Posts Tagged ‘Live’

The 2nd part of my ramblings on music, my perception of it, and whether it is becoming a throwaway commodity…

7th Log
MUSIC’S WORTH  Part 2 – Paul Blom
Access Part 1 Here
Access Part 2 Here

Access Part 3 Here

Paul Blom

Paul Blom

To some music is a calling, to others a gift… Many are so fascinated with it they simply need its presence to the extent that they want to become a part of it, by creating it… Not everyone can be successful at it, sadly… Some have a natural feel for constructing tunes, beats and words that will attract the most listeners, while others can get lost in the process, leading to epic swathes of virtuoso technicality (that the everyday listener simply won’t grasp when simply looking for a thumping beat and a phrase to repeat)… The former will get media coverage and sales while the latter will have a niche following that appreciate their craft but are not enough in numbers to sustain it.

Almost all Metal musicians have to hold down day jobs (especially in South Africa).  Why should it be an expensive hobby rather than a career?  Live shows can’t keep an alternative band afloat – there are only as many venues, as many supporters, and playing 3 times a week is impossible (unless you have a cover band on the side).

Album sales are essential to enable a band to develop into an established act.  Is that possible on our turf?  And is it possible if hundreds of people rip and upload it to be accessed for free by all, downloaded to thousands of other listeners who can also do so until it’s saturated?  Terminatryx discovered some locations like one in Russia that had our “Shadow” album up almost the same week of its release! – its download counter racking up eye popping amounts that outweighs our actual sales.

On a related illustrative issue, the quality of many porn companies’ output dropped dramatically because of on-line piracy – they simply cannot plough money back into new content because that stream is drained…

For a band, if they can’t at least break even on their current album, how do they fund the next one? (let alone pay rent or eat).  Racking up more debt for people to hear their music?  Does it make sense?  No wonder so many bands go as quickly as they come.  Would you blindly agree to work for your employer without compensation?

Some would say: “If you can’t draw enough listeners, then you suck and shouldn’t be doing what you’re doing” – It’s not that simple.

Would you feel offended, violated, outraged if the same guy that made the new Carcass album available for you to download for free hacks your computer or smartphone and rummages around your personal files, taking it and making it available to the rest of the world without your permission?

I’ve been in Metal / Alternative / Industrial bands since the ’80s (incl. Moral Decay, Metalmorphosis, V.O.D – Voice Of Destruction, K.O.B.U.S., Terminatryx, The Makabra Ensemble, my solo project F8) – I’m no accountant and haven’t done a debit and credit spreadsheet of the last 30 years, but I reckon it’s safe to say that I’ve put more into it than I got out (in financial terms).  But, because I love the music, I keep doing it, resigning to the fact that here in South Africa that seems to be the norm (although it shouldn’t be).  Most bands get despondent and give up.  Would it be a different story if they could sell their music like any other product and get fairly compensated for it?  Or get equal radio spins like that which everyone deems to be acceptable or “normal” music?

It is also interesting how people outside of South Africa seem far more enthusiastic about our music than the locals – don’t get me wrong, we have die-hard local fans and love each and every one of them, but foreigners on the one hand find the location intriguing, but are even more impressed when the music actually speaks to them (as we found with our IndieGoGo supporters on our Terminatryx “Shadow” album).  We’ve had people who initially grabbed an illegal download of our music, but then ended up ordering hard copies and merch from us afterwards – Granted these are isolated cases, but encouraging.

When everyone grilled Metallica’s Lars Ulrich for lashing out at Napster, I understood where he came from, having struggled in bands for many years up until that point (but hardly reaching their level of popularity).  Sure, they were millionaires and wouldn’t technically miss the income, and he did go about it in his somewhat arrogant ‘Lars’ way, but that’s not the point.  The oil companies of the world are some of the biggest money spinners (not musicians or movie-makers) – does anyone drive in at a gas station, fill up and leave, telling the attendant not to worry because the oil companies make enough money?  That would be a conversation with the cops or the hot end of a bullet a block down the road…

While his bank balance was not exactly in jeopardy, Lars in effect spoke up for all musicians, including the smaller struggling bands whose music was also being shared without their permission – bands who are struggling just like Metallica did when they started out.  If a band says: “Sure, here it is, do with it as you please”, that’s fine – it is not however a declaration of carte blanche for all music.

