Influenced, Music, My Stories, Unsung Heroes

The Message of 1983 Appeared Again Between 1990 and 1992

What do “Photograph”, “Cum On Feel The Noize”, “Rainbow In The Dark”, “Looks That Kill”, “You Can’t Stop Rock’N’Roll”, “Bark At The Moon”, “Rebel Yell”, “Every Breath You Take”, “Lick It Up”, “Tell Me What You Want” and “Sister Christian” all have in common?

Man, 1983 was quite a year, maybe the most revolutionary year since the 60’s and The Beatles invasion. It’s also the year that metal and rock music became a commercial force and a massive influence on society. Along with the rise of MTV, culture changed dramatically.

Metal and rock music made governments introduce censorship stickers on new releases. Leaders and their wives thought they knew better, so they lobbied hard to make sure we knew if the album had rude or vulgar or violent lyrical themes. Preachers and TV evangelists became rich and famous when they condemned the art form and told their followers the devil is on the loose, only to be caught with their pants down in seedy motels.

The satanic panic might sound funny today, however back then it was real. Lawyers took artists to the civil courts because suddenly when records got played backwards some scientist found they had subliminal messages telling kids to kill themselves.

Band T-shirts had been around before, but nothing like the 80’s. A whole new billion dollar industry came about, because of the imagery. We wanted the T-shirts. It told the world we are a member of the club. It was like being sworn in at a bikie gang and getting your patches. Today, the same T-shirts are found in Kmart and Target stores. Hell, one of the Jenner girls put her face on em for publicity. But back then, you had to go to the concert or to a specialised record store that sold them to get them.

And as the genre became more popular it became a part of pop culture. And people in the know keep telling us it became diluted because popular doesn’t mean it’s the best. It just means popular. And the more popular it got, the more dumbed down the music and the lyrics became. Everyone keeps on saying that hard rock and metal committed suicide because the lyrics that addressed society got hidden in the background for lyrics about having a good time, rock and roll and having a good time.

Maybe that was the case for a certain between 1986 and 1992 for some bands, but in my view,  rock and metal music got some popularity credibility back both musically and lyrically, with the excellent “Slave To The Grind” from Skid Row, Metallica’s self-titled black album, “Empire” from Queensryche, “Seasons In The Abyss” by Slayer and “Countdown To Extinction” by Megadeth.

These five albums released between 1990 and 1992 addressed a lot of issues lyrically and it also foretold the rise of a new scene that would address similar lyrical concerns like depression, anxiety, paranoia and dark thoughts.

“Foreclosure Of A Dream” is about predatory banks foreclosing on people’s houses, while “Della Brown” is about poverty/homelessness in an advanced society. Guess not much has changed in the 25 plus years.

“The Unforgiven” is about parental control of the infant, who is growing up in a family with views out of touch with reality. We are all products of our tribes. The viewpoints of people who are around us, rub off on us. There is no escaping it.

“Countdown To Extinction” addresses our quest to destroy the food chain for trophies which in the end leads to our extinction while in “Resistance”, Geoff Tate is singing about the environment and how this is our world, we all share it, we need to stop abusing it, we need to stop neglecting it and we need to co-operate in trying to save it. “Skeletons of Society” address the aftermath of nuclear war as the fools become the wise and the rich become the beggars as nothing here remains because the end came so fast.

Climate change and extinction of certain species is a divisive topic. You either believe the evidence or you don’t. Corporations that stand to lose money are doing their best to hijack the conversation to suit themselves and the environmentalists are seen as roadblocks to human advancements.

What is clear to me is that nature always win. As much as humans try to control nature, nature always strikes back with storms, cyclones, rains, earthquakes, rising sea waters, tsunamis, heat waves, wild fires, cold fronts and hurricanes. Believe what you want, but remember, nature is forever while we are not.

“Architecture of Aggression” and “War Ensemble” address war while “Ashes in Your Mouth” addresses the aftermath of war. And in 2017, war is still present. Budgets for war and counter terrorism teams is more than education and health.

“Slave To The Grind” is about working 9 to 5 and not wanting to do so, but fearing if you don’t do it, you will get left behind in the rat race. Even more so today. With our lives in so much debt that we cannot pay it back while we are alive, the rat race is becoming a race to the bottom of the bankruptcy barrel. People lie about how much they earn just to be a member of an exclusive club.

“Best I Can” addresses gun control and how accidentally discharging a gun at home can lead to serious consequences. “Hallowed Point” also addresses guns and what guns can do the body. In the words of Araya, guns can turn flesh into confetti.

This is a controversial topic in the U.S as the Constitution gives the people the right to bear arms and the gun lobby is powerful in Washington and leaders are too scared to pass/support laws because they would lose the support of the Gun lobby in their own electorates. So every President is faced with doing press conferences after a massacre and no President has passed laws to reduce the deaths of gun violence.

In Australia, we had the Port Arthur Massacre and after that gun ownership laws got changed and a lot of automatic weapons got banned and surprisingly the Government leaders stood firm against the lobby groups.

“Symphony Of Destruction” is basically summing up a simple man’s rise to become a leader of a nation which is run by a faceless government and then letting that power get to their head as they destroy the world as we know it.

“Quicksand Jesus” addresses a person losing faith in their God and then feeling lost without that layer of support they believed they had in God. Then you have “The God That Failed” which James Hetfield wrote about his Mum’s belief that God would cure her cancer instead of science and medicine.

“Monkey Business” addresses street social life.

“In A Darkened Room” addresses child abuse.

“Captive Honour” addresses doing time for crime.

“Don’t Tread On Me” addresses U.S pride while “Wherever I May Roam” addresses the human spirit of travel/adventure and having no place to call home.

“Wasted Time tackles the effects of drug use on people close to you. “Skin o’ My Teeth” addresses suicide by wrapping your car around a tree while “My Friend Of Misery” addresses depression.

“Get The F Out” and “Riot Act” tackle censorship. “Blood Red” is about supporting citizens in their fight for freedoms and rising against totalitarian regimes.

“Creepshow” addresses how people put it all out there for fame, which more or less is summing up Facebook and other social media sites 15 years before they happened while “Mudkicker” is basically about what trolls do on the internet today.

