radiohead

#605: “Hey, you got a message, use Western Union!” 

GETTING MORE TALE #605: “Hey, you got a message, use Western Union!”

Featuring guest essay by John Hubner

“A lot of bands mature, which means they get square; they start delivering messages. Hey, you got a message, use Western Union.” – David Lee Roth

When David Lee Roth made that legendary statement, he was talking about rock and roll bands who take things too seriously.  Might as well jump?  This is course is a matter of taste.  I enjoy Van Halen and ZZ Top, but I also enjoy the more cerebral works of Marillion and Dream Theater.  In music there truly is room for all tastes and styles.  Few genres are as diverse as rock and roll, even lyrically.  If a writer is a strong enough to embed personal messages in their words that might go undetected by the listener, then this kind of lyric should be celebrated.  On the other hand, fans are sometimes turned off when the messages are too overt.  U2 have faced some backlash over this.

So, rock bands:  by all means, feel free to tell us all about climate change, globalism, big pharma and Wall Street.  If you do it well, the fans won’t mind.  On the other hand, there is no shame in rock and rolling all nite and partying every day.  As Paul Stanley once said in one of his many stage raps, “We all came here tonight to escape from the world! Tomorrow morning when we get up it’ll be just as screwed up as it is today. We might as well have a little fun!” And that is certainly one very valid reason to rock.

Even here, in these very virtual pages, I’ve taken a few liberties where I’ve veered slightly off course.  I’ve preached a little bit about the plight of the Indigenous Canadian.  Other tangents included mental health, stigma, religion, tolerance, and even the rights of service dog owners, with music as the common thread.  I hope I haven’t offended anyone with these fairly benign notions.  I try to be careful.  As a writer, I founded myself with two projects:  my reviews, and Record Store Tales.  Most of you got here because of the music, and so that’s what I deliver.  I don’t need to bore you with social justice or environmental ideals.  I don’t want to bore myself, either.

Speaking of Record Store Tales, one of its many focuses was to relay lessons I learned from a decade of retail management.  Any time I walk into any record store, I could make mental lists of things they are doing great and others for Continual Improvement.  That goes for a lot of retail in general too.  Back to the subject at hand…and this should be patently obvious to most sensible people…leave your personal politics out of your customer service job.

Mrs. LeBrain and I were up at the cottage a couple years ago, and we stopped at Shoppers Drug Mart to pick up some bathroom essentials and some candy.  There was only one cashier on duty and she was a chatty one.  There was a problem with the person in front of us; something wasn’t scanning right.  It took forever to fix, and this cashier would not stop talking.  I had a feeling we’d be in for some chatting when she finally got to us.

I was right, and it didn’t start well with a “How are you today darlin’?”  Fine…thanks.  “Would you like a bag for this?”  I glanced at Mrs. LeBrain who nodded yes and said, “Yeah a couple bags.”  Her response threw me for a loop.

“Well have you seen the landfill?” she asked me in a condescending tone.

“Ummm…no?” I answered, very puzzled.

“Well,” she began, “There’s no room left in the landfill and the birds are choking on plastic from garbage bags…”

I politely let her finish, and then explained, “OK, but we have dogs here at the cottage, and these bags will be used for them.”  There were in fact three poop factories (Schnauzers) at the cottage that weekend.*  Stoop and scoop, people.  Stoop and scoop.

It’s none of her business why I wanted those bags, I didn’t need to explain myself and I certainly didn’t need to be lectured about reusing and recycling.  I went through highschool at the start of the green revolution.  I do my best to be a responsible inhabitant of Mother Earth.  Rest assured, I am not some littering jackass who doesn’t give a shit.  Sometimes you just need a couple plastic bags, goddammit!

I thought about being “that customer” and complaining about the talky cashier, but decided to live and let live, and instead save it for this story.  Consider my wisdom, young padawans.  You don’t know your customers as well as you think you might.  Say too much, and you just might lose your customer, or find them complaining about you to your boss, as happened to me once when I made a snarky comment about Radiohead!**

So ends today’s lesson, friends.  Do you agree with this experience and advice?

We asked Schnauzer expert John Hubner for a “message” about how awesome Schnauzers are.  He sent us the following treatise:


Klaus. Dieter. Helmut. Otto.

