Sunday, November 9, 2014

Damn Good Rhythm 

I guess it's no wonder,
I never am myself,
But who could understand,
The mind of someone else? 
I feel only hunger,
My ego wants to feed,
The voices scream in unison,
They tell me what I need.

I need a damn good rhythm,
Give me a damn good rhythm,
I tell ya this is livin',
With no name,
I beg,
Exclaim,
I just need you.

I feel like I'm sinking,
I buckle at the knee,
Philosophy makes way,
To pure anatomy,
I reach for the comfort,
It's oh so far away,
What did you think,
That it would be,
So easy to get rid of me? 

You tread so softly on my dreams,
No man nor god can stifle me,
I'll try for I'll die for,
My life's worth nothing if I don't have a beat.


Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Book Review: Ayn Rand - The Fountainhead

Books have always played a big part in my life. Before I discovered music I was an avid reader of science fiction. In fact, before deciding to major in business, I had focused my college studies on English and briefly considered becoming a writer. Obviously, that didn't pan out but I still try to read as much as possible. People often ask me what it is I'm reading and why, so I thought for those people a little book review might be of some interest.

While most of us have heard of Ayn Rand and are aware of what a polarizing figure she was, not many people (that I know, anyway) have actually sat down and read any of her work. I've grown up watching Liberals bash her for her "heartless" and "selfish" philosophy and Conservatives praise her for her support of laissez-faire capitalism and assertion that happiness is achieved only by pursuing individual goals. Apparently, through this pursuit of individual goals, we all become mutually beneficial to one another, thereby making the world a better and fairer place. The controversy alone was enough to pique my interest, but the strikingly beautiful art deco artwork pushed me over the edge and made me click "add to cart" on Amazon. 

This is fucking sexy.

First, let me say, this book is a beast. 754 pages is a lot. I like epic novels, (Tale of Two Cities is one of my favorites) they can be laborious but rewarding. As you begin reading this book, however, the task starts to feel insurmountable. The writing is contrived and pretentious, the structure feels foreign and many of the sentences have a quality about them that I could only describe as "off". Knowing that Rand had immigrated to US from Russia and that English was not her first language, I tried to give her a break and not let it influence my opinion of her ideas, but it does definitely affect the book's enjoyment factor. 

This is not fucking sexy.

The story centers around architect Howard Roark, who by Rand's standards, embodies all of what makes a man perfect. He lives his life as a lone wolf, concerned only with his work and his principles, fighting against a world that shuns individuality and praises mediocrity. In this world, selflessness is taught to be the highest virtue. Rand depicts the majority of the people as weak, foolish and compromised; unwilling or unable to be honest about want they want from life, living only to serve the will of others. Those who are intelligent enough to recognize the brilliance of Roark's work, see it as a threat to their power over others and seek to destroy him. Even fewer are those who share Roark's worldview and befriend him; fellow blue collar workers like the construction worker and the sculptor.

The world that Rand created in this book was really unique and interesting to me. In my mind, I saw it as a mixture of film noir and art deco, blended with the absurd decadence of characters from Zoolander. Much like Zoolander, where models are society's heroes, in this universe architects are the rock stars. Her parodied impressions of our society with hers were compelling, and I have to admit there were a number of times when I almost dropped the book because I thought "finally, someone who gets it!" Certain passages resonated so much with me that I wrote them down or took pictures of them on my phone so I could read them later. For all the book's flaws, there is no denying that there is something powerful in it's message. In the end, though, I felt as if Rand's story sputtered out and devolved into pure propaganda, only pushing her philosophy and leaving the characters by the wayside. What we're left with is a philosophy that's just too black and white for me. I agree that we, as individuals, should accept responsibility for own happiness, put ourselves first and fight to the death for what we believe in, but think her assertion that any sort of altruism is a lie, inherently inhuman and detrimental to society absolute horse shit. 



Is it just me or does Mugatu look like a resident of the Capitol in The Hunger Games?