“Empire” address gangs and their rise to societal power while “Expendable Youth” addresses inner city gang violence.

Cycles come and cycles go in music. It was just unfortunate that the record labels abandoned musicians who got classed in a record label genre for a new record label genre called Grunge.

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

Dues To Pay

Don Brautigam didn’t get the Metallica “Master Of Puppets” or the Motley Crue “Dr Feelgood” cover design gig because he just graduated from drawing school or he had the digital tools at home to create art. Brautigam had spent 15 years doing book covers, sci-fi art and album covers for over artists. He got recognition for his Stephen King book cover design in 1980. He was paying his dues every single day.

Twisted Sister didn’t just write a multi-platinum album out of the blue. It was a long hard road, with some great live moments and record label rejection. While they had the US Tri-State scene covered, to the rest of the world they were unknown. As far as the person in Australia was concerned, they laboured in obscurity. But they kept on doing the great work for a lot of years before most people heard them.

Dream Theater’s “Images And Words” was seven years in the making from when the band got together in 85. All of those choices made in the past led to this album. And once you add the years of individual practice and listening before Dream Theater formed, you can see that “Images and Words” didn’t just write itself.

John Sykes didn’t just come out of the blue and join Whitesnake and then go on to co-write one of the best albums from 1987. His journey involved local bands in the UK, then Tygers of Pang Tang, Thin Lizzy and finally Whitesnake. David Coverdale started off with local bands in the UK, then Deep Purple and finally Whitesnake. The accumulation of years paying their dues led to a perfect synergy/chemistry which resulted in the 1987 album.

Recently I got into the instrumental music of Andy James. A great melodic guitarist and what a shredder. When you look at his past, you can see a high work ethic, writing, recording, touring, doing transcriptions, magazine work, sessions and what not. I am sure, many nights/months passed labouring in obscurity, but he kept on doing great work, years before most people realised and recognised his work.

Hate em or love em, but Five Finger Death Punch is no accident. They are a good example that it takes years, over a decade to find the right formula that works, to keep on working on the music, the message in the lyrics and taking chances. The band members themselves have roots that go back to the early 90’s.

The past is the forerunner to the future and any success that might follow. That rocket ship to success that MTV sold everyone, no longer exists. No one will ever be as big as they’d dreamed they’d be. If an artist is lucky, they will have established a following that pays their bills.

And today, the past is even more important. We live in an era where people don’t realize how hard it is to rise above the noise and connect with people. We do it socially, but artistically it’s difficult. And our past stories and experiences are there to build connections. The right or wrong choices we made in the past, shape who we are today.

But the world moves so fast.

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Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Copyright, Derivative Works, Influenced, Music, My Stories, Stupidity

Be Influenced. It’s Okay.

Screw all the heirs of dead artists and their lawyers who believe that the music their ancestors created was so original and free from influence. Here is a quick list that I compiled off the top of my head from some large songs and all the artists they borrowed from or got influenced from had successful careers without a plagiarism court case.

Metallica – Fade to Black (1984)
A fan made music video on YouTube has 32,538,942 views, while a fan posted mp3 has 44,032,321 views. In other words it’s a monster of a song. But where did this monster come from.

The intro is influenced by the intro in Pink Floyd – “Goodbye Blue Sky” from 1979. The start of the outro when James is singing is influenced by the intro from Black Sabbath – “A National Acrobat” from 1973. And the song still sounds original.

Poison – Unskinny Bop (1991)
The song has over 7 million streams on Spotify.

The guitar riff is influenced by the intro guitar riff in Billy Squier – “Powerhouse” from 1986. The bass lines are very similar to the bass line from 45 seconds onwards in Great White – “Mista Bone” from 1989. Then again, that running bass line is pretty common in most songs. You hear it in “Disturb The Priest” from Black Gillian’s album “Born Again”. And the song still sounds original.

Gotye – Somebody I Used To Know (2011)
Gotye’s “Somebody I Used To Know” has close to 400 million streams on Spotify. It’s popular and catchy and it borrowed heavily from other songs. The music and vocal melodies are from the verse riff in Billy Squier – “Reach For The Sky” from 1984 and the verse riff from The Police – “King Of Pain” from 1983. And the Gotye song still sounds original.

Motley Crue – SEX (2012)
Motley Crue’s “SEX” borrowed its main riff from “Evie” (1974) by Stevie Wright (which has 1,037,491 streams on Spotify). “Evie” is also similar to “Mississippi Woman” by Mountain (almost 23,000,000 streams on Spotify), which is also similar to “Sweeter Than Honey” by Jefferson Starship (1975) and “Train” by 3 Doors Down borrows from all of them.

And all of the songs still sound unique and original, regardless of the obvious influences.

Bullet For My Valentine – “Waking The Demon” (2008)
“Waking The Demon” borrowed its main intro riff from the intro/verse riff in Slayer’s “Spirit In Black” released in 1990 on the “Seasons In the Abyss” album.

On Bullets Vevo account, “Waking The Demon” has 48 million views, while “Spirit In Black” has 96,000 views on a fan YouTube account and 462,000 views on another fan YouTube account. Be influenced and make it better.

One Song To Inspire Them All
That goes to Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir”. For a band that used the music of other artists to build a career, they ended up creating a definitive song that a lot of other bands would use as a template to build their career on.

  •  Kingdom Come – “Get In On” verse riff is similar to Led Zeppelin – Kashmir.
  • Megadeth – “In My Darkest Hour” verse riff is similar to Led Zeppelin – Kashmir.
  • Whitesnake – “Judgement Day” verse riff similar to Led Zeppelin – Kashmir.
  • Coheed and Cambria – “Welcome Home” verse riff similar to Led Zeppelin Kashmir.

A live version of Kashmir on the Led Zeppelin YouTube account has 28 million views and an mp3 on a fan YouTube account has 19 million views.

And yet all of the above mentioned songs still sound unique. If you delve into the origins of each song, you will see some influences or borrowing from other songs and the cycle just keeps on going. So here’s a big “up yours” to the all of those people who scream plagiarism in music.