No, these are not the names of former members of Kraftwerk. Nor are they the names off the guest list to Angela Merkel’s surprise birthday party. Those four names are the miniature schnauzers that have had a profound effect on my life. “Miniature schnauzers? What?” Yes, those sometimes salt and pepper, sometimes gray, sometimes black, and occasionally blonde yippy terriers that bark bloody murder at you every time you pass by their house(the bark is usually followed up with a crazed “KNOCK IT OFF!” from the same house.) Those dogs with the short stature, manly beard, and a nub for a tail. They have personality for miles and loyalty till the end. They’re the go-to pooch for old ladies and your great aunt that doesn’t like men all that much.
How did I end up miniature schnauzer poster boy? I was a sick kid who suffered from allergies. When I asked my mom why we couldn’t get a Boxer she said it was because of my allergies. But not long after that a book on miniature schnauzers showed up at our house and I was told if we ever got a dog it would be a schnauzer. When I asked why my mom said “Well, schnauzers have hair like your dad’s hair, while a Boxer has hair like your uncle Chuck.” “We never see uncle Chuck” I said. “Exactly, because we’re allergic to him” my mom replied.
Regardless of that bizarre exchange, a miniature schnauzer ended up at our house when I was 8 years old and the rest is history. Growing up with a mini schnauzer I grew to love their loyalty but need for personal space. They weren’t goofy and sloppy like bigger breeds; but they weren’t standoffish like poodles and cats. What I came to realize is that miniature schnauzers are a lot like me. They can laugh and joke and rub elbows for awhile, but eventually they need to retreat from the crowds and the chit chat. Every mini schnauzer I’ve ever known mingle for a bit, then they say “See ya” and head for the comfort of their favorite spot on the couch. I love that about ’em. I respect that.
Miniature schnauzers are better than your dog. Sorry, it’s true. They’re like grumpy little people that don’t take crap from nobody and they’ve got an awesome beard to prove it. They’re loyal, temperamental, prone to anxiety, and do NOT like people knocking on the front door. They like to nap and will tell you what they want when you’re in the kitchen. They howl when left alone in the house and they keep the couch from floating away for a greater part of the day.
I think I’m part schnauzer.

** Freed of the shackles of the Record Store, I can say I like Radiohead enough to own a couple CDs, but still find them so very pretentious. 

Advertisements

#537.2: 2016 Can Suck Balls – Year End Lists, Part 2 – J from Resurrection Songs

Please welcome — for the first time ever! — a guest shot from J from Resurrection Songs!  Please welcome J with his Top Albums list of 2016.

GETTING MORE TALE #537.2: 2016 Can Suck Balls
Year End Lists, Part 2 – J from Resurrection Songs

jIt’s been a right strange year. A right grim one if you consider the musical losses, not to mention the political shenanigans. Soon we’ll be populating a post-apocalyptic world. Hopefully more Mad Max than The Road. For some of us, at least. Soundtracked, it’s a year that I’ve been discovering more older releases than newer releases thanks to the writings and recommendations of fellow bloggers. However, there have been a fair few new releases that I have really enjoyed and I figured I’d hang out at Ladano’s place and say “here’s my top ten albums”.

The following are without a doubt my favourites of the year. These are the albums that grabbed my attention beyond the first side. That continue to pull me in. I am a man immersed in all their sonic awesomeness as I slip deeper and deeper into their grooves.

10. Gojira – Magma
9. The Tragically Hip – Man Machine Poem
8. The Cult – Hidden City
7. Black Mountain – IV
6. Sturgil Simpson – A Sailor’s Guide to Earth
5. Causa Sui – Return To Sky
4. Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool
3. The Claypool Lennon Delirium – Monolith of Phobos
2. Iggy Pop – Post Pop Depression
1. My Jerusalem – A Little Death

Note: Lists are tough, but the top five were particularly tough to separate (all stellar in my opinion). Also, I need to spend a bit more time with Bowie’s Blackstar, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds’ Skeleton Tree, case/lang/viers, and, of course, pick up the latest Leonard release now it’s available on vinyl.

J

#444: “Can I Listen to This?”

HEADPHONES

GETTING MORE TALE #444: “Can I Listen to This?”

In the early 1990’s, the CD store in which I worked was just an ordinary music store that sold new product in a mall.  Later on, we did the switch to used discs which was the smartest move the owner could have done.  He was able to control his own cost of goods sold.

Switching to 99% used stock attracted customers to the better prices.  Before too long, the used selection was better too, because we would see many deleted and rare titles that you couldn’t buy new anymore.  Ebay didn’t exist yet.  It was hard to find those titles on CD.  Another benefit to the switch was the ability for customers to sample music before they bought it.  It was harder before.

