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

Attention

Everything happens at once.

You get a message on WhatsApp, on Messenger, a normal SMS, a blog post notification, a voice mail, an email, a Slack mention, a phone call, while you are listening to music with the earpiece in one ear and you are carrying out a conversation with a work colleague or a family member or a friend.

This is a crisis, and its real.

We have to choose on what to focus on, as our attention is a scarce resource. We need to find ways to use it wisely because every single human being gets the same amount of attention to spend each day, but some use it better than others and have an ability to focus on getting stuff done.

While others just waste their time on their smartphones or gaming or watching streaming TV. Imagine if all that time wasted on your smartphone scrolling the social media feed was money.

Would you waste your money like that?  

On absolutely nothing.

I suppose the question to be asked is, how do we want to live each day?

Do we want to live to just get through the day, and tomorrow will be another day to get through?  

And then what happens?

We’ve gone through all the days and lived the same as all the previous days. Is this a life fulfilled?

But what would happen if we saw each day as an opportunity to do something different, just for 10 minutes, instead of a task in a process.

How would that feel 12 months from now?

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

Progress Is Derivative – What The!! – It’s Not Okay To Show Your Influences

Led Zeppelin became the biggest rock act in the world. They wrote songs based on their influences and some songs even sounded like the songs they were influenced by. From traveling the world, they were also exposed to exotic sounds and as technology got better, to new sounds.

Suddenly, thousands of wannabe guitarists and singers and drummers and bass players started to copy the licks and melodies and beats of the mighty Zep, forming an influential bond with the music, much in the same way, the members of Zep allowed other artists and songs to influence their music and melodies.

And Zeppelin wasn’t just an act with a geographical location. Their music was everywhere and there was no way that any teenager in the 70’s could escape the sounds of the Zep. Fast forward into the mid 80’s and suddenly a lot of bands on record deals had a lot of musical passages in their songs which paid homage to Zeppelin and in some cases too much homage. But Zeppelin never sued. These derivative versions of songs based on Zep cuts actually increased the value of the Zep cuts.

I’ve been listening to some songs recently, and the resemblance to other songs is a beautiful thing to hear. I know that these kinds of similarities are bringing forth a lot of court cases in pop music where a jury is asked to decide what is plagiarism and what isn’t.

In the Cult’s song “Peace Dog”, the middle part section has a similarity which comes from the “Stairway to Heaven” section before the solo section kicks in.

And on the topic of Led Zep, no one can forget Kingdom Come. “Get It On” basically lifted the whole “Kashmir” chord progression, and “What Love Can Be” is similar to “Since I’ve Been Loving You” and “The Rain Song”. Regardless, Kingdom Come made me want to listen to Led Zeppelin.

Whitesnake broke through in the 80’s on the backs of MTV and a sound that rivalled the Sunset Strip, but when they started off on the blues rock journey, David Coverdale was channelling Led Zeppelin in “Trouble”. Coverdale even looked like Plant and sounded a lot like him on this cut and along with Sykes they brought the Led Zep sound, filling the void for a lot of fans of that music.

And this was okay, to show your influences and pay homage to styles.

But Copyright kept changing and evolving, because the corporations kept pushing for perpetual laws, as they knew that if they lost the copyrights to valuable recordings and songs, they would be losing money.

And by pushing for laws that lasted 70 years after the death of the creator, it also meant that the heirs of the creator would also benefit as a by-product. And the heirs are now taking from the hand that gave them the right, because if copyright terms stayed the same (28 year term (14 years with the option to renew for another 14) or if the artist died before the 28 years, on death), the majority of these court cases would not even exist, because the songs would be in the public domain.

But it was still okay to show your influences and pay homage, because the record labels and publishers still paid the heirs and the artists for their rights, as the labels made 300% more profit due to CD sales. But when the record labels stopped paying, as mp3 ripping and then digital downloads and then streaming took over, suddenly, there was a problem for the artists or the heirs/organisations who owned the copyrights. The payments ceased or became dramatically less.

So with a combination of Copyright law changes and a change to the distribution model, a new situation was created with lawsuit after lawsuit, because every artist or heirs of the artist feels that their work is so original and free from influence, that they must be compensated.