When Taylor Swift recently had a mini furore with Apple regarding musician remuneration (whether it was a marketing ploy or not), she was hailed a heroine… but Lars was deemed a whining wealthy pariah who just wanted more money…

So why is it so easy to grab someone’s music (or movies) from a file-sharing location or elsewhere at no cost?  Is it because these files are virtually invisible (and not tangible and packaged like a CD), that it seems harmless?

Has music become worthless?  Or at least perceived as such?  It is hardly a scarce commodity.  Shouldn’t musicians be able to make a living with their craft? (whatever genre).  It is the norm with every other job, isn’t it? From truck drivers to video store clerks or insurance salesmen.  The starving artists schpiel is not a romantic notion.  And to create original music can be even harder – A friend from a prominent ’90s rock band recently revealed he’s made more money playing just a few shows in his new cover band than his entire early band “career”…!  Fucked-up or what?

So, there are hundreds of different ways we justify grabbing a song, an album, a movie or TV series from somewhere on-line, but deep down, does our conscience gnaw at us?  If not, should we be worried that this is having a global effect on our moral compass?  And can this expand to other parts of life?  Just like we won’t stroll out of a record store with a stack of CDs or DVDs, is it that faceless anonymity that makes it so much easier to do via the internet?

Is a new generation growing up expecting their music to be free at all times?

Sure, the music industry is going through serious changes and large exploitative labels that cashed in on artists for decades have to reconsider their approach.  Whether the musicians will really take it back, we’re yet to see.  Marketing seems to have outweighed the actual music, so those who reach the people wins…?  Some bands eventually have to resort to gimmicks to get attention amid the clamouring horde, or bending their identity to sound like the flavour of the moment – Selling out is relative, and I won’t condemn someone who decides they want to adapt their music to get more listeners – It’s their business (literally!).  But they run the risk of losing their hardcore fans that may have been with them since the beginning – Celtic Frost and “Cold Lake” anyone?

Vinyl’s resurgence has added a tangibility to music.  I loved the gatefold sleeves, large format artwork and details you got to peruse while listening to your brand new album for the first time (and if it strikes a chord many more spins thereafter) – and the smell of those import sleeves and vinyl still lingers – an all round sensory experience.  Even if this resurgence is just a fad, a hipster trend, or another way to cash in, in one way piracy in that particular format is not as easy as ripping a file.

By playing a vinyl record, you regain a physical connection with the music.  An iTunes playlist on random becomes mere background wallpaper and can drone on for weeks non-stop.  With the records you peruse the shelf, pick out what you want to hear (to fit the current mood), physically cue it up, and at the end of side A, you have to get up and turn it over.  Lazy asses would scoff at this laborious, antiquated task.  But, I feel this reconnection brings you closer to the music again.

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Terminatryx Live

Sure, we live in a world of fast-faster-fastest, more convenience, quicker this & that.  Sometimes you need to kick back and take it easy.  When you go out to see live bands, you get ready, drive out, link up with friends, maybe queue outside, have drinks, chat and catch up – only several hours after your journey began do you get to see the band, starting when they’re scheduled – the entire night’s experiences wrapped around this group and their music, sometimes resulting in indelible and lasting memories.  This could be the moment you fall in love, meet someone who will impact your life forever, or simply have an experience you can think back on as “one of the best nights of my life”.

That’s surely worth something…?

Drop us a reply if you agree or disagree with any of these ramblings…
To be concluded in the 3rd and final part

Access Part 1 Here
Access Part 2 Here

Access Part 3 Here

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STAGES

Posted: July 23, 2015 in Sonja's Entries, Terminatryx
Tags: , , ,

Sonja looks at the various stages she’s tread in her life

4th Log
STAGES – Sonja Ruppersberg

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After watching Birdman, an interesting (Oscar winning) flick that literally provides one with a point of view of the stage and backstage in a Broad Way theatre setting, it made me think of all the stages I have been on since my childhood child. They each have their own little allure.   They are magical spaces – almost sacred.

My fist memory of a stage is one that everyone can relate to, the school concert.  This annual event illustrated how the stage in the school hall can transcend from the dreary Monday assembly stage, to a magical place of performance and glamour.  I remember around 1987, playing the part of Bon Jovi’s keyboard player in grade 7 (Std 5), along with some of my other friends in a lip sync rendition of Living On A Prayer.