You don't stop at a car accident and help the victims just because you want to prevent inconvenient traffic, you don't keep driving because you can't be bothered to help strangers. Not every human action is, or should, be motivated by practicality or mutual benefit. Sometimes you just help because you can help. Empathy is a part of what it is to be human and, from what I can see, what binds us as a society together, instead of living as loners.

I'm really glad that I finally sat down and took the time to read an Ayn Rand novel for myself. It allowed me to get a taste of her philosophy directly without it being distorted by some pundit, philosopher or book reviewer. It's a very interesting story that had the potential to be great had the author kept her arrogance in check, had an editor kept her weak grasp of the English language in check and had someone, anyone, forced Rand to focus on the story from beginning to end. After 754 pages it's clear that I won't be subscribing to Objectivism anytime soon. 

+5 stars for an epic tale.
-2 stars for whack-ass English and absurd philosophy.

3 stars. 

Also, this seemed relevant:






Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Illusion of Internet Privacy

Recently, I made a few incendiary posts on Twitter and Facebook suggesting that people who take naked pictures of themselves deserve to have their personal accounts hacked and their photos spread across the web. While I admit to feeling a bit of schadenfreude when seeing people flounder because of what I view as foolish choices, I don't consider them to be deserving of the criminal acts committed against them. With that said, I firmly believe that people need to consider the risks involved with what they do, and decide if the consequences are something they can live with before taking action. 

Lots of people are attempting to make this whole thing sexual or sexist, I don't see the issue as being sexual, in my mind it's about theft of intellectual property that just so happens to be sexual.* When we have these kinds of discussions it tends to get emotionally charged, and we all know that strong emotions are not conducive to a rational and well balanced argument. So I'm going to state my position with an analogy that isn't (well I hope) sexual nor emotionally charged. 

As we have been shown time and time again, the internet is not a secure place. How often do we see news stories of mega corporations being hacked or the government hacking us? I've personally had my identity stolen and my wife as well. We take risks every day with every choice we make. What we do, how we spend our money, who we associate with, all of these decisions are (should) be made after considering the cost / benefit ratio. Despite the fact that I have had my identity stolen, I continue to use online banking and credit cards because, to me, the benefit outweighs the risks. Other people feel differently and choose to stick to cash because it's arguably safer. 

So let me put it this way: 

Eminem is working on a new record. He decides to store that content on a private server or cloud despite knowing that celebrities are often targets of cyber attacks. It gets hacked and his new album leaks all over the internet before it's ready. Eminem is ashamed and embarrassed that his work was exploited in this way. My initial response? "Sorry, but you should have known better!" Do I feel bad for him? YES! Does it mean he's somehow liable for the criminal actions of the hackers who stole his record? NO! Was it his fault? NO! But should he have been mindful about the dangers of storing sensitive intellectual property on a notoriously unsafe medium? ABSOLUTELY! 

The world is a harsh and cruel place. Criminals are always looking for the easy target. Of course people have the right to take any pictures of themselves that they want (or do whatever else they fancy for that matter), and they shouldn't have to fear reprisal for it. But I am a realist, and I accept that we have to operate in the world as it is, not as it ought to be. All I am suggesting is that we look at ourselves, examine what makes us targets to the shitty people of the world and actively take steps to avoid having the crosshairs land on our forehead. 


* I acknowledge the emotional turmoil that such a violation of privacy entails. What I don't accept is the claim that the act of hacking is in itself sexual, despite the sexual nature of the content. Hackers, like paparazzi, are driven by the thrill of the hunt and the profit to be gained by their success. The demand itself, I believe, is the public's inherent need to see other people fail and suffer. When we see a celebrity get sent to rehab or have their private lives exposed, we feel better about ourselves for some awful reason. But that's an entirely different can of worms. 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

FVCK INDVSTRIAL

As I do on most weekdays, I'm sitting here in front of my computer, working on remixes, new songs, etc.. but, also, as I do on most days, I wander over to Facebook now and again to see what's going on in the lives of my 199 friends. Today's mindless surfing brought me to a recent article from I Die: You Die, which in the most chipper of fashions the author hails that "Revolution has come to the industrial scene!" He praises it for many things, some of which I agree with, but his assertion of the Rebirth of the North American Industrial Scene is so off the mark that I am compelled to write my own rant deriding it. Now, it's true, I am quite often a pessimist, but I do like to look on the bright side from time to time. And, as someone who has traveled across the globe, experiencing various incarnations of this little scene of ours, I feel like my perspective may be a bit helpful.

