It was sometime during the summer of 2007 when I discovered the doorway passing from the smaller 7th Street venue connected to First Avenue, often shortened as “The Entry”, to the main room and while passing through found myself caught off-guard by the doorman casually waving me in. Since I’d paid for the first show I was entitled to the one next door, so it seemed. The one I’d already seen wasn’t very good and I was left feeling like I’d wasted a night and a pocketful of money, leaving me content in my decision to lurk around Peter Lansky’s budding new residential dance night, inappropriately labeled “dance punk” among other things on the various flyers.
Peter Lansky is probably a pretty smart guy. I’ve never met him in person, but he’s been a well-known yet easily accessible figure in the local music scene since I first heard of him through hipster run-of-the-mill social circles in 2006. Though he’d probably balk at the thought, I imagine him becoming kind of like the twin cities’ version of Erol Alkan: extremely calculating, scrupulous, and careful not to release much original material—though he probably already has some—until the timing and quality is exactly right. It makes me a bit envious, because I wish I had that kind of restraint with my own work. That said, does anyone really need to hear an Erol Alkan track to know exactly what an Erol Alkan track sounds like?
James Brooks / Default Genders
I’d spent enough time bouncing around Too Much Love during the year prior to draw a handful of good and bad associations with it. It wasn’t exactly the type of place I’d end up without expecting a hangover the following day. It was here that James Brooks began DJing sporadically meanwhile releasing a couple surprisingly great mixes called “Have You Ever Been Alone in a Room?” and “If You Had Any Love in Your Heart”, the latter taking its name from a line espoused in a racial argument between a Jewish woman and a black man, which subsequently opens the mix layered over a pulsing techno-house Exalticesque track before morphing into Glass Candy’s “Something Stirring in Space”.
Feeling only half-drunk and mostly depressed I decided to make my way outside and sulk over a cigarette (I smoked those disgusting things back then) where I noticed a somewhat portly fellow in a blazer and Beatleish hair intently punching buttons on a cell phone. I approached, thinking I recognized someone I’d met a couple times before, croaking just-audibly, “James?” He looked up halfway before looking down at his phone again, replying with a half-annoyed, “Do I know you?” “Oh, um… I used to come here a lot,” I said stupidly. “That doesn’t—that could be anyone,” he replied, texting on his cell now more aggressively. “What’s your name?” he asked, now shifting attention from his phone to me. “Oh, I’m Taylor.” He paused a moment, still unsure if he knew me. “Wait, aren’t you that guy that was trying to start a ‘shoegaze’ band?”
I mention Brooks (again) because more and more often I find myself noticing the musical endeavors of some of his contemporaries. Still, I’d feel like something integral to the music world would be lost without a James Brooks stirring the pot every now and then, even if he means not to. More than just the influence he’s had on his peers I notice also the influence of Brooksian ideation propelled into the masses by a multifaceted assault of essays, interviews, articles, message board posts, tweets—you get the idea—some being genuinely interesting pieces of Tumblrature, others being reactionary dump-pieces in response to his new project Default Genders.
"Yeah, that was me. I mean, I don’t care about shoegazing anymore," I replied, hoping to redeem myself. "So, what happened to you?" he asked, mildly curious. "I don’t know…" I was at a loss. When I wasn’t working at a video rental store I was cooped up in a second-story apartment room. Not much, to say the most, but it was consolation of a kind knowing my absence was noticed. "I know what happened," he proclaimed. "You disappeared for a couple years and grew your hair out." I nodded affirmatively, brushing shoulder-length hair out of my face. "Yeah, I guess so." "What else is different about you?" he asked, more as a statement that there was something different, to which I hadn’t any more of an answer than a shrug.
Majical Cloudz @ The Entry, August 13th, 2013
I arrived wearing freshly-pressed formal wear from a job interview earlier in the afternoon and sporting a buzzed cranium, though my newly acquired baldness had nothing to do with a notion of solidarity for Majical Cloudz’s t-shirt-and-jeans-donning singer Devon Welsh. I made my way to the front of the stage, refraining from alcohol because I was aware of Welsh’s commitment to sobriety during the length of the tour which, on the other hand, did make me feel like being equally sober, probably because I’d played my first couple of shows recently and understood the pressure with which a stage can compel one to drink.
A lucid Welsh and Matthew Otto took the stage to an eager and sizable crowd. “How’s everyone doing?” Welsh asked inquisitively to which people replied with how they were doing. “Whoa, ok, ok, I didn’t want to know the specifics,” he interrupted jokingly. “This is like when you say ‘tell me more,’ and people tell you their life story and you’re like, ‘okay, that’s too much.’” Friendly laughter ensued. “You cut your hair,” he remarked, grasping the microphone in both hands, looking directly at Lindsay LaBarre who was standing to my left at the front of the stage. “It looks good.” “Your hair looks good too!” someone from the crowd shouted in return, preceding a wave of laughter. “Hair? No, I don’t have any of that,” Welsh replied. “This is the ‘Not Applicable’ haircut.”
