Archive for the ‘Inside Projekt’ Category

Box-Arte-Factos

Oct 21

Entrevista a Sam Rosenthal Black Tape for a Blue Girl

This interview appears on the Portugese website arte-factos.net as promotion for the Kickstarter “Bike Shop” EP. Here it is in English:

Outubro 14, 2015 · by Pedro Gomes Marques · in entrevistas, música

Black Tape for a Blue Girl, Projekt and Sam Rosenthal are names that merge, and emerge, when we look at the past 30 years of the so called darkwave sound. It all started in Florida in the early 80s while Rosenthal had a fanzine and, at some point, included a song on a tape featuring some local bands he was writing about. They were all very new romantic / electropop oriented, a genre so fashionable in those days. From there to create a record label that could launch the work of his own band, Black Tape for a Blue Girl, was just a little jump. And thus was born Projekt, a name that became a reference that distinguished itself over the 90s, launching groups such as Lycia, Love Spirals Downwards, in addition to the already mentioned Black Tape For A Blue Girl. In a conversation with Sam Rosenthal, we got to know the news about new Blacktape, as well as the circumstances that continue to make possible a label like Projekt in such hard times for the record industry, when everyone is fully aware that the music business has changed radically.

1: These Fleeting Moments, Blacktape’s new album, will be out on spring 2016. From what I’ve read on the Bandcamp page, you’ll be returning to that ethereal sound of the early 90’s. Why is that? Did you feel some uncontrollable need for this BTTB?

Sam: I think 10 Neurotics was as far as I needed to go, in the direction of writing really structured songs in a pop/rock/cabaret vein. It was interesting and challenging to do that, but I guess you can only go so far. It’s probably the same reason I started writing less-ethereal songs, after The Scavenger Bride. I didn’t want to be an artist who had to do the same thing each time. I want to try new things. Even if that “new thing” is actually an older thing (laughs). I also think that people are happier when they are hearing a style that they expect from an artista, so it’s a delicate balance. I feel the new songs come from that same 90’s darkwave space, but they sound current. I am using less reverb on the vocals; I’m not burying these amazing performances. Sometimes I listen to the old albums and scratch my head and wonder why the vocals are so deep in the effects. Also, as you’ve noticed, the last few albums didn’t have many instrumentals. So I am bringing some of that back. I met a great violist here in Portland, Grace, who is playing on some of the tracks. To give a nice searing string sound to the tracks.

2: Remnants of a Deeper Purity is higly acclaimed and considered as Blacktape’s masterpiece. Do you think that These Fleeting Moments will be able to compete with that classic album? By the way, what’s your favourite Blacktape album? (and why do you prefer it)

Sam: There are tracks on the new album that fit in very nicely with Remnants, and I think people will enjoy hearing them. I don’t know if I live with ideas of “compete with,” because I’ve never been about competition like that. I do think about making music that people who love Blacktape will be excited about. And I am thrilled that I still have it in me to write those sorts of pieces. As far as favorite? I am really partial to A Chaos of Desire. I just love those instrumentals with Vicki!

3: Looking at the new album’s title, may I conclude that you’re telling us that all in life is ephemeral? Is there anything that isn’t?

Sam: What I am thinking is that our moment in this life is very ephemeral, and I’d suggest we each look at what we are doing with our life and honestly ask ourself if we are spending our time in a way that will feel good, when we get to the end. I think a lot of people rush through their lives, and put a lot of their effort into things that – at the end – will seem pretty trivial. Such as answering emails. Or watching cat vídeos. And when the end comes, will you say, “Shit! Should I have watched all those cute kittens? Or maybe I should have loved more.”

4: There was a time when you strongly supported the free digital downloads because you believed that people exposed to music would, eventually, support the artists they enjoy. I have the idea that, altough you’re behind the PETm website, you still believe in this concept. That’s why you share some part of your music for free on Bandcamp, am I right?

Sam: You know, I’ve definitely see-sawed on this topic over the years. In the beginning of the digital age I was very pro-free-exposure, then grew very annoyed by free, and now back into believing in it. I’ll tell you why I’m back to believing in this concept: You cannot fight change. You can scream at it, and bury your head in the sand. But that ain’t gonna alter what is happening. Ultimately, you have to work with what you are given. And if people want things for free, then I am looking for ways to make that work for me and my art.

5: You’ve been often returning to Kickstarter and you’re doing it right know to put the “Bike Shop” EP out as a vinyl edition. As an artist and a label owner, do you think that’s the right path (and probably the only one) for independent labels and musicians to make a living through art?

Sam: I wouldn’t say it is the only path. There are some indie artists who get ahead with other methods. But I think it is a sweet spot for my music, and it’s a way to connect to people who care about what I do, fund releases, and feel some sense of dignity in the process. Five years ago, as mentioned above, I was really frustrated with “people taking my music and not paying for it!” I had to really live with that, and work through that, and discover an avenue like Kickstarter where I could connect with people who respect my work as an artist. It has been both inspiring to me and a source of income. It’s been great in multiple ways.

