A to Z of Making It, Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Music, My Stories, Unsung Heroes

Emphatic

I was listening to the new album “Another Life”. Yeah I know it was released in 2013 and in today’s terms it is old. However once upon a time an album under 12 months was still classed as a new album.

Anyway, i am listening to it and i am not really getting into it. Then a riff that reminds me of the pre-chorus of the song called “Zero” by Smashing Pumpkins blows into my head space. The song in question is “Take Your Place” and I am hooked. It is track nine on the CD.

The only reason why I went this deep into the album was because the same experience happened to me on their previous album.

And finally the album is rocking.

“Forbidden You” comes after and the song “Pretty Handsome Awkward” from The Used comes to mind.

Then it gets even more aggressive with “Remember Me”. It’s got this Disturbed meets Black Label Society groove that is just the way I like it with a flourish of some shred. I had no idea it was the lead single when I listened to it. I found that out after I did some Googling on them.

It’s got a great line in it.

“When the stitches don’t hold and you start to bleed ‘Remember Me'”

It reminds me of the “Unto The Locust” theme from Machine Head, about how people come into your life and end up messing it up, before they leave and move on to another victim.

My ex-drummer was like that. In my mind I tried hard to help him but he kept on making the wrong choices and in the end he made his life difficult and everyone else that was around got dragged into his cesspool of trash.

And then the album ends.

The piece d resistance are the last three songs and I guarantee you that they will go unheard because if someone stumbles across Emphatic due to a playlist algorithm, they will be given the songs that a A&R person believes in. But the audience always has a different viewpoint. We make our own favourites.

We make our own soundtracks and our own memories. So after hearing the last three tracks, I decided to give the other eight tracks a re-listen. Maybe I wasn’t paying enough attention. But I wanted to pay attention because of the story. You see, Emphatic has a story. And like the best TV shows out there, it is a good narrative.

Emphatic had a record deal with Universal which fell apart. They then recorded their album “Damage” with producer Howard Benson and they were set for a major push in mainstream rock with Atlantic Records behind them.

Then everything changed. Emphatic’s lead singer at the time,Patrick Wilson injured his larynx in a bar fight. No one is sure if someone hit him in the throat or tried to choke him. And timing is everything in music. In this case, it was the worst possible time, with the band starting promotion for their brand new album at the time.

Atlantic Records and Indegoot stuck around. They waited for Wilson to get better however he didn’t and Wilson officially quit the group and Atlantic then dropped them. Guitarist Justin McCain fell into a depression becoming the same person that Wilson became. Then came Toryn Green, formerly of Fuel via a Facebook reach out and eventually a new label in Epochal Artist Records came knocking.

This is how “Another Life” was born. They hooked up with Revolver Magazine (the standard Corporate Deal) to stream the album before it came out.

So with my renewed interest, I started to enjoy some of the other songs like “Time Is Running Out”, “Lights”, “Something’s Never Die”, “The Choice” and “Another Life”.

As I was doing more research I saw that Toryn Green is now out, due to the good old “creative differences” excuse.

And just recently, they signed to Pavement Entertainment and are set to release their new album in late 2014. It’s like the days of old, when bands released an album each year and musicians jumped from band to band.

Standard
Music

In This Moment and Atlantic

“In This Moment” will regret signing with Atlantic Records. Atlantic Records under the reign of the departed Ahmet Ertegun were well known for not paying their artists. Throughout the Eighties, Atlantic capitalised big time on the success of the metal and rock bands, and once those bands dad a drop in sales, Atlantic started dropping the bands left, right and centre and moved on to the next thing that could make them money.

Let’s look at some of the bands that Atlantic have signed;

The story of the band “Bush” is very similar to “In This Moment”. After three successful releases on a smaller label, “Bush” signed with Atlantic for their fourth release and in return they had their least successful album. So with no mainstream success and a lack of label support, “Bush” called it quits. Which is a shame as the band was coming of three great albums.

“Winger” was signed by Atlantic and they had success with Atlantic Records, there is no doubt about that. However, Atlantic signed a band that had musicians already developed and experienced. There was no artist and development costs associated with “Winger”. With that experience Atlantic reaped in millions from the first two “Winger” albums. After “Winger” delivered their best album “Down Icognito”, “Beavis and Butthead” also happened, and after hanging a Winger loving family in one of their episodes, Atlantic Records suddenly developed amnesia and claimed that they had never heard of “Winger”.

