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

The Goal Is To Get People To Believe What You Believe

Ask any artist why they didn’t get more recognised, or signed and the answers are variations of the same three things;

– Lack of support
– Didn’t have the right people involved
– Wrong place, wrong time

Ask any record label A&R rep why the act they signed didn’t achieve worldwide domination and you will hear the same three things. If the three excuses for not making it sound familiar, then they should as they are derivative versions of Simon Sinek’s failure reasons from his TED talk. The music world is littered with these kinds of examples. Let’s go back to the Eighties.

Steve Howe left ASIA at the peak of their commercial success to form GTR in 1984. It was a big budget band that Clive Davis from ARISTA touted as the next big thing. It had all the right people in place. The band was well-connected and they had access to funds and support. Apart from Steve Howe on guitar, the band also had Jonathan Mover on drums, Steve Hackett on guitars, Phil Spalding on bass and Max Bacon on vocals. The market conditions were favourable and the timing was perfect. After spending millions on the over produced debut album, it was a commercial disappointment when compared to ASIA’s multi-platinum success.

Nobody knows, anymore, that a band called GTR even existed.

What about Steve Stevens Atomic Playboys?

He had the big backers in Warner Bros Records. He had a talented front man in Perry McCarty. All the right people were in place. Ted Templeman and Beau Hill assisted with the production. Thommy Price and Anton Fig drummed on the album. The market conditions in 1989 suited hard rock music to a tee. The album comes out and disappears as quickly as it was released. Steve Stevens later would refer to this band as an expensive project. Personally I think the album is very good, however the general public at large just didn’t connect with it. Another commercial failure.

What about the band Tangier?

So the story goes something like this. Jon Bon Jovi after his multi-platinum success convinces Polygram to sign Cinderella. Cinderella also strike it big and Tom Keifer then convinces Derek Schulman from ATCO to sign Tangier. Super producer Andy Johns (RIP) was on hand to produce. They had a good band and in Doug Gordon a very compenent and underrated guitarist. They delivered a classic rock AOR album in “Four Winds”. I loved it. The market conditions suited. The funding was there. And it failed commercially.

What about Lynch Mob?

Like Steve Stevens before him, George Lynch left the band that brought his name to the masses. In this case it was Dokken. Elektra bidded to retain his services and proceeded to pay over a million dollars to first get the band members in place and then to get “Wicked Sensation” written, recorded and distributed. So the band had the right support and the funding. George Lynch said in the October 1989 issue of Guitar World that the toughest thing about forming Lynch Mob was finding a great lead singer because that either makes or breaks a band. So it is safe to say that all of the right people were in place within the band. They had a super experienced producer in Max Norman. The songs were perfect. A bit more blues based than the Dokken output but still of high quality. I loved the album. The market conditions suited them. Hell, it was 1989, the era of Hard Rock. And the band still failed commercially.

What about the band Nitro?

Michael Angelo Batio had the endorsements, the quad guitars, instructional videos, a plethora of support  and a banshee vocalist in Jim Gillette. Check out the Guitar World review from October 1989 by Joseph Bosso.

“This album is a wonder – a wonder that anybody thought these guys could play or sing, that they looked good, that they deserved a gig, studio time or worse yet a record deal (with Rampage/Rhino). Utter trash. The worst.”

And of course that band also failed. And yes, I agree totally with the review. That album was pure garbage.

The thing is this. The people who believed in the artists above did it just for the pay check. And it failed to pay off.

While in Seattle, a movement was growing who didn’t have any of the ingredients for success. They had a small local independent record label that supported them and that was it. But those artists were not driven by the RICHES. And we found out years later about the Seattle scene when everyone jumped on its bandwagon.

And to show that so many artists/record label execs of the Eighties were not in the music business for the right thing, the day that Grunge broke out to the masses so many rockers got dropped or just quit. Music is more than just the song. It is about the lifestyle as well. The heavy metal movement morphed into the hard rock movement and its roots/fan base came from the industrial heartlands of the developed economies. At one stage it was a lifestyle to be a metal head. The record labels took that lifestyle away with their overproduced pop metal bullshit and of course we watched it die a horrible death from over saturation.

