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

Cog

When the History of Australian music is written by the mainstream pop writers, a certain band from Bondi, Sydney called Cog will be forgotten. Seeing the band play live on a lot of occasions, I can say without a doubt, they are one of Australia’s best live bands.

The star of the show without doubt was always Lucius Borich on drums. He rolled and he grooved. The energy he produced on stage, he somehow miraculous transferred over to the audience.

I remember the times when we played with Cog at the Oxford Tavern and UniBar in Wollongong. We all had to load in early as the doors to the venue would shut. (Note: The venue was normally open and entry to watch the live show was free, however when Cog came into town, the venue was turned into a concert hall.)

So we just sat around, drinking beer and watching Lucius sound check. There he is, sound checking the drums, then the guitars and then the bass. The thing that blew me away was the riffs he was playing during the guitar sound checks. At that time, the information doing the rounds on Cog was very vague.

So I had no idea that Lucius was such an accomplished instrumentalist and songwriter. That is why as a drummer he really locks in with the guitar and the bass. That is why his drums move with the peaks and valleys of each song.

No Other Way

What an album track! For an Australian band, it is a ballsy move to open an album with a 10 minute song. The rules are made to be broken and that is what Cog kept on doing with all of their releases. While all their contemporaries went to the hook immediately, Cog took their time to build up to it and when they did, it was well worth the wait. Every time I go back to this song, I keep on hearing little things that I missed with each play before.

Once upon a time albums were not made for radio. Of course, each band had a few songs that could be considered radio friendly, however, the soul of the album was always found by digging deep into the cuts. I remember reading a lot of polarising reviews of the “Sharing Space” album released in 2008, however, if you listen to “No Other Way” and not nod your head, then you must be dead.

Bridges are burning but faces are looking away
People are yearning for someone to show them the way
Tables keep turning and time is the price that we’ll pay
Fast cars and freedom as long as you learn to obey

Fear is the virus they use to divide us
Hoping we’ll all just pretend
That there’s no other way

I remember sitting down to learn this song and I started to break it down into movements. The above lyrics form part of the intro which I call “Movement 1 (0:00 to 2:17)”. It’s got that major chord to minor chord transition and it’s got a melodic hook that draws you in. This is Cog saying to the fans, we are still progressive, we are still mathy, however we are a touch different to what you are used too. This track has melody, it has soul and it has groove.

The subject matter is way understated and so relevant. This is Cog, not playing for a radio hit, but somehow if people stumbled onto it, they would be hooked like it was a radio hit.

Ordered by a god above
To murder in the name of love
And they’ll always claim that truth is on their side

Holding keys to a paradise
All their noise is a lullaby
For years they have ruled over you and I

I called the above, “Movement 2 (2:18 to 3.32)”. Anyone seen the documentary, “Zeitgeist”. It is great viewing. Even Robb Flynn spoke about it recently in one of his journal posts.

Lay down your guns people and start again
And stop digging this hole
Into which we’re all sliding

Screaming down a dead end track
We took a wrong turn now we’re heading back to love
Once this ship has departed
Everyone can feel at home

All invited
Humans undivided
Why not set aside the time to understand your mind

Take it slowly
While facts are showing
Until we’re there
Until we all arrive

I call the above Movement 3 (3:33 to 6:05). People need to listen to each other and take the time to understand each other, instead of talking over each other. “Anybody Listening” from Queensryche, also invokes a similar theme of trying to find a freedom for the soul and to pay attention to what people are saying.

Bridges are burning but faces are looking away
People are yearning for someone to show them the way
Tables keep turning and time is the price that we’ll pay
Fast cars and freedom as long as you learn to obey

Take it slowly
While facts are showing
Until we’re there
Until we all arrive

Fear is the virus they use to divide us
Hoping we’ll all just pretend
That there’s no other way
No other way

I call the above Movement 4 (6:06 to 9.55) – Hearing the melodic hook of the intro sung again over a different chord progression is brilliant.

Are You Interested?

The most famous song off “Sharing Space” is “Are You Interested?” The song embedded itself into the listeners mind and it never left. Producing something magical rarely follows formula. The vocal line of Flynn Gower drives the song.

Yes they’re making lists of people interested in this
And they’re scanning all their databases
Hunting terrorists
Yes their making lists of people interested in this
And anyone who speaks their mind is labelled anarchist

In 2008, Cog sang about how personal privacy is extinct. In 2013, the world is in uproar at the Governments spying on their own citizens.

Four Walls

I am sitting at work listening to “Four Walls” telling myself THIS IS A HIT!. You need to dig down deep into the album to check out “Four Walls” as it is track 12. It’s truly genius, a hooky track based on agoraphobia.

I’m stuck in a space
Four walls
In a room again
But I feel safe
Cause I know, where the end begins

What If

It is the 5/4 timing at the start that hooks me. Again, the vocal line drives the song. It sounds primal and angry. It is almost robotic. It is one of the shorter tracks, however it is still infectious. The song has elements of math rock in it, and in a way the message is one of hope.

