Indie and the Buzzwords

Let me start by saying – Indie is not a genre. It never has been and it never will be because that’s just how it fucking is. The fact that there are hundreds of shitty “Indie” bands out there who all sound the same is insulting to the independent music world and should all be killed in the most inhumanely way possible. The fact of it is, independant music technically ceases to be independant once it signs itself to a major label – but it doesn’t always mean they cease to be good – that happens a lot, but in few cases you get lucky.

A famous example is with The Brian Jonestown Massacre and The Dandy Warhols. When the Warhols signed to Capitol, Anton flew off the wall. I think, deep down, he wanted them to get success without having to feel the need to help the music industry out anymore. A strange twist of fate occured, however, as The Dandy Warhols are pop and the luxury of achieving some mainstream successes and the film DiG! ultimately led to Anton and the BJTM becoming better known across the globe.

The Brian Jonestown Massacre

Anyway – we’re focussing on Australian indie for the time being and it goes without saying that the indie genre explosion has only been a mainstream phenomenon. A hype fest. It’s something that has existed for years on the fringes and has only now been thrust into the spotlight and the unfortunate circumstance lies within that light. It’s a circle, and it has to be shined in the right direction – but it hasn’t, instead it’s happened all over again. A market has been exploited by the soulless hacks who work in the confines of an office space with little understanding of the consequences from the cogs they’re turning for the money machine – or worse, they do and they perpetuate it acting as satans little helpers.

Bands such as MGMT, Kings of Leon and Cold War Kids are being pushed like Coca Cola in summer as indie music. Well, you know, maybe it’s just the fucking music journalists out there who started getting lazy with coining terms to start labelling something under. They’ve used up everything they could and are too lazy or scared to break the mould, so hey, why the fuck not – let’s use a term that actually contradicts itself and stamp it on some bands that don’t fucking deserve to be categorized with the original ideals from which it came and allow them to run amok under this new faux meaning. It’s perfect. It’s safe. It’s FUCKING LIES!

monoculture_129265On the fringe, the fog isn’t so thick. The independant music world is still existant, operating parallel to its faux counterpart, its bursting with emotion and for the most part, doesn’t want to be shoved in peoples faces because it’s not arrogant enough and/or have rejected potential audiences based on their moral standing. It’s visible, but you need the right kind of eyes. The kind of eyes are those that are open. It’s a privilige – not a right to see beyond. Don’t forget that, because those of you who appreciate musics value beyond that of how over produced or popular it is know full well how lucky you are and in this world it’s very easy to lose yourself. Well don’t, because we fucking need you now more than ever. We have to crush this big, ugly, swirling diseased monster and ignorance will not prevail. The tiny decisions you make affect things on a grander scale and if you take a good hard look around, you’ll see that the lack of mindful decisions has led us to this mono-cultured mall world we currently reside in.

If you refer to Mr Iscariots’ article on Nunchukka Superfly, you will read about a wonderful independant band that has not been plastered all over the street press like hacks like The Veronicas. Ray works at Utopia and is also in another band called The Hard Ons. Their music is atleast 10 times better than anything the major labels have offered us and yet, what the fuck? Is it going to be like this EVERY FUCKING TIME a new buzzword blows across the street? The fringe operators start getting praised for being the true kings and main influences in a genre that never really existed in the first place…whatever. There’s no substitute for knowing yourself, and if you know how to correctly label a band, then that’s awesome and I’m glad to have you as a reader because I don’t want to have to be spelling out basic shit for you.

So I’ve done some extra reading on Australian Indie Rock/Pop and according to these articles, AIR is stepping up. All I can think, however, is where are the steps for bands like Nunchukka, Laughing Clowns, and Coda? Simple answer – it just doesn’t exist. There’s all this hype about how AIR is progressing but if you look at it – the majority of them absolutely SUCK. They’re going on about how it’s all about creating new sound and being dynamic, but that doesn’t matter if you’ve got no fucking heart, so it kind of defeats the purpose doesn’t it? Music isn’t just about finding some new fucking sound, it’s about exploring the sounds within and without you – as cliche as that may be. Who fucking cares if you’re using a glockenspiel or a large hammer banging on a fucking poodle – you’re still creating something that’s essentially lifeless and I gotta say, most of the Indie Rock / Pop – whatever – I hear in general is just like that anyway. AIR is no different. Bands like Mercy Arms are no different.

Mercy Arms

I’ve spoken to a lot of people who really love music and most of them don’t even fucking like this Indie thing. Since it’s been categorized there’s this gigantic flood of adolescent douche bags trying to find their place in it and it just doesn’t work. We’re all waiting for it to end. Who are these fuckers who are keeping it going? Where are they? I’ve got a good 30+ people who want you to shut up and will pay good money for you to shut the fuck up. Expose yourselves, please – we just want good music in the spotlight and we don’t want it tainted with another fucking genre based package you can sell at Woolworths.