And suddenly it wasn’t okay to show your influences or pay homage. But all progress made in music was to build on what came before.

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A to Z of Making It, Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Copyright, Derivative Works, Influenced, Music, My Stories, Stupidity

Progress Is Derivative 3

Playlist 

Good artists copy, great artists steal is the saying. We can paraphrase it to “Good artists try to sound original by hiding their influences”, while “great artists let their influences show”. It’s how the language of music is learned. We imitate our influences.

If you don’t believe me, what is the first thing a person does when they are learning an instrument?

We start by learning songs created by other artists.

Inspiration is not theft. Theft is me taking something and you not having it to use anymore, like your apple or your car. Taking a musical expression and using it in your own song is not theft, as the original musical expression is still there. Here are some examples of taking musical expressions and re-using them in different songs. And in each example, the original expression is still there.

  • Five Finger Death Punch in the verses of “Lift Me Up” paid homage to Ozzy’s vocal melody from “The Ultimate Sin”.
  • Megadeth in the verses of “Kingmaker” paid homage to Black Sabbath’s “Children of the Grave”.
  • Dave Mustaine wrote “This Was My Life” from his “Phantom Lord” progression that appears from about 2.30 to 3.10.
  • “Live Wire” from Motley Crue borrowed from Girlschool’s “Yeah Right”.
  • “My Sanctuary” from Unisonic released in 2012 has a vocal melody that is very similar to “A Flock Of Seagulls” song called “I Ran (So Far Away)” that was released in 1981.
  • “Hey Hey My My” from Neil Young, released in 1979 is very similar to the song “I’d Love To Change The World” from Ten Years After released in 1971. In addition the riff to Tom Petty’s “Refugee” from 1980 is also very similar to “I’d Love To Change The World.”
  • “Ten Black Roses” from The Rasmus released in 2008 borrows from Muse’s “Showbiz” released in 1998.
  • “Life is Beautiful” from Sixx AM released in 2007 borrows from Duran Duran’s “Come Undone” released in 1993.
  • Even the song “Come Undone” is an amalgamation of other songs. Duran Duran wrote a song called “First Impression” and guitarist Warren Cuccurullo was creating a re-interpretation of the song for a covers album the band was doing which would include some re-interpreted songs. The bass line and drum groove came from producer John Jones and a song demo he did called “Face to Face”.
  • The song “This Is It” from the band Staind released in 2011 has the chorus vocal melody that borrows from The Offspring’s “Gone Away” chorus melody.
  • “Shepherd Of Fire” borrows from everything. The fire and the bell at the start and the feedback riff with the evil tri-tone is influenced from the song “Black Sabbath”. The drum pattern is very “Trust” like from Megadeth which is based on based on AC/DC’s “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap”. The guitar riffs are also very Megadeth like and also based on “Trust” from “Cryptic Writings”. Yep, it’s perfect and it is a perfect example of the “progress is derivative” effect in action.

The list is just a summary of how the creative arts work.

We take what came before and we build on it. And for creativity to flourish and for cultures to grow like the British 60’s explosion, a healthy public domain is needed which means shorter copyright terms or even no copyright terms.

Copyright is never about paying artists/creators. Copyright was designed by the distributors (book publishers, record labels and movie studios) so who do you think benefits most from Copyright.

For centuries, the distributors have campaigned hard to promote how Copyright is there to help writers and artists. They have PR writers who tell the story of the poor artist who needs Copyright to pay the rent and how dare do people, copy a song instead of paying a price set by the industry for it. These PR writers have turning copying a song, (two songs exists) into theft (now product A is not in your possession).

Yes, Copyright operators do pay artists as a means to make it look like it’s doing the right thing, however more monies end up in the pockets of the organisations than artists.

And all of the great PR work the labels, movie studios and book publishers did in selling the copyright story is biting back at them, via the heirs of dead artists (who in reality should have no rights to songs they didn’t create) taking them to court with plagiarism law suits and what not.

