Music, My Stories, Unsung Heroes

Score Card Checkpoint V3.0

A lot can happen in music and to bands in three years.

Vanishing Point
Great melodic metal band from Melbourne, Australia. 2014 gave us the “Distant Is The Sun” album. The excellent title track, “When Truth Lies” and “Let The River Run” still get listens today. I was on their Facebook page a few days ago and a new album is in the works, plus a few of their older titles are getting re-issues via AFM Records.

Harem Scarem
In 2013, they re-recorded their 1993 album “Mood Swings” and called it “Mood Swings II” for Frontier Records, which is all part of their President Serafino’s idea to amass a large and profitable catalogue of hard melodic rock music, so he can negotiate better streaming rates and keep all the profits for himself. In 2014, they released “Thirteen” also on Frontiers.

Rev Theory
I got into this band with their 2008 release “Light It Up” and the songs “Hell Yeah”, “Broken Bones”, “Wanted Man”, “Ten Years” and “Far From Over”. Then came the “Justice” album and it didn’t connect with me, so I sort of lost them afterwards. Then came a couple of hit and miss EP’s and suddenly we have a new album in “The Revelation”. It’s just how it is these days. We fall in and out of liking artists who are also competing with the history of music, plus their old hits for our attention. And for me, the 2008 album is what stands the test of time and because of that release I am always interested to see what the band does next.

Adrenaline Mob
2012 gave us “Omerta”. 2013 gave us “Coverta” and 2014 gave us “Men Of Honour”, while 2015 gave us “Dearly Departed”. In between, Mike Portnoy left and AJ Pero came in. They went on tour and AJ Pero died. Bassist, John Moyer also left and other bassists came in. But the mainstays are still there and still writing, with a new album expected to drop in 2017.

Lizzard
In 2013, I was giving their “Out Of Reach” album released in 2012, a lot of attention. I don’t know how I came across it or who gave it to me. It’s much different to when I used to purchase albums. Anyway, I was wondering what happened to them a few weeks ago, so I searched them up on Spotify and found they released an album called “Majestic” in 2014 and prior to “Out Of Reach”, there was a debut album called “Venus” in 2011.

Their take on Tool like progressive grooves in a shortened pop rock way is unique enough to convert me as a fan. But no one else knows them.

Thirty Seconds To Mars
In 2013, they released “Love Lust Faith Dreams” and went on a world tour to support it. In the process Jared Leto won a few awards for his acting and on the back of the publicity, the band grew a little bit more. With streaming services, they have songs pushing above 50 million streams and some songs pushing close to a 100 million streams.

Audrey Horne
They are one of the original classic rock/metal supergroups created by extreme metallers. This one hails from Norway. It’s their self –titled album, released in 2010 that hooked me in and the song “Sail Away”. In 2013, they released “Youngblood” and 2014 gave us “Pure Heavy”. Since then I haven’t seen or heard any news about them, apart from a few live shows here and there in Norway.

Stryper
2013 gave us re-recorded versions of 80’s Stryper in “Second Coming” and towards the end of the year “No More Hell To Pay” came out. In 2015, “Fallen” was released. Lead vocalist and main songwriter Michael Sweet was also busy with “I’m Not Your Suicide” in 2014 and “One Sided War” in 2016. Sweet and Lynch also released “Only To Rise” in 2015.

All I can say is that Michael Sweet understands what the music business is about in 2016. In 3 years, he was involved in six new music releases and in all of them he was the main songwriter. Remember in the early 80’s, bands released new product each year. Then MTV blew up and suddenly bands became global superstars and releases started to be every two years and then three years and for some, every four years.

Nonpoint
They released their self-titled album in 2012, which was more of a rock record than a metal record. “The Return” came out in 2014 and “The Poison Red” in 2016. In 2017, they will be touring with Alter Bridge and will also celebrate 20 years since their formation in Florida.

Breaking Benjamin
In 2010, all hell broke loose in the Breaking Benjamin camp, when their label made an agreement with other members to release a greatest hits package while vocalist/guitarist and main songwriter Benjamin Burnely was on hiatus trying to find a diagnosis to his health condition. This infuriated Burnley who fired the members and sued everyone in sight.

The recording contact was part of the dispute and the whole world got to see a real recording contract and the band agreement. The case went to arbitration and three years later, it looks like proceedings went in favour of Benjamin Burnely.

By the middle of 2014 Breaking Benjamin was a new band with new members, carefully selected from other modern rock bands. In 2015, “Dark Before Dawn” came out and it went straight to number 1 and it blew away major label releases from other artists in the pop genre who had bigger marketing budgets and PR campaigns.

On Spotify the band has 2,084,806 monthly listeners and lead single, “Failure” is at 20,721,981 streams and “Angels Fall” is at 19,926,003 streams. Meanwhile songs from earlier albums like “The Diary Of Jane” are at 76,513,373 streams (and it’s a song on a Spotify playlist called “Rock the 2000’s, which has 657,616 followers). The future for Breaking Benjamin is bright and the album is still selling and they are still on tour supporting it.

Sound Of Contact
The excellent concept album “Dimensionaut” came out in 2013 almost by pure accident amongst the members writing and performing on solo albums and other projects. For fans of Phil Collins, his son, Simon fronts the band. Then from there, in 2014, Simon was arrested on suspicion of supplying drugs and questioned over possession of drugs. He was released on bail and then all charges were dropped against him, which leaves him free to concentrate on music. And in 2016, Sound of Contact is recording a new album, plus all of the members are recording solo albums.

Kingdom Come
In 2013, Lenny Wolf released the “Outliers” album under the Kingdom Come name. By 2016, Kingdom Come played shows with Danny Stag and Johnny B Frank back in the fold and then Lenny retired the band.

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

1991 Goodies Lost In The Noise

1991 was a monumental year for music. Shifts in musical tastes aside, career defining albums by Nirvana with “Nevermind”, Metallica with their self-titled “Black” album and Pearl Jam with “Ten” came out.