Click the link to listen to the Progress Is Derivative 1 playlist.

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

On Fire and Not So On Fire

On Fire

The Night Flight Orchestra (the brilliant classic rock project from Swedish extreme metallers) have released three scorching pre-release singles from their third album, due in May. It started off with the Deep Purple inspired “Midnight Flyer”. Then came the super poppy “Gemini” with its Blondie feel and disco vibes and on Friday, we got the Steely Dan/Rolling Stones inspired “Sad State Of Affairs”.

Any concept story that has males fighting female commandos with pearl necklaces has my attention. Bring on TNFO.

Not So On Fire

Record labels are still fighting to block music piracy websites.

In Australia, it will cost the record labels $50 per name to have the website’s domain names blocked. The labels wanted the ISP’s to cover the costs, however the ISP’s argued the point and the courts agreed. But as numerous research has shown, the labels should be spending their money on ensuring that music is accessible to all instead of fighting piracy. And artists should be negotiating better streaming payments from their label instead of complaining about Spotify.

On Fire

Sweden’s music scene.

Call it the Max Martin effect. Call it government investment into the creative arts. For those that don’t know, Martin controls the pop charts, with 70% of the songs in the Top 10 written by Martin and his team of writers. Of course, Martin’s real name is Karl Martin Sandberg, and he’s from Sweden and he was a singer in a hard rock band which had a deal in the early 90’s.

His successes, coupled with the Swedish Government (along with other Northern European countries) investing heavily in the Arts sector equals a very healthy music scene of many genres.

Not So On Fire

Jail time for copyright infringement is on par with jail times for drug trafficking and murder. A 22-year-old in Sweden is facing a 5 year sentence for copyright infringements, while a serious drug trafficker in the same country gets a maximum of 3 years.

In the UK, 10 years in jail for copyright violations is now a reality as well.

On Fire

Blistered Earth have a career spreading the gospel of Metallica as a tribute band. One unfortunate night, they had their gear stolen. As a muso who has had gear stolen, it doesn’t feel too good. It actually feels like crap. Especially, when you don’t have the funds to replace the stolen gear. Well, straight from a scene from the movie “Pay It Forward”, Metallica ended up coming to the rescue and replaced the gear.

Not So On Fire

Australia is going all crazy on Copyright these days. Even to the stage where a copyright collection agency is “diverting payments intended for journalists and authors to a [$11 million] “future fund” to fight changes to the law.

And the world will still get the same bullshit messages about the service being to blame for low payments or the format. On Fire Adrenaline Mob is back. After the death of AJ Pero and the previous departure of Mike Portnoy, the band is still rolling. “King Of The Ring” just hit the streaming scene and it’s doing the rounds.

Not So On Fire

A few years back when Adrian Vandenberg tried to restart his pre-Whitesnake band called “Vandenberg” with new musicians, his 80’s bandmates went to court to stop him from using his own surname with new musicians. So Vandenberg became “Vandenberg’s Moon Kings”.

Actually a similar thing happened to Don Dokken after Dokken splintered in the late 80’s. Even though George Lynch hated the band name Dokken, he still stopped Don from using it after the break up. Go figure.

Anyway, on my Spotify New Release Radar, a song came up from a band called Vandenberg. I was intrigued and it looks like Vandenberg got to use his surname after all. But it wasn’t Adrian Vandenberg. It’s some techno group called Vandenberg and Spotify couldn’t differentiate between the rock band and the techno band. Not so on fire for Spotify, but also “not so on fire” to the courts and band mates that prevented Adrian from using his surname. Instead, we have a techno band using it.

On Fire

Netflix.

A hacker threatened to post online episodes of the “Orange Is The New Black” online if Netflix didn’t pay a ransom. The leak would have meant that the series was released one month ahead of its official June 9 release. Netflix did nothing and the hacker released the episodes. Netflix opted to do nothing and nothing really happened post release. The people who are Netflix subscribers and like the show, have no interest in downloading the episodes. They would rather wait. Even the “kitchen talk” social aspect the next day after an episode won’t start until Netflix airs the episodes. Some people might be ahead of the pack and post spoilers on-line, but the majority of fans will wait.

Not So On Fire

The Billboard Chart or any chart for that matter.

Do we still need this metric?

Charts are still there for the “old way of doing things” record companies to see who is succeeding or losing, because in today’s world they have no idea what’s happening. The chart might measure an instant impact, but it will not measure what is around for years.

It’s all about if people are listening. And if they are listening, are they throwing money down to see you live. And if they come to see you live, are they throwing money down for your merchandise. And SoundScan/Billboard without investing in anything, are trying to remain current. So they come up with a formula that so many streams equal a sale. But streams are not sales. They are listens. So it’s all a mess. What we need are charts that combine sales, streams, concert grosses, Google search items and torrents.

We live in a land of data, however when it comes to music, it’s always muddled. Because it’s fans that make the monies roll in music and no one is asking them who should be on top of the charts.

On Fire

For the sake of music and creativity, let’s hope that the courts finally throw out the stupid “Blurred Lines” plagiarism suit. While the Record labels talk about a music community when they do their own PR statements (which in other words they are talking about themselves), the real music community is in the latest filing condemning that a judge in the previous case believed a groove and an idea is copyrightable.

Not So On Fire

Artists are still mad at Spotify for the streaming rates they pay when people listen to their music.

But the fact that Spotify and Universal Music (just one record label) agreed to a new licensing deal, which means multi millions of dollars to the record label, the artists are silent.

Why?

They should be getting a cut from this licensing arrangement, as it’s their songs the labels are using as leverage in its negotiations with Spotify.

And for the songwriters who write songs that other artists perform and songs that record labels use as leverage in negotiating deals, you can hear their complaints about the pennies paid to them on news stories from time to time.

There are a few things these songwriters can do;

  1. Write a new song that is a hit. You don’t hear Max Martin complaining about the streaming rates coming his way.
  2. Renegotiate their royalty arrangement with the label and their publisher.

Remember in 2008, when 30 Seconds To Mars, ended up $1.4 million in debt to their label, even though they had sold over two million records. They took each other court. EMI for breach of contract and the band for unpaid royalties.

