There seem to be two fundamental tendencies in music today On the one hand, a move towards complete virtualisation, where tracks and albums are merely released as digital files. And on the other, an even closer union between music, artwork, packaging and physical presentation. Where do you stand between these poles?
These are fundamental tendencies for recordings - not music. I'm trying to make a living doing music - so on a practical level it's incredibly challenging to have recordings support this pursuit. Objects are great and they can resonate with people beyond the recording - and I enjoy the aesthetic choices of packaging… which are basically ways that different companies try to represent the artists' hand - i.e. a piece of human and individual work - that's one of a kind and communes with a kind of mystery and infinite. These packages can imply these relationships - they can point to them. Recordings can open the door to the infinite… but these packages are mass produced. It's a boutique kind of communion with mystery and emotion that's a bit tricky.
Then there's the representation of the recordings, their quality and the way speakers reproduce sound… and how digital media has degraded this experience. It's a real thing - it's just emblematic of the degradation of authenticity and love. It's the pathway from your mother's cooking, to the restaurant, to the corporate approximation of cooking and love you see reproduced ad nauseum throughout the western world. It's part of it… there's a shilling happening along with it. Fast food is convenience - it's fast. You don't have time to prepare your food… and so you seek an approximation of that hand made quality. The anxiety of this degradation is written across every consumer trend these days. Vinyl is just an expression of this…
I participate in the all the sources of this degradation… though I don't eat fast food - but it doesn't really matter. The consumer realizes that their experience is degraded. They are anxious about it. They know they are stealing when they download a record and there's a huge amount of defensive posturing that accompanies this.
Though it feels ludicrous and cynical on the surface - Neil Young's position that digital music has robbed the listener of their communion with some essential mystery that music can provide is sound on a certain level. If you try to listen to Rumours on Spotify and you are familiar with the original recording - say on vinyl or even on CD - it's a different experience. It's one more extreme step removed from the master tape. It simply points to the recording… it's what a map is to the actual earth.
Music making used to be part of the community - it was part of what it meant to be human. It's essential to every culture. But now it's just something you put on so you can work more efficiently. Surprise - music is distracting. It's actually meant to be.
The role of an artist is always subject to change. What's your view on the (e.g. political/social/creative) tasks of artists today and how do you try to meet these goals in your work?
I think an artist needs to provide a window into the joy of making music and needs to give back to people who don't have access to this or do not believe they can have access to this. I don't really try to reach those goals through my music - but I do try to donate time to people who want to make music even though it's a struggle to make ends meet as it stands.
Music-sharing sites and -blogs as well as a flood of releases in general are presenting both listeners and artists with challenging questions. What's your view on the value of music today? In what way does the abundance of music change our perception of it?
Again - it's recordings - not music. The value of recorded music has changed. It's obviously worth something to people - because the consumption has probably increased. If someone takes an apple from an orchard they can convince themselves that it was meant to be free and that it's not worth anything.
If recorded music were worthless then no one would be listening to it. But everyone listens to it constantly - and digital platforms are being bought and sold for billions of dollars. So recorded music is worth something. It's just not something that people want to pay for.
This is a hold over - whether people want to accept it or not - from the radical hippie "music should be free" agenda of the 60s that musicians need to entertain us for free. The digital media agenda has roots in the hippie, baby-boomer world-view. The artist needs to just entertain us while we make products, consume and try to self-actualize.
It's the commodification of the vehicle (vinyl, CD, zeros and ones) for creating authentic emotion. . .that's just the deal. And yes there's more recorded music - and no one can listen to it all - and it's just not perceivable. It's an infinite scenario and there's no end to it.
How, would you say, could non-mainstream forms of music reach wider audiences?
Without some kind of monetary support there is no way for this to happen. Anyone who claims there's a way for this to work without money is lying or has some kind of alternative agenda.
Usually, it is considered that it is the job of the artist to win over an audience. But listening is also an active, rather than just a passive process. How do you see the role of the listener in the musical communication process?
There's no way to dictate the listener experience and I think it's a waste of energy to attempt to designate this experience. But perhaps there's a way to teach letting go… setting aside prejudice and anxiety and to just experience the music. But humans have will. They don't want to have to experience things they don't want to experience - so God bless them.
Reaching audiences usually involves reaching out to the press and possibly working with a PR company. What's your perspective on the promo system? In which way do music journalism and PR companies change the way music is perceived by the public?
I think in the main, that music journalism is not standard journalism. It is part of the tabloid journalism culture that preys on the aspirational fantasies of it's audience and exploits cheap sensationalism of imagined feuds and petty bickering between the anointed best-known practitioners. For instance - there's been a lot of ink about the Flaming Lips feuds, the White Stripes and The Black Keys… other things like this. Does anyone know what Prince is up to right now? The promotional system is how people learn about music and get the word out… it's useful… but you know - whatever gets the page views I guess.