Guns N Roses released “Use Your Illusion 1 and 2”, the long-awaited follow-up to “Appetite For Destruction” and Ozzy Osbourne resurrected his solo career with “No More Tears”.

U2 had “Achtung Baby”, Van Halen went back to heavy guitars with “For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge” and Red Hot Chilli Peppers came out with “Blood Sugar Sex Magik”.

Competing against these mega selling albums with massive marketing budgets to scorch the Earth, was the rest of the music industry. And while I am on my European holiday, I have been listening to hard rock music released in 1991. And man, there are some goodies in the list.

Rock and Roll Nights – Roxus
A band like Roxus from Australia, never had a chance to break through on the international melodic rock scene in 1991. A lot of hard work went into building the band, from standalone singles to an EP to the debut album; the whole journey took 4 plus years.

And they started getting some traction in 1991 but they came up against some stiff opposition for the attention of listeners. With all of that against them, Roxus did chart well in Australia.

But they had to compete against the changing of the guard. When U.S record labels started signing up Seattle acts, it was no surprise when the Aussie labels started to sign up Australian bands that suddenly started to sound like Seattle bands. To my amazement, hard rock, thrash metal and glam rock bands on the scene down tuned, stop playing solos, changed their look and their sound. All in the quest for a recording contract.

A chance is all that we’ve got
Without a moment to choose
We’ve got to take it
Young hearts in the night
With nothing to lose
We can make it

It’s nothing original but the message was the same throughout the decade. Chances are far and few, so when opportunity presents itself, we’ve got to take the chance. Like Tommy and Gina. Like the small town kid in Detroit.

I’m glad to be around in Rock ‘n’ Roll nights
You and me

It was a moment in time, a period of almost 10 years when the 80’s version of Rock and Roll became a commercial force.

Stand Back – Roxus

The synth intro is addictive and once the guitars kick in from Dragan Stanic, it’s all systems go. “Stand Back” came out as a standalone single in July 1989 and it was also on their debut album “Nightstreet”, which came out in September 1991.

Taking a chance on a night flight
Knowing just where we ought to be

A lot of times in my youth I knew where I should be, but I couldn’t take that chance to get there. That midnight train out of my hometown was missed. That night flight never happened.

I’ve been on this road now for so long
It’s making me harder now

Living and getting older either hardens you or breaks you.

Stand back, human racing
There’s no change, we’re all facing
Stand back, time is racing now

And that is all we seem to do. Just standing back and watching the world go by.

Pretty Maids – Savage Heart

It’s from the “Jump the Gun” album released in 1990. Actually in the U.S it was released as “Lethal Heroes”. Produced by Roger Glover from Deep Purple, it was told that the album was one of the most expensive albums in Danish history. And after it failed commercially, three fifths of the band would leave.

But it wasn’t the music which let the band down. It was the band name. Many times I avoided purchasing this album because of the band name. One time it was down to Bonfire and Pretty Maids and my money went on Bonfire.

The song reminds me of “Is This Love” from Whitesnake.

Whenever we lose someone
Whenever we say goodbye
And after the fire’s gone
When every flame has died
There will beat a savage heart

After so many loses and failures, a savage heart is all that is left.

Another soldier falls
Dies for God and country
When there’s no time for talking
It’s time for the guns

A symptom of our society is the use of guns. If talking cannot prevent it, our leaders believe violence and force is the next solution.

 

And that massive ending, with the gospel backing vocals is excellent. 

AC/DC – The Razors Edge

The title track written by Malcolm and Angus Young got lost behind the behemoth known as “Thunderstruck”. It’s a killer track. One of their best.

How good is that open string riff that drives the song? It’s a simple A to B to C on the G-string progression with the open strings of B and E just droning along. Angus pulls of this lick while Malcolm just thunders along with the E5 power chord.

There’s fighting on the left
And marching on the right
Don’t look up in the sky
You’re gonna die of fright
Here comes the razors edge

AC/DC have never been known to be a political/social conscience band, however if you look at a lot of the lyrics that Bon Scott wrote in the 70’s, you will see a certain social awareness. You will notice that quiet a few of the songs mentioned in this list talk about war.

Harem Scarem – Hard To Love and Slowly Slipping Away

Both tracks are from the self-titled debut album, the music in both songs rocks.

It wasn’t until well into the 2000’s that I got a hold of some music from Harem Scarem. While the first album is very AOR, the second album “Mood Swings” packs some serious metal overtones and some wicked guitar playing.

The band name doesn’t do the music and the songs justice. Like Pretty Maids I bypassed this album because of the band name.

Badlands – The Last Time

Jake E Lee revs it up again for the follow-up “Voodoo Highway” album to the self-titled debut. And what an opening track, where Lee weaves blues based riffs with his metal pedigree to come up with this heavy boogie riff to kick off the track. Rooted in the key of A minor, the track rocks from the outset.

Lyrically the song is about a broken heart (nothing really earth shattering) however the vocal performance by Ray Gillen is also top-notch. Not long after, the band splintered and “The Last Time” is forgotten in the history of times. The song was resurrected by the Red Dragon Cartel, however Lee is not having much luck with his singers.

Stryper – All For One

From the commercially disappointing “Against The Law” that was released on Enigma Records, a label going thru merger talks.

But there is no denying the song, written by Michael Sweet and produced by Tom Werman.

United we will stand up tall
United we will never fall
If it’s all for one and one for all

The chorus is huge and the message is strong.

United we will never fall. Even Dee Snider mentioned recently that metal heads need to unite again, in the same way we did between the years of 1982 to 1987. We made hard rock and heavy metal a commercial force. After that we fragmented into so many different metal genres, it was ridiculous.

Ratt – Shame, Shame, Shame

The opening riff from Warren DeMartini is speed boogie metal. It’s full on Ratt and Roll and DeMartini even drops the E string down to D, something he did to great effect in “Lay It Down”.

But terrible lyrics again let the song down and the overall power of the music is lost. But this song is all about the music to me and it gets constant spins because of it.

