I came across an older episode of The Sound of Young America with Chicago producer Steve Albini, and it was just so good, I have to tell you about it. I first heard about Steve when I was in high school, drunk off of underground music and reading books like Michael Azerrad's This Band Could Be Your Life. His resume is in the thousands, and even though most of the bands he has worked with are relatively obscure, he's done jobs on some big clunkers - Nirvana, Pixies, Jawbreaker, Mogwai and the list goes on.
I've only casually glanced at the producing side of the music biz, but that's mostly because it's a mountain I've 1) never climbed and 2) never thought I had the capacity to climb. But as I get a bit older, I start to get it more. I start to realize what I like and don't like. Albini? He's on the like side. Besides being good at his job, he's cheap. He charges a day rate, meaning he doesn't take royalties on any of the records he works on.
In the interview he explains that there are two different career paths for record producers. There are superproducers, guys that can work on only two records a year with superfamous musicians and make bank doing as little as possible. And then there are guys like Albini, who produce music because they love it, and they are fans of the music they work on. Moreover, I think Albini gives a fresh-faced perspective to what we're hearing today (read below).
Young America: Do you feel adverse to superproducing?
Albini: There are a lot of things that come to bear. Having been in band for the whole time I was making records, I know that most bands as they operate are plenty good that they don't actually need a lot of production if you just allow them to do what they do naturally. You'll halve a pretty good representation of the band. Generally speaking, it'll be a satisfying experience. When you start deconstructing a band into its component parts and parsing their music out into lyrics, verses, chorus riffs... you work on all these elements individually and then try to reassemble them into a simulacrum of what the band was doing organically. My experience is that this makes freakish records that don't represent the band very well.
There are bands that are the sums of their parts, and a producer brings those parts together, makes the pieces fit snug and sound good for general consumption. That's what radio rock has been for decades, but now it's not just about the Top 40. If we open up this idea to our music, the kind of stuff that inhabits our music scene, even smaller pop (or any other genre formula) bands are aiming to parse and reassemble, as Albini said. A band that's a unit, a band that works like an organism and cannot do without even one small piece of its structure is a band to admire. There should be no crutch. It adds extra pressure for bands in a live setting - I almost wish there were no frills in production, no making the band better than they actually are. It's either real skill or a fail. It would certainly weed out the bad bands, and I wouldn't be opposed to that.
Once again, this podcast was one of the best I've ever heard. I highly recommend checking it out.
I'm on the home from NYC (bus wifi, ftw!), transcribing a hefty chunk of this tell-all CIWWAF interview. It's 50 minutes long, and my "a" key is broken. So hopefully I can hold you over with this sneak peek:
Shaant: Oh my goodness. We used to get into band-ending fights every two days. Dave: There were times when you guys just wouldn't speak to each other. There was front lounge versus back lounge [of the bus]. That sucked. Jeff: Everyone was just picking sides. Shaant: And then you had crew members taking sides. It was just bad. Dave: Yeah. Crew members too. Why have we rotated through so many of them? When you're caught in that shitstorm, what's gonna happen? There's gonna be conflict. It sucks to say, but that's just how it is.
... Shaant: There was no writing. Dave: Before we went in for Rotation, Jeff, Shaant and I sat in Shaant's basement for awhile and wrote, but it was never a cohesive process. Shaant: No way. We never wrote together. and once we got to the studio [for Rotation], just like for the first record, we wrote five songs and recorded them before, and then we wrote seven songs in three weeks. And then for this record, we didn't even have a full song, and we came out with 15. We were the people that needed to jump in head first and be pressured. But now, it's interesting that we have a cohesive vibe because we're already done with two songs and we've already written two more. The wheel's turning; it's great now. But you're absolutely right. It hindered EVERYTHING. Down to having band meetings. We couldn't even MEET. I had to call Jeff and he had to call to talk to them. I don't even know why we called ourselves a band. At all.
One of coolest things about working here is that sometimes, the good opportunities knock on your own door. A few weeks ago, Fueled By Ramen asked if we wanted to do a tell-all sit down interview with Cute Is What We Aim For at Take Action. Jamie Pham and I are handling this bad boy in February, and I think it's gonna be a good one.
Also, the Unsigned Band Sponsorship Hook-Up is still on. In the last couple weeks, I've wrapped up three sponsorships, but I'm aiming for one of two more before we launch. God, I love this contest.
