 2108 posts Report Reply

  • merc,

    Could you sing "Feels Like Heaven" 10'000 times, I couldn't for all the money in China.

    Since Dec 2006 • 2471 posts Report Reply

  • Robyn Gallagher,

    My belief is that too often artists here [...] don’t have their work critiqued at every step of the process: in the writing, the recording, production, even the running order on an album.

    What I've noticed from my years hanging out at NZmusic.com, is that if a band is offered serious criticism, it is often dismissed as "tall poppy syndrome" or as being the words of a "jealous hater".

    Raglan • Since Nov 2006 • 1946 posts Report Reply

  • merc,

    Until you've got a hit, it's a bastard child, then if it's successful, it has more parents than it can ever live with.
    Everybody wrote the riff for See Me Go, you know, hell I did, Peter just got there first <sardonic grin>.

    Since Dec 2006 • 2471 posts Report Reply

  • Simon Grigg,

    the old man (me) says....bands used to tour relentlessly and New Zealand had a viable touring circuit which did make money for the acts throughout the eighties and into the nineties...most of the records from that era we love were financed by live shows and it was feasible, if you were smart, to arrive back home with a few grand tucked away after a five week tour (where you played every little town on the map in every province...its called building a fan base). We used to do two week tours of the Church Halls of Auckland or two weeks of school lunchtimes, ot two week of small towns in Taranaki.

    If you don't want to do that, don't complain about a) sales, or b) having to get a day job.

    The kids these days......

    Just another klong... • Since Nov 2006 • 3283 posts Report Reply

  • Simon Grigg,

    Everybody wrote the riff for See Me Go, you know, hell I did, Peter just got there first <sardonic grin>.

    There is a lawyer in Chicago who does all the music festivals and hands out T shirts to bands with "Sue The Bastards" on the front, and his phone number on the back....I think you need his services.

    See Me Go..wasn't that Daydream Believer? Or was that Sunday Boys....no....that was I Will Follow....

    Just another klong... • Since Nov 2006 • 3283 posts Report Reply

  • merc,

    I loved Pointy Ears. No, it was Blue Monday!

    Since Dec 2006 • 2471 posts Report Reply

  • Scott Common,

    Brilliant write up Graham - I agree with a lot of what you have said. In particular the bit about the NZ community (if it can be called that) providing more support than actual feedback. I got to the point where I don't ask friends how our show was - I tend to have a good idea of how it was myself and unfortunatly, my friends being nice people, will tend to provide nice feedback (which is well.... nice, but not really that useful).

    In regards to the mastering though I am in two minds - I agree that there is a substandard level of mastering services available in NZ (both in regards to technology and skills) but I also find the mastering on so many international records these days to be compressed to lifelessness. Many of you will know this trend as the "loudness war" which has been going on since pop music first gained its name. I feel like I could write an essay on it - but better people than myself have done so already so I won't continue pontificating about it here!

    I was so digusted with the huge levels of compression on "At War With The Mystics" by the Flaming Lips (who I really like) that I traded the album back to the store for a new copy of Sufer Rosa by the Pixies (which would be the 8th or 9th copy of the album I've owned now!).

    NZ artists do deserve our support - but not because they are New Zealanders - but if they make music that we enjoy.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 62 posts Report Reply

  • stephen walker,

    We used to do two week tours of the Church Halls of Auckland or two weeks of school lunchtimes

    lol! i saw the meemees in the school hall at lunchtime in 81 or 82. The gig was only announced that morning and i had to run around begging to borrow the small change needed to get in. we were pretty pissed off they didn't play in the theatre because the acoustics were appalling in the hall. Those catholic boys were so much cooler than us, we were so jealous!

    nagano • Since Nov 2006 • 645 posts Report Reply

  • lotech,

    Bam! I think you got it pretty much spot on Graham.

    Why did hip-hop fail in NZ? Was it the assumption of a year of hustling the artists future success was earned? After a huge first album where is Scribe? I remember the Exponents touring every 4-6 months when I was a kid but find it hard to catch a similar band once a year now?

    PS - the movie industry suffers the same problem - other than PJ who actually is getting anything from this 'Movie Industry'? Theres jobs for people but damned if any of our other directors are taking the world by storm.

    AKNZ • Since Dec 2006 • 23 posts Report Reply

  • 3410,

    My belief is that too often artists here -- and I am listening to two local albums at the moment which, while well intentioned, I wouldn’t give you tuppence for -- don’t have their work critiqued at every step of the process: in the writing, the recording, production, even the running order on an album.

    ...and the mastering...

    One wonders why so often bands with zero fanbase are making albums at all. Shouldn't they be learning their chops on singles, and then taking on the much greater challenge of an LP if and when they've made the grade in the short form? That applies even more so in the iPod era.

