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

It’s Not The Media’s Job To Keep Artists In The Public Eye. The Difference Between The Past and The Present.

By September 1986, Yngwie Malmsteen had released Trilogy. As a solo artist that was his third long player in the same amount of years. In total, if you include the Steeler and Alcatrazz releases, that made it six long players in four years. You see, back in the Eighties, it was all about the music. That was the only way that artists could get traction back then. It was Malmsteen’s job to keep himself in the public eye.

So what has changed in 2013. Nothing really. It still is about the music. This is what every artist should be doing in this day and age. Releasing music and doing it frequently.

A big difference between the Eighties and Now is the label support. Back in the Eighties, a label would front the money for recording and tour support, with a view to recoup those monies through sales of the long players. It was a deal stacked in the record labels favour. Today, the labels are all about the safe bet, so even though the recording costs are at super lows, it is expected that the artists would front this cost.

Continuing with the Malmsteen example, he released “Odyssey” in 1988 with Joe Lynn Turner on vocals. The album became Malmsteen’s most successful album of his career. As soon as he became commercially successful, he fired the singer and started over again.

When shredding and neo-classical went out of fashion in the record label controlled U.S market, Malmsteen still forged a successful career in Europe and Japan during the 1990’s. He remained true to himself and he never sold out to cash in. People might disagree with his comments, I sure do, however when everyone is trying so hard to be liked by all, fans never really get to see the artist beneath the silt.

The world is going through a revolution and it is all about intelligence. That is why when an artist makes a remark, one side of the Internet calls it uneducated. That is why people jumped on Malmsteen’s remarks about piracy.

However it’s not about winning every time. The metal record labels and the artists they sign are still clueless. If the first album is not a success, the label just lets them go. They are playing it safe. What the labels should be doing is allowing the artist they sign to take multiple chances. The artist is not going to take risks if they have only one chance with the Record Label.

That is why all the risk takers in metal music are the outliers, the DIY’ers. Then when they break through, the majors come knocking. Look at the Djent movement. It started in forums and soundboards back in 2004 and just kept on growing. By 2009, most of the labels had a Djent artist on their roster.

Look at Machine Head during 2002 and 2003, financing their own sessions and recording of “Through The Ashes of Empires.” When the album started to get traction, Roadrunner U.S came knocking again.

Look at the TV networks from the Eighties. You had 3 to 4 networks, and they all played it safe. In 2013, you have hundreds of TV channels, all looking for an edge. They are all looking for content, and they are giving cash to talented people to deliver. Netflix is a perfect example of taking risks with innovation and content.

If the record labels want listeners, they need to let artists push the envelope and try some stuff out.

If an artist wants listeners, they need to understand that there is just too much information out there. That is why there are over 4 million songs on Spotify that haven’t even been heard yet. No matter how big a story artists have, they will be pulled under by all the information coming down the cyber pipeline, if their music is not great.

Suddenly the album that the artist worked so hard for is in the rear view mirror, 3 to 4 weeks after it’s been released. The only way that sales and charts matter today, is that it shows all the new product released. That is what the public wants. Something new.

Here today, gone tomorrow. Artists need to create constantly now. That’s the only way you can stay in the public eye, in people’s minds. Robb Flynn is doing this with his journals while the world waits for the album. An artist doesn’t want to be forgotten and the album format unfortunately works against the artist today. Somehow other musicians just don’t know it. They want someone else to do the work for them. They don’t want to try new ways and the new way is to bond with the fans. Robb Flynn gets it.

It’s not the media’s job to keep him in the public eye, it’s HIS!

The number one thing a fan wants is more music by their favourite act.

Dream Theater released an album for a new audience. It is the only thing that John Petrucci talked about. “If someone is hearing the band for the first time” was the catch cry in all the press releases. Forget about the new audience, focus on the old. The old will sell the artist to the new. It’s done through music and connection.

If the artist thinks that they gain traction by hanging with the record label, then they are idiots. They are better off blogging, responding on Facebook, spreading news on Twitter. However, there is a still a misconception that getting your story in the newspaper or in the magazines is a sign of traction. Forget that. When a magazine comes out with a three-month lead time, it’s already old news. The magazine is dead on arrival. No one cares about the stories written by the PR/marketing team of the artist.

The way I see it, if an artist is making an album-length statement, they need to have a story or a concept around it. Otherwise ten tracks strung together is not a concept. If you look at society in general, there is almost no place to buy a CD. The world is moving to streaming. Via mp3’s, people will still download/ cherry pick their favourites and there is nothing that artists can do about it.