“Spotify is giving up 70 percent of all their revenues to rights owners. It’s just that people don’t know where the money is because the record labels haven’t been transparent.” Bono – U2 

Spotify is not the enemy; piracy is the enemy,” Quincy Jones

“Piracy doesn’t pay artists a penny. We’re trying to build a new music economy that works for artists in a way the music industry never has before.” Daniel Ek 

On Fire

TV shows.

Do a great TV show with no filler episodes and watch people gravitate. As a fan of the “American Gods” book, the first episode is a win.

Not So On Fire

The Album.

Being a Spotify Premium user for 2 and a half years, I can honestly say that the album is irrelevant. Even for bands I like, I hear it once, select my favourite songs on the initial listen and add those to playlists.

As an artist, is it better to get four to five songs out every 4 to six months or 10 to 14 songs every 2 years?

In 2017, whatever is new lasts for minutes. So a new album, will last for a few minutes before we move on. But a great collection of songs more frequently that inspires people to spread the word is a better alternative.

No one cares that Bon Jovi’s new album stiffed. It was just an event to go and sell out stadiums and arenas. It’s a hit game.

Even when albums sold a lot in the 80’s it was still a hit game. “Home Sweet Home” and “Smokin In the Boys Room” sold a poor Motley Crue album. Let’s not forget the follow-up which only had “Girls, Girls, Girls” and “Wild Side”. Speak to any fan of the band and it’s very rare they would say they purchased “Theatre Of Pain” because of “City Boy Blues”.

Even Five Finger Death Punch who sell albums today need to produce hits to sell the albums.

Even Metallica’s new album is selling on the backs of a few songs, like “Spit Out The Bone”, “Moth Into Flame”, “Now That We’re Dead”, “Atlas Rise” and “Here Comes Revenge”. But Metallica is a niche themselves, in total control of their destiny as they control their own copyrights.

But without a hit, you’re a niche artist, like Dream Theater. The album cycle works for them and their fans. And they still tour. Because they have a legacy, but every artist can build a legacy.

Release more frequently and watch your catalogue build on Spotify. While sales are good, they tell only part of the story. Streams (listens) are important and if they are growing, it means people are taking the time to listen.

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Copyright, Music, My Stories, Piracy, Stupidity

The Unforgiving Black

You can have riffs in songs that sound similar and the song can still be original. You can also have riffs in songs that sound similar and still have successful careers in music without suing each other into litigation hell.

Case in point; “Woman From Tokyo,” from Deep Purple which curiously has the same riff as Joe Walsh’s “Meadows,” from “The Smoker You Drink…”

Both songs were released the very same year, although there were no plagiarism lawsuits and both artists had/went on to have very successful careers.

So it’s a sad state of affairs when it comes to music and copyright these days. The metal and hard rock community has been sensible about it, but I am pretty sure that if another metal or rock artists broke through to the mainstream, there would be a long list of plagiarism cases filed.

Plagiarism cases have become big business that artists are settling with other artists/songwriters. It’s better to pay them off and give them a credit, than fight it in the courts. But all of these cases and settlements create a dangerous viewpoint. It assumes that the work of the earlier artist is so original and free from influence of the music the songwriter might have listened to.

Hell, if you are a streaming convert, who wrote the songs is not even mentioned. The people who consume music don’t even care who wrote the songs.

Elvis Presley didn’t even write a single song that he performed. Who is more known? His songwriters or Elvis?

The fact that the term “plagiarism” is used in music is pretty sad.

If a person was writing an essay or a non-fiction book, they would list all of the works that influenced their new work via the bibliography. The people who wrote those influential works would not get any extra money or a credit on the front cover for writing the essay/book.

If the person was seen to use words from a writer that he/she didn’t mention or attribute via the bibliography, then that person will be called out for plagiarism. The end result leads to the essay/book being altered to reflect a new addition to the Bibliography.

If you have read “The Talent Code” by Dan Coyle, you will note at the end of his book, he has a pretty extensive list of works he used to create his book. So imagine the front cover of the book if all of the past writers who inspired and formed the ideas in “The Talent Code” got an authorship credit and compensation.

But when it comes to music, money rules, so it’s pretty obvious why a word associated with literature is being distorted and made to fit some warped view in music. But then again, the record labels with the RIAA control the narrative, and they have done a brilliant job selling their propaganda. But know it’s them on the back foot, as lawyers are suing the labels who hold the copyrights.

If people want to use the term plagiarism in music then each song should be set up like a written book and have something like a Bibliography which we can call “Musicography”. Unless this happens, how can they call it plagiarism.

For example, Avenged Sevenfold’s “Shepherd Of Fire” would have the following musicography listing;

  • Mustaine, D and Friedman, M 1997, “Trust”, Cryptic Writings.

Megadeth’s “Hanger 18” would have the following musicography listing;

  • Hetfield J, Mustaine D, Ulrich L and Burton C 1983, “The Call Of Ktulu”, Ride The Lightning

If Coldplay had a musicography listing then Joe Satriani would have been okay with it. Maybe not.

If Led Zeppelin or even The Beatles had a musicography listing then it would all be okay, wouldn’t it. Maybe not, because the laws and rules on the copyright of sheet music, to the copyright on sound recordings, to who holds the copyrights while the creator is alive, to who holds the copyrights when the creator is dead, to mechanical royalties from broadcasts, to streaming rates, to licensing rates and to so many other uses of music are a mess.

Here is a work I created quickly for this post, based on  the lyrics from “The Unforgiving” and “Fade To Black” from Metallica.

Let’s call the song, “The Unforgiving Black”.

Deprived of all our thoughts
We are drifting apart
Emptiness in our hearts
Learning to live to their rules

What is felt and what is known
Only the end can set us free
And we struggle on
Chained to the whipping post

Things not what they used to be
So quickly we are subdued
To the point of agony
Until there’s nothing left
Never had a chance to shine
As the darkness grows
More and more are getting lost within
The unforgiving black

We have served master our whole lives
Trying to please them all
Our dedication became slavery
And bitterness is all we know

We battled constantly
A fight we couldn’t win
Until we no longer cared
And lost the will to live

Yesterday is gone
It’s like it never existed
And we are unable to see
What might have been if we tried
Never had a chance to shine
As the darkness grows
More and more are getting lost within
The unforgiving black

  • Hetfield J, Hammet K, Ulrich L and Burton C 1983, “Fade To Black”, Ride The Lightning
  • Heftield J and Ulrich L, 1991, “The Unforgiven”, Metallica

Is it plagiarism?

