Music Matters

Editors’ Note: Pray our eternal thanks to Paul Graham Raven for this thoughtful epic which he wrote as his DP swansong, instead of working on an actual Book-For-Publication. Pretty foolish of him, but we love him to bits anyway. Also it’s rather brilliant. Godspeed, you mad lugubrious bastard (nb: lugubrious means ‘wordy’ okay?).

ARE YOU FEELING BEYONCE'S PEPSI AD CAMPAIGN?

ARE YOU FEELING BEYONCE’S PEPSI AD CAMPAIGN?

Over the last five years or so, I’ve come to the conclusion that music doesn’t matter like it used to, and that it doesn’t matter that it doesn’t matter.

The image that drove it home was a poster for some student shin-dig, an “iPod disco”—a night out where everyone goes to da club with their own music player, and dances to their own beat as heard on their headphones. How utterly neoliberal is that? You couldn’t make a better metaphor for individualist consumerism if you tried. Music as wallpaper, a domesticated and utterly internal experience, rather than the communal channel of experience and story that even two hours of cheesy hard house in a backstreet Sheffield flea-pit manages to convey… despite seeming to privilege how much music matters to the attendee, the iPod disco does exactly the opposite: it privileges how much the attendee matters to themselves. And I consider this to be emblematic of a more general (if less extreme) decline in the importance of music as a central plank of youth cultural identity, at least in the UK.

On one level, that sounds ridiculous: “You’re saying music doesn’t matter anymore? Now, with music more ubiquitous, accessible and diverse than it ever has been before in the history of humankind? How could it not matter?!”

And sure, music still matters; it’s a crucial layer of cultural topography. But it’s not the dominant channel of subcultural ideas any more; it’s just one channel among many, all of which are busily being subsumed into the metachannel, otherwise known as these here internets upon which I am writing to you.

But before the internet, music was the internet.

Allow me to explain.

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First of all, you need to think of “the recording industry” as a system, as a medium; step back from the actual components of the machine—the radio stations, record companies, recording studios and record stores—and think purely in terms of function. Alongside magazines, pop records were the first medium explicitly marketed at the then newly-minted demographic of The Teenager; recordings had been sold before then, of course, but they were a less ephemeral sort of cultural product; albums that curated serious art by serious artists were marketed to collectors and connoisseurs. The 7-inch single was a way to make a fast buck out of the fleeting tastes of these strange new Teenaged creatures.

As history shows, this market expanded incredibly fast, and sideband channels of marketing and publicity sprung up around it; the business learned how to shape the tastes of its audience by carefully curating the novelty to which it was exposed. At the same time, the business became increasingly infrastructural as it expanded. This is unavoidable, because it is functionally similar to a telecoms company; it’s in the business of delivering messages to paying subscribers, and once the volume of messages becomes significant, it’s all you can do to keep on top of the logistics. Worrying about exactly which messages the subscribers want becomes mere detail; so long as the demand is there, you’re happily making bank, but you’ve gotta keep those pipes flowing. A corporation is an economic entity, remember; it doesn’t have (or need) the capacity to care what it’s selling, so long as it’s selling it and making money.

But the machine doesn’t run without that demand, so the infrastructure had to be fed with novelty by the “creative” side of the business, the managers and A&R people, promoters and pluggers and hustlers of every stripe. Meanwhile, the first generations of pop listeners reached an age where they’d started their own bands; these are the first bands to have grown up believing that there could be music aimed specifically at them, at young people in their world. No surprise, then, that when they picked up their instruments they found they had things they wanted to say—things that no one would let them say anywhere else, on the radio, on television, in the newspapers. It was a generational backchannel, if you like; a peer-to-peer medium where youth could speak to youth.

At no time in your life are you ever more hungry for new stories and new ideas than when you’re a teenager; outside of books and magazines (the latter of which were increasingly aligned with the music business anyway), music was the most likely place you’d hear the shibboleths of your generation spoken aloud. Rebellion, lust, desire, frustration, and the sheer shattering thrill and terror of being young and alive—to know someone else felt the same must have been an incredible liberation after the bland suits’n’boots orgman conformity of the post-war years. And while there was some money to be made from peddling saccharine conformity, the market turned out to be hungry for the forbidden topics—which was just fine for the recording industry: The forbidden could flow just as smoothly through the pipes as the wholesome. Hell, sometimes the forbidden flowed better, especially when someone outside the system tried to impede it; then as now, nothing heightens demand like a banning.