The atmosphere kept a personal yet tastefully humorous energy throughout. There was an awkward moment, however, which Welsh might have written about on the MC Tumblr but has since been removed, when he asked people to jump up and down and begin “pogo”ing during their most percussive song “Mister”. People did so immediately as the song began but he groaned into the microphone, “No, not at this part! Wait until the next part, it’s much more fun.” Those in my periphery complied, though I heard a disappointed cry from the back of the crowd: “This isn’t a Pennywise show!” Despite this minor setback, I found myself among others getting more than misty-eyed during “The Notebook” and unable to resist goosebumps in simulacrum with the reverse-reverb swells and evocative lyricism of “Savage”. During “I Do Sing For You”, a convicting Welsh takes what seems a minute for each audience member, staring them directly and unflinchingly in the pupils, emphasizing measure breaks with mic-wielding hammer-fists and animated jump-stomps.
But it’s not just his likable presence or demanding charisma that makes Welsh a commendable figure. Where others display self-deprecation and unseriousness, Welsh devotes himself to earnest conviction. Where others are trying to appeal to sexuality and quirkiness, MC rebut in tandem with a desperate kind of surreality. If you’re looking for an upbeat environment, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend a Majical Cloudz show, but that’s not to say it will be humorless or a bad experience. By all means, it will be a great experience, and you should definitely go. On his Tumblr, Welsh demonstrates quite the knack of a journalist and recently he’s written a delightfully concise review of Sky Ferreira’s “Night Time, My Time”.
Born Gold @ a house, October 22nd, 2013
While Welsh exudes earnestness, Cecil Frena explores weirdness to an epic degree, but that’s not to detract from Frena’s own brand of seriousness matched perhaps only by Welsh’s chilling crowd-gazes. Although more accessible, Frena and co. aren’t exactly the most approachable performers, but maybe Welsh and Otto are similarly guilty. Hanging out in a basement, wearing an army-green jacket and jogging shorts on a brisk, chilly evening, a bare-footed Frena surveys the room and helps test an array of equipment for their show, ranging from an X-Box Kinect wired up to an LED-infused leather jacket which lights up in sync with triggered samples in response to bodily movements, to several midi controllers (one of which being attached to the vest of the biotech-jacket), to guitars, to various electronic and analog percussive instruments. Did I mention the luminescent prosthetic hands reaching out from the floor, rhythmically illuminating in a multicolored palette of neon eye candy?
Frena made his way to a mixing board to check the PA system, catching most of the show-goers off guard by blaring the opening Born Gold track from two massive speakers hoisted upon expensive tripods, rattling the house’s furnace unit affixed to the center of the room. At this point I was only vaguely familiar with Born Gold. I didn’t know they’d spent the last 60 days traveling city to city in a van on an all-houses no-venues US tour. I didn’t know they were from Edmonton, Alberta; nor did I know they were formerly known as Gobble Gobble and had gone through a series of lineup changes. I’d heard their single “Hunger”, which took some time to sink in and grow on me, but had only given their latest album “I Am an Exit” a single cursory play on Bandcamp.
The first song ended without a hitch to enthusiastic applause, but Frena wasn’t quite satisfied; “I know it’s cold, and I know it’ll be hard,” he forewarned, “but I really think everyone should dance with me.” Demands in the form of suggestion weren’t the only antics employed by BG that night, agreeable though they were, as their captive onlookers found themselves in pitch darkness amid a bombardment of strobes and flickering halogen flashlights pointed eye-level. Now we knew what Frena meant when he cryptically declared earlier in the set, “We like blinding our audience.” Born Gold’s performance made it glaringly obvious that there are indeed sure ways to accost your playing field and assail your audience with image and high-decibel sound, and this was one of them.
Admittedly, Frena’s prose doesn’t strike home as profoundly as Born Gold’s live technical feats do, but this might say more about me than it does about him. It could be—and this I suspect—that I’m still going through the dissection and digestion stage in my BG listening consumption. My favorite song “Abdomen” certainly rings true to personal experiences I’ve had of unsuccessfully persuading a friend to get out of a physically abusive relationship she just couldn’t seem to leave, but despite such revelation there’s something about Frena’s ambiguity that makes figuring it all out more difficult but probably more rewarding of a process. Frena keeps a well-written BG Tumblr which I very much enjoy and his decisiveness regarding interviews seems more refreshing than obscure.
