How a major record deal works in the 2010s.

February 4th, 2014 by David Gerard
Industry

From Cracked, one-hit wonder rapper Spose describes his major label career trajectory. Thankfully his story had a happy ending and he’s now making a living selling directly.

Deaf from birth, Austin Chapman hears music for the first time.

January 13th, 2014 by David Gerard
Audio

Filmmaker Austin Chapman was largely deaf from birth until, a year or so ago, he finally got hearing aids that didn’t suck. “It was like seeing the world through a pair of high definition 3D goggles, when he’d previously only witnessed monochromatic pixelated visuals.” See also his initial musical explorations on Reddit. The worst music he’s heard in this time? “‘Call Me Maybe’, Bieber, and ‘What Does The Fox Say’.”

Renaissance by the Village People: the Highlander 2 of disco.

January 12th, 2014 by David Gerard
Record

It’s 1981. The disco empire has fallen. The Casablanca label has been bought by PolyGram and all the disco artists have been dumped. You are the Village People. What to do? Why not … a New Wave comeback!

Figure 1: What the shitting Christ.

Figure 1: What the shitting Christ.

Despite the Visage makeup, the sound dumped all danceability, taking its cue from the AOR of the time. Here’s the terrible single, which is probably the least-worst song on the record.

There exists a torrent. Pray for a lack of seeds.

A year later they went back to disco with the slightly less terrible Fox On The Box, a.k.a. In The Street, and the world was slightly safer.

HT Brad Coleman for bringing the existence of this thing to my attention. Thanks, I think.

Kim Jong-Il was the North Korean Roger Ebert.

January 9th, 2014 by David Gerard
Film

Amongst his stupendously many literary achievements, Dear Leader Kim Jong-Il was an accomplished film critic. LET US CREATE MORE REVOLUTIONARY FILMS BASED ON SOCIALIST LIFE. And opera, too.

The trouble with actually learning how to write.

January 7th, 2014 by David Gerard
Writing

This is entirely and horrifyingly accurate. Chris Bucholz, Cracked: 4 weird side effects of learning how to write.

If only you could collect this well.

December 21st, 2013 by David Gerard
Record

How a working-class couple amassed a literally priceless art collection. “They were artists, and the collection was their work of art.” If only I could believe anyone would care this much about my record collection.

Macaulay Culkin has formed a pizza-related Velvet Underground tribute band.

December 10th, 2013 by David Gerard
Esoterica

That is all. Available on Bandcamp.

Don’t be this embittered ex-rock star.

December 5th, 2013 by David Gerard
Industry

There’s a lotta David Lowerys out there.

A real-time Internet radio search engine, from the creator of mp3.com.

November 16th, 2013 by David Gerard
mp3

Michael Robertson, original founder of mp3.com, has come up with an interesting new toy: the world’s first real-time radio search engine. It takes the RSS feed from thousands of Internet radio stations and can find a favourite band playing on one for you — including the bands whose stuff isn’t on the other streaming services. The question now is how the majors attempt to sue this one out of existence.

The completely recyclable LP record.

November 7th, 2013 by David Gerard
Audio

And if her 3D-printed records made of petrochemicals are too icky and modern, Amanda Ghassaei has followed up with a wooden record. Cut with a laser. The resolution is slightly better (1200dpi instead of 600dpi) but it still sounds like a late-night AM radio station hundreds of miles away, and that’s the important thing. That and being able to set on fire much more easily if it sucks. Full how-to. (Hat-tip to Ian Wadley.)

Problemem muzyki nie jest piractwo, a sama ekonomia życia kulturalnego.

November 5th, 2013 by David Gerard
Rocknerd

The hit ramble Culture is not about aesthetics. Punk rock is now enforced by law is now available in Polish, translated by Kuba Danecki, on the copyright reform blog Co nas uwiera w prawie autorskim (“What’s bugging us in copyright”). Cheers!

Do the ostrich.

November 2nd, 2013 by David Gerard
Drugs

Hat-tip Lawrence Miles. “I still prefer to remember him this way.”

lou reed in bird suit

From “Modern Dance” from Ecstasy.

Do-it-yourself payola on Spotify.

