A Good Friday tale of crucifixion and resurrection. Yes, it’s Tupac Shakur.

March 29th, 2013 by David Gerard

Over on the RationalWiki blog, I’ve got a rundown of Tupac Shakur conspiracy theories. Ironic-as-Alanis given that Shakur hated stupid conspiracy bullshit, and thought people should stop wasting their lives on it and do something useful.

Monty explains how digitising signals actually works.

March 3rd, 2013 by David Gerard

As a followup to his detailed explanation of why 24/192 downloads are complete and utter snake oil, Chris “Monty” Montgomery of Xiph.org has produced a video showing you, live, using spectroscopes and oscilloscopes, why digital wave forms aren’t stairsteps and why 16/44 really is enough for the ears of any human ever measured. It’s an incredibly lucid 23 minutes that I recommend heartily, and if you don’t believe anything he says there, the source code is available for you to try it all yourself. (Hat tip to Unter.)

(Greg Wadley asks me to note that this is for the end listener — you should be recording at 24/96 or 32/96 on the assumption it’ll subsequently go through several hundred DSP filters, and headroom for mistakes is cheap these days.)

Perfect sound forever! Probably.

February 21st, 2013 by David Gerard

I’m trying to get a skeptical blog going, in the name of RationalWiki. Yesterday and today I have posted rants about audiophiles: part 1 and part 2, based on the RationalWiki article about audio woo. There will probably be more. You’ll enjoy.

Memetic archaeology and Nickelback.

February 16th, 2013 by David Gerard

It is not enough to say you hate Nickelback. It’s not even enough to notice that people who don’t know or care about music know they’re supposed to hate Nickelback. You need to trace the memetic origin of people hating Nickelback to its source. (Spoiler: a joke in a Comedy Central promo, played for months in 2003.)

Factory Benelux is alive and well.

January 17th, 2013 by David Gerard

Old post-punks, raise your walkers in the air and cheer! James Nice of LTM has revived the Factory Benelux label for the ongoing LTM reissue programme and for new stuff from Section 25, who also have a bunch of gigs coming up. Closest they have to a home page is their Facebook. I’ve taken care to update the discography on Wikipedia. “They’re editions, dear boy.”

An evil mob princess with really good hair.

January 14th, 2013 by David Gerard

Meet Gulnara Karimova, daughter of Uzbekistan president Islam Karimov, attempting to make a name for herself as aspiring pop diva Googoosha. Ex-Soviet dictatorships and music, there’s more than one way to do it.

A Lord Horror timeline.

January 3rd, 2013 by David Gerard

Well, that was certainly a thing. I was a teenage Joy Division/New Order obsessive, and for many years I’ve found covers of them inherently hilarious. There were two legendary obscurities that could not be found in the record shops at the far edge of the world under any circumstances, and still remain so obscure you won’t even find copies on YouTube. I present for your delight the Savoy Hitler Youth Band combining “Blue Monday” with Springsteen’s “Cadillac Ranch” and the shuddering majesty of P.J. Proby’s truly remarkable take on “Love Will Tear Us Apart”. You can thank me later.

(The tracks are from an interview with David Britton of Savoy Records by Simon Sellars, one of the three greatest J.G. Ballard fans in the world and compiler of the superb Extreme Metaphors, a just-released book of Ballard interviews that pretty much everyone should read.)

Science proves it: rock stardom is bad for your health.

December 29th, 2012 by David Gerard

You will in all likelihood die before you get old: researchers at John Moores University, Liverpool, present “Dying to be famous: retrospective cohort study of rock and pop star mortality and its association with adverse childhood experiences”. Ars Technica has a tl;dr. Stay obscure, kids — fame kills.

Record your voice! Amazing novelty!

December 24th, 2012 by David Gerard

And you thought Peter King’s polycarbonate records were indie. How about 3D-printing an LP as the do-it-yourself trump card? The printer does 600dpi, which is pretty much the best 3D can presently do. As a bonus, it sounds like tuning in to a late-night AM station three hundred kilometres away. (Courtesy Michael Haney.)

Party Fears #18¾ and #19 published at last.

December 20th, 2012 by David Gerard

The text from the unpublished Party Fears #18¾ (late 1993) and #19 (1994) is up and online at last. The world can end now.