Asphalt Ballet – Soul Survive

It’s written by guitarist Danny Clarke, from their 1991 debut album released on Virgin Records who at the time had no interest in marketing bands as they were in negotiation talks with EMI. That merger happened in June 1992 and a lot of bands lost their deals because of it.

I’ve seen the system fall apart from the rules
And all our Presidents lie
I’ve seen the needle and the damage it’s done
The wreckage left behind

These are social conscience lyrics that a lot of rock bands just didn’t do at the turn of the century. Or if they did do songs like this, the record label wouldn’t release them as singles. How good is that verse riff?

My soul survives
Forever doing time on a dead-end street
My soul survives
Blood like wine running down to my feet, yeah-yeah, yeah!

And for the majority of us, that is how we live our days, doing time in the same old place with the same old faces.

Skid Row – Quicksand Jesus

Written by Rachel Bolan and Dave Sabo, it’s from the gigantic “Slave To The Grind” album, but for some reason this song went under the radar but it’s a masterpiece.

Quicksand Jesus I need you
Quicksand Jesus I believe you
Quicksand I’m so far away

The song is about trying not to lose faith in God with all the crap that goes on in the world. The music is brilliant and Sebastian’s vocals from the “Where do we go” section are sublime.

Richie Sambora – Stranger In This Town

Written by Richie Sambora and his Bon Jovi cohort Dave Bryan, you cannot escape this addictive track that is heavily influenced by “With A Little Help From My Friends”.

Everybody loves a winner
Till the winners lose
And then it’s front page news
Nobody loves a loser
When you’re down and out
You know there ain’t no doubt

This is Richie, unsure of his future. He just finished two gruelling album and world tour cycles with Bon Jovi. He was a winner. Then, the uncertainty came as the band went on a break. He had no record deal, no management, nothing.

“Song And Emotion” from Tesla has a similar message. Where are all the “friends” when you are down and out? Dee Snider’s bio tells a similar story. When he had nothing, he had no one except his family.

Tesla – Song and Emotion
Tesla – Freedom Slaves
Tesla – Had Enough

Even though the “Psychotic Supper” album was eventually certified platinum, on release it didn’t have a chance to break through to the masses. Within 30 days of its release it had to contend with “Ten” from Pearl Jam, “Nevermind” from Nirvana, “Use Your Illusion 1 and 2” from Guns N Roses and the self-titled “Black” album from Metallica.

Tesla is a legendary band in my book. Each album has songs that have remained with me to this day. “Psychotic Supper” gave me these three beauties. All of them are so different, yet so infectious.

“Song and Emotion” is killer. It’s written by Frank Hannon, Jeff Keith, Michael Barbiero (producer) and Tom Skeoch.

All alone on his way to the top
Somehow, somewhere, something was lost
Through it all he knew his only friend was
Song and emotion
Know he’s got to his dying day

Read all of the bios of the artists you like and there is a common theme of loneliness. They turn to drugs, booze and other vices to cope with the loneliness especially when they are on the road for long periods of time.

Where are they now?
Where are those people who promised him his dreams?
Where are they now for this lonely creature on the streets?
Broken, humbled by the cold reality?

The song is dedicated to Steve Clark from Def Leppard. The bigger Def Leppard got, the more isolated their lives became. The price of stardom meant they couldn’t leave their house without an entourage.

Life at the top ain’t always what it seems

It’s a common critique of artists when they’ve made it.

“Freedom Slaves” is a foot stomper with another killer mid-section and solo. It’s written by Frank Hannon, Tommy Skeoch and Brian Wheat.

I pledge no allegiance to your flag
I feel I got me some damn good reasons for feelin’ bad
If you want freedom now, it’s got to be won
It’s only bullets. It’s just a gun

1991 had songs about war, especially with the Gulf War looming over our heads.

Can’t ya see that we’re all freedom slaves?

Freedom comes at a human cost, but then when our freedoms are hijacked by corporations and leaders in the pocket of lobbyists, we become capitalist slaves.

Welcome to freedom. Now, there’s work to be done.

There is work for the ones that have no alternative. They don’t have the degrees, the fortune 500 jobs or some other helping hand.

I don’t know what next they’ll be killin’,
Rapin’ the land with pollution and spillin’.
Here’s to the tired, to the hungry, to the helpless and the poor.
Is there no glory for blisters and sores?

The world was in GFC turmoil, six years ago. The perpetrators got out without any losses, while the working class, lost houses and their jobs. As the lyric states, there is no glory in blisters and sores.

“Had Enough” opens up with a beer can opening and then the riff kicks in. It’s a head banger about downing a few and smoking some weed.  It’s written by Jeff Keith and Tommy Skeoch.

Me and the boys are gonna rock tonite.
Drinkin’ double shots, feelin fine. Mmmm, I like it!
I like the way, the way it makes me feel.
Now, I’m in love witcha, Lady Mary Jane.
You put my mind at ease, make me feel no pain.
Keep takin’ me; keep takin’ me higher, well, and higher.
Light my fire!

The song is all about the high at the start and by the end the character in the song has passed the point of no return and is now addicted.

Have I reached the point, the point of no return?
When will I learn?

White Lion – Warsong
White Lion – It’s Over

Almost five months after “Mane Attraction” came out, White Lion split up and one of the most melodic and expressive guitarists was lost to us.

Mike Tramp wrote good social consciousness lyrics but his take on clichéd rock and roll themes fell short and failed to compliment the outstanding musicianship of Vito Bratta.

In all of this craziness, two songs stand out to this day.

“Warsong” shows the metal side of Bratta, while “It’s Over” shows the classic blues rock side of Bratta.

What are we fighting for?
When the price we pay is endless war
What are we fighting for?
When all we need is peace

When you look at the wars our homelands have been in and for what purpose, you start to question, why.

I know that I was wrong to treat you like I did
But don’t you think our love deserves a second chance 

The above is from “It’s Over”. The blues 12/8 boogie lays the foundations for Bratta to showcase his prowess.