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

2016

2016 will be seen as the year when the populations of the world, fresh from dealing or seeing terror hit their streets, decided to enforce change with their vote. Whatever side of the fence people sat, it was shown in major countries that the major cities and the governments are out of touch with the rest of their country. When people voted in 2016, it was a protest against the last 30 years of democracy and how the ruling classes became richer while the middle classes became poorer.

Megadeth kicked the year off with “The Threat Is Real” and it sure was. Megadeth released the better album this year, however Metallica’s “Hardwired To Self Destruct” would be more popular.

The messiah or mass murderer
No controlling who comes through the door
THE THREAT IS REAL – Megadeth

The shepherd led, we blindly followed
Into the world of no tomorrow
THE ENDLESS KNOT – Haken

Tyrants overtaking intoxicate with lies
There is no escaping, not this time
The simple man receiving, defending every crime
Somehow still believing they are right
THE LAST HERO – Alter Bridge

Omnipresent endless knot
The architect of every thought
Through the prison walls made by your design
A chameleon hides behind Orwellian eyes
THE ARCHITECT – Haken

We give up more of our liberties and privacy, but how secure are we?

For all the spying our governments do, they have no idea when an event will happen. Sure, they might identify persons of interest and then what. No one stopped the terror attacks in Paris and Brussels but somehow the mainstream media and the police read and believed the fake news sites on the internet.

We will grow strong from this
We will not be defeated
However hard they try
Over and over and over a thousand times
RISE OF THE MELANCHOLY EMPIRE – Sixx A.M.

With hands held high, we can rule the world
RULE THE WORLD – Dee Snider

It’s a call to arms for the “good” people of the world to band together and defeat the “bad” people of the world.

When terrorist bombs go off, the lines between good and bad are clear, we are the good ones and the terrorists are the bad ones. During the U.S election lead up, Trump was portrayed as the bad one and Hillary as the good one by the mainstream media. The fact that over half of the country voted for him, does it mean that all of those people are bad.

The bottom line is everyone is clueless and the future is exactly that, with endless possibilities and outcomes.

So together we’ll build a new world
A better world
OUR NEW WORLD – Dream Theater

But for all of Petrucci’s clichés, the world is much more complex. Robb Flynn asked “Is Anybody’s Out There” that feels just like him. One simple song, with two powerful verses addressing abandonment and racism.

Now I stand as a father, to men with no honor
Ashamed of the racists I used to call brothers
Cause no flag can mean bravery,
when bloodied by slavery,
The rebel, a devil, disguised as a savior
IS ANYBODY OUT THERE? – Machine Head

And he didn’t stop there. After Trump’s election win, he released (via YouTube) an acoustic song called “Bastards”. A simple D to A to Bm to G chord progression, underpins some personal viewpoints about the state of his world. And “Bastards” generated some heated discussions amongst the Machine Head fans, especially the ones who voted for Trump.

I am disconnected from a system I’ve rejected.
ALONE WE STAND – Killswitch Engage

A sign of things to come with Brexit, Trump and the Italian referendum serving as perfect examples of the disconnected people rejecting the current systems in place.

  • And the system allows Volkswagen to cheat on their emissions tests.
  • And the system allows the banks to get away with running the country into the dirt.
  • And the system allows lobbyists to lobby/bribe elected officials into writing laws to benefit corporate profits.
  • And the system allows the CEO’s to scream help to the government for a bail out, while the people, the workers, need to sell because they lost their jobs or they can’t make repayments.

I’ve seen rock bottom and I’ve smashed my fists against it
Just keep telling yourself it will be alright
STRENGTH OF THE MIND – Killswitch Engage

And there’s nowhere to turn
At the end of the road, I can’t hold on
MY ALLIED OCEAN – Evergrey

I’m just a creature of a broken past
We’re all looking for a second chance
PRAYERS FOR THE DAMNED – Sixx A.M.

Who hasn’t been there?

You know the moment, when you feel like you are not winning and everything you do just turns to crap. And you cant get out of the rut, because you’re spending your days doing things for others, through obligation or duty to the family. And your life is so far away from the world of possibilities you had when you where young.

Somehow through it all
We carry on (we carry on)
WE CARRY ON – Killswitch Engage

And that’s our lives in a nutshell. We overcome setbacks, deaths in the family, wins and losses. Through it all, we still carry on. We rise.

Speak out, don’t let the status quo define you
This is your world, just put the fear back in their eyes
RISE – Sixx A.M.

Did I decide
Or did the road choose me?
1985 – Haken

Free will is an illusion. We believe we have it, but it ceases to exist when we start to follow the rules set by institutions.

 

Falling from the sky
Cast out from heaven’s light
Drenching the soil with blood
Baptized in the fire hole
THE DEVIL’s BLEEDING CROWN – Volbeat

I always looked for acceptance
I understood what it’s like to be different
PASSING THROUGH – Evergrey

From the day we are born we are looking for acceptance especially those outliers cast out from heaven’s light who do not conform to what the institutions what from them. The key is to stay true to who you are and be accepted and not be the artist who created safe art, looked safe, walked away from their fans to be in partnership with the corporation and so forth.

What have I got to lose
When I’ve already lost it all
PRAYERS FOR THE DAMNED – Sixx A.M.

When you’re at the bottom, the only way is up. For a lyric to work for me, the person writing it, has to have experienced it.

It’s the worse when you lose when you know how hard you tried
BELIEVE – Dee Snider

So many times when I was misunderstood
I just wish we had spoken so much sooner
DISTANCE – Evergrey

Life is funny in hindsight and sometimes painful to replay. We all would love to live with no “what if’s” however it never happens that way.

