Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Derivative Works, Influenced, Music, My Stories, Unsung Heroes

Vivian Campbell Compendium

In June 2013, Vivian Campbell announced that he had Hodgkin’s lymphoma. In November 2013, Campbell said he was in remission from the disease. Then the cancer was back and Campbell is undergoing stem-cell treatments for it. In the meantime, Trixter’s Steve Brown will be filling in for at least four shows while Campbell undergoes treatment.

Killing Time
The first time I heard “Killing Time” was when I purchased the single for “The Unforgiven” from Metallica. So I went looking for the original band’s version which back in 1992 proved impossible. Sweet Savage was Vivian’s first band at the age of 16. The guitar styling’s included a heavy dose of Thin Lizzy with blues inspired leanings courtesy of Rory Gallagher, Jeff Beck and Gary Moore with a quickened punk-escue tempo. Add to that mix the Northern Ireland upbringing of the members. Two members were Catholic and the other two were Protestants. That was Sweet Savage and with time they became seen as one of the true unsung pioneers of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal.

As bands from the NWOBHM started to break out and make it, Sweet Savage were still knocking on every door and exhausting all their possibilities. By 1982, Campbell knew Sweet Savage was not going to make it. Determined to make a living playing guitar, Campbell actively looked for another gig. Sweet Savage never made it big but in a way they did, they just changed their name to Metallica.

All of our heroes need to start somewhere and it was through Sweet Savage that Jimmy Bain heard Vivian play.

Rainbow In The Dark
He co-wrote “Rainbow In The Dark. 1983 was a big year for the rise of heavy metal and hard rock as a commercial force. While “Holy Diver” and “Stand Up And Shout” (which Vivian didn’t co-write) warmed up the fan base it was “Rainbow In The Dark” that mobilised them and sealed the deal. After the “Holy Diver” album went gold in the U.S., Campbell gave his father the framed gold album, which he hung proudly in his office. In relation to money, the road crew was making more than what the band was making.

The Last In Line
One year later and you are hearing another masterpiece. That guitar intro, the vocal, it’s like we were all children stepping out in the big world and never knowing if we will come home, but the magic we feel at that moment is worth a lifetime. The power of rock and roll. Once upon a time, music was the anti to the establishment. Forget the Top Forty charts, they were nearly meaningless for metal and rock bands until MTV took a stranglehold. The bands had hit songs but those hit songs lived in our hearts and minds as well as on the concert stage.

Egypt (The Chains Are On)
And the final track on album has an undeniable guitar riff. It is slow and all about the groove. And then there is Dio’s dreamy vocal. Now that is a rock star.

King Of Rock ‘N’ Roll
Another year later takes us to 1985 and this is my anthem…

Sacred Heart
The title cut off the third album, a satisfying cut that is made special by its nod to classic rock. But this was ’85, and bands like Metallica, Slayer and Megadeth started making an impact. And unfortunately, the band at this time couldn’t replicate the quality of the first two records. Was it the money equity issues or something else? And when you talk about the band Dio, you talk about the classic line-up, one of the best in rock and roll.

Stars
This would burn up Spotify if released today as the whole pop market is built around telling teenagers that they are stars. It’s written by Dio, Campbell and Bain however Campbell and Bain where the initial drivers. Stupid record label politics delayed the release of the song until 1986 which diminished its impact.

Campbell has stated in numerous interviews that his departure in 1986 stemmed mostly from Ronnie’s unfulfilled promises of equity ownership in the band after the third album. It was the difference between being a salaried musician and dividing up a pool of performance revenues and royalties in the millions.

There is a YouTube clip where Ronnie James Dio says “I hope he f***** dies, he is an asshole.” Dio further goes on to tell the eager autograph hunters if they have heard some of the things that Vivian has said about him. And then Dio answers his own question, by saying that Campbell called him the most despicable human being and from listening to it, Dio believes that Campbell should be grateful because Dio believes that it was him that made Campbell a star. Basically, money is the root of all evil.

Vivian then hooked up with Whitesnake in 1987, and played on the bands most successful world tour ever. However he didn’t stay with the band because when it came time to submit music for the follow-up album to the mega successful 1987 album, Campbell saw that he was not needed. During this time the past came knocking again. Wendy Dio called to see if he was interested in joining forces with Ronnie again. However the bitter split over money still lingered and nothing eventuated. So by 1989, Campbell was out of another band. A production gig came up with Riverdogs and a Lou Gramm appearance on his solo album. The production gig led to Vivian becoming a permanent member in Riverdogs, who released an album to critical acclaim but had lacklustre support from their record label. The Lou Gramm appearance led to “Shadow King” Lou Gramm’s new band, which had limited success, and Gramm eventually returned to Foreigner.

Water From The Moon
It’s from the Riverdogs debut. It is track two on side 2 of the LP version or track number 7 on the CD. It was also the B-side to the “Toy Solider” single. You had to go deep into the album to hear it. The song is written by Vivian Campbell and Rob Lamothe. Rob Lamothe on vocals sounds like a cross between John Mellencamp, David Coverdale and Paul Rodgers.

I picked up the “Riverdogs” album along with the “Shadow King” album at a second-hand store for $4. It’s totally forgotten today. The classic line up was Rob Lamothe on vocals/guitars, Vivian Campbell on guitars and Nick Brophy on bass. It came out on EPIC Records and it fizzled out due to lack of label support. It was a big step away from the 80’s metal/glam genre and more of a nod to the gritty rock albums of the 70’s. However, the label marketed it as another hair metal album and then a week after its release they shelved it.

And of course there’s outstanding guitar playing from Vivian Campbell. Not only is the guitar playing phenomenal, it is full of emotion and feel. Also credit deserves to go to bassist Nick Brophy who stepped aside as the lead guitarist to make room for Vivian Campbell.

The only way I knew about Riverdogs in Australia was via interviews in the Guitar Magazines with Vivian Campbell. Otherwise they didn’t get on radio or any store promo whatsoever. So if people don’t know about it, how can they invest their time in it.

