15.11.12: Na Gut, Was Immer, Egal - Berlin Release Party for Entertain Us, The Rise and Fall of Alternative Rock in the 90s.
15.9.12: Pandering Sluts - A Brief History of Selling Out
How do you know when you’ve sold out? Is it the moment when you agree to license your song for a car ad? Or does it happen during recording – when you decide to take the word ‘fuck’ out of the chorus or loop the snare drum on protools so that it’ll be more likely to be played on radio? Some believe it happens at the moment you plug in a microphone, or not long after. In December 1983, Beat Happening recorded its first single using nothing more sophisticated than an old 4-track tape machine. But this was still a bit too much like pandering for some of the group’s fans. “After hearing the tape” wrote post-punk historian Michael Azerrad, “some of the band’s friends and supporters felt that Beat Happening was now going in a slicker direction, and wasn’t as interesting”.
Beat Happening’s fans believed that music was pure at the moment it left the band’s mouths and instruments – a genuine, uncompromised expression of the artist’s unique vision. The ideal situation, so far as they were concerned, was that there should be as little meddling as possible in the process of bringing that vision to an audience. Because they’d already seen an earlier wave of punk groups allow their music to be sweetened with synths and trimmed for airplay, punk fans saw the use of technology as a sign that a band was on the make.
But by the late eighties, this model had to be revised. The end of the decade saw the emergence of a new crop of indie musicians, who belonged to a generation that had grown up on slick 70s stadium rock and bubblegum radio hits. The members of Urge Overkill shared an abiding love for Neil Diamond and Cheap Trick, Kurt Cobain had a soft spot for ABBA, and Billy Corgan would later admit that he was “a sappy rock boy” who worshipped at the feet of Queen, David Bowie and ELO. When Corgan used pop production techniques in the studio, he wasn’t cynically catering to the demands of the marketplace, but expressing a basic fact of his artistic personality. So when fans and critics accused Smashing Pumpkins of going in a slicker direction with 1993’s ‘Siamese Dream’, Corgan turned the indie argument of the mid-80s on its head. “To hammer it because I made a deliberate attempt to beautify it” he said, “because I didn’t just release some backroom demo with the guitars mixed too high, that’s like criticizing me for the way I walk”.
Thanks to the generosity of the folk at incubate, we will shortly have an opportunity to get to the bottom of this conundrum, to cut through some of the double-speak and postmodern posing that allows people to sell out while pretending to critique the act of selling out, and perhaps establish some reliable guidelines for musicians and fans alike, as they attempt to negotiate the confusion that comes from mixing music with money. Unless, that is, I am offered some kind of lucrative sponsorship deal by (insert name of fashionable clothing designer here) in the meantime, in which case we will all have to stop living in our close-minded indie ghetto and learn to deal with reality.When: 9-10am Saturday 15th September and 9-10am Sunday 16th September
Where: Listen to the live stream via the incubate website, www.incubate.org , or in Tilburg NL and the surrounding area on 105.9fm.