Just like tragedy
Folks line up to see
We forget and the problem’s gone
It just ain’t right to move on
MY LAST MISTAKE – Tremonti

We show outrage initially and then we move on like it never happened. It’s a sick symptom of society where we fail to hold to account, the people responsible for the tragedy. The GFC perps went on college speaking tours and high-five jobs at the financial firms they organised laws to benefit. They escaped unscathed, while the middle class and lower class got their homes foreclosed.

Every time there is a shooting there is outrage, however nothing is done after on gun reform.

For all of the laws passed to spy on citizens in the name of terror, not one terrorist act have they stopped. And after each terrorist attack, our privacy and liberties erode a little bit more.

The people need to hold to account the people responsible. But we cannot devote the time because the people responsible have us hooked line and sinker. We can’t take time of work because the income means more to us than the cause.

Sold my soul and signed my name in blood
Stole it back, now praying in the dark
Fooled the devil, begging for a fight
Count the dollars, make your bet tonight
SEAL THE DEAL – Volbeat

Seduced by fame
A moth into the flame
MOTH INTO FLAME – Metallica

Infamy
All for publicity
Destruction going viral
MOTH INTO FLAME – Metallica

If you wanna lead or be a star
They’ll expose all that you are
Are you sure you want this now?
They will only tear you down
CROWS ON A WIRE – Alter Bridge

Facebook and social media has created a culture wherein everything is on show. Ask yourself the question. Is it fame you want or a career as a musician/artist?

Middle fingers in the air, singing we don’t f….. care, when we say “So What”
SO WHAT – Dee Snider

It’s become the soundtrack to “Standing Rock” in 2016, but it’s been my motto since I got into hard rock/heavy metal music.

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

Score Card Inc

Three years ago in November, 2013, I posted a score sheet on certain artists/trends and how they are dealing with the music business.

Three years later, how are the artists fairing.

Robb Flynn
He still understands that it is not all about making records. From Nov 2013 to now, Robb Flynn via Machine Head, kept on releasing his Journals both video and written. In April, 2014, “Killers and Kings” came out for Record Store Day and the band went on tour. He started a clothing range called “Killers and Kings” that didn’t really take off. In November, 2014, “Bloodstone and Diamonds” came out and the band embarked on a lengthy “An Evening With” world tour. In June 1, 2016, “Is There Anybody Out There?” came out as a stand-alone single.

His connection with his audience runs deep. People either dig him or detest him or some people will not just forget him in an orange jumpsuit during the Nu-Metal phase of the band’s career.

Protest The Hero
Back in 2013, “Protest The Hero” showed how the record labels are so out of touch with its customers. PTH was dropped because the label told them they have no audience. However, a fan funding campaign showed a pretty impressive hard-core audience that was willing to cough up some serious dollars for the band. Even the band was blown away at the response.

And they did it again between Nov 2015 and April 2016 with “Pacific Myth” an innovative one song per month release over six months via Bandcamp. Fans had the option of two packages, and I selected the one that also had the six video releases. In between, the guys would upload drum videos, cooking videos, song transcriptions and what not.

Nikki Sixx
In 2013, he talked about a farewell tour. Well that tour finally happened and concluded in 2015. The Crue fan base didn’t really need one more world tour however, they wanted to finish up in their own way and the world tour is what we got, with a new song called “All Bad Things”. The movie is still in the works, they have their own pleasure toys, a rumour of The Dirt 2, plus lawsuits from photographers and opening bands to contend with. Seriously, squirting piss at a bunch of guys who paid $1 million to be on the tour would always end up in the courts.

With Sixx A.M. he has released an albums worth of music and the next album is coming in a few weeks. They are on tour with Five Finger Death Punch, he does his Sixx Sense Radio Show and he doesn’t like to wash his hands after going to the toilet.

Coheed and Cambria
By November, 2013, COCA had been touring non-stop on the back of “The Afterman” two album releases that came out within a 4 month window. Add to that Comic Con appearances, plus Sci-Fi conventions and appearances in Comic Shops and you get the idea that this band realises that it is not just about music and money. It is about creativity.

Since then, Claude Sanchez became a dad. He wrote more comics with his wife called “Translucid” in 2014 and in 2015 managed to release another slab of songs called “The Color Before The Sun” and go on a another world tour.

Metallica
Back in 2013, I wrote;

They need to make new music soon. There are only so many times that a band can go on a worldwide victory lap on the same piece of music. They need to be back in the studio.

Well, we are almost one week away from that new music hitting the streets and in the meantime, we have been treated to three tracks.
It’s a welcome relief to hear Metallica doing what they do best and I believe they have enough new music in their archives for another album to drop within two years this time, instead of eight.

And after hearing the album – yes it is available on the pirate sites, I can honestly say that it’s not worth the 8 year wait at all and maybe 4 song EP’s is the best way to go.

Dream Theater
I wrote in November 2013, that they need a great record soon or they will become yesterday’s news. Dream Theater has a knack for popping up with some goodies, like “Images and Words”, “Scenes From A Memory”, “Systematic Chaos” and “A Dramatic Turn Of Events”.

So in January 2016, they dropped the 130 minute “Astonishing” concept album, about a dystopian future society. Concept albums lead to different revenue spin offs like a stage play, comic book stories, video games, animations, TV series, a movie and so forth. But then again, Slayer are doing a graphic comic book series and have never done a concept album.

Stone Sour
I wrote in 2013, that something went south with their career trajectory. Of course, a beast called Slipknot would devour the creative forces of the band. Their take on modern metal is good, but with Slipknot getting more melodic, is there a reason for Stone Sour to exist.

Five Finger Death Punch
They have an audience who purchases and streams their product. Along the way, each album has received certifications for so many units moved. An onstage meltdown, a record label lawsuit and then a change of label has not slowed the band down in any way. If they can remain together, they will remain a powerhouse.

Trivium
Back in November, 2013, their new album “Vengeance Falls” was called a Disturbed covers album. The truth is, if people are talking about you, it is a good thing. And that album gave Trivium a concert classic in “Strife”. Since then, they released “Silence In The Snow” in 2015. They are always looking to reinvent themselves constantly while staying true to heavy metal. Plus Matt Heafy has a pretty cool Top 10 list of albums that changed his life.

