Archive for August, 2009

Coalesce – Ox

August 30, 2009

Source: Absolutepunk.net

There was a time when underground metal wasn’t a flood of fast sweeps, choruses and the inevitable breakdown. Back in the bridge of the new millennium, bands such as Botch, The Dillinger Escape Plan, Converge and Cave In began to take the D.I.Y. hardcore of the ’90s and blend it with snazzy riffs wrapped in vocal onslaughts that were as rhythmic as the time signatures belted out by their respective instruments.

Coalesce released 0:12 Revolution in Just Listening in 1999. The album was a chalkboard of changes up that never let up once for the listener to breathe and calculate what had just happened. Ten years later, Coalesce return (except for original drummer James Dewees who is replaced by the equally talented Nathan Richardson) for their follow-up to the monumental third full-length.

After ten years, could the band still pull it off? With thousands of bands within the decade imitating the band’s style, and often falling short, could Coalesce revise the books, and re-educate their peers and followers alike? When the last lyric on “There is a Word Hidden in the Ground” is “The will is not what saved me,” then the band is sure to pull out something great, right?

OX opens with “The Plot Against My Love,” and there’s no remorse from the band off the bat. The guitars swirl relentlessly while vocalist Sean Ingram shows he still knows how to wrap his words around the music — literally. The listener will notice the “down home country” feel right away with “The Comedian in Question,” along with many of the intros to songs such as the following track, “Wild Ox Moan,” and the interlude “Where Satire Sours.” This is a fresh touch on the album’s core, but at times, they seem like unnecessary breaks the album doesn’t need to contain for a band one expects to be pummeled by from start to finish.

“In My Wake, For My Own,” and “By What We Refuse” stand out in the band’s style of continuing their previous sound, but striving for a progressive edge. In other words, they are creative takes on a cemented groove, and they work out well. Coalesce take risks with their new venture that will either turn older fans off, or have them praising the band for pulling off contemporary feats.

OX is both a history lesson for some, and a breath of relief for others. For fourteen songs in little over a half an hour, Coalesce have proven their worth a decade later, and it’s time for many listeners and artists alike to clap their hands in kudos.

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Virgil Dickerson interview

August 30, 2009

Source: Absolutepunk.net

Virgil Dickerson has put out some fine releases through his label Suburban Home Records and his online store Vinyl Collective. Since the release of Fear Before the March of Flames’ Art Damage picture disc and the Every Time I Die box-set featuring their first three albums (which has since been re-released through VC in individual forms), Dickerson and his imprint has made a name for himself and some of the buzz bands he’s supported along the way. Dickerson took some time to tell his story and give comment on the current state of his company and the vinyl revival in general.

How did Suburban Home Records start? When and how did Vinyl Collective start thereafter?
Suburban Home started in September of 1995 when I started publishing my own fanzine. I was inspired by other magazines like Maximum Rock and Roll and Flipside and had discovered punk rock, ska, and indie rock when I was a freshman in college in 1993. I fell in love with all the music. I felt a need to be involved doing a zine, starting a label, and booking shows. I started putting out 7″ singles for bands like the Fairlanes and Overlap soon after starting the zine in 1996.

Vinyl Collective started as a thought to get back into putting out vinyl August of 2006. We are about to celebrate 3 years of VC. Vinyl never died, but it seemed that a lot of independent labels had abandoned the format. I have always loved vinyl, but we too abandoned vinyl around the late 90’s as we were having a tough time selling [the format.] It all started by asking our friends in Fear Before the March of Flames if they would be into us licensing their album, Art Damage, for release on vinyl. That went really well. Soon after, we asked Ferret if we could license the Every Time I Die box set, and they too agreed. That also did well and got me to thinking about putting together a hub for vinyl collectors, a store, etc. I still have a lot of ideas that I want to launch in connection with Vinyl Collective, and hope to get going in the near future.

