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

TheWay Of The World

If you risk, you could lose. There’s no safety net in life. All of the people who have succeeded say you need to fail to succeed. And we don’t hear from those who risked everything and failed and now have nothing. Hell, we don’t even know their names.

If we want a better future, we need to be able to see the world as it is. It’s easier said than done as we are all products of our tribes. The family we grew up in, the friends we associated with or still associate with, the city we grew up in, the school we went to, the music we listen to, the teachers and employers we had, the books we read and so on. Basically we have so many influences in our lives. The biggest one is money. It’s a system designed to keep us in a cycle of debt. We grow up watching our parents argue over it. We got to school so we get “skills” to earn it. We get jobs so we have it. We get credit cards and loans to have more of it. We invest in shares and property to make more of it. And the cycle just goes on.

To top it off, tech innovation has created a “superstar” lifestyle, which is even more extravagant than the music “MTV superstar lifestyle. We see it all over the news and social media. So we try to be one of the players. We pretend on social media our lives are better than what they really are.

But we are currently living in a “winner-take-all” economy. The internet is controlled by Amazon, Facebook and Google. You can add Apple to the list with their iTunes/App store. Streaming is controlled by Spotify, Netflix and YouTube. Retail is controlled by Amazon. Social media is controlled by Facebook. Search is controlled by Google. We can use their tools for productivity or to make money, but it’s on their rules, which can change any time.

But we still plod on, trying to make it. But we don’t know where to start, so we take all the roads on offer, only to get back to the start.

Everything we were told was wrong. The internet didn’t topple the old players. It just created more of the same and in the process it made the old players even more powerful. In relation to music, the artists created their own problems by signing terrible contracts in the first place. Then when they had songs make it big, they would renegotiate their contracts and resell their copyrights to a corporation for an advance payment plus a royalty cut of any “profits” the song makes, less “expenses”. So they get paid in the short term, but lose in the long term. The record labels knew this.

Why do you think they lobbied hard to get Copyright terms changed to be life of the creator plus 70 years after death?

They will pay the Estate of the artists a few million here and there for a popular catalogue of songs, which will keep the Estate happy while they laugh all the way to the billion dollar profit sheet.

The TV mirror tells us the world is dangerous. We see news of terrorist trying to kill innocents or moments after they’ve just killed innocents. Certain channels will try and influence the debate to suit their point of view. Meanwhile, the internet never forgets. We expose ourselves online and give big corporations all of our private data, which they sell to other marketing corporations or hand over to the government if they are warranted. All the while, we are exposed to fake news or real news and people just can’t read critically enough or care to read critically enough to make up their own minds.

We don’t have enough time to have showers, let alone put together a critique of two conflicting news items.

And somewhere in this chaotic life we all lead, there are artists who want to have a music career. They are sitting at home making music on Apple Logic or Cubase or Pro Tools. They put it out on streaming services via an aggregator like Tunecore or CD Baby. They tell all of their “social media friends” to check out their new song without realising it’s an empty echo chamber and they end up nowhere. The reason is simple. Making music is great, but making connections is even better. It’s the way of the world today.

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

Metal Music

Heavy F…. Metal.

In 2018, it will be 50 years from when Steppenwolf, screamed the words, “Heavy Metal Thunder” in their iconic “Born To Be Wild” song. And while the reference to “heavy metal thunder” was the loud sound of the motorbike, it seemed to stick for a style of music that was just around the corner.

But heavy metal goes back a bit further than that. You see, in the 1930’s there was a guitarist called Django Reinhardt.

He was a jazz shredder who passed away in 1953, well before heavy metal became a tour de force. But to become a shredder, wasn’t easy for Django. You see, a fire in the late 20’s extensively burned his left hand and other areas of his body. His right leg was paralysed and his fourth and fifth fingers on his left hand were badly burned. The Doctors told him that he will never play guitar again and they wanted to cut his leg off. Django refused the surgery and within a year, learned to how walk again with the help of a cane. But his two fingers remained paralysed. So Django had to relearn how to play the guitar by using his thumb and two fingers.