In the earliest days, if a customer wanted to hear something, we had to crack open the disc and play it on the store player.  We didn’t even have a re-sealing device.  The way around this was to carefully (carefully!) cut the cellophane off the CD case, along the spine of the disc.  Carefully (carefully!) slide the disc out of the cellophane.  When done, you can carefully (carefully!) slide the disc back into the cellophane, and “seal” it up with a piece of strategically placed Scotch tape.  This did the trick well enough for us.  We made due.

The annoying thing wasn’t the fact that we had to crack open a disc for people to listen to.  The real irritant was that we didn’t have anything for them to listen to it on, except the store CD player.  If a customer came up and said, “Can I listen to this?” it meant stopping whatever you were playing, and putting in their disc.

This happened one Saturday afternoon, sometime in the spring of ’95.  Radiohead had just released The Bends, and we only carried three copies to start.  A guy came in curious what it was like.  The Bends may be critically acclaimed by fans worldwide, but that spring afternoon in 1995, it did absolutely nothing for me*.  Skipping from one track to the next, then back, at the customer’s command, I hated what I heard.  To my ears it sounded too mellow and I was ready for a nap.  It was definitely not what I wanted to hear while I was trying to work.  To date I still don’t own The Bends.  This guy stood there listening for half an hour before declining to buy it.  It was annoying for both myself, and the other customers, to have to listen to this disc skipping from track to track at the guy’s hand signals or nods.

But we didn’t have anything else, and we were customer service oriented, so what are you to do?  You listen to (rather, skip back and forth through) The Bends.

A year later I was managing a bigger store, with the 99% used format.  We had a store player, plus several other units hooked up to headphones.  With an entire store of used stuff to listen to, and a pair of headphones to do it with, it was a vast improvement over the old way.  Once again the owner had a great idea.  Even though there is no question they were a huge popular feature for our stores, the “listening stations” as we called them were still ripe for abuse.  Customers would make you run around retrieving 20 (or 30 or 40) discs to listen to, only to buy none.  They’d complain about the sound quality.  The headphones were constantly busting due to overuse and abuse.

“These headphones suck.  I can’t hear the nuances in the music.”  That was a real complaint.  Since there wasn’t much I could do about it, I explained that the listening stations were there just so you could hear a song and decide if you liked it or not.  Not much thought was given to hearing the nuances.  But this guy insisted he couldn’t tell if he liked a song without the “nuances”, so no sale was made.

Other folks would want to listen to an entire CD – the whole thing! – to make sure it didn’t skip before they bought it.  Even though we offered a guarantee.

Even though we had gone through the effort and expense of providing these listening stations, there are some people you can never please.  More than one fellow (yes, it was only guys) asked to listen to something, only to complain, “No, I don’t want to hear it on those headphones.  I want to hear it on the big speakers!”  Yeah, but nobody else in the store wants to.

Music fans:  Although you can now listen to almost anything you want in the comfort of your own home, please, if you want to use the listening stations at a CD store, don’t be a douche!

*I do have Kid A in my collection.  I love Kid A.  

#404: Report: Aux 33 Tours in Montréal

RECORD STORE TALES MkII: Getting More Tale Report: Aux 33 Tours in Montréal

My sister, bass clarinetist Kathryn Ladano, just completed the east coast leg of her Canadian tour last month. This was followed by a western leg, but while returning home from the east there was a stop in Montréal. Kathryn is a collector too, though not to the extent that I am. She doesn’t need the physical musical media in her daily life like I do. She still collects some of her favourite bands, and has recently started buying vinyl. While in Montréal, she visited a record store called Aux 33 Tours, located at 1373 Mont-Royal Est.  According to their website, it is the largest record store in the city.  She emailed me the following day, May 27, raving about the store. I’ll let her take it from here! Enjoy the pictures.

I found the most amazing record store in Montréal yesterday! I found almost all The Spoons’ albums on LP, including ones that aren’t available on CD. I also found a promo live album by them that didn’t have a proper cover because it wasn’t supposed to be sold. They were all dirt cheap – like $2 – $7. ‎One of them was autographed and personalized “To Martin”! [Fortuitously, her husband is also named Martin!] I also got Kid A on record. Kid A and Sgt. Peppers are reissues with heavy packaging. They had an original Sgt Peppers, but the reissue was cheaper, so I got that.

