Faxing, stapling, press conferences, the lot. It’s a never ending schedule of bleak meetings and tedious administrative paper work that needs completing to a precise, drawn out quota. If I had said that back in the 1970’s, you’d probably struggle to believe me when I say that the music industry was being sucked bone dry by corporate lunacy, and no one can get a break anymore. How badly is the music ‘business’ being effected by this money orientated puppetry.
I don’t understand it at all. Nothing can be said to make the soul-crushing, asperous reality that new bands are struggling to get a break nowadays. Calling it difficult to find the time, money and right sound to prize your way into one of the most elusive and alluring professions existent on out planet today. As a group, you can do everything absolutely right and still end up a million miles away from your ultimate aspirations and dreams. And, sadly, this is a fact that is now acknowledged by the masses, which makes the needling puncture all the more bitter.
Bassist of Chippenham post-indie rock foursome Aztec Sam Wozniak let his thoughts known to me about this very matter, in a small interview I conducted with him earlier in the week. As a member of a band that has wide recognition over Chippenham; which is creeping it’s way into the back streets of the Bristol music scene and even smearing over into London, Sam knows the frustration and neglect of trying to break through the industrial music hymen. Sam and his band Aztec were asked to play a set at a small venue in London called The Purple Turtle for Birth Records a few months ago, but they were sadly removed from the bill due to a certain ‘administrative issues’. “They said we couldn’t play because we weren’t 18”. Tragically, Sam isn’t joking. As the venue held a license to sell alcohol, they weren’t happy having a band play that might consume alcohol when bellow the legal drinking age. In legality terms, fair enough. In the even more complex terms of rock and roll, are you being serious? To my annoyance at Sam’s story, he went on to explain even more farcical conditioned they had to match if they were going to play. “The events manager at Purple Turtle told us on the phone they we had to bring at least thirty-five people with us”. This is one of the final straws.
Now, if you are a thirty year old man with a desk job and a rosy cheeked, organic wife who makes jam and packs your lunch every morning, you can easily clip on your stripy silk tie and hop on the train to London. When you are sixteen, seventeen or even eighteen, it’s not as simple as that. In the back pocket of his functionalist working man lies a wallet spilling out ten pound notes like they were morning-after pills at the local GP’s. All that lies in the pocket of the scruffy young teenager is half a packet of air-waves and a Durex condom. So for Aztec, bringing thirty-five fans isn’t as easy was assumed by the administrators behind the gig at Purple Turtle.
I feel a great deal of accord for Aztec, there case stands out in a very personal level. Knowing the band and it’s collective members quite well, it’s hard to see where they have gone wrong. Because simply they haven’t gone wrong at all. They’ve spent way more money than a student makes in months on recording two sublime post-indie tracks ‘Palms’ and ‘Aperture’, they’ve gone from playing at The Old Road Tavern in Chippenham to playing at Proud Camden in London, as well as being lined up to playing at the Fleece in Bristol next month. Writing, working and performing their fingers to the bone, their efforts go unjust and unrewarded.
Things ever used to be this depressingly formal, organised and anal. Back in the 1970’s, if you wanted to start a band you just threw caution to the wind and did it. You never needed to spend money on equipment, recordings or even to find a small slot to play at your local pub or club. In the smokey, working class says of The Sex Pistols, The Buzzcocks and Joy Division, just to name a few, objectives presented themselves in a less distorted and simpler fashion. Bands like The Buzzcocks would have gone to the land lord at their local pub, asked them to play and that would be that. No contracts would be signed, no phone calls would be made and no arses would be kissed.
As a writer and a concupiscent listener of music, I’m feeling just as compressed and indisposed of as Aztec and the rest of the dampened musical followings. Artists shouldn’t need forty thousand public views on YouTube to be recognised, nor should they be poked, prodded and stripped of their integrity by spider-like fingers of the suit wearing cog turners that flood money through the funnels that barely keep the music industry running.
Peeling the skins away, and digging behind the pragmatics of what I’ve been ranting about simply condenses down to what I believe is the only option. And I don’t think that this article should extinguish any creative fire that you own, but it should ignite it even further. To be honest, nothing is ever completely water tight. There is always a way in, and if you can find it, take it. No matter what happens, the existence of the small independent band will never die.