Nikki Sixx asked his fans to immerse themselves in the whole album experience. In order for them to do, the album needs to be phenomenal, otherwise the fans will just cherry pick the great and leave the rest to be.

We live in a direct to consumer society. Amazon and Google get it. Some artists get it. What about the rest?

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Music, Uncategorized

Guitar World – January – 1986

Guitar World – 1986 – January

I was unpacking boxes and I came across all of my Guitar World magazines, Guitar for the Practicing Musician which morphed into just Guitar, Guitar School, Guitar One, Guitar Player, Total Guitar, Guitarist, Australian Guitar and Guitar Player.

This was the first Guitar World magazine I purchased.  I remember purchasing it from the newsagency, bringing it home and slowly taking it out of the plastic.  I remember turning the pages over as delicate as a heart surgeon.   This was all I had back in 86, apart from a tape of Twisted Sister’s Stay Hunger, Van Halen’s 1984, Bruce Springsteen’s – Born In The USA and Motley Crue’s Shout At The Devil.  I also had some seven inch singles from my brothers that had Kiss – I Was Made for Loving You and Hard Times as its B Side.

It had Yngwie Malmsteen on the cover.   I don’t know why I purchased this edition as at that time I didn’t even know who Yngwie was or how he sounded.  However I was starting to get into guitars and the magazine was called Guitar World.

There was a small piece in a section called The Whammy Bar, which stated that Billy Sheehan will be joining David Lee Roth on his new solo project and that DLR is also trying to get Yngwie Malmsteen in there.  Here is the connection for me as I knew who DLR was from Van Halen.  This alone made me interested in seeking out the music from Malmsteen.

Who would have thought how interconnected Malmsteen and Steve Vai where at that time.  Talk about six degrees of separation.  So Malmsteen came to America and played in a hard rock band called Alcatrazz.  When he left that band to do Rising Force, Alcatrazz hired Steve Vai as his replacement.  DLR is looking at putting a new band together post Van Halen and Malmsteen is sought out, however it is Vai that gets the job.

Then I read the Malmsteen interview.

“I’d rather have people dislike my style than change it,” he says. “If someone says, ‘Hey, Yngwie, you play too damn much’ –- I don’t care. The way I play is the way I like to play. If people like it – great.  If they don’t, it’s still fine with me.”

I think 27 years on; it’s safe to say that Yngwie didn’t conform to any record label standard.   I have listened to every album he has produced and while quite a few became a yawn fest and a waste of time I will never get back, he never gave in and he never sacrificed his ideals to please the  corporate empires.  For any guitarist or musician coming out, this should be your motto especially when you have musicians from ‘successful ‘ groups departing and issuing comments like this (from Adam Gontier – ex Three Days Grace vocalist);

“The music BUSINESS.  Remember this people…, in my/our case; it’s always been about the “business”.  The money.  What about the love for creating real music from the heart?  Where did that fit in? Pretty much nowhere.  No room for music from the heart, when it’s just about music for the radio.”  

You can safely say that Malmsteen has always been about the music.

It’s okay to have haters.  You cannot please everyone.  However as soon as you lose what made you special in the first place, you are the same as everyone else.

“I’ve always sacrificed things in order to become the best musician I could be. “

Malmsteen dropped out of school at 15, got a job working in a guitar shop which further developed his skills (being able to play is one thing, however knowing your equipment and knowing how it all hangs together is another).  How many kids these days drop out of school at 15?  Why would they?  Isn’t it better to get an education and even go to Uni/College so that there is something to fall back on?

“If guitar players just listen to other guitar players it’s almost impossible to avoid sounding like them,” says Malmsteen, who acknowledges only Jimi Hendrix and Ritchie Blackmore as guitar influences.”

Isn’t that so true.  Look at all the metal guitarists around today, they can do all the guitar tricks from so many different styles, all packaged into one.  Malmsteen sweeps, Van Halen taps, Al DiMeola alternate picking, Steve Morse string skipping, John Petrucci legato, Randy Rhoads modal theories, and so on.  The ones that truly stand out are the ones that do it a touch differently.  Disturbed is a prime example that comes to mind of this where guitar and drums where one.  The guitar acted like a percussion instrument.  Great music can be born out of the syncopation of drums and guitar.

“It’s also important to me that what I play fast will also sound good if the same notes are played at a slower speed. I play classical runs, arpeggios and broken chords that if played at a slower speed would sound very nice as well. “

Has anyone ever done it?  I have.  I remember taking Trilogy Suite and playing it at 100bpm instead of the 200 bpm it is supposed to be.