What if
In the future
People
Just decided
No more leaders
Fighting to control us

This is Cog offering solutions.

What if
Life was
Just an
Illusion
Made up
By you

We don’t trust our own voice or conscience anymore. We procrastinate and we fail to make important decisions in life. We are fearful of losing what we have, so we over analyse everything to death. So we live a life, that we surround with illusions, just to make us feel better about where we are at in life. I remember this phrase, about proving that a chair exists outside of our mind.

Some things don’t seem right
Change is in sight
Some things are so wrong
Blind eyes too long

It’s like the Queensryche song, “Sign of the Times”, where they ask the question, “Can we do better than this?” The answer is we can, however we have been blinded for so long, we fail to see the wrongs.

Bird Of Feather

This song is dark. It is confrontational.You can hear the anguish in Flynn’s voice at the separation from his three year old daughter and his partner. He was away from them for eight months while he was recording the album in the U.S and then once the album was released, he had to seperate from them again to tour.

 

But I’m only trying to make it better,
Is there no other way,
No other way to go,

Bridging the gap with calling,
Don’t fade away,
Tuning my ears to the sound of your tears,
Is there no other way?

Of course she’s wondering why,
Only three years old,
Dad’s gone again,
Don’t know when,
We’ll all be back home together

Sharing Space

All the faces that we’ve learnt to love
And all the tears we cried when we opened up

I been working, dreaming, wanting something more
And I’m thinking; all this shit I’m doing, what’s it for?

I’m waiting for the day to arrive

They have been writing and touring for years and they have come a long way. They set themselves goals and then complete them. Now they are at a point in their life where they are doing some self-evaluation. They are re-assessing, asking the question why they are together, as life moves so fast, they need to take a pause to absorb it all.

All the fighting, the hurting, the bleeding, the crying
What’s it for?
All the people living, breathing, dying
Wanting more…

For some reason it reminds me of the song, “Promised Land” from Queensryche. Queensryche asks the question, what is success and what is happiness in that song. Does success equal happiness? Our whole society is based on consumption. We are all part of this system, so what’s this life for? Basically all of the ideals our society stands for is a load of crap.

Listening to Cog brings back memories of Tool. Progressive, a bit alternative, a bit rocky, a bit metally, very left of centre, quirky and artistic and in the same way that Tool could cross over with a song like Sober from their album Undertow, Cog do the same with What If?

In the end it just looks like the people that dealt with them, didn’t know what to do with them, how to market them, how to sell them to the public on a world-wide scale. Despite a hard core of die hard fans who purchased every album and went to see the show, the core never really increased.

“Sharing Space” did crossover and the band did see an increase in the fan base during that tour. Maybe they just needed that force of nature personality type, who would not take no for an answer to take them to the next level.

In a country that is infatuated with American Culture and reality TV shows like The Voice, X Factor, Got Talent and Idol, Cog was the antihero to all of this crap.

Cog’s music will endure forever.

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A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories

The old rock star is dead. Its time to create a new rock star that is a product of the times

Influences/Inspiration

Nobody exists in a vacuum. Inspiration comes from what you read, watch and experience.  Inspiration is the merging of these experiences and influences into something new. When Metallica came on the scene they were inspired and influenced by the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. They were influenced by Punk. They were inspired and influenced by Classic Rock. They were excited and this made them nervous. Nerves made them play faster.

When Black Sabbath came on the scene they were originally influenced by the Blues. Just another blues band among the many blues bands doing the rounds at that time. Then they applied their gloomy industrial upbringing and the rest is history.

Experience

Inspiration doesn’t take place in a vacuum. All day long you are experiencing.

Could Nikki Sixx have written Kick Start My Heart if he didn’t experience death and life? Could James Hetfield have written The Unforgiven if he was brought up in a wealthy household that didn’t have Christian Science beliefs? Could Richie Sambora and Jon Bon Jovi have written Wanted Dead Or Alive if they never toured? Could Dee Snider have written We’re Not Gonna Take It, if he was rich?

If you think you can write a hit song with no prior experience, you’re dreaming.  Our whole life is information. Be ready to reference it.  Trust your first initial feeling.

Sign Of The Times

Don’t get caught up in doing things in the old way. Today’s medium is the Internet. No one wants to hear new music from their favourite artist every two years. We surf the net each day, looking for new music and information.  If there is a demand for your music, you should create and distribute constantly.

The days when we used to have very little music are over. The days of saving up to buy an album and the playing the same album over and over again are also gone.  Now, we’ve got the history of recorded music at our fingertips. YouTube has everything that you want, Spotify has almost everything that you could want and if all of that fails cyber lockers and The Pirate Bay fill the void.

Product Of The Times

The old rock star is dead. Its time to create a new rock star that is a product of the times. Keep innovating.  Embrace the new reality that is being born. Stop playing by the rules of the Classic Rock artists.