I spent about $140. Which I think is good for that many albums! ‎Note: the Simon and Garfunkel and Gord Downie ones are Martin’s.

I’d also like to point out how rare that Bryan Adams single is.  He really tried to bury that song!  Watch the video, you’ll hear why.  (They sped up his voice which gives him a Chipmunks sound.)

And finally, gratuitous photos of Schnauzers and Starfleet collars:

Part 214: The Rules 2

RECORD STORE TALES Part 214:  The Rules 2

One of my most popular posts from the first year of this site was Part 19:  “The Rules”.  We had a lot of rules.  Some made sense, some were ludicrous, but one thing’s for sure:  we had them!  I’ve talked about the store play rules, the piercing rules, and others.  Here’s some more!

  • Don’t point.  This is a good rule.  Don’t point.  Customer comes in and says, “Hey, where’s your Lady Gaga?”  Don’t point.  If it was that easy, they would have found Lady Gaga on their own.  Take them out on the floor and show them where it is.
  • Don’t make fun of the music your customer is buying.  Nobody likes that.  Some people unfortunately have that unpleasant experience while buying music.
  • If a customer has first dibs/a reservation for a specific title, and it comes in used, that customer gets that title.  Simple.  Some staff members abused that rule if the item was rare enough…myself included!
  • Don’t eat your fuckin’ lunch at the counter.  Gross.

Some of the rules I had problems with included the following:

  • No sitting.  Our original store had a chair, that we were not allowed to use.  But when I first started, standing for 8 hours straight with no break was really hard.  It took a while to get used to that.  Since we worked alone at that time, it was really exhausting to work that long without a break.  If you’re working alone for 8 hours straight with no breaks, a chair is helpful.
  • You must be 15 minutes early for every shift.  Only problem – they didn’t pay you for those 15 minutes!
  • No hiring family or friends.  My sister, who is a world class musician with loads of customer service experience, didn’t even get considered for a job when she applied.  I was even given shit for letting her apply!  Meanwhile, friends of other people somehow got hired, perhaps because they were friends with the right people?

But it’s all good, no hard feelings.  With hindsight, my sister is doing pretty good now anyway.

Here’s a selection of rules that I would have liked, in a perfect world:

  • Getting paid for all the time you put in.   That would be a good rule.
  • No Macy Gray.  When her first album came out, one employee played it constantly.  I never need to hear a Macy Gray song ever again.
  • No eating subs with onions at any time, any where, before or during a shift.  Gross.

KEEP CALM

REVIEW: Marillion – Radiation 2013

RADIATION 2013 FRONT

MARILLION – Radiation 2013 (Madfish)

Radiation (stylized as Radiat10n, Marillion’s 10th studio album) was another controversial Marillion album. Much like This Strange Engine and marillion.com, Radiation did not have that universal fan appeal that magical albums like Brave seemed to have.  It confused some of the staunchest of Steve Hogarth followers. It is unlike any previous album, but still rooted in the progressive experimentation that Marillion are known for.  Just had that modern twist to it…just enough weird stuff with samples going on to turn off the fans who felt like they were just hanging along for the ride after This Strange Engine.

I remember Tom saying to me, “This Strange Engine…was that the one that sounds like Hootie and the Blowfish?”

Perhaps in reaction to that, Radiation had a heavier, noise-saturated mix.  The band always said it didn’t come out the way they initially heard it, and always had hopes to remix it one day.  Now 15 years after its release, Radiation 2013 is a revisit to the original album with that fresh remix the band had always talked about.  It is packed in a handsome Madfish box, all the original artwork contained within, housed within a brand new cover by the same guy who did the original.

RADIATION CD

The original album itself has always appealed to me.  I tend to like the underdogs.  Born Again, after all, is my favourite Black Sabbath record.  My favourite Motorhead is Another Perfect Day….

Let’s start by talking about the original album.

Opening with a cacophony of orchestra noise, a campy distorted melody follows. Hogarth is warning us of global warming, a topic he visited 9 years earlier on “Seasons End”. “Under The Sun” follows this intro, with lyrics such as “It used to rain, dreary and grey, most every day but not anymore!” Looking at the bright side of global warming from the British point of view! A haunting ghostlike keyboard melody underscores this aggressive yet sparse tune.

This is followed by the pounding of “The Answering Machine”, a classic that is often performed unplugged these days.  The original album version is completely different, and I hear so much joy in Ian Mosely’s drums to just be sheerly having at it.

