THE MUSICIAN ’S RESO URCE
OCT. ‘15 FREE
Public Image Ltd “These songs are about human emotions.That’s more important to us than an art statement.”
GENERATE REVENUE AFTER YOUR TOUR WRAPS MONETIZE YOUR LIVE PERFORMANCES ONLINE ADD A KILLER MONITOR SYSTEM TO YOUR MIX
INTERVIEWS WIDOWSPEAK RADKEY LA LUZ X
ANY GEAR, ANYTIME, ANYWHERE At Guitar Center, you can get hands-on with the hottest live sound and lighting gear from brands like JBL, QSC, Chauvet and more. The best gear, the best deals, only at Guitar Center.
LOWEST PRICE GUARANTEE | RISK-FREE RETURNS | EXPERT ADVICE | BEST SELECTION GET HANDS-ON AT ONE OF OUR 265+ STORES NATIONWIDE OR SHOP ONLINE AT GUITARCENTER.COM
WE’VE TAKEN DIGITAL WIRELESS TO THE NEXT LEVEL . . .
NOW $50 REBATE
DIGITAL 2.4 GHz HIGH-F IDELITY WIRELESS For a limited time, experience rock-solid, field-proven digital performance for less. From now through December 31, 2015, any customer purchasing a System 10 Stompbox digital wireless system will get a $50 rebate (no limit). With the tap of a foot on the rugged, metal Stompbox receiver, guitarists can toggle between dual ¼" balanced outputs or mute one output without affecting the other. And, since the System operates in the 2.4 GHz range, it’s free from TV and DTV interference. So go ahead, give it a try – we think you’ll be floored.
24 cover story
TABLE OF CONTENTS
VOLUME 25, ISSUE 10
by Chad Matheny
Public Image Ltd Cover
by Paul Heartfield
4. Letter From the Editor 6. Vinyl of the Month: Great Father 8. Quick Picks: The Best New Music 10. Records That Changed My Life: Taylor Northern
13. Live Reviews 36. 3 Ways To Generate Revenue After
by Jaclyn Wing
Your Tour Ends
38. The Ins & Outs of Band Member
by John Barrett
40. Busker, Your Online Tip Jar 42. Interview with Gigmor CEO, David Baird 44. Add a Killer Monitor Setup to Your Mix Sessions
46. Gear Review: Yamaha AG06 Mixing Console
47. My Favorite Axe: Dustan Louque
Widowspeak by Jan King
48. Flashback: 1977 Fender Telecaster Thinline
by Meghan Alfano
PERFORMER MAGAZINE OCTOBER 2015 3
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR
Howdy, y’all! If you’re holding this in your hands, hopefully the (always) mesmerizing eyes of Mr. Lydon drew you in. And if you know what we’re about (chiefly, the celebration of DIY music and independent artistry), then it should make perfect sense as to why we’ve decided to let the artist formerly known as Mr. Rotten grace our cover. Really, who out there better exemplifies and embodies the “I Don’t Give A Fuck” DIY attitude and aesthetic better than our favorite Englishman? If modern day DIY and indie bands trace their roots back to punk (and of course they should), then all paths should lead directly to this fascinating, intelligent, creative, enigmatic, loudmouthed, obnoxious, gentle, humble human being.
But we make it a point to celebrate new music here as well, and if you’re looking for old (and let’s face it, well-worn) Sex Pistols stories, you’re all out of luck. We’re not interested in that. Those tales have been told ad nauseum and honestly, we’re more excited by what ol’ Johnny boy is up to now. We wanted to get to know John Lydon the musician. The singer. The recording artist. The creator. And he’s still creating (in fact, PiL just dropped some of the best music of their career), which is why we’re still so damn intrigued by him nearly 40 years after the Pistols helped inform Americans what “bollocks” are. So join us as we go behind the scenes with John and explore mic selection, recording in stone wall barns for better acoustics, and the delicate balance of infusing analog technique into a digital world. This is Public Image Ltd in 2015. -Benjamin Ricci, editor P.S. – We still don’t really get how to use “bollocks” properly in a sentence. Sorry, England.
Volume 25, Issue 10 PO BOX 348 Somerville, MA 02143 CONTACT Phone: 617-627-9200 Fax: 617-627-9930 PUBLISHER William House Phone: 617-627-9919 email@example.com EDITOR Benjamin Ricci firstname.lastname@example.org DESIGN & ART DIRECTION Cristian Iancu EDITORIAL ASSISTANT Bob Dobalina email@example.com CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Amanda Macchia, Benjamin Hanson, Benjamin Ricci, Chad Matheny, Chris Devine, David Baird, Don Miggs, Dustan Louque, Jaclyn Wing, Jan King, John Barrett, Jordan Tishler, Kate Dennis-Skillings, Max Specht, Meghan Alfano, Michael St. James, Robyn Sandak, Shawn M Haney, Taylor Haag, Taylor Northern, Tony Eubank, Warren McQuiston, Zach Blumenfeld CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHERS Amanda Macchia, Andrew Imanaka, Gabriel Burgos, Paul Heartfield, Scott Simon, Shawn Brackbill, Vinny Dingo ADVERTISING SALES William House Phone: 617-627-9919 firstname.lastname@example.org © 2015 by Performer Publications, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced by any method whatsoever without the written permission of the publisher. The magazine accepts no responsibility for unsolicited recordings, manuscripts, artwork or photographs and will not return such materials unless requested and accompanied by a SASE.
Performer Magazine, a nationally distributed musician’s trade publication, focuses on independent musicians, those unsigned and on small labels, and their success in a DIY environment. We’re dedicated to promoting lesser-known talent and being the first to introduce you to artists you should know about.
Did we make a heinous blunder, factual error or just spell your name wrong? Contact email@example.com and let us know, cuz we’re big enough to say, “Baby, I was wrong.”
MUSIC SUBMISSIONS We listen to everything that comes into the office. We prefer physical CDs, cassettes and vinyl over downloads. If you do not have a physical copy, send download links to firstname.lastname@example.org.No attachments, please. Send CDs to: Performer Magazine Attn: Reviews PO BOX 348 Somerville, MA 02143
4 OCTOBER 2015 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
EDITORIAL SUBMISSIONS In the words of our esteemed forefathers at CREEM: “NOBODY WHO WRITES FOR THIS RAG’S GOT ANYTHING YOU AIN’T GOT, at least in the way of credentials. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t be sending us your stuff: reviews, features, photos, recording tips, DIY advice or whatever else you have in mind that might be interesting to our readers: independent and DIY musicians. Who else do ya know who’ll publish you? We really will... ask any of our dozens of satisfied customers. Just bop it along to us to email@example.com and see what comes back your way. If you have eyes to be in print, this just might be the place. Whaddya got to lose? Whaddya got?”
Annual Subscription Rate is $30 in the U.S.; $45 outside the U.S.
...ARRIVING 2015 #PodOutWithYourRodOut
“Let’s go back to a simpler time…”
Cleveland, huh? Well, let’s hope they keep making records like these in the Midwest. Great Father is basically Exit Stencil founder Brandon Stevens’ solo project, and fuck if it isn’t a magnificent piece of work. Opener “On The Vine” is an honest, graceful acoustic rambler that in a fairer world would be a pop radio staple. The record, on the whole, is a dreamy amalgam of contemporary indie folk and hazy throwback numbers – told from a musician with enough life experience to write lyrics that elevate the genre above the clichéd and trite crap we’ve been fed as of late. The honesty and earnestness shine through here where other (lesser) records would have floundered. “If I Never See Cleveland Again” opens up Side Two and for my money, is the album’s other main highlight. The double-tracked vocal effect conjures early John Lennon solo albums, and the laid-back storytelling nature of the track eases you in like an old friend. Bottom line: Bicentennial Blue is a flat-out fantastic album, one that is made even better in its full-sounding vinyl release. Highly recommended.
Bicentennial Blue Cleveland, OH (Exit Stencil Recordings)
Mastered for vinyl by Chris Keffer at Magnetic North Studio 6 OCTOBER 2015 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
Follow on Twitter: @ExitStencil
7 Gems From The Sparkling Void Buffalo, NY (Admirable Traits Records)
Nashville Obsolete Nashville, TN (Acony Records)
Lower Alabama: The Loxley Sessions Bloomington, IL (Royal Potato Family)
Buffalo’s Aircraft mixes surf rock and psychedelic influences to pump out a truly groovy blend of songs. Their sophomore album 7 Gems from the Sparkling Void starts out with the catchy “Space Euphoria.” The themes of outer space and mysticism show up frequently in the band’s lyrics, making it easy to compare them to early Pink Floyd or Arcade Fire. Songs “Dig” and “White Light” have a heavy, surf vibe to them while “Nightfall” features a more feel-good indie flavor. Listen if you’re into some new drugged-out music on a ride to the beach.
Since 1996, Rawlings and Gillian Welch have created a catalog of the best, most creative acoustic-based records based in the American tradition of the past 20 years. To my ears, the material DRM performs is different from the Gillian Welch songs. Instead of odd, old-timey minor chords (the kind Mr. Young loves), the songs tend to be in a major mode, or resolve into one, creating a harmonic openness that creates space for the expanded cast of musicians. Nashville Obsolete has seven songs and two of them are less than five-and-a-half minutes long. The other five feel like they would be anchor songs on anyone else’s album. They are the kind of songs that you listen closely to because you are sure the singer has something important to tell you, even if the lyrics don’t make sense to you until six years later. Follow on Twitter @TheDaveRawlings Warren McQuiston
With a vocal timbre as husky as a cornfield, along with sharply crafted songs, Anderson’s latest release is by far his boldest. Produced by Anderson’s neighbor, multi-instrumentalist and former sideman to Neil Young, Anthony Crawford, the record captures an organic and timeless aspect of Southern twang that is both sly in production and postmarked by Crawford’s legendary approach. This nine-song release is founded on melodious acoustic guitars and heartwrenching lyricism while radiant backup vocals, pedal steel and fiddles decorate the tracks with trill warmth. Blending classic country mantras of righting wrongs and mortality, Lower Alabama is a refreshing but humbly executed twist on solid songwriting and Southern heartbreak.
AIRCRAFT MACHINE ANDERSON
Follow on Twitter @Aircraft_band Benjamin Hanson
8 OCTOBER 2015 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
Follow on Twitter @EDAnderson72 Taylor Haag
Lost At Last Asheville, NC (Self-Released)
Colours & Changes United Kingdom (Saint Marie Records)
Escape Velocity Brooklyn, NY (Royal Potato Family)
Combining the sounds of an intricate, flatpicking guitar with powerful rhythms and a wailing fiddle, the Jon Stickley Trio brings an innovative new sound that is both eclectic and innovative. Blending elements of traditional, fast paced bluegrass with sultry backings in jazz and raging hip-hop beats, Lost At Last is an album not to be missed. Stickley delivers lightning fast fingerpicking track-by -rack while fiddler Lyndsay Pruett is able to seamlessly wrap her instrumental melodies around each chord. What ties each track together are the various drum beats by percussionist Patrick Armitage, ranging from a hard rock sound on “Darth Radar” to the rock-steady beat heard in the beautiful “Pamlico Sound.”