Look at the band Heartist. When they formed, they decided that they would not play by the old rules of playing as many gigs as possible just to get noticed.  They decided to not play by the old rules of guaranteeing promoters 50 presales for each gig (which more or less meant, the band either had to beg people to come to their show that didn’t want to be there or they basically paid to play).  They decided to write songs.  They decided to keep on writing. They started posting demos on YouTube. They started building a buzz. The songs had quality. People started to spread them, share them, talk about them. They played ONE gig and got signed by Roadrunner and management.

What Does Music and Success Mean These Days?

Music is for the fans. Music is for the people. Music is not for a record executive to make billions so that they can compete with the Forbes 100 Rich List.  If you want to be in the music business, you need to focus on what music means. Be inspired! Create!  You have to practice, be original and wait for your moment, when you have to deliver.

Def Leppard’s Hysteria was out for over a year before it exploded on the back of the Love Bites single. A sleeper hit that no one saw coming. If the song is really damn good it will get people’s attention.

If you want success, you need to get people’s attention. If you want success you need to work hard and don’t plan for it. If you want success, practice and be ready to turn that inspiration into a product.  If you want success, you need to know that you have no control over what spreads and what doesn’t. Don’t judge the success of your project straight away. Success is always ten steps behind. It takes a while for it to happen.  Don’t just the success of your project in dollar terms. Success is about laying a solid foundation and building on it.

Your music has to be accessible. It needs to make an instant impact. Fans do not have the time to spend on letting an album sink into our brain like the old ways. These days there are so many options and people don’t endure that which is not pleasing to them, They move on. Repetition is not an artist’s friend in the current times. The life span of a song is different these days.

Most of the time you get one shot for each new fan. It is that one time when people will hear what you have created. One time where you need to satisfy them, so that they can respond and share.

Today, you need to have that one unbelievable cut, that makes the people need to hear it over and over again. That one cut that makes the people want to go and find out more about you.

Whether it be Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It”, Dio’s “Holy Diver”, Ozzy Osbourne “Crazy Train”, Kiss “Lick It Up”, Shinedown’s “Second Chance” or Metallica’s’ “One”. It works in every genre of music.

Connections

Artists can go straight to their audience, there are no restrictions. Artists by now should know that their career depends on building a loyal relationship with as many fans as possible. In order to build relationships, you need to get people’s attention. You need to find a way to be heard over all the noise.

Standing Out – Visuals and Music

You want to be remembered. You want to be talked about. How can you achieve that? Society is a visual culture. That is why we watch TV shows, movies, take pictures and film ourselves.

Why do you think, when you see a preview for a new movie coming out, the studio marketeers have music with it? Why do you think TV shows and movies have soundtracks? They are re-enforcing the visuals with music, as people take more notice when that happens. If people notice they will talk about.

Putting your music with visuals is a big step forward to getting people’s attention. How many times have you walked out of a movie, thinking, what a tough score. I just watched World War Z and I loved the track that Muse did for it.  Man Of Steel had an unbelievable score by Hans Zimmer, that captured the emotion in each scene. It was also inspiring and uplifting. I still remember the preview to the Captain America movie, where they had the music (46&2) from Tool playing and that was almost three years ago.

Standing Out – Opinions

No artist can please everyone. So don’t try. All artists stand for something. If you write a song that is anti-(insert topic here), you will alienate some, and connect more with others. When people get fired up (via positive or negative feelings) they pay attention.

Standing Out – Different = Success

If you look at all of your heroes, they are there for a reason. They are different. When they came on the scene, they were different. Twisted Sister was different to all the other bands in the Eighties in how they dressed and looked. Their style was a combination of AC/DC style rock, mixed with Judas Priest metal, with a dose of punk chucked in. Metallica was different to all the metal and rock bands when they came onto the scene. Motley Crue was different to all the new wave music that was popular at the time. Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden were all different to the Eighties Glam Rock movement. Black Sabbath was different to all the hippie folk music at the time.

Different also includes doing cover versions of popular songs. Take jazz songs and turn them into rock songs. Take pop songs and make them into rock songs.  The original artist’s fans will be curious to hear these versions.  Led Zeppelin did a lot of covers, Metallica the same. Van Halen had cover songs on their first five albums. Motley Crue did Smokin In The Boys Room and Helter Skelter.

What Does It Mean to be an Artist Today?

You don’t want to be an artist that becomes who others want them to be. You don’t want to be an artist that whores themselves out to make money. You don’t want to be an artist that does what they have to do to keep the status quo.

It’s okay to not be liked by everybody.

Real artists don’t believe in conforming. Real artists stay true to who they are. Real artists play to their fans and allow the fans to talk about them. Do not change for all the new people that could tag along to your success train, that’s death. You need to keep playing to the hard core fan base. A great artist is someone who leads us into the unknown who we can’t help but follow.

Dream Theater is one artist that comes to mind, that did it their way or the hard way. Signed as a progressive band, they released When Dream and Day Unite, which the label ignored and then went on a long search for a vocalist. When Pull Me Under got traction on MTV and Radio, the band was then a commercial prospect for the label. So the label now wants more crossover songs, and this lead to the issues with the label around the Falling Into Infinity project. After that the band stayed true to who they are and they have grown with each album and are more successful now than ever.

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