“Three Minute Boy” is supposed to be about Liam Gallagher.  It is another great song, and this one in a slower tempo.  It also has a haunting quality, and Steve Hogarth sings his ass off.

The very quiet “Now She’ll Never Know” is next. It’s a little simpler than the earlier tracks, partly because bassist Pete Trewavas is on guitar this time. Hogarth sings like a spectre of himself, fragile and weak, hiding.  It’s an awesome performance.  Then, sampled strings introduce the single “These Chains”, a late-Beatles-y ballad with a dramatic chorus.

The next track is the very Floydian “Born To Run”, regarding the “people of the north”. Never has Steve Rothery sounded so David Gilmour. Yet another classic guitar solo to add to his list of many, a showcase piece. “Born To Run” is a slow track, mournful yet also hopeful.   Ian Mosely used the subtlety he is known for and classes the song up several knotches.

Suddenly, the gothic keyboard crashes of “Cathedral Walls” assail the unguarded listener. Hogarth, his voice reduced to an echo, whimpers the lyrics. It sounds as if pain and anguish are wracking his body. The choruses are dense and powerful. This is by far the heaviest moment on the album, yet unexpectedly punctuated by quieter breaks.

The final song on the album is the 10 minute epic “A Few Words For The Dead”. It is very minimalist to start, but builds up to a barrage of vocal melodies by the time your trip is done. It is not an easy track to swallow but is worth the effort.

(The original Canadian CD had two bonus tracks: the incredible “Big Beat Mix” of “Memory of Water”, from the last album, and an unplugged rendition of “Estonia”.  These two bonus tracks are not on this version of Radiation.  I only mention it in case you were wondering. The “Big Beat Mix” was also available on the single for “These Chains”, along with an incredible cover of Radiohead’s “Fake Plastic Trees”.

RADIATION 2013 CDAs for the Radiation 2013 remixes?  There is no way, absolutely no way, that they can compete with my feelings for the original album that I know and love.  I spent 15 years with this album.  There is no way any remix could ever compete with that, in terms of love, familiarity, and meaning.  Having said that I also think the original, noisy mix is perfectly suited to these songs, and plenty awesome at that.  I love it.  It’s different.  Here’s some thoughts and memorable moments regarding the remixed versions.

“Under the Sun” – Cool guitar solos, more guitars.  More keyboards too, and a full, complex mix.  Lusher, more audible harmonies.  The song drags on a bit too long though.

“The Answering Machine” – Just as heavy and massive, but clearer.  Still features that distorted lead vocal.  Also goes on longer, with previously unheard lyrics.

“Three Minute Boy” – Additional keyboards, not drastically different.

“Now She’ll Never Known” – Possibly the best of the remixes so far.  Sounds as if, “Ahh, this is what it was meant to be like!” Makes the original sound muffled under a blanket.

“These Chains” – Very natural sounding, possibly the least messed with.  You can hear a guitar part at the end that mirrors the main melodies in a very Beatles-esque way.

“Born to Run” is completely different, a whole new vibe.  Now, instead of being a mysterious, a sunset-stained blues, it is a slow dance.  I definitely prefer the original version of “Born to Run”.  This is nice as an alternate take on a truly great song, but the original just has so much vibe.  The guitar solo is still chilling, though.  Spine-tingling.

“Cathedral Walls” is also inferior to the original.  It has lost its other-worldliness in favour of sonic clarity, an uneven trade.  There is also no “These Chains” reprise before going into “A Few Words for the Dead”.

“A Few Words for the Dead” remains hypnotic, has some more depth to it.  But the original mix was already really interesting and good.  I don’t think much was gained from the remix.

There are a few other associated albums related to this one, if you like it, that you can get from marillion.com:

Unplugged At The Walls. A double live unplugged CD, recorded in a restaurant during the mixing of Radiation. It features live versions of tracks like “Now She’ll Never Know”. It’s also where the “Fake Plastic Trees” B-side was lifted from.

Fallout: The Making of Radiation. A 2 CD compilation of song sketches, unfollowed directions, unfinished and finished ideas.  One disc is a complete album demo, the other, snippets of sketches.  Its cover art is featured inside Radiation 2013 as well.

Radiation will always be a favourite of mine.  It’s nice to finally have the remix of the album, instead of just wondering what it would be like.  Now I know.  And honestly?  Curiosity has been quenched.  Now that I’m not curious anymore, I know it will only be played a fraction of the times I will still play the original.