Once the mirror breaks it’s never the same. Same deal with a relationship. Once you break apart once, it’s over. White Lion fragmented without even arguing. It was just time to say “It’s Over”.

Europe – Seventh Sign

“Prisoners In Paradise” album cycle was a lesson in record label politics. Europe wrote 20 songs and the record label rejected a lot of them. Outside writers got the call and Europe kept on writing songs. Eventually after 12 months, the album was done.

It cost a lot and once it was released it was left to fend on its own, without any record label support.

We could all come together
And gather all around
What good is war when we
All go down

Another song with a reference to war.

Savatage – If I Go Away

The whole rock opera from Savatage was an ode to making it, the vices that come with success and the loneliness once the crowds are gone.

Somewhere on that long lonely road
We all stand alone
Looking for clues
From our different views

That’s why we turn to music and the messages in our favourite songs. We are looking for clues from our artists. Maybe they’ve experienced the same.

If I go away
What would still remain of me?

What memories will people carry forward if they go away?

Screaming Jets – Better
Screaming Jets – Fat Rich Cunt

Screaming Jets is an Australian band that basically has legendary pub status within our shores.

They said you’d never get anywhere,
Well they don’t care and it’s just not fair
That you know, and I know better.

“Better” became like a national anthem in Australia. The whole groove of the song is infectious.

Fat Rich Cunt

It’s one of my favourites on the album. The message in the song, is even more relevant in 2016.

You drive your fast car,
All over the town,
You got your offices up 50 floors from the ground.
You hire your slaves to bid for you,
You’ve got a couple of wives and a mistress or two.
And I can’t wait to see you tumble and fall.

When I worked as an insurance broker, all of the people around me had second or third marriages, mistresses on the side and a cocaine habit to match.

You fat, fat, fat rich cunts.

The war cry.

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Songwriting Issues – Using Examples From Michael Sweet

I just finished reading “Honestly: My Life And Stryper Revealed”. It’s actually a pretty honest book when it comes to the relationships and dynamics between Michael Sweet and the Stryper guys. For that part I recommend it. I can’t say that I agree with a lot of the “God’s Hand is at work here” paragraphs but what I do agree with in full and can relate to are the sections about songwriting within the band. Check out these paragraphs;

Dissention was brewing within the band over songwriting. There seemed to be a definitive division starting to build between the band and me concerning songwriting and royalties. Songwriters usually make more money and this was starting to cause some friction within the band. I began to feel an obligation to split all the songs with the band in response to indirect comments and criticism.

In an effort to keep the peace, I lined up a meeting with our attorney Stephen Ashley to discuss my proposition. I told him that I wanted all the songwriting to be split equally, regardless of who wrote what songs. Oz wrote two songs on that album (“Come To The Everlife” and “The Reign”). I should never have agreed to those songs making the cut (at least not without undergoing some major changes), but in 1988 I was more interested in keeping the peace than ensuring we had the best songs possible on an album.

Stephen Ashley privately consulted with me after our meeting on splitting the songwriting and strongly advised me against it. He told me that I would be giving away hundreds of thousands of dollars by doing so. But again, I wanted to keep the peace. I could tell that I was becoming the bad guy, or at least that’s how I perceived it. How did that work out by the way? How was I becoming the bad guy? I wrote what I felt—and apparently what the fans felt—were some really good songs that obviously played a major role in our success. Somehow, though, I was feeling like the bad guy.

That’s what being in a band can do sometimes. Somehow spending relentless hours alone refining and re-refining songs to become the greatest they can be for the band can be turned around to be a negative thing. What should have been gratitude appeared to be resentment, at least from my perspective.

I allowed mediocre songs to creep into our repertoire just to make everyone happy. I gave away what probably amounted to hundreds of thousands of dollars in songwriting royalties just to smooth things over. Everyone seemed happy for now, except me.

Fortunately Stephen had the wisdom to convince me not to allow my idea of splitting songwriting to stand in perpetuity. After a certain number of years, the songwriting credits would revert to the original writers. So short term, the term when the bulk of the money was earned on a song, we all split the money equally. Long term, the term when minimal money rolls in, I retained the songwriting credit for the songs I wrote. We all agreed to this arrangement and moved forward. For seven years I gave 25 percent to each band member and songwriting credit on songs they didn’t write.

Each band that is successful will have ONE major songwriter that does lyrics and music. Then there are other bands that will have ONE major writer on the music and ONE major writer on the lyrics. Motley Crue has Nikki Sixx. Iron Maiden has Steve Harris. Stryper has Michael Sweet. Kix had Donnie Purnell. Metallica has James Hetfield. Megadeth has Dave Mustaine. Kiss has Paul Stanley. For Slayer it was Jeff Hanneman. Get my drift on this.

With the other guys, it was as if it didn’t really matter if the best songs made the album, just as long as everyone was contributing and everyone was equal. Who cares if a sub-par song makes its way on the album, as long as everyone gets a fair shake?

So, I was the bad guy. I was the one saying “Nope, that song’s not good enough for the record.” And, honestly, I said that to myself more than anyone. For every good song that I wrote, there were dozens of ideas that never saw the light of day, all because I knew I could do better. It was somehow okay to say to myself, “Michael, you can do better. You can write a better song than what you’ve got here.” It was just very difficult to say those things to my band mates about their songs.

In all of the bands I was in this is what normally happened.

I would bring in a song complete, with lyrics and music. Before that song is even brought to the table it would have gone through multiple re-iterations with me. The band will jam on it and if the others felt a connection to the song, then it would remain. Otherwise it would disappear to either be re-written by me or torn apart and have the riffs used for other songs.