6: On the “Bike Shop” EP you have the collaboration of vocalista Michael Plaster, from Soul Whirling Somewhere, a band that arrived to my ears in the 90’s through the Projekt label. How and why did this collaboration happened now?

Sam: When I was writing “Bike Shop,” I realized it was the perfect song for Michael: it’s an intimate story about lost love, and reflecting on love. This is really what Michael specialized in, with his lyrics. I’ve released all the SWS albums on my Projekt label, and I’ve listened to them hundreds of times. I know where he likes to go, lyrically. I felt a bit like one of those old-timey songwriters, writing songs for a star who was going to be in my show. I created the lyrics for the three additional songs in a week. Telling more of the story about the situation behind “bike shop.” There are ideas that come directly from my real-life experience (yes, I was dumped via text!) And there are bits I made up. I like how it all feels very personal and real.

7: Nowadays, how do you choose artists to be part of the Projekt catalogue? What kind of sound are you looking for?

Sam: I really haven’t been adding many artists to Projekt, these days. The most recente signee is Mercury’s Antennae. They have a sound that really fits the label. It’s Dru from this Ascension on vocals, and Erick on guitar and electronics. They have a 90s Projekt / Lycia sound. With some 4AD as well. They’re the perfect band for Projekt.

8: In your point of view, what are the main differences between a major label and an independent label?

Sam: Major labels have a lot of money, and put out a ton of music in the hopes that one or two acts are a hit. Indie labels spend more time on a small group of artists, trying to nurture careers. I personally am not anti-major label. A lot of the music that I love came out on majors (granted, we’re talkin’ back in the 70s and 80s). Warner Brothers took a chance on Devo, for example. A major put money behind Gary Numan or Peter Murphy or Soft Cell or the Cure. Can’t knock that!

9: There were some bands that, at a certain stage, were part of the Projekt label. I’m thinking in Love Spirals Downards, Lycia, Peter Ulrich, Thanatos, Autumn’s Grey Solace, and so on… Do you still have contact with any of them? If so, what do you usually talk about?

Sam: Oh yeah, I’m in touch with them. I am having a Facebook conversation with Pat from Thanatos right now. Of course, I have known Pat since middle school, so he’s definitely a friend as well as a guy from a band that used to be on Projekt. Pat and I are discussing the “Bike Shop” Kickstarter, actually. With the other bands, it’s more about royalties, or an offer to be on a compilation (there’s a lovesliescrushing track coming out on a Cherry Red Records shoegaze boxset).

10: You’ve been moving from place to place over the years. Florida to L.A., L.A. to Chicago, then you moved to New York and now you’re living in Portland, Oregon. Was this a personal option? All these different places are reflected in your work, or is it something that doesn’t affect you at all? (as a musician and as Projekt owner)

Sam: I am fortunate that Projekt can operate from any city. Most people have a much harder time uprooting their lives to go somewhere new. I was also very lucky that my son’s mom and I are still friends, so we could orchestrate a cross-country move, get out NYC, and resume our lives, and watch him flourish.

I would say that the way that Portland is reflected in my art is TIME. I now have time to make art, because Portland is an easy and inexpensive place to live. In Brooklyn, everybody is always stressed out about earning enough money to afford to live in Brooklyn! It really drains you. Here in Portland, I have the time and brain-space to make art. I like it a lot.

11: Are you interested in other forms of expression of the human spirit, like philosophy, literature, painting… ? Do you have any hobby in some other form of art?

Sam: Hmmmm. I’m probably not so much a fan of painting and literature these days. I like reading psychology or self-help. Stuff about the human spirit, but more about finding ways to actualize it, vs angsty or lofty expressions of it, like in art. I like finding things in my own pysche that I can wash out and improve upon!

12: Will you continue to use photos taken by your son to make cover art for Projekt records, as it happened with As Lonely As Dave Bowman? Is he interested in arts as his father is?

Sam: He’s much more interested in electronics and engineering, not so much art. He’s a really good classical guitarist, but he is not continuing with it at this time. Yeah, I’d use more of his photos… but he’d need to shoot some. I asked him to shoot the cover of Dave Bowman’s MONOLITH. But while I was shoving the camera at him, I noticed something interesting myself, photographed it, and that became the cover. “Sorry son, I just took your job!” (laughs)

Thanks for the interview. I like the interesting questions that I haven’t answered before.

BOX-Peek-a-boo

Oct 12

Sam talks about crowdfunding, and his Kickstarter — Peek A Boo Magazine

Sam Rosenthal was interviewed by Belgium’s Peek A Book Magazine, read it here

11/10/2015, Ron SCHOONWATER

Sam Rosenthal took some time to tell us more about his kickstarter project to release a new 12″ of Black Tape For A Blue Girl. In the end Sam reminds us (the journalists) that you (our readers) would love to hear more about the lyrics. Probably he’s right, but hey, now you have an extra reason to listen to the songs for free, that you can find here.

Why did you decide to ‘kickstart’ your EP Bike Shop? If I understand it correctly you can download the songs for free, but to realize the vinyl EP (with extras) fans need to pay a certain amount of money.