When did you first start to notice the resurgence of vinyl in the past few years? Was there any particular release you saw made the first impact? What was the first Vinyl Collective/Suburban Home Records release that took off?
As mentioned before, we did well with Fear Before and Every Time I Die and doing more vinyl opened more doors for us with bands like Portugal. the Man and Minus the Bear. Minus the Bear’s “Planet of Ice” has been one of our most successful vinyl releases with around 4,000 copies sold. Honestly, I knew that when we started Vinyl Collective that there were long-time vinyl collectors out there who would appreciate a central place for information, but what blew me away was the increased interest that followed. I had no idea Vinyl Collective would have done as many things as it has done, and in 2008, we had our best year ever thanks to vinyl.

When Capitol Records began to do their “From the Vault” series a few months back, I contacted them for a story (one I believe I did with you as well), and their key answer for the resurgence was one of “nostalgia” for an older generation and “discovery” for a new generation. As for market share, which age demographic do you believe is more responsible for the demand?
I think that saying “nostalgia” is the root of increased interest isn’t telling the full story; there are people who have fallen in love with the format for the many reasons that make vinyl amazing (physical/tangible product, better fidelity, the ritual of listening, bigger artwork/liner notes, etc). With the rise of a digital format and the lack of soul in that format, I think people have gravitated to a physical format that isn’t disposable. CDs have served their time and place, but there isn’t anything remarkable about a CD with a 4 panel booklet. I think that my demographic is as young as 16 to 18 to mid-20s and mid-30s. I think that a lot of our supporters are people my age, or maybe a little bit younger, who have at one time experienced music as a physical format.

Of that demand, you had mentioned in a deal a few weeks ago, through Vinyl Collective, that the warehouse is a bit overstocked. Like any business model, do you think that supply is outweighing demand just a bit at this point?
I think that it is important to learn the lessons many of us have learned with the CD format. You have to be smart about manufacturing the right amount of copies and repress when the record sells out. We made a few missteps with past releases, and have more copies than we would like to have of more than a few titles. We also have seen so many labels putting out vinyl again, and that is another reason our warehouse is swelling. I think that demand is still really strong, but between the recent over-saturation of releases on vinyl and the effect the economy has had, records are not selling as well as they did even a year ago.

When I initially went into collecting vinyl, I began with my father’s collection. I told myself that I would buy albums that I thought were worthwhile from the artists I love, yet every week I’ll see a few records that I don’t believe needed pressing, or worth purchasing. But who am I to judge? What records have sold well through VC that you were surprised at? Which ones didn’t do as well?
That’s a good question. Probably the biggest surprise in the history of Vinyl Collective is the Gaslight Anthem’s ‘59 Sound. Mind you, when we announced the pre-order for The ‘59 Sound, the band had a buzz, and we knew they would do well, but they were not the band they are today. We sold 500 copies on white vinyl (Vinyl Exclusive Color) in 42 minutes. The traffic from the pre-order shut down Side One Dummy’s online store, and they had asked us if we could post the 1,000 copies of their color (blue vinyl) on our site. We sold out of the blue copies in a little over a week. With the black vinyl, we sold 1,800 copies of vinyl and helped contribute to the first week Soundscans for the [album,] which has now sold well over 60,000 copies in the United States. That was exciting.
As far as things not selling as well, most records we have been posting on pre-order have not been doing as well as we thought they could, but that is in due largely because of the economy. Every time I post a new pre-order, there are at least a few people who mention how they don’t have money to buy records. It’s tough.

Do you think the resurgence of vinyl is a direct correlation with the revival of the independent record store, or do you hear that more people purchase through online outlets such as VC and “exclusive” pre-orders through Merchnow.com?
I think that the increase of interest in vinyl has helped strong, independent retail destinations become stronger. Smart mom and pop stores have always sold vinyl, especially used vinyl, which tends to have a higher markup. That and a good store has a high turnover of new arrivals for used vinyl, so their die-hard customers come into their store more than a few times each week. I am sure along with us, online stores like Interpunk.com, Insound.com, Merchnow.com, etc. have also experienced a huge increase of vinyl sales. Even Amazon.com have been selling vinyl, so you know that there is money to be made if they are getting involved.