The singer would bring in a song complete with lyrics and music and I would tweak it and decorate it and by default I would end up re-writing it. In one band I was in, the singer was also the rhythm guitarist (we had a Metallica four piece set up) and we agreed that we would all write songs together in the jam room because that is what we believed that our heroes did. This was a very slow, painful, argumentative and gruelling process, as both the singer and I became the bad guys due to us weeding out the sub-par contributions which of course caused animosity. In the space of 12 months we had four songs and countless arguments. As far as the singer/guitarist was concerned, it was quality over quantity, which differed from my point of view in that quantity breeds quality.

Then in one band I had a bass player that always brought in something and something is as nice a word that I could use to describe what the something was.

Bands are messy but when other people that didn’t write the songs want a share of it, then it gets hostile. And the whole history of music is littered with people owning a percentage in songs that they didn’t write. Which is a shame. Hell, the whole “Bark At The Moon”album has words and music by Ozzy Osbourne, which we all know is bullshit. However it still stands and in 50 years people will most probably believe that Ozzy Osbourne wrote that album with one finger on the piano.

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The Art Of Copying, Tweaking and Creating

“Good artists copy, great artists steal.”

“Success is dangerous. One begins to copy oneself, and to copy oneself is more dangerous than to copy others. It leads to sterility.”

“To copy others is necessary, but to copy oneself is pathetic.”

One person said all of the above and that person was Pablo Picasso who is seen as one of the greatest and most influential artists of the 20th century and who is also known as a co-founder of the Cubist movement. His comments about success leading to copying oneself is spot on. Bon Jovi re-wrote “Slippery When Wet” and called it “New Jersey”. Jovi and Sambora re-wrote “Living On A Prayer” and called it “Born To Be My Baby”, “Keep The Faith”, “It’s My Life”, “Bounce”, “We Aren’t Born To Follow” and so on.

Stryper re-wrote the “To Hell With The Devil” album and called it “In God We Trust”.

“Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery – celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: “It’s not where you take things from – it’s where you take them to”.

Film director Jim Jarmusch said the above and he is seen as one of the most ORIGINAL storytellers in the world of cinema.

Metallica took the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal to new heights.

All of the above sort of led me to Black Sabbath.

“Take a tune, sing high when they sing low, sing fast when they sing slow, and you’ve got a new tune.”

The above advice came from the experienced Woody Guthrie to a young Bob Dylan. And that is exactly what Black Sabbath did. They took the blues, distorted it even more, played it faster and sang it darker.

Now some might dispute this way of songwriting where an artist uses the structural template of older songs to create newer songs. And the funny thing is this, music progressed and developed through the ages because of this. The whole British blues rock invasion of the world happened because those artists copied, tweaked and reinvented blues classics. Prior to the recording industry, music mainly spread from performer to performer without any issue of copyright or licenses.

Music’s history is very much like any other form of creativity – influences and ideas are taken, reshaped and reinvented. All of that originality is simply reinterpretation.

But then came the Corporation and Copyright was remade so that others could get unearned income from someone else’s creations. In other words, enter the RECORD LABEL and the PUBLISHERS.

The lawmakers at the time were quite worried that extending copyright to sound recordings would stifle creativity and it could create monopolies, harm consumers, throttle innovation and competition. It is there to protect the profits of the record labels and the publishers, not the artists. Mitch Bainwol and Cary Sherman got paid in millions each year due to their involvement with the RIAA.

This is what Copyright has created. People getting paid so much more than the actual artists who created the works. Copyright law originally lasted for 14 years from production. In most parts of the world, Copyright is now life plus 70 years.

Jimi Hendrix has been dead for 44 hears and it looks like his music will not enter the public domain in my lifetime for others to build on and re-invent.

The rise of digital music, both pirated and legal, has led to a steep decline in revenues for artists yet there has been no decline in the amount of music being written and recorded. More people are making music now than in the pre-Napster era and that is all happening with piracy and copyright infringement being rampant.

Copyright needs a re-think and a re-write so that it benefits the artists again.

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

The Battle For Queensryche and other ramblings. And the winner is……

The key for all artists is to see if the product has traction. Is there a demand for it?

If it doesn’t get any traction and there is no demand for it, why are you spending dollars recording a slab of songs. Why do artists believe that just because they release an album people will invest in it. Red Dragon Cartel take note.

If artists want us fans to part with our money they need to get our attention with their product.

There are two Queensryche bands doing the rounds at the moment. The Geoff Tate version is on Cleopatra Records and the Todd LaTorre version is on Century Media Records.

Looking at YouTube it is clear to see who the winner is in this battle. The Todd LaTorre version has the following view counts;
Fallout (Official Video) – 147,958 views
Where Dreams Go To Die – 161,907 views
Redemption – 329,248 views

The Geoff Tate version has an official video up for the song “Cold” and it has 180,276 views.

It is obvious to see which artist is doing more to get the attention of fans. It looks like Geoff Tate still believes that if he releases an album, people will invest in it.

What about Spotify metrics? Who is the winner there?

The only new song in the Top 10 of streamed songs, is “Where Dreams Go To Die” from the Todd LaTorre version.

In relation to sales, the Todd LaTorre fronted Queensryche outsold Geoff Tate’s version. They more or less doubled it, however it pales significantly to the glory days of the Mindcrime, Empire and Promised Land era. Think 25,000 copies compared to 500,000 plus copies.

Of course, the argument of piracy will rear its head again, however tell that to Five Finger Death Punch, Volbeat, Shinedown and Avenged Sevenfold, who are all doing great numbers in physical sales. Tell that to Imagine Dragons who have spent over 12 months on the Billboard 200 charts and moved over 1.5 million copies of their Night Visions album in the U.S.

The “Radioactive” singe from Imagine Dragons and Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” were certified 6x multi-Platinum. That’s right people, those songs were downloaded six million times in the U.S. I am sure if either of the Queensryche bands released a song that connected and crossed over, they would have similar sales figures.

So is there a demand for two versions of Queensryche? The answer is NO. The demand is there for only Queensryche band to function and the fans have selected the Todd LaTorre version. Judgement will be against Geoff Tate.