Sam: I think letting people hear the music is an essential way to get people excited about supporting a physical release. I know it sounds counter-intuitive to give away what you are trying to sell; but the music industry has gotten pretty surreal these days, and you can’t assume that the old laws of nature still apply. I tried this same idea with the Monolith release (from my solo-electronic project As Lonely As Dave Bowman), and it worked out; I figured I’d try it again. So far, it’s looking promising.

What can people expect for their money?

Sam: They are helping to create a 12″ on yellow and black vinyl. There’s other things they can get with higher pledges, such as test pressings, hand-written lyrics, their names in the credits.

You released the rough mixes of the EP (they are almost done, but not mastered). Why did you choose that option? Why didn’t you release (for instance) two tracks instead of four?

Sam: I think that each artist will discover what works best for him, as far as interacting with listeners and the new record industry is concerned For me, I’ve always been very honest and open with Projekt’s customers and the people who care about what I create. It’s a bit of a tease to say, “here are two free, now pay money to get the other two”. Right? I want them to hear the music, that’s really the most important thing to me. Give it away, and money comes in somehow.

Will crowdfunding be the new way to release and distribute music? Especially for a label like Projekt? Or will there be no labels anymore in the future (I know you have your opinion about the current music scene)?

Sam: I don’t think there’s one rule that applies to every artist. I think engagement and seeing what works is what bands need to do. I don’t really know if a label can crowdfund all of their releases. I don’t know if that works. I think the people who love the music like interacting with the band, reading what the artists have to say on their updates, etc. So, I think it’s a fan-to-band interaction that works best. To the other question about “no more labels;” Well, I am not ready to commit to yes or no on that. I think labels still serve a purpose, especially as artists get bigger and need professionals working with them to forward their careers. A lot of musicians just aren’t good at the detail-oriented part of getting their music out there / getting paid. I have more than 30 years experience at it. I know where the money comes from, and how to make sure the artist is in the channel to get that!

Is downloading music a blessing or a curse? Why?

Sam: I guess that downloading is neutral. It’s a way to hear music. It’s what humans do with it that is a blessing or a curse. I’ll tell you why I believe in downloads: You cannot fight change. You can scream at it and bury your head in the sand, however that is not going to alter what is happening. Ultimately artists have to work with what we are given. And if people want to download music for free, or stream music for almost free, then I am looking for ways to make that work for me and my art. Working so what I used to see as a curse, is revealed to be a blessing. That’s definitely something true in many aspects of life: you never really know if a choice is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ (‘good’ or ‘bad’), until it has played out and you see what ends up happening.

You had to wait a long time (you know him 20 years) to finally team up with Michael Plaster (SoulWhirlingSomewhere); why was it so important for you to work with him?

Sam: I love Michael’s voice. As you probably know from my band, I do like working with male vocalists; they often represent me within the lyrics. When I started writing these songs, I wrote lyrics I thought fit Michael’s thematic styles. As if I was a songwriter for Michael. It’s like creating a new character, or writing a short-story. And then knowing I had the perfect actor to portray this character. The pieces draw from my real experiences over the last couple of years. But I blurred a bunch of relationships into one, and then embellished with things that made the stories more alive.

The voice of Michael gave you the opportunity to approach the music differently. What are for you the main differences between the Bike Shop EP with Michael and the other Black Tape For A Blue Girl material?

Sam: These are four acoustic guitar songs together, which I wouldn’t really do on a Black Tape album. It’s a different sound, in that it’s sort of mellow, ethereal acoustic rock music. In the past, there would be one song like this on a Black Tape album; this was a chance to make a whole release of ‘em.

You were so excited you wrote three more songs in a very short time. You love how quickly this release has evolved from idea to something we can listen to. Do you think this will always work like this or do you need more time for other releases?

Sam: I think that I write pretty fast these days, and once a song has moved to the point of adding the vocals I know it’s going to be released. So, I am thrilled by the idea that along with full albums that take a lot more time (writing songs, deciding which ones fit, recording with the different singers and instrumentalists), I can do these EP projects which can appear much faster. I feel that as an artist, it’s good to have many outlets, rather than putting all my energy into one release. That’s why Monolith and Bike Shop happen simultaneously to the creating of the new album.

The track Bike Shop/Absolute Zero will be released on the new Black Tape For A Blue Girl album These Fleeting Moments as well. Can you tell us more about the new album? You said on the website it will be a return to the ethereal dark wave/darkambient sound of the 90s?

Sam: That’s right. My thinking is that it’s a good time to explore the older sound, the languid, long-form, darkwave mood of the past. I love the 10 Neurotics album; and at the same time I think I don’t need to keep going in that direction, just to make a similar sounding follow-up. I still have a number of unreleased songs from that period which I might write lyrics for and record, and do an EP that’s sort of the 11th Neurotic. But I recorded that album 6 years ago, and it’s not where I am at today, thematically and sonically. The new songs deal with relationship angst, of course; But they also look at life experience, questioning our goals, what we’ve accomplished, and if we’