I have a healthy obsession with the consumer music technology press. By that I mean Future Music, Music Tech and traditionally my own personal favourite Computer Music. I don’t really mean Sound on Sound which doesn’t have the same sensationalist impact to the untrained eye. When I was first starting to get into electronic music production in the mid to late 90’s my magazine buying habits moved away from Guitar Tech and onto Future Music. In part this reflected the development of my musical tastes from the indie pop n rock staple which has been traditionally forced on teenagers in this country as a result of the prejudices of generations before them to mainly listening to electronic music. The indie pop situation will no doubt be addressed by the electro-centric nature of today’s ‘cutting edge’ pop music and the subliminal eduction this is giving to today’s listeners.
The album that really caught my attention and turned my head was The Black Dog’s ‘Spanners’. I find it hard listening to this album today as it is a bit too familiar to my ears. The experience does however recall a specific teenage time and place. As is the way with the emotional attachment we have with music the endless indie pop I was listening to before I discovered electronic music doesn’t hold the same resonance with me. So much so that I associate it both musically and personally as unfulilling and ‘immature’ (I’m looking at you Sonic Youth, Pixies et al).
Whilst I was at the time a proficient drummer, a less proficient guitarist and a reluctant keys player, I had no idea how to produce the music I now had swimming around in my head. I obsessively devoured Future Music and my copy with an interview with one mean and moody member of The Black Dog is perhaps the most interesting artist article I came across (but only because it was with a member of The Black Dog). The Black Dog cultivated an image of a kind of cultural mysticism, of sophistication. Whereas Warps other major artist of the time Richard James opted for the one of the other tried and tested musician stereotypes of the secretive genius.
The Aphex Twin never revealed the technology he used to come up with his creations and if he did it would be a synth he created himself or a proto computer program coded by a hacker or something. Personally as a marketing standpoint I can see the importance of this, especially if the marketing machine is billing an individual as someone with superhuman musical powers, a vision which is then lapped up by the a potential audience unfamiliar with how music is produced or created. Tom Conti, talking about the latest film role on Mayo and Kermode’s Wittertainment show talked about how dull revealing the creative process to the general public would be if it were to happen. In that it would destroy the magic, the illusion required to fire the imagination and hold the wonder of the audience. The general public would wearily sigh ‘is that all it is’ in Tom’s view, one with which I have some sympathy with.
But breakdown the wall of mysticism I did. With no internet (good god can you imagine those days), nobody else within my circle of friends interested in moving in that direction it took me a good couple of years to even begin to figure out what equipment to buy with the aid of Future Music (I guess it should have been quicker but I guess I was a bit of a slow learner at the time). I remember driving over to Digital Village fully in the hope of buying my first bits of equipment and being fobbed off by some bloke who told me my initial choice of a hardware sequencer was rubbish and that computers were the future. I went away without buying anything. When I did buy a computer it was from Turnkey on Charing Cross Road…which as a computer was amazingly useless. They also ripped me off blind.
Despite a start to my autobiography what is the point of this rambling. Well I still pour over these magazines every month and I wonder how many established musicians do (of which I am of course not one) what with the internet etc. This month I picked up the current Computer Music special titled something like how to make it in music. I’ve not read it all (I’m usually entranced by the new programs / synths etc out that month but no such excuse on this special) but I did read the bit on making yourself stand out as an artist with a distinctive image or a gimmick. See above I guess but this is something I personally find pretty depressing. I’m all for wicked type faces and logo’s but photo shoots with grown adults looking mean and moody does nothing for me or my opinion of their music. A line from an interview I saw online with Moby I thought hit the nail on the head. Whenever he sees an electronic musician in a photo-shoot looking mean and moody he chuckles to himself at the pretence because he knows that man is really a nerd making tunes in his bedroom. Oh well back to the bedroom.