So maybe you can see what I mean now if I say that the early pop recording industry was like a very asymmetrical internet for contemporary youths, where a limited few (by the good graces of the infrastructural side of the business, who could make a buck from it) got the chance to publish new ideas and stories, and the majority could access and (to a limited extent) share those messages around. This is the era of the newly electrified Dylan, the early Beatles and Stones, ‘the British invasion’, all that stuff.

The system is biased against certain sorts of message, of course, and in some cases very strongly; it’s far from an ideologically flat marketplace. But nonetheless, there’s more levity here than elsewhere, and the very narrowness of this much-desired channel makes it very lucrative indeed, especially as the wider world of business begins to recognise the power of the Teenaged pound, and the utility of an established hot-line to its most active and willing consumers. However, with a firm hold over access to the means of (re)production, the industry could maintain a broadly conservative control over the general tone: when the pipes are flowing fast, you want to avoid riling the regulators excessively. Only trouble being, the more successful your artists become, the more likely they seem to be to start cocking a snook at the establishment… and you don’t want to entirely stamp that out, because it’s so bloody lucrative, eh wot?

Around this time, the capabilities of recording equipment and studios were also expanding rapidly, and the costs of getting records out into the market were falling, lowering the barriers to new contenders for the still-small but ever-expanding roster of artists with access to the medium, plus new, smaller players among the record companies, piggybacking on the now predominantly-infrastructural distribution side of the business. Music mutated its way through myriad forms, but the real Cambrian explosions came with the arrival, from the late 70s onwards, of affordable electronic instruments and home recording equipment, and the arrival of consumer-grade home duplication systems—the miniMoog and the cassette recorder, in other words—which had a significant part to play in the emergence of (post-)punk and electronica, and paved the way for the synthesiser-drenched 80s, the rave explosion, 90s grunge and alt-rock and everything else.

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Pepsi today announced an exclusive global partnership with the Estate of Michael Jackson as part of its new “Live for Now” campaign/

But it’s the ability to record and duplicate at home that’s important if we’re thinking about music as a medium, because this is the point where the traditionally-asymmetrical access to the industry starts to trend toward the symmetrical; all of a sudden, true peer-to-peer transmission is possible (albeit slowly, with considerable loss of quality, and at not insignificant opportunity cost), as is cheaply obtaining and sharing the messages of “official” artists without recourse to the official channels.

I reckon this technological shift has as much to do with the expansion of forms and styles of the late 70s and beyond as the sociopolitics of the time; it’s not just that there was so much more experimentation going on, it’s also that the experimenters could create their works and disseminate them cheaply, as well as becoming able to bypass the gatekeepers of the industry and connect directly with audiences.

(Does that rhetoric sound familiar, at all?)

So the industry lost some of its control, but ultimately gained from yet more growth in the overall market; so what if there were more bad messages in the pipe, so long as there were more messages? And while it got cheaper and easier for consumers to record and duplicate, the business still had the lion’s share of the power when it came to high bandwidth distribution, which allowed it to co-opt and absorb the smaller channels, once they reached a point where they need to scale their business up and onto the established infrastructures to keep their margins viable.

Sure, there’s mail-order 7-inch-single clubs from marginal labels run out of someone’s shed, pirate radio stations, but that’s all little-league shit; if you want the big reach, you need the big pipes, and if you wanna use their pipes, you gotta deal with the big boys… and when you do, they’ll take up your niche and commercialise it quicker than you can say “UK grime was once a viable and genuinely interesting music scene”. It happened to punk, to synth-pop, New Romo, C90 indie, to every successive sub-wave of the rave explosion, to grunge, Britpop, everything; as soon as a new message or idea hits the infrastructure, it’s everywhere, it’s ubiquitous, it’s over. This is why we talk about “selling out”, but it happens at a much higher level than individual artists, and it’s a two-way process. The infrastructural core of the business has to suck in novelty from the outer edges in order to fuel the machine and keep the pipes flowing; it’s like a black hole, in a way. Or maybe a sarlacc pit.

For fuck's sake, George.

For fuck’s sake, George.

But the bigger the black hole, the greater the surface area of its event horizon, meaning the marginal ecosystem of independent artists clinging onto the edges of the infrastructure; so many voices out there, so many new stories! I remember being a teenager in the early 90s, with music being the only way I could gain access to any view of the world that wasn’t seen from what I now recognise as a white British middle-class perspective; it was the only place I could hear about the sort of politics that mattered to me, the only place I heard the truths that elsewhere went unspoken, the only place where lives that felt like my own were narrated. (Well, there were novels, too, but who reads those anymore, amiritez?) It was a crazy time—though I suppose the period during which you become an adult always looks like that, whenever you’re born.