Stryper recently released the excellent “No More Hell To Pay” album. The official video of “No More Hell To Pay” has 271,894 views on YouTube and the Dave Mustaine selected “Sympathy” video has 108,875 views on YouTube. A few months earlier they released “Second Coming”, a re-recording of their classic Eighties material along with a couple of new songs. It’s back to the Seventies model with two releases in a year. The first release was to test the waters and the second one was to capitalise.

Speaking of Dave Mustaine. Megadeth and Mr Dave have been blasted by fans for the Super Collider album. However looking at YouTube, the Super Collider single has 1,054,581 views. The Kingmaker video has 930,343 views.

Of course they are the two strongest songs on the album and it is fitting that those two songs get the attention. So is the new album a dud. As a slab of songs together, it is a dud, however in an individual song basis, Kingmaker and Super Collider can stand up with the rest of the Megadeth catalogue.

The demand is for great quality songs. Expect the diehards to purchase the album.

Also I am going on a limb here, however I will expect that the music business will undergo another revolution, one that will start replicating the tech model. There is one Google, one Amazon, one Facebook and so forth. Sure each of them have imitators that do have a market share, however only monoliths succeed.

In other words, if an artists mashes up different genres and creates something new, they will win. Once they start winning, other imitators will try to get a slice of your pie. Once that happens, said artist will continue to innovate and release great music.

That is why outliers are starting to win at the Top 40 game. Gotye, Lorde, Adele, Mumford and Sons, Imagine Dragons.

That is why outliers are winning in Heavy Metal.

Five Finger Death Punch where an outlier when they started. Once they started winning, other imitators tried to get a piece of their pie. What do FFDP do? They go away and release two albums 3 months apart.

Volbeat is another outlier. It wasn’t until 2012 that the band broke through in the U.S and now imitators are queuing up.

There is now a huge demand for Volbeat and the funny thing is, they have been at it since 1999. Grit and Roll all the way to the top.

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

A Day In The Life – Leaks and Sales with Dream Theater, Avenged Sevenfold, Coheed and Cambria, Five Finger Death Punch, Black Sabbath, Trivium, Stryper and Protest The Hero

In the lead up to the release of any widely sought after album there is one certainty. The album will leak ahead of its official release date.

So in order to circumvent this problem, artists (in conjunction with their backers/labels) are organising early stream deals of their new music (a legal way to say “album leak”).

Dream Theater and Roadrunner went all nuclear with their corporate deals for their self-titled album, which had sales on the board for the first 5 weeks and for the last 2 weeks – nothing. Since Roadrunner was cashed up due to the departure of Machine Head and Megadeth, they placed those extra dollars into Dream Theater. Was it a good investment?

Five Finger Death Punch on the other hand are doing it a touch different. They are doing all their pre-release streams, in conjunction with YouTube track by track stories of each song, along with promotional video clips plus live performances.

Avenged Sevenfold added a full live show of the “Hail To The King” album to their pre-album stream promotional campaign.

Trivium’s new album leaked a whole week before the actual pre-release stream of the album (and a full two weeks before their album came out). They kept on dropping songs in their set list’s and they also released full version streams of certain songs.

There is no sure-fire way to prevent leaks, however how an artist reacts is important.

The new Protest The Hero album leaked on Torrent Sites a week before it’s actual release date. So what did Protest The Hero do? They set up a fan connection, that allowed the fans that contributed to the making of the album to download it from a secure site. They made sure that the real fans had music in a high quality rip, along with a 50 page plus digital PDF and artwork. Then when they realised that ending of the song “Mist” was cut short in the download that they offered, they rectified it, by offering the song as a stand alone download.

Anyone who tries to stop a record from leaking is going against the way of the world.

The focus for the artist is to give the fans that legally pre-order an album access to it as soon as they are aware of the leak. This is hard when artists put all of this into the hands of the record label and the record label puts it all in the hands of brick and mortar stores, iTunes or Amazon.

Artists like Coheed and Cambria (via their http://modlife.com/coheedandcambria) website have a huge advantage over bands that continue to be ignorant as to who their fans are and in what cities their fans reside.

Protest The Hero now has a list of 8000 plus devotees that they can use to further their cause. They have their addresses, so they have an idea as to what cities and markets to hit. Other successful fan funded campaigners also have this advantage. You see the most important currency in 2013 is data.

As a band you would want to know which fans always order the Super Deluxe packs, which fans download your music, which fans stream your music and which fans purchase CD versions of the album. This is where the bands should be pushing the fans to purchase from their own web stores.

So looking at sales of music today how relevant are they. So many different metrics exist. Streaming, YouTube views, mp3 downloads and physical sales

Let’s look at the sales in the U.S of Dream Theater (by the way all sales figures are quoted from the excellent http://www.metalinsider.net website.

Week 1 – 2nd October 2013 – 33,950 sold
Week 2 – 9th October 2013 – 8,300 sold
Week 3 – 16th October 2013 – 4,275 sold
Week 4 – 23rd October 2013 – 2,950 sold
Week 5 – 30th October 2013 – 2,350 sold
Week 6 – 6th November 2013 – nothing reported
Week 7 – 13th November 2013 – nothing reported
Week 8 – 21st November 2013 – nothing reported

The above is a familiar cycle for Dream Theater with each album cycle. The numbers you could say have been pretty close with each album release since “Systematic Chaos.”

So is the new album a dud. From a record label point of view, I believe so. Roadrunner invested heavily in Dream Theater after they lost Machine Head and Megadeth. Has it paid off for them? I don’t believe so.

From a fan perspective, I don’t mind it, however it wasn’t good enough to take up room on my iPhone. The bizarre part in all of this is the gap between the album release and the tour beginning.

By January 2014, the album is old news. Whoever thought it was a good idea to leave a three-month gap between the album release date and the tour start date should be fired immediately.

Three months in the current music business is an eternity. It looks like Dream Theater is getting some bad advice and to be honest they are shooting themselves in the foot.