Shadow King came next. The members included Foreigner lead singer Lou Gramm, guitarist Vivian Campbell, Lou Gramm’s former Black Sheep and then future Foreigner bandmate bass player Bruce Turgon, and drummer Kevin Valentine. Bruce Turgon, was the secret ingredient, being a long-time friend of Lou and co-writer of the majority of the songs. Vivian actually co-wrote a couple of songs however the majority Lou Gramm and Bruce Turgon wrote the majority of the album. While other “supergroups” like Bad English and Damn Yankees were tearing up the charts, Shadow King got ignored. It’s a forgotten release by one of rock’s greatest vocalists.

They released a self-titled album in 1991 on Atlantic Records. Keith Olsen was on hand to produce. My other favourite tracks like “What Would it Take”, “Once Upon a Time”, “Anytime, Anywhere”, “Don’t Even Know I’m Alive”, “I Want You”, “This Heart of Stone” and “Danger in the Dance of Love” are written by Bruce Turgon and Lou Gramm.

Russia
Great acoustic playing and vocal melody – what is the lyrical message… It comes in at track 10 and it’s written by Vivian Campbell and Lou Gramm. It’s actually the only song that has a Campbell co-write.

One Dream
From 1991, a classic AOR gem. From the delayed guitar intro, to the Bad Company style verses, to the Def Leppard style choruses, the song is brilliant throughout. Add to that mix the brilliant voice of Lou Gramm and you have a classic rock song. Vivian Campbell delivers a stellar lead break as well. It’s a shame it got lost in a crap movie soundtrack. For the uninitiated it was on the “Highlander II: The Quickening” soundtrack.

Shortly afterward, Vivian Campbell announced he was leaving Shadow King to join Def Leppard. Although replacements were considered, the band members eventually went their separate ways, with Gramm and Turgon joining the reunited Foreigner in 1993.

That first year, Campbell was a salaried player. Then by the “Slang” album he became a full-fledged partner in the band.

Work It Out
“Work It Out,” is one of the more quality songs on “Slang” which came out in 1996. It’s got that cool tremolo guitar line happening throughout the start and a very heavy leaning towards a certain Scottish band called “GUN” and their song “Better Days”.

It was bittersweet. “Slang” was the first Def Leppard album that did not achieve platinum success in the U.S. It was too much in left field. Radio stations wouldn’t play Def Leppard because the songs from the new album did not sound like Def Leppard. They also wouldn’t play the old songs because they represented the ’80s.

Truth
It’s also a Vivian Campbell composition. The album version has nothing on the demo version. That is where it was at. It rocked and it rolled. Great guitar intro, but that overall industrial drum sound just doesn’t sit right with me. Then the whole Eastern Arabic lead break and breakdown reminds of “The Tea Party” which is a cool connection.

The “Slang” album was quickly forgotten. The ’90s was a tough time for all the Eighties rock bands. Some broke up and some just gave up music all together.

To Be Alive
The band’s next record, “Euphoria,” went gold in the U.S. It featured Campbell’s song, “To Be Alive,” from his solo band, “Clock” and their album “Through Time”, and a return to their signature sound. It’s got beautiful guitar playing and that classic major key feel from songs like “Two Steps Behind” and “Hysteria”. Great ballad and great lyrics. The songwriters are listed as Vivian Campbell and P.J. Smith.

Paper Sun
It’s 1999 and the recording business is in the throes of Limp Bizkit, Britney Spears and every other act that didn’t have roots in the Eighties. This is a song that just screams “HEAR ME”. It is a forgotten Def Leppard classic. From start to finish it is a masterpiece. It’s written by Vivian Campbell, Phil Collen, Joe Elliott, Rick Savage and producer Pete Woodroffe.

Guilty
Up tempo derivative version of “Hysteria” merged with “Animal”. It is written by Phil Collen, Rick Savage, Joe Elliott, Vivian Campbell and Pete Woodroffe

Day After Day
Another forgotten Def Leppard gem. How good is that break down riff before the solo and then that solo is a nice little song within a song composition. This one is written by Phil Collen, Joe Elliott and Vivian Campbell.

Then came “X” and outside hit makers were brought in, but unfortunately the vocal melodies just didn’t do justice to the excellent music. When I picked up X with the black background cover and the white X, I had in my head that it would sound something like Bad Company’s self-titled debut, as I was really hoping that Joe Elliot would try to push his voice in more of a Paul Rodgers/John Mellencamp direction. It wasn’t to be.

“Songs from the Sparkle Lounge” was done rather quickly compared to Def Leppard standards and it stands as a favourite of Viv’s. However it is another forgettable album. The Vivian Campbell cut “Gotta Let It Go” has a cool and very heavy “Have A Nice Day” chorus.

Vivian Campbell still has more to say, so here’s to a speedy recovery.

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Music

Bands Will Have That One Big Product, and Then They Will Write Some Sequels To It

There is a story over at the NewYorker from a while back about the One Hit Wonder known as “Candy Crush Saga”.

As we all know by now millions upon millions of people around the world play Candy Crush Saga.

– It is a free download and it has been downloaded over half a billion times.

– A person can play the game for free.

– However, certain users of the game are willing to pay for extra lives and various performance boosting tools while the other users are happy to remain on the game without paying for any extras.

– The Irish company “King Digital Entertainment” who is the maker of the game had close to two billion dollars in sales, with a pure profit margin of $567 million.

It seems like there is a lot of money to be made if there is a freemium option available especially if you have a star product to push.

King Digital has over a hundred different games that are available, however it is Candy Crush that brings in the money. It is King Digital’s “star product”.

Even in music, bands normally have hundreds of other songs or countless albums in existence, however it is that one star product that they are known for, except for the few great acts who would have multiple star products.

Metallica had “Master Of Puppets” and “The Black” album.

Motley Crue had “Shout At The Devil” and “Dr Feelgood”.

Dream Theater had “Images and Words” and “Scenes For A Memory”.