Sort of like our governments who finance revolutionaries, only to have those revolutionaries rise up against their financiers once they seize power.

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Copyright, Derivative Works, Influenced, Music, My Stories, Stupidity

Perpetual Copyright and The Public Domain

There is a lot of hate for the Public Domain from the corporations that hold the Copyrights to a lot of culture and also to creators who created those cultural icons. But without the Public Domain, those creators wouldn’t have a bed of influences that allowed them to create their works without fear of lawsuits and copyright infringement.

Hell, even all of the blockbusters coming out these days are story boarded by using scenes from films that maybe should be in the Public Domain. Check out this article from The Guardian about how “Rogue One” and “War For The Planet Of The Apes” came together. As the article states;

“.. the film’s initial “cut”, designed to map out the movie before any shooting took place, was cobbled together by editor Colin Goudie using footage from hundreds of other existing films. For protagonist Jyn Erso’s early encounter with Mon Mothma and her comrades on the Rebel council, Goudie substituted in the interrogation scene from the beginning of Aliens; for the bit where Erso and her pals break into the Imperial data vault, the editor inserted a similar scene from 1983’s WarGames. Old Star Wars movies were also pilfered from. Using this celluloid patchwork quilt, director Gareth Edwards was able to devise a working template for Rogue One (albeit one that would later be ripped apart and stitched back together following extensive reshoots).”

Yes people, it’s okay to be influenced. It’s okay to take an existing work and use it as a template to build upon. No art is created in a vacuum. As the article further states;

“We watched every Planet of the Apes movie, war movies, westerns, The Empire Strikes Back,” Reeves told About Movies. “We just thought, ‘We have to pretend we have all the time in the world,’ even though we had limited time. We got really inspired.”
Matt Reeves – Director of “War For The Planet Of The Apes”

Just because they used other films for inspiration doesn’t make the movie crap. As the article further states;

The fact that many of the above movies are derivative does not make them bad films. Plagiarism, in many ways, is the oil that greases the cogs of the studio machine. Each film-maker takes something from the last, and hopefully passes something on to their successor. It has been ever so since the early days of silent film, and indeed even the era of Shakespeare.

Progress is derivative has been my motto since I started creating music. Be influenced by what you see, hear and read.

And all of this leads me to the Public Domain.

Each year on January 1, certain works should be entering the Public Domain. But in the biggest market, the U.S, the large movie studios and record labels, lobbied hard to change the Copyright laws and since 1978, nothing really enters the Public Domain in the U.S.

The below works from 1960 should all be in the Public Domain in 2017, however they aren’t. And we will not see them in the Public Domain for another 39 years.

The team over at Duke University always put together a comprehensive list. If the below works entered the public domain, creators could use them to build new works without fear of a copyright infringement case. Fans could make their own clips and homages or new movies without fear of copyright infringement.

Here are some movies that should be in the Public Domain that I recognise;

  • The Time Machine
  • Psycho
  • Spartacus
  • Exodus
  • The Magnificent Seven
  • Ocean’s 11
  • The Alamo
  • The Andy Griffith Show (first episodes)
  • The Flintstones (first episodes)

Here are some books that should be in the Public Domain that I recognise;

  • Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird
  • John Updike, Rabbit, Run
  • Dr. Seuss, Green Eggs and Ham and One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish

In the period these works were created, the writers and movie studios had a thriving public domain which they could call upon. They all created the above works, knowing that in time, the works would fall into the Public Domain and people would be free to use these books and movies in their own stories.

But the money in perpetual copyright created business that make millions, which in turn led to these businesses to pump politicians full of money, so they write and vote for laws that grants them a government monopoly.

There is research out that shows only 2% of works between 55 and 75 years old continue to retain commercial value. So apart from the famous works, the 98% remainder of the books and movies do not have any dollar value, however people cannot use them to build new works. No one benefits from perpetual copyright.

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Copyright, Derivative Works, Influenced, Music, My Stories, Stupidity

Using Our Influences

From the 50’s onwards, the Copyright industry morphed into large corporate entities. These corporations got laws passed which gave them a powerful monopoly instead of the artist. Laws which changed when copyright expires had the intention to purely to benefit the record labels and no one else. But in order to hide what the true intent of the law was, the labels sold it as a benefit for the heirs of the artist.