Dream Theater need to hit the studio again for December 2013 and release a few more songs as free digital downloads. Maybe even get in some outside assistance in editing the musical pieces into actual songs.

What about Avenged Sevenfold? How are they tracking at the moment?

Week 1 – 4th September 2013 – 159,375 sold
Week 2 – 12th September 2013 – 42,000 sold
Week 3 – 18th September 2013 – 22,900 sold
Week 4 – 25th September 2013 – 17,800 sold
Week 5 – 2nd October 2013 – 15,200 sold
Week 6 – 9th October 2013 – 13,700 sold
Week 7 – 16th October 2013 – 13,700 sold
Week 8 – 23rd October 2013 – 9,634 sold
Week 9 – 30th October 2013 – 8,750 sold
Week 10 – 6th November 2013 – 7,600 sold
Week 11 – 13th November 2013 – 7,325 sold
Week 12 – 21st November 2013 – 6,900 sold

Looks like Avenged Sevenfold are going to ensure their legacy. Call this album what we will, what is clear is that it is successful. It has high stream counts, high YouTube views and decent sales on the board. They are on the road at the moment supporting it.

Shows are being added into next year. It is obvious that Avenged Sevenfold are getting better advice than Dream Theater is.

With every successful act, the haters come out. A lot of the online news sites are trying to portray this imaginary war between Robb Flynn and Avenged Sevenfold. It is all a load of crap. Online news sites are there to sell advertising. They sell advertising by getting people to bite to the stories. To make up a feud between two different bands is an advertisers dreams.

The Avenged Sevenfold album sold more in week one than Dream Theater’s self-titled album will sell in total. In week 6, the Avenged Sevenfold album sold more than Dream Theater’s self-titled album which was in week 2 of its sale cycle.

What about Five Finger Death Punch? They just released the second part of “The Wrong Side Of Heaven and The Righteous Side Of Hell.” So how is Volume 1 going at the moment.

Week 1 – 7th August 2013 – 112,500 sold
Week 2 – 14th August 2013 – 35,275 sold
Week 3 – 21st August 2013 – 22,050 sold
Week 4 – 28th August 2013 – 17,250 sold
Week 5 – 4th September 2013 – 22,450 sold
Week 6 – 11th September 2013 – 13,375 sold
Week 7 – 18th September 2013 – 9,250 sold
Week 8 – 25th September 2013 – 8,200 sold
Week 9 – 2nd October 2013 – 6,975 sold
Week 10 – 9th October 2013 – 6,625 sold
Week 11 – 16th October 2013 – 5,900 sold
Week 12 – 23rd October 2013 – 5,575 sold
Week 13 – 30th October 2013 – 5,200 sold
Week 14 – 6th November 2013 – 4,675 sold
Week 15 – 13th November 2013 – 4,200 sold
Week 16 – 21st November 2013 – 4,950 sold

What can you say about Five Finger Death Punch. All of their releases so far have achieved Gold status in the U.S. They basically have been selling albums since 2007. “American Capitalist” was certified GOLD almost two years after its release and just a few months before the release of “The Wrong Side of Heaven” duology.

The albums have some great songs on there that will make the casual metal fan commit to a purchase and they will be in an enviable position of having two albums selling at the same time.

A recent Revolver cover is showing Black Sabbath along with the comment, “Band Of The Year.” Are they serious? The beauty of mainstream rags. They kiss the butt of the PR company. Five Finger Death Punch is the band of the year. Avenged Sevenfold is the band of the year. Coheed and Cambria is the band of the year. These three bands have done way more than what Black Sabbath have achieved this year. So how did they go with the sales?

Week 1 – 19th June 2013 – 154,900 sold
Week 2 – 26th June 2013 – 45,525 sold
Week 3 – 3rd July 2013 – 25,300 sold
Week 4 – 8th July 2013 – 7,875 sold
Week 5 – 17th July 2013 – 11,950 sold
Week 6 – 24th July 2013 – 9,950 sold
Week 7 – 31st July 2013 – 8,500 sold
Week 8 – 7th August 2013 – 7,875 sold
Week 9 – 14th August 2013 – 6,550 sold
Week 10 – 21st August 2013 – 5,500 sold
Week 11 – 28th August 2013 – 4,675 sold
Week 12 – 4th September 2013 – 4,600 sold
Week 13 – 11th September 2013 – 4,100 sold
Week 14 – 18th September 2013 – 3,100 sold
Week 15 – 25th September 2013 – 2,400 sold
Week 16 – 2nd October 2013 – 2,025 sold
Week 17 – 9th October 2013 – 2,100 sold
Week 18 – 16th October 2013 – 1,900 sold
Week 19 – 23 October 2013 – no sales recorded
Week 20 – 30th October 2013 – 1,900 sold
Week 21 – 6th November 2013 – no sales recorded
Week 22 – 13th November 2013 – no sales recorded
Week 23 – 21st November 2013 – no sales recorded

A 20 week run of sales is a good thing in today’s terms. Even on Spotify, the following songs have gotten some traction;
End Of The Beginning – 959,385 streams
God Is Dead? – 1,252,767 streams
Loner – 669,762 streams
Zeitgeist – 590,057 streams
Age of Reason – 540,630 streams

What about Trivium? How is another Roadrunner act doing? This is album number six for Trivium and it’s a similar cycle to their previous album “In Waves” and a very similar trend to Dream Theater’s.

Week 1 – 23rd October 2013 – 17,225 sold
Week 2 – 30th October 2013 – 4,400 sold
Week 3 – 6th November 2013 – 2,575 sold
Week 4 – 13th November 2013 – 2,100 sold
Week 5 – 21st November 2013 – no sales recorded

Wow, that was a quick spiral out of the public consciousness. Reading the reviews of the album, a lot of people are blasting the Draiman influence on it. But hey people blasted the Bob Rock influence on certain bands as well. The bottom line is that Trivium delivered a great album that no one has really heard.

Protest the Hero was recorded as having a debut week ending 6th November of 8,775 sold and it was the guys best debut of all their albums. Amazing what a little fan funding does. If the guys hold it together, bigger things will come to fruition.