Machine Head had “Burn My Eyes” and “The Blackening”.

AC/DC had “Back In Black”.

Def Leppard had “Pyromania” and “Hysteria”.

Ronnie James Dio was a true legend by having a few star products in different acts. First off was Rainbow then Black Sabbath and then as a solo artist with “Holy Diver”.

Kingdom Come had their self titled debut.

Skid Row had “Slave To The Grind”.

Bon Jovi had “Slippery When Wet”.

Twisted Sister had “Stay Hungry”.

RATT had “Out Of The Cellar”.

Quiet Riot had “Metal Health”.

Ozzy Osbourne had “Blizzard Of Ozz” and “No More Tears” as a solo artist.

The world of heavy metal and hard rock contains many more examples. In the end luck plays a huge part in breaking music to the masses.

And as the article eludes too, most new products fail in general. In the music industry, the failure rate of new music is amplified and as it is an industry that faces a lot of competition between the acts alone.

And as with everything that rises it eventually falls. The true greats pick themselves up and rise again, while the ones in it for the money just fade away. Check out this quote;

“Typically, companies will have that one big product, and then they’ll sell some sequels to it. But, unless they manage to become the center of an ecosystem, over time they tend to weaken and disappear.”
By Michael Cusumano, a professor at the M.I.T. Sloan School of Management

There is a lot of truth in that.

Remember when Bon Jovi rewrote “Slippery When Wet” and called it “New Jersey”.

Or when bands rewrote their main hit song over and over again trying hard to recapture the success

Music is a competitive, hit-driven industry and there is no guaranteed recipe for success. But in order to give it a shot you need to know how to play your instrument and you need to practice your songwriting skills.

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A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories

What Happened to The Guitar Riff?

The mighty Guitar is still in the forefront of all the main hard rock and metal music. Regardless of what music style came and regardless what technological new medium came to kill it off, (like the Eighties midi craze), the mighty guitar has fought its way back time and time again.

Like a true champion it rises up from the canvas. That sound through glass tubes and cones made from paper. What can beat it?

To quote Dark Helmet, “Absolutely Nothing”.

Try as the trend setters might to eliminate distortion, the power chord and it’s many different versions remain unique. The human feel of a guitar is the essential element that makes a song unique and intimate enough to form a connection with a listener. You don’t see people growing up wanting to be clarinet and flute players.

It is an integral part of culture, both past and present. Think of Jimi Hendrix burning one or Pete Townsend smashing one or Randy Rhoads playing that immortal polka dot guitar or Eddie Van Halen’s Frankenstein guitar.

Think of all of the album covers that featured a guitar;

Dire Straits – “Brothers In Arms”
Stryper – “To Hell With The Devil”
Def Leppard – “On Through The Night”
AC/DC – Take your pick of the many classic album covers that involve Angus and his trusty Gibson SG.
The Cult – “Sonic Temple”
Van Halen – “Women And Children First”
Bruce Springsteen – “Born To Run”
Jeff Beck – “Guitar Shop”
MSG – “Built To Destroy”
Boston – The self titled debut and “Dont Look Back” covers are iconic.

At the moment, the number 1 hits around the world are “The Monster” by Eminem/Rihanna, “Timber” by Pitbull/Keisha and Happy by Pharrell Williams. Not a lot of guitar in those songs and if there is guitar, it is in the background, relegated to a support act.

It is not the main instrument in popular culture anymore.

The guitar is disappearing from popular culture.

So what happened.

So what happened to that riff that connects. The one that we can play air guitar to.

Commercial sensibilities are trumping artistic sensibilities.

Rock and Metal bands are churning out songs. Good songs. Great choruses. But no definitive riff. We hum the melodies, we tap the groove, but we don’t do the der, der, derr on the riff. For those who don’t know what the “der, der der” is, it is “Smoke On The Water” from Deep Purple.

Avenged Sevenfold came close with the “Hail To The King” album. Pissed off a lot of people in the process. They called them copycats. But they had the balls to create a classic rock album. And Classic Rock albums are created from influences.

Machine Head nailed it with “Be Still and Know” and “Unto The Locust”. But because of their niche, popular culture would never even know about it. Too ignorant to care.

Maybe it is the downtuning. Maybe it is the speed. Maybe it is the focus on the melody to be catchy.

One thing is certain, there are no riff driven songs, with a great hook doing 100,000,000 streams on Spotify. All of those numbers belong to Imagine Dragons, Avici, Daft Punk and a whole host of EDM artist and pop artists that have songs written by Max Martin.

And one last thing, for all the doubters that Spotify is hurting artists.

Check out this story.

Yep an independent artist that uses Tunecore as its digital distributor has earned from September 2010 to November 2013, $334,636 for over 57 million plays. It’s easy money earned by people listening to his music on a consistent basis. It’s that simple. It’s that pure. We create music so people can listen to it. First and foremost. And Spotify along with YouTube are here, telling the creators which songs are being listened too.

Isn’t that a great thing.

But hey, Spotify doesn’t pay artists said the old guard. Bullshit I say.

Spotify pays. It pays well. It is the record labels that don’t filter it down to the artists. It is the same old argument like before of Record labels not paying artists.

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Uncategorized

Greed Will Kill The Streaming Star

I mentioned in an earlier post how the greed from the major record labels could end up killing streaming services. Since then, Swedish musicians are threatening to sue major labels Universal Music and Warner Music over streaming royalties. This is following a similar pattern from the lawsuits against the labels over iTunes sales and how those sales got paid back to the artists as royalties. Artists like Whitesnake, Def Leppard, Don Henley and Eminem led the way.

Even Billy Bragg stated the same via his Facebook account;
“These artists have identified that the problem lies with the major record labels rather than the streaming service and are taking action to get royalty rates that better reflect the costs involved in digital production and distribution. UK artists would be smart to follow suit.”

