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 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.


8 responses to “Lipstick on a Corpse

  1. Problem is, most people just want to be famous (because they have self-image problems/pimples/can’t get no p00ntang).

    To them it’s all about getting mindless fans who really don’t give a shit about music (or don’t know enough about music to differentiate between shit and the good stuff). Plus most of them chicks anyway who are always after the hot lead singer.

    • Hence why I’m railing against it;)

      I’m not making music to get laid (hell, Caustic shows probably make my wife want to have sex with me LESS:)) or to be the most popular. I love making new friends through my music and meeting people, but the main reason I (and a lot of my friends) do it is because we HAVE to in some way.

  2. The reason a lot of artists rail against a “horrible label” is because they really want to break out of the mold that a lot of times those labels enforce, or they really want other people to not disregard them out of hand.

    Goth is especially bad that way. If you’re tagged as a goth band, you can pretty much be guaranteed that nobody other than goths will ever listen to your music.

    • I understand that, but I also think that whining in interviews about not wanting to talk about “being a goth band” is a waste of time– let the work speak for itself, tour with different bands, and gain the crowd yourself.

      Show, don’t tell.

      I think that’s why all of us in the Madison scene enjoy the opportunity to play with other genres and types of music, as it knocks down the preconceptions that we’re anything like what “They” think what we do sounds like because of the labels.

    • True that, as an amusing opposite, think about all those electro/industrial/whateverbm bands who added the “goth” genre tag on the MySpace music page to get more attention from all those teenagers who just got into wearing black lipstick and want to find music that goths listen to, such as Nightwish, Evanescence and Manson

      • Meh, goth these days is a gimmick. Especially with all these vampires movies coming out, it’s become yet another cash cow

  3. :D

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