Sunday, May 13, 2007

Happy Mother's Day

In honor of Mother's Day I listen to The Mothers of Invention. "Plastic People. Oh, Baby--now you're such a drag!"

Frank Zappa--here's to you, wherever your remains be. The ultimate Mother.

The used "Absolutely Free" record I got just a couple weeks ago had a clipping of a Down Beat interview with Zappa in it, talking about his disgust with the whole music industry (you don't get that kind of extra with downloads!).

Zappa: All those mediocre groups reap a huge profit, because people really like what they do. The more mediocre your music is, the more accessible it is to a larger number of people in the United States. That's where the market is. You're not selling to a bunch of jazz aesthetes in Europe. You're selling to Americans, who really hate music and love entertainment, so the closer your product is to mindless entertainment material, escapist material, the better off you're going to be. People will dump a lot of money into a bunch of young pretty boys who are ready to make music of limited artistic merit so long as they can sell a lot of it.

DB: What about your gestures of contempt toward your audience?

Zappa: I don't think the typical rock fan is smart enough to know he's been dumped on, so it doesn't make any difference...Those kids wouldn't know music if it cam up and bit 'em on the ass. Especially in terms of a live concert where the main element is visual. Kids go to see their favorite acts, not to hear them . . . We work on the premise that nobody really hears what we do anyway, so it doesn't make any difference if we play a place that's got ugly acoustics. The best responses we get from an audience are when we do our worst material.

TRP poet guru Peter had a funny experience with FZ and the Mothers. In 1975, after scalping tickets in Central Park for a show at Wollman Rink (summer, no ice--they used to have concerts there), the intrepid Peter took a seat on a nearby hill to watch the show for free. "About a half-hour into the concert, some guy screamed out, "Play Louie, Louie!" Zappa and entourage complied, and played Louie, Louie for 20 minutes and walked off stage. The crowd cheered and demanded an encore. The band came back. The same guy screamed out, "Play Louie, Louie!" The band did it again, for another 20 minutes. What a show.

Has much changed? Not sure, but while browsing myspace for Greek-affiliated people I came across three very cool sites from Athens artists, including 2 dub musicians (Direct Connection and Frequency Freak and visual artist George Tzannes. I don't know any of these guys, but I really like the stuff they do and their attitude. Check them out.


wendi said...

It will be interesting to see how the democratization of the web--Web 2.0--affects music in that sense of mediocracy. If business has its way, anyone can be an "artist."

For example, there's a company called "BetaRecords" that is trying to become the YouTube of music: inviting anyone with a mic and a computer to put self-made music up on the web for people to hear, rate, and share. (Beta even anticipate having "radios" which won't be affected by the recent internet radio costs, because everyone included will be an "indie artist")

BetaRecords, of course, hopes to profit from the possiblity of discovering the next phenom, and really signing them to a commercial deal (whatever that is in this new approach), but the vast majority of stuff will be (and is) abso-mo-lutely HORRIBLE. In that world, mediocre might be "good."

Three Rooms Press said...

Very interesting about BetaRecords. I understand the idea, and hope that something good comes out of it all. The question I have about this internet music is how people are using programming tricks to get more listeners/fans. It's been going on with YouTube for a while, and will probably happen in Beta Records too. MySpace is where I try every trick I know of! Sometimes the most important thing is getting people to realize that being popular does not necessarily mean being creative, imaginative and visionary. I have to side with encouraging experimentation, but trolling around myspace, a lot of the bands just sound the same as the most popular bands of the week, including the ones that become superstars like The Artic Monkeys! What happened to new ideas? Nobody reads enough any more to have 'em.