Usually I can tell if a job interview is going well or not or if the job I’m applying for is even worth the time by how relaxed and uncalculated the interview is. It’s those methodical interviews, or interrogations as I like to call them, often followed up by a truly frustrating survey that asks you to rate a hundred different scenarios on a scale from one to ten (the scale ought to range from incredibly stupid to incredibly pointless, but you know what I mean) that you’d be better off avoiding. Anyone who says otherwise should be ashamed of the suggestion they’re putting forth. Trust me, I’ve heard that one before too; “You can’t be so picky! You’ve got to start somewhere.” Well, yes I can, and yes—yes I absolutely do, and so do you.
I particularly like the response one of my peers gave to an online inquiry as to what kind of jobs he’d worked in the past. He’s involved in music, and nothing else, so the type of response this elicited in him might not come to much of a surprise. I often parrot it myself because it manages to answer a question with a question while elucidating a very good point, all in three words: “What’s a ‘job’?” With another peer recently I found myself discussing over a strong and very flavorful cup of joe the type of person that works in the retail industry. Despite a wide range of variation, you can essentially boil down everyone involved in retail into two categories: the introverted and the extroverted, which in this terrible capitalistic amalgamation translates roughly to the slacker and the overachiever.
Far too often I overhear a hapless retail introvert being scolded (I was once in this unfortunate predicament myself) by their more sociable and demanding superiors for not robotically smiling and greeting each guest with a cheery, “Hello! How are you today? Do you know what would look great in that shopping bag?” And it’s not that they’re defiantly averse to extroversion in general—just this particular brand of which not everyone is entirely capable. There are certainly those who are very capable, whom I have a great deal of respect and admiration for, who not only can and do flourish in retail but enjoy doing it—something which some people, myself included, are simply not well-equipped or suited for. But, I’d certainly argue with anyone, aggressively, suggesting I’m incapable of being sociable and outgoing, even friendly if I must, though in this context I’d likely fail in my effect.
If you’re out there, and you need the income as much as I do, I suppose I’ve only one piece of condescending advice to offer: stick with what you know. The more grueling the interview, probably the worse the job will be. Be wary of the exceptions, of course, as a successful interview should be both challenging and stimulating. A good interview should feel like a sharing of thoughts and ideas—a relaxed conversation in which you can demonstrate without too much strain (or ease for that matter) the knowledge which you clearly have. If it feels like an exam for which you barely managed to cram enough know-how into your neurons for a passing grade the night before, do yourself a favor and move on to the next one.
Sorry I keep posting and reposting this, it’s an ongoing thing that keeps changing as I find more stuff to improve. I’m basically broke so I’ve been having to find creative ways to record things, which aren’t always optimal. In order to record vocals I’ve been using a $10 headset I bought from RadioShack several years ago as headphones, so some feedback ends up in the mix since they aren’t designed for noise cancellation. This is just sort of an experimental pop song I’ve been working on which I’ll probably throw up as a free download along with other stuff I’ve made like “Linear Bliss”, “Fate X”, “Teal” and so forth.
I’ve been running into a wall lately, similarly to how I hit a wall when I realized I needed to start implementing vocals into songs early this year. Creatively I feel like I’m at my most prolific, but constructs of technical limitation seem to keep popping up and severely hindering things that could otherwise be completed easily. Although my muse is not a horse and she is certainly not in a race, she very well might flee as I am forced into hiatus in order to raise funds to buy things that will help me catch her: new headphones, a better laptop, eventually a better recording interface.
Although I have more than enough material to play a live set, I definitely feel like doing so is very premature at this point. This is how I felt when I was approached by people to play out last spring, but I also knew that I should at least give it a shot and treat it strictly as a learning experience. With a few shows under my belt I was left with a mélange of questions about how to make live electronic music work in a way that is competitive with real bands, without being a spacebar act. Although there are certainly some spacebar acts I would pay over $20 to see, I’ve always felt there is more I can do (or, with momentum’s gratuity, pay others to do) in a live environment that wouldn’t fall under a theatrical threshold but rather replicate the creative process in a way that is interesting and sonically viable.
This, I think, is right around the corner. Barely transcending a spacebar show with my first few performances, I’ve already cherry-picked the low-hanging fruit of triggering samples with a midi controller and singing over instrumentals—not because I couldn’t think of anything else to do, but because my laptop would crash if I tried to do much else. More or less, I knew my first shows were going to be terrible. For me those were more about accosting the playing field which, unfortunately, seems to be populated with an intimidating number of referees who haven’t the slightest idea about how to mix live sound.
That’s okay. There are ways around this and at the end of the day it seems to be mostly about the venue, the basement, the boring technical aspects of the thing. Anyway, it’s important I don’t get ahead of myself.
Last January I started working on an EP, none of which I’ve posted publicly online (except for a brief teaser which was picked up by a couple blogs and garnered a little bit of label attention). When I started working on it I didn’t have any gear or anything. I figured out a way to sort of play a computer “qwerty” keyboard like a midi keyboard using a DAW’s virtual midi keyboard GUI to transpose the notes, and that’s essentially how I got started. No special sound card or anything at all.