    .

    PS. Graham,
    Thanks for your Herbie review. I got funny looks from my 'hip' friends when I said 'Maiden Voyage' was the highlight. I feel vindicated.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2007 • 2618 posts Report Reply

  • Simon Grigg,

    Stephen...what school was it? Sometimes we used to just turn up in the morning and offer to play that day. We used to take $100 for PA & Petrol and give anything over that to the Student council as I recall...but it was about the fanbase. And that's still the key...radio is a poor second...most NZ acts have forgotten that. Arcade Fire broke in the US recently because they play and play, and pamper their fans

    Scribe...new album has a name now...Rhymemaker or something like that, but no release date I think. But whatever fanbase he had has gone, and his BDO comeback was the final nail..he should have had another album out ten months after The Crusader, and single after single. It's pop and pop is bang bang bang singles.

    But he's on Warners and I think Edgar Bronfman is about to announce huge worldwide layoffs and roster cuts so who knows what will happen

    Scribe hasn't had a working web site for two years

    Just another klong... • Since Nov 2006 • 3283 posts Report Reply

  • Simon Grigg,

    Incidentally Fat Freddies dropped out of the Top 40 albums today after two years plus. The last few months have been down the bottom where it really only means someone has merely thought about buying you to get a place, but quite an achievement.

    Just another klong... • Since Nov 2006 • 3283 posts Report Reply

  • Finn Higgins,

    Yeah I agree fully, I am genuinely interested in why the poor mastering (I'm aware of it) and wondering if it's a cheap studio call?

    It's one of the general NZ problems - the infrastructure of a music industry on the actual production side doesn't really exist to an acceptable standard. Musicianship here sucks. Sound engineers suck. Etc. And the reason for this is that, like in any industry, people learn from being able to do the work. Since so little of the work in NZ is actually properly paid (instead going to some mate with a PC for engineering, or somebody's friend from school for musicianship) there's few seasoned professionals living here.

    In other countries it's possible to make a decent living off being part of the music production process - either as a musician (one of my teachers in London had two kids and a wife, and successfully quit his job as a bank manager to play music full time) or as an engineer. But in NZ the expectation, for whatever reason, is that music services should generally come at the lowest cost possible. And preferably free.

    While there are a few people doing decent mastering, and playing their instruments to an internationally acceptable level... they're the minority. The creme-de-la-creme in NZ is approximately equivilent to the average no-name working pro somewhere like London or LA.

    Some of the problem is about the size of the market, but a big chunk of it is also about the lack of a proper union and an abundance of people who think that music should be, y'know, a labour of love and it doesn't really matter if it's a bit crap as long as it's local.

    Wellington • Since Apr 2007 • 209 posts Report Reply

  • Finn Higgins,

    Oh, and as for Herbie... was it as terrible as it looked here?

    http://www.drummerworld.com/Videos/vinnicolaiutahancock1.html

    I nearly went just for Vinnie, he's arguably the only serious candidate you could put forward for an objective "best drummer in the world" right now. But watching those videos up there scared me off. That's not jazz, nor even fusion - it's just total bollocks. I do feel a little bad because I missed a very rare opportunity to see Vinnie play in NZ, but if those videos are even close to what happened here then I wouldn't have gone if you paid me.

    A friend of mine saw Herbie in Aussie a week or so back and had this to say on the topic...

    The concert however, was shithouse. I suspected it would be, and it was. In Australia you have to take what you can get. I would have left at half time but Maiden Voyage was in the last half and I fucking love that thing, I think Vinnie does as well.

    I really think Hancock's ego has overtaken even Wynton.

    He thinks he is Duke Ellington. Or Gershwin. A living legend??

    It was Hancock with strings, with a conductor who spent the night waiting, waiting and then waiting some more for Herbie to finish noodling around so that he could cue the strings. Painful. Indulgent in the extreme. Vinnie and Co looked bored too.

    Herbie spoke to the audience very slowly, like he was used to people hanging on his every word. The concert too was long, simply because Herbie seemed to be awestruck by his own brilliance and didn't know when to stop.

    His encore was a 20 minute ballad, solo piano version of Dolphin Dance. The song was not apparent until the last minute or so, until then it sounded like a series of slow piano warm up exersises. This encore was played while the entire orchestra, and the group sat there while the great man played. Vladimir Horowitz could do this, Herbie Hancock NO. Indulgent in the extreme.

    I have never seen and audience move so fast when it was over. The guy behind me said 'lets get out of here before he plays another one'.