Be in the game to create masterpieces. That is how you build a body of work. One song at a time. Don’t over analyse what you do as there is no formula for what connects and what doesn’t. You just need to have to right reasons to be in place for why you want to be a musician.

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Copyright, Music, My Stories

Words of Wisdom from Chris DeGarmo

Chris DeGarmo always interviewed well. At times he was cautious with his words and no matter how hard the interviewer tried to get him to slip up, he always put up a front of unity within the band.

DeGarmo (in 1994 doing interviews for the Promised Land record)

“I like to think of our song writing as people that soak in life and turn around and express it through our music. You have to take time to absorb life to be able to let it breath through your work. You can just hammer out music like you do boxes of soap but I can’t do it that way.”

(The Crossroad’s Edge… Chris Degarmo AOL Interview, http://personalpages.tds.net/~dreemland/tce/chrisint.html)

Chris is talking about his song writing, however he frames the answer in the context of the band, so that if the band members read it, they will be pleased. It is our song writing and our music and then right at the end he contradicts himself, by saying I.

Artists that create songs from their experiences end up having a career. These artists are the anomalies, the paradigm shifters. Look at artists like Dee Snider, Nikki Sixx, James Hetfield, Brent Smith, etc.. They all write about their experiences. What they have experienced, someone else has experienced. Straight away a connection is made. That is why We’re Not Gonna Take It connected and Hot Love didn’t. Both are great songs, however We’re Not Gonna Take It is about as real as you can get, where as Hot Love is about a fantasy relationship.

Queensryche connected with people on Mindcrime, because they had a good story accompanied by great music and melody. People always love a good story. That is why we read books and watch TV shows and movies.

Copycat artists fail. When Guns N Roses came out in 1987, a million other artists came out with a similar look and sound. Even bands that where around changed their styles to suit the GNR sound.

Does anyone remember bands like Skin N Bones, Junkyard, Love/Hate, Shotgun Messiah, Spread Eagle, LA Guns, Danger Danger, Tangier, Faster Pussycat and Saigon Kick? I do and that is because I have all of their albums.

Artists that sing songs written by committees, will have instant fame. There is no doubt about that. This is the corporatisation part of the music industry. The labels that control the charts want that to happen. The label business is all about making money today. The labels are not interested in building a career for their artist. The mainstream press will see these artists as champions. However it doesn’t last. People these days can see that there is no substance and integrity to what they are doing. Everyone that hangs around to be with the star of the moment will abandon them.

Artists that write songs with the thought of being paid straight away will never achieve anything. Creating music is never a dollar driven game. The below quote from DeGarmo sums it up.

DeGarmo (in 1990 on life after Mindcrime and before Empire came out);

“It starts dawning on you that this can actually be lucrative, which is something that has escaped us for so long”.

(Guitar World – Nov 1990)

This is around the time that Empire came out. They have been at it for nine years. Creating albums and touring. The fantasy put out there by the press, is that these artists are loaded. However that is so far from the truth. The record labels are loaded. They make all the money from the sales of recorded music. That is why the RIAA is shaking down sharers and trying to get legislation passed to bring back the glory days. Real artists, that are in the game to create music, remain silent. They just go about their life, creating and building connections and trying to force another paradigm shift.

DeGarmo (in 1997 – doing press for Hear In The Now Frontier and asked about the writing process)

As a songwriter, I think you have to be true to yourself first, and I think we’ve done that, and by doing that, we’ve been able to find other people who are interested in what it is we do, as opposed to at some point changing the strategy all of a sudden and creating albums based on what we think other people think we should do. That gets you into this terrible house of mirrors, and you can’t find your way back.

(Scream.org – Dan Birchall)

DeGarmo sums up my point of view. The reason why the fans came to Queensryche is because they remained true to themselves as artists. By doing that, they found other people (fans) that connected with them. We love a good old story. These days even reality TV shows have scriptwriters. So when a song tells a story, it is magic. When an album tells a story, it is priceless. Operation Mindcrime (the album) told a story. Empire had songs that told stories. Promised Land had songs that told stories and it had a theme of disconnection running through it.

No one should create an album just to please the label bosses. It always ends bad.

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