Lost in atmospheric euphoria is where you will find yourself when listening to Presents For Sally’s latest release, Colours & Changes. The album itself is rooted in spacey guitars, swelling feedback and echoing vocals. There is ample room to breath, and the album feels befitting of a long move away from home. “Anything Anymore” succeeds in this space, while “Sleep Tight” operates in more constrained territory — the band is seemingly at their best when they’re reining it in (ever so slightly). This is for when finding your way is exploring more space.
Superhuman Happiness’s second fulllength release, Escape Velocity, is an airy study in art rock, new wave and relaxed post-disco rhythms, along with added elements of shoegaze pop. The effort is something like Yo La Tengo’s I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One mingled with the likes of ’80s-era David Bowie and TV on the Radio. With just seven tracks, the 36-minute LP breezily bounces between ecstatic and dancey choruses and introspective and exploratory dream pop. Escape Velocity is intended to be a “cinematic exploration” of the human relationship with technology, and indeed provides a sweeping and filmic backdrop for the group’s postmodern ruminations.
Follow on Twitter @StickleyMusic Kate Dennis-Skillings
Follow on Twitter @presents4sally Maximilian Specht
Follow on Twitter @SHHappiness T. Ali Eubank
PERFORMER MAGAZINE OCTOBER 2015 9
y name is Taylor Northern and I am the guitarist for the band Gryffin; I also have a solo project called the Artful Dodger. I’ve been playing guitar and bass for 15 years and first started out as a percussionist before moving to strings in high school. I think the first time I realized music was my passion was in the fifth grade. I got to see Smashing Pumpkins perform at the Omni in Atlanta when Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness dropped. I was only ten years and that night, my tiny kid brain was blown to smithereens. It was really tough compiling this list of only five records, but the albums I’ve chosen are more offbeat and lesser-known gems that have provided me with light and inspiration throughout my teen and young adult years.
Brian Auger’s Oblivion Express Live Oblivion Vols. 1 & 2 (1974-1976)
Cinemechanica Martial Arts (2006)
My friend introduced me to this album a few years back and I fell in love with it. Brian Auger and the Oblivion Express were at their peak, performance-wise, on this record – it’s full of warm and lush chord melodies, a driving and powerful rhythm section and the guitar perfectly complements the keyboard and that’s so important, yet rare to hear in groups with piano and guitar. Auger plays some of the most motivational and expressive piano solos I’ve ever heard; this record is like his personal sermon to the crowd. He preaches with the keys all while blending together jazz, blues and funk into one delicious gumbo stew like a master chef. This record truly propelled me into utter oblivion.
I was heavy into “math rock” in college - math rock was post-punk that used even odder time signatures and grooves. I dug it because it was weirder than At the Drive In and there were all kinds of monumental post-punk anthems hiding in the measures of those songs. I used to go to the 40 Watt Club and see Cinemechanica perform, and they were bona fide math rock professors; every concert was like a post-punk and abstract jazz lesson rolled into one. Mike Albanese is still one of my favorite rock drummers. I’m really grateful those guys recorded this record. Martial Arts is their masterpiece. It’s a beautiful body of work, like staring at a magnificent piece of architecture similar to Antoni Gaudi’s Park Guell or the Guggenheim Museum. Martial Arts unleashes the dragon and you’ll never forget it.
Listen to Taylor Northern’s work at jackprestonxthedojo. bandcamp.com and www.soundclick.com/theartfuldodger
10 OCTOBER 2015 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
REVIEWS Dojo Collective In the Land of Wanderers (2012) The Dojo Collective was a 10-piece band that I recorded and performed with from 2011-12. I really enjoyed making this record because it was my first real experience recording in a large studio and all of us were in sync. We were so driven and on the same page in terms of making it the best record we could make. In retrospect, I think the Dojo Collective was truly unique in that all of its parts and components came together at the right time and without warning...it was as if some God-like presence had summoned us. We were merely actors in a divine play and I’m very proud to have been a part of that experience.
Herbie Hancock Sextant (1973) Miles Davis revolutionized jazz when he released Bitches Brew in 1969. It was a whole different brand of jazz dubbed “fusion.” However, I’ve chosen Hancock’s Sextant because I feel Herbie really helped to make jazz fusion digestible and accessible to mainstream audiences, especially with the Headhunters. Sextant is his last bizarre record and it’s like taking a tour through the nether regions of space. On “Hidden Shadows,” when the rhythm section and saxophone first drop, they mesmerize the listener and then Hancock’s infamous Rhodes creeps up like hidden shadows and drags them into a sonic abyss. I still don’t know how they wrote and arranged this material, but it’s one of the most complex musical statements I’ve ever heard. Sextant is akin to a group of majestic celestial bodies that emerge only when you play it; every time the needle hits the record, the listener is entranced by this beautiful and mysterious universe.
Led Zeppelin The Song Remains The Same (1976) So Led Zeppelin is not exactly obscure, but I had to include them because they’re my favorite rock band of all time. I really wanted to include Led Zeppelin I-IV and Houses of the Holy, but there’s not enough space to write about all the LZ records I love and embrace. What can I say? I was 14 years old and saw The Song Remains the Same on film, and I wanted to be Jimmy Page and John Bonham, John Paul Jones and Robert Plant blew my mind. I watched the film every single day my freshman year of high school and then found out it was an album, whoa! This record is forever ingrained in my DNA and I’m extremely thankful for the other doors this music opened for me – everything from Cream and Jeff Beck to Black Sabbath and Bert Jansch, Celtic folk music and jazz like Wes Montgomery and Miles Davis. Zeppelin did it all in spades and they’re the best rock band of all time; that song remains the same.
Which records inspired you to become a musician? Let us know and you can be featured in a future column. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more info.
S THAT D MY LIFE Taylor Northern
PERFORMER MAGAZINE OCTOBER 2015 11
I’ll Be Your Man
Los Angeles, CA (Liberal Arts)
Shawn M. Haney
eale sparkles and shines here with her new full length, I’ll Be Your Man, conveying moods and sounds of the west, with country twang and folk vocals that are at times dark, dreamy and mysterious. The production quality of these twelve melodies is stellar. It’s beautiful to hear, accompanying Neale’s subtle, melancholy acoustic guitars, the immediate sounds of steel guitar, slide, fervent percussion, steady bass and strings. Neale’s vocal delivery and haunting lyrics are the main attraction, a record very personal, drenched with emotional pull, resonating joys, pains, memories and reflection of loves come and gone, and travels far and wide out west. This record is a knockout and a wonderful listening experience; it’s easy to get lost in its mystery and beauty. Catch the gorgeous honey-like vocals full of reverb, and crashing cymbals and organs in “Still Life,” track ten and the LP’s highlight.
Follow on Twitter: @laelneale 12 OCTOBER 2015 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
Dumpstaphunk September 3, 2015 Brighton Music Hall - Allston, MA
t’s not hard to fall in love with Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk. Seasoned musicians from NOLA, Ivan and his brother Ian follow directly in the footsteps of their father and uncles, including Art Neville of the Meters, who was integral in carving the original form of New Orleans funk. Their Thursday evening show at the Brighton Music Hall was packed full of people young and old, grooving to the unrestricted, gritty resonance of Ivan’s keyboard chords, Ian’s guitar licks, the hooting and hollering of the Grooveline Horns, and the battle between Tony Hall and Nick Daniels III’s dueling bass riffs. Dumpstaphunk’s set was blazing with energy, even without the prowess of former band member and percussionist Nikki Glaspie.
of the Big Easy’s music scene – a greasy fire of groove and rhythm, crafting world class Zeppelin covers and exclusive tunes straight from the band’s collective brain. In one word they’re really quite dyn-o-mite.
Follow on Twitter: @dumpstaphunk
Ivan led the band in a sleek syncopation of easy-to-jive-to melodies cut by the vamp of fierce rhythms and lunging electric bass lines. Although his weapons of choice are his keys, among which includes a Hohner Clavinet E7, he spent a portion of the set trading them in for an electric guitar, swapping riffs and funk faces with his brother Ian center stage. Dumpstaphunk proves to be a sinister combination of past perfection in funk and the future PERFORMER MAGAZINE OCTOBER 2015 13
Earl Sweatshirt August 21, 2015 Paradise Rock Club - Boston, MA
14 OCTOBER 2015 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
ow-fi and introspective, Earl Sweatshirt has taken a definitive step back from the shock and awe aesthetic of umbrella group Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All (OFWGK†Δ). While he still toys with ways to pummel the desensitized brains of the millennial generation massive, these moments are pared by a hazy bloodshot-eyed flow and a host of selfreflective lyrics from his new album I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside. A wash of young kids crammed up against the pit barrier at the dimly lit rock club, a mosh pit raging behind them. Fingers of blunt smoke rose through the glow of the red and blue lights that flashed across the venue. Earl sauntered back and forth across the stage, arms swinging lazily, at times stopping to sip on a bottle of Hennessy. The young rapper’s flow drifts, shying away from melody and rambling past blues notes and reverberated samples on beats that hold the unmistakable, head-knocking air of underground hip-hop. While the beats are fire, and Earl’s aesthetic is undeniably captivating, the show itself was somewhat insincere. Between Earl’s slow stage swagger and the party raps his boys danced to in between sets, I couldn’t help but yearn for something more.
Follow on Twitter: @earlxsweat
PERFORMER MAGAZINE OCTOBER 2015 15
On surviving a near-fatal car accident and bouncing back to produce new LP with Ty Segall
16 OCTOBER 2015 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
A LUZ Jaclyn Wing
PERFORMER MAGAZINE OCTOBER 2015 17
accident, loosing someone, a horrible break up, etc. because as Cleveland notes, “Emotionally intense moments are creatively inspiring and those moments make you reevaluate.”
The all-female Seattle surf-noir band has restless energy and Sandahl notes that they have been able to harness that and become “playful
In working with Segall, they collectively realized that the goal of the new record was to harness La Luz’s restless live energy and get it on tape. Sandahl expressed that getting to know Segall as a friend touring together translated into a positive professional working relationship. “His style is a little different than what we have done in the past, but that is good for us,” says Sandahl. The importance of maintaining positive professional relationships is important to La Luz but Sandahl and Cleveland take that positivity one step further. Trying to be nice to everyone and building friendships is important! Sandahl expresses the idea that it is important to be good
veryone is still talking about the car accident that La Luz was in and I think it’s because we would hate to loose such inspirational, dedicated, talented musicians, and overall fun-loving people. The group is close–knit like a family, supporting each other through ups-and-downs. These four women are all powerhouses, each bringing a little something special to La Luz; Shana Cleveland on guitar and lead vocals, Marian Li Pino on drums, Alice Sandahl on keyboard, and Lena Simon on bass. I was lucky enough to have the chance to speak with Cleveland and Sandahl about their latest album, Weirdo Shrine, produced in part with Ty Segall.
