Craig Schuftan


Culture Club 5

An Alternative History of Alternative Rock, 1990-1999.

The Future's Mine

In 1991, most people believed that music was in decline, youth culture was dead, and that rock's glory days were long gone. But Jesus Jones singer Mike Edwards hated sixties nostalgia the way the Sex Pistols hated the Queen. "Right here, right now", he sang, "there is no other place I'd rather be".

The Future's Mine by Schuftronics

Selling Out

The good thing about signing to a major record label was that you got paid - you could finally fix the tour van and buy yourself some socks. The worst thing about it was having the indie crowd look down their noses at you. "So we sold out" said Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore in 1990. "Big deal!"

Selling Out by Schuftronics

The Taboo on the Tattooed

1990: the American top 40 is crammed with talentless pop puppets and lousy corporate rock clones, while great alternative bands like The Pixies, Hole, L7, Nine Inch Nails and The Butthole Surfers languish in obscurity. "Can anything be done about it?" asked MTV's Kurt Loder. "Yeah" replied Janes Addiction singer Perry Farrell, "I'm doin' something."

The Taboo on the Tattooed by Schuftronics

The Distribution Thing

The world of corporate rock held considerable shocks in store for alternative bands in the 90s. "It's a little bit of a slap in the face", explained Faith no More's Mike Patton in 1992, "we're supposed to be creating, and here we were playing songs over and over." Who would have thought playing rock and roll could be so boring?

The Distribution Thing by Schuftronics

Britain Coming Back

"Does it annoy you that you're a heartthrob?" This was a Grunge question in a Britpop world, a question that assumed rock singers were lonely outsiders whose precious solitude was threatened by the brutality of the mass-market. Blur singer Damon Albarn wasn't having it. "It's not the sort of thing you get annoyed about really, is it?" he said, with a cheeky smile.

Britain Coming Back by Schuftronics

The Future of Rock and Roll

In the eighties, people started rock bands because they wanted to be rich and famous. In the nineties, they did it because they had been disenfranchised by mainstream media and male, white, corporate oppression. "Get some guitars!" Courtney Love told the women of the world in 1994. "Empower yourselves!"

The Future of Rock and Roll by Schuftronics

A Fresh Smell

For Kurt Cobain, 'Teen Spirit' had been code for revolution — it stood for idealism undefiled by adult compromise. For Blink 182, it meant fun uncomplicated by ideals. Bands with 'messages and purposes', said the band's Mark Hoppus, 'just get too preachy and they don't concentrate on writing good songs'.

A Fresh Smell by Schuftronics

None of Our Business

When Alternative bands dreamed of reaching a 'wider audience', they usually imagined stadiums full of people like the ones who come to their shows in clubs and bars. But this, as Nirvana discovered in 1992, is not exactly how it works.

None of our Business by Schuftronics

Room to be Real

"We're just going to be ourselves" said the Smashing Pumpkins Billy Corgan. Well, being yourself for a job sounds alright. You can play long guitar solos, write poems and express your feelings and nobody can tell you to stop. But what happens on those days when you don't feel like expressing your feelings?

Room to be Real by Schuftronics

Modern Life is Rubbish

In 1993, it seemed there was no way to talk about new music without talking about old music. Green Day were the new Buzzcocks, Janes Addiction was Led Zeppelin, Elastica was Wire, and when Suede's Brett Anderson wasn't being compared to Morrissey or Bowie, he was being asked how it felt to always be compared to Morrissey or Bowie. Anderson accepted all this as the price to be paid for playing rock and roll in a postmodern world. "It's very much a symptom of the 1990s" he explained. "Everything is very reflective".

Modern Life is Rubbish by Schuftronics

Unique and Indvidual

Back in the 1940s, intellectuals used to grumble about how popular culture was a form of fascism because it destroyed people's critical awareness and turned them all into mindless consumer robots. But those old German guys never got to hear No Doubt, Beck or L7, who seemed to have pulled off the neat trick of using mass culture to destroy mass thinking. "I think the trend right now is to be unique and individual", explained Jennifer Finch.