Fast forward to the 60’s and an unknown Birmingham guitarist tore off the tips off his middle fingers in a freak factory accident. A visit from the company foreman, alerted Tony Iommi to Reinhardt.

“It really inspired me to really get on with it, and start trying to play.”
Tony Iommi VH1 in 2015.

Although Iommi’s problems weren’t as severe as Django, he still had to do things a bit differently. While Django had to relearn how to play the guitar from scratch using less fingers, Iommi just needed to innovate. The first innovation was the creation of the plastic finger tips. The second was the down tuning of the guitar from standard pitch to accommodate the plastic finger tips.

And while Sabbath are seen as the forefathers of heavy metal, metal in general was more than just Sabbath. It was the attitude, the rebellion, the free-spirited nature, the community and gang-like mentality. And this attitude goes back to the early 60’s. In 1964, Beatles records accounted for 60% of all music sales in the U.S. according to Billboard magazine. Rock became a commercial force, priming the U.S kids for the more abrasive, distorted version of rock would enter in a few years’ time.

But to understand the Beatles, you need to go back to Chuck Berry, the father of rock and roll. The Beatles covered “Rock And Roll Music” and “Roll Over Beethoven”. John Lennon ripped off Chuck Berry for “Come Together”.

Hell, the Beach Boys ripped “Sweet Little Sixteen” from Chuck Berry and called it “Surfin’ U.S.A.”.

ELO’s career was jump-started when they covered “Roll Over Beethoven”.

Let’s not forget “Johnny B. Goode”, a hit when it came out, and in 1977 the song was launched into space with the Voyager I and II spacecraft to await discovery. Chuck Berry was a metal head before metal was even around. He sang about fast cars, women and teenage rebellion. In other songs, he questioned the status quo. And since those days, metal has grown worldwide. It’s the new world music. As an article in the Wall Street Journal states;

“Today’s “world music” isn’t Peruvian pan flutes or African talking drums. It’s loud guitars, growling vocals and ultrafast “blast” beats.”

The internet and mp3 sharing has spread heavy metal music to all corners of the world. Music in general was locked up, behind gates, but now we can hear every song ever recorded online, even the songs from “out of print” albums. People from oppressive countries who wouldn’t normally have access to metal music suddenly had access via their fingertips. Metal music is a lifestyle. You live the way you look and look the way you live. There are no pretensions. And you can’t get more metal and no bullshit than Ginger Baker, a person who inspired future metal drummers going on record detesting the style. That’s exactly the free-spirit of a metaller.

“I’ve seen where Cream is sort of held responsible for the birth of heavy metal. Well, I would definitely go for aborting. I loathe and detest heavy metal. I think it is an abortion.”
Ginger Baker – Cream 

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Music, My Stories, Piracy, Unsung Heroes

Metal Loyalty

Why is it a surprise to people that heavy metal or hard rock fans are the most loyal fans?

There is a pretty good chance that every metal fan has purchased the same album, from acts they like, more than three times.

I am talking from my own experience here. I have the Crue’s Eighties albums on Cassette, LP and on CD.

In the Nineties, these albums got remastered and had some bonus tracks added to them. So I purchased them again. The same albums then got repackaged into Box Sets and guess what I did? I purchased them again.

All up, I purchased each Eighties Motley Crue album five times. Just typing it all out makes me sound silly. Now apply the same counts to Metallica, Iron Maiden, Twisted Sister, Van Halen, Ozzy Osbourne, Megadeth, Bon Jovi, Europe, Cinderella, Kiss, Whitesnake, Def Leppared, Guns N Roses, Skid Row and so on.

Others call it dumb, others call it silly, however I call it loyalty. And guess what? There are millions more people out there the same as me.

