Monthly Archives: July 2009

Advice from a graphic designer

http://dj-vlad.livejournal.com/690889.html

Vlad has done a lot of CD art for all sorts of bands (I personally dig his XUBERX stuff a lot) and did the awesome poster for the Caustic/Prometheus Burning/Gothsicles tour this year.

The above link just gives some solid advice on what to have ready if you want art or posters that someone else is designing to look their best.

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An admission

Sometimes I feel like I’m acting like a self-righteous know-it-all writing any “how to do X or Y” blogs.  Truthfully I only know how to do it MY way most of the time (hence why I love linking other, sometimes more knowledgable blogs), and that’s by far not the only way at all.  Most of the time I’m just purging ideas in the hopes that someone will benefit from them, but probably the main reason I try and share all this shit is because it’s created an enormous amount of happiness in my life and I want to encourage people to express themselves and not feel ashamed, embarrassed, or limited by their situations to do so.

I sometimes wonder if I should actually invest a lot of money into some high-end software/hardware and really “learn” how to play music.  I don’t, after all.  As I drunkedly exclaimed at a local music awards to some red carpet lady interviewing the musicians, “I PLAY COMPUTER.”

I’m not a musician.  If I am I’m not that great as I can’t even tell you what fucking key any of my songs are in (I think “G”, apparently.  Sometimes “C”…maybe “L”).  I guess I’m an effective ARTIST in the broad sense.  It’s gotten me where I am today, so why deny that?

After I debate the merits of “going legit” and “becoming a real musician” I realize, frankly, that a) I have fun doing what I do so who the hell am I really trying to impress, and b) I’m broke, so fuck it.  What I do works for ME, and maybe ONLY me, but why mess with it just to potentially gain, what, a more slickly produced clubtrack?

Fuck that, and I mean that with no disrespect to those who do and CAN produce that stuff.  It’s just not me.

I realized recently (or maybe just reminded myself) that most of the artists/performers/musicians I truly admire and idolize never made money doing this.  Most of them never played to more than 500-1000 people and none of them are living in huge houses that the spoils of their art earned them, yet they mean the world to me.  I think it’s important to understand that just because you admire and respect an artist doesn’t mean 99% of the rest of the world has even heard of them, and that’s fine.  It doesn’t matter.   I suspect most of the musicians that mean the most to you have never been on the cover of Rolling Stone or even mentioned in the magazine at any great length.

Personally, I’ve become more interested in controlling my message, art, and distribution of it than actually becoming successful in the traditional monetary sense.   I also see it as a great honor and responsibility since I got so lucky doing this that I want to inspire “the masses” (all 3-400 of you:)) to do this as well if you want. 

I’m just one guy with one voice, maybe louder than some but no more or less important.  I’m surprised I don’t get challenged more for what I say, because often I’m like “Wow, nobody called me an elitist asshole or a ‘music socialist’ or a fucking moron”.  Sometimes that actually worries me a bit, because I’m just spouting off and I’m hardly an authority on anything at all.

So yeah– think for yourself, let your limits be your inspirations, tell anyone who says you suck to eat it and improve just to show them they’re wrong, and buy a couple of my tracks or CDs so I can keep doing this shit without having to worry about my fuckin’ bills a little less.  Patronage is fun that way, and supporting the efforts of those who mean something to you monetarily means just as much as a nice email or an encouraging comment.  Walk the walk of support, don’t just talk.:)

And thanks for reading my babble.

Null Device on getting song rights and other “official” stuff

Eric covers getting all the “official” stuff (barcode, rights for a cover song, etc) for a new CD better than I could.

Why reinvent the wheel?  Go read it here: 

http://blog.nulldevice.com/2009/07/codes-licenses-and-little-black-lines/#comments

Festivals and You: Getting Booked

For those who don’t know, I book a small festival (usually around 14-15 bands over three days) here in Madison, WI called Reverence. Basically it’s a reason to get together with a few hundred pals, get drunk, and party for a few days.  It’s a music festival, Caustic-style.

Having booked Reverence for seven years as well as having BEEN booked at several national and international festivals I figured I’d share some pointers to help the odds in your favor if you’d like to be booked as well.  Nothing is set in stone, but I still think it’s practical advice.

And also remember that most of us who book festivals base it purely on what feels right.  There’s a lot of great acts out there so sometimes you just go with a gut feeling on who would work well together and make for the best overall experience.  Sucks, but it’s the truth.