I was quite a shy child, so my parents enrolled me into a modern dancing studio when I was seven years old, to try to get me out of my shell.  The Playhouse theatre in Somerset West was the epicenter for most aspiring dancers in the Helderberg basin – a beautiful little theatre with all the bells and whistles.  I danced there for the first time when I was seven.  The stage was incredible and for me, at that age, it felt like it was the size of a football field.  It had an amazing labyrinth of little hallways and ladders backstage and always smelled of La Pebra hair gel and hairspray.  The bathroom had a poster on the door of a chimpanzee on a commode with rolls of toilet paper and the caption at the bottom of the poster read, “The job is not finished until the paperwork is done”.  I have so many fond memories and just seeing the building always gives me little butterfly’s in my stomach.

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My next serious stage was The Sea Point Civic Centre where the annual International Dance Teachers Association Eisteddfod was held.  It was an unfriendly, harsh stage, scary, intimidating and judgmental.  Standing in the wings of that stage felt like torture, I hated every second and it never gave me any joy.

One of my favourite stages is in fact a prominent one that I can’t remember whether it was a dance recital at Artscape (formerly Nico Malan) or the Baxter Theatre(!). I once had the privilege of dancing on that stage, it was magical and really felt like a stage for “grownups”.

I love the Stellenbosch Town Hall where we had the annual school eisteddfod.  I sang in the school choir until high school.  The building is old and smells of many decades of wood and brass polish.  It is also haunted and the backstage area was an incredible place, dark and old but great in a creepy sort of way.

Since performing in a band, my connection and perception of stages has changed somewhat.  They have become less magical and more practical.  Different places have different stages, some are small and rickety with no backstage area, and some are gorgeous and comfortable with beautiful backstage dressing rooms. Some are boards stacked on beer crates… Some professional stages are rigged by the sound and lighting company and can be fantastic, like Carfax in Newtown, Johannesburg, where we opened for Ministry – but the place ‘aint got no heart…

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I am also remembering Witchfest at the Bassline (also in Newtown) that felt so massive, I had the feeling I was going to be swallowed.  And then you get places like my favourites, like the Klein Libertas with its luxurious dressing rooms and The Mercury in Cape Town, not only for its stage and its little backstage area but more so for all the love and support from staff and management.  I always felt welcome there, it was home turf.  They always made me comfortable and Lux was always there with water and beers backstage.  (Sadly the Klein Libertas burnt to the ground recently and in the same month the Mercury also shut its doors – the former is being rebuilt and the latter is said to have been bought over to open its doors again, under what name and whether they will continue its former vibe, we don’t know).

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Another great stage is ROAR in Observatory.  They have the one great element lacking in all the other venues, a curtain.  The value of the curtain is massively underestimated in live music venues.  A curtain allows for anticipation from the audience, it makes the artist feel protected and is just plain professional in my opinion.

Other stages with Terminatryx have ranged from Back2Basix and its foot high restaurant / live venue stage in Joburg, and a meter high solid stage of Zeplin’s in Pretoria (R.I.P), to a large hall stage for the Goth / Industrial Gathering (Cape Town) and a huge outdoor stage at Ramfest (Wellington).

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Unconventional stages include the Labia Theatre (Cape Town) beneath the main cinema’s movie screen where our Makabra Ensemble perform new soundtracks for classic silent films at our film festivals like the Horrorfest, Celludroid and Sound On Screen, compared to the large permanent ones we did two of these movie soundtracks at the big OppiKoppi music festival (in Northam) – all the way down to the intimate, crammed “front-room” poetry night get-together at A Touch Of Madness, where my dark-folk project A Murder made its debut this week.

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For an artist, the stage is home, and in my life I have performed from a club in Berlin to beer crates in Gordons Bay.  While one can argue that a stage is merely a platform, and elevation, a soap box, it really is so much more than that.  A stage comes with people, passion, sometimes an irritated stage manager, a long suffering sound guy, expectations from the performers and the audience, lovers and haters.  It comes with hours and hours of rehearsals and loads of pressure.  All leading up to that moment of performance, be it dancing, singing, acting.  All of this takes place on that magical space we call the stage.

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