“Collective Soul” already had a demo version of their massive hit “Shine” doing the rounds on radio for about six months before Atlantic picked them up and re-released the same demo album under the Atlantic brand. What an artist and development program at Atlantic. While the band kept selling, Atlantic loved them. Then when the sales started to decline (although still great numbers compared to other bands), the label started to lose interest and after 7 years of making Atlantic wealthy, once their contract ended, it wasn’t renewed.

“White Lion” also experienced a similar fate to “Winger”. When the band was signed, they already had seven years under their belts, plus an independent release. What an artist and development program at Atlantic. So when “Pride” broke out, Atlantic pushed them to write more hit singles. This added pressure to create “hit songs” caused a conflicted Vito Bratta even more conflict and when the record label advice failed to provide an increase in sales for “Big Game”, the label just stopped caring. As a last resort, they gave them a lot of money for the “Mane Attraction” album and while “White Lion” was out of the music scene recording that album, their label had already moved on. So it was no surprise when the album was released with no marketing budget and within 5 months of the album being released the band was over. No one from the label called them and it just ended.

“Twisted Sister” had a huge local following, however US labels just kept on rejecting them. Eventually, they went looking for a deal in Europe and after a false start with Secret Records, they ended up getting signed to Atlantic Europe. Then they started to get traction in the US with “You Cant Stop Rock N Roll”. As an import album, it was selling like hot cakes in the US. So of course, Atlantic US came knocking, signed them (even though they ignored and rejected them for ten years prior to that), made a huge amount of money of the “Stay Hungry” album and then dropped them three years later. Again, what an artist and development program at Atlantic.

“Zebra” had a huge local following before they got signed with Atlantic Records. Then the “Zebra” debut album became one of the fastest selling releases on the Atlantic roster. Again, what an artist and development program at Atlantic. Not one of the bands that I have mentioned above got signed and developed. They where all developed. Three years later, Atlantic dropped the band, however they kept an option open on Randy Jackson. Randy Jackson finished the “China Rain” record in 1990 and Atlantic Records decided not to release it. Sound familiar. Gatekeepers controlling the fate of musicians. Dee Snider suffered the same fate with his “Desperado” project after experiencing the same shafting when he was in “Twisted Sister”.

“Badlands” was signed by Atlantic. The self-titled debut came out and it achieved cult like status among the jaded metal community. “Voodoo Highway” came next however Atlantic was not impressed with what “Badlands” delivered. It was during the making of “Voodoo Highway” that Lee and Gillen started to disagree over the direction the band was taking. The label wanted hit songs. The label wanted songs written to a strict radio formula. Ray Gillen apparently had songs that suited what the label was looking for. Those frustrations came to a head when Jake E. Lee accused Ray Gillen of going behind his back to the record company in a revealing Kerrang interview. In the end, Atlantic broke the band up and then dropped them when they went chasing the grunge dollars.

Atlantic has a history of extorting hard rock and metal bands. Testament, Skid Row, P.O.D, Mr Big, Taproot, Savatage, The Cult, Kix, Kings X and Queensryche are other bands that come to mind.

“In This Moment” will be next. Their music is a niche style and that style has a niche audience. For them to cross over, they really need to diverge from their style. Their most recent album “Blood” has moved over 250,000 units. For a metal band, that is a great result. For Century Media that is a great result. For Atlantic, that is not a great result, especially when you are on a label that has Bruno Mars, who has sold over 58 million singles. Especially when you are on a label that has Shinedown who are a multi-platinum selling band.

Standard
Music

Randy Jackson from Zebra

No, not the American Idol judge. Randy Jackson from the band Zebra. He does Robert Plant better than Robert Plant!

It was Dream Theater’s cover of their song “Take Your Fingers From My Hair” in 2009 that re-awakened my interest in Zebra. Isn’t it funny how a cover song brings back the original song and the band into the psyche. Something that Jon Bon Jovi doesn’t have the foresight for, as he thought tooth and nail to stop Shinedown covering “Wanted Dead or Alive”, believing that Shinedown’s cover song would take away income from the Bon Jovi original.

In an interview with The Great Southern Brainfart Randy Jackson was asked how did he feel about Dream Theater’s version and has Zebra seen a new horde of young fans because of it.