The major labels operate with a digital (streaming and mp3 sales) business model that is rooted in the past. The majors still pay a less than 10% royalty rate to artists for digital income. The 10% average rate is based on the age when the record companies produced a physical product like vinyl or CD, stored it in a warehouse and then transported that product to a brick and mortar store. Of course at that time all of these steps in the process where accounted for.

However in the digital age, there is no need to even produce a physical product like vinyl or CD however the labels are still short-changing their artists. If the streaming rates paid to the labels were so bad, trust me, the majors and the RIAA would be the first ones screaming theft. By being silent on the matter means that the majors are making real good money from streaming.

Spotify pays 70% of its revenues to music rights holders. By the end of 2013, they expect that those payments will exceed $500m. How much of that money gets passed on to musicians depends on the terms of their contracts with labels. Maybe the RIAA should be lobbying hard to get a bill passed where streaming is seen as a license and seventy percent goes to the artist. But we will never see that, as the RIAA is there to protect the record labels, not the artists. However they claim in their rhetoric that they are working on behalf of the artist.

From a metal perspective, Century Media Records pulled their music from Spotify in August 2011, citing that physical sales have dropped drastically in all countries where Spotify is active. Then in July 2012, they opted back in. By February 2013, they released a Spotify app. What a turnabout by the label? Metal Blade pulled music of Spotify in September due to no real agreement in place.

If you are on a major label roster you should have followed the Def Leppard route. Due to disagreements they were having on the digital payment terms with their label, they then refused to let their label put their catalogue on digital services.
However, then in order to cash in on the Rock Of Ages movie and the sudden interest in “Pour Some Sugar On Me” and “Rock of Ages”, they released digital “forgeries” of these classics and they released them on their own terms. Do you hear Def Leppard complaining about streaming and iTunes rates for those two songs? This year, they even released their “Hysteria” forgery.

Once upon a time, the artists had the power. Then in the Eighties, the labels stole it back. With the rise in revenue due to the CD, it made the labels mega rich powerhouses. Well it’s time for the artists to take back the power. Basically the labels without any artists are worth nothing. However, a lot of the artists just don’t see the big picture.

Those times of when recording was really profitable are over. Long gone. Recording revenues are shrinking. Streaming is trying to bring back some of it. If more and more people are paying for it the overall pool of money grows. These services need time to grow. However, as I mentioned previously, how much of that money gets passed on to musicians depends on the terms of their contracts with the labels?

Maybe Spotify and Deezer should become a label and start signing artists themselves as it is obvious that the major labels don’t care about their artists.

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Music, My Stories, Review in 40 Words

Review In 40 Words – Cage9 – How To Shoot Lasers From Your Eyes (2012)

This album is the love child of GNR, Shinedown, Def Leppard, Breaking Benjamin and Muse on hard rock steroids. With lyrics like, “you look better with the lights out”, you get the gist of what this album is all about.

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A to Z of Making It, Derivative Works, Influenced, Music, My Stories, Piracy, Stupidity, Treating Fans Like Shit

Blabbermouth The Sequel – Music Is Melody and Improvisation Is A Genesis Of Composition

The website Classic Rock Revisited conducted an interview with Yngwie Malmsteen recently. The interview was aimed at promoting Malmsteen’s new biography. Malmsteen is one musician who is not afraid to share his opinions. His recent opinions on the state of the music industry has polarised the internet. The mere mention of the word “piracy, and music” a reaction is always forthcoming.

“When I started out, it was very much like the guy with the big cigar in a big office saying, “I’ll give you a record deal, boy.” You had tour support, tour buses, local A&R people, the whole nine yards. I did that, but it’s all gone now. It can be for better or worse, because if you don’t have name recognition now.”

This is what used to happen. Any musician that wanted to write songs and have those songs released to an audience, had to meet that “guy with the big cigar.” In no way did a recording contract guarantee an artist success. Yngwie Malmsteen seems to forget that between the period of 1983 to 1988, he released an album each year in order to get name recognition. The reason why he got name recognition is because he had the songs and two great vocalists in Jeff Scott Soto and Joe Lynn Turner. In the end, as good as Malmsteen is on the guitar, if the song sucked and if the vocals sucked, he would have remained in the underground.

“If you want to start out now, how the f!&k do you do it?”

The same way you always have done it. Create great songs. In the end, it is the songs that will sell you. Regardless of how good you play your instrument, if the songs are not making a connection with people, then nothing will happen. The only difference is that bands these days, don’t need to play 2000 shows to get traction.

Look at bands like Heartist and Digital Summer. Heartist is signed to Roadrunner and Digital Summer is all DIY. Both bands have decent traction. Heartist built their following online. Digital Summer did it in a hybrid way. Starting out before the MySpace craze, they did it with feet on the ground, handing out flyers and playing shows. When technology started playing a part in promoting and marketing a band, these new opportunities got filtered in to their workload.

“Back in the day, DEF LEPPARD said if they could get a few singles on MTV, they’d be able to make it, and they did. That happened with a lot of bands who did that back then. Now we have YouTube, but there are billions of videos and musicians on there and if nobody knows your name, nobody’s going to look you up. It’s a little bit weird, but in that sense, the music industry situation is really bad for whoever wants to start out now.”

FACT – MTV used Heavy Metal music as a means to get traction. Look at the clips produced by hard rock / metal bands. Twisted Sister, had “We’re Not Gonna Take It” and “I Wanna Rock”. Motley Crue had “Smokin In The Boys Room”. Van Halen had “Hot For Teacher.” All of those clips were game changers in the video format. As soon as MTV got traction, they booted metal music and put it back to a monthly/weekly segment that would become Headbangers Ball.

FACT – Music is getting released on a grand scale today. With so much new music out there fighting for listeners attention, artists need to give fans a reason to listen to their music. By saying that they put their heart and soul into it, just doesn’t cut in this day and age. You need to have great songs.

Look at the band Periphery. The band got traction via message boards. Has piracy stopped the band? I saw them live in Australia this year at the Annandale Hotel in Sydney.