What about Stryper? 2013 has been a huge year for them, with the release of their re-recorded greatest hits album earlier on in the year, along with a new album in November.

Week 1 – 13th November 2013 – 9,575 sold
Week 2 – 21st November 2013 – 4,300 sold

Listening to the album, Dave Mustaine was right. Sympathy is the best track on the album.

It’s a tough music market and the aim of each artist is to remain in the public eye. The modern paradigm is here today and gone tomorrow. Robb Flynn gets this. That is why his weekly Journals are important. It is keeping Machine Head in the public eye while they write and record their new album.

Sales are still relevant, however they are not the only metric in which an artist should measure success.

From all of the above, Five Finger Death Punch are doing great numbers however after listening to both Volumes, I easily could have come up with a song list for one album. The remainder of the songs could have been offered as free downloads on a monthly basis, which would always bring attention to the main product, the album. Think about that, they recorded 26 songs for the album. Just say they released 12 songs on an album. The leaves 14 months worth of songs to release and bring further attention to the album and the tour.

“A Day In The Life” is a great song from Volume 2 by the way. It’s melodic, heavy and it has a great vibe happening.

But wait, piracy exists. All of the above music can be downloaded for free. So why are people paying for it. They can even stream it for free. However for some reason people are paying for it. That is what the record labels and the RIAA will never understand. People will do what they want to do.

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A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories

The Unexpected Slow Metal Hit

We live in a world that is all about the NOW. Music quickly comes and it quickly goes. Look at all the Top 10 Lists or the Charts for each week and you will see that it is a different list each week. There is just so much new music coming out at the moment and people are just churning it up.

For example, I didn’t get a chance to get into the new Trivium album because a week later, I had the new Protest The Hero album and that has taken all of my attention.

However, there are always songs that sit on the outside. Songs that the artist or the band didn’t believe could be a “hit” (I use that term lightly) or a song that should be used as a promotion tool.

But they didn’t count on the fan choices. The fan that today has the power. The fan that could pick and choose what track they could listen too.

Killswitch Engage released “As Daylight Dies” in 2006 and it is there cover of “Holy Diver” that proved to be the sleeper hit. Don’t believe me, check out Spotify. it has 6,136,523 streams. Still don’t believe me, go on YouTube and you will see it has 9,013,222 views.

Alter Bridge released “One Day Remains” in 2004. “Open Your Eyes”, “Find the Real” and “Broken Wings” followed as promotional singles. However it was the metal heavy “Metalingus” and the moving ballad “In Loving Memory” that the fans selected as the hits. Don’t believe me, check out Spotify. “Metalingus” has 3,362,193 streams and “In Loving Memory” has 2,690,909 streams. Still don’t believe me, go on YouTube and you will see that “Metalingus” has over 5,500,000 views from all the combined channels and “In Loving Memory” has over 6,000,000 combined views.

In 2011 Trivium got blasted for the “In Waves” album, however the title track is their biggest so far. On Spotify “In Waves” the song has 3,038,061 streams. On YouTube, the Official Video on the Roadrunner Records channel has 3,423,215 views and a live version of the song on the Trivium Official channel has 2,767,455 views.

Volbeat broke through in the U.S on the back of “Still Counting”. The song was released in 2008 on the “Guitar Gangsters and Cadillac Blood” album and on 21 July 2012 “Still Counting” was the number-one song on the Billboard Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks US chart. Go on Spotify and it has been streamed 19,779,202 times. Go on YouTube and count the views from all the various channels. They add up.

Bullet For My Valentine led the promotional campaign for their “Temper Temper” album with the song “Riot”, however the fans didn’t care about that song as much as they cared about “Breaking Point” and “Tears Don’t Fall (Part 2)”.

As much as Dream Theater is trying to promote the current version of the band, they can’t escape their past. The Spotify Top 10 of Dream Theater has the 9 songs from the new self titled album (that proved to be a dud), plus “On The Backs Of Angels” from the previous album. However if you go on YouTube the fans don’t care about the new album currently. “Wither”, “Pull Me Under” and “Another Day” still get the attention.

This is very different to Avenged Sevenfold, who have people very interested in their new album. In addition, all the other media outlets and bands that are talking about the album, all they are doing is adding to the legend of it. Hail To The King I say. “Shepherd Of Fire” is doing the rounds on my iPod.

Protest The Hero have led the promotional campaign of their new album “Volition” with “Clarity”, “Drumhead Trail” and “Underbite” however, it is “Mist” and “Skies” that is getting the conversation.

The market place today isn’t about the hit song now. It is about new songs vs old songs. Metal and rock songs are always late bloomers. There is no formula as to why certain songs resonate more than others with fans.

I like the story about how Dave Mustaine assisted Stryper in selecting their lead off single from the “No More Hell To Pay” album. They had a different song choice for the lead single and changed their minds after they had a chat with the Megadeth front man. Dave told them that his favourite track is “Sympathy”. This made Michael Sweet change his mind for the lead off single. That track is listed as Number 11 on the album and to be honest it is a kick arse song.

Sure, back in the day when the record labels ruled, they would employ a scorched earth policy to market a band and the lead off single and naturally we would bite as we had the time to invest and there was nothing really else out there.

YouTube and Spotify play a big part today in transforming a song into a phenomenon. Television also plays it’s part. Look at all the hit shows and they all have a section where a certain song plays and it conveys the emotion of the scene that no other music can.

Sons Of Anarchy comes to mind here, especially at the end of Season 2, when the song “Hands In The Sky (Big Shot)” from Straylight Run played in the epic last 5 minutes of the final episode.

Look at what Breaking Bad did for “Baby Blue” by Badfinger.

My wife was a fan of Grey’s Anatomy and because of that show she got into Snow Patrol (“Chasing Cars”) and The Fray (“How to Save a Life”).

In the end all artists need to do is create great music. The fans will latch onto it eventually.

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