Off the bat, I will admit that I do not feel very close to the "industrial" scene. I come from the dark electronic music scene, it has offered me a platform to build my band and share my music with the world. But from the beginning, like with all scenes, I felt a bit put off by the arrogance espoused by those who believe that belonging to some rigidly structured subculture was somehow less conformist than being a mainstream pop artist. I mean, really, whatever clothes you put on, whatever music you listen to, if it does not represent you 100%, then it is merely a costume, and therefore a total sham. I can't tell you how often I have been mocked for liking hip hop, or how often I get crazy looks backstage when I put on Madonna to warm up. I simply cannot reconcile that kind of closed mindedness, especially from people who want to pretend that they are open minded.

But I digress. I'm here to tear apart an article, not go on a tirade about why I hate scenes.

The author offers up five points, the first of which hails the opening of Club Complex in Los Angeles as a sign of the virility of the North American industrial scene. First off, I love Complex, I love the concept, I love the vibe. I've been there many times, the owner is a friend of mine. But let's be real. The scene in Los Angeles has ALWAYS been great. From my days of using fake ID's to get into Nocturne and Dungeon, up to the present when Aesthetic Perfection draws 800+ people at Das Bunker (the largest crowd we have EVER drawn ANYWHERE in the world), I have never seen a dip in the enthusiasm and passion LA folks have had for this kind of music. In fact, I believe that the fact that Complex has opened here is a testament to the Los Angeles scene, and not the North American scene at large. I would go so far as to suggest that if such a club opened anywhere else, it would flop.

He continues by boasting about the North American festivals. Which leaves me thinking; "Uhm, have you ever even been to a European festival?" Wave Gotik Treffen has an annual average attendance of 20,000 people. M'era Luna brings in around 25,000. I have played all 3 of the North American Festivals he mentioned. I am friends with all the promoters. They are all awesome people investing tons of money to trying to breathe life into this scene. But to try and compare them to the German festivals is simply disingenuous.

Our intrepid author continues on by insisting that the resurgence of older Cold Wave bands is somehow indicative of progress. While it may be great to see some fire still burning in the bands that helped forge the American sound, I'd rather see new bands shaking things up. There will ALWAYS be a market for great bands of the past. But we need to be focusing on the future.

Forging on, the author makes the assertion that the new Skinny Puppy record being released on an industrial label is GOOD for the scene. That somehow their faith in this label is a testament to it's strength… or… something? On the whole, I feel this is totally irrelevant. Metropolis is THE label for this kind of music. Hands down. From my personal experience, the type of freedom and support they offer their bands is something most artists on other labels could only hope for. I quite enjoyed this record, as I think a lot of people did, but we have to be honest about our North American sensibilities, and how they fit into the global market. The new SP record will NOT be released in Europe. Sonic Seducer recently reported, and I quote, "fans were no longer interested in listening to, or paying for, Skinny Puppy's sound experiments, which is why SPV decided to pass on licensing this record."

I think this is quite a statement about how the old world views our tastes in music. To me, passing on a band like SP is absurd, but they did it because it wasn't economically viable. Just sit and think about that. Let it sink in. The most influential and important North American industrial band is not economically viable in Europe.

EDIT: IT HAS BEEN BROUGHT TO MY ATTENTION THAT THIS IS NOT THE CASE. THE ARTICLE WRITTEN BY SONIC SEDUCER IS INACCURATE. THE NEW SP ALBUM WILL BE DISTRIBUTED IN EUROPE VIA METROPOLIS RECORDS.