“Emotionally intense moments are creatively inspiring and those moments make you reevaluate.” yet professional.” Weirdo Shrine exemplifies the band’s ability to create a distinctive, memorable, and self-styled sound. The album not only sounds epic, but its lyrics are introspective, taking the group’s power to a whole new level. There is importance in being able to get people to listen to a song more than once, but the natural evolution of a song is key. Cleveland notes that while writing songs, she sits down without any expectations or goals in order to not freak herself out. By playing guitar and “messing around,” she is able to build a song, which gets multiple listens by building off an organic experience. This organic songwriting experience directly translates into the natural evolution of messages on Weirdo Shrine. Cleveland’s favorite music is that which can have dark themes but leaves you feeling hopeful; she hopes that the album expresses the collision of lightness and darkness in music. She notes, “It is a dark, foggy album with fun music but doesn’t ignore the darkness of life.” Sandahl is drawn to music that has a happy sound but lyrically expresses “something pretty shitty,” she says. “Contrast is everywhere. Shit can suck, but let’s keep having fun!” says Sandahl. Cleveland and Sandahl agree that they hope their listeners relate to the universal truths such as being in an 18 OCTOBER 2015 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
person, not just for the connections; Sandahl notes, “You don’t know who you will cross paths with again.” This disposition and positive energy that they practice in their personal lives seems innate, so it’s not at all surprising that their music is as outstanding as they are. La Luz has impeccable four-part harmonies and have captured elements of performing live in their recordings. They choose to leave in spur of the moment flourishes that happened while recording because they wanted to get as close to that live sound as possible, and they certainly achieved it on Weirdo Shrine. The album was recorded mostly live, with some vocal overdubs. Recording with Segall was a unique experience for the band because he pushed them out of their comfort zones and into something greater. They did not have sound isolation so the sounds bled into the room, which made for a fuller, dirtier feel. The energy is raw and tangible and gives off the vibe that you’re at a raging surf-city beach party. Those happy accidents Sandahl and Cleveland refer to are not noticeable as “accidents.” If anything, they are the epic moments that make the music human. Sandahl emphasizes, “Segall pushed us not to focus on mistakes and to let them be a part of the charm of the record.” Charming indeed!
La Luz is a young band but their harmonies and chemistry are on-point; their individual quirky charms blend together to make a chill musical experience. Cleveland’s favorite part of performing live is being able to see the audience enjoying themselves. She notes that “sometimes making music can be lonely, but performing live we get to make a connection with people.” Sandahl’s positive energy and genuine love for performing is obvious. Her favorite part about being up on stage is getting to connect with her band mates: “Being up here together…I appreciate those ‘connection’ moments.” “An important thing in music is sincerity and using your own authentic voice. Don’t do what you think will be popular because it won’t work,” says Cleveland. Sandahl has the same encouraging advice for musicians and seconds the idea that putting yourself out there is frustrating, but no matter the amount of ups and downs, you can’t stay down. The most resonating thing La Luz offers is their spirit. Through their music, Cleveland and Sandahl are able to articulate that things can change at the drop of a hat and, as Cleveland so deeply expresses, “The most important thing you should do is add your voice to the discussion.” La Luz, we’re hearing you.
Follow on Twitter: @laluzers
LA LUZ WEIRDO SHRINE STANDOUT TRACK: “YOU DISAPPEAR”
Are you at risk from a liability claim while performing? If you’re named in a lawsuit due to injury or property damage, it could ruin your financial stability. Make sure you’re protected! It’s easy for bands and solo entertainers to purchase insurance through K&K’s new website at entertainerinsurance-kk.com. Just answer a few questions for your free quote—you can purchase insurance online and receive coverage documents instantly via email.
K&K Insurance Group, Inc. is a licensed insurance producer in all states (TX license #13924); operating in CA, NY and MI as K&K Insurance Agency (CA license #0334819)
RADK Small-Town Siblings Open Up About Producing New LP with Ross Orton
20 OCTOBER 2015 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
DKEY John Barrett
PERFORMER MAGAZINE OCTOBER 2015 21
hen one thinks of breeding grounds for exciting new rock music, St. Joseph, MO, is not the first (or twentieth) locale that comes to mind — but that small Midwestern town is exactly where the incendiary, ultra-heavy rock trio Radkey hails from. Comprising brothers Isaiah Radke (bass) and Solomon Radke (drums) and their half-brother Dee Radke (lead vocals/guitar), all of whom are just barely in their 20s, everything about their upbringing was insular. They grew up in a relatively quiet town, they were all homeschooled, and to this day their family dynamic is tightknit as can be, to the extent that their father is the manager of the band. One thing about the band that’s not insular? The music itself. According to Isaiah, the main lyricist and de facto spokesman of the group, such an isolated upbringing is a key reason their musical creativity is as strong and developed as it is. “Our dad had a lot of cool music and we just listened to that, and that’s just kind of what we grew up with, stuff like Nirvana and Led Zeppelin and things like that, so it all just kind of was in our brains for so long,” he says. “I think growing up there and being homeschooled had a lot to do with the way we sound. We were really happy with being homeschooled, and I still am really thankful that we had those years where we got to just hang out at home with everyone. It left a lot of room for creativity.” While Radkey’s sound does contain flashes of Nirvana and Led Zeppelin, as well as bands like The Doors, Weezer and Danzig-era Misfits, the trio has developed a distinctive style of their own that’s hard to pinpoint. It’s got the attitude of punk but it’s not punk. It’s got the intensity of metal but it’s not metal. It’s even got a spacey swagger akin to stoner rock, but that descriptor doesn’t apply either. “We like to think of ourselves as a rock band that does pretty much our own thing, and our own thing is just mixing all of the music that we love in weird ways that work,” Isaiah says. “For instance, we love all those kinds of music: punk music, metal music, hardcore punk. All of that we really love, and we figured we have to do everything that we love and that we’re capable of doing to get across who we are.” As a trio of siblings who get along well, there’s no internal tension or ego battling to contend with behind the scenes, which, in Isaiah’s eyes, maximizes the quality of the songs they produce. “From the beginning, we basically decided, ‘No bullshit’ — whoever writes the best part, it’s going to be the part that’s used,” he says. “It’s just for the good of the band. You can really hurt your band by having battles as to what parts are used and who did what, because then you can end up with a weak part in your song or something just to satisfy someone and keep them from quitting.” Thus, the Radke brothers make all their band decisions democratically. Still, they discovered over time that each member has his own individual area in which he excels, and they don’t hesitate
22 OCTOBER 2015 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
to play to those strengths. “I was more of a natural to writing lyrics, whereas Dee can come up with different melodies and riffs really easily, way more easily than I could,” Isaiah says. “There’s times where I can come up with a riff, but then the riff is better after he messes around with it a little bit — or he’ll write a song with lyrics and I’ll change the words up a little bit and it’ll still be the vibe and story of what he wanted, just with my touch.” Though Radkey has been on the scene since
“From the beginning, we basically decided, ‘No bullshit’ — whoever writes the best part, it’s going to be the part that’s used.” 2010, this year marks a major milestone for their career: they recorded their debut full-length album, Dark Black Makeup, which was released in August. They’d gotten a taste of the studio with their 2013 EPs Cat & Mouse and Devil Fruit, but it was during their two-week recording session in Sheffield, England, that they got to truly spread their wings as a band. “We just went weird with it and did as much as we could, and we’re really happy with how it turned out,” Isaiah continues. “It has a bunch of different moments and sounds, as opposed to just having one kind of running theme throughout the whole thing.” Unlike most bands, for whom recording a fulllength album is a more arduous task than a shorter EP, the members of Radkey found the process easier. “Both EPs we did were rushed,” Isaiah says. “Devil Fruit was recorded in basically two days, and Cat & Mouse was done in a week, maybe, but we were playing shows in between in New York at the time, which was ridiculous. This time we already had songs ready when we got there, so it was pretty much just a lot of hanging out and getting to know each other.” Of course, the person Isaiah and his brothers were getting to know was English producer Ross Orton — the band’s secret weapon on Dark Black Makeup as well as the man behind Arctic Monkeys’ massively successful 2013 album AM. His expertise further expanded Radkey’s already diverse sound, most notably by emphasizing the groove inherent in their music. Isaiah cites “Love Spills” as a prime example of Orton’s influence on their approach. “It was originally a fast, stoner-metal kind of jam, and he just had the idea of slowing it down a little bit and seeing what it sounded like,” he says.
“Which I was against, but I was ready to hear it out. Then I heard it and I was like, ‘Holy shit, we can write a song that sounds like this?’ And all we did was slow it down a little bit. He basically told us that the songs we write have this natural groove, and if you just experiment a little things can really open up. “I feel like we grew up as a band working with [Orton],” he adds. “We finally leveled up in a way we didn’t know we could before.” It’s no wonder the Radke brothers are excited about Dark Black Makeup: it’s an album that truly plays like a statement of purpose. For all its intensity and power, it offers a wide array of moods that showcase the different facets of the band’s sound, from the primal punk stomp of “Romance Dawn” to the lumbering, psychedelic “Best Friends” to the macabrely humorous drama of “Sank.” Radkey is currently touring North America before embarking for Europe in October, and Isaiah assures us their live shows will pack in as many songs from Dark Black Makeup as possible. “There’s some jamming, but we make a point to keep our live show pretty straightforward,” he says. “When we see a live show of a band we like, we have a lot of favorite songs and we want to hear as many of them as we can. So if you go into this jam that’s the length of a couple songs in the middle of one song, I almost feel like sometimes they’re ripping people off. It’s important to us that we just keep the show going and keep making the songs happen.”
Follow on Twitter: @Radkey
RADKEY DARK BLACK MAKEUP STANDOUT TRACK: “PARADE IT”
The 2015 Parsons Audio Expo is coming November 11! Cool gear, cool talks, cool info.
featuring Bob Ludwig Robert Scovill Dave Way Adam Ayan
FREE and OPEN to the public Dedham Holiday Inn - Deham, MA
Vendors include SSL, Avid, Yamaha, iZotope and Neumann
...and much more!
Promote Your Music with the Shimmeo App Produce high quality music videos that you can share with fans and let your fans respond with their own creations! Instantly edited, synced and styled. Itâ€™s easy and free.
