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.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Top 10 Rules of the Road

I'm often asked what the touring experience is like. Most people are shocked when I tell them it's an awful, miserable time. But, like with most things in life, the most difficult endeavors reap the sweetest rewards. So, in that respect, touring can be one of the most amazing experiences of your life. The payback for investing your time, your money and your sanity can be measured by much more than dollars. Traveling the globe, meeting new friends, making connections, and, most importantly, sharing your passion with the world. What we get to see and experience is something most people will never get to do.

The majority of those asking are, as would be expected, young musicians looking for a bit of insight. New kids on the block trying to get their feet wet and hoping to get a few tips from those who've been in the trenches. I wouldn't consider myself a successful artist, because what the hell is success, anyways, but I have definitely been at this for a while. So for those who have asked, those who've been too afraid to ask, and those who don't really care, here are my Top 10 Rules of Touring.

1. Know Your Role

This is probably the most vital rule of all, yet for some reason, most people don't seem to grasp it. Whatever level you are at in your music career, you are always dependent on other people. You may be headlining a tour and pulling 500 people at the El Corazon in Seattle or The Bottom Lounge in Chicago, but seriously, no one cares, and it doesn't give you the right to be an asshole to the local crew. The local crew are there to help you, not wipe your ass. Be courteous to them. If you're not, you may just get that busted microphone or DI Box, maybe your monitor mix will mysteriously change. Fact is, the success of your show depends on a lot more than you.

On the flip side, if you're the opening band, don't act like an entitled prick because you have 5,000 likes on (insert current social media favorite here), do not waltz into the backstage and eat the headliner's catering, don't drink their booze. I can't tell you how many times I have come offstage wanting nothing more than a cold beer, only to be greeted by an empty fridge and a drunk opening band. In fact, stay out of the headliner's backstage all together. When you stay out of the way, you will be appreciated, and that appreciation often turns into an invite to the backstage for drinks.

2. Keep It Simple

Why do local bands feel the need to bring every piece of gear they own to their gig opening for a touring package that already has 4 bands on the bill? Do they feel like the fact that they brought 4 guitar cabinets and 10 synthesizers validates them in the eyes of the audience? Whatever the reason is, I can promise you, the audience isn't impressed, and neither is the touring package that has to try and accommodate your massive space requirements. All your rats nest of cables and wires and racks of guitars serves to achieve is making the crew hate you (both local AND touring).

Keep your live rig as stripped down as possible. Be efficient, make sure you can set up and tear down the entire thing in 10 minutes or less. When you can set up and tear down quickly and efficiently, people will recognize your professionalism, they will remember that and they won't roll their eyes when they see that you're opening for them on their next tour. Think of it this way: When your changeover time is longer than your set time, you're doing it wrong.

3. Watch What You Eat

That Catfish Burrito you just ate from the gas station in the middle of New Mexico WILL come back to haunt you. The Chinese Food everyone got at the strip mall in Phoenix will make your next 24 hours very unpleasant. Do yourself, and everyone else traveling with you, a favor, and eat as healthy as possible. Eat simple, basic foods that will keep you alive, otherwise you'll be running for a toilet every 30 minutes. And be warned, toilets on the road are few and far between.

4. Get Blitzed (After You Clock Out)

You know that video of me on YouTube where I'm wasted? Oh, really? There's more than one? You don't say. Here's the deal. People video tape all the crazy shit I do when I'm drunk because it's (arguably) entertaining. What people never film is the eight hour drive we did, the load in, the set up, counting merch, counting money, breaking down or loading out. All of this happens before me or my crew does any serious drinking. Why? Because counting seven thousand dollars while completely annihilated is impossible. Trust me, I know. If you are drunk, you are useless. Make sure everything is done and everything is packed BEFORE you get the wise idea to pound a bottle of Jaegermeister for twenty seconds and then vomit all over yourself.

P.S. I, for one, am (mostly) against filming drunken shenanigans, but that's a whole other blog post.

5. Pack Light, Pack Right

Nothing like the first day of tour when some witless amateur shows up to the van with two giant suitcases, a backpack, a trolly and a laptop bag. What makes you think I want to load and unload those two monsters in and out of the trailer every day? What makes you think that being on a thirty-five day tour means you need to bring thirty-five t-shirts? Thirty-five pairs of underwear? And once we're underway, why didn't you zip up your backpack? Because when Tim hit the brakes the contents of it spilled all over the inside of the van and now your iPod is missing. Which you didn't realize until two days later.