The 90s also threw up the internet, the metamedium which would go on to subsume all other mediums, but it would be a long time before enough people had it that anyone could guess what it’d be good for. So it kinda bubbled along as a rather obscure channel-of-subcultural-backchannels until bandwidth and baud rates and processor speeds got to the point where Napster could happen. 

At which point all bets were off.

lars mate thats not how u hold drumsticks bud let me show u fam

lars mate thats not how u hold drumsticks bud let me show u fam

As we now know, thanks to the 2002 invention of hindsight, the recording industry either hadn’t seen this coming or had chosen to ignore it; indeed, there are big sections of the industry only now, 15 years later, slipping out of the denial stage and adapting to the new landscape. But everything changed, again, once the opportunity cost for finding and duplicating a song and sharing it with someone became effectively zero; suddenly those messages were multiplying like Gremlins in a swimming pool, pouring through a whole new set of pipes, under a whole new set of rules, beyond reach or control. Owning the recording industry’s manufacturing and distribution infrastructure was suddenly an expensive liability… and the nature of the new distro channels was that it made your product laughably easy to duplicate infinitely, with no significant loss in quality.

I think this is where our relationship with music really began to pivot, because suddenly access to the music you wanted needn’t be a matter of expense: you could just have it, whether streamed or torrented or ripped or whatever. Music – not just contemporary music, mind, but as time passed, the entire corpus of recorded music—everything that’s still capable of playback and redigitisation—became a resource, a commodity, an ocean of sound that our access to the internet allowed us to draw from effortlessly, without friction, and over a wider selection than was even conceivable beforehand. Yes, you still choose your music—but you choose it lightly, spoiled by choice. It’s not a hoarded pocket-money purchase, a long-anticipated mail-order CD of some obscure album that your local HMV didn’t even have on its database, or some long-forgotten b-side that you’ve scoured an endless string of backstreet record shops to find; it’s a coat plucked on a whim from an infinite coat-rack. What do you want to wear today?

And hey, why not—this is not a bad thing. It’s just the way things are… and as many bad things as there are about the world and about the internet, I don’t think this is one of them. Nor is this one of those “OMFG music is DEAD these modern bands SUCK and you should all get the hell off my LAWN” sorta essays, either; music’s definitely not dead, it’s alive and crawling like kudzu, soundtracking our workdays as much as our playdays, thanks to teeny-tiny technology and better batteries. Music and musicians aren’t disappearing anytime soon; sure, it may be harder to secure the sort of mid-list careers that album bands could have in the 70s, 80s and 90s, but that’s because the labels can’t play the old “throw shit at the wall and see what sticks” approach to A&R any more; they don’t have the monopoly over distribution or promotional channels any more, so they can’t stack the deck so easily in their own favour. They were gamblers in the golden age, taking a chance on dozens of bands in the hope that one would be the new Beatles, Led Zep, whoever; it was a poor method, but it was the best one they had. (And if the rock biographies are to be believed, it could be quite a fun process, provided you didn’t let it kill you.)

mm.. deliciouse papso -- simen cowl

“mm.. deliciouse papso……” — simen cowl

But don’t believe the hype about the music industry being in decline. Far from it; it’s just abandoned the old infrastructural business model and merged with the TV and Hollywood conglomerates, getting into the “content” game, which is a game of stories within stories within stories, of which music is only one type among many. But selling music itself is a dead scene for anyone operating outside the Long Tail; as soon as something’s in sufficient demand, piracy takes care of the supply problem for you, and leaves you out of pocket. You only avoid this by being obscure… and if you’re obscure, you’re not expecting to make any money from selling records, anyway, except as exactly the sort of connoisseur’s collection-piece that recorded music first got sold as: high-weight vinyl albums of obscure Williamsburg drone-pop quartets. These are artefacts, treasures; their value does not lie purely in the music that they encode. This is the last bastion of music really mattering to people like it used to: obsession, the expense of time and money. Try rewatching High Fidelity; it was always a little satirical, but now it looks like a send-up of the doomed relics of a by-gone era, twisted man-children angsting over their grown-up Pokémon collections. Defining yourself by the physical albums you own – how limited an idea that seems now! (If only because, well, shit – who can afford a spare room for their vinyl now the bedroom tax is in, eh?)