After the initial burst of interest in what I was doing from other people, I thought I could maybe put together a 4-song EP relatively quickly and be done with it, but it turned out to be not so simple. I came to the realization that I wouldn’t be satisfied putting out an EP comprised entirely of instrumentals, and that I had something to offer by way of vocalization and that I should work on songs using my voice as an instrument as well. I already had a microphone but no interface to record it with so I set about acquiring a rather cheap but reasonably well-equipped M-Audio box.
I had two instrumentals done and I figured I ought to not ruin those by attempting to shoehorn in vocals where they didn’t belong, so I decided two instrumentals and two Actual Real Songs would suffice. Well, writing an Actual Real Song using nothing but a DAW and my voice turned out to be a lot more difficult than I initially suspected. The songs have been recorded and mostly mixed, and I like them, but they still need quite a bit of work and it’s taken countless hours of the utmost concentration to get them to where they are today. It will take many more to make them sound like something that can be played in succession with the instrumental tracks. It’s been a laborious process, to put it euphemestically.
So I think it will see a 2014 release and I have no idea how that will happen yet. I still need to think of something to call it, and conceptualize some kind of album art. I’ve talked with a handful of artists about it just to see if anyone has any ideas or anything but that, like the production of the music, has been a very slow-moving ordeal.
Lately I’ve been thinking about how a lot of people that either have celebrity status or have reached some kind of critical acclaim or are widely celebrated for their work and therefore constantly in the public’s eye seem to wait until they are old enough to author a memoir before they reveal aspects of their life that deviated from the media-friendly standard of heteronormativity.
When Anderson Cooper publicly came out he sort of caught a lot of flak from his peers that were also out for waiting so long, and I remember him responding to this in a way that I really appreciated. He’d already been “out” so to speak to his friends and family—if you knew Anderson Cooper beyond his media persona you’d know about it and he’d probably have been the one to tell you about it, but he never officially acknowledged it in a public media-driven platform. In his response he conceded to his peers that it was important for him to make a public statement w/r/t his sexuality since his visibility as a non-hetero needed to be established and is ultimately more important than simply being intellectually honest and forthright with people in his personal life.
For some reason I often find myself flirting with the idea of racism as a symptom of sexism and I think this could also tie into a lot of other sociological issues. I often wonder what society would look like today if we could take a snapshot of a world in which women’s suffrage happened a century before the emancipation of slaves. To me it seems like even the word “suffragette” is just sort of an acknowledgement at best, and maybe a rather surreptitious cover-up at worst.
What is it about straying from a heteronormative lifestyle people find so very frightening? Hitch-22 was a memoir by well-known iconoclast and polemic Christopher Hitchens, just barely prepped for consumption and published before his untimely demise in 2011. This was a person who was unquestionably and unapologetically unafraid of speaking his thoughts with absolutely no refrain or regard for public backlash. He relished the idea of backlash. Why on earth would it have taken this man six decades and coming face to face with death before he was willing to write an autobiographical word about sexual encounters with his own gender?
And honestly, can you tell me that Morrissey is even remotely estranged when it comes to criticism? I guess the point of this post is just to say that there’s something driving this seemingly perpetual cycle of discrimination against non-cis/non-hetero persons. I think it’s something rooted deeper than a startling majority of people realize. It’s heartbreaking to see people—accomplished, intelligent adults—being eviscerated and emotionally destroyed and then watching as they immediately pardon and forgive their offenders.
I get this sort of feeling that they’re thinking, “Oh, one day they’ll realize it was wrong. One day they’ll realize they shouldn’t have insulted, beaten or killed that person because of their sexuality.” Well, no they won’t. No they fucking won’t and they knew exactly what they were doing.
Internet metrics aren’t the problem. It should be condescending to point out how a “unique visitor” to a website is not always a new person. The fact that it’s not is a huge problem when advertising firms will certainly shell out massive amounts of money based on false figures. If you think there aren’t people taking advantage of this, you’re wrong. Companies—advertisers—are literally printing money from thin air as I type this. The numbers aren’t bullshit, they are the shit. We all eat that shit for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
An essential disconnect between metrics and money should be the imperative, because ultimately a separation of metrics and importance will occur regardless of this. At this rate, it won’t be a clean cut—it will be a messy, gory disconnection and you won’t get the Disconnection Notice. The numbers aren’t wrong, the numbers are fine. There’s no fix for the numbers to the extent that we can actually count truly unique plays, but we can stop caring so much about them. We can remove them from view. We can treat them like what they are; measurements of unknown-in-origin therefore meaningless activity. Cold, lifeless data that should bear no significance to anyone except the people hosting the content.