October 31st, 2013 by David Gerard
Industry

In the olden days, you needed to bribe DJs or just buy a bootload of copies of your record yourself. These days, you can rent $30 worth of time on Amazon and make $1000 in royalties, as security researcher Peter Fillmore did with his album Kim Jong Christmas, mashed together from public domain audio. Spotify lacks automatic detection of click fraud, relying on listener reports; this offers the possibility of DDOSing your competitor off the chart for $30 of computer time and then reporting them.

Black MIDI is not as cool as it sounds, but is still pretty cool.

October 30th, 2013 by David Gerard
Esoterica

When presented with a new musical technology, the first question that occurs to a certain sort of mind is “what happens if I press all the buttons?” People used to do this with pianola rolls (particularly Conlon Nancarrow and his studies for player piano); now they do it with piano-sound synthesizers, controlled by hand-tweaked MIDI files. “Black” because that’s what the manuscript rendering looks like.

The current wave was started by kakakakaito1998 on YouTube; now it’s a scene. Unfortunately, much of what you hear in the result is artifacts of synthesis; it would be interesting to hear some of these on a physical player piano.

Update: Of course, some are not fans.

Blagger’s guide: Winny Puhh.

October 26th, 2013 by David Gerard
Metal

This video (warning: strobe lighting and cuts) is circulating in social media today tagged “what the fuck did I just watch?” It’s Estonian metal band Winny Puhh coming third in the local Eurovision final with “Meiecundimees üks Korsakov läks eile Lätti.” Here’s the take from the previous week, and here’s a slower, ten-minute version of the same song for a fashion parade. And they’re huge in Estonia. Of course.

A questionable timeline of the evolution of Western dance music.

October 21st, 2013 by David Gerard
Techno

Thomson Package Holidays have a blog in which they attempted to tell people about music. Despite having perpetuated the stuff myself, I find myself increasingly sceptical of anything that smacks of a narrative in describing the spread of music — musicians steal everything they possibly can from everywhere, and for every traceable influence there’s countless ambient factors that make the difference. And occasionally history actually acknowledges them. But the chart is a lovely piece of graphics with nice animation. The commenters get on their case, of course.

“Twitter had a music app?”

October 21st, 2013 by David Gerard
Industry

Is the universal refrain of those hearing that Twitter is killing its music app. I live on Twitter and I hadn’t heard of this thing. It was apparently a nice thing called We Are Hunted which they bought, crippled and just killed off.

A review of the DSM-5 as a dystopian novel.

October 20th, 2013 by David Gerard
Writing

Nothing to do with music, but this review of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition pushed my Ballard buttons. “If the novel has an overbearing literary influence, it’s undoubtedly Jorge Luis Borges. The American Psychiatric Association takes his technique of lifting quotes from or writing faux-serious reviews for entirely imagined books and pushes it to the limit: Here, we have an entire book, something that purports to be a kind of encyclopedia of madness, a Library of Babel for the mind, containing everything that can possibly be wrong with a human being. “

BandHub: The Internet recording studio.

October 9th, 2013 by David Gerard
Musician

Remember Res Rocket Surfer and Google Jam? This one is a new thing to collaborate with people over the Internet. (If you sell your soul to a Mac-only application.) Technical discussion (for computer geeks). If this doesn’t suck, expect a clone that won’t gouge you down the line.

DistroKid to get your music into the chart stores.

October 9th, 2013 by David Gerard
Industry

If you want to get your stuff onto the chart stores (iTunes, Amazon, Spotify and Google), you can spend a pile of cash (around $40/album) with TuneCore or CDBaby — or rather less cash ($20/year unlimited) with DistroKid. Endorsed by the founders of TuneCore and CDBaby, no less (the latter of whom just uploaded everything he’s ever recorded through DistroKid). The site, some technical details. Anyone here used it?

Beethoven’s 9th on Russian doll theremin.

September 30th, 2013 by David Gerard
Esoterica

From NPR: So here’s Beethoven’s 9th played on 167 theremins built inside Russian dolls. Oh, and wait for the boogie, about 1:20. HT Liam Proven.

Slashdot, ha! Reddit, however.