You want the proof that music doesn’t matter? Look at the charts. Sure, they were always topped-off with obvious pop puppets, but now even they are carefully groomed and manufactured—in public, and at great length, as part and parcel of the whole spectacle—long before they ever release any actual tunes one can buy. And when they are released, they’re a sideshow, a vestigial legacy-mechanism by which you get the act to chart, and thus to be talked about more. The money in pop music nowadays is all in using it as the honey coating on bigger and more easily-monetised media spectacles like television or cinema, or as a demographic shorthand in advertising material. Simon Cowell’s exploitative franchises have made him many fortunes, but hardly any of that came from record sales; it comes from the ad slots that appear around his programs, from the licenses to reuse his formulae in other territories; he’s not selling music, he’s selling the idea of selling… Music’s just the scent of fresh-baked bread piped out from the front door of his underground-railway-themed sandwich shop, so to speak; its job is to get you in through the door.

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“Cheer up, Simon. You’re going to be even richer.” — Pete Waterman

(This, in fact, is not that far away from the old Tin Pan Alley model of the early 60s, or Pete Waterman’s “hit factory” model of the 80s; the only difference is that now it’s easier to monetise the artist selection and development process than the resulting musical product.)

However, there’s masses of other stuff going on, little sub-sub-genres and scenes of all sorts popping up all over, outside the dominant channels of promotion; how can I say music doesn’t matter when more people are making it or going to listen to it than ever before? Yet at the same time, there’s a sense that everything’s been done before, everything’s been said already. Caught in the atemporality of postmodernism’s end-game, all that’s left to us is quotation, pastiche, mash-ups and covers and remixes. The possibility of newness is nowhere to be seen.

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To repeat: music still matters, but it matters in the abstract, as one aspect of the sensorial tapestry that is our cultural lives. It’s not a lifeline like it once was; there are other channels now where youth can speak to itself, even if they’re increasingly clogged with the detritus of capital and commerce. It doesn’t have to carry all the weight of our hopes and fears any more; nor our politics, our dreams of futurity. There are other ways to make the world hear us, and while they may not be much more effective, they’re surely no less so.

And maybe I’m wrong, and a few miles away there’s some urgent new musical subculture coalescing in some grotty little venue, the first true Next Big Thing of the Internet Era, set to blow people’s minds and give them a star to steer by. I wouldn’t be sad to see it; hell, I’ve spent years watching hungrily for it. Put me out of my misery, y’know?

But ultimately it doesn’t matter that music doesn’t matter so much, because the internet subsumed the recording industry, absorbed that systemic function into itself, perfected it, balanced the asymmetry (a bit). Oh, it’s no utopia, no matter what Silicon Valley and its boosters may claim to the contrary, and there’s a lot of work to be done before we’ve shaped the internet into something that serves all of us, instead of just a few. But even so, the messages are still getting through, whatever the platform, whatever the medium… and it’s never been easier to send your own message back out there and see what happens.

And that’s what always mattered about music in the first place.

To follow Paul’s future exploits, check out his personal blog at www.velcro-city.co.uk.

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Film’s Music (Off the Film’s)

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There are lots of films out there. Literally over a hundred different ones, from comedy to horror to comedy-horror. They all have soundtracks but usually they’re rubbish. Film directors should not be allowed to choose the music for their own projects. When they do you end up with a collection of songs that includes Zach Galifianakis singing Who Let The Dogs Out without apparent irony.

This piece isn’t about about film scores though. John Williams, Danny Elfman, Michael Kamen and Hank Zimmerframe have those nailed. This is about soundtrack albums; the selections of drab love songs, thuggishly mysoginistic hip-hop anthems and brain-meltingly dumb nu-metal dollops that we get a cheeky snippet of during the doe-eyed kiss/car chase/bit where Jason Statham jumps sideways firing two guns. As much as I love dark tales of horror and cheesy action extravanganzas, and I could name you a dozen of each with suitably punchy metal-by-numbers records that would fit neatly alongside, and so can you. So you can do that yourself in your own head. 

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What with all the films that have had crappy soundtracks, and all the albums that were really really dead good, but weren’t soundtracks, it got me thinking. I came up with an idea that almost two people liked, which was to re-purpose existing albums as soundtracks for existing films. Try to bear with it—it’s not quite as tortuous as it sounds.