“Certainly. A lot of people who were unaware of Zebra were definitely made aware of us by Dream Theater doing that cover. We were really flattered that they did it. They stuck to the original version but added their own touch to it so I thought they did a great job with the song. I really liked it.”

Jackson founded Zebra in 1975. They had a very large following before their first record ever came out in 1983 on Atlantic Records. Like most bands in the later part of the Seventies and the early part of their Eighties, most of their fan base had been developed from their live shows.

In addition, the majority of the bands had been slugging it out for a decent time in the clubs before getting their recording contract. Look at Twisted Sister. How many artists today are prepared to put in 8 years of hard work before they actually get a chance to record. The answer is NONE. Artists today record straight away, release it and expect something to happen. They might do it that for a few years and when nothing happens 90% of those artists would walk away. The 10% that continue are the ones that become lifers.

The follow-up album “No Tellin Lies” in 1984 stalled in the U.S and by 1986, their 3.V album wasn’t even noticed and Atlantic dropped them.

Zebra should have toured Europe after the second record got released, instead they stayed in the U.S and as Randy has said in a few interviews, it was probably their worst decision ever made. Maybe they never should have released the second album. As with all things in the music business, once a band has an unexpected hit, they are put under serious pressure to release a follow-up.

Zebra fell into this category, pressured and rushed to get album number 2 out. The label also didn’t ball in the promotion game. The fan base of Zebra was still in New York and Louisiana and that is where the promotion efforts should have been focused on. A lot of Zebra’s hard core fans didn’t even know that they had album number 2 out. .

As history would have it, they put out their second album and went on tour with “REO Speedwagon” and “Sammy Hagar” during 1984. Air play for the new album was not a lot compared to the self-titled album, so after the US tours, the band had to go back in and record album number 3.

This was February 1985. As Randy Jackson was writing the third album they also looked for a producer. The band couldn’t come up with anybody. For five months the band was in limbo. It wasn’t until December 1985 that the band hit the studio for album number 3. That was a false start and the band went back into pre-production to work on the material. Finally in February 1986 they went into the studio and stayed there until August of the same year. By then it was all over.

If Atlantic was hanging out Twisted Sister to dry, what did that mean for a band like Zebra?

The album “3.V” just died. Radio ignored it. The week that it was released was the same week that Bruce Springsteen released his live box set. Three months earlier, Bon Jovi released “Slippery When Wet” and that album was picking up some serious momentum by November 1986, Europe’s “The Final Countdown” had broken world-wide as well. Radio put them in constant circulation.

The press didn’t want to give Zebra the time of day as “The Boss”, Bon Jovi and Europe became the darlings at that time. At this time as well, a lot of the radio program directors weren’t in charge of the play lists anymore and this really Zebra because back in 1986, bands really need airplay in order to get record sales. In addition, another program called MTV also ignored the band.

While most people would know Zebra by the songs “Tell Me What You Want” which Randy wrote it 1978 at 6:30 am after a gig at “Speaks” (New York) and “Who’s Behind the Door” that deal with the big questions about life there are other songs to sink your teeth into. There is the “Yes” inspired “The La-La Song”, “Take Your Fingers From My Hair”, “Lullaby”, “Time”, “Hard Living Without You”, “But No More” and “One More Chance”.

Then it was over. China Rain never got a fair shake. Randy Jackson finished the China Rain record in 1990 and Atlantic Records decided not to release it. Sound familiar. Gatekeepers controlling the fate of musicians. Dee Snider suffered the same fate with his “Desperado” project.

From 1992 to 1996, Randy was involved in the development of an interactive musical instrument called “The Key”. The instrument allowed anyone to play a guitar-like instrument (The Key) along with videos or CDs.

“Zebra IV” started recording in 1996. The drums were done in a week in 1996 and the rest of the album was done sporadically after that. In a MelodicRock.com interview, Randy said it was “a good 9 months of actual studio time but spread over a period of 7 years”.

The album didn’t see the light of day until 2003.

Throughout the Nineties, Randy built up his acoustic shows. Nobody wanted to book him in the beginning, even his trusted agents in New Orleans who had booked Zebra for 20 years rejected him. Now he is playing places like Japan and criss crossing the US and he hasn’t even put out a recording of the acoustic project. Yep, while labels and artist still believe it is about the album, here is Randy Jackson delivering a show that is spreading via word of mouth.