Unique and Individual by Schuftronics

Rap, Metal

For years, bands and fans alike dreamed of a perfect union of rap and heavy metal. But early pioneers like Run DMC, Faith No More and Rage Against the Machine made the mistake of assuming all you had to do was add metal guitars to hip hop beats. It took late-90s bands like Limp Bizkit and Korn to add the missing third ingredient: therapy culture. "Every human being has problems" explained Jonathan Davis. "I just choose to deal with the dark things in my life in music".

Rap, Metal by Schuftronics

Rock Stars

Alternative music was over once everyone started to like it, but in 1992, only Courtney Love had seen it coming. "If the charts were just and fair and The Pixies and Hole were the most popular bands, I'd probably start listening to Poison!" Sure enough, in 1999, she played Guns n Roses 'Sweet Child of Mine' during a co-host segment on triple j, and admitted that she regretted the disappearance of hair metal. "There's something about it that we're missing."

Rock Stars by Schuftronics

The alternative history of the alternative history.


Tomorrow's Harvest

"What if I tell you now that I have often longed even for plays I have seen performed - frequently the very ones which bored me most - or for books I have read in the past and did not like at all? If that is not madness, there's no such thing."



Hold to the Difficult

"And you must not let yourself be misled, in your solitude, by the fact that there is something in you that wants to escape from it. This very wish will, if you use it quietly and pre-eminently and like a tool, help to spread your solitude over wide country. People have (with the help of convention) found the solution of everything in ease, and the easiest side of ease; but it is clear that we must hold to the difficult; everything living holds to it, everything in nature grows and defends itself according to its own character and is an individual in its own right, strives to be so at any cost and against all opposition. We know little, but that we must hold to the difficult is a certainty that will not leave us; it is good to be solitary, for solitude is difficult; the fact that a thing is difficult must be one more reason for our doing it."

Rainer Maria Rilke, 1904

rainer maria rilke | kate bush


Always music in the air

'Acousmatic, the Larousse dictionary tells us, is the 'name given to the disciples of Pythagoras who for five years, listened to his teachings while he was hidden behind a curtain, without seeing him, while observing a strict silence.' Hidden from their eyes, only the voice of their master reached the disciples.... In ancient times, the apparatus was a curtain; today, it is the radio and methods of reproduction, along with the entire set of electro-acoustic transformations, that place us, modern listeners to an invisible voice, under similar conditions.'

Pierre Schaeffer, 'Acousmatics', 1966

pierre schaeffer | musique concrete | sonorous objects | acousmatics | pythagoras | phenomenology | twin peaks | red room


Music Sounds Better

'Imagine a traveller from a hundred years ago arrives at our doorstep and asks us why the music of the 20th century operates so frequently on the basis of cyclic repetition. Not just the rap and dance genres of popular culture, but also minimalism - perhaps the single most viable strand of the Western art music tradition... why does so much of our music work this way? What kind of needs do these patterns satisfy?'

Susan McClary, 1999

stardust | daft punk | susan mcclary | minimalism | loop | chaka kahn | repetition


I Life

"Could it be that we come to the city in order to achieve solitude? Such has been the unspoken premise of the modern city of utopian individualism. By solitude I do not mean isolation. Isolation is a state of nature: solitude is the work of culture. Isolation is an imposition, solitude a choice."

walkman | ipod | iphone | isolation | solitude | city | the crowd

La perspective Kubrick en 104 secondesw670h372

Infancy and Progress

"The whole human species, looked at from its origins, appears to the philosopher as an immense whole, which, like an individual, has its infancy and its progress … The totality of humanity, fluctuating between calm and agitation, between good times and bad, moves steadily though slowly towards a greater perfection."

Said nobody, at any time in the last one hundred years. Nowadays, our view of the future is more like the one seen from the middle ages than the Enlightenment. But from where he stood in 1750, or perhaps sat, on a chair a bit like the one pictured above, the French statesman and economist Jacques Turgot could look back on the past five centuries and see a gradual transition from primitive agrarians torturing and killing each other over superstitious nonsense, to the confident era of the Enlightenment, with its stupendous advancements in astronomy, medicine and physics.

enlightenment | progress | history | kubrick | 2001