Tuesday, March 9, 2010

On Being Inexcusably Clown-Ass or TL;DR

For those who spend a lot of time reading on the internet but pretend reading is painful, there are youtube videos at the end of this for you to skip to.

I'd like everyone to take a listen to the following: http://www.43folders.com/2010/01/26/godin-linchpin
It's the author Seth Godin talking with some internet goblin about the role of your reptile brain in your daily life. Essentially, your lizard brain has you poised for fight or flight at all times, including in social situations and even self-expression. As a band, we always wonder about grown men/women we see playing the same shit as other grown men/women. We generally call them coward-ass and move on to the free meal. But we always sort of suspected there was a deeper psychological reason for the lack of originality. As it turns out, it's physiological. Your reptile brain, seemingly superfluous at this point in civilized man's evolution, actually still has a very active role in your decision making. Your fear of criticism is so fundamentally tied to your sense of self-preservation, that your sympathetic nervous system, the part of the brain responsible for what we call fight or flight, supersedes your thinking brain. For that time, you are not what we'd call a "man."

Loss of acceptance among your peers is what motivates you to play the same boring horseshit. It's what keeps you from putting yourself out there as an actual artist. This is responsible for the myopic version of zeitgeist we see every year as we tour. One year, everyone sounds like Isis, the next year we come through and those same people have now made a band that sounds like Modern Life is War. Or vice versa. I can't remember the order. But before you start feeling defensive and lash out at me (that's your lizard brain at work again, fyi) it needs to be understood that, yes, no band is original, and yes, my band is nothing more than the sum of its influences. That said, there is a difference between reflecting what you love and plainly dickriding what is popular at the moment. Which one are you doing?

Please spare me the look-how-in-the-know-I-am comments, by skipping this next portion if you think you know everything about everything and taking 2min out of your life is something you're going to pretend is important. Before we start, yes, we all know the music industry is sleazy. I never really understood how repulsive it was until I got closer to it.

I'm currently in LA and for those (like me) who are unfamiliar with how this music thing works outside of VFW halls and $200 room rentals at local bars, this shit is a head trip. Some of my friends came out here and made a nice life for themselves in music. Some work in booking, others in A&R, and a few in management. They've introduced me to other people I now call friends and now I have a network of friends who do something I find appalling. All day they are buying and selling bands as a commodity. It becomes second nature to gauge things only by their earnings potential. If you offer, "Man, that's cool that they pay your bills, but that band is unlistenable" you don't get back an honest "Yeah, they're cool dudes though" or a heartfelt "I know people aren't into it, but I love it." What you get, uniformly, is "Whaaat?! Kids go crazy for it!" or "Do you know how many records they sell?!" That is the defense. Never does the quality of the product come up. Ever.

One of these friends is a supernaturally honest person. He will unflinchingly tell me he doesn't give a fuck what a band sounds like, provided they are handsome and can create a story around themselves. A band recently came into his office and was very enthusiastically talking about the music they'd be writing. He stopped them, said "Cool. I don't have an opinion on that. I need you to make a Twitter account." He said they withered in front of him, but he didn't have the heart to lie to them.

Now, whenever I see a band crybabying about how they aren't being recognized and only the "phony" bands "make it" I have to cringe. It reeks so badly of jealousy from people who are unwilling to do what they have to do to achieve their goals. The other kind of coward. It's like listening to a girl who has nothing to do with another girl, call her names like "slut." Clearly, she is jealous of the other girl's fearlessness and everyone can see it. So please, understand, I'm not sitting here looking for sympathy or extolling my band as the sole arbiters of what's "genuine." I'm just narrowing this conversation so we can discuss the real matter:

You are either an artist or you are a success. Your efforts to be both are puzzling and make me wonder if you eat food while sitting on the toilet. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with either ambition, provided you take ownership of it and make no excuses. If you believe yourself an artist, it's time you started acting like one and stopped aping bands that are already successful. This doesn't make you clever, it makes you capable of the same type of rudimentary pattern recognition we see displayed by crows. If you want to be successful, it's time you stopped apologizing for it and shed the pretense of artistry. Life as we know it will be coming to a skidding halt shortly, so get what you want while you can.