Talking about the Eighties, let’s look at the year 1987. The biggest hit singles for that year according to Wikipedia are “La Bamba” from Los Lobos, “Never Gonna Give You Up” from Rick Astley, “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” from Whitney Houston, “It’s A Sin” from Pet Shop Boys and “Who’s That Girl” from Madonna.

However during the year, Guns N Roses unleashed their record-breaking “Appetite For Destruction” album and Def Leppard also unleashed their own record-breaking album in “Hysteria”. Both albums are known as slow-burners, meaning that they took their time to hit it big. Something today’s know it all musicians fail to understand.

For Guns N Roses, it wasn’t until “Sweet Child O’Mine” came out as a single in August 1988 that the album really started to sell. And that was 14 months after it was released. Using the RIAA certification system as a metric for success, by August 1988, Appetite For Destruction was certified three times multi-platinum. Not bad, hey. Then “Sweet Child O’Mine” came out as a single in the same month. By December 1988, (four months later) the album was six times multi-platinum.

You see what happens when one song connects.

Continuing on, by July 1989, almost 12 months since “Sweet Child O’Mine” was released as a single and two years since the album came out, the album was certified eight times multi-platinum. Five million units were sold after “Sweet Child O’ Mine”.

For Def Leppard, it wasn’t until the “Love Bites” single came out in 1988 that the “Hysteria” album started to sell by the truckloads.

Also in 1987, Bon Jovi was still riding high from 1986’s “Slippery When Wet” album. Meanwhile, Motley Crue came out with “Girls, Girls, Girls” and U2 released “The Joshua Tree”. All three bands proved massive drawcards on the live circuit.

White Lion came out with “Pride” and surprised everyone with “Wait”. Suddenly Vito Bratta was in everyone’s lounge rooms courtesy of MTV. And because of MTV, White Lion also became a multi-platinum act.

Ozzy Osbourne paid a “Tribute” to Randy Rhoads while Kiss jumped on the Bon Jovi band wagon with “Crazy Nights”. Blues rockers Great White took the charts by storm with their “Once Bitten” album.

1987 also saw Whitesnake released their mega selling self – titled album, Heart released “Bad Animals” and the single “Alone” and Gary Moore released “Wild Frontier”.

Aerosmith also released “Permanent Vacation” signalling that their comeback was complete, while Pink Floyd did the same with “A Momentary Lapse Of Reason”.

Marillion released “Clutching at Straws”, Y&T released “Contagious” and Rush released “Hold Your Fire”.

Savatage started to make a dent in the metal world with “Hall of the Mountain King” and Alice Cooper’s comeback was picking up steam with “Raise Your Fist and Yell”.

I own all of the above albums, more than once.

Metal and Rock music is a lifestyle. Metal and rock bands appealed to my belief systems. It is that lifestyle and belief system that inspires loyalty. Cultural movements have happened on the backs of metal music.

The term heavy metal in the Eighties was used a lot. A record store lumped bands with very different styles into one Metal category. I could walk into a heavy metal section of a record shop and find Bon Jovi, Metallica, Twisted Sister, Slayer, Iron Maiden, Motley Crue, Poison, Van Halen and even Boston.

Judging by how big metal became, I guess I was not the only one that had the same belief systems. One thing that metal and rock bands did better than every other genre is the branding. Once we connected with the artists, we wanted to become to a member of the gang. We wanted to be patched in and sworn in. It was a tribe mentality.

You don’t need Spotify to know that metal fans are loyal. Looking at the releases in 1987, artists like Kiss, Ozzy Osbourne, Pink Floyd, Whitesnake, Heart, Rush, Y&T and Aerosmith had been around since the early Seventies. Yep, 17 years later, they still had loyal fans waiting for new music. Almost twenty years later, those same bands still have millions of fans waiting for a tour or new music. Can’t say much for Rick Astley.

Other artists like Def Leppard, Gary Moore, U2, Marillion, Great White and Motley Crue had been around since the late Seventies or early Eighties.