Look at the band Shinedown. They came out in 2005, when piracy was rampant. Has piracy stopped the band from becoming a giant in the hard rock scene? They have two albums that have sold over a million units and two albums that have sold over 500,000 units. Singles on the other had have moved in the multi-millions.

Look at the band Digital Summer. They came out in 2005, when piracy was rampant. Has piracy stopped the band from touring and releasing new music? They are all DIY and have total control over their affairs. Even bands that had major deals have asked the band to represent them.

Look at the band One Less Reason. Another DIY band. One of their albums has gone GOLD. Has piracy stopped the band from touring and releasing new music?

Look at the band Protest The Hero. While they were signed to a label, they were told that never made any money. Finally they broke free from the label and started an Indiegogo campaign, raising over $300K (with the goal being $120K). Has piracy stopped the band from touring and releasing new music?

“The good part is that there is no longer this slavery to a certain format going on, where in the ’80s, if you didn’t follow format, they wouldn’t give you the time of day. You had to conform to get a shot at a record deal. That’s gone now, and it’s bizarre.”

I love Malmsteen however he is a confused albeit funny individual. He is putting a lot of information out there without any thought. If anyone was treated like dirt by record labels, it was Yngwie Malmsteen. Elektra chased him, signed him to a large deal and then dropped him cold after one album. During the Nineties, no label in the U.S would touch him. If it wasn’t for the Japanese market, Yngwie would be broke and destitute and without a career in 2013.

As much as Malmsteen is seen as a musical dictator, he knows it deep down, that if he didn’t conform and write more accessible songs, then his career would have been over. That is the power that the labels held over the artists.

Classic Rock Revisited: The Internet changed a lot for the industry; piracy has certainly had a hand in changing the game. Do you think that piracy can be beneficial to some of those bands starting out? How has it affected you?

Yngwie: How could it possibly be positive? If you go into a store and you see a car that you like, you can’t just drive off with it. The cost and the blood and sweat and tears that go into making music is the same thing, it’s not free. Try telling the engineer and the producer that they have to work for free. It’s utterly bizarre. It’s like just going into a store and taking things off the shelves. It’s stealing. The reason there are no bands coming out now is that the money that was once there is not there anymore. So what happened was, in essence, by pirating music, you kill the music industry. The music industry died because of the piracy, and now all the fans will have no new music. Isn’t that wonderful? It’s a direct consequence of that.

Again, Malmsteen is confusing the recording industry with the music industry. The recording industry is not dying. It has changed. The labels made the most money from selling the LP and then the CD. So when fans could pick and choose what tracks they wanted to buy, the biggest cash cow for the labels became obsolete. Licensed streaming is gaining traction. Unlicensed streaming on YouTube is bigger than ever. If the recording industry listened to advice back in 1998, maybe it would still be as powerful as it was back then. However, they ignored the advice.

The whole stealing analogy has been shot down a billion times. Maybe Scott Ian, Duff McKagan and Yngwie Malmsteen should form a band called “Steeler.” Oh wait, Malmsteen was already in a band called Steeler.

It’s simply economics. Digitised music equals less CD’s. The MP3 made music easy to share and distribute just by the click of a mouse button. Chart success and sales of actual music is not as relevant today as it was back in the Eighties and Nineties. What is relevant today is what music of the band are fans listening too.

Look at the band Shinedown. Call Me is their most streamed track, however they do not play the song live.

Finally, the best part of the interview, the quotes.

“Improvisation is a genesis of composition”
Malmsteen

“Music is melody and melody is music”
Mozart

“One must feel strongly to make others feel strongly”
Paganini

“When you’re a writer, you write the whole book, when you’re a painter like De Vinci you don’t say to someone, hey come over here and help me with my painting. There are a few reasons why I work this way. First of all, I’m so full of creativity that I don’t need any other input. The other is that I feel so strongly about my work, it’s like a burning passion to create something that is uniquely me.”
Malmsteen on song writing.

“Back in the day the record label was putting up all this money and you had to record whether you were inspired or not. I like to capture the moment.”
Malmsteen on recording now.

“ I don’t live in the past. The best show I’ve ever done is the one I’m going to do next. The best album will be the next one I do. I don’t look back, I look forward. It’s dangerous too, because if an album does well you might get stuck in that one sound for the next couple albums instead of having this evolution of your sound. I like to have the classical stuff on my records, and some blues. An album to me is supposed to be a snapshot of who you are at that time.”
Malmsteen on progress

http://www.blabbermouth.net/news/yngwie-malmsteen-the-music-industry-died-because-of-the-piracy/

http://classicrockrevisited.com/show_interview.php?id=995

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Alternate Reality, Copyright, Music, My Stories, Piracy, Stupidity, Treating Fans Like Shit

Piracy Was Rampant Even In The Eighties

Back in the Eighties, piracy was rampant. Most of my music collection during that period was made up of music taped onto blank cassettes. My “wealthier” older cousin in Sydney always seemed to have his finger on the pulse on the latest releases and every time I visited, I was armed with blank cassettes and proceeded to copy (download) albums that he recommended to me. There was also another shadier character locally that used to sell dubbed cassettes from 50 cents to $1 dollar. He then used the money obtained from his buyers to purchase more albums that he would sell to us on dubbed cassettes.

I was not alone in doing this, nor was I the first. Most of the music from the seventies that was passed down to me by my brothers was in the same format (blank cassettes that got filled with music).

So what did my brothers do in the Eighties, when they were old enough and had their own incomes. They started purchasing the music they listened to in the seventies. It worked like this; for example, they would purchase “Destroyer” from Kiss on LP or CD and once they did that I would get the cassette copied version that they had.

Another interesting thing in the Seventies was that while we all lived together, we only needed one version of the album to listen to the music. So what happens when family members move out. One brother purchases the album, the other brother purchases the album and then I need to purchase the album and so on. You can see the exponential growth here when children grow up and move out.