Prometheus is a terrible movie. It was never going to live up to the expectations of those of us who grew up adoring the Alien franchise. Alien was a tense sci-fi masterpiece and Aliens: The New Batch was a tasty blend of action and horror. Sadly, no further sequels were ever made. No other Alien films exist. Definitely not.

The casting is great, the dramatic set pieces are perfectly adequate and the look of it is suitably Gigery, but then someone forgot to write a plot. Well, there was a plot but it had more holes in it than that type of Swiss cheese that has lots of holes in it. Flaws in logic, ridiculous leaps from one idea to the next and daft inconsistencies left this viewer rather depressed and underwhelmed.

But imagine if it had all been underlined with the aural misery of Celtic Frost’s Monotheist. Tom G Warrior punches you repeatedly in the soul and transfers his gloom into your naked mind with every jarring atonal riff. The visual disappointment of Prometheus marries perfectly with the mortal despair buzzing within A Dying God Coming Into Human Flesh or Drown In Ashes. Try watching this with sound muted, whilst listening to this

No? Okay.Well, maybe try this one then.

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Paris, Texas, by stark contrast to Piddley Scort’s rubbish, is a cinematic gem. Wim Wenders’ subtle, wistful study of a distant family relationship and the essence of love, loss and broken dreams is worthy of a more thoughtful and emotional soundtrack than it was afforded. Harry Dean Stanton epitomises the minimalistic approach to acting, saying more with a silent stare than he could with a thousand words. The dusty, angry and ultimately hopeful feel of the film always seems to me like it would gel perfectly with Peter Dolving’s 2003 solo outing Bad BloodTaking a break from yelling over thrash metal in The Haunted, he creeps through your speakers and lays his soul bare in a joyously uncontrived heap of noises. Too obscure for the mainstream acoustic rock crowd and not metal enough for the headbangers, it sold poorly and never reached as many pairs of ears as it deserved to. Brake Or Bust and the title track would nestle in and amongst the barren scenery of Paris, Texas comfortably and the final moments of the story would resonate perfectly to the strains of When You Leave Me.

Next up, from out of my head, the wonderful Wes Anderson’s third feature length production, Rushmore, is a unique and fascinating essay on boyish obsession and being an outsider in the conformist world of high school. The almost autistic nature of the protagonist drags you along on a journey into his pseudo-intellectual world of unrequited love and arrogant pontification. Enter the shimmering genius of Keith (Mina) Caputo. Having come to prominence fronting hardcore underdogs Life Of Agony, he sheared off into the world of electro-indie-rock and jazzey-pop with the remarkable and catchy Die Laughing. A multiplicitous collection of wistful ballads, upbeat singalongs and mournful dirges, it bears repeated listens and could have accompanied so many of the pivotal scenes from Anderson’s characteristically quaint movie.

And so to the obvious and almost necessary part of this ramble through Hollywood’s musical errors—The Wizard Of Oz. It was well established lore for many years that Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon synchronised perfectly with the Judy Garland silver screen classic. Many a mushroom-chomping hippie would swear blind it was a deliberate and carefully crafted effort by messrs Gilmour and Waters. It wasn’t. Many have further said that even though it may not have been intentional, the whole thing fits so neatly alongside every scene of the movie, that the effect is dazzling. But it doesn’t, and it isn’t.

One might wonder how I would know that unless I had been stupid and immature enough during my student years to try the experiment myself one evening after too much Benylin, skunkweed and whiskey, hoping for a total trip, man. Well, my only thought was how much better suited Music From The Elder by Kiss would be to the flying monkeys, yellow brick road and wicked witch montage. Pedants amongst you might point out that this record was technically a soundtrack anyway, crafted by the facepainted ones as a supposed accompaniment to an imagined book/film. It was a concept album of fantastically pretentious preposterousness, brought to us by a band famed for blaring out cock rock anthems, with a frontman waggling his tongue whilst not really playing the bass and then spitting fake blood whilst staring at the teenaged girls in the front row he was intending to bed later. I bet he regrets every moment of his life.

Kiss overstretched themselves without a doubt, trying to tell a detailed sci-fi story throughout the course of ten relatively short songs that were not catchy enough to please their fans and would inevitably be laughed at or merely ignored by aficionados of prog rock or serious concept pieces. Did they want to be Bowie? Rush? Who knows. However, if you cast aside your pre-conceptions of Kiss and forgive or at least overlook the arrogance of their ambition, then what you have is a half-decent collection of background dad-rock.