I’d love to mention some other – other than Mercy Arms who suck, might I add – Australian indie bands that are pathetic and deserve to be destroyed, but I’m too scared to say their names, fearing their demon spawn to come running in to eat my skin and bathe in my blood. I will, however, list some good indie bands – not part of the “genre” and less “in” with the faux scene. Riff Random. Cats Crash. Coda. Nunchukka Superfly. The Hard Ons. Ghosts of Television. Grey Daturas. Warhorse. Crux. Day Of The Meerkat. Fangs Of…

Day Of The Meerkat

Do you know what I’m saying or am I just wasting words? Is it just me? Am I the only fucking one? It just doesn’t hit home for me when I see how conservative and filtered the majority of Australians tend to allow the music to be. I can’t believe a country so advanced in this world can be so fucking lazy about it; then I remember, it’s Australia. She’ll be right. Well, fuck no she won’t be right ok? There’s a whole culture being smothered by dinosaurs shit and they just won’t fucking die. Stay vigilant fellow humans – they’re always trying to snag you.

Goodnight people.…

In Captain Thunderbolt’s footsteps – All Tomorrow’s Parties 2009

My expectations for this event were stratospheric as soon as it was announced. Either because of the superlative reputation it had in the UK for being a grown-up, chilled out festival, the involvement of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, the venue itself or, more likely, a combination of all three.

As I was getting the ferry in blazing sunshine at 10:30, I was momentarily jealous of others that were enjoying a relaxed Sunday morning, but as soon as a sun-drenched Cockatoo Island came in to view I knew that this would be an experience to enjoy for as long as possible.

Located at the junction of the Lane Cove and Parramatta Rivers, the island, a former prison and shipyard, was a jaw-dropping setting for a festival, especially one that promised such an eclectic and unique line-up. Wandering round the island, it felt as though we were exploring dockyards and penal buildings that had not long been abandoned, such was the immediate evidence of its past.

With such a wondrous location, the position of each of the four stages was intrinsic to the overall experience. Two stages were on the water, another inside the vast turbine hall and the fourth in a divine grassy courtyard at the top of the hill on the western edge of the island.

It was in this courtyard that the dream-like music of Hunter Dienna floated on the breeze to open the festival, perfectly suited to the lofty venue and the early morning mood. It was already clear that the crowd had come with an open mind and were here to appreciate all that could be thrown at them musically.

Bridezilla were sitting on stage together an hour before their set started, apparently jamming, rehearsing and enjoying the view. They attracted an appropriately large crowd for their expansive sound, the folky violin complimenting the post-rock guitars vocals and drums.

Not sure what to say about Afrirampo. It seems too easy to describe them as bonkers, but from the minute they ran on stage it was clear they were going to keep the crowd guessing with their unpredictable performance. There were noisy bits (for two people they made a LOT of noise), there were quiet bits, and they managed a 5 minute drum solo using twigs, branches, and the whole of the stage, including the framework. Not to mention each others arses. Bonkers.

The promise of Psarandonis meant a walk back up to the top of the island, but his beautiful Cretan lyra-folk, the backdrop of stone ruins and the phenomenal heat transported us to the Mediterranean for the duration of his set. Only the Ouzo was missing.

Fuck Buttons’ loud droning electronica could have been a gamble following on from Nick Cave’s blistering set but for those that weren’t quite ready for the ferry queue they were a hidden gem. Our location was reminiscent of the past, but it felt like we were listening to the sound of the future.

This was an event with a focus on the experience, the atmosphere and the ambience and it all came together to mind-blowing effect. If I could buy tickets for 2010 today then I would do so without a second thought. This is what festivals are meant to be like.…

Tony Allen – Master Drummer

It’s hard not to be a little overcome in the presence of afrobeat originator Tony Allen.

After all, Brian Eno has described him as “perhaps the greatest drummer who has ever lived.” Since the early sixties he’s been a pioneering force in contemporary African music, and his influence can be heard across a broad spectrum of musical styles. I asked Tony what first inspired him to pick up the drum sticks.

“I wanted to create my own style of music. God gave me a gift, and I followed my own path.”

He pauses to reflect for a moment, and adds “I always wanted to be different than other drummers, that’s why I’ve never tried to do anything else than afrobeat.”

Afrobeat was borne of an aim to provide social commentary on the inequalities inherent in African society. As a part of Fela Kuti’s Africa ‘70, Allen was a foundational force in its development. He is quick to note that the problems afrobeat confronts are not exclusive to the continent, and in fact much of the drive behind the movement was motivated by struggles overseas.

“The social problems are not concentrated in Africa. Don’t forget that Fela had to go to the USA in 1969, meeting with the US black people to start to realize his Africanism.. As soon as we came back from the states, he started his fight against the governments and the dictature.”

A thoughtful expression crosses his faces as he muses “One sometimes has to move away from his own country to be completely aware of his home.”

Rather than adopt the same style of protest that his American contemporaries were developing, Allen states that he was always drawn to create something unique.

“I always wanted to sound different than U.S. jazz or hip hop artists. I hoped that maybe this alternative music vision would be able to effect someting in our society.”