1) BE A KNOWN ACT

Yes, I know this is a bit of a catch-22– how can you become “known” if you can’t get on high exposure bills like festivals unless…you’re known.  Well, there’s lots of ways, but mostly it comes down to networking and getting your name out there.  When I was booked for the first Los Angeles Industrial Festival in 2005 Caustic wasn’t nearly as (barely) known as it is today, but the organizers had heard my first EP I Am On Fire and I was able to talk them into booking Caustic and Endif (since we shared live members, meaning…each other).   Also doing what you can to get people to check out your music on social networking sites and your homepage (which is NOT your Myspace/Vampirefreaks page), but remember to do it within reason.  Invasive spamming just pisses people off.

2) HAVE SOMETHING NEW OUT

This is sometimes a big deciding factor for me, as I know if a band has something new out, whether a CD or an online EP, that you’ve a) Got new stuff to play since the possible last time coming through, and b) Something to sell to (new?) fans.  While selling isn’t the main point of any festival, it means that the crowd will get to see the latest and greatest from the artists there, and (hopefully) not just the same set

from whatever last show you played.  It also means I’m supporting a deserving artist trying to break even on a new release.

3) A GOOD WORD GOES A LONG WAY

Say there’s a fest in some part of the world and you want an “in”.  Don’t know the promoter but know some of the bands who have played?  Tell them to put in a good word.  Sometimes the recommendation of a mutual acquaintance or friend can mean getting on the promoter’s radar enough to at least be considered.

4) BE CHEAP

Festivals, for most bands, aren’t moneymakers on the front end.  I’ve always tried to cover as many expenses for the bands playing as possible, but I know personally I’ve paid out of pocket for more festivals I’ve played than I haven’t.  It’s always important to remember that festivals are an incredible place to meet and see bands you may not know, are a huge party, and great exposure overall.  Does this mean you should have to pay for everything yourself?  No, not necessarily.  Hopefully you’ll at least get food, admission to the fest, and some booze out of it, but don’t be a hard-ass negotiator and try and get three plane tickets, hotel, and massages for the whole band when you’re still hocking something with the word “DEMO” on it at shows.

Be reasonable and pay your dues.

5) BE PATIENT AND DON’T GET BITTER

Yes, I know you think you’re ready.  You’ve opened for some mid-level bands at Ricky’s Cock Shack and got a remix from Assemblage 23 on your first CDr single.  Awesome- you’re starting to live the dream.  You’ve also put your name in, sent a CD and promo photo, and offered to play for free at that fest that everyone who’s “huge” is playing, and it hasn’t happened.  Hell, they didn’t even email you back! 

Guess what?  Welcome to the club.  *I* don’t get emails back from a lot of the fests I’ve eventually played or still haven’t, and I can’t even get a mild bit of interest shown from any of those massive Euro fests I’d love to perform at (if only to see the confused looks from the German crowds).  Just because you’re up-and-coming (whether only in your eyes or not) doesn’t mean you’ll get a break right off the bat.  It’s okay.  Use that time to get better and give the promoter a reason to book you next time around.  Being a dick or flooding their in-box with “DIDJA GET MAH DEMOS?!?!?” isn’t going to help at all.  Luckily I haven’t ever had to deal with anyone that overzealous, but I know plenty of horror stories of those who have.

6) KICK ASS LIVE

This is a major complaint people have about live electronic shows– they suck.  Being known as a fun live act in any aspect of the word “fun” can help you gather a reputation as an act to see, and that word spreads quickly amongst promoters and bands.  We’ve ALL sat through sets that make you want to gore your eyes out in boredom.  Don’t be that.  It helps you get booked a LOT.

So there you are, sparky.  6 ways to help hedge your bets and help get you into festivals. 

And no, you can’t play mine;)

Lipstick on a Corpse

Reading the last couple posts by my good pal and sometime compatriot in stupid Eric Oehler (of the excellent Null Device- check them out http://nulldevice.bandcamp.com) I realized I don’t know if I emphasize it enough with my lil’ opinions on “how to”: The MUSIC is the thing. 

It’s substance, not style.  It’s not how good you look in Lip Service or New Rocks or some wacky ironic T-Shirt you bought at Urban Outfitters, it’s about how good your music is, what it says, and how you present it live.

If you’re more concerned with the style over the substance you’re not going very far.  That’s just putting lipstick on a corpse to me.  Sure, it’s still fuckable but it ain’t doing much else that’s interesting to me (Too far?  Maybe).