So what we have happening right now are lawsuits orchestrated by the heirs of the artists along with their serpent eyed lawyers. And then we have judges and juries deciding how music is created. And suddenly, the music of the departed artist is showcased as being so original and without influence that anything which came after had copied the departed artists’ music.

However, one thing cannot be disputed, all music is a sum of our influences. There is not a single musician alive who creates music without hearing any music whatsoever before. But in 2016, to be influenced by what you have heard in the past is reclassified as “plagiarism”.

Led Zeppelin built a career on copying blues and folk standards while Metallica built their career by copying their NWOBM influences and many others. Oasis built a career on copying from “The Beatles”. The Beatles built a career on copying from blues and rock standards that by the 60’s had become copyright free.

Bon Jovi built a career because Desmond Child re-used songs he already wrote for Bonnie Tyler and others. Then when Jovi had hits, they went to town, re-writing their hits. Seriously, if you look at their catalogue, “Living On A Prayer” has been rewritten for every album that came after “Slippery When Wet.” “New Jersey” had “Born To Be My Baby”. “Keep The Faith” had the title track. “Crush” had “It’s My Life”. “Have A Nice Day” had the title track. “Bounce” had the title track. “The Circle” had “We Weren’t Born To Follow”.

Five Finger Death Punch – “Lift Me Up” has a vocal melody in the verses similar to “The Ultimate Sin” from Ozzy Osbourne. A lot of people call it theft, I call it influence. Imitation is a form of flattery. The song is getting the plays. People are paying attention and that is what artists want. It is not about sales anymore, it is about listening. Are people listening to your music?

Megadeth paid homage to Black Sabbath’s, “Children of the Grave” in their new song “Kingmaker”. Alter Bridge also paid homage to Black Sabbath’s “Children Of The Grave” and Ozzy Osbourne’s “Revelation Mother Earth” in their song “Fortress”. Continuing on with Alter Bridge, the song “The Uninvited” has a strong resemblance to Tool’s “Schism”. And all of Tool’s songs have similarities in groove and feel to King Crimson. Motley Crue borrowed from Mountain’s “Mississippi Queen” and Stevie Wright’s “Eve” for their song “S3”.

Do these odes to their influences make them unoriginal?

The history of metal and rock music occurred because of some serious copying. My favourite saying is that all “progress is derivative.” What I mean by this term, is that all the music we love is an amalgamation of music that has come before. In a lot of the cases, this amalgamation involved some serious copying.

It is a shame that we have a generation of people who have grown up with a belief that music is created in a vacuum and they decide that legal threats is the best way forward.

Songs are not created in vacuums. The fun and games for the listener is in pointing out the resemblance.

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A to Z of Making It, Derivative Works, Influenced, Music, My Stories, Unsung Heroes

Thrash Musics Three M’s. Metal, Metallica, Mustaine!!

According to “The Guardian”, Metallica is seen as a band that revolutionized the metal genre. According to “The Rolling Stone”, Metallica are kings at everything they do.

Metallica for me was an extreme act when I got into them by the mid Eighties. Extreme in the sense that their style was so departed from the “metal” music I knew, which at that time consisted off bands like Motley Crue, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Ratt, Bon Jovi, Cinderella, Twisted Sister and Quiet Riot. When i first heard the opening riff of “Fight Fire with Fire” I felt like me head got chopped off with a chainsaw. It was brutal. By the time “Ride The Lightning” started with its harmony guitars I was ready to snap my desk in half.

So based on the bands I was listening too, Metallica was pretty extreme. Megadeth even more so. Slayer even more and more so. After that, my tastes became elective and depending on my moods, certain styles would win over the other. In the end, as long as it had distorted guitars, I was into it.

Anyway, there was a story doing the rounds a few weeks ago about how Scott Ian believes that Dave Mustaine is the godfather of thrash music or something along those lines.

And to be honest, I don’t agree with anything Mr Ian says about the internet and piracy, but for this, he is not far off the mark.