The reason why the loyalty of metal heads becomes part of the conversation is that us metal heads/rock heads are stereotyped as antisocial who contribute nothing to society. So how does that explain the numbers that metal and rock bands do on the live circuit, sales circuit, streaming numbers and merchandise sales. That is a lot of money that the anti-social misfits are putting into society.

As the saying goes, pop artists come and go, but metal artists remain forever. Once we are a fan of a band, we are fans for life.

I strongly believe that this metal global audience was achieved because of piracy. Illegal P2P in the early days led to bands like Metallica, Iron Maiden and Motley Crue earning a whole new audience. Suddenly their music was available to people who couldn’t get it. Suddenly these bands who had waning careers, had new markets to hit.

Nicko from Iron Maiden summed it up the best in the Flight 666 documentary. In the documentary, Nicko was mentioning that Iron Maiden hasn’t sold any recorded music in Costa Rica, however they had a sold out show that night.

There is an article over at Mashable that is quoting from Vince Edwards, the head of publicity for Metal Blade Records.

Edwards says that to book live shows, bands need to be able to demonstrate sales, which means using Nielsen’s SoundScan. Spotify streams don’t factor into SoundScan, so any streams that take away from sales also take away from touring. Touring, he says, is “mission critical” for bands. Streams, he says, just aren’t yet incorporated into the system. “It’s such a new metric that people aren’t really sure how to measure that yet,” Edwards said.

Spotify does have some data that can be used to inform bands where it might be best to tour, but Edwards says that doesn’t help metal artists much, since they tend to play smaller venues.

“I think that’s kind of the big disconnect between our world and the mainstream world,” he said.

Seriously, you would think in this day and age that the label bosses would have figured out how to incorporate streaming or even piracy data into their analysis. Online piracy has been around since 1999 and Spotify streaming has been around since 2008. To rely on SoundScan data in 2015 is ridiculous.

Lucky for these clueless label heads that the metal fans are loyal and generate dollars for them.

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

Dokken, Motley Crue and Ratt. More examples of the Progress Is Derivative Model

This isn’t a story about who ripped off who. To me those arguments are irrelevant as I am a great believer in the “progress is derivative” principle which is that all artists take a little bit of what came before and create something that to them is original.

It’s funny how you can have three songs that have pretty similar main riffs however each song has a totally different reach and impact with the audience.

Listen to “Young Girls” from Dokken’s first album “Breaking The Chains” and then listen to “Looks That Kill” from Motley Crue.

Now ask yourself the following question;

Do the opening riffs sound very similar?

If you answered YES then read the below, however if you answered NO then go back and repeat the above exercise until you hear that they do sound very similar.

Now listen to “Tell The World” from RATT.

Does the opening riff also sound similar albeit with a few small variations?

If you answered YES then read the below, however if you answered NO then go back and repeat the above exercise.

Musically, the three songs have a definitive riff that is very similar. However, one song is clearly forgotten, one song is considered a classic and the other one is a fan favourite.

The Dokken song was destined for the scrap heap just by the song title alone. Add to that some really crap lyrics, plus a really lazy uninspired vocal melody from Don Dokken and you have a disaster of mass distortion regardless of how good the bed of music is from Lynch. This is a perfect example of how good musicianship doesn’t shine due to bad lyrics.

In sports you are as strong as your weakest link and in this case the weakest link was the song title and the lyrics/vocal melodies.

Then you have the Motley Crue version that has lyrics drenched in sleaze, attitude and danger. The vocal melodies are simple with three or four syllable phrases, clustered together and barked out with venom. Add to that a song title that screams attention. Without even taking into account the video clip images and what not, “Looks That Kill” is far superior because of the way Nikki Sixx phrases his vocal melodies.

Then you have the Ratt’s “Tell The World”. Stephen Pearcy lived the L.A lifestyle. He immersed himself in the scene, along with his San Diego cohort Robin Crosby.