So what did I do in the Nineties, when I had more cash at hand. I purchased every album I had on dubbed cassettes on CD. I re-purchased every LP I had on CD. I went to second hand record shops and purchased LP’s from the Eighties and Seventies very cheap. If I found a real gem in those purchases, I then purchased that album on CD.

I went to the Record Fairs and Collector Fairs that started to gain traction during this period. Again, I purchased a lot of LP’s very cheap at those Fairs. I saw it as a try before you buy. If I found a real gem, I then purchased that album on CD.

I was not the only one that did the above. Based on sales figures during this period, the Record Labels had their largest ever profits to date. Everything that came after 1999 has been linked back to the unbelievable profits the record labels made during 1998 and 1999.

In the end, did all the piracy from the Seventies and Eighties hurt any of the bands that I supported. These are the bands that where pirated heavily on cassettes (from a list of the shady dealer selling them for 50 cents to $1 dollar);

Motley Crue
Bon Jovi
Iron Maiden
Metallica
Megadeth
Guns N Roses
Van Halen
David Lee Roth
Poison
Warrant
Skid Row
Twisted Sister
Kiss
Dio
Europe
Def Leppard
Dokken
Whitesnake
Judas Priest
Yngwie Malmsteen
Night Ranger
Queensryche
Ozzy Osbourne
Rush
Savatage
Stryper
Scorpions
WASP
Y&T
White Lion
Fastway
Joe Satriani
Loverboy
Meatloaf
Queen
Slayer
Survivor
UFO
Michael Schenker
Quiet Riot
Black Sabbath
Rainbow
Deep Purple
Anthrax
Motorhead

The answer is a resounding NO. All of those bands mentioned above are still around today in some form or another. All of those bands are part of pop culture in some form or another. They still have a loyal cult following and that cult following happened because of piracy.

If it wasn’t for cassette piracy, I never would have heard the full length albums of bands that did the rounds on MTV. I never would have heard “Master Of Puppets” from Metallica (I know own “Master Of Puppets” on CD, mp3 and LP).

The real hurter of bands was the Record Label. It was never piracy. Due to the labels having all the power in breaking a band, plus having all the control over the distribution, they would offer bands an unfair deal that stacked the deck in the Record Labels favour. For any musician that wanted their music exposed to a greater audience, it was the only option they had.

A lot of studies have come out stating that “pirates actually purchase the most.” I know it is a cliché statement at the moment however back in the Eighties I went to an Iron Maiden concert without actually owning an original copy of any of their albums. I went to a Megadeth concert without owning an original copy of their albums. The same with Bon Jovi, David Lee Roth, Guns N Roses and Stryper.

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A to Z of Making It, Copyright, Music, My Stories, Piracy

Rock N Roll Lessons from a Clothing Billionaire and a D.I.Y band like Digital Summer

Article on Zara Billionaire

All of our Rock N Roll heroes should read the above article. For those that don’t want to click on the link I will sum up the lessons that all rock n roll and heavy metal super stars or wannabe superstars can take from it.

First the backstory, Rosalia Mera is the co-founder of fashion giant Zara. At the time of her death at 69, she was estimated to be worth around US$6.1 billion thanks to her stake in the Zara chain. 

Focus On The Core

The article has the heading “Embrace what you know best.” Back in the 1960s, Mera and her former husband, Armancio Ortega, started a small clothing business producing lingerie and dressing gowns from their home. Mera focused on her core skill of being a seamstress.

Bands start getting traction by focusing on an audience that is similar to their core influences. This becomes the bands core audience. These are the people that will spread the word every chance they get. This is what bands should focus on. Songs that cross genres are songs that exceed the hopes and desires of the hard core audience.

Finding A Niche

By focusing on the core skill to create music which is a sum of their influences, in time this will lead to a niche. For the Zara founders, this didn’t happen overnight. It took about 15 years before it exploded.

The L.A Glam Scene was a sum of its influences. On one hand you had the American Classic Rock influences of Kiss, Journey, Styx, Aerosmith, REO Speedwagon, Boston, Alice Cooper and The New York Dolls. On the other hand you had the British influence in the form of Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Sweet, Mott The Hoople, David Bowie, Rolling Stones and Judas Priest. These two worlds collide, with the addition of The Sex Pistols punk attitude and the LA Glam Scene is born.

You need to be prepared to live in your niche until you get lucky. Lucky comes to those who keep at it. The more art you create the  more opportunity to succeed. It’s always something that you didn’t want to do that ends up breaking through. Nothing is a waste of time.

Everyone says Metallica’s breakthrough happened with the Black album. I say it happened with Metallica creating a video clip for the song One. Suddenly, you had them on MTV. This was something they didn’t want to participate in originally.

The reason why music exploded in the Seventies and the early Eighties is that record companies didn’t ask the band for a hit single. The bands got the money and the Record Labels hoped that the band delivered. That is why the gatekeeper model was born. The Record Labels needed to select people that they believed in. One thing is clear, the Record Labels steered clear of the creative process.

Get the name right

Zara was going to be called Zorba originally. Can you imagine that, a fashion label with a very masculine name. Can you imagine Queensryche as The Mob or Def Leppard spelt as Deaf Leopard?

What about Van Halen as Mammoth or Night Ranger as Stereo or just Ranger?

What about Bon Jovi as Johnny Electric or Aerosmith as The Hookers or Spike Jones or Led Zeppelin as The New Yardbirds or Lead Balloon?

If Dream Theater came out with the name Majesty on their first release, I would have been dismissive, as that name alone puts a preconceived notion of a Lord Of The Rings style band in the style of Blind Guardian or a Rainbow and Dragons band like Dio and to me, you can’t top Blind Guardian or Dio. However Dream Theater is perfect.

What about The Facebook vs. Facebook?

Getting the name right is crucial. Do your research? Get the spelling correct. Get it unique.

Lars Ulrich took the Metallica name from a friend of his who wanted to start up a metal fanzine. His friend provided Ulrich a list of names he was considering. Metallica is a combination of the words Metal and Britannica. The name stuck out so Ulrich recommended Metal Maniacs as the name of the fanzine and kept Metallica for himself. Motley Crue was going to be spelt to Motley Crew originally and then Motley Cru.

