I've been so damn busy lately that I haven't had time for Website (or lawn, laundry, house, car) maintenance, much less a newsletter! Thanks for your patience, I'm still very much here. A bunch of unrelated things this time... if this seems a bit scattered it's because that describes my current state of mind. More coherence next time.
Recently completed the second album for Seattle's Murder City Devils, for Sub Pop. First Ten Minute Warning, now this! Imagine Sub Pop putting out (punk) rock records again! Gives me a warm feeling inside. This record puts the last MCD record to shame; I'm curious to see how it is recieved. The Makers new record on Estrus is out, to rave reviews so far... and I have a copy of the new Methodists CD here too...
The other day I recieved a slip of paper with, handwritten: "Party: Methodists record release with Bell. Loft - free beer - no door. Start 10 pm" with an address in the Seattle industrial district. Sounded pretty promising, even though I don't drink. (Like I always say, leaves more for everybody else. Cheers!) Found my way there and actually saw my first Methodists show. (I don't get out much, I'm always locked in these strange windowless buildings with bad air conditioning.) For those who have not been paying attention to Seattle minutiae, this is the band which includes good old Chad Channing (ex-Nirv) on drums, as well as Dan who used to play bass with Chad in the Fire Ants, another band I recorded way back when. Part way through the set, Chad and one of the guitarists switched roles, and Chad sang and played guitar on several tunes, as he does on some songs on their self-released CD which I mastered recently. (Only mastered it; Kip Beelman at AVAST! did a fine job with the recording and mixing of it. It rocks, and it, uh, pops too.) Next up was Bell, also celebrating their EP release and just returned from a 7-week US tour. Nothing like a tour to tighten up a band, I always say - phew! They smoked through a set of old and new, and boldly pulled off a cover of the old Television song "Friction", for which they deserve mega-points for sheer audacity.
Mark Lanegan (Screaming Trees singer) has completed his third solo record, and it will be released on Sub>Pop very soon. Haven't heard it yet.
Seattle's C/Z records (run by Daniel House, ex-Skin Yard and Ten Minute Warning bassist) is back in operation after a period of bad breaks. To quote from a recent Article in Seattle music paper The Rocket, the label "...recently signed a joint-venture deal with New York-based AAM, Never Records Group and Proper Sales and Distribution. In addition to handling new releases, Never Records will also be reissuing a sizeable portion of C/Z's back catalogue, which includes records by such artists as Built to Spill, 7 Year Bitch, the Gits, Treepeople and Silkworm." One new release will be a new Love Battery album, with Dan Peters and Jason Finn sharing drum duties; Daniel says it's their best since "Dayglo". I'll keep you informed as other things develop; lots of people have been asking me what's up with C/Z, so now we know.
Daniel says he wants to go ahead with the release of the Skin Yard rarities album "Start at the Top", so I have been remastering all the stuff from the various original master tapes for the past week. We just have to put our heads together on various details. This album is actually better than a couple of our regular studio albums, oddly enough.
Those of you interested in the convoluted business dealings of the Music Biz may be aware of what we call the Big Six record conglomerates: Warner Brothers (Elektra/Atlantic/etc), Sony (Columbia/Epic), Universal/MCA (owned by Seagrams), EMI/Capitol, Phonogram/Polygram/Mercury, and German-based BMG (owners of RCA). Latest stockholder-pleasing shenanigans have Seagrams buying Polygram for over 10 BILLION dollars, after which the Universal/MCA and Polygram operations will be merged into a super-company already being referred to in the press as "Unigram". So if any of you are currently negotiating a major label deal with either of the two companies, I'd advise extreme caution: as sure as rain falls from the sky, there will be a wave of firings and job reassignments, and whoever signs you might just dissappear. Yeah, I know, this never happens in the music biz, does it???
The June issue of Musician magazine (a mag I heartily recommend) has a great story with this headline: "GREAT EXPECTATIONS". The subtitle: "Still dreaming about signing with a major label? MAYBE IT'S TIME TO WAKE UP." Hallelujah, amen, allah be praised, etc. All bands should be forced to read more stuff like this.
Another thing every career-minded band should read is an article by Steve Albini entitled "The Problem with Music", originally published in Chicago's "Baffler" magazine a few years back, and now anthologized in a book entitled "Commodify Your Dissent: Salvos from the Baffler" which I got for Christmas. I've been passing around a photocopy of this article to bands I know for several years, and I think others have done so; if you're in a band you should try to find it. In it, Mr. Steve walks the reader through the MATH behind a typical major label record deal, showing CLEARLY how the business is structured in such a way that everyone except the band itself will end up making plenty of money while the band goes into the red. Whatever your opinion of Steve (himself a man of strong opinions), he did his homework on this, the math is unassailable. This article is funny as heck too, and should be shouted from the rooftops and disseminated as widely as possible. If anyone finds it on the Web, let me know and I'll link to it prominently.
Finally, here's a joke told to me by Vanessa from Bell, which all you working musicians out there will appreciate. Q. What's the difference between a large pizza and a musician? A. A large pizza can feed a family of four...
'Till next time (hopefully sooner than later)