Radiation:  5/5 stars

Radiation 2013:  3.5/5 stars for the remix, 5/5 stars for packaging and album quality

Part 131: Quagmire

RECORD STORE TALES PART 131:  Quagmire

We used to have piles and piles of CDs, stacked on a unit behind the counter.  Due to lack of space, this is where we put stock that was:

1. on hold for staff
2. on hold for customers
3. being sent elsewhere for customer orders

Unfortunately these stacks were visible to customers, although not available for sale to the general public.  Sometimes you’d have a situation like this:

“Cool!  I can see OK Computer by Radiohead!  Is that for sale?”

And it wasn’t, which you’d explain.  If the CD was on hold for someone, they’d often ask how long it was on hold for so they could be next in line, provided the other person didn’t pick it up.

When stuff was on hold for staff (who usualy snagged the best stuff and held it for longer periods of time) I didn’t like the customers seeing it.  But we didn’t really have anywhere better to put it.  I proposed putting it in the back room but that didn’t last long.  So what we’d do is disguise it in some way.  Instead of having a pile labeled “Mike”, we’d change the name.  It sometimes threw the customers off the scent.

At one point, I had all the staff hold piles named after Canadian cities.  That way looked like stuff that was ordered by other stores.  So for example, we’d have a pile labeled “London” which would be a pile of stuff destined for that store.  Next to it was a pile labeled “Saskatoon”.  We didn’t have a store in Saskatoon, Saskatoon was a staff member’s pile.  We didn’t have stores in Yellowknife or Winnipeg either, but those labels threw customers off the scent.  They’d assume the stock was there for another store.

I liked this system, but the staff often preferred nicknames on the labels.  Some people liked their nicknames, some people didn’t.  There was a girl named Meredith — she really hated being caled Megadeth, for example (I assume that’s true of most Merediths out there).  I hated being called Cheeser — so named because I liked what other people refer to as “cheese metal” (although I think Zakk Wylde would be happy to punch somebody in the face for calling his music cheese metal).

Later on, someone had all the piles named after Family Guy characters.  At the time, I’d never seen an episode in my life, and I didn’t know it was a bad thing that my nickname was Quagmire!  Joke was on me I guess!

INTERVIEW: Kathryn Ladano part 2

Kathryn Ladano, known to Dave FM listeners as the sister of LeBrain (from Stump LeBrain Week), chimed in yesterday with some insightful words about music in general.  If you’re a fan of improvised music, you may have heard Kathryn jammin’ on the bass clarinet on two continents!

We sat down and asked her 10 questions about music. Check out the final five below.

kathrynladano.com

6. What do you think about the state of popular music today?  Is the quality declining or improving over the last 20 years?

I think much popular music today is crap, and by popular music, I mean the stuff we’re hearing on the radio today. There are plenty of really great bands and artists out there, but we’re just not hearing them because they’re rarely played on commercial radio. I think it’s safe to say that the quality of popular music over the last 20 years has really declined. I think there was a time when certain artists were more concerned with evolving their sound and exploring new territory, and today it seems to be predominantly about just creating commercial hits. I think a lot of bands are also guilty of milking their success by trying to keep replicating the same album over and over without putting much care into diversifying or experimenting. However, that being said, i’m not sure we can place all the blame on commercial artists. Record companies obviously want to make money, and i’m sure a lot of artists are discouraged from trying anything different. Ultimately though, how many bands today have a series of albums in which you can hear a very clear, deliberate change and evolution in sound and style? Not very many, and definitely not Nickelback!

7. What do you think the role of computers should be in music today?  Some people feel they rob the music of a live feel, due to the ease of making corrections and adding tracks.

I actually think computers can play a very interesting role in music today. There are some interesting programs out there such as Max/MSP which allow a performer to combine their acoustic sound with the electronic and be able to manipulate it on the spot. I think this can create a lot of interesting sonic possibilities and can really enhance a performance. I’ve played around a little with electroacoustic composition, such as my piece “Open Strain”, and I think for me, the joining of live, acoustic sound, and processed, or pre-recorded electronic sounds is what I enjoy the most, both as a performer and as a listener. That being said, I have been to concerts in which all you’re watching is someone sitting at a laptop, and visually, it’s just not very interesting. When I go to a live performance, I want to see the artists displaying some kind of expression, and sitting at a laptop just doesn’t do it for me.