Fads come and go. Is this revival just a fad, or is it more that those consumers of tangible music getting more for their buck? Along with labels packaging digital download cards with their LP releases, is this the nail in the coffin for CD releases, or is vinyl still a niche market compared to the masses?
Vinyl sales will never become the main musical format; the best selling LP of 2008 was Radiohead’s “In Rainbows” which sold like 10,000 copies, but combined sales of the other formats of that same album sold over 1 million copies. I think vinyl will see a lot of life for a long time and even when the fair-weather vinyl fans leave, the loyal vinyl collectors will continue to collect like they did before vinyl saw this upswing. As far as the CD format, people are still buying millions of CDs every week, and the suits will continue to keep CDs alive so long as there is money coming in. I have thought about phasing out CDs, but I think that the time isn’t yet right for that to happen.

What do you think of bands that are formatting JUST on vinyl now? Your pressings have opened up a fan base to bands such as Kay Kay and His Weathered Underground, O’ Pioneers and Bomb the Music Industry!, who have released a lot of vinyl only material. Does that alienate a market share who could otherwise discover the music through CD and digital formats?
Good question, there are positives and negatives to bands that primarily release their albums on vinyl. I think it has helped the examples you have given. When we posted an mp3 for Kay Kay and his Weathered Underground and announced the pre-order, everything just clicked. We sold nearly the entire pressing based on word of mouth. It should be noted that we have since released the album on CD in hopes of getting more publicity for a band I think everyone should here.

For Bomb the Music Industry! and O’ Pioneers, lots of their music is available for free download through quote-unquote records. So yes, they primarily release vinyl, but there are other options to find their music. That and Asian Man has released CDs for both bands. I think that for both bands – and other bands that put out vinyl before everyone started doing vinyl again – putting releases on vinyl distinguished your band from the other millions of bands out there. It also helps that both bands rock and have great ethical views on punk rock.

If this revival were a fad, would you expect to see an abundance of used records at independent record stores? Just yesterday I found a copy of Minus the Bear’s Beer Commercials EP in the new arrival rack at Waterloo Records.
I think that you will see lots of used vinyl in any record store because people always need money, so they sell the records back to the stores. With the economy, I am sure lots of record collectors are selling back the records they don’t feel they have to have. That Minus the Bear record, for example, was pressed on 3 different colors; it could be that the person sold it because they had it on a different color. I hope you bought it, that record rules!

Given the current state of the vinyl industry, where do you think supply and demand for this particular tangible medium will go, or end, in the next few years?
I think that vinyl will stay long after people find it interesting to write about, but vinyl won’t make sense for every artist. People are saying that Wilco’s new album will be the best selling LP of 2009, so I guess bands like Wilco will always see a strong following on vinyl. My guess is that the newest Jonas Brothers album, for example, won’t sell a lot of copies on vinyl. Let’s say that in 2 years, there isn’t as much enthusiasm, I am sure that there will be lots of labels that will abandon the format, but there will always be labels like No Idea, Magic Bullet, Robotic Empire, Deathwish, Bridge 9, and others that will continue to put out vinyl, and there will continue to be vinyl collectors excited about those releases.

Is there anything you’d like to say to vinyl collectors on Absolutepunk.net, and in general, about keeping the industry thriving?
Vinyl Collectors of Absolutepunk.net, and anyone else that might be reading this, I know that times are tough and maybe you don’t have a lot of money to spend on music, but I urge you to support your independent retailer and independent record label. Fuck the majors. Fuck the big box retailers. Times are tough for independent retailers and labels, and so if you download an album for free and you find that you love it, please consider buying the LP – or hell CD – and support those independent labels, retailers, and artists with your hard-earned money. I often think about how different my life would be without my discovery of independent music; man it would have sucked. I think a lot about what separates us (supporters of independent artists/labels) from the people who mindlessly listen to commercial radio who find themselves glued to the television to watch reality television and enjoy the experiences other people are having and not experiencing anything new themselves. Kudos to you for supporting sites like Absolutepunk.net and discussing independent music. Thanks to everyone for taking the time to read this.