    Wellington • Since Apr 2007 • 209 posts Report Reply

  • 3410,

    Herbie: general consensus was that it 'good'. Just a quartet, which was probably for the better. A few bad pop numbers ('I just called to say I love you' being one of the worst chosen and worst arranged I've ever seen), but when they got going it was cool. Personally, the two solo spots ('Maiden Voyage', and a very authentic African piece, from the guitarist) stood out, but ending with a 20-minute 'Chameleon' certainly drew no complaints. Like most 67 year olds, his taste may've gone to pot (monologues enthusing about Christina Aguilera and flat-screen TVs; the pop covers) and it was too long, but the funk and jazz was just fine. Like your man says: you gotta take what you can get.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2007 • 2618 posts Report Reply

  • Giles Reid,

    Oh, and as for Herbie... was it as terrible as it looked here?

    http://www.drummerworld.com/Videos/vinnicolaiutahancock1.html

    Those videos look pretty much identical to what he played in Wellington. Colaiuta was amazing though.

    I went because, you know, it's Herbie Hancock and stuff, but yeah it was kind of bleh. It wasn't unbearable, there were moments of greatness, but it just seemed effortless, in a bad way. I went because of the Miles association I guess, but really if you watch those videos then listen to this (Featuring Chick Corea, maybe his concert will be different)...I mean Miles Davis from almost 40 years ago basically blows away any 'new' jazz - defined as "anything that was recorded after 1970 by somebody other than Miles Davis. Hmm maybe that's too harsh - If you disagree please tell me who I've been missing, heh.

    It's not that the new stuff (eg. that Brecker/Hancock live record from a few years ago) is really that _bad_ in an absolute sense, it's just there's no life in it, it's missing that essential, undefinable element. Even if you don't like jazz you must be able to appreciate the difference between say Albert Ayler and Branford Marsalis. It's the exact same difference between Hendrix and Satriani or whatever other example you want to come up with. The 'oldies' have that element too. I listen to a lot more Lester Young than I do Michael Brecker.

    I saw Pharoah Sanders a few years ago in Auckland and coming out of that show I really felt like I'd seen something special. Herbie Hancock, not so much. I enjoyed parts of it, for sure, as I said it wasn't so much bad as, well I guess I have to agree:

    That's not jazz, nor even fusion - it's just total bollocks.

    I guess I felt like I'd enjoyed myself, but if some guy had been selling tapes of the concert for $20 outside I wouldn't have bought one.

    I flew up on Friday for the Saturday concert and randomly caught Dimmer at the San Francisco Bath House, if I'm honest I'd have to say I'd rather see that show again than the Hancock one : /

    Well I think I've depressed myself enough about the state of modern non-pop music, time to put on some Bach or something...

    Christchurch • Since May 2007 • 7 posts Report Reply

  • Giles Reid,

    Well I think I've depressed myself enough about the state of modern non-pop music

    Oh by the way this statement should not be considered an endorsement of modern pop music :p

    Christchurch • Since May 2007 • 7 posts Report Reply

  • Simon Grigg,

    It's one of the general NZ problems - the infrastructure of a music industry on the actual production side doesn't really exist to an acceptable standard. Musicianship here sucks. Sound engineers suck. Etc.

    Finn since no-body else here has done so, I'm calling bullshit on this. New Zealand has produced a string of musicians who, having honed their craft in NZ have gone on to become in demand session musicians around the world. Several are my friends..some having returned to NZ for lifestyle, or family commitments and are working, some still working abroad. You want musicianship..track down some footage of the great Maori showbands of the sixties and seventies, or Billy Tk or hundreds of other working musicians who actually do make a living. Watch Stuart Pierce or Max Stowers, or Nathan Haines or Mark de Clive Lowe or Hammond Gamble or Joel Haines or George Chisholm or Tony Hopkins.. I could go on. NIgel Kennedy used to spend nights at Cause Celebre, a club I used to own,jamming with, and in awe of some of these people...I know because he insisted to telling us over and over again, every year.

    A trained New Zealand producer owns EastWest one of the biggest sample CD providers worldwide and he has recently bought one of LAs most famous studios. He honed his art in Auckland recording local acts. Sound Engineers...Greg Carroll was U2s...I used to tour around NZ with him...Oceania Audio in Kingsland has produced a stream of sound engineers poached by touring acts visiting. Rick Huntington is continually in demand to master, out of Uptown, a studio that has featured on the cover of several studio magazines, as has it's owner, Alan Jansson, who has turned down at least half a dozen approaches from European and US studios in the past decade to re-locate.

    That's off the top of my head....

    I'm absolutely in agreement that much of what finds its way to release doesn't stand up to scrutiny, failing on several levels, but that's a failure that needs to be addressed in other ways than slighting en mass NZ's producers, engineers and musicians.

    And I agree that

    Just another klong... • Since Nov 2006 • 3283 posts Report Reply

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