John Lydon Opens Up About The Band’s Digital/Analog Blend & Recording in a Stone Wall Barn
PUBLIC IM 24 OCTOBER 2015 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
MAGE LTD Paul Heartfield
PERFORMER MAGAZINE OCTOBER 2015 25
“We’re a very good blend of analog and digital. We’re finding that happy ground in between, because if you go too computerled it sounds inhuman.”
ohn Lydon is just sitting down to breakfast when I dial his number, and he answers my call with alert, sunny cheer. His grizzled British voice is immediately recognizable as that of Johnny Rotten, the eternally sneering spokesman for generations of dispossessed crust punks. But it is also friendly, optimistic, dad-like. “Hold on, hold on a second,” he mumbles, laughing. “I’m eating a sausage.”
similar mind frame - e.g. easygoing and optimistic about the future - you’ll find you’ll get along far better than if you put it all down to note twiddling. We want music to represent our personalities, and that’s more important that our musicianship. If you can directly, accurately reflect your inner thoughts and feelings - which is what we do, we explore the terrain of human emotions - well, then that’s much better than anything you’ve learned in music school.
Punk’s elder statesman has plenty of reasons to be in good humor. In 2009, after a long hiatus, Lydon reformed Public Image Ltd (PiL), the project name under which he helmed some of the most innovative, jarring recordings of the postmodern era. The tenth PiL album, What the World Needs Now…, is out now on the band’s own PiL Official label. The singer and bandleader is excited about the new album and eager to talk about the band’s production workflow, his personal aesthetic framework, and the inspiring philosophy that underpins PiL’s relentless productivity.
Would you consider yourself an optimist? Yeah, but not the way things go when they go wrong. What I believe is that we have to be able to - as a species as well as individuals - be observant of our mistakes and correct them. So self-analysis is very, very important, to know when you’re doing a thing wrong, and to do your best, to get it right, you have to be prepared to listen to the people around you. I couldn’t be anything like what I am today without paying attention to my immediate surroundings, and I’m sure the fellas feel that way too.
You’re the only constant member of PiL, but this line-up [featuring Lu Edmonds of the Damned, Bruce Smith of the Pop Group, and Elvis Costello collaborator Scott Firth] seems to be one of the band’s more long-lasting configurations. What is it about this particular group of musicians? I think something like 49 people have been in PiL. Unfortunately, it’s been a revolving door because the instant somebody comes into PiL they use it as a leaping board to launch their own career. And that’s a very good thing, by the way. I worked with Bruce and Lu some 20 years back, so we’re far more attuned to each other these days. Was it personal or musical compatibility that keeps you four together? Musicianship...I suppose it’s relevant, but it becomes secondary to personality blends. If you’re all of a 26 OCTOBER 2015 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
So when you’re making a record your “immediate surroundings” are the psyches of the people around you? Yeah, and that’s the way we gel. When we tour we travel together, obviously, and it’s all on the cheap and cheerful. There are no personality clashes, there are no egos, there’s no one dominating the situation. And that sets you up mentally for the recording side. All of us were gagging at the bit. We toured for two years solid, and that had worn us down and drained us somewhat. All of us were very very eager to get into the studio and release new music from our brains. And this time, with this album, the pressure was off. We don’t have to be weird for the sake of it, we don’t have to be anything for the sake of it other than that we’re here because we like making the music. And I think the record shows that. This is us with the reins off, and then we find reins on our own. What we found ourselves doing was exploring the inner textures around some pretty strict rhythms.
“Reined in” is an interesting way of putting it, because this is a very disciplined record, especially with Firth’s drumming on “Shoom,” which is a relentless 4-to-the-floor drive. It’s very gridded, perhaps more so than any other PiL album. Yeah, but that’s a mental thing. We don’t just sit there in the studio and go, ‘More rigidity, please.’ We’re fiddling around, but also trying to do a really tight rhythm. After dinner one night, after a few ales quaffed, I just ran into the vocal both and thought, ‘I’ll try this out.’ And it’s pretty much improvised. It’s quite a lot of that, from all of us. We’re also a very good blend of analog and digital. We’re finding that happy ground in between, because if you go too computerled it sounds inhuman. Sometimes when you’re fiddling about with something you don’t understand, you’ll get better results. All of us have a learning curve, and then we’ll fall off that curve at some point and think, ‘What if I do this?’ and that leads us all into so many beautiful different directions, and it pulls us to the basic hook, the point and intent of the song. What’s your recording workflow? Do you single-track or record live? Most things are generally recorded live, because there’s always this live aspect to us. We’re always going to have to play these songs live sooner or later, and we can’t fill a stage with electronica. That would be very uninteresting for us and for anyone else. Do you show up at the studio with these songs complete in some form? Hahahah – no, no! Nothing at all. You recorded both the new LP and your 2012 record, This Is PiL, in Steve Winwood’s studio in the Cotswolds. What brought you back there a second time? It’s a stone wall barn with very high roof so it has a beautiful, natural, church-like echo. And that creates an enormous amount of reverb that you
Your vocals are mixed high and dry on the new album. What are your thoughts on vocal levels and treatment in the mixing process? When I did Metal Box, I was having arguments with the record companies. They were being very difficult, saying, ‘You can’t have that much bass on a record.’ And I thought ‘Yes I can! But something’s got to be sacrificed.’ So I generously sacrificed the level of the vocals, which you can imagine didn’t make them too happy, though it achieved what we wanted...But now, because we’re recording raw, we’re able to get those levels in. I like a microphone to be very, very close. It adds immediacy to the record. You do add some minimal effects to your vocals, but nothing extreme. In contrast, there are a lot of heavy post-production effects that get added to vocals these days. Do you have a strong opinion on that, or do you think it’s a personal choice from band to band? You do what you need to do. Some bands love studio gadgetry to the point where you’re listening to robots, but that can have interesting end results, too. For me, I like the voice to be raw. I like to do my takes in one go, and if I fuck up a line then I’ll go back and redo a whole section. Then later we’ll sit down and listen and we’ll go, ‘You know what? The mistake’s better than the replacement.’ It’s six of one, a half dozen of the other. You do the best you can, but always with me I have to know that I’ll be able to sing this live. So if I can’t sing the whole thing through in one take, it’s not going on tape. We’re dancing around a question about contemporary production in general that’s relevant to a lot of DIY musicians. You financed this record. You don’t have to go to a label gatekeeper and ask her to bankroll it. That means in this case no one else made the call: you chose to record in a studio. But you have other options. Recording technology is ubiquitous and affordable. What are the advantages of having a dedicated studio environment and working with an engineer, as opposed to working nearly for free on your own? It depends what you want out of it. We came from a time in music where live performance was seen as all-important, and for us it still is. We’re not going to give that up as if it’s a ghost of the past. There are alternatives out there, but come on...there are live bands, or you dance to a DJ. Which is it you want? I do not enjoy the laptop approach. I don’t get how this will ever relate to live sound. It’s digital, therefore there’s a stifling of information which you will never
get from the analog vibe of a band in a stone room. That’s irreplaceable. But I gotta say it’s not strictly a studio where we record. This is a barn, and it’s Steve Winwood’s funhouse that he built to jam with his friends. It’s not a recording studio as such. And that suits our purpose beautifully. Are you interested in exotic, post-punk lo-fi recording techniques like This Heat’s use of one grotty microphone, or the tape artifacts of Swell Maps, or the deliberately-muffled mixes of Guided by Voices? No, one mic wouldn’t be good enough. I know that from experience. Several mics well-placed gets you the best effect. You always have to be wary of art for art’s sake. If you take the approach of ‘Ooh, it would be crazy if we did this,’ that disinterests me because it becomes fake and pretentious. I know a sound in my head that I want to have, and that’s where we’re going. We’re very deliberate in PiL. There’s some craziness there, but first we’re deliberate. These songs are about human emotions: get that right, then fiddle about. That’s more important to us than an art statement. These things have to be relevant to your life, not just a mind game. Lyrics can work on two different levels: they can work on a subconscious “it sounds like it feels good to say,” phonetically, in the manner of symbolist poets like Rimbaud or Verlaine or sound poets like Sitwell or Ginsberg. And then there’s the more concrete, semantic meaning of the lyrics. Which end to you approach writing from? I try to use the least amount of words to achieve the maximum possible amount of feeling in them. It’s an anger and a rage all pent up and contained in very clear sentences and very minimal amount of words for maximum effect. The hook chorus [of “Know Now”], “no no no no no no no no,” came instinctively because of that. That’s the release of tension. It was a very tight wire we were running in that song, and it was thrilling to record it. It was a knife-edge of tension, and it could collapse so badly. I love that. I love pushing a thing to its utmost, it’s sharpest point. Can we talk a little bit about “Shoom”? The lyrics are a stammered, chaotic rant that float around a pattern of calling random things “bollocks.” It ends with the demoralizing line “What the world needs now is another fuck off.” Where were you coming from on this one? Particularly in the English pub scene, there’s always this old gentleman in the corner that moans and groans away and complains about everything, but if you really bother to listen to them it’s humor they’re delivering. It’s like stand-up comedy, and it’s a beautiful, brilliant solo performance with a touch of total amusement with the world, in a very ironic way. It can be incredibly rewarding listening to old folks doing that. I’m zooming in on that, ‘Botox...it’s bollocks.’ You know you’ve heard someone say this!
universe if I went to a shabby pub in London tonight I might here you in the corner saying those sorts of things. Is there a piece of this “old gentleman” in you? There’s a piece of that guy in all of us. That’s the beauty in human nature. When we find faults in others, that’s really self-analysis. We need to start listening to each other and understand fully what it is we’re saying. Everyone has something to say. Everybody contributes to society one way or another. We need a generosity of spirit. In a weird way, I suppose [“Shoom”] is like my father, talking to me. This is the voice of my dad, and how much I miss him...God...because he died before the making of this record.
don’t then need to go too heavy on the mixing side. You don’t have to go into all of that awful production stuff. So you can record basically monitor mix style, and you can keep the sound live, raw, and essential. Microphone placement is massive too, but we achieve these results because most of the effort is where you put that damn microphone. If the room offers you those delicious natural acoustics, then you’re way ahead of it.
You keep making consistently good, interesting, groundbreaking music. How do you keep up the flow, even in tough times? As long as you’re mentally astute, good work will follow. I’m not one for canceling a gig because I’ve got a boo boo on my ankle. But what about these bigger knocks, like losing your father? You have to take them in life. One of the lessons of the illnesses when I was young - and my mom and dad instilled this in me --= was “no self-pity allowed.” It achieves nothing and it makes you look ridiculous. You just have to get on with it. These are the cards you’ve been handed in life, and you’ve got to play the game well.