1. Metallica – The Black Album (1991)
“A kid lent me The Black Album at school and it changed my life. I had never heard anything like it before, and I started playing guitar all the time.”

2. In Flames – Whoracle (1997)
“That was at the time of Napster, and I was into the classic great metal bands. I was on Napster and I found In Flames. I had never heard melodic death metal before, and it changed my ear on what kind of music I wanted to play.”

3. Queen – A Night At The Opera (1975)
“What I’ve always loved about Queen is that they’ve never released the same thing twice. Everything is drastically different while still sounding like Queen. Every song on A Night At The Opera sounds different to the next one and they all stand up as fantastic.”

4. Iron Maiden – Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son (1988)
“With Iron Maiden it’s hard, because I love so many of their records. They’re all so important. Seventh Son, though, is the one that really got me into Iron Maiden. It’s one of their more epic records; there’s vivid storytelling going on. Getting into Iron Maiden helped me trace the roots of the music that I love. I could see where so many metal, death metal and black metal bands had taken things from.”

5. Ihsahn – Eremita (2012)
“Emperor changed my life, and Ihsahn changed my life again with this album. He spun the idea of black metal on its head by incorporating jazz chords, interesting production and clean singing. That record taught me to never be afraid of making whatever I want to make. We’ve always done that, but this album drove that home for me.”

6. Boston – Boston (1976)
“The vocal production is insane. Everything about this record epitomises the best things of rock ‘n’ roll.”

7. The Beatles – Abbey Road (1969)
“The Beatles blow my mind in the same way that Queen do in that every song and record is so different to the last. Both of those bands have incredible songwriters as well. It’s not like nowadays where you might have one songwriter in a band.”

8. Emperor – Anthems To The Welkin At Dusk (1997)
“This is where Emperor really changed the dynamic of where black metal was going. Black metal was the rebellion to rock and metal, and was supposed to be different. “When there’s a movement like that, a lot of bands come out playing semi-similar music. That record opened up with clean guitar and there’s this classical singing; it has chaotic moments and beautiful moments all in one. Emperor makes such interesting black metal with these big dramatic moments.”

9. Depeche Mode – Violator (1990)
“Listening to Depeche Mode, you can hear that Rammstein is a combination of Depeche Mode and Metallica. Violator is one of the darkest, scariest records I’ve ever heard. It has this different kind of sadness that you feel in the music.”

10. The London Symphony Orchestra – Mozart’s Requiem (1791)
“The gothic artwork of that record is incredible, and this version for me is just the best. Listening to this, you can hear that out of all contemporary music, metal is the closest living relative to classical. It is the most epic moments of music that have always drawn me in, and I feel that with Mozart’s Requiem that is where you’re getting into the blueprint for everything that was to come.”

Shinedown
They have an audience who want to listen to them and so far, no one’s doing hard rock better than them. Their new album “Threat To Survival” has taken its influences from Adele, Imagine Dragons and other pop artists and they still made it rock hard. Daughtry and James Durbin should take note. Along the way, their fans purchased and streamed all the way to certification after certification.

Avenged Sevenfold
Say what you will about the “influences” on “Hail To The King”, doing that album was a bigger risk for Avenged Sevenfold then their new album and it paid off for them.

Fast forward to 2016, and their new album drops early. It is a creative tour de force but to me it’s already in the rear view. All of the good bits in each song are undone by the creativity of trying to push the boundaries.

Piracy
In 2013, I wrote that piracy is not that large of a problem as the majors and the RIAA make it out to be and with revenues in 2016, approaching the pre-Napster era, it’s further proof that piracy does not affect their bottom lines, especially when there are services out there that can compete with piracy.

Evergrey
The pure definition of perseverance with 20 plus years in the music business and still going strong.

By November 2013, the “new” version of the band that delivered “Glorious Collision” had splintered again and lead vocalist/guitarist Tom Englund was not sure on the next step. A reconnection with drummer Jonas Ekdahl and guitarist Henrik Danhage (who departed before “Glorious Collision”) spawned the excellent “Hymns For The Broken” in 2014 and a few months ago, “The Storm Within” builds on the atmospherics created by “Hymns”.

Megadeth
In 2013, Megadeth’s new album “Supercollider” was outsold by Metallica’s self-titled “Black” album. In 2015, Mustaine got his metal chops back and in 2016, “Dystopia” came out. Another Mustaine Resurrection was at hand.

Tremonti/Alter Bridge
Mark Tremonti knows it’s about putting new music out there and consistently. In 2013, we had “Fortress” from Alter Bridge. In 2015, we had “Cauterize” from Tremonti and 2016 has given us, “Dust” from Tremonti and “The Last Hero” from Alter Bridge. In three years, Tremonti has been part of 4 albums while Metallica ……

The Night Flight Orchestra
The best classic rock side project ever from Soilwork and Arch Enemy band members. The first album “Internal Affairs” came out in 2012 and the second “Skyline Whispers” in 2015. Essential listening to any hard rock fans of the 80’s.

Sales
In 2013, I wrote that sales are not the best metric to measure a bands reach and pull in the market. In 2016, listens are more important than sales.

Bullet For My Valentine
By November 2013, people had lost their “Temper Temper” with them, but in 2015, the band found their “Venom” again, which leads us to new music hitting the net in November 2016.

Revolution Saints
In 2013, this band existed in the head of the Frontiers President. In 2015, they released an excellent melodic AOR rock album. So much potential, so many good songs, great musicians and it all went to hell because Castronovo couldn’t keep his 5555t together. Let’s hope that Jack Blades and Doug Aldrich forgive him and they try for another album. This time with the three of them writing.

TesseracT
One of the hardest working progressive bands out there, building their fanbase, city by city. In 2011, they released “One”. In 2013, they released the excellent “Altered State” and in 2015 we got “Polaris”.

Days Of Jupiter
An unsung Swedish melodic groove rock band, that’s a cross between Evergrey and Disturbed. In 2012 they released “Secrets Brought to Life” and in 2015, “Only Ashes Remain” came out.

