An Introduction

I first became interested in 4AD, a UK independent record label founded in 1980, towards the end of the '80's. I was falling in love with the music of Dead Can Dance, Clan of Xymox, Pixies, Bauhaus and The Birthday Party and was surprised when the 4AD label sampler "Lonely Is An Eyesore" came out in 1987 that all these bands were from the same label.

After visiting a Pre-Raphaelite exhibition of some American's collection of art, I came to thinking of all this musical art that 4AD have released that may one day drift into obscurity unless someone shows it as art. So now I'm on a crusade, to collect the first ten years of 4AD's releases and exhibit the collection on 4AD's 50th anniversary in 2030. This is a big task which will have some interesting twists and turns along the way.

Monday, 26 March 2012

Mob Culture or Independent Thinking

I’m a very fortunate individual. I had the pleasure of visiting the city of Berlin this last weekend. What a fantastic city and what an interesting history and culture. It is hard not to feel for the Germans. They got wrapped up in some very clever propaganda and nationalistic pride from Adolf Hitler, an amphetamine pumped, paranoid with wild ideas and, I personally think, an appreciation for the working underdog. I feel that the Germans have nothing to be ashamed of any more, they are nearly three generations on and cannot be held accountable for the gullibility of a country once crying out for a solution to the state the country was in at the time.

The question, quite rightly, is still constantly asked, how where we duped into a nazi state?

I am a person who tries to constantly question every decision I make, and ask why I made it. I have always thought that music taste is a good parallel. With choices in life, why do we make the choices we do? Is it because of a genuine desire to pick that choice, or have we already made the choice before we come to make it because of preconditioning, the easy option, or going along with the popular option. I’m certainly not going to make a comparison between an individual's music choice and being a nazi, so please don’t think I am, but if you enjoy music and yet cannot make an individual and personal choice about what you choose to listen to, what else in life can you be making good choices about?

To most people, propaganda and the manipulation of the individual and masses are conspiracy theorists pipe dreams and have no relevance on everyday life. If you have the eyes to see, everyone is held by the scruff of the neck every day and force fed this stuff constantly, and it is truly disturbing.

So how on earth can music have any relation to who we vote for, the choices we make and the German people being brainwashed to do unquestionable things? I just feel that music can be a harmless way to reflect on yourself when it comes to making choices. When I went to see Florence and the Machine a few weeks ago, I saw a fine example of choices and music. I have seen this over and over again with music. People proclaim themselves as die hard fans, then in five years are onto the next big thing. The seventies music scene is a wonderful example. In the seventies, there were massive bands such as Emerson Lake and Palmer, Yes and The Electric Light Orchestra. These were massive bands in the seventies, filling huge stadiums of 100,000 people or more regularly. Their albums sold multi millions, the band members were household names. These bands are still playing and touring, but cannot get anywhere near the numbers they used to attract. In fact, ask most people younger than 40 years old who these bands are and they have never heard of them. I have wondered how this was possible for a long time. Where are all those fans?

I have talked to some of those fans. It seems that time, trend, popularity and media coverage all dictate to the majority, what should be listened to and what shouldn’t. This has been a revelation to me. If a band's music is good, how does it matter when it was written and recorded? Does the music itself change if it’s popular? Do people forget good music simply because they aren’t reminded of it every day on the radio and tv? How does a piece of music you used to enjoy, suddenly become embarrassing to listen to because it became “so last year”?

The German people in the late thirties and early forties were influenced in the same way. Popularity, trend and aggressive media coverage skewed the general public’s thinking. The general attitude around the western world is that Germany was gullible. But I see the western psychology manipulated in the same way. And music is a typical and thankfully harmless example of this.

So when I look at myself, do I think that I am immune to modern propaganda techniques? Not really. It’s so difficult to know if you're being manipulated, so clever are the ways and means of modern politics and commerce. I smoke, need I say more!!

