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Friday, July 10, 2009

Music is Music

A friend of mine asked me today why people thought it was weird that he listens to Iron Maiden, Eminem, and Ziggy Stardust all in a row. Apparently it's not acceptable to have wide-ranging tastes anymore, and people are supposed to be defined by their musical genres of choice. Metal, classical, jazz, prog - all of these carry stereotypes as being very elitist and condescending towards anything that's not part of that particular genre.

Now personally, I enjoy a huge variety of music myself, but I rarely find myself listening to something other than prog or metal - occasionally rock, pop, jazz, or classical, but rarely. Not that that's all I enjoy, that's just what I enjoy most. I mean, I guess it is considered strange that someone would listen to such a variety of music, but it shouldn't be. Because people like different types of music. Some people like Pantera. Some don't. Some people like Coldplay. Some people like Suffocation. Some people like Pink Floyd, some people like Koyaanisqatsy, some people like Consiorzoacquapotabile, some people like Metallica. Different people listen to different things for different reasons. As for me personally, I enjoy to various extents all of those bands. PF, Suffo, CAP, and Koyaa in particular more than the others - and this is just the rock/metal/prog end of the equation.

Although I really, seriously fucking hate it when people (especially girls) say that "they listen to everything". No they don't. The spectrum of music is NOT just the modern rock/hip-hop/pop from the second half of the twentieth century that you hear on the radio. I can honestly say that I like (or at least can appreciate) almost all types of metal (black metal's a bit tough), extremely different forms of prog, folk music, the blues, showtunes, avant-garde music, various types of jazz, "classic rock", modern hard rock to a limited degree, funk, hip-hop, bluegrass, soul, gospel, zydeco, polka, mariachi, a LOT of classical (which really composes about 99% of the music ever written), psychedelic rock, disco, post-rock, REAL pop (not bubblegum pop), and I'm even warming up to country a little bit. I don't make the claim that I actually listen to each genre on a regular basis, but I at least like them all. Music is music, and there's really no point in trying to find "the best and only the best", because it's all a matter of personal taste. I'm not really picky at all. I'm like that with hanging out, with video games, with deciding what clothes to wear, with music, with food, whatever. Whatever the choices are, I don't care - I'll find at least some enjoyment in each of them. That's not to say I don't have preferences, because I definitely do, and there are some bands/genres/foods I really don't like at all.

But if somebody says "I listen to everything", you best give me your favorite folk metal band, your favorite funk band (and which era too, most funk bands had a LOT of revolving members), your ideal jazz sextet, be able to distinguish between the genres of classical music, discuss your favorite instrumental timbre, which era of technical death metal you like better, define "post-rock" and "djent", your favorite minstrel singer, enjoy the accordion, and be able to have an opinion on whether serialism is really music or math.

^ THAT's listening to "all types" of music, not the fucking bullshit that people claim it is. Remember kids, not all music is on the radio, by a long, long shot. Granted, some music on the radio is good - some music on it is GREAT. I'm not at all ashamed to admit I'm a fan of Creed, Coldplay, Alter Bridge, Muse, T-Pain, and a number of others. But for some reason people are always afraid to try out new music if it doesn't fit in their preconceived notion of simple 3 minute pop songs. Or their preconceived notion of UBER BROOTUL HEVY METLZ, or of long, atonal, complex 20 minute epics.

People are just too unwilling to think outside the box just for one second and try to appreciate music for what it is, rather than trying to slam it for what it's not. I can't tell you how many times I've facepalmed reading reviews that say "I usually listen to really obscure death metal like Destroyer 666 and Lykathea Aflame, but this Sigur Ros album sucks, it's all 'pretty' and not heavy and it's not TEH BROOTULZ". And it's the same on the other side of the coin. "Death metal sucks blah blah, that's not even music just random shit and noise." Death metal is one of the most complex musics out there and to blatantly INSULT it like that is just fucking WRONG, as in both morally and factually incorrect. The same thing with ignorant prog nerds who think that everything popular is automatically shit and that songs have to be long with 6453524 million time signature changes to be good. No. That's not how it is. Hell, I'm sure most prog bands don't even think that way. I'm sure for the most part Dream Theater don't go into the studio thinking "this part has to be in 7/4, this part has to have a G#sus4add9 chord, the melody for this part is too catchy, let's change that..." No, I'm pretty sure they just head in the studio, jam out on some riffs and try to construct a song that sounds good - whether it's "truly progressive" or "breaking new ground" be damned. A good song is a good song.

But not everybody is open minded. People will have likes and dislikes. And personally, almost nothing gives me more enjoyment than recommending people music they haven't heard before and them enjoying it. But there's a responsibility that goes with it, you can't just introduce a casual listener to a band like Sigh, and you can't just introduce a death metal listener to polka music. Small steps, and that's what genres are for. But music is music. And even if you're a death metal listener, you can't expect growls and blastbeats in your polka album. Because there's a fucking huge variety of music out there, and to expect it all to fit within your little preconceived notions is stupid.

I'm not saying everybody should be super-open minded all the time, and I'm not saying that all music is automatically good, but there's a give and take with it that needs to be acknowledged far more often. If you enjoy Daft Punk, Eminem, Count Basie, Iron Maiden, Sigur Ros, Mr. Bungle, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Koyaanisqatsy, and Ziggy Stardust at the same time, awesome for you - you've got an appreciation for well-crafted, well-performed music, no matter the genre or what anyone expects of you. More people should listen to music the like that, and actually I think a lot would, they just haven't been exposed to things that would really challenge and intrigue their ears. Remember kids, music CAN be entertainment, and that's fine - but it can also be an experience, whether a song be 3 minutes long, 6 minutes, 12 minutes or 50 minutes. A lot of people forget that.

Update on the sabbatical coming soon guys. :] Rant over.

"There are only two types of music - good music, and bad music" - Frank Zappa

Sunday, July 5, 2009

An elision of purpose

So, the new Strange Land cd is out. Special deals are selling now, the general distro will start in a week or two. It's been a too long process to get this one out. The reasons are varied, from our own procrastination to major personal issues, to playing too much of the waiting game. Nonetheless we are pleased with the results and we thank everyone who has stuck with us. When we picked the title we didn't think we'd actually be having a cathartic experience making it.

So what happens next? Is this the end of a process, the beginning, something in the middle? It all depends on what kind of band you are and what you want out of your career. Some bands just love making new music, so the release of a cd is pretty much the end. You finish the album, get the word out that its available, and move on the the next one. The amount of promotion you do I guess depends on how much energy or money you have for it. Once you've told people it's available you get right back to making new music.

On the flip side the album release is just the beginning. You get it out there, push the promotion, set up a tour. You play as many shows as you can hoping to collect some new fans along the way. I suppose the bigger you get the more this second option is what you do. Bigger bands have the resources to mount full scale tours. For the most part bands in this mode don't even think about recording for a year or two.

I think we'll try to hit a mark somewhere in the middle. As part of growing as a band I think the balance shifts around. We can justify more advertising but not a full scale tour. Hopefully more shows but we won't be putting off writing and recording new music to make time for shows. I'm sure we'll find a balance. I know for a fact it won't take 5 years to release the next one.