Imagine that bubbling under the munchkins’ freakish and unnerving cavorting and you’ll realise that I am typing this out way past my bedtime, that I have lost the thread entirely and that I am clearly hammering one of the final nails into Demon Pigeon’s coffin.

Night night.

Pigeon Playlists: Geoff’s Prison Break-A-Thon

Well it had to happen at some point. On the way back from LA after meeting Open Mike Eagle, the Rap Bus was chased and brutally shunted by some Nazis driving a jeep, and exploded. Geoff has asked us to post the following reconstruction in the hope that some witnesses will come forward.

Geoff escaped from the bus and fought off the Nazis with bold bravery, but the local Sheriff wasn’t too impressed with his antics so until we can fix the bus again and stage an elaborate prison break, he’s stuck.

prison-geoff

Fortunately, being so hard and northern, Geoff has managed to become “Top Dog” almost immediately and has used his computer privileges to send us a hip hop Pigeon Playlist featuring all the rappers he’s visited in the bus and lots more.

He’s also managed to hack Spotify to divert the royalty payments from each stream into our prison break fund and away from the cash-loaded underground rappers. This can’t fail.

Pigeon Playlists: Pearl Jam – 10×10

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By now you may have seen our stupendously over indulgent deification of Pearl Jam’s latest, Lightning Bolt. Not content with spewing over a thousand words of hyperbole over it, we thought we’d also celebrate with a Pigeon Playlist. Let’s get some mileage out of this sucker.

Given that their career is now ten albums deep, fulfilling the title of their first, we thought we’d put together an album of the best tracks from the band’s career, but limited to one track from each album. The result is a snapshot of their career to date, and proof, if proof be needed, that Pearl Jam put the lie to the law of diminishing returns.

Ten tracks from ten albums, from a band whose first album was called Ten. Let’s call it 10×10, shall we?

Disagree? Put your own track listing in the comments and we’ll all take turns laughing at you.

Guest Blog: Blood, Set & Fears Part Three

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Editor’s Note: 

Once again, we welcome back Miles Watts and his cohorts, of Zomblogalypse fame. We like it when Miles writes for us, because not only does the reflected glamour of his filmmaking adventures make us feel far more dynamic and accomplished than we actually are, he’s also really nice.

Some months have passed since his last chronicle from the infection zone, in which more unwitting dupes were turned by the Zomblogalypse plague. Join Miles as he charts, especially for us, the exponential spread of his unique bioengineered virus.

Whoops lot

A lot can happen in four months: Climate change. A full and manly beard. Nearly half a baby. For us at MilesTone Films, a lot has happened and a lot is promising to happen. Winter is coming, and that usually involves taking stock, sitting back in leather armchairs next to fires with our fingers steepled together and deliberating on the year’s successes and frustrations. For us filmmakers, November/December is typically a time for winding down and preparing for semi-hibernation (and a time when no-one answers their email) as next year’s plans largely remain a vague to-do list.

Except this year hasn’t been typical. Not in the slightest.

Our last two blogs detailed our trip to Cannes to shake things up and come back with a deal or two for our zombie web series Zomblogalypse. One sales agent and a few Top Secret (by necessity—sorry, fans of secrets) irons in the fire later, Zomblog: The Movie is on a steady course into production. Scriptwriting sessions galore, meetings, monster designs; it’s been all-zombies-go.

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Post-Cannes, we haven’t rested on our laurels, and in a slick, not-at-all groan-worthy segue, laurels were what it was all about for Whoops!, our ‘gory family comedy’ that premiered at the wonderful Raindance Film Festival in September. About 4% of feature films submitted get chosen for the festival, a statistic that did not go unnoticed (by us, because we kept telling people) as we watched the film with an appreciative audience, before heading to a very loud London pub to sleepily toast our victory.

A week later, producer and directors gathered to discuss what to do with the film, after (and during) the festival circuit. Our last movie, CrimeFighters, had a cinema and festival run and then… well, we decided to put that one up on YouTube for all to enjoy for free. Thankfully, the film acted as a calling card and started up a great relationship with a producer called Steve Piper who was looking for a new creative team.

Which brings us to now, and the possibilities that next year is currently shining in our faces.What we’d like to do is see Whoops! in cinemas and in people’s homes in 2014. We’re starting work on writing the follow-up movie with our other producer, Sam Robinson, as soon as the New Year hangovers fade. Zomblogalypse continues apace, and we have a glut of other movies we’d like to make and release over the next few years, with a group of filmmakers who share the same vision as we do: To blow things up in fields, torture actors and tell stories. Because that’s what it’s all about (mostly the middle one). Oh, and also to develop the York filmmaking scene and all that stuff.