All you need to do is hear the songs written on the debut “Kill Em All” album and you will hear that the Dave Mustaine led compositions (“Mechanix/The Four Horseman”, “Jump In The Fire”, “Phantom Lord” and “Metal Militia”) had a certain technical and progressive edge to them.  Especially “Metal Militia” which for a young band full of energy, booze and in Mustaine’s case “drugs” it was a surprise to hear a young act attempt a song with time and tempo changes.

And “Metal Militia” is the style that Metallica went with, up until the Justice album. Technical, progressive thrash metal.

Actually going back even further, you need to look at the songs Hetfield and Ulrich had written prior to Mustaine joining Metallica. “Hit The Lights” was not really thrash metal and more a take on the NWOBHM and a chugging riff that was ripped off from “Detroit Rock City”.

But what about Jeff Hanneman (RIP). To me, the songs he wrote for Slayer are songs that pushed the boundaries of the genre. Thrash metal also had socially relevant lyrics over a bed of chainsaw of guitars and fast drumming. The disenfranchised youth of the blue-collar workers understood this message and suburbia was awash with rebellion and revolutionary ideals.

So even though Metallica (the band) are seen as the leaders of the movement, I think it’s a safe bet to say that Mustaine played a pivotal role in shaping the Metallica style. In turn, they took a lot of the noise happening around them and turned it into a career.

But the term thrash proved to be a barrier to commercial success and by the mid 90’s, the Eighties fans of the thrash bands screamed sell outs as they believed their heroes had abandoned the movement. But as Dylan sings in his songs, you need to keep on rolling, keep on changing and keep on exploring.

We all know what the “Black” album did, however Testament followed suit with “The Ritual”, Megadeth with “Countdown To Extinction”, Anthrax were already experimenting with their sound, moving to a more traditional sound with “Persistence Of Time” and a more modern groove sound with “Sound Of White Noise”. Meanwhile, Slayer delivered a typical Slayer album with “Divine Intervention”. Thrash had re-invented itself as a commercial force.

To say that one band revolutionized a genre is like saying one man invented all of Apple’s products, which we all know is not true. All cultural movements are products of many events coming together but in metal and thrash metal circles, it’s one band that is getting all of the accolades because of their commercial success. And history is written by the winners.

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

George Lynch and Michael Sweet

George Lynch. As much as he probably despises it, he will always be known as the lead shredder for Dokken. Yep, his greatest claim to fame is under the surname of a person he doesn’t really like.

In guitar circles he is known for losing out to Randy Rhoads for the Ozzy gig, however he was good enough to take over from him at Musonia. Gene Simmons told Lynch once (during the Xciter days) that with a name like George Lynch he would never make it. I guess Simmons didn’t take into account the power of determination and perseverance.

In a roundabout way Lynch ended up with a record deal and recorded “Breaking The Chains” in Europe in 1981. He auditioned again for Ozzy after Randy’s passing however the job went to Jake E.Lee this time around. With nothing to lose, he had one more crack at the big time. With the addition of Jeff Pilson, a new formidable song writing team would be formed in Lynch, Pilson and Mick Brown.

What can’t be taken away from Lynch is that he is a man of many projects. If you want to survive in the music business you need to create. And that is what George Lynch does each year. He creates, plays live and creates some more and plays live again.

But the part that impresses me more is his foresight.

Back in the early two thousands he started “Guitar Dojo” an online guitar instructional course that was way ahead of its time. Hell, Skype and YouTube were not even around at all. Today, every artist has some lessons out there that they conduct via Skype or YouTube. And without knowing it, Lynch was finding different ways to connect with his fan base. The Guitar Dojo became a community that would end up seeing the guitar students turn up at shows, purchase merchandise and recordings.

He self-funded his “Kill All Control” album, which had the song “Son of Scary”. The band agreement in Dokken meant that they split up all the songs equally. “Mr Scary” an instrumental that Lynch wrote by himself was also split four ways. Back in the Eighties it was probably no big deal.