Space is valuable, so is keeping track of your valuables. Bring a weeks worth of clothes with you in one small trolly bag and do laundry when you can. Organize everything and know where it is at all times. Keep your luggage constantly zipped up and for the love of god, put your dirty rainbow toe socks in a plastic bag and put them in your backpack, they're stinking up the van and making me question your sexuality.

6. Take A Shower

Please. Pretty please. I know the venue in Tulsa didn't have one, but the one in Columbus does, so use it. Being on tour is not an excuse to be foul. Brush your teeth, too.

7. Understand That You Will Lose Money

You're going to lose money, A LOT of money, before you make any. And once you start making money, it's not going to be a lot. This is an investment. Buy onto larger tours, make merchandise, eat the cost of gas, take every opportunity you get without worrying about the finances. In my eyes, the determining factor of success is how determined you are. Those who try and fail and try again are more likely to make something of themselves.

8. Stop complaining

Stop whining that you're tired. We're all tired. Stop complaining that the crowd didn't rage enough. They never do. Stop bitching about the fact that you didn't sell enough merch. We all want to sell more merch. Shut up about the drive from El Paso to Dallas. We all know it's brutal. We're all suffering, we're all stressed, we're all trying to keep it together. Your shrill barrage of grievances isn't helping the situation, it just makes me want to leave you at that WaWa's in Richmond, Virginia.

9. Do Your Job

If you sign up for a job, make sure you know how to do it. The tour manager shouldn't be explaining to the merch guy how to run a merch booth. I need to be setting up the computer for soundcheck, not nagging the promoter for bottled water. Load your own gear out of the trailer, because if I have to do it, I'm going to hate you. With that said, when someone else isn't doing their job, step up and make sure it gets done. Never forget that everyone in the crew is paying attention. They are sizing you up constantly and their opinion of you could be the difference between getting that next tour, or not. I can guarantee you that no one is going to hire the guy who, when the shit hits the fan, puts up his hands and says "not my job".

10. Don't Let the Vodka Spoil

Once the bottle is open, vodka tends to go bad very quickly. Ingest it before the mold forms.

That pretty much sums it all up. Every single reference I've made here is lifted from an actual experience I've had. Some of them are mistakes I've seen other people make, many of them are mistakes I've made myself. The funny thing is, I know that some of you out there will read this and think you'll consider what I've said and put it into practice. The truth is that none of you will take anything away from this but a chuckle or two. When you're on the road, you'll have to learn these lessons yourself, the hard way. Because really, the only way to remember not to mix beer and vodka and Jaeger and a joint, is to wake up in your bunk, covered in your own vomit in the sweltering heat of Bryan, TX with sandwich meat shoved into your pockets and socks. That, and, of course, the ensuing $150 bill from the bus company to replace your puke covered mattress.

Friday, November 30, 2012

The Gothic Cruise: Eternal Banishment

As some of you probably know by now, we've just been handed a lifetime ban on the now infamous Gothic Cruise. I recently boasted about the ban on the Aesthetic Perfection Facebook page, but, in the name of diplomacy, I decided to remove it and give a more detailed explanation here on my blog.

The first draft of this post was a bit long winded. It was an overly detailed, garbled mess of "he said, she said". However, I feel compelled to convey to everyone how infuriated we are by the accusations that have been leveled against us. Of the multitude crimes we're being crucified for, I can honestly tell you that we are guilty of just one or two. And of those, they are being grossly exaggerated. We are being used as a scapegoat for all the bad behavior on that boat, and it isn't fair. But even so, more than I am angry, I am saddened, that a large part of our banishment is due to fellow Gothic Cruisers tattling on us, playing telephone with grandiose tales of debauchery, and simply lacking the maturity to tap me or my crew on the shoulder, and politely ask us to behave. Where is the camaraderie? You want to accuse me of lacking maturity, well please tell me, where was yours?

While picturing a bunch of goths in white pancake makeup, sunbathing in knee high New Rock boots is worthy of a snicker or two, fact is, I like the concept A LOT. To me, there's nothing like defying convention and doing something that is so totally absurd that it goes from being totally absurd to being totally awesome. In short, I love the idea of a goth cruise. I enjoyed meeting a lot of new people and sharing a new experience, but I must admit that all of that has been soured. The organizers are impolite, hypocritical liars, they have taken what is a wonderful idea and ruined it. So I welcome the ban, I am happy to never attend one of their events again. Hopefully, one day, a new organizer will come along and take what is a great concept, and make it work. For now, though, I will avoid the current incarnation of the Gothic Cruise like the plague.

Seeya never Gothic Cruise.