PS - I'm watching a commercial for Space Buddies. My soul will never be complete until I have another dog in my life. I want a puppy, boo.
Well, I'll be doing an interview with Bring Me The Horizon soon. I thought they were your standard young metalcore band - growling vocals, drastic riffage and awesome hair - but whew, little did I know. This band certainly isn't a stranger to drama. Now if only I can figure out how to work in a pee question.
I just finished up my interview with The Gay Blades. I've had the infinite pleasure of working with Clark Westfield both as the frontman of TGB and as an a man of the industry (he used to work at a label I frequently chatted with). So this interview was infinitely less awkward than 99 percent of the other interviews I've ever done. I think it turned out quite spiffy.
Westfield and Puppy Mills will be coming through Baltimore two times in the beginning of 2009 - once with Kiss Kiss to the Talking Head Club and another time with Craig Owens and Ace Enders to Ottobar. I've missed the last two times they've swung through D.C., and I think I owe it to myself to be in attendance in this new year. Last time, and the only time, I've seen The Gay Blades, I was inebriated to the holy hangovers, and I'd like to see them at least once on the sober-ish side. Ish. I don't think it's possible to watch The Gay Blades and not raise your glass.
1) Although I don't collect vinyl, it's cool. I fully support the collection and if I could (aka, had the funds), I'd be a buying machine. So I don't. I do own Purple Rain on vinyl though, I hope that gives me a couple noteworthy points.
2) Vinyl Collective only releases vinyl reissues and the company is cooperative, so it's like a group project. Team work is a beautiful thing, especially when it comes to music.
3) It's doing well. And it releases a very specific format. A glowing example of what fresh business models can do. There is tons of potential in this venture, and I'm excited to see what paths Dickerson takes.
4) The Collective are music fans. They are better music fans than I.
Mike McCarron, a sophomore at Temple University, asked me to answer a few questions about my blog. I liked my answers, so I figure I'd reproduce them here. Mom and Dad, if you guys are reading this, I love you.
1. Could you tell me a little about yourself. Where you were born, and little about your upbringing, any important events that impacted you life.
I'm Julia Conny. I'm halfway between 22 and 23. I currently live in Baltimore, MD and am a Towson University senior journalism and new media student. Essentially, I spend too much time on the Internet.
My parents were living and getting their PhD's in Boulder, Colorado when I was born. I was five (hmm, maybe four?) when we moved to Frederick, Maryland, which is about an hour outside of Washington, D.C. I lived a pretty simple suburban life with good public schools, ice rink birthday parties and annual need-new-school-clothes mall trips. I spent an insane amount of time at this 24-hour coffee shop called Frederick Coffee Company when I was in high school and during summer break. My parents are very liberal and both always stressed that the most important part of life is to enjoy what you do. My dad, a molecular chemist for the government, plays jazz trumpet on the side and likes building things with two-by-fours. My mom is a writer, and she blogs too. If my parents didn't let me steal their computer time when I was a kid, I'd probably be into drugs or quilt fairs or have a lot of cats.
In my senior year of high school, a close friend of mine (and now roommate) and I started a promotion company for small bands. When we started using the Internet as a promotional tool, Myspace was barely anything. As the company and technology grew, I started teaching myself HTML and graphic design. I adapted. I kept up. I'd say it was a pretty good time investment. I went away to college at University of Pittsburgh, and to keep tabs on everything I was doing and what everyone else was doing, I always had some sort of blog or online journal to record my thoughts. Same with when I transferred to Towson University; I've always wanted a place to show my writing, record my thoughts, and keep in touch with friends.
Little things - the small life beauties - inspire me, so it's hard for me to find grand events that have really changed my outlook. I often blog about random things that amuse me. But even with that said, music has had the most impact on my life above anything else. It's what pushed me to stay on top of trends within the art and the business of music, and it's what I blog about 85 percent of the time.
2. What got you interested in doing a blog? How long have you been blogging?
I touched on this before, but it's all about having a place to put all those thoughts. Maybe some people can go weeks without taking a step back, but I've always felt as though there is too much going on in the world (digital and real), too many thoughts that run through my head, to not jot down at least a few. And hey, why not share them while I'm at it? I also think that this generation - the hyper-paced Internet generation - is valued individually on their Internet presence. That may be a nerdy and/or lame appraisal of life, but I figure I should still try to be good at it, you know?