Greg Kot interview

August 30, 2009

Source: Aboslutepunk.net

Greg Kot is an established journalist for the Chicago Tribune, and has already authored a book on Wilco, Learning How to Die. Kot has just released a book documenting our love of the ones and zeros, and how our “wired generation” changed the model before the industry could. Kot was kind enough to answer a few questions by e-mail about his book, Ripped: How the Wired Generation Revolutionized Music, and where he thinks the current industry stands and could possibly be going. It is available now, and has my full approval as a minimalist, yet well researched history lesson.

What made you decided to cover the subject matter of Ripped? Was it partially inspired with what happened with Wilco and your coverage of the Yankee Hotel Foxtrot phenomenon?
Obviously, the means of making, distributing and consuming music are changing radically and rapidly. The Wilco story with Yankee Hotel Foxtrot was a part of that change, and documenting that period was in many ways the beginning point of “Ripped.” I’d been covering these events since the mid-‘90s for the Chicago Tribune, and I remember talking to record company executives who had no idea what an MP3 file was, much less how it would impact their future and change their lives. That’s a great story. You live for that as a journalist. It seemed natural to cover it in a book, even though we don’t know how the story ends yet.

The book reads like a minimal history lesson from Napster to Trent Reznor’s views, but as to the point as the topics are, mostly every detail was hit, including some ideas and trends I never thought about or paid any attention to. Was it difficult making sure that you were covering every track of the subject, or did initial conversations and preliminary interviews lead to new discoveries and research?
Trying to deal with this issue comprehensively would’ve turned into a book at least three times longer. I wanted to write not just a history, but a history that normal people would actually want to read. Something brisk and informative, rather than stodgy and comprehensive. I wanted to provide an overview, then hone in on a few specific, representative tales. It was instructive to follow the evolution of bands like Radiohead, Nine Inch Nails, Arcade Fire, Girl Talk, etc. as they wrestled with the key questions of the digital age: How to deal with the culture of free? What is music worth? Do we even need record companies anymore? How do we get music to the fans more efficiently? I had access to those bands over the last 10 years, and their stories gave me a framework for the book.

Has the Internet ruined music for both the industry and the listener? Of the two, who do you think suffers more?
The Internet hasn’t ruined anything. It’s a tool, and it has profoundly changed the way artists and fans communicate. The 20th Century music industry didn’t grasp how the Internet would change that fan-artist relationship until it was too late, and that industry is now in big trouble. But music is in better shape than ever.

From the interviews for the book, is it a general consensus that many artists don’t have room to grow because of how flooded the market can become with new artists every week?
The fact that there is much more music being recorded and released now than at any time in history is a daunting prospect for any new artist. The key question is: How do you get heard amid all that noise? And the simple answer is, “Don’t suck.” A lot of bands and artists release music, but most of it isn’t very good. That’s always been the case: 90-95 percent of the releases in any given year don’t really have any cultural resonance or significance. But if you’re in that 5 percent, you WILL be heard. Maybe not right away, but eventually. The key word I’d add to that is “patience.” A lot of bands and artists get frustrated and go away because they aren’t quickly rewarded. But if you look at the histories of bands that did make an impact, almost all of them had a long period of dues-paying, where they found their voice over time. To work in the arts, you have to be a little crazy, and you have to be head over heels in love with creating things. The process is its own reward. If you make good art, people are going to appreciate it sooner or later. And especially now with viral word-of-mouth, it’s difficult for anyone of worth to remain a secret for too long.