You need to be willing to adapt if the name is already taken. I am sure there are many of other bands out there that have had different names.

Art can last forever, so you need to have the name to last with it. To put it into prospective, does anybody remember who was the richest person in the Seventies. Of course not. Everybody with money has been forgotten after they die. However, ask anyone on the street if they remember John Lennon, The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Marc Bolan, The Who, Keith Moon, The Eagles and so on.

Does anyone remember Al Coury? He was a record executive back in the seventies. He recently passed away, almost unknown by the masses. If I ask the question if anyone remembers the soundtrack to “Saturday Night Fever” I am sure everyone will be saying YES. He was the person behind it, the mastermind. Those songs are forever, the artists are forever, however Al Coury is unknown.

In the current era, it will be the tech heads that will be remembered. They are the new artists like Steve Jobs with the iPod, iPhone, iMac and iPad.

Mixing friendship and business can be trouble.

The actual title was mixing love and business can be fraught. In the Zara example, Mera and Ortega created an empire, and had two kids during it. However by 1986, they separated. One stayed on in charge while the other became a board member.

In a band context, transpose the love part for friendships. All bands are a bunch of friends jamming with each other in the beginning. Then they start to get traction. Then they start to make money. Then they get outside influences. Then the arguments start. One person does more than the other, so why should the other person get the same amount of money and so forth. One person is the main songwriter however the other people in the band want to be credited as well.

Then there is still the mindset of the Seventies and Eighties were successful musicians are portrayed as rich, however that is so far from the truth. The musicians were in debt to their label, so they had to work and create to pay it all off, which meant getting even more into debt. So that leads to the current situation were musicians are not satisfied with their incomes. Everyone is always comparing themselves to others that are earning more.

Don’t Give Up Your Rights

Copyright was designed to protect the artist. However, as soon as the Recording Industry started to grow, business people came out from their corporate offices and stuck their claws into Copyright and now you have these same business people defending the copyright monopoly, while they are robbing artists and their fans dry. These same defenders of the copyright monopoly are laughing all the way to the bank while exploiting the system in a legal way.

Artists create not because they can make money off it as individuals, but because of who we are. We have been creative creatures from the start of civilisation. 

Be A Voice

The article had the title of “Use your power for good.” The Zara founder was a voice for topics close to her heart. In this case, it was questioning Government policies and trying to raise awareness on the loss of education services. Of course, the more money you have, the better the platform from which you can speak from. However, even a small artist can make a difference.

Piracy is a term that is screamed out by the rich corporations. However where is the voice of the artist on this subject.

The Live Business is overpriced and it needs a reset, however artists are blaming everyone else except themselves. The problem is, no wants to upset anyone.

The frequently heard notion that you don’t create culture if you’re not paid for it comes from those who exploit artists, and never from artists themselves. Artists need to speak up.

Enjoy what you have

Enjoy your life. Socialise, be seen. Life is too short, so enjoy your family. It’s not about the number of digits in the bank account.

Digital Summer to me is a band that enjoys what they have. They are professional musicians who also manage to maintain additional professional careers. Digital Summer is building a career without the support of a record label. When they began back in 2006 (before the explosion of social media), it was all about burning CD’s, passing them out and getting their name out. So when social media became the new marketing platform, the band took the same grassroots self-promotion into the digital realm. They know have established their name and they are still working hard to keep that name afloat.

http://hardrockdaddy.wordpress.com/2013/07/30/independent-artist-spotlight-digital-summer/

Read the above interview, it is essential reading for any DIY artist.

I really like the part when the band is talking about being on the road with signed bands. It was an eye opener to see bands with number 1 singles struggling financially. It squashed any perception they had of the rock star lifestyles and it made them realise that they can do all of that and still have the freedom and full control of the band.

The other part of interest is that the band is 100% fan funded. The professional careers the members have outside the band fund their home lives and the band career funds the band. Their latest album Breaking Point was funded via Kickstarter. They had a project goal of $25,000 and by the time the campaign was over, they had raised over $51,000. I have all of their albums, so you can say that I am a fan. The band is basically a machine running itself. Whatever money the band makes goes back into the band.

Another interesting part is the balance between their professional careers and touring. As the band answers, “it’s tough, but we make it work”. That is how it always has been for a musician. It’s a tough gig, how hard do you want to work at it.

One thing that I took out of the interview is the honesty of the band. This alone speaks of the integrity.

They formed a company called Victim Entertainment, that they use to publish anything that is Digital Summer. They have a business model that sets out what the individual roles are of each member. They even had feelers from other signed bands and Grammy winning artists asking if they could sign with Victim Entertainment. They answered NO, because it will take away from Digital Summer. Remember point one in this post, Focus on the CORE. I am sure other artists would have said YES, as the prospect of riches could be too much to ignore.

They have a substantial social media following. They even mentioned that the word of mouth from fans alone has brought them tons of new fans. Their social media presence brings in an income which they use to advertise and promote the band. That’s right kiddies, they are not spending their money on drugs, football team franchises or million dollar penthouses. They are spending it on the band.

Their focus was always the live show. That is why they have been on big tours. The final part of the interview is about what advice would Digital Summer give to other hard rock artists who want to remain independent. This is their answer;

Be ready to work your ass off!  The more you put in, the more you will get out. Never settle for promoting your shows on Facebook or text messages only. A lot of people don’t check that shit anyway (especially with Facebook constantly changing). Spend a little bit of cash, get some decent flyers printed, record a decent quality demo, and get your ass out there on the street and physically hand stuff out! You meet a lot of cool and interesting people doing this too.  Just remember, not everyone is going to like it, and some may put it down, but at least you’re getting your name out there one step at a time.

Know The Truth

Don’t get caught up in the saga of how artists will be paid. You are an artist so keep on creating. We live in a market economy. Everybody is responsible for finding a way to make money by providing value that somebody else wants to pay for.