The main drivers behind all three songs are George Lynch, Don Dokken, Nikki Sixx, Robin Crosby and Stephen Pearcy. George Lynch was a constant L.A performer towards the late seventies and early eighties. Nikki Sixx and Robin Crosby would go on to be best friends. Both were consistent performers on the L.A scene. Stephen Pearcy was also a constant on that scene.

The music in these songs is not about who ripped off who. It is about how the sound of the L.A scene influenced all of the musicians involved.

In a nutshell playing two open string pedal points and then a power chord straight after was pretty basic Hard Rock/Metal 101.

This type of playing was very synonymous with bands like Judas Priest, UFO (Michael Schenker) and Scorpions.

In the U.S, you had the mighty Ted Nugent pushing out songs with definitive riffs based around open pedal points and power chords. Check out “Stranglehold”.

If you want to see that type of figure on steroids and totally original, check out the Randy Rhoads opening riff in “Steal Away The Night” . Rhoads starts it off with two open notes and then an inversion of a power chord. Then instead of doing two more open E’s he plays the B and A notes in lieu of the two open E’s.

In the end, as humans we are a sum of our influences and our cultures. The L.A scene was a culture based around a decadent lifestyle. In between all of that, the bands involved ended up crafting some great tunes along the way.

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

The World Created By Black Veil Brides

I am listening to the new Black Veil Brides album. So far I am five songs in and it is pretty good. Stand outs from the first five are the relentless “Faithless” and “World Of Sacrifice” while the ballad “Goodbye Agony” brings back memories of Bruce Dickinson’s “Tears Of The Dragon”. They are one band that gets a lot of hate from the metal elitists. They look like girls, so how can they be metal. They play commercial metal, so they can’t be metal. They follow fads so they are not genuine and therefore cannot be metal. I have read it all and I continue to laugh at the reasons people come up with for not liking the band.

However, they just keep on keeping on. Whatever boxes they need to tick on their world domination plan they are ticking. And they are doing it by focusing on their world. They understand the game that no one can be the biggest and best in everything. They’ve found their own thing that they stand for and they are working for the fans that stand with them. We all know that successful artists are NOT loved by everyone. Successful artists are hated as much as they are loved. It comes with the territory.

Five Finger Death Punch have connected with the blue-collar working class, the extreme sports and the military class.

Coheed and Cambria have connected with the comic book rock culture and fans that enjoy both narratives, heavy music and great storytelling.

Killswitch Engage with Jesse Leach on vocals are both political and entertaining at the same time.

Evergrey have connected with the people who don’t find the world as happy as social media makes it out to be.

Black Veil Brides have found a niche audience and that is their particular strength. The key for any artist is to ensure that the audience base is always added to or replenished by new fans or young fans. It’s like a ten-year cycle. AC/DC had an audience in the seventies, that got replenished in 1980 via “Back In Black” and by 1990, the audience base got replenished again via “The Razors Edge”. Dream Theater found an audience with “Images and Words”. That audience base got a boost almost 7 years later with “Metropolis Part 2”. The in the two thousands, “Train Of Thought” and “Systematic Chaos” brought in a metal audience while “Black Clouds and Silver Linings” and “Octavarium” saw a new progressive art rock fan base.

Being a metal/rock artist is not just about making music. It’s about a whole lifestyle that our favourite artists represent. Everything that Black Veil Brides does represents what their music represents. In This Moment is another artists that represents this lifestyle. They have both become the very thing that people associate with.

BVB are putting their own rock and metal concoction out there. It is a mixture of rock, metal, punk, pop, shred and thrash. They have dressed like goths, glam rockers, “Mad Max – Shout At The Devil” look and now they are dressed in metal black. That is where the backlash comes from. However they have their own style and following. And in a world that is moving to streaming services with each passing day, they still do decent sales numbers. They have defined their kingdom, their world, their space in the music business and now they are out to rule it. It’s never about the breaking into the mainstream. No metal/rock act has broken into the mainstream. The mainstream has come looking for them only when those acts have exploded all over the world.