Follow on Twitter: @lydonofficial
PUBLIC IMAGE LTD WHAT THE WORLD NEEDS NOW… STANDOUT TRACK: “DOUBLE TROUBLE”
I have a feeling that in a very slightly alternate PERFORMER MAGAZINE OCTOBER 2015 27
widows On Knowing When NOT to Self-Produce & How to Maximize Mobile Tech During Your Creative Process Shawn Brackbill
28 OCTOBER 2015 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
PERFORMER MAGAZINE OCTOBER 2015 29
ince forming as a three-piece band in Brooklyn in 2010, Widowspeak has gone through a lot of changes, changes in line up, places and producers. They currently have a new album All Yours out now on Captured Tracks, which brought the band full circle to work with their first producer Jarvis Taveniere. We recently talked with band members Robert Earl Thomas and Molly Hamilton during their cross-country drive on their current tour. Can you give us a brief history of the band? Molly: “The band started in Brooklyn in 2010 with our first drummer Michael Stasiak. Michael was really connected with the music scene in Brooklyn and wanted to start a band. He and I knew each other because we were both from Tacoma and he knew Rob from college. Michael left after our first album, so we made the second as a duo with people guesting to fill the line up. It has been a duo since then. We have a lot of rapport with each other so it works great, but we tour as a quartet. We have a drummer and bassist who are on tour with us now. There has been a lot of complicated line up changes. Our sound has evolved; it’s hard to pinpoint when or why.” You recorded this album with Jarvis Taveniere, who also recorded your first album. Why did you choose to work with him again and what was the experience like? Molly: “Jarvis is in the band Woods. On the first record we recorded in his studio Rearhouse, which doesn’t exist anymore. We kind of wanted to go back to the beginning and it made sense to go full circle and work with him again. It was cool, because it felt like the right situation. He and the drummer from Woods, Aaron Neveu both played on our new record as the rhythm section.” Rob: “Jarvis is just the best. It was so comfortable to go back to working with him. When we did the first record we didn’t look back because so many
We were talking to Jarvis, who is a buddy of ours, and we said, ‘Hey why don’t we do this again?’”
more I try to force myself to use new gadgets, the more in the way it gets.”
Have the changes in the band changed your sound? Molly: “I think a little bit…Almanac and The Swamps are studio pieced-together records where we used demos as a basis. The new and the first record were more like live playing. It sort of changed the process but not necessarily the sound. It allowed more flexibility because there was no set line-up; it was more free form.” How is the instrumentation different on the new album? Molly: “We kind of had the balance of the normal of two guitars, bass and drums. We also had our friends from the band Quilt do harmonies. We added keys and piano and organ. We also added strings - cello and violin - and we added a couple more sonic textures with guitars, experimenting with sound. But we also approached it straightforward as a rock record.”
How did you approach the writing process for this album as opposed to the other records you’ve done? Molly: “We had a lot of time. We took a year off from touring; we are now living in a rental house in upstate New York, the Woodstock area. Instead of having this sort of writing period like we are going to record the record in a month, we took the whole year without any deadlines and waited to see what would happen. The songs were slower coming, they are more patient and it was more of an organic process.”
What about recording techniques? Were those different with this record? Molly: “We always try to play with sound a little bit, but we also want the songs to translate live. We don’t want to bring a lot of bizarre instruments on the road. But it’s important for us to have records that don’t necessarily have to be exactly as we play them live, but can be translated live.” Rob: “What’s cool about this record is it was basically live performed. There were just a few takes. Lot of people labor over 1,000 vocal takes, 1,000 guitar takes, meticulously putting it all together. But for us it was a lot less nit-picking, because we were more worried about making it happen and having a good time. We always say we are going to record to tape but it never do because it always bogs us down because of technical problems. And we are not gear heads. I
“I realized being your own producer, for me, saps so much of the creativity.” things changed like with Michael leaving the band and then we got an opportunity to record the next two albums with Kevin McMahon. For this album we actually started with the idea to do the record in our house. We got a toe in to the water and I realized being your own producer for me saps so much of the creativity. I spent so much time making sure the microphones were plugged in that I lost what I was doing creatively. 30 OCTOBER 2015 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
know what I like. My ethos on the matter is it really doesn’t matter what gear you are using, it’s about content and the heart.” Well, speaking of gear, what do you use most? Rob: “I love a good Fender amp, my Telecaster and tremolo, and just kind of a comfortable tone. The
Rob: “The way I write with Molly is she has all the ideas…I help her put them together somewhat like a producer. You know, helping her realize her own ideas. Guitar playing is a huge voice in the band and that is the way I contribute, too. I hear the melody through the guitar as a voice. Also I am completely self-trained, so the only way I understand music is through the guitar; that is my window.” What about technology or apps for songwriting? Rob: “I have an iPad with Garage Band. I use it to make demos to make different tracks and because it’s low quality, I stop thinking about specific sounds and use it to lay down ideas. I think handheld technology is so hugely important to how we do things. Especially when w e
Do you have any favorite songs from this album? Molly: “Its hard to pick a favorite because they are united by a similar mood, nostalgia and a little sadness, but they’re also more optimistic than our other records. With ‘Girls,’ the first song we released, it’s pretty upfront about kind of feeling, like you have deadlines tied to your age, kind of feeling like people younger are accomplishing more and worrying about your own ability to make things happen. And about how hard you are working at certain things in your life and kind of accepting that and being chill with that. And it’s about admiring people for what they are doing instead of feeling like you need to match them in any way. Also one of my favorites is ‘Coke Bottle Green.’ I liked it because it encapsulates the whole feeling of the record. Moving upstate and moving on from lots of things like moving from the city. It puts everything on the table about moving on.’
“My ethos on the matter is it really doesn’t matter what gear you are using, it’s about content and the heart.” How do you translate the new songs live, with the additional instruments? Molly: “We are playing five songs from the new album [on tour]. Generally we can’t tour with keys and some of the other different instruments. I think we are trying to fill that in with different guitar tones and textures. We have changed the way the songs translate, but we keep the feel and dynamic. It’s the same mood, even if it isn’t exactly the same instrumentation.” How have you built your fan base since the beginning? Rob: “We like to be approachable, since the whole show is an experience to be shared by everyone. Usually it’s a club and we are hanging out with the audience. We like to promote that type of vibe. That comes a lot from being from Brooklyn and hanging out with the other bands that are your friends. It’s not like I am the entertainer and I am here to entertain you it was more like we are all here to participate in this event together.” Molly: “We design and sell our own merchandise, so we are generally at the merch table talking to fans after the show. That is really important; we don’t want to have a sterile feel at our shows. We are still real people interacting on stage, no stage personas. We don’t check out. We are four people playing songs and having fun with it. As far as social media, we have Instagram, we try to communicate what we are doing and where we are. We post those to Facebook and Twitter, as well. We use them more for news. The most personal stuff is through Instagram. We
lived in the city in little apartments where you don’t have a bunch of stuff because of physical limitations. That’s a big deal.”
use it like a tour documentary. What we are doing and how we are doing it, life on the road between the shows...” What would you say keeps you evolving and moving forward in music? Rob: “Over the course of our band’s history, place is the single greatest influence on our sound. Weather it be Molly talking about where she grew up and feeling nostalgia or homesickness for that place or us dreaming up places where we would like to go. Even us leaving the city to go upstate, place is always a really big character in our music. Especially with this group of songs there is a bit more narrative than some other ones. We are always trying to paint a place with our music more so than telling direct stories. Abstract concept is important to Widowspeak.”
Follow on Twitter: @widowspeaking
WIDOWSPEAK ALL YOURS STANDOUT TRACK: “GIRLS”
PERFORMER MAGAZINE OCTOBER 2015 31
X courtesy of X
32 OCTOBER 2015 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
’s Exene Ce Getting Thr Times And Zoom Kick
Cervenka On Through The Tough nd Helping Billy ck Cancer’s Ass PERFORMER MAGAZINE OCTOBER 2015 33
s one of the biggest bands to come out of the Los Angeles punk scene in the ’70s and ’80s, X has been through it all - a handful of albums, tours, changes in their lineup and a brief hiatus before regrouping in the late 1990s. They have consistently played shows and toured since returning to the scene, and although they have not released any new music as a collective since 1984’s Ain’t Love Grand!, they continue to receive great critical praise over their live performances. The band’s most recent set of shows, however, was introduced with some unfortunate news. On July 9th, X announced that guitarist Billy Zoom had been diagnosed with bladder cancer, and aside from the first four shows at The Observatory in Santa Ana, CA, he would not be accompanying the band during their three-month stint of shows, as he would be seeking immediate and intensive treatment for the disease. “I just love Billy so much,” says lead singer Exene Cervenka. “I’ve known him for 40 years. I just worship him. He’s the funniest, smartest person in the world - it’s really sad.” This isn’t the first time members of the band have dealt with health issues - in 2010, Zoom announced that he had been successfully treated for prostate cancer, and in 2009, Cervenka released a statement that she had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, which she later found out was misdiagnosed. “Life is not easy,” Cervenka continues, “but you know, Billy always quotes Betty Davis when she says, ‘Getting old isn’t for sissies.’ We’re getting older, but we’re moving along.” At the time of publication, Zoom had just started chemotherapy at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles and was doing “as well as can be expected for someone in his situation,” according to Cervenka. “I really think he’ll be fine - he’s got a good prognosis, so we’re hoping for the best.” With Zoom unable to travel with the band, X enlisted the help of Texas-based guitarist Jesse Dayton (Waylon Jennings, Supersuckers) to temporarily fill in alongside the rest of the original X line up - Cervenka, vocalist/bassist John Doe, and and drummer D.J. Bonebreak. While Cervenka says the absence of Zoom is undeniably noticeable, Dayton’s charisma has helped to make the transition a little easier. “After just one rehearsal, he stepped right up and knew all the songs. He’s very talented, very artistic and very professional - and he’s fun to be around. He’s the perfect person to have here filling in,” Cervenka continues. “He’s playing the
34 OCTOBER 2015 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
songs like they’re X songs, while putting his own personality into them. He just goes out there and tears it up while making sure the audience is having a great time.” There’s no doubt that X has felt the love of their audience, and after almost 40 years of being in the industry, they’ve built a fan base that continually supports the band through it all. Less than 24 hours after Zoom’s illness was made public, fans and friends donated well over the goal of $50,000 to a GoFundMe account set up by X’s tour manager, Mike Rouse, to help Zoom and his family support themselves as he went through treatment. “In the music community, we all take turns helping each other out and have since the beginning,” Rouse wrote on the GoFundMe page. “Punk rock and benefits always went hand in hand: you name the cause, and the bands and fans will be there.” X’s Facebook page has been flooded with comments like, “Kick cancer’s ass, Billy!” - all sending wishes for a speedy recovery. “I think he’s overwhelmed by the love people have given him and his family, and the amount of money that was donated,” Cervenka says. “It brings tears to my eyes. I had no idea what to expect, but the audiences have been so overwhelmingly supportive through it all.” And that support, she said, is what keeps the band going, especially through the hard times. “It’s tough because there’s a part of me that feels like I shouldn’t be having a good time out here - almost like a weird survivor’s guilt,” she explains, “but we know that the fans want us to have a good time and they want to have a good time. They are celebrating that we’re here, and even if Billy isn’t; they know he is here in spirit and they are supporting him by coming out.” In less than two weeks, close to 2,000 people raised over $80,000, and the support continues to trickle in, as donations are made on the GoFundMe page almost hourly. The support has been so phenomenal that the band is working on setting up a “Billy Zoom Cancer Grant” through the Sweet Relief Musicians Fund, a non-profit organization based out of LA that aims to give financial assistance to musicians who are struggling to make ends meet while facing illnesses, disability or other ailments. “All of the money that isn’t used will be donated,” says Cervenka, “so if there is a guitar player or drummer or someone out there with cancer, this money can go to help that person who may not have the name recognition or support.