Let me also say that this doesn’t mean just go up onstage in your work clothes unless that’s what you’re trying to convey.  Image is still image.  I’m just saying don’t let the image be more important than the quality of the music.

Let me elaborate by my statement of “what it says”– music doesn’t necessarily HAVE to say anything huge or life-changing.  Fuck, sometimes you just wanna dance or chill out, but at the same time, with all of that music, there’s a clear intent.  Have that clear intent.

I mean you’re reading a blog from a guy who wrote a song called Emmanuel Lewis Handjob for two reasons: It’s a funny title for a song (I’m still amused by it, actually) and it thoroughly amused me that someone might request it from a DJ at some point.

So there you go: Intent clear.  I didn’t write We Are The World.  I didn’t want or need to.  I just wrote my stupid little song, we all got a giggle, and live it’s become even stupider.  God I love this world.

Many people will quickly label their music as “industrial” or “ebm” or “death metal with extra death,” but don’t waste your time with those concerns (or fighting against them).  Sure, mention it on a one-sheet for your demos so the person looking at it will have a general idea of what the hell you sound like, but do NOT pin yourself down just because you mention it.

You aren’t beholden to ANYTHING or ANYONE but your creative whims and ideas.

I still get called “powernoise” and “harsh ebm” and “totally shitty but fun live,” but that doesn’t mean I (or you) have to actually give a shit about what that actually MEANS.  Categorizing people, music, etc, is an easy way to help gain acceptance.  There’s nothing wrong with that at all, and in fact I think it’s a good thing as it’s like giving someone a horse pill to swallow and then giving them the water to make it go down easier. 

The major caveat is that YOU as an artist don’t think you HAVE to be that.  And if someone ELSE does, fine.  Whatever, there’s other work to do.  The Sisters of Mercy will forever be a fucking gothic rock band whether or not Andrew Eldritch likes it or not.  Case closed.  He still gets to play to thousands of people when he’s on sporadic tour, so I can’t say I feel too much pain for the Scarlet G he’s got to wear.

Same with London After Midnight.  Same with a million other bands trying to spin their “horrible label” to break out of the “dead zone” which is gothy industrialy whateverthefuck so they can charge more for T-shirts and tour with Fallout Boy or some shit.

Most of my favorite artists don’t subscribe to one genre.   Sure, I still dig me some Slayer and other bands which epitomize in many ways their genre, but modern music that just DOES WHAT IT DOES is much more interesting to me than someone emulating the style they love, or even worse the style that’s most popular.  I mean sure I love electro house and dubstep and have incorporated some elements of it into what I do as I’m not going to deny myself the inspiration, but it’s still Caustic.  It will never be mistaken for a Deadmau5 or a Burial track.

Work from your heart.  Recognize your limitations and tell them to fuck off.  Or, to drop a quote from friggin’ Project Runway, “make it work.”

You want to make music?  Make music.  You want to draw?  Draw.  You want to write poetry or stories?  Write them.

Let the majority of the songs, drawings, or poems suck.  Mistakes are golden.  You learn more from them than by succeeding.

Let yourself fail, then get back up again and take another shot.  Hate what you’ve done, but then try and come at it from a different angle, or give it a break and gain some perspective (I prefer cheap beer, but that’s me) and give it another go. 

Fear of failure is stupid, but scaring yourself by taking chances is vital.  You won’t grow if you’re not scared to step out of your comfort zone, and you won’t become the artist you want to unless you can keep scaring yourself. 

So get to work.  Try and surprise yourself.  It’s fun.

DIY, Do or Die part ONE

Alright, so here’s the quick backstory:

Earlier this year I put out my third full-length This is Jizzcore, a 2CD on Crunch Pod (www.crunchpod.com).  Caustic, The Gothsicles, and Prometheus Burning did an awesome Midwest/East Coast tour to support all 3 of our new releases, I played a few fests, and that was that.

Then I realized in a few short months I’d amassed a bunch of demos, short bits, and just plain cool ideas that started gelling into a new CD.

See, I work fast.  I used to draw a lot (actually I almost went to art school) and I loved the energy of drawing quickly and just seeing what happens.  I do music the same way generally– once I hook into a track I know I can finish it.

The new CD will be significantly more personal than anything I’ve done previously (but, strangely, still fun), dealing with my drinking problem, being a fuck-up, and basically the last 10-12 years of my life.  I’ve touched on some of that in a few other songs but this time there was an actual theme to the CD.  Not a concept CD in that it tells a story, but all of the songs came from the same place and I’ve never had that cohesion before.  Maybe it was the simple focus of blasting them out in such quick succession (yet still sounding very different, from gabber to dub to ebm and noise).