8. What popular bands today are carrying the flag for intregrity in music?

Radiohead is for sure doing this. Their sound has evolved so much from their first album to their last, and you can tell that they are actively exploring new territory and are not simply concerned with producing commercial hits. I think it’s great that they have maintained such an impressive level of success and popularity too – obviously there is still a large market out there for more progressive music that perhaps record companies are neglecting to acknowledge. People will always disagree about what you should be more concerned about – creating music for yourself, or creating music for the public. For me personally, I think I create for myself first, and the bands I admire the most are the ones that appear to also take that approach.


9. Is it possible to make a living simply out of creating music anymore?  Or has that day come and gone?  How does one do this as a viable living?

It is, but it certainly isn’t easy. Times have definitely changed though and artists are relying more and more on social media to promote themselves. You don’t need a record label anymore to release a CD, and many artists are doing their own recordings and promotion. There are a lot of great sites out now too that help promote independent artists such as reverbnation and soundcloud which allow artists to build their fan bases gradually without big money behind them. Also, I know of several artists who are funding their albums with fan donations. I think the big problem though is time. It takes time to promote yourself and tour, and get your name out there – and it’s difficult to have both an income and the necessary time to work on your craft. People do it though. Ultimately if you’re determined enough and are willing to make the necessary sacrifices, I think it can be done.
10:  Some bands like Radiohead have taken the unusual step of giving away albums (In Rainbows) for free digitally.  What do you think this does to the value of music?  And do you prefer have an album digitally or physically?

I think Radiohead wanted to try something different in response to the changing music industry. When that album was released, I went out and purchased a physical copy without a second thought. I personally still much prefer to have a physical album in my hands. I continue to go out and buy them and build my collection. Yes, I use itunes and own digital music, but the vast majority of my digital music collection is duplicated in physical form. I have very conflicting ideas about all of it. On the one hand, I think Radiohead offered their album for free as a way of countering piracy and trying to control the value of their music. But on the other hand, it takes so much time, energy, money, and resources to create one track which is only valued at 99 cents on itunes. As a buyer, i’m happy to pay that small amount to get a song that I want, but as an artist, I only receive 75 cents or less when someone buys one of my tracks. It’s worth it if people buy your tracks constantly, but in my genre, that just isn’t reality. I make more selling copies of physical CDs, but that isn’t what most people want anymore. *

Part 97: New Release Tuesdays

    

In the early days, Tuesdays were one of the busiest days of the week.  That was the day that new releases came out.  We’d also re-stock all our other stuff that day too.  Canpar would show up with several boxes which you would crack open to gander at the goodies inside.  It was also cool to see the new releases for the first time.  Checking out the album covers, the song titles, stocking them, seeing how they’d sell.  Any time there was a new release that I was personally into, it was twice as fun.

I still remember on my very first Tuesday, April Wine’s latest album Frigate came out.  I remember thinking, “April Wine?  Do people still buy new April Wine albums?”  (They didn’t.)

In the days before computers you’d have to make an inventory tag for each new release.  That was your trigger to re-order the title.  You’d put the tag on one copy of the CD.  If that copy of the CD was bought, you’d take the tag off, and put it on another.  When there were none left, you’d file that tag.  (We always filed by record company – there were more record companies back then, many have merged.)  Then come order day (Mondays) you’d go through the tags and re-order things that were sold out.

I remember when Kiss’ MTV Unplugged came out in March 1996.  Trevor was working the day shift, me the night.

“I left the Kiss Unplugged for you to make the tag.”

Maybe only a record store guy would get it, but that was cool of him.  That inventory tag would be in the store forever.  Little things like that meant something to us.

I remember when Radiohead put out The Bends.  We ordered three copies, and sold out immediately!  Imagine that today — ordering three copies!  But back then, as far as we were concerned, they were a band with one novelty hit.

The worst new release Tuesdays were the ones where we didn’t get something important.  Maybe the distributors stiffed us on an in-demand title.  Maybe we just missed some new hip-hop artist that we’d never heard of.  It would happen all the time.

I would always try to get in rock titles that I knew we could sell.  Rock wasn’t huge in the mid-90’s, but I did carry the flag.  I made sure we ordered 5 copies of Queensryche’s Hear In The Now Frontier album in 1997, which we sold out.  Then I ordered three more, which I also sold.  In fact, I sold out of that faster than I sold out of Notorious B.I.G.’s posthumous second album (which was twice the price, however).  I also carried Bruce Dickinson’s Accident of Birth.  I sold out of that one.  Even though the numbers were insignificant as far as our store sales went, I felt good that we were at least bearing the flag for rock during the 90’s.  Believe it or not, in 1997, we didn’t even carry the new Judas Priest.  That’s how bad it was for metal at the time.  I ordered one copy for myself, and just one copy.