September 15th, 2013 by David Gerard
Rocknerd

So Rocknerd’s latest article is a hit. Slashdot got it a few thousand hits, which my small but clever setup based on WP-Super-Cache coped with just fine.

Reddit is another matter: 20,000 35,000 and still going. (Update: Topped out around 58,000. Update: Make that 80,000.) The server CPU got hammered to shit, then it ran out of memory, then it ran out of CPU again but this time in wait state. Answer:

  1. Cut fcgid children from 10 to 7. This means Apache queues a bit, but now it doesn’t run out of memory.

  2. Hit the berserk button: put the page into “directly cached files”, i.e. serving that particular page completely static from Apache without even mod_rewrite. Means comments will show up when I remember to purge the cache by hand.

Comments are occasionally pretty good too. Slashdot, Reddit, Reddit. They keep talking about the majors and the rock stars, because people don’t care what you wrote and just riff on the title. Oh well.

(For non-technical readers: you almost certainly don’t want to run your own copy of WordPress, I’m just a control addict. Just have wordpress.com host it, you’ll be much happier.)

This is, of course, a perfect example of what I was describing: a huge hit with no monetisation. So GO BUY A T-SHIRT. We’re supposed to sell T-shirts to make money now, aren’t we. UK/Europe shop, US/international shop. The printing is impressively good quality and copes with washing just fine. SELL SELL SELL.

Culture is not about aesthetics. Punk rock is now enforced by law.

September 13th, 2013 by David Gerard
Musician

  (Also in Polish.)

Record companies complain the Internet will destroy music. Musicians complain that they can’t make a living any more. The unsympathetic public, feeling the squeeze themselves, tell them to get a proper job.

The problem isn’t piracy — it’s competition.

There is too much music and too many musicians, and the amateurs are often good enough for the public. This is healthy for culture, not so much for aesthetics, and shit for musicians. Musicians in the early ’90s were already feeling the pressure of competition from CD reissues of old stuff; here in the future, you can get almost anything that has ever been digitised for free and listener time is the precious commodity.

This article is not about the majors or rock stars, but about the indie musicians and labels watching the waterhole dry up and wondering what the hell happened.

Read the rest of this entry »

Five years of The Quietus.

September 11th, 2013 by David Gerard
Writing

John Doran of The Quietus reminsces about five years of running the site. “I drank so much coffee I felt like I could control the weather.” He’s plugging their book as well.

Talk to your children about their shitty taste in music.

September 8th, 2013 by David Gerard
Writing

The whiny emo brat subculture seems to have gotten into Nirvana big time. I cured the older teen of playing In Utero all day every day at a zillion decibels by complimenting her taste and mentioning how I got it when it came out and played it lots. Never heard it again. Job done.

But that’s good music listened to badly. (I did this with Joy Division in my youth.) What about the terrible, terrible shit? Lauren Modery at Hipstercrite addresses this increasingly pressing issue.

If my kids ask me why I’m so sensitive about this issue, I will tell them it’s because shitty music comes from people who have money and who constantly stroke each other’s big fat egos. I will tell them that, sadly, the art industries are run by people with neither style nor class, who care more for shock value that ultimately makes them more money.

The trouble is that when I examine my own taste as a teenage record nerd of discernment and consideration, way too much of that was actually inept bullshit too. Early ’80s second- and third-string Rough Trade indie, what the fuck.

Obscure post-punk good times on Wikipedia.

August 24th, 2013 by David Gerard
Post-Punk

A small amount of fun this week writing up obscurities for Wikipedia: Operation Twilight (UK branch of Les Disques du Crépuscule) and Factory Benelux obscurities Nyam Nyam, plus assorted tweaks on other related articles. It keeps me off the streets. If anyone’s got their old printed sources to hand, those would be superlatively useful in bulking these up.

The function of music in the workplace.

August 20th, 2013 by David Gerard
Drugs

The Quietus’ first interview with a Professor of Sociology of Work.

We spend 40-45 hours at work a week, but if you look at our key medium of popular culture – pop songs – they hardly reference work at all. You could come up with a list of twenty quite easily I’m sure, but they’re quite unusual: it’s a rarity for pop songs to reference work at all. I’m lucky enough to own all the singles released by Motown and there’s about two of them that reference it!