In his final point, he contends the new wave of minimal, dark alt, minimal synth, whatever the hell you want to call those hipster bands coming out right now is beneficial to us, because their success will add credibility and cross pollinate our scenes. My prediction is that is is absolutely, positively, 100% not the case. My very unscientific position is that we are dealing with hipsters, and hipsters are even more elitist and arrogant than the industrial scene! Because a bunch of people from our scene enjoy what they are doing, does not mean that it will be reciprocated by them. What I suspect even more, is that as our bands begin to incorporate the styles and inspirations used by these hipsters, once they notice, they will immediately move on to a whole new kind of music. That is what being a hipster is all about! My more scientific position relates to the fact that our scene is REVILED by the majority of other scenes out there. And this, I believe, is the key to what is holding the genre back, and what has held it back for so many years.

You would be surprised how quickly one is to judge you negatively when you tell them you make "industrial" music. You would be surprised at how quickly your demo is rejected for review by the music magazines, you would be surprised how quickly your album is thrown into the trash by blogs like Pitchfork. Lots of people like to pretend that this is somehow related to the masses being against aggressive electronic music. Well, the current trend of dark electronic music being consumed by the masses would seem to counter such a claim. Skrillex is pretty goddamn heavy, TRUST is pretty goddamn dark and Grimes is pretty goddamn gothy. From my point of view, what is really holding the scene back, is the fact that the majority of the music is terrible. Terribly produced, terribly written and terribly performed. The soul that gave us credibility back in the 80's and 90's is all but gone. Style over substance, ego above humility, the drive to be unique quashed by the fear of not being accepted. Think of any other genre where the vocalist of a band is not THE defining sound of that band. How many vocalists in this scene can you count that have a voice you KNOW the second you hear it? Certainly not that many. A handful? And those are the top players in our scene.

Mind you, I am willing to concede that there is A LOT of terrible music out there that has become successful, and there is some outstanding scene music that gets no recognition at all. Why them and not us? Well, it's been my experience that what one lacks in talent can often be made up for in hard work or an awesome gimmick, but I don't see many bands investing a lot of effort into their live shows, their music videos or their image. Practically none of our bands are willing to put any sort of real effort into their musical endeavors.

What I do see are amateurs at all levels. Bands performing their lackluster music in a lackluster fashion. Promoters that are fans first, and businessmen second. People who would rather spend their time backstage drinking with the band than making sure that their event is running smoothly and making money. For the people behind the scenes, this is work, it isn't a social club. This type of attitude is NOT prevalent in mainland Europe. Sure, promoters may be fans, but their number one goal is to turn a profit. This may seem counter to DIY culture, but from my perspective, DIY means "DO IT YOURSELF" as in "DO SOMETHING"! DO ANYTHING! Get off your ass and work. Save your namedropping and douche-baggery for AFTER the show.

As I said at the beginning, I am indeed a pessimist, and a lot of what I see going on in our scene here in the Americas makes me even more so, but I'm not blind, I do see a bright side. We've got some seriously talented up and comers in this scene. Guys with attitude, flair and killer music to boot. We've got hard working, driven promoters who are equal parts fan and businessman. I feel invigorated by the hunger I see in the eyes of this young blood. It motivates me to work even harder. To tour more and bleed for the music I love so much. Is it even industrial anymore? To me, no. I feel no more connected to Throbbing Gristle than I do to The Beatles. "Industrial" means nothing to me anymore. It's a label used by those who are just as elitist as the hipsters who won't let us into their party. Let's be ourselves. Let's find our passion again. Let's find our REAL voices and be heard. Let's create a whole new era of dark electronic music. Let's stop looking back and march forward into the fire. Whatever's left will be the best of us.

Friday, January 4, 2013

The difference is vast...

There is a big difference between selling a piece of art as a product, and selling a product as if it were a piece of art.