With such a long history, I ask Tony whether he feels afrobeat might have lost some of its political urgency. I wonder whether it is still as politically charged.

“As long as African people will suffer of many diseases, there will always be artists fighting for them.”

His influence on popular music cannot be understated. The past twenty years have seen him collaborate with many big name artists. It would seem he has a soft spot for Blur and Gorillaz front man Damon Albarn.

(As Albarn does for him. The 2000 Blur single ‘Music Is My Radar’ is a tribute to Allen, the song ending with Albarn repeating the phrase “Tony Allen got me dancing.”)

“My aim has always been to fuse afrobeat with other styles of music and to spread it all over the world. I love to experience my drumming with others, like my different collaborations with Damon Albarn.”

His work with Albarn has included drumming on The Good, The Bad and The Queen album released in 2007, and he assures me there will be more to come from the pair, among other works.

“I am currently working with Damon Albarn on a new album project with other guests. I am also involved in Africa Express, a series of events promoting African music. We’ve had some hectic shows at Glastonbury, Liverpool, Lagos and Kinshasa, and there’s more to come in 2009.”

The world of music has changed a lot since Allen first taught himself to drum, but he remains optimistic about the industry as a whole. Whatever some might say about music losing some of its soul, it remains essential to him.

“It is vital for me. I don’t care what people may say about it.”

Allen shows no signs of retiring as time goes on, with his many collaborations in the works as well as a new album ready for release.

“My new album “Secret agent” will be released next June under World Circuit Records. But I won’t play my new album in this Australian tour.. next time for sure!”

Allen tours Australia in March. For info, head over here.…

Martin Martini – Too Wierd, Too Rare

Martin Martini is not a normal musician. Normally if a musician were to tell me that they went over to England recently with the sole purpose of finding a drag queen who picks up one hundred dollar bills with her asshole, I might be a little turned off. Normally I would. When Martin Martini explained this, however, it seemed strangely appropriate. Turns out he never found the drag queen, and he didn’t really like the country either.

“England’s a fuckin’ terrible place to play. I didn’t enjoy it at all. We went to Berlin afterwards and that was really fun. We holidayed in Berlin though, we didn’t play there.”

Everyone I know who’s been to England seems to share one major bone of contention; the cost of everything over there. Martin felt the tug on his hip pocket too.

“We lost a lot of money, put it that way. Even though people really loved what we were doing, we lost a shitload of money. The response was fantastic.”

Since then Mr. Martini has been rocking the socks off of adoring crowds in Adelaide, garnering five star reviews in the local papers to boot. He’s accompanied over there by an eclectic mix of complete strangers.

“They flew over some dude, some guy from the UK who’s two hundred kilos, and black and he dresses up in Lycra and does drag. They’ve got Paul Kapsis in the show as well and they’ve got this really cute blonde girl that kinda looks like Marilyn Monroe from Ireland who sings songs on the uke so it’s sorta all these people I don’t really know thrown into this tent to just sorta do whatever we want really.”

The option to do whatever he wants in these solo performances has prompted Martin to begin incorporating a rather obscure talent. Having learnt to tap dance from his mother as a young boy, he has decided to work it in to his live show through “a sort of a rap song accompanied by my feet.” Again, not something I would expect from a normal musician, but Martin Martini might very well have broken that mould.

“It’s a little bit weird. I’ve got a pair of dunlop volleys and I just chucked some metal plates on the bottom of those and I tap dance in those.”

Martin’s last recorded work was a dark, powerfully ominous affair. He explains that it was reflective of his experiences at the time.

“Yeah, that album, I dunno man, I was in a pretty bad place there. I was pretty sad and this woman fucked me up a bit. Then I drank too much and I got behind the wheel of a car and I fell asleep and then I went to court. Things were going down hill quick. I think it was a wake up call.”

He’s “out the other end now” and is working on a record that’s romantic again. It seems We’re All Just Monkeys was a learning experience, but not one that he wants to replay. The songs have been omitted from more recent performances, replaced by new and perhaps more uplifting fare, ready for his upcoming visit to Sydney.

“I just cut those songs out now. We’re playing a whole new set now that doesn’t really consist of the Monkeys album. We’ve pretty much got a heap of new material that we’ve been doing and I don’t think Sydney have heard much of it so this is pretty much the last time I’ll be coming to Sydney before we lay down a new album.”

The shift in attitude has also seen him concentrate on some athletic aspirations. He’s “fuckin’ obsessed with running” in an interesting experiment at reconciling his physical and mental well being. It’s a move that he hopes will make him a more prolific writer.

“That’s why I’m running, I’m trying to get fitter at writing. To be honest it’s not working yet, but it’s only early days. I’m steadily writing. I still write a song a week but I’m not writing enough. I want to write one every day.”

Most people wouldn’t make the connection between those two pursuits so readily, but Martin Martini isn’t like most people. I guess that’s what makes him so compelling on and off the stage.

For more info, head over to Martin’s myspace page.

Musicfeeds – Tighter than a nun’s schedule!…