#18¾ was my side of a one-page zine to be done with Louise Dickinson of Lemon that she never did her side for. I’ve cleaned up the pile of fragments I had to hand and called them #19. Interviews with the Ampersands, Dave Graney, Dirty Three, Mardi Picasso, Mustang!, Reichardt (a local prankster) and Sonic Youth (1989). Live stuff from 1992 to 1994, and Australian Roadfool, the diary of my first visit to Melbourne and Sydney (and there’s almost no-one who remembers where I got the name from). And a pile of reviews, including of magazines about the nascent cyberculture. It’s a better read than I remembered.

There’s also me interviewed in Woozy and my answers to a newspaper questionnaire on zines.

(The one bit I can’t find: my list of “101 reasons why this issue is late.”)

The Party Fears archive is now complete. The only thing left to do would be to transcribe all this stuff into a searchable format, but I can’t be bothered and neither can you. The next thing would be to dig out my other fanzines and start scanning. This is something you should do too.

The only question remaining is why this took me fifteen years longer than it should have. I started sorting through this stuff in 1997. I think I was still suffering delusions of print.

Simple Minds, Devo, The Church: Palais, November 30

December 3rd, 2012 by Lev Lafayette

Among the aging fans of good eighties music the prospect of The Church, Devo, and Simple Minds all at one show came with some enthusiasm. It was certainly one of the more surprising lineups that remained within the time period although each band could, in a pinch, be considered as tangental directions in the new wave, post-punk style. The Palais, of course, is a beautiful venue; built in 1927, it has absolutely gorgeous deco and neoclassical features, encouraging artful levels of minor dilapidation. Albert Speer would have been very excited with this example of Ruinengesetz and true to such design, the Palais remains the largest seated theatre in Australia, with a capacity of close to three thousand. Unsurprisingly, the show sold out quite quickly, even with follow-up performances both in the state and across the country. The crowd represented a strange visual snapshot of the period; mostly older with a smattering of young folk, and mostly culturally mainstream, a gentle reminder that what was mainstream then is alternative today.

Read the rest of this entry »

Party Fears #17 scanned and online.

December 1st, 2012 by David Gerard

Courtesy Adrian Butcher, we now have all the PF there ever was scanned and online. Interviews: Severed Heads, Scarecrow Tiggy. Live: Hunkpapas, Wash, Yummy Fur, Kryptonics, Evan Dando, Pink Fluffy Bunnies, Pool Floatation Device, The Brautigans, Wash, Manic Pizza, West Australian Rock Music Industry Awards. There are still bits of stuff that were at some stage destined for PF#19 here which I’ll bother with some time.

Party Fears #4 and #18 scanned and online.

November 23rd, 2012 by David Gerard

At the usual place. These are the last two I have copies of to hand; if anyone has a copy of #17 to hand they could scan for me, I’ll love you forever, even more than I do now. (Office printer/photocopiers do good scans these days — that’s what I used for these.)

#4 (July-August 1986) — Rabbit’s Wedding, Marigolds, Greenhouse Effect, Holy Rollers, Fallen Angels (later Palisades), Hunters & Collectors, Love Pump, Stems, Steve Kilbey/Church. Stems/Go-Starts/Bamboos/Kryptonics family tree. And the Original Music Awards. Dear God I was young. This issue is Perth 1986 in a bottle.

#18 (Autumn 1992) — David McComb, Lurid (Wash), Summer Suns, Third Eye, Rainyard. The last proper issue, and probably the best. This made me want to travel in time back to mid-1992 and write a fanzine.

Disco 2000.

November 15th, 2012 by David Gerard

After the KLF, what can you do with your life but cure cancer?

Party Fears #1, 2 and 3 scanned and online.

November 15th, 2012 by David Gerard

I figured out the scanner at work, so expect this page to fill out nicely. The early pop-kid days of Party Fears, with the sort of bright and clueless enthusiasm you get when you’re nineteen and you haven’t realised that what you’re doing will actually turn out slightly significant. The print wasn’t eyewateringly tiny at the start either.

So what was Maxicut?

October 31st, 2012 by David Gerard

In case you ever wondered what the EMI “Maxicut” process you saw listed on all those Australian LPs was, learn about the rationale and process. The clever engineers at Studio 301 worked out how to get a louder cut with no skipping out of their Neumann cutting lathes, going so far as to replace some of the control electronics themselves. Their test rig for skip-immunity? A crappy HMV 3 in 1.

Party Fears #6 scanned and online.