Happy hibernating, and don’t forget to ignore your email!

Why I hate the BBC (well, a section of it).

Note: This article was intended to be ‘having a go’ at the NME, purely as a way of driving traffic to this site. Yes, they’re awful and have a very poor attitude in general to metal (see their recent baiting of nu-metal). But you know what? Fuck the NME, there are far more worthy targets of my bile and poor wordsmithery. Also please note that the generic term ‘metal’ below is used to refer to all genres of metal/hardcore/death/experimental/post blah blah whatever, before anyone cries.

I don’t want to get all Daily Mail on you but I’m thinking of writing to my MP, MEP, parish councillor or even the Metro letters page. Outrage! Seriously though, I am annoyed. Well, maybe slightly miffed.

Something has always puzzled me. It’s regarding the musical output of the BBC, particularly on its visual platforms. Where is the metal?

There just isn’t any, at all. Saying that, there is very little live music on the BBC full stop. Joooools “Hootenanny” Holland occasionally has something interesting but it’s never metal (Lou Reed & Metallica and Alice in Chains don’t count sorry). The Trans-Atlantic Sessions were very good. I think they did some ‘Guitar Heroes‘ stuff that refers to 70s metal. There was, of course, the 90-minute retrospective Heavy Metal Britannia, although that was a firmly backwards-looking affair. And, um, that’s about it.

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If you take any particular sub-genre within metal, the best thing about it is seeing it live, played by people who love what they do and make very little money doing it. Because of this, there is a credibility to metal that other music simply lacks. Strip back any reference to contemporary metal, and you’ve got yourself a lovely BBC4 show synopsis. So why Mr. BBC, do we not have any shows dedicated to it?

Let’s have a look at the excuses:

Would it really upset middle England? Well no, seeing as the vast majority of ‘metalheads’ are well to do middle Englanders themselves. No way! Shyeah right! Etc. Yes, it pains me to say but I am delightfully middle-class, as are most of my friends who like metal. Those kids with the scary clothes and piercings going through their respective ‘phases’, yup, all middle-class too. So we can mark that excuse off the list.

Would there be an audience for it? Well I’m sure there are as many fans of metal as there are of classical music and we get no end of flag-waving Proms (which always comes across a bit racist/UKIPpy to me). We get coverage of Glastonbury and Reading/Leeds that feature plenty of artists that in terms of popularity/sales (let’s be brutal about this) would be on par or lesser, than established metal acts. I don’t know how many viewers the abysmal Kerrang! channel or any other harder-edged music channels get, but the fact they exist, and have done for quite some time, would suggest that, yes, there is an audience for it.

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Would it suit the ethos of BBC4? The output of BBC4 seems to be directed at the more discerning/intelligent viewer, hence the reams of documentaries and focus on the arts. Yes a lot of metal is stupid but are the likes of Cult Of Luna not worthy of artistic recognition? Here you could insert any band on Neurot, any band from Umeå, technical death/black metal, hardcore (the good stuff, obviously). Pick your favourite band. Them. Do they not fit the bill? I’m not expecting hours dedicated to Slipknot (and I don’t think anyone wants that) but if we can dedicate several hours to the Proms, then why not?

I have snipped this from the BBC Trust section of the BBC website:

The BBC exists to serve the public, and its mission is to inform, educate and entertain. The BBC Trust is the governing body of the BBC, and we make sure the BBC delivers that mission…

…Our job is to get the best out of the BBC for license fee payers.

We set the strategic objectives for the BBC.  We have challenged the BBC to:

  • increase the distinctiveness and quality of output;

  • – improve the value for money provided to license fee payers;

  • – set new standards of openness and transparency; and

  • do more to serve all audiences.

I have emboldended two parts of this ‘mission statement’, which I believe the BBC is failing us on.

Distinctiveness is very hard to achieve in any endeavour, what with everyone lapping up the same tripe day-to-day, mouths open to the damnable media corporations and bloody loving it. Oh please Mr. Cowell, tell me more about that show you do and how you get a nice annual bonus from rigging the race for Christmas number one! Can I see another elite chef cook something I won’t ever attempt to make? Can you shovel more shows about wealthy retirees buying millions of pounds worth of second homes into my gaping face? Please?

