Why you shouldn’t form a guitar band in 2017 in the UK: It’s madness

 

So you want to start a band. For one thing, you’d better love music for the sake of music rather than seeking fortune and fame, otherwise, you’ll be sorely disappointed. There are multiple reasons this:

A. People are no longer as interested in guitar bands. It’s not the 70s anymore, man. For a long time, local musicians would be a key part of a town’s entertainment. Before TV, the internet and the high volume of recorded music that we now enjoy, people would listen around the piano at the pub to hear their favourite songs. This is no longer the case, a phone with an internet connection will do this job for a venue more consistently and for far cheaper than a guy who plays piano or guitar. The artists of the 1960s and 70s are as highly regarded as they are due to them coming at the perfect time in the transition, they were skilled enough to be rockstars, not having had the internet to learn the basics separated the wheat from the chaff for that generation. They were also the last of their kind before an oversaturation of the market created the climate for the decline that we are still experiencing.
B. The modern guitar bands/artists that we do see, are, for the most part, a limited and warped selection of artists, which after making sure they appear as bland and unoffensive as possible, are often bankrolled by the record labels. If you join a band today with the dream of playing gigs you need to ensure that you bring an audience with you so that the venue’s bar can make money. Local music venues that claim in their advertising that they support their local music scene do not do this. They usually have bands play for free and ask them to sell tickets to the show to their friends, like pyramid schemes, this will only last so long. You might get all your buds to come along to the first gig or so, but after that you’re going to struggle to sell your tickets, which means you make less money for the venue and are therefore not worth investing in. These venues you are starting out in for your first gigs do not give a shit about your band, they only care about their bar making money.

C. Unfortunately for people in their twenties or those born in the 1990s, we are living in a decade that follows on from decades of the accumulation of bands and artists that have been working, and continue to, from all the way back to the 1950s. That’s six and a bit decades of our popular musical landscape collecting numerous popular artists that crucially put lots of bums on seats- seats that emerging artists no longer can access at increasingly diminishing decent local musical venues.  Diminishing in part, due to the unprecedented ability in recent years to carry one’s entire music collection in their pocket, removing the need for music lovers to seek new artists in the volume that they once did. New emerging artist hunting is now engaged in by a small group of music lovers who are not like the majority of the music world’s target audience. Cheddar cheese is the most popular in the world, not because it tastes the best, but because it’s the most basic and therefore has the best mass appeal. And it’s the same story with music generally. Clever successful artists know that they need to be careful in how clever they make their songs. Kanye West has some very clever lyrics slipped into some of his songs, but he also knows how to write a simple memorable hook as well.

D. Let’s not forget, before the advent of music being treated as a mainstream consumer product, this whole music thing has never happened in quite this way before. As a consequence, people are probably not going to go nuts for you in the same way audiences did in footage from a Stooges gig back in the day. Expectations are too high as the reception to guitar bands has now entered a “post displaying admiration” phase. Get used to folded arms and blank expressions whilst you play your heart out, a stage the majority of bands are at until they reach national press coverage and an album sells well.

E. More people than ever play guitar thanks to instructional YouTube videos from the likes of Marty Schwartz (who doesn’t have a Wikipedia page somehow). This creates a huge influx of people who can play music and want to form bands as the venues increasingly disappear.

In conclusion, it is pure madness to form a band right now in the current climate. You probably shouldn’t do it and you would be mad to try because statistically you’re not good enough or crucially lucky enough. Lucky enough to find a great manager or be in the know somehow. But if you love it, do it. Just make sure you really do, because the higher you go, the path quickly becomes very steep.

A millennial’s unlikely obsession with Bob Dylan

Upon hearing Dylan’s “Highway 61 Revisited” I had a feeling that Bob Dylan was going to become my new musical obsession. In my teenage years it was the Beatles, then Oasis (unfortunately), then The Smiths (who made up for wasted time) and now it appears to be Bob Dylan.

There’s something about tackling an established artist’s decades-long discography that I find can either propel one to devouring the years of talent and hard work that an artist has put in, or it can be completely off-putting because of the almost insurmountable question: where the hell do you start?

Dylan in the past was such a case for me.I took a day trip to Liverpool when I was around 17. Outside HMV I was lucky enough to find a £20 note on the floor. I went straight inside and blew it all on CDs, one of which was “Blonde on Blonde” which I’d heard at the time was a well-regarded and celebrated album of Dylan’s and I wanted to sink my teeth into this mysterious figure and get to like him.

At the time I didn’t get it. It’s not that I thought it was bad, it’s just that my expectations were too high. His voice was weird, the music too bluesy and the ballads too self-indulgent, or so I thought at the time. “Blonde on Blonde” sat unlistened on my iPod for years (the same iPod I use today), and I moved onto other things. I’m reminded of a Woody Allen interview where he talks about 2001: A Space Odyssey, which he said he saw when it came out. Allen said he didn’t like it at first and it took him a number of years to come to love and appreciate the film because he wasn’t at the same point in his life as the artist-Kubrick-was.

I was very much at the same stage in regards to Dylan: I was not yet mature enough to appreciate where the artist was coming from. His sixties records often contain themes of alienation and separateness from wider society, which at 17 were questions I had not begun to ask of myself, I was more interested in playing Xbox and half-assuredly talking to girls.

However, during this past year at University studying for my Masters, I stumbled across “The Ballad of a Thin Man” on a recommended playlist on Spotify. I loved how Dylan laughed at the expense of the narrow-minded bores in society. Mr Jones is a straight-laced journalist, he’s well read, he’s well known, but he’s just a damn square. Dylan was referring to the highly educated journalists who appeared to know shockingly little about popular culture in the 1960s, and I feel the same disconnect with the older generation nowadays and even with popular culture. I don’t like the politicians, I don’t like the careers out there, I don’t like most people’s attitude to life, I don’t like conformity for the sake of one’s own comfort and I certainly don’t like this feeling of perpetual hopelessness at my own accomplishments in my safe and boring little white male privileged lifestyle.  Any 20 something who doesn’t feel the same way needs to open their damn eyes.

With”Highway 61″ I was amazed at the superb wordsmith that Dylan appeared to be. Songs like “Tombstone Blues” seemed to contain seemingly endless poetic beauty and possess irrelevant, surreal characters and situations that someone seemed to speak to me about my own life. One month I bought practically all of Dylan’s sixties albums, loaded them onto my iPod. “Bring it all back home” is my favourite, containing some of the best lyrics I’ve honestly ever heard committed to music, here are some to conclude this post with:

“20 years of schoolin’ and they put you on the day shift..”

“Advertising signs that con you
Into thinking you’re the one
That can do what’s never been done
That can win what’s never been won
Meantime life outside goes on all around you”

“I try my best, to be just like I am, but everybody wants you, to be just like them”

“I jumped right in line and said I hope that I’m not late, when I realised I hadn’t eaten for five days straight”

“While one who sings with his tongue on fire
Gargles in the rat race choir
Bent out of shape from society’s pliers
Cares not to come up any higher
But rather get you down in the hole that he’s in”