You can keep the fund going in his name, and I think that’s the best way to honor him is by knowing that he is helping other people because he’s a very good person.” The future is inevitably uncertain, but for X, the support they continue to receive throughout the years has allowed them to consistently do what they love most - tour and perform.
SPOTLIGHT “Bands are always waiting for what’s next. I think it’s the same for everyone in the creative industry whether you’re an artist or writer or whatever, you just kind of have to hope that the phone will ring for that next gallery opening or gig,” Cervenka says. “Luckily for us, the phones keep ringing.” At this point, the band’s main focus is to do
whatever they can to ensure Zoom is healthy and cancer free, but Cervenka said that so long as the fans keep coming, you can expect to catch X performing for many more years to come - and, in confidence, she says, with Billy alongside them. “We want to keep playing and we hope that once Billy gets better and feels up to it that we can get back on the road. I hope we just keep getting
to play because I really love it and value it more every day for these very reasons,” Cervenka says. “It’s been a great run for X, and I never want it to end.” For a list of upcoming shows, or more information on how to send support to Billy Zoom’s GoFundMe campaign, visit xtheband.com. PERFORMER MAGAZINE OCTOBER 2015 35
THREE WAYS TO M IN-BETWEEN MU
uch has been written about direct-tofan (DTF) funding platforms as an alternative to traditional financing for albums, tours, or videos. The most notable players in DTF are Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and PledgeMusic The concept is simple, an artist sets up a campaign and a budget goal for a project (let’s say an album), then they choose special goodies and incentives to persuade their fanbase to pledge a certain dollar amount, and when the campaign goal is met, the project is fully funded, and the artists goes about fulfilling the campaign by finishing the project and then mailing out the incentive items. This has worked very well for one-off projects like an album or tour. But what happens after the album and goodies are shipped, and the tour is done? Increasingly, musicians are looking for ways to sustain their music career in-between album releases and tours by moonlighting using their other skills. After all, it’s rare that someone who can write songs and play instruments doesn’t have other valuable skills to share.
I know musicians who are fantastic animators, guitar teachers, graphic artists, social media gurus, and so on. It’s not always music-related, and it doesn’t have to be. They have skills to teach and share, but that takes time, and that means money, and the leading DTF platforms are not built for ongoing monthly support. So, let’s take a look at a few options musicians can take advantage of to supplement their music career, and get to that next album or tour. 1. Patreon (https://www.patreon.com) After acquiring Subbable, Patreon became the undisputed champion of ongoing direct funding. Fans pledge an amount ($2, $5, $10,) for each creation. Sometimes it’s a sketch or a written piece, but the majority are videos. For instance, a ton of fans are supporting their favorite artists doing quirky cover songs. “Patrons” give support per video or piece of content released, set a maximum monthly “tip” amount, and are charged at the beginning of the month after the creator releases content. Patrons can pay using their credit/ debit card or PayPal. Patreon keeps 5% of PayPal transactions, plus 2-4% additional fees for credit card transactions.
36 OCTOBER 2015 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
2. konoz (https://konoz.io) This is a new entry into the direct-to-fan space that is based around YouTube EDU channels. It’s being built as an online learning platform for everything from physics and math to guitar lessons and makeup tips. But, the idea is the same; fans support creators by pledging a dollar amount monthly. Supporters can either directly pledge money to the teacher for all of their videos, or support “courses” of certain videos. Much like Patreon, there are reward incentives like Hangout chats, private tutoring, or producer credits on the videos. The great thing about konoz is that it takes almost no extra work for someone already creating YouTube videos. Creators simply make a playlist of videos that would fit in a course, (Beginner Slide Guitar, Advanced Social Media for Musicians), and konoz creates a course out of that. Fans can currently only pay using PayPal, and konoz keeps 10% of transactions as an administration fee.
3. YouTube (https://youtube.com) If you have ever supported a creator, you know that the majority of them do videos, and almost all of those videos are originally loaded on YouTube. So, YouTube added a Fan Support option right on the channel. Creators can enable this in their profile (you must have an AdSense account linked and have a channel in good standing). Unlike the platforms mentioned above, supporters are not subscribing to pay monthly, or for specific released content, but rather, tipping the creator for all that they do, with a one-time payment. Fans can now simply use a credit/debit card to send $2 or $10, or whatever amount they choose, and YouTube keeps 5%, plus $0.21. Each one of these options has some risk. Creators must keep putting the time and money into crafting quality content while they build a base of financial supporters, and that
O MAKE A LIVING MUSIC RELEASES
can be difficult at first. The key to making this all work for you is to widen the offering from just cover songs or new originals. After all, your fans don’t just listen to music; they have a lot of interests. What else could you teach that is valuable? Are you a killer developer? Do you write erotica? Are you an expert mixer? Do videos around all of these. By offering your expertise in various fields, you will gain new fans of your music. You’ll find new supporters of you as a person. And then, when you’re ready for that next album, video, or tour, you will have built a larger support network to ensure your success. I can’t wait to see (and support) what you create. ABOUT THE AUTHOR Michael St. James is the founder and creative director of St. James Media, specializing in music licensing, publishing, production and artist development. PERFORMER MAGAZINE OCTOBER 2015 37
WHEN THE BAND The importance of having a band member agreement before the opening act...
o, you and your buddies have formed a band. You’re stoked to play and chase that record deal. Ready to take on the world and collect those royalties! Wait! Have you discussed how you are going divvy up those royalties? Will all band members be sharing publishing income if only some are writing the band’s music? How you will make decisions when that deal comes along? Have you even thought about what happens if one band member isn’t pulling his or her weight by not showing up at rehearsals or gigs? Or if a band member leaves, what continuing payments is he or she entitled to? Now, you may be saying to yourself: “My band doesn’t need a piece of paper to tell us what to do. We get along so well and can easily make these decisions. And anyway, there’s no way that we’ll have any of these problems. Why upset the applecart?” Well, I hate to burst your bubble, but 9.5 out of 10 times, these issues arise. Unless you have a clear roadmap to address them, what would otherwise be a procedural exercise can become contentious and perhaps litigious. And certainly more expensive than having an attorney draft an agreement at the very beginning. Assuming that you are willing to accept that your band is not immune to this reality and that you are a “business,” the following is a discussion of some topics that should be deliberated and memorialized as early as possible. This article assumes there is a band of 5 members that have formed an LLC or s-corporation through which to operate its activities (choice of entity is a very important discussion for another day!)
BAND DECISIONS What level of consent amongst the group is required for the band to take action? Majority? Supermajority? Unanimous? This is a very important decision in and of itself. If your gut reaction is ‘unanimous,’ remember that everyone has to agree before the band proceeds. So, for example, if only 4 of 5 members want to hire a manager or purchase new equipment, the band can’t. In order to avoid this gridlock as much as possible, I have developed what I call the “basket approach.” I ask clients to create different “baskets” of decisions and assign a level of required consent for each basket. For example, one client split their decisions into day-to-day (i.e. when to rehearse) majority; creative (i.e. song selection, artwork for an album; hiring producers, mixers etc.) majority; business (whether to enter into a certain merchandising agreement, hire or fire a particular manager or expel a member)super majority; fundamental (whether to sell assets, dissolve the company or take on a substantial loan)-unanimous. These baskets are not written in stone and can be adapted as a band sees fit. One factor to keep in mind if your band has an even number of members: you must provide a mechanism to break a deadlock. Otherwise you will find your band at a standstill. INCOME SPLIT Your band is an income producing business that sells music instead of cars or widgets. Before money starts to roll in (and egos inflate) there should be a meeting of the minds on the income split. While bands typically split record royalties in accordance with each member’s ownership of the company, the publisher’s
share of the publishing income warrants more consideration. If all members write the music, the publisher’s share can be split in accordance with equity ownership or, alternatively, based on the percentage of the song written by each. If not all members write, then do only the writers own the copyrights and share in the publisher’s share? I recently had this exact conversation with the lead singer and sole writer of a band after the band landed a deal. Needless to say, there was a bit of discord amongst the members that could have been avoided had the band initially sat down with a knowledgeable attorney. DEPARTING MEMBERS It’s no secret that band members come and go. Whether it is the lead singer who wants to go solo, the drummer who wants to stop touring to be with his family, or the bass player who drinks too much and consistently fails to show
38 OCTOBER 2015 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
up, this is an issue that needs to be addressed head on. What are the rights and liabilities of a departing member? Should he or she continue to collect the same income from past work? There are many variables that dictate the answer - such as whether the band member left voluntarily or due to expulsion. Was the band in the midst of a tour promoting a new album? Should the departing member collect royalties from the album if departure was during the album cycle? Can the band continue to use the same band name? Does the company continue to administer the departing member’s copyrights? There is much to ponder on this topic and failure to do so has led to a plethora of litigation. THE UNTHINKABLE This topic is taboo. It is a stark reality that musicians have died prematurely for a variety of reasons. It is important to decide upfront
whether a member’s interest in the company passes to heirs. If so, should they have the right to make decisions related to recordings that contain the deceased’s performances? Alternatively, should the other members buy out the deceased’s interest? If so, a discussion on how to value the interest is critical. What if the unthinkable happens: all of the members die simultaneously? How will the band’s assets be administered and the legacy of the band protected? There are many notable cases on this subject due to the absence of a clear agreement. I have only scratched the surface here. And while it may seem like an unpleasant task to undertake, ironing out a band member agreement in the beginning will likely save you money and your relationships down the line. ABOUT THE AUTHOR Robyn L. Sandak is a member of Fox
D STOPS PLAYING
Rothschild’s Corporate and Entertainment practices. Her understanding of the music business and experience as a corporate attorney informs her role as a trusted advisor to talent as well as entertainment related companies. She can be reached at rsandak@ foxrothschild.com. This article is intended for general information purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice. Readers should consult with knowledgeable legal counsel to determine how applicable laws apply to specific facts and situations. This article is based on the most current information at the time it was written. Since it is possible that the laws or other circumstances may have changed since publication, please speak with legal counsel to discuss any action you may be considering as a result of reading this article. PERFORMER MAGAZINE OCTOBER 2015 39
Meet Busker, Your Online Tip Jar W
(Not to Mention a Novel Approach to Direct-to-Fan Engagement)
e’ve all seen musicians on the streets playing their hearts out to passersby, an open guitar case littered with spare change and a few crumpled bills at their feet. Their songs affect us at the most basic of emotional levels, and if we’re moved by appreciation or generosity we might leave them some money and a word of thanks. We do this for street musicians…so why not for all musicians? That’s the concept behind Busker, a Chicago-based crowdfunding startup that bills itself as “the online tip jar.” “The guy playing on the subway who makes you feel good, you give him a dollar,” said Dan Schiller, founder and CEO of Busker. “If everything’s basically free online, why shouldn’t we be able to do that with all these bands?” The Internet has, at this point, so drastically reduced the payment of royalties that Schiller’s statement is effectively fact. To him, paying $10 each month for Spotify Premium and its nearly limitless database of songs “feels like stealing,” particularly with streaming music already under fire for shortchanging artists. Many nascent indie bands just put their music up online for free because the exposure they stand to gain is more valuable than any money they can make off their recordings. The notion that online music shouldn’t cost anything is one that some artists (notably Taylor Swift) have been trying to fight, but the overall attitude amongst consumers remains one of entitlement. On the other hand, live music and vinyl products are simultaneously thriving. Listeners justify using Spotify and other little-to-no revenue online services by supporting their favorite bands in concert and at the merch table. Appreciation for musicians and their songs has not disappeared— it’s merely transformed—and that’s where Busker comes in. “There needs to be a simple way for a fan to show love to an artist,” said Schiller. In the case of Busker, the simplicity is in the transaction: a small amount of money for the good feeling of helping out an artist whose music you value. Unlike other crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, which require that users have a project toward which the funds will
40 OCTOBER 2015 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
be directed, bands don’t have to be completing an album or raising money for a tour van to use Busker. The website’s flexible platform allows for artists to display customizable goals along the right side of their profile, atop a button to “support the band” on a one-time or monthly basis. A photo of the artist adorns the center of each profile, and scrolling down the page reveals a bio, media clips, and an invitation to share the profile on social media. There’s also an option to provide donors with a pay-what-you-want selection of merchandise, which can act doubly as a reward for giving and as promotion for the artist. Essentially, Busker presents artists with a blank crowdfunding canvas that can be transformed into a moneymaking juggernaut with the right combination of compelling content and skilled marketing. Currently Busker is in beta mode while Schiller and Mike Endicott, Busker’s web designer, tweak the website’s design and features. The duo is focused on recruiting a wide base of artists to use the platform and expanding their reach to include profiles for festivals and concert series. The long-term goal, though, is the incorporation of a “Busker Button” on streaming music services that would allow listeners to donate immediately to a band they hear and enjoy.