Shouldn’t we expect better from the BBC in regards to even acknowledging that we as fans of metal exist? Is there anything on any of the other mainstream channels that is like this? No. So it’s not difficult to decipher where I am going with this: Metal is distinctive. Take that BBC!

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Secondly, I pay my license fee religiously, as do most adult metal fans (what with us all being painfully middle class) and so that last statement, ie ‘do more to serve all audiences’, leaves a sour taste in my mouth. I (mostly) love the news output and I am reliably informed that the Kids TV isn’t too bad either (alright I do watch some of it ‘cos it’s like totally trippy, man’). I love, actually love, the documentaries on whatever creature/tribe/crisis is flavor of the month (well done BBC). But are the BBC serving fans of metal?

Even non-fans, intellectuals or random channel hoppers could find something to enjoy from output dedicated to metal. Even if that response is vehement dislike, that is a valid response. Art, whatever it is, is meant to evoke some sort of emotional response, not set the cash registers off. So serve me, you bastards!

How difficult would it be to get an agreement to broadcast from a venue in London or Manchester? When a band is on tour, you get them to come in, play some songs, talk to them? That almost sounds too easy. Or perhaps have cameras at a metal festival? Wouldn’t even cost them that much money to make a large section of the public happy and acknowledged. They could even do it on the radio, like they do for other music, and for a tidy extra saving (cross off the value part off the mission statement).

Or how about showing some of the great metal documentaries that are already out there, made by tiny independents struggling to get by, wouldn’t it be good to support this area? Such Hawks, Such Hounds, Blood, Sweat and Vinyl and the Metal Evolution series would be a great fit on the Friday night music doc slots on BBC4.

So, BBC, I challenge you to do something about this. Reward our faith in public service broadcasting. Sack Will.I.Am and force Jooooooools to host a night of pornogrind. Not that this article will ever pass through the black-rimmed lenses of a BBC executive, so I’ll just be left seething in my room, cry-wanking myself to sleep while they’re all busy turning a blind eye to systemic child abuse.

Holding out the begging cup again

staff meeting

Those of you even remotely interested in the affairs of state of Demon Pigeon Dot Com will have noticed a resurgence of late, a general tilting at the windmills of the internet. We’ve been posting a lot. You get the drift. But rather than shoot our literary load and then go into hibernation for an extended period (a tactic that has proved so spectacularly successful for us in the past), we’d really like to be able to keep going, feel the impetus beneath our feet. But to do that, we need some fresh blood. We need you. Well maybe not you, but possibly you.

We have a pretty healthy crop of damn fine writers, but they all do this for free, and we don’t want to work them too hard or they’ll all go away. So we are looking to bolster our stable with some new writers who would like to see the prestigious title of ‘ex-writer for Demon Pigeon’ clutter up their CV at some unspecified future date.

We can’t offer you any money. Sorry about that. We can’t offer you fame. We can’t even offer guarantees of free stuff, seeing as most PR agencies don’t really like us very much any more. What we can offer you is…um….

Well here’s the thing. We like writing here, and if you are the sort of person who likes writing, then chances are you’ll like writing for us. If you are unfamiliar with our work to date, feel free to have a click around the site to see the kinds of things we do. Some good examples might be here, here, here, here, here and here. We don’t have a manifesto as such, because that would be ridiculous, but we care about the content of our articles. What we really want is to move away from the standard ‘reviews and interviews’ bread and butter of music blogging, and do more interesting things.

Join us at Demon Pigeon and as long as your writing is up to scratch we are very flexible about what you might want to write about. We may primarily a website that caters to the tastes of children (heavy metal, computer games etc) but there’s not a lot that will remain off the table subject wise.

If you’re serious about writing, and you want to bulk out your portfolio with interesting and varied articles then this might be an opportunity for you. We have a healthy and diverse audience, and some of our writers have already moved on to loftier heights. We haven’t because we’re scared of heights, but that’s a different story.

So if you have the ability to make words form sentences in a way that is both delightful and legible, an interest in music, film, comics and other trivialities of modern life that extends beyond the legally advisable and preferably a very low sense of self worth that will allow your new overlords to bully you into working long into the night for the aforementioned zero pay, please get in contact.

If you are interested you can email coop@demonpigeon.com, telling us what kind of thing you’d like to write about, and attaching a sample of your work. We are especially looking for female writers because we’d like to have a bit more balance in that area than we currently enjoy.

We cannot guarantee responses because if you are awful, well then that’s just awkward.

Good luck!