The same major labels who have been scared to search out and develop new music and bands. The rock that kids listen to today is the rock that we listened to growing up. Record execs are so afraid of losing their jobs that they wouldn’t think of trying something new. All they want is for their profits to sustain or get better, because in the corporate world that we live in today, everyone is replaceable.

In between Randy did “The Sign”, a melodic rock supergroup. He also handles the vocals for the wildly successful Symphonic Music shows of Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and Eagles performing to packed houses across the country (from 1996).

He is a lifer in the music business. Prepared to do what he needs to do to get. He is 38 years deep in his music career. He didn’t get the fame that other bands did, however it didn’t mean he didn’t have success.

http://www.famousinterview.ca/interviews/randy_jackson.htm
http://thegreatsouthernbrainfart.com/?p=7752

Standard
Music

The Album

In my view the idea of the album is gone. It doesn’t fit in today’s world. Hell, it didn’t even fit in the old world either. Yes I know some albums are that good, that every song from start to finish had to be heard, however 95% of albums released have two to four, maybe five good songs on them. That is why we purchased them. To listen to those good songs. These days, we just purchase the songs we want, we don’t need the album. However, it remains, as that is how the record labels make money, that is how they trick artists into signing everything away. Artists are signed to album deals. Fans are smarter these days, then the music industry. Fans want to spend their money on artists, however the artists haven’t figured out how to monetize it.

Yes you have artists like Protest The Hero that went to Indiegogo to fan fund their next album. Yes I contributed. Not because they were offering some wam bam fan experience. I contributed because I am a fan, and I wanted their new album. I would have preferred if they had a better fan experience. I would have preferred if they had released a new song by now. I would have preferred if they had a listening party for the fans that contributed of rough demos and sketches or lyrics in progress. Instead I have to wait for the album, and it could be a turd. Or it could be great. Or it could be so, so.

Regardless, people still buy albums. As long as people buy albums, the labels will still order their artists to create and release them. This is where they make most of their money. Kid Rock has moved almost 475,000 physical units of Rebel Soul and is still shifting on average 7000 units a week. It has been out since November 2012.

Shinedown still move on average 3000 units a week for Amaryllis and this album is over a year old being released in March 2012. The band is also approaching the 300,000 sales mark. They are out in tour, working hard, promoting the album. POD and Three Days Grace are also on the same tour, however fans are not buying their offerings. Why. Its crap. I heard the POD album and its garbage. Three Days Grace – Transit of Venus was that bad, even the singer left.

Both Shinedown and Kid Rock are on Atlantic. That is almost 8 million in sales revenue these two bands have come up with, plus they are still bringing in 100,000 each week. Not a bad deal for the label.

Volbeat still move on average 2500 units a week of Beyond Hell/Above Heaven. This album has been out since September 2010. All up they have sold over 220,000 units in the US for this album and their new album Outlaw Gentlemen and Shady Ladies was just released this week and it is a good album, however it does have quite a few filler songs as well. Not a lot of bands have two albums three years apart still charting and selling. The fans are spreading the word for this band. The bands mix of metal, punk, rockabilly, country and reggae has found a market. They have worked hard, they are platinum heroes in Europe and have been since 2005, and they have broken into the US market in the last year or so. It’s been a long time coming.

However in all of this I don’t believe the bands are maximising the fan experience. I am including Bon Jovi in this as well. It’s still the old way of doing things. That is they spend months and months recording 15 to 20 songs for an album, and then spending dollars on marketing the album to people that don’t care, hoping that people will buy and releasing a video or two to keep interest up. Once interest starts to dissolve, it’s time to go on tour, with the thought that the album will start selling again because of the tour. There is a lot of hope in the above as the bands don’t know their fan bases. They need to change their way of thinking.

Warner Music is even going via the fan funding route with Kickstarter. They will offer every act that raises $100,000 on Kickstarter a contract. There is a good chance that most acts will turn down the offer, as why would you need a label if you have raised over $100,000 however people do love to have a safety net and an ego to satisfy. There also another way, where if a band gets 1000 people to donate, they will get offered the deal as well. Warners has effectively moved the cost of recording and developing artists onto the fans. If the artists fail, there is no loss to Warner. If they blow up and become sensations, there is a win to Warner. Either way, Warner doesn’t suffer.

And the reason why I am mentioning this. Warner Music is the parent company to Atlantic Records. The music business is about to change again.

Standard