“Anyone who’s witnessed Malmsteen on stage knows he is an intensely exciting performer. Most guitarists with mind-boggling technique are actually quite boring in concert, but Malmsteen manages to impress as well as entertain. He is always in constant motion, whether playing his Strat with his teeth or effortlessly twirling it around his body.”

This is a general rule for every musician.   The definition of musician also takes in the definition of performer.  You need to deliver the goods live and make it exciting.  You need to make the kids want to be you, you need to inspire the almost there musicians to be you and you need to leave the mouths wide open of seasoned musicians.   Otherwise the million plus other musicians will come along and push you aside.

“Much hard work, of course, has gone into honing his style.  “I’ve been playing constantly since the age of eight,” says the twenty-two-year-old guitarist.”

Yes that’s right, Malmsteen was 22 in 1986.  He came to the U.S in 1983 as a 19 year old.   This is what kids need to realise.  It takes time.  Nothing happens overnight.  You need to be in it for the long haul.  In the case of Malmsteen, he came to the US and joined Steeler and then Alcatrazz.  Both bands where stepping stones.

Would Led Zeppelin have been so great if they formed in 1964 or 1966?  Would Jimmy Page write the songs he did if he didn’t do time with the Yardbirds and the British studio scenes.

Would Metallica be where they are if they kept their original bassist and never hired Cliff Burton?   Would they have written Master of Puppets if Dave Mustaine was still in the band?

Basically it was a long road to success once upon a time and that hasn’t changed in the current internet era.  Even someone like PSY had put in time before he went viral.  His first album was released in 2001.  It wasn’t until 2011 that the world knew who he was and that was achieved without the traditional mainstream press and radio.

Even though the news carriers publicise the one in a million stories of people found and made into overnight sensations, there are still a billion of other artists still paying their dues.

“I’ve always been aware of recording techniques,” he says, “and I’ve always felt I could do a better job than an outside producer because they obviously don’t know the songs as well as I do.  I mean, I don’t think a painter would do the background and let someone else finish the rest of the painting.”

The musician definition just keeps on growing.  You create, you perform, you know your gear and tweak it to suit, you practice your art, you record your own music, you produce it and release it.  With the internet and advancements of technology, every musician should be doing the above.

 “Malmsteen’s desire to do it all obviously puts a lot of weight on his shoulders. Will he keep a clean head and progress? Or will he get caught up in the rabid attention he’s been getting and stagnate? The answers to these questions will prove if Malmsteen becomes the legendary guitarist he is so capable of becoming.”

The magazine came out in January 1986.  Malmsteen was promoting Marching Out which came out October 1985.  In September of 86 he released Trilogy.  Three albums in three years as a solo artist.  In total if you include Steeler and Alcatrazz releases that is six releases in four years.

Remember Malmsteen’s motto, it’s all about the music.  Keep on pumping the music boys and girls, that is how it was done back in the day so that artists could get traction and that is how it should be done in this day and age.  Six album releases in four years.  A total of 50 songs over a 48 month (as one Alcatrazz album was a live release).

A song a month should be the aim of every artist as a minimum.

Did Malmsteen become the legendary guitarist?  My view is YES.  He released Odyssey in 1988 with Joe Lyn Turner which became Malmsteen’s most successful album of his career and the one where you could have questioned if he was becoming another record label slave.  Remember his motto, its all about the music and the very commercial sounding Joe Lynn Turner was fired.

Did he maintain his legendary status?  My view is YES.  When shredding and neo-classical became out of fashion in the record label controlled U.S Malmsteen still forged a successful career in Europe and Japan during the 1990’s.  He never gave in to suit a flavour of the year style.  He remained true to himself and that to me is the sign of a legend.

Yes there are stories of his ego, his erratic behaviour, his fury (remember the plane incident) and his controlling manner however he never gave away himself, he never sold out to cash in.  As soon as he became commercially successful, he fired the singer and started a new again.

I remember reading in Metal Edge or another music rag sometime during the mid 90’s that Malmsteen and Ronnie James Dio ended up getting together to write some songs or where going to get together to form a supergroup.  I don’t know how true that is and what happened to the music they created.

Other guitarists mentioned in the magazine where Spacey T. from the band Sound Barrier, Kazumi Watanabe, George Thorogood, John Martyn, Lonnie Mack, Steve Stevens, Dave Meniketti and Al Di Meola.  But that is for another day.

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