October 25th, 2012 by David Gerard

Description and scans, only twenty-five years after the fact. Psychotic Turnbuckles, David Nichols, Deadly Hume, Die Monster Die, Headonist, Jackals, Kryptonics, And An A, Homecoming, The Fate, Painters & Dockers, Kim Williams, Huxton Creepers. Family tree: Scientists/Victims/Hoodoo Gurus (the Salmon/Faulkner/Baker axis). Live: Garry Meadows Syndrome, James Baker Experience, Greg Dear, Watermelon Boy, Homecoming, Bamboos, The Moment, Stolen Picassos, Swamp Monsters, Greenhouse Effect, Kryptonics, Freuds, Holy Rollers, Charlotte’s Web, Scarlet, Stems, Johnnys, Die Monster Die, Perfect Strangers (yes, really), And An A, Blue, Pontiac Conspiracy, Bacen Assegai, A Company Of Angels, Never Never, Kno Matter, Screaming Blue Messiahs. Scan courtesy Aaron Curran.

No, film is not in unique need of blockbusterism.

October 8th, 2012 by David Gerard

Here’s something instructive: YouTube: A Dinosaur Story. That’s a three-hour movie done by two kids in their loungeroom with toy dinosaurs. Ridiculously low production values, make-it-up-as-we-go-along story by a couple of kids who seem to be about nine or ten. It’s genuine unintermediated young children’s folk culture, on the internet. HOLY CRAP. PUNK ROCK FOR EVERYONE.

The reason this is noteworthy: it’s one of my five-year-old’s favourite films. She’s watched her assorted Disney DVDs about half a time each, she’s watched this movie repeatedly and tells bits of it to her classmates. I boggle, but I cannot deny the observation that they’re doing something right that Disney isn’t, on a budget of zero.

She was also incredibly excited when she saw YouTube videos of kids making Thomas the Tank Engine fan videos using wooden railways just like hers. “They’re making their own stories!” (Example. Of course it’s rubbish. That’s not the point.) The powerful drive for a culture of your own starts early.

The recording industry used to try to justify not being taken out and shot by claiming blockbusterism was necessary to music, which was of course just a lie. Bands can (and do) now do albums with a microphone and a laptop. Microphone optional. Record at home, put it up on Bandcamp, the physical barrier to recording and distribution is gone. I remember the eighties, and just how bloody hard it was even to record, let alone distribute the result. Sure, the studio result is better, but that’s optional now. For getting the damn song out of your head and into the world, convenience beats quality every time the two are head-to-head.

Culture is everything humans do to impress each other, and it’s diseased unless it’s owned by all of us. The arrangement where you have creators here and consumers here and never the twain shall meet is a twentieth-century perversion we are well rid of.

We must preserve the record industry, for the sake of artists.

September 26th, 2012 by David Gerard

James Taylor has filed suit against Warner Brothers for unpaid digital royalties. This has dug up a pile of dirt dating back to 1969. 52 ways to screw an artist. Burn. It. All. To. The. Fucking. Ground. There is nothing worth saving.

Album cover cliches, 2012.

September 14th, 2012 by David Gerard

Cracked delivers. “The Sign Says ‘Fire Your Graphic Designer’.”

The failed rock star in contemporary fiction.

September 9th, 2012 by David Gerard

Jay Ruttenberg in the New York Times laments his own career as a rock critic, and discusses current trends in literary depictions of musicians. Sounds like the authors didn’t actually get it all stupidly wrong. “Encouraged to ply his music on the Internet, Spiotta’s fiercely guarded artist reacts as if he has just been asked to streak across the town square.”

The history of prog.

August 16th, 2012 by David Gerard

David Weigel, a political reporter for Slate, is in the midst of a series on the history of prog rock. It’s really quite frightening.


July 22nd, 2012 by David Gerard

I bet you’ve always wondered what music would sound like if the bottom 8 bits of 16-bit sound were ever used for anything at all. This is promising: the ITU has defined a unit of loudness, and the European Broadcasting Union is making it a recommendation. What this means is that recordings with no dynamic range will end up played apparently more quietly than recordings with dynamic range. The US has also passed the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation (CALM) Act so that ad breaks don’t blare. We can but hope. I SAID, “WE CAN BUT HOPE.”

Hold back the invaders, their infernal machines.

July 21st, 2012 by David Gerard

This week’s bit of Wikipedia: Space Invaders (Player One song). A disco novelty hit from Russell Brown and Bruce Dunlop, Australian #3 in 1980 and fourth-best-selling single of that year, which for some reason had no article. Check this page for the most collected information on the thing, the cheesy pre-MTV video and, since it hasn’t been available for thirty years, here for the still pretty good single and here for the incredibly awful album. This thing also started Chicago house music: it was sampled, or at least the bass line copied, for “On And On” by Jesse Saunders.