Do you think majors will ever go back to a single basis since that’s what iTunes and Amazon MP3 thrives on? Will the majors only release killer, and lose the filler?
Singles are already back in a big way. They should never have gone away. For years the industry tried to sell fans an $18 CD when the fan just wanted one track, the hit single. But there was no way to buy that single, because the industry stopped releasing them. It’s as if Coke decided to stop selling 12-ounce cans, and insisted that consumers could only buy the 64-ounce bottle. So, yes, singles are the coin of the industry realm at the moment, at the expense of the full-length album. Now that we’ve swung the other way, I think eventually there will be a readjustment, and longer forms of music releases will return. The Internet offers some interesting ways that artists could do that, like releasing discrete packages of four or five songs designed to be heard as a group (the equivalent of one side of an old vinyl album, or an EP), or packaging songs with videos and other viral links to text and bonus content to create multi-media presentations.

The idea brought up by Team Love to listen to records before purchase, this seems to be a trend now with Myspace.com, but some consumers are able to “webrip” audio. Do you think the Team Love model will ever catch on with everyone, or will there have to be technology implemented to prevent any sort of “webrips” to allow for a pre-purchase preview if record labels decide on a “stream only” basis?
These sorts of limitations only frustrate consumers and potential fans, and drive them away. And there’s no doubt that a fan who wants to “steal” something will find a way to do it. You’re going to deal with unethical people in any line of work, and you will lose some sales. But I think if you treat fans with respect and intelligence, as Team Love does, the artists and labels will be rewarded in kind. Letting fans hear the music of a new artist before buying is good business. If the music is good, the listener will want more. They’ll want to go the shows, buy the merch, and support the artist. The key is to treat the fan not just as a consumer, but as a co-conspirator. Bring them into the fold rather than putting up restrictions to access.

Of all the interviews you had done for the book, who seemed, to you, to be the most keen on contemporary and future industry trends?
Of all the major artists, Trent Reznor was clearly the most forward-thinking in terms of dealing with new technology. His business plan for the “Ghosts I-IV” in 2008 was really well conceived, in that it gave fans a series of choices that respect the fans’ level of interest, from casual to hard-core, and priced the music accordingly. Then he allowed those fans to get more involved by soliciting their remixes and video treatments. I think that’s an appropriate model for the future: Artist-curated Web sites that offer fans lots of options for accessing the music and gaining proximity to the artist and the creative process. As for the newer artists, Dan Deacon and Gregg Gillis of Girl Talk have really thought about this stuff and have figured out how to make the new business model work for them. The key lesson for them is that the live show is still the foundation of any kind of viral “buzz.” It’s the one musical experience that can’t be digitized, therefore it can’t be copied and will always have value.

Would you think it would be possible, if artists invest heavily in themselves, that many will leave labels (except for distribution only) and do everything by themselves? (Sort of a full circle to the D.I.Y. ethics of yore.)
DIY is a lot of work, but it’s also much more manageable than it ever was. Artists will still a need an infrastructure around them, but it will be smaller and a lot more affordable, with a lot less overhead. A mid-level or smaller artist doesn’t need Sony to put out his music. He needs a small, dedicated team around him to help him create and maintain a Web site and oversee touring, merchandise, licensing, etc. The big corporate model will still work for multimedia celebrities like Madonna or U2, but it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense for artists who aren’t at that level.

Your book is quite contemporary, but the models are still changing. Based on everyone’s opinion, and the models of distribution and marketing that are discussed in context, what are your thoughts on where this industry will be 5 years from now? 10? 20?
If I knew the answer to that question, I’d be counting my money on some island. What’s so exciting about the time we’re living in is that nobody knows the answers. And that allows us to make up the new rules as we go along, figuring out viable solutions for fans, artists and, yes, even the businessmen. It’s naïve to think that music isn’t a business, and that artists won’t need people with business acumen to navigate the new digital terrain. Of course they will. But the idea of creating a new, more modest business model that is based on community and creativity is very much here, and we’ve only scratched the surface of how to make that work for all involved. What’s clear is that we’ve opened a door to these new possibilities, and there’s no turning back.

Dredg photos

August 30, 2009

House of Blues New Orleans, La.
7.18.09

Native photos

August 17, 2009

The Parlor Austin, Tx.
8.16.09