New release Tuesdays were a long day – you had to rearrange the charts to accomodate for the new releases, and sometimes in the old days when we had more new releases, you wouldn’t even finish stocking until the next day.  Sometimes your fingers were sore from applying peel-and-stick security tags.  The excitement of new release Tuesdays, and the surprises in store, meant it was always a shift to look forward to.

Part 1: The Beginning – “Run to the Hills”

 

RECORD STORE TALES PART 1:  The Beginning – “Run To The Hills”

I still remember the first time I heard Iron Maiden.

Maybe it’s this way for some when they remember the first time they heard the Beatles, or the Stones. Or for those younger, maybe it’s like the first time they heard “Smells Like Teen Spirit” or “Fake Plastic Trees”. The first time I heard “Run To The Hills” was monumental to me, but I didn’t realize yet what the massive impact would be.

It was Christmas of 1984. I was a mere 12 year old looking for musical direction.  I hadn’t been much interested in music prior to that.  I had albums by Quiet Riot and Styx, but my majority of my collection was John Williams’ movie soundtracks.

I really wasn’t interested in music yet. I had yet to dedicate myself to any particular style. At the same time that I would listen to Quiet Riot, I somehow also thought Billy Ocean was cool.

Well, the video for “Loverboy” was nifty….

I had always been kinda afraid of heavy metal bands.  Guys that wore spikes, like Judas Priest or Iron Maiden. Kiss literally scared me when I was buying my first comics (there were always ads for Kiss posters inside comic books), and I know I wasn’t the only one. The neighbor kid was scared to death of Gene Simmons spitting up blood. Bands like Maiden and Priest looked like a bunch of hooligans, definitely up to no good, definitely out to hurt people, including kids.

Boxing Day, Bob came over. It was tradition, every Boxing Day, Bob and I would get together and compare our Christmas scores. Bob scored a cassette tape called Masters Of Metal Volume 2 and I was given an Atari game called Snoopy Vs. The Red Baron.

In my basement, we sat down to play the video game. Our goal was to take the game as far as humanly possible, to see what happened when you shot down so many planes that the Atari didn’t have enough characters to display it anymore. (Incidentally, disappointingly, like most Atari games, it just starts counting up from zero again.) We sat there playing that game so long that Bob had to go home and eat lunch, then come back. But what he left behind while eating was Masters Of Metal.

“Run To The Hills” came on. Some people speak of moments of clarity: That was my moment. The music was fast, powerful, dramatic and melodic. The lyrics were cool and you could mostly sing along. Most importantly, the music and lyrics seemed to combine with the game experience. When Dickinson was singing “Run to the hills, run for your lives!” it meshed perfectly!  Too bad Aces High wasn’t out yet!

A moment like that could quickly pass into history and be forgotten for most people.  As the day wore on, I realized that I had found something. This music kicked ass!  I was brought up on movie soundtracks.  This stuff had the same drama, but with guitars!   This was even better than Quiet Riot and AC/DC, so I said at the time.

It didn’t end there of course. We played through Masters Of Metal, finding a few more diamonds. “You’ve Got Another Thing Coming” By Judas Priest was definitely a close second to “Run To The Hills”. We were fixated on Accept’s “Balls To The Wall”.  We’d play it over and over again laughing hysterically at the lyrics.  But the song still rocked!  I can still remember when MuchMusic started the Power Hour, and they played that video.  There’s little Udo Dirkscheider, in his camo pants, and crew cut, rocking with these skinny German guys with long hair.  It was fucking hilarious!

We skipped (what we then thought was) the crap…Lee Aaron, Anvil, Triumph.  I grew into them later, particularly Triumph.  Something to do with double guitars, maybe.  I digress.  We always came back to Iron Maiden.  Always.

Bob would bring other tapes over as the months and years went by. W.A.S.P., Motley Crue, Black Sabbath. Now Bob’s a father of four who doesn’t listen to rock music anymore, which makes me sad in a way.  I’m not sad for him, because he’s got a great family and always has.  I’m more sad because I don’t think he can ever appreciate what impact our shared experiece of rocking out had on me.  Listening to Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, and the rest.  The was it, the beginning.