Sweet and Lynch
Another album would be sweet.

Muse
They play stadiums but they don’t have the same sales figures as the 70’s and 80’s legends. A perfect example of the modern world, in which massive single songs sell concert tickets.

Live
In 2013, I wrote;
Remember the excitement and the buzz of going to the show. It was uncontrollable. Everyone waiting in line to get inside, to watch a band that rules, in an era that music ruled. Today, it is too expensive to take kids to a concert and that is only for a glimpse in the back. This business needs a reset.

Concert ticket prices are still high, especially for the superstar acts. The price gauge happened as an offset to dwindling revenues from recorded sales, however with recorded music revenue now as high as the pre-Napster era, there is no reason for the high concert ticket prices.

Slash
As an artist, he didn’t need to go back to Gunners. He had enough momentum to keep going as a solo artist and with Myles Kennedy, a better front man than Axl Rose. Slash kept on releasing new music consistently, while Duff and Axl complained of piracy and artistically were dead in the water. Money triumphs over creativity and in this case, it’s really sad.

Album
Back in 2013, I wrote how everyone talks about the money that is lost due to piracy as album sales shrink. Back then 20% of the tracks on Spotify have never been played. So what is the point of the album, when people ignore the songs that are not “hits”. When I go to Spotify and I come across an artist I haven’t heard before, I go to their Spotify page and hear the tracks in their top 10 list. Those tracks in most cases are pulled from many different albums.

And if any of those tracks connect with me, I might dig deeper into the album.

Rodrigo Y Gabriela
Created by their love of metal and rock music and when that same genre put up roadblocks to a career in music, they changed tact and went all flamenco acoustic on the world. Talk about paying their dues and taking risks. They moved from Mexico and took a chance in Europe. Over an 8 year Dublin residence, they honed their style and songs, so when their “official” debut album hit in 2006, what seemed like an overnight sensation was 15 years in the making.

There is nothing more difficult in the world then trying to make it as a musician. You need to show up day after day, week after week, year after year. And your brand or movement might just make some small gains. Then it hits a few speed bumps, like Rodrigo and Gabriela’s metal band losing their recording contract in 1997 and suddenly you are back at the start. But they kept on showing up, on the coast of Mexico and playing their acoustic guitars in the bars. Because showing up day after day, is the hardest part of making a difference. If you look at the history of the artists we like and admire, you will see many years in pursuit of their dreams.

It is a work of a lifetime to create an impact and build something of substance. In 2013, they were riding the highs of their 2012 “Area 52” collaboration, which involved re-working their best songs with a full flamenco band. Then in 2014, “9 Dead Alive” dropped and new music is needed ASAP.

Sebastian Bach/Skid Row
They shouldn’t get back together, because no one cares about Skid Row in the way they used too. They might have a large audience in Japan, like Dokken, but the rest of the “Youth Gone Wild” have moved on. Sebastian Bach is actually bigger than Skid Row and releases way better music than Skid Row have done without him. But, what was he thinking when he approved the photo for his memoir’s cover.

The Kindred
From Canada and the healthy progressive scene. They started off as “Today I Caught The Plague” from the ashes of another band called “A Legend Falls”. In 2011 they released the excellent “Lore” and went on tour with one of my favourite bands in Protest The Hero and their “Scurrilous Tour”. Then in 2013, a name change happened to “The Kindred” and the excellent “Life In Lucidity” came out at the start of 2014.

However, PTH needed a drummer for their “Volition” tour and it was no surprise that they tapped Mike Ieradi (who also co-founded the group) to fill the spot. Then in 2015, vocalist David Journeaux departed, with Johnny McArthur as their new vocalist and Kenny Saunders as their new drummer. So now I wait to see what comes next.

Streaming
Back in 2013, I wrote that everyone talks about the money which isn’t filtering down to the artist and how streaming is too entrenched to be replaced. Since then the record labels have grown their revenues on the back of streaming. Artists who negotiate deals with the streaming services like Metallica and Motley Crue have never complained about streaming. Suddenly, luddites Anthrax are not complaining and Scott Ian even mentioned how he believes streaming is the best thing to have happened to the recording industry.

Streaming is the future and those artist who don’t grow with this future will be too busy shrinking.

The Gaslight Anthem
They do the early 80’s Bruce Springsteen better than Bruce Springsteen these days. It was like a supergroup of independent musicians that came together in New Jersey in 2006. Their 2010 album, “American Slang” spawned an unexpected hit with the title track and “45” from their 2012 album “Handwritten” became their biggest hit. Since then, “Get Hurt” came out in 2014 and by July 2015, the band went on an indefinite hiatus.

Since the hiatus, singer Brian Fallon released a solo album called “Painkillers” in March 2016, and on April, 2016, a vinyl EP called “Georgia” was released for Record Store Day 2016 with a limited pressing run of 2,000 copies on 10″ vinyl. Let’s hope that “The Gaslight Anthem” get together for more music over the next three-year period.

Volbeat
Seen as overnight sensations however they are over 25 years in the business. It all started with “Guitar Gangsters & Cadillac Blood” in 2008 and being added to the Metallica “Death Magnetic U.S. Tour”. Then in 2010, “Beyond Hell/Above Heaven” came out and while that was still selling, they released “Outlaw Gentlemen and Shady Ladies” in 2013 and they hit every major music market over and over again. Since then, they released “Seal the Deal and Let’s Boogie” and are continuing on their merry ways. For all the newbies, check out their streaming numbers. They are huge compared to other major label metal/rock acts.

Killswitch Engage/Times Of Grace
In 2013, Killswitch Engage released “Disarm the Descent”, their comeback album with Jesse Leach on vocals. And how good is “In Due Time” with brutal verses and an arena rock chorus. Then in February 2015, a new track called “Loyalty” appeared on “Catch The Throne: The Mixtape Volume 2” to promote “Game of Thrones”. They then toured and kept on working on “Incarnate” which finally came out on March 11, 2016. Since then, they toured and are planning on releasing a beer. Meanwhile, “Times of Grace” have five songs completed for a new album to come out, with their last one coming out in 2011.

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