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Dead Can Dance Dance Again

This is going to be a good year. I can feel it. In years gone by being young and wrapped up in a scene, in bands and in a culture of people, I got to see many bands and hear lots of music. But out of the hundreds of bands I’ve seen in my younger years, I look back and realise that the vast majority of the bands I saw were actually pretty dire. I went to see bands because in the days before the internet it was the best way to try and find new music. Especially in the UK, as radio was always terrible unless you could stay up really late every night.

In the last few years after getting fed up of seeing so many predictable bands, I decided to see less and choose more wisely. This has resulted in seeing some amazing gigs. This year has already delivered once and looks to be even more promising. For the third time I was fortunate to see Rammstein play a couple of weeks ago. Rammstein always put on a fantastic show, the sound quality was awesome and the whole experience, as always with Rammstein, was mind blowing. I’ve not been too impressed with their more recent releases, preferring the more raw approach that made their name. But this tour was to promote a kind of” best of” album so got all their well known songs for 2 hours. Of course plenty of flamethrowers, ejaculating phallus’ and silly theatrics were thrown in as usual.

I also went to see Florence and The Machine, which was an eye opener in a different way. The gig was excellent and the performance incredibly good, but as with all popular culture, was spoilt by thousands of screaming little 15 year old girlies. Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice to see impressionable folk picking music out for enjoyment, but I have seen this so many times, the thousands of girlies singing every word, tearful and full of admiration, will be nowhere to be seen in 5 years once the chart success and the popularity fades. This is a concept I simply cannot understand, how popularity decides and persuades an individuals taste in music. Music is an art form, how can the art form be any different if one person loves it or a million people love it? How can the the tastes of the masses change the art form. The art is what it is. Love it, hate it, but please don’t just listen to it because everyone else is?!!?

There have been two pieces of news I’ve been waiting to hear for the past few years. Both were very unlikely, and chances were, never going to happen. The two bands I really want to reform and do a gig in the UK are The Tea Party and Dead Can Dance. Slowly over the passed few months I saw news that The Tea Party had reformed against all the odds. Then rumours on the internet forums were going round that Dead Can Dance may be doing another tour. This was great news if true. Dead Can Dance split up around 1998, they got together just to do a world tour in 2005, but no new releases. I saw them in London in 2005 and it was an experience that was unmissable. An incredible vibe, wonderful rhythms, a beautiful voice, fantastic songs, a very varied mix in the audience who all showed a great respect for the music. Stayed very quiet when the music played then roared into applause after each song. I knew at the time that the chances of seeing Dead Can Dance again were very unlikely. It certainly felt like a final farewell tour.

Then just before Christmas of 2011 came the news that not only were Dead Can Dance to tour in 2012 but were also expecting to record a new album. This is amazing. Only one date of the world tour hits the UK, so at 9am on the morning of the day the tickets went on sale, I was frantically calling the box office 1 minute before it opened, hitting redial on the telephone hoping to get through. It was nerve racking, the Portuguese tickets had sold out in four hours. But I got through and got 2nd row seats. I have never been that excited to buy concert tickets before and it was not a pleasurable experience trying to get them. I would hate to think what a Cliff Richard fan must go through every time he tours (I expect it’s even more desperate, grannies can’t throw their knickers very far, so nearest the front is best).

So I see myself as very fortunate to have got such a good ticket to such a good opportunity to see one of the best bands in the world. Let’s hope my luck holds out and The Tea Party start to gig outside of Canada.

If anyone has the opportunity, you must see Dead Can Dance. It may well be the last chance to see them live and trust me, if you never see a concert again, you must see Dead Can Dance live. I hope that they release the new album on vinyl. Vinyl is just a better product to collect, more of a product. Few bands have a history of having a classic album under their belt. It’s practically unheard of to have a band that has never released a poor album. Every album that Dead Can Dance have created has been genius.

Dead Can Dance are what makes collecting 4AD just a joy and honour. If you have a gig coming up in your country, make every chance to go and see them, see you there!