The world is a blur full of demands for our attention.
Sometimes a pause for thought and perspective is in order. The last few weeks have been worthwhile times for reflection however before I get into that please take a moment to stop, close your eyes and listen to this drone.
A few months ago I was approached via email by Dennis Remmer of Transmission Communication. In 1990s Brisbane this was a hugely important label that helped proliferate the burgeoning electronic music scene through live gigs and releases. In the early 90s I was a consumer and gig attender but by the late 90s and early 00s I was DJing on 4ZZZ Community Radio and performing odd experimental electronic music around the place as Poota or Diaspora. Dennis was contacting me to ask if I would like to contribute some tracks to the BNE Project – an attempt to catalogue the independent electronic music scene in Brisbane. It is a ridiculous undertaking but historically worthwhile and he certainly seems to be pulling some of the old crowds out of the woodwork. While polishing up a couple of Diaspora tracks for the compilation I got to thinking about how far I’ve come from making noises for my stoner buddies with a Pentium 2 and cracked software. And I have to confess to feeling a little depressed.
Back in the day it didn’t seem real hard to do something and be noticed. We certainly had our moments of playing to empty rooms (and emptying rooms) but for the most part there was a constantly shifting set of inappropriate but welcoming venues and an enthusiastic participatory audience that fed a creative healthy and curiously diverse scene. Here we are playing our first real gig in the car park of 4ZZZ.
My memory may be haunted by nostalgia (or dulled by psychedelics) but I recall these gigs attracting a fairly sizable attendance. Noisy weird music has never been super popular but what we had was for a time beautiful and sustainable.
Sometime around the first half of the 2000s the experimental music scene in Brisbane fragmented into at least 3 archetypes:
- the party oriented stuff (which took on aspects of electroclash and / or went full rave)
- the chin-stroking stuff (which got arts grants and venues like the Brisbane Powerhouse and the IMA)
- the garage punk / improv stuff (which for the most part stayed in pubs until the coming of Audiopollen Social Club)
Certainly occasional festivals like 4ZZZ Market Day, Straight Out Of Brisbane and This Is Not Art / Electrofringe would gamely reunite the tribes but for the most part these scenes have evolved into their own tidy little ecosystems. At one time I felt that we could be all of them and none of them and still manage to fit in. It wouldn’t be a rave without a performance from Kunt. It wouldn’t be surprising to see the Perfect Lovers at a pool hall in the middle of the city. When Diaspora played at the Orient Hotel we had a power cut twice because someone tripped over the power chord running to the PA. Despite this we managed to use some of those tracks to build our first album. Our “Let’s Hear It For The Vague Blur” release has played at festivals here and overseas. Over the last 15 years i’ve played in every sort of venue from abandoned warehouses to the Melbourne Planetarium to Issue Project Room in Brooklyn. In every situation I never felt I was entitled to this success, I merely played along out of a sense of curiosity but never with an ounce of real professionalism. I have been a perpetually naive child playing a game of “i’m a real artist me”. However right now I feel that the game is up.
As you may be aware I have been working with Numerology and my Nord Modular setup to create a live system for semi-improvised jamming and live performance. After playing a successful gig at the Vision gallery all signs pointed to the need to release a “souvenir” of the performance dedicated to the memory of my personal hero, Nevill Drury.
The end product remains something i’m really happy with. I feel it is a big step beyond what I have been doing with the Nord Modular as it manages to re-orient the acousmatic skills demonstrated on stuff like Mise En Scene or Remnants with a more populist urge to produce music that is actually a bit fun as opposed to all chin-strokey.
To celebrate the release I generated a bunch of codes and distributed them to some of the music forums I contribute to – my Facebook page and some friends who have inspired me now and past. So far only 2 people (my regular patrons) have bought the release. This doesn’t surprise me too much – I don’t really care so much how it sells. What has surprised me is, from 30 codes given away to specific people – only 11 have actually redeemed them. From 20 codes given away on forums, only 3 have been redeemed. Now I am somewhat legit, teaching music technology in academia, actually owning software and hardware and knowing how to use it. Yet it seems I can’t even give my music away! One person I offered a code to said the following when I suggested some of it was danceable “if yr creative”:
“I’m creative, but a bit over work.”
He has not downloaded the album and is unlikely to read this. There are too many better distractions clearly.
After reading this article by Bob Ostertag I was intrigued by his description of CD Baby and have thought about using their service to get my stuff on iTunes and Spotify which might actually help legitimise my work and introduce it to more people. Or it could be just shelling more money out to be ignored. Either way I feel kinda foolish even suggesting i’m a “musician” when the interest in what I do is so low.
This is me making that drone from before. What you see is Logic X, Valhalla Vintage Verb and the Nord Editor streaming from the tablet. I was going through some tutorials about wave-shaping and hit upon a nice sound which I felt like sharing.
I’m going to have to stop doing this so much. This over-sharing has polluted the internet. Soundcloud is great for posting experiments and sketches however, every day I get another 40 things that I won’t have time to listen to and I can’t imagine things are better for other people out there. Even more than that I need to stop thinking that packaging my music and presenting it to an audience is in anyway important, relevant, and legitimising. It isn’t a dearth of ideas and i’m not attempting to chastise the world for their disinterest by threatening to give up my music. However I think it is time to stop pretending I am important and posting stuff as if people care. I feel hugely embarrassed and ashamed that I gripe and complain about my lack of time to make and post music online that almost no-one listens to while my 2 yr old son plays alone with his toys.
It’s time to hibernate. To work on some ritual music for myself and some offline compositions over a longer period of time. And to be with my family. For those who have supported me recently, and in the past. Thanks for your patience and encouragement.
This is not the end of Makrotulpa, SecretKillerOfName or Lloyd W Barrett – merely a Caesura – a pause during which time is not counted.