The best way I describe it is if I did a punk rock record and got electronic remixes of all the songs with all the “real” instruments removed and only the vocals remaining.  That’s this CD.

It’s going to be called …AND YOU WILL KNOW ME BY THE TRAIL OF VOMIT.

I’m also in the mood to try something different and since I’ve got dick for a budget and Crunch Pod’s got a full release schedule I’ve decided to do this as cheaply as possible and putting it out myself.  I’m also putting it together as “old school” as possible in terms of packaging– plastic slip cases with photocopied art done by moi, hand numbered and signed.  I thought it would be fun to take technology out of the picture a bit so I’m assembling all the art and type by hand.  I was severely into the directness of the statement in the packaging from the NO ROOM FOR TALENT label (www.noroomfortalent.com) and thought I’d try it myself, combining it more with the early 90s ‘zine style of art layout.

I was planning on putting the new CD out as a CDR (meaning it’s burned or duplicated, vs replicated, aka “a real CD”) but in looking into it I can get 1000 replicated CDs from www.sooperdooper.net (a local CD place that does a ton of work for Crunch Pod and myself) for pretty much LESS than 3-400 CDRs.

So why not?

You may ask “Why not jewel cases or digipacks?”

Three reasons:

1) I can get a spindle of CDs for less than $500 and it costs more than DOUBLE that for the cases, printing of art, and all that.

2) I want to sell this release for $5 flat.  I want people to buy it and let others know about it.  To do that without losing my ass I decided to use a different aesthetic which suits the style of the music and my attitude.

3) I can ship them much more cheaply if it’s essentially just a CD going through the mail.  Again, cost conscious to reach the largest audience for the least amount of money.

To cover all the basic costs (including the replication of the CDs, barcode, all the materials for the packaging, mastering, etc) I will be doing a VERY limited edition of 100 signed and numbered copies.  These will have different packaging, possibly some original art or a ltd edition sticker, and most likely come with a 3″CDR (like the aCaustic discs for This is Jizzcore) of material that will ONLY come with the special edition. 

All hand assembled by me.  This provides (I think) something special for fans and collectors of my shit and a definite increased value simply due to the personalness of how it’s put together.  This will take some time, after all.

If I sell HALF of them at $15 (incl. U.S. postage) I think I can cover pretty much all my costs.  I hope to do this in presales so the release is paid for before it even hits the virtual shelves.

By the way, I in no way expect to sell 1000 CDs– I’ll probably move 3-500 depending on how many shows I do and word of mouth.  Luckily with digital distro it will all be profit.  This will help pay for merch and other things to help push the release and, hopefully, help me get enough amassed to cover doing another CD.

And one final, important note: This is not the only way to do things.  This is the way I want to do things.  I want to show that you don’t necessarily need a label if you know how to build grassroots enthusiasm (this blog being a part of that plan)  Personally I just think it’s a fun experiment.  We’ll see if it works.  Hope you stick with me.

P.S.- I haven’t left Crunch Pod either.  I just have an open door policy on how I do my stuff.  CP is awesome that way.

 

Read this as well! http://blog.nulldevice.com/2009/07/is-there-a-point-to-this/

Ahem…how to put this gently…

A note to ALL BANDS ON SOCIAL NETWORKING SITES:

Sending shitty spam messages via email, over MySpace, over Facebook, over whereeverthefuck is the QUICKEST WAY TO MAKE EVERYONE IGNORE AND/OR HATE YOU.

Want to show no credibility?  SEND ME A FUCKING CUT AND PASTE EMAIL.

Want to show how condescending you are?  PRETEND LIKE YOU’RE “TALKING TO ME” WHEN I KNOW AN AUTO-NAME ADDED “Caustic” TO THE GENDER NEUTRAL “LETTER TO ME”.

Want to see pissed off potential fans?  SEND ME AN EMAIL ABOUT YOUR SHOW YOU WANT ME TO SEE THAT’S TWO CONTINENTS AWAY AS IF YOU THINK WE LIVE IN THE SAME APARTMENT.

Want to annoy fellow bands easily? SPAM THEIR MYSPACE COMMENT BOX WITH A LINK TO YOUR NEW DEMO THAT NOBODY FUCKING CARES ABOUT.

Please.

Do that.

It’d go over like fucking GANGBUSTERS.

Twits.