The impending death of the album.

July 9th, 2012 by David Gerard

It’s doomed, along with the CD in general. But then, albums have always sorta sucked, with a very few exceptions; they were a more cost-effective music carrier per song for a while, and they’re not any more. The main thing keeping CD sales afloat at all in the UK in the past year was 21 by Adele, which was actually put together as a coherent piece of work, not just a CD-sized bucket of stuff.

(So we are told, anyway. I did listen to 19 all the way through and had that thing where you literally can’t remember the tune five seconds after the song finishes. But apparently someone likes this sort of thing.)

I’m sure people putting out downloads will continue to group them into conceptual “EPs” and “albums”; perhaps the resulting groups of songs will suck less on average. The bit in the late ’80s when Australian indie bands were putting out really good and concise five- and six-track EPs was great, until Shock started telling bands to record full albums because they’d have a higher sticker price. I sorta miss B-sides too, but most artists didn’t really use them very artistically either.

Before record execs go to bed, they check the closet for Kim Dotcom.

June 23rd, 2012 by David Gerard

The huge FBI raid on massive bootlegging entirely legitimate file upload site MegaUpload in January sure struck a blow for ethics, morality and of course the artists, who are the RIAA’s eternal and only concern. Except that the raid was actually timed to take out colourful racing identity Kim Dotcom’s plans to go into competition selling recordings, which is why the RIAA was gunning for it already.

Not only is the raid itself turning out more and more legally dubious, but Dotcom’s plans are back in full swing: MegaBox, a site where artists can put their stuff at a 10% commission on sales. A bit like BandCamp, but with backing and fame, which may well make all the difference.

The recording industry is not just fucked because of home taping downloading — it’s fucked because it isn’t the gatekeeper for the means of production any more, and never will be again. Does anyone actually remember just how insanely fucking hard it was even to record thirty years ago, let alone release the recording?

The struggle for existence.

June 19th, 2012 by David Gerard

So much for the argument from design. Computational biologist Bob MacCallum at Imperial College had too much time on his hands was inspired to push back the boundaries of musical knowlege, so set up a system to generate random sinewave tones, then run it through public opinion testing at DarwinTunes. “The higher-rated loops get to have sex and make baby loops.” After three thousand generations, it even evolved a kick drum. He’s got it into Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences as “Evolution of music by public choice”.

The Shit Record Covers group.

June 17th, 2012 by David Gerard

For those of you on Facebook: the Shit Record Covers group, and its hall of fame. NSFW for unstylish seventies breasts. I am particularly delighted that they flag many a hipster favourite, wherein even the people owning the records concede the cover’s just a bit crap.

And the man at the back said everyone attack and it turned into a courtroom blitz.

June 11th, 2012 by David Gerard

Some musicians — I’m sure none of you reading — are observably fucking delusional about business, relationship management, reputation management and what copyright actually is and how it works. They are certain that the three chords and the melody they know damn well where they nicked ’em are MINE MINE MINE and no-one else is allowed to think about them until the end of time without coughing up. They act like the kids who make LiveJournal icons out of other people’s images for fan fiction then hit the goddamn roof when someone STEALS their ORIGINAL CREATION.

Today’s example is Andy Scott, one of the surviving members of The Sweet and in one of the two bands touring under that name. Mr Scott keeps a keen eye on technological developments relevant to his career interests, and thought he was onto a winner when he saw someone daring to sell an obvious bootleg on eBay for one euro. He claimed it was a pirated copy and demanded €2000 from the fellow, but the scofflaw in question insisted it was a disc he’d actually bought and could actually sell for 80p if he wanted to. Scott went to court asking for €36,000. When the scoundrel opposing proved in court that it was his bloody CD, Scott changed his claim to say he owned the “copyright” on the name, so definitely deserved all the money from any second-hand sales. The court told him to fuck off, funnily enough.

Copyright, it’s like oxygen. Too much and you get high. Still, I’m sure Scott is pleased to have established a good European precedent protecting second-hand record sales.

How to make the general public loathe collection agencies.

June 10th, 2012 by David Gerard

Copyright collection agencies are actually a really good idea for working songwriters. Record companies generally never cough up a royalty cheque ever past the initial advance, but publishers frequently do, so public performance and radio play are a non-trivial earner for many.

The trouble is that when collection agencies pull this sort of outrageous bullshit, they continue to discredit copyright altogether in the eyes of the public. You’d think they’d all have learnt by now. (Although ASCAP’s attempt to collect on ringtones meets with my full approval.)