The blog here, my AbsolutePunk.net blog, was started just about two years ago. I am a staff member at AbsolutePunk.net and so the decision to start one was easy. It's just like why you keep a coffee mug in your cubicle.
My official job at AbsolutePunk.net is as an album reviewer, but I do a lot of other things too (exclusives, contests, interviews, features, etc.), so while I use the blog to record random thoughts, I also use it as a major tool for band recommendations and updates on what site-related projects I'm in the midst of. I guess people actually read it because it's a Top Viewed Blog. It also gives people an inside look into how AbsolutePunk.net words behind-the-scenes.
3. How has the blog changed since it started?
Hmm, interesting question. I curse A LOT in real life, and as I was reading my old entries, I realized that too many words started with an "f", so I've been trying to clean up my language. Not that I feel like I HAVE to be nice - it's my home, I can say whatever I want - but at least I don't sound like drunken sailor anymore.
More seriously, I've changed my blog to be a part-promotional outlet. When I first started blogging at AbsolutePunk.net, I didn't put much thought into the power it held. It was more random than anything else. As the months passed, more and more people commented on what I had to say, and I gathered more pageviews, it became a great beginning stage (and still is) for new bands I was working with and ideas I was ironing out. Or, for example, when I get an advance of an album, I might post a 'First Impressions' entry, just noting my thoughts upon the first few listens of the album. It helps the band to get an extra bit of attention and draw some buzz into the release of the album.
4. What do you like about your blog? What other ways can the format evolve to make the blog more effective?
I like it because it's mine! I've had several blogs, maybe six or seven since I was 16, and I keep up with this one quite regularly. I'm proud of myself for that. And I like it because it's a Top Viewed Blog, what can I say? Ha. I'm around music, just listening or the business, all day, and it's like my private thinking corner.
The format is based on the way AbsolutePunk.net is formatted, so I don't have wild layout freedom like you do on a tumblr, blogspot or wordpress. The website is working on a new beta version, and I do like the way the blogs look under that. Other than that, I bold and italicize things. Maybe even center a picture or embed a video or mp3. That's about it. I think that this has to do a lot of why I've kept up with it for so long - I don't have to worry about programming or coding or re-doing styles. Makes it easier to just focus on the writing.
5. How many places do you look for fodder for your blog? Does anyone else see it before you post information? How comfortable are you with the current editing process?
Like I mentioned before, a lot of what goes on my AP.net blog involves the website, so I guess "the office" is most of my fodder, but I pull from my everyday life, my Google Reader and the other projects I have going on with music, like my promotion company.
No one sees what I post before I post it. I am my own editor. And I'm definitely comfortable with that. I wouldn't be very inclined to write in my blog if I had to get the entries approved first, or something like that. I can always go back in and edit the entry if I need to, so I have no qualms with the process. I can't spell and always miss words, so that's a good thing, I'm positive.
6. And any other information/fun stories you feel comfortable sharing with me would be great. I look forward to hearing back from you, and again, i really appreciate this.
Can't sleep. Decided to wake up and finish up my interview questions for Warped today. Might as well, I figured, because that energy drink I had five hours ago has got me all riled up ... five hours later. Fail? Better than waking up early ... I guess?
Settings is currently sleeping in my living room. Adam Elmakias is with them, and it turns out Sean from The Great American Soundtrack is in the band now too. Awesome surprise! I enjoy reunions. Luckily he's not snotty and sick like last time.
Interviews with Just Surrender, Craig Monahan (TM for Set Your Goals), Settings, Bedouin Soundclash, The Briggs and The Gaslight Anthem all in gear for Warped '08. Lil sis and her friend are coming with me. I'll be escorting them around, taking them on the obligatory "merch booth walk", and showing them a big piece of my life. I don't expect or demand that my little sister listen to the music that I do or fall in love with bands and albums like I did when I was in high school, but I want her to see the something special that Warped Tour and this music community can be.
I remember my first one. It was after I got home that fateful night that I started writing about music. It's what started it all for me. And even though I can't say things are the same as they used to be, that inkling of wide-eyed teenage optimism? Yeah, it's still there. She might see it too, but I have a feeling that she'll be more distracted by the boys.
PS - It didn't take a lot of parental convincing to let Jenna and her friend come with me, but I would like to put on the record that it was all too easy to freak my mom out after the approval. All I had to do was mention older musicians with hidden agendas, and she was all sorts of questions. Lulz. It's OK though, because I'll just have Jenna wear a name tag that say "Hello, my name is 14".