“We would streamline this so you could literally click a Busker icon on Pandora or Spotify and tip that musician your default tip,” said Endicott. And while the company acknowledges that one of the online music giants could be working on something similar, Schiller finds it unlikely. “A lot of companies can’t do what I’m trying to do here, because part of it is an admission that they aren’t providing [adequate artist payment] for their services,” he said. The fact that music is made by real people can easily be lost in the jungle of online music. Busker would like to remind you that every musician loves a little appreciation—especially in monetary form—whether they’re playing on the streets or on the Internet. For more, visit https://buskeronline.net. ABOUT THE AUTHOR Zach Blumenfeld is a recent alumnus of WRVU Nashville, Vanderbilt University’s student radio station. Over the past three years, he has interviewed over forty songwriters and bands on his weekly program The VU Backstage, as well as contributing music commentary and reviews to the WRVU blog. He has also worked at Nashville radio station Lightning 100.
RADIO PROMOTION (terrestrial, satellite, internet)
Dresden Dolls Bad Plus Girls Guns & Glory String Cheese Incident Esperanza Spalding Medeski Martin & Wood Steve Winwood Gov't Mule 311 Janis Ian Jim's Big Ego Stanley Clarke Umphrey's McGee Gretchen Parlato Miss Tess Mike Stern Soulive Maceo Parker PUBLICITY AND TOUR SUPPORT (print press and viral)
call: 800-356-1155 www: powderfingerpromo.com
Brooklynâ€™s premiere music recording
& video production studio
since 1991. metrosonic.net 718-782-1872
UPSTART LOOKS T TINDER FOR MUSI
e recently sat down with Gigmor CEO David Baird to discuss the impact of merging music and technology, and how his social network is changing the way musicians do what they do best: jam. If you’re not familiar with Gigmor yet, here are the basics: · Gigmor acts as Tinder for musicians by matching them with other players and bands · They’re growing rapidly and already have over 40,000 members and have generated over 150,000 matches · They partnered with new crowdfunding platform, StartEngine, and they’ve reached 13% of their goal in just 3 weeks since starting their campaign which brings them to $150,000 generated from crowdfunding thus far · They have received their investments from the people who matter most - actual musicians and users of their platform · Baird is a guitarist and is the former head of AOL’s E-Commerce which annually generated over $1B What’s behind the name Gigmor? Gigmor obviously has a literal meaning, which is to gig more, which is really the Holy Grail for all musicians. It’s what musicians want to do the most. It’s fun to jam and rehearse, but there’s nothing like the high of getting out
42 OCTOBER 2015 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
and performing live. And really when you’re looking for a brand name for a company, the domain name has to be available and it should be as short as possible. So, it kind of met all three criteria, where it really meant something and it was a domain that was available, so I grabbed it. Okay. Who created the original idea for a music networking platform?
MySpace was really the pioneer…They had 12 to 15 million musicians and bands on their platform at one point. And a lot of musicians I know, ironically, really liked MySpace because it allowed them to connect with each other and it allowed them to connect with fans. And once MySpace went into decline, there was nobody really filling that gap.
Get to Know David Baird, Gigmor CEO
So, we took a lot of that concept and, while the idea isn’t [new], kind of modernized it and that was really the genesis of Gigmor. What is the main problem that Gigmor solves? Connecting musicians with other musicians. Music is a collaborative art form. It’s not too much fun to play in your basement by yourself, so musicians of all levels and all ages are looking for other musicians to collaborate with. So, whether you’re starting out and trying to form a band, whether you’re a singer or songwriter who has a lot of material and you need a band to help you record demos, or whether you’re a working professional, all musicians have a need to connect with other musicians. So, we’ve focused on that. Where we’re headed to is connecting musicians and bands with industry players, particularly talent buyers who book bands and musicians at clubs, festivals, concerts, colleges, private events. So, that’s what we’re evolving toward pretty rapidly. How quickly did that idea go from conception to creation? In the technology world, it’s amazing that you can create something that has a lot of value pretty quickly and pretty cheaply. But like a lot of startups, we went through a series of phases and we went through an evolution from a bunch of ideas on a piece of paper to the site that it is today. So, it’s taken us over two years to build, redesign, rebuild, add on functionality, and so on. So, it’s like an organic entity that’s constantly growing and constantly changing. What’s kept you motivated during your setbacks? You have to go back and question: are we solving a real problem? Are we solving a real problem for a large enough group of people that we can turn this into a business? And if the answer to those questions are yes, then you stick with it, because you know behind every success story was all kinds of fits and starts and stumbles and twists and turns and pivots, as the industry terms goes. How do you think Gigmor has affected its
users or will affect its users in the long run? Well, I know we want Gigmor to be an addiction. We want people to log on every day the way all of us do on Facebook or Twitter to kind of get their fix. And whether it’s finding new musicians, finding new opportunities, growing their fan base, you know, our vision is to create that kind of site. Right now I think we have created a community of musicians who are fulfilling that need that they’re not finding anywhere else. What kinds of things will the typical user be doing while on Gigmor? There are two main things. People get online and create a profile and upload their music and upload their pictures. And so, we serve as kind of a directory/social network so that people have a public page that’s essentially free that
shows their music and what their aspirations are and what their musical level is. So, people are looking through that directory all the time for other musicians, depending on all kinds of basic criteria, what genres, what location, etc. But the biggest thing that people use is the matching service, which matches you with compatible musicians in your area based on the genres you play, your instrument, your playing level, and your goals. Nobody is really doing that as precisely and as well as we are, so that’s our principal value proposition. How successful have users been in connecting with other musicians? Well, we’ve generated 150,000 matches. We do about ten thousand a month in general. And we hear from our members all the time about they love the site. We hear stories about people who
S TO BECOME SICIANS
were giving up on playing music, and about to sell their instruments, and we’ve connected them with people in their area and they’re in bands now. Whether it’s musicians starting out, whether it’s experienced players, again, looking for people at their same level, in a lot of cases, we hear how well the site has worked in connecting them with players in their area. Is it common for high profile musicians to use Gigmor to connect with each other? It’s increasingly common for high profile musicians to use our site. Some stories that we hear are that recording artists may have a regular band that tours with them, but they’ll have a pickup gig in a city somewhere else and they can’t afford to bring their entire band. So, they’ll use Gigmor to find local players - bass players, drummers, and so on. That’s the principle way high profile musicians use us, because we’ve become this directory and database of musicians, or a LinkedIn for musicians. What other products and ventures does Gigmor currently have in the works? The main plan we have is to build Open Table for live music. And what that does is leverages our social network, leverages our matching engine, and it extends those so that we can connect bands with talent buyers who have real gigs. So, that is our focus right now and that’s why we’re raising money, to fund that. We think that is a really exciting next step for us. That and we are looking to build a mobile app. That is critical since the majority of our users come to us via mobile platforms. I think Gigmor’s future is really bright; we’ve gained a lot of momentum. I think what we’re going to see this fall, is a lot more member growth than we’re seeing this summer, when people tend to check out on go on vacation or whatever. You know, our vision is for Gigmor to become that new MySpace that I referred to earlier, where we have millions of musicians on our platform and tens of thousands of talent buyers, and we’re connecting those two. For more, visit https://www.gigmor.com. PERFORMER MAGAZINE OCTOBER 2015 43
The Quest for Better Monitoring WHAT’S YOUR WEAKEST SIGNAL LINK? One of the most important aspects of engineering that you have to grasp is that quality can only be as good as the weakest link in the chain. I guess that could be said about many fields. In audio, hopefully the weakest link isn’t the players or the engineer! The two biggest problems are usually related to the least fixable cause: the room. We’ll get into discussing room issues in a later column; suffice to say, it’s a big issue! Microphones and monitors are the next large bugaboo. These are particularly important, as they are your input and output of the whole process. And they interact with that nasty issue about the room. Today let’s focus on monitors. Understand this: there is no TRUTH. There is no such thing as the “best” monitor, or the most accurate monitor, or any other absolute. There are, however, crappy monitors, and crappy rooms. 44 OCTOBER 2015 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
REMOVE THE ROOM FROM THE EQUATION In fact, a general rule of thumb is that if you can’t control (aka fix) your room to make it an accurate environment for listening, you’re better of removing it from the equation using headphones. Headphones are not ideal either - they can be inaccurate, cause ear fatigue, and present a detail and stereo image that is seductive but not really representative of what listeners hear through speakers. However, good (sub-$1000) headphones will always beat high-end speakers in a lousy room. Let’s assume your room doesn’t suck (or reflect – sorry, engineer joke). Let me say again, this is a BIG assumption. (Have a look at the complexity of such a room). ( See Fig
What are the goals for your monitors?