Metallica, all but ignored by the mainstream became mainstream darlings after every circulation wanted them in their zine due to the massive Black album.

The take away in all this is to find your own world in the music business and dominate it. Your audience is the people who share the same tastes, values, attitude and lifestyle with you. When you know who those people are, you can travel around the world, because those people are everywhere, once you know who you are looking for.

And for the album, it is a solid listen.

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A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories

Anthem (We Are Trivium)

Matt Heafy was asked to describe Trivium in three words in an interview;

“First word–kinda smart about it–would be Trivium. The second word would be metal. These are individual words, not to be connected, by the way. And… lifestyle. Because, the way I look at the metal scene, it isn’t just a genre that you turn on and off. Metal is a lifestyle that is meant to be eaten and breathed, and to rectify people who enjoy it. In the U.S. it’s not so much this way…metal is… I’m not saying that it isn’t respected here, but it isn’t respected the way that say, Germany or South America looks at metal, where it is legitimately a cultural way that people live. There’s a small population in this country that does that, but I would like to see that enhanced.”

I was listening to “Vengeance Falls” on the way in to work today. I haven’t cranked it in about 5 weeks. Man, those opening four tracks I really dig. Metal is a lifestyle is what Heafy said, and when done right it is only style.

Trivium has never had it easy. They basically grew up in the eye of the public. Seriously, Matt Heafy was only 17 when Trivium released “Ember To Inferno”. At one stage Trivium was hailed as the future of thrash, while at the same time they where also called Metallica copycats.

With each album release it is like deja-vu for Trivium. People slam it, people love it or people just cant decide.

When “The Crusade” came out, everyone blasted the vocal melodies because they sound like James Hetfield in style, phrasing and tone. If it wasn’t the James Hetfield vocal melodies, it was the lack of screaming in the vocals.

This is what Matt Heafy said in an interview with the Phoenix New Times blog about their albums;

“And every album has been received bigger or smaller in certain territories. “Ascendancy” for example did incredible well in the UK and the U.S., and didn’t really do anything anywhere else. “The Crusade”, as far as the popular mind went, wasn’t well received in the UK and the US but it opened the doors for us in Europe. “Shogun” wasn’t anything that was really talked about when it first came out, but nowadays people hail it as our best album. “In Waves” blew the doors open for us in Germany, and “Vengeance Falls” blew the doors open for us in Japan. With every record we have a different faction of fans who appreciate it. It’s refreshing I would imagine for the fans that we’re a band that never releases the same record twice.”

One thing is clear; Trivium is not afraid to try things out and I like that. Every album is different in a way, and every fan has a different favourite album. There is no unanimous favourite album amongst fans.

I’m a fan of all their albums as they all have something different or special about them. It is like the fan is taken on the Trivium journey/odyssey of trying to find their sound. As a fan it keeps you interested, and they never diverge too far from their core feel which is always heavy/thrash/melodic metal. They are doing a good job at it and they always produce some pretty tough songs.

“Ascendency” has “Pulling Harder On The Strings Of Your Martyr” which is just epic, along with “A Gunshot To The Head Of Trepidation”.

“The Crusade” has “The Rising”, “Tread the Floods”, “Anthem (We Are Fire)” and “The Crusade”.

“Shogun” has “Down From The Sky”, “Into The Mouth Of Hell”, “Throes Of Perdition”, “Kiruste Gomen” and of course the epic masterpiece that is “Shogun”.

“In Waves”; I would only skip probably 3 songs on that whole album and that’s the special edition.

All albums have a different feel to them, yet are still brutal in many ways. They are definitely one of the main Heavy Metal players of today. Hopefully for the next album they take on a Prog approach, I think that would be pretty special. Heavy + Thrash + Prog. I’d be pre-ordering that for sure!

I will finish the post with some final words from Matt Heafy from the recent Revolver issue (Dec 2013/ Jan 2014);

“Our skin has toughened and now we just do what we want to do, whenever we want to do it.”

Keep on doing it.

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