Once artists start making some money from their art they will eventually become entrepreneurs. That means that you have to offer something which somebody else wants to buy. Writing a song and releasing it, doesn’t mean that people have to buy it to hear it.

Know the truth that business is business, and there is nothing that entitles an entrepreneur to sales. You need to work hard at it.

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A to Z of Making It, Alternate Reality, Music, My Stories

Revisionist History when it comes to Metallica

Kill Em All, Metallica’s first album is celebrating 30 years this month. It was released in July 25, 1983. At the time of its release it didn’t really set the world on fire, however if you look at the reviews and praises the album is getting now, it is like the album came out and created a movement called thrash metal right off the bat.

Let’s put into context the lifespan of Kill Em All. It came out on July 25, 1983. By February 1984, seven months since Kill Em All was released, Metallica was in the studio, writing and recording the Ride The Lightning album. The victory lap of Kill Em All was seven months. That’s it. If the band wanted to have a career, they needed to get back into the studio and record a new album.

Of course when the 1991 Black album exploded, new fans started to dig deep and purchase the bands older material. It is for this reason that the bands older catalogue from Kill Em All to Justice started to get RIAA certifications.

Kill Em All finally reached U.S sales of 3 million units in 1999. That pales in comparison to the Ride The Lightning and Master of Puppets albums which have moved over 6 million units in the U.S alone by 2012. The ..And Justice for All album has moved over 8 million copies in the U.S and the Metallica black album is pushing close to 17 million units sold in the U.S alone by the close of 2012.

As a Metallica fan, the Kill Em All album is not a bad album. It is a product of its time and its era. However in 1983, heavy metal and hard rock music was becoming a force to be reckoned with. So by 1983 standards, Kill Em All was up against some hard competition.

Motley Crue, Twisted Sister and Def Leppard had break through albums with Shout At The Devil, You Can’t Stop Rock N Roll and Pyromania.

Ozzy Osbourne, Kiss and Dio had new bands and you can call their 1983 releases as comeback albums. Bark At The Moon showcases Jake E.Lee, Lick It Up showcased Vinnie Vincent and Holy Diver showcases Vivian Campbell. In relation to Dio he was continuing his upward trajectory that started with Rainbow, then continued with Black Sabbath and now with his solo band.

ZZ Top hit the mainstream with Eliminator.

Iron Maiden followed up the breakthrough success of their 1982 album, The Number of The Beast with Piece of Mind.

Quiet Riot had a number one album on the back of the Randy Rhoads back story and connection with the band, a cover of Slade’s – Cum on Feel The Noize and a catchy original called Bang Your Head, which was perfect for the time.

Judas Priest was also riding high on the charts and selling well from a 1982 release called Screaming For Vengeance.

Going back to Metallica, the RNR history is written by the winners. Since Metallica is now inducted into the Hall of Fame, everyone that can put fingers to letters on a keyboard is rewriting their back story. Bands like Quiet Riot will be written out. Artists like Vinnie Vincent and Jake E.Lee will be forgotten by the clueless revisionists. The impact of other bands will be diminished because Metallica won.

Is anyone talking about Judas Priest and their impact to the American metal scene? Quiet Riot’s Metal Health was the first American heavy metal debut album to ever reach No. 1 in the United States on the Billboard album charts.

History is written by the winners.

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A to Z of Making It, Derivative Works, Influenced, Music, My Stories, Piracy, Stupidity

Get Down With The Trivium – Progress Is Derivative

Trivium has been doing the usual PR interviews about the new album that is scheduled to come out in August (no date has been set as yet). So from the interviews I have read, these six words have been mentioned constantly, “Bigger Melodies, Bigger Hooks, Bigger Riffs.” How would you interpret that?

My thoughts are that this is their attempt at a commercialized product.

Oooo Ah A A A Get down with the Trivium…

Hey there all will you listen to me, we are trivium but it is disturbed we want to be
Hey there all will you listen to me, we have the bigger riffs and melodies, just wait and see
Hey there all will you just listen to it, we are sure that you will like it
Hey there all will you just listen to it, we spent thousands on it so you need to like it.

I am sure you get the hint of the vocal melody line for the above.

So will the new Trivium album sound like Disturbed. I think not. Why? It is this comment from bassist Paolo Gregoletto in an interview on the Roadrunner website;

…. “now we’ve really learned what works within our band and it’s really about improving those things, bettering them each time we go into it. I think once you find what your identity is, you just want to keep improving and building upon that, and adding new elements in but also retaining what makes your band unique among the thousands and thousands of bands that are out there.”

Sound familiar. Heard the above before.

The guys from Five Finger Death Punch are also pushing the same line. Bands have finally realised that they need to play to their core. It is the core that will sustain them and it will be the core that will abandon them. While Jon Bon Jovi is trying to get all the 15 year old One Direction fans to like Bon Jovi with the Because We Can release, it is refreshing to see bands staying true to who they are and building on it.

When Def Leppard released Slang in 1996, it was an attempt to sound grungy and alternative. It was an attempt to play to a new audience that never liked them to begin with, and never would. By doing that they abandoned their core and they still haven’t recovered from that debacle. Def Leppard stated that they wanted to get away from the way they did the albums coming into Slang. This was just a too far departure sound wise. The songs are there and Def Leppard have mentioned that they are planning on re-issuing Slang with a new mix and so forth, so maybe some of those songs that had potential will stand up and be counted as Def Leppard classics.

When Megadeth released Risk, I was curious as to what audience they were trying to win over? It definitely wasn’t the core audience. When Metallica went alternative in the Nineties, the core was still loyal enough to stick with him. They laid down five ground breaking albums before that, we could forgive them for a decade of slip ups.

If there is one band that has stayed loyal to their audience, it is AC/DC. Iron Maiden is a close second. By doing that, look at the careers they have had so far.

Progress is made by improving on what came before. It is the same in music. If you want a career, if you want to make progress, you need to improve on what came before. Progress is derivative.

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