Fast forward to 2008/9 and “Guitar Hero” comes calling, wanting to use “Mr Scary” for the game. According to Lynch, Dokken had a problem with it and he made Guitar Hero’s legal department very uncomfortable. In order to work around this problem, Lynch re-wrote the song on a 7 string and called it “Son Of Scary”. In the end “Guitar Hero” didn’t end up using the track.

He also released “Sun Red Sun” that is a record he started more than two years ago with the last incarnation of the band. On top of that he is also just finishing up the music for another new Lynch Mob record that will be coming out next spring. This version of the band has Jeff Pilson on bass, Brian Tichy on drums along with Oni Logan on vocals. Lynch also has the Shadow Nation documentary and Shadow Train band project to come in 2015.

Which brings me to the purpose of this post!

There is no doubt that George Lynch is a wonderful talent. As good as he is, he doesn’t sing and for that you need a vocalist that is also talented in writing great vocal melodies. And he found that vocalist in Michael Sweet, who is another musician that is also creating and working non-stop.

Check out Michael Sweet’s output since 2005.

2005: Stryper – Reborn
2006: Michael Sweet – Him
2007: Michael Sweet – Touched
2007: Stryper – Live In Puerto Rico
2007: Stryper – The Roxx Regime Demos
2008: Boston Tour
2009: Stryper – Murder By Pride
2011: Stryper – The Covering
2013: Stryper – Second Coming
2013: Stryper – No More Hell To Pay
2014: Michael Sweet – I’m Not Your Suicide
2014: Stryper – Live At The Whisky
2015: Sweet & Lynch – Only To Rise

And that is what I am doing right now. I am listening to the Sweet and Lynch album “Only To Rise”.

From all of his projects since Lynch Mob’s second album, this is the best one by far. Michael Sweet as always delivers a killer vocal performance and in some cases, his melodies take pedestrian songs into a whole new stratosphere. “Recover” is one example. The intro and verses are okay, but when that chorus crashes down around the ear drums and Sweet’s glass shattering vocals hit the spot, all bets are off. The album has got twelve songs, however nine songs would have made a perfect album.

The Wish
This song is the star of the album. That chorus vocal melody and the guitar melody under it are brilliant.

“Girl I want to love you just like Hollywood
Like a New York Times best-selling fairy tale
A knight in shining armour who’s defending you
The wish within your well”

Dying Rose
Michael Sweet mentioned in an interview that he asked George Lynch to give him music with a Dokken vibe/feel like “The Hunter” (track number 2 from the Under Lock and Key album). That song ended up being “Dying Rose”.

Lynch further stated in a Guitar World interview that “Dying Rose,” has a “country-esque, Nashville element to it. It’s a beautiful melody and chorus with a nice hook.”

Love Stays
Michael Sweet mentioned that “Love Stays” is one of his favourites. He likes the vibe, the feel, the drum groove and just the way it sounds. The funny thing is that they are all the bits I dig as well.

As soon as that guitar riff comes in to start the song, I knew I was listening to something special especially when it transitions into a Beatles/ELO “Mr Blue Sky” bridge. Overall, the song could have come from the Max Martin stable of pop rock songs. Give it to any pop star of the week and watch it rise.

Time Will Tell
It reminds me of a band that is a huge influence on me musically and that band is Y&T.

Rescue Me
I read that Michael Sweet asked Lynch to give him something a little Journey-ish. The reply was a bunch of riffs titled “Bad Journey”. It might have that old-school Journey vibe however it’s got that Led Zep/Bad Company blues rock vibe as well.

Me Without You
The way the guitar transitions between chords reminds me of Michael Schenker for some reason. I really dig this song. The intro and the vocal melody are just brilliant. Haunting even.

Recover
One of the best rock/metal songs I have heard in a while. When that chorus crashes down around the ear drums and Sweet’s glass shattering vocals hit the spot, all bets are off.

September
I’ve read some comments and reviews that mention it’s hard not to think of Iron Maiden’s “Wasted Years” during the intro and choruses of “September”.

Only To Rise
This song is the “Hey, dude. Give me something that’s a little Van Halen-ey.” And it sure is.

The whole album is an example of the progress is derivative model.

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