There are a few different potential goals that may be at odds with each other, and you’ve got to choose between them, or balance them. WHAT IS ACCURACY? First, they should be accurate, right? But what does that mean? We’re used to seeing graphs of frequency response, and we know that we’d like something that’s “flat”. Of course, nothing is flat. So you need to look for a response chart that has the fewest peaks and valleys, or that has them in less dangerous places. +/- 5 dB variance sounds like a lot, and it is, but realistically that’s what you’re dealing with. Here’s a look at a typical plot. (See Fig
Try to avoid big changes between 80-160 Hz, 300-400 Hz, 1-2KHz; that’s your bass, you cloudiness zone, and your vocal presence ranges, respectively.
Just how loud do they need to be? In most cases loudness shouldn’t factor into your thinking. You’re recording or mixing or mastering, not filling a gym or club. On the other hand, if you have clients who are used to hearing their competitors’ music in those loud environments, you might need to give some thought to making them happy. Of course, loudness requires power, and power is either cheap and distorted, or clean and expensive.
Flatness doesn’t tell the whole story. Phase accuracy is important too. Multi-way speakers (speakers with more than one speaker driver: a woofer, mid-range, and tweeter in a 3-way design, for example) can have phase shifts around the crossover frequencies (where one driver takes over for another). These may affect the frequency response chart, or may be masked in that measurement, but contribute to a “smearing” effect on what you’re listening to. Here’s an example of an excellent 3-way design. Note that the dual woofers and the ports still make it a 3-way. (See Fig 3 )
HOW LOW DO THEY GO? Most main monitors run out of gas between 40-50 Hz. For many situations, particularly for recording, that’s just fine. If you’re mixing, or mastering particularly, or doing EDM or other club music, however, you’re gonna need something deeper. In some cases, that means a subwoofer. However, you need to remember that a sub means another crossover point and all the potential BS that comes with that. It can be very time consuming to position and tune the sub to dovetail nicely with your main monitors. In many cases, a larger, deeper main monitor may be preferable.
Often people try to compensate for their monitors by listening on many sets of speakers. I’ve always found this to be a difficult and imperfect solution. First, it really doesn’t work if you’re recording. If you’re recording you really should be focused on, well, recording. Or better yet, capturing brilliant performances. So you don’t want your gear interrupting that process. If you’re mixing and you have all the time in the world, you can definitely get some ideas from listening on your computer, on earbuds, and in the car. In fact, I would always advise doing some of that. However, if you have clients, or deadlines, just want a smooth creative workflow, then this compensatory scheme is tough. Not only does it take you out of the studio and out of the creative headspace, but it’s often hard to make sense of
3 the (sometimes conflicting) information you get. What do you do when the car sounds good but the computer is tinny? There is no TRUTH. So is a series of lies (OK, half truths) helpful, or is it better to get closer to a single truth? I’d argue that a good set of well-tuned monitors, albeit more expensive, will get you further than trying to sort through a bunch of confusion. TESTING & ANALYSIS Since no speaker is perfect, and we assumed that your room is good, ultimately we have to question that assumption, and test the speakers in the room. This can be done on the cheap with a test mic and frequency analysis software. In a pinch iZotope’s Ozone EQ or Waves’ PAZ will do. Be sure to use a test mic that’s calibrated and goes very low (oddly these are not super expensive) or else you’ll be measuring the mic’s limitations, not the speaker and room’s. Place the mic on a stand at the listening position, use a tone generator (usually available in your DAW, like Pro Tools) to send Pink Noise out each speaker, one at a time, and run the frequency meter on the input from the mic. Hopefully you can freeze the capture, or at least do a screen grab. Your result should look like Figure 2 a bit. Look for the bumps and dips. Move the speaker around the room until the trace is as flat as you can get it. Put the other speaker in the symmetrical location and take a read with both going. If it’s similarly flat, good. If not, then you’re gonna need to doctor the room! ABOUT THE AUTHOR Award winning mix engineer and producer Jordan Tishler runs Digital Bear Entertainment in Boston MA. A large Augsburger designed mix/overdub room with SSL console and racks upon racks of analogue outboard gear, tape machine, and gazillions of instruments, Tishler has credits including B Spears, JLo, Iggy A, MOTi, Justin Prime, SIA, and London Grammar. Contact me about producing your next record, or mixing the one you’re working on now! For more, visit www. digitalbear.com.
PERFORMER MAGAZINE OCTOBER 2015 45
YAMAHA AG06 Audio Interface/Mixer - $199
nterfaces have gone from desktop-sized to smaller than a laptop, and Yamaha’s AG series brings their history of quality and versatility to a small package that packs in a lot of functionality. Despite its small size, it’s well packed; sporting 6 inputs, it’s meant to be a companion to a computer or an iPad, and isn’t much larger than an iPad. Channels 1 and 2 have XLR & 1/4” TRS connectivity and are meant for instruments and microphones, with pads to handle hot signals. There is some dedication here though; Channel 1 has phantom power, and Channel 2 features a special switch for guitar (including an amp simulator). Channels 3 and 4 use 1/4” TRS connections, and 5 and 6 use RCA connections. There is an Aux Input, as well. On the output side there are monitors, stereo outputs as well as headphone outs. The layout and functionality are akin to a standard mixer, so it’s super easy to connect and get up and running. It runs on USB power, which is also its main interface connection. With an easy plug-and-play feel, and familiar mixing board ergonomics, for musicians who don’t want to adapt to new hardware, this is a godsend. The features aren’t overly complicated, and it interfaces with an iPad or computer like butter. Even for the non-musician, this works great for podcasting or basic audio production needs. It does come with a copy of Steinberg’s Cubase AI as well, so it comes equipped with equally easy–touse software for recording. With 32 audio tracks, plenty of VST plug-ins, audio looping support, and MIDI, it’s a great complement to the mixer. Not a fan of Cubase? It works just as well as an interface for other audio recording software packages (GarageBand, Studio One, etc.). Size-wise, it won’t take up a ton of desk space, and might even fit in a laptop bag. With a low street price of $199, it’s worth it for any musician who might get scared thinking about interfaces, to check one out. And for those podcasters who want to up their game, it’s a no brainer. It’s not often that there’s a device that can cover a lot of applications well, and be reasonably priced at the same time. This new unit from Yamaha comes highly recommended. Chris Devine › Type: Analog
› Channels: 6 › Inputs (Mic Preamps): 2 x XLR › Inputs (Line): 2 x XLR/TRS (Combo), 2 x 1/4” › Outputs (Main): 2 x 1/4” › Headphones: 1 x 1/4”, 1 x 1/8” (Headset) › Phantom Power: Yes (2 Channels) › Computer Connectivity: USB 46 OCTOBER 2015 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
Small size, good price, plenty of I/O configurations. CONS
my FAVORITE AXE
MAKE & MODEL
Vintage Gibson ES-125T WHAT IT MEANS TO YOU
This is my dad’s guitar that was stored in a closet in our house. I never touched it ’cause it meant a lot to my dad. His Cajun dad saved up $2 bills to buy him that in the early ’60s. When I was in Brooklyn and had become a musician on an MPC 2000, I got a little curious about the guitar as loopbased music became easier to make. When I found my way around the instrument, I remembered that beautiful, sunburst Gibson in the closet. It was the best feeling to visit home and open the closet door and find it in its same place. WHAT IT SOUNDS LIKE
It’s a real twangy sounding guitar and more suited for a different style of playing than I’m used to, but I’ve gotten more comfortable with it over the years…It has soul and many songs are trapped in it. SPECIAL FEATURES
There are no special features on it as it was a basic student model at the time. There’s a volume knob and a tone knob for controls. It had a special wooden bridge that I changed out for a more durable instrument. I kept it, of course, in case I want the original. I’d never sell it or tour with it. I think the pure twang is its true special feature. CAN BE HEARD ON
It can be heard on “Don’t Let It Die” on my new record Campo Santo. We put it through those classic Fender reverb and tremolo settings and let it ring out.
Got a favorite instrument you’d like to share? Email us at email@example.com
PERFORMER MAGAZINE OCTOBER 2015 47
1977 Fender Telecaster Thinline “Post-CBS Offering Beefs Up The Tone” Gabriel Burgos
BACKGROUND I bought this guitar from Pete Klett, guitarist of the band Candlebox. Production ran from 1968-1980 and was the result of Fender wanting to offer a lighter-weight Tele. WHAT IT SOUNDS LIKE A Tele but with a little more body, I suppose. NOTABLE PLAYERS Jonny Lang, David Byrne of Talking Heads and Sir Bob Dylan. And Pete Klett from Candlebox, of course! COOL FEATURES Originally it was outfitted with standard, single-coil pickups but was switched to humbuckers in 1972, giving it a bigger tone and more sonic flexibility. You can get more sustain and feedback since it’s got the f-hole, allowing for more resonation. ABOUT THE AUTHOR Don Miggs is a singer/songwriter/producer and fronts the band miggs (Elm City/Capitol Records). His love affair with vintage instruments and gear only presents a problem when he’s awake. Chat music & gear with him @donmiggs or miggsmusic.com, lalamansion.com, or his radio show, @thefringeAM820 (Saturdays 5-7PM EST). 48 OCTOBER 2015 PERFORMER MAGAZINE
Be heard with Mackie FreePlay, the personal PA you can control wirelessly from your phone. It’s the shockingly powerful sound solution that has nothing to apologize for.
B AT T E R Y P O W E R A B L E
B U I LT - I N M I X E R
B LU E TO OT H ® C O N N E CT I V I T Y
®2015 LOUD Technologies Inc. All rights reserved. “Mackie.”, the “Running Man” ﬁgure, and FreePlay are trademarks or registered trademarks of LOUD Technologies Inc. The Bluetooth® word mark is a registered trademark owned by Bluetooth SIG, Inc. Any use of such marks by LOUD Technologies is under license.
Multi-faceted versatility, no-compromise sound and innovative operation: With five directional characteristics and a novel operating concept, this standard-setting large-diaphragm microphone provides sound without any coloration. Featuring equally impressive level stability and low self-noise, it captures everything from the softest whisper to thundering drums. For studio, broadcasting and demanding home recording applications.
Discover more: www.neumann.com/tlm107
Featuring John Lydon of Public Image Ltd, Exene Cervenka, Radkey, La Luz, Widowspeak and more...