I’m quite glad that radios in the workplace have largely been replaced by headphones.

Also I really like the jangly guitar music used to promote touch screen technology with a mid-range price point.

August 7th, 2013 by David Gerard
Record

Daily Mash: “THE unlimited availability of free music means that an album will not change how you see the world for more than a day.”

The Manual, Hollywood edition.

July 19th, 2013 by David Gerard
Film

There is a Manual for film that sets out precisely what is to happen as closely as The Manual did for pop music. But The Manual didn’t have the destructive effects of Save The Cat by Blake Snyder.

Yet once you know the formula, the seams begin to show. Movies all start to seem the same, and many scenes start to feel forced and arbitrary, like screenplay Mad Libs. Why does Kirk get dressed down for irresponsibility by Admiral Pike early in Star Trek Into Darkness? Because someone had to deliver the theme to the main character. Why does Gina Carano’s sidekick character defect to the villain’s team for no reason whatsoever almost exactly three-quarters of the way through Fast & Furious 6? Because it’s the all-is-lost moment, so everything needs to be in shambles for the heroes. Why does Gerard Butler’s character in Olympus Has Fallen suddenly call his wife after a climactic failed White House assault three-quarters of the way through? Because the second act always ends with a quiet moment of reflection—the dark night of the soul.

Intro, verse, chorus, verse, chorus, middle-eight, chorus, chorus. Verse sixteen bars, others eight or sixteen bars. Now imagine that over two hours. That’s why this happens.

The Adventures of Ford Fairlane.

July 15th, 2013 by David Gerard
Film

Must be movie week at Rocknerd. So I was reminded of The Adventures of Ford Fairlane (1990), a thoroughly enjoyable piece of cheese starring an asshole. With bonus Robert Englund, being frightening without the makeup. Here’s the review from Party Fears #12 (1991), p25:


THE ADVENTURES OF FORD FAIRLANE

A movie, starring Andrew Dice Clay.

Andrew Dice Clay is best known for being a racist, sexist, homophobic arsehole under the guise of “comedian”. “Hey, guys, it’s only a joke!” I wasn’t going to see this until a friend told me of how (i) Fairlane (Dice Clay) hates Australia and Australians, especially koalas and INXS (“Ain’t that the sorta place they use to test nuclear weapons on?”) and (ii) in the end, he gets the girl, the money and the koala. So how could I resist.

Ford Fairlane is a Rock’n’Roll Detective, working in Los Angeles. (His car is an early ’60s red and white two-door Fairlane convertible — cue screams of car-lust.) The script contains no racism and only one passing queer joke, and the sexism actually does work as being “in character”, but he grows out of it a bit. He remains strongly anti-cretin, however, and still says “fuck” every second word.

The plot is merely a basic functional detective plot; not even an honest mystery plot, just a wide-screen action comic book, though fine for what it is. The setting, however, is truly marvellous. I implore any of you who have the misfortune of being in the music industry, or even having suffered the unpleasantness of brushing close by, to see the bloody thing. It gets the business at the top end precisely right — plastic, utterly fake, lifeless, contrived … the only way they could have got it wrong would be underdoing it. (Apart from Hendrix, the soundtrack fits too … aaargh!) I’m not saying it’s Spinal Tap, but it does more than well enough to deserve attention.

Really cool bits abound — the exploding television; Ford lighting his cigarette near the end (heh heh); the funeral and especially the coffin; the death of the DJ (hanging’s too good for ‘em!); the plastic pop star; the thugs looking like the Cult, or perhaps Fields of the Nephilim; the crook chewing up three compact discs …

Best of all, Andrew Dice Clay actually has a brain and a personality and could start making a decent living for himself.

(Now out on video and highly recommended.)


It won a near-sweep at the Razzies, but I maintain it wuz robbed. I’m rewatching it now and having a whale of a time. This movie is way more entertaining than it deserves to be. I recommend you track it down.

The movie was based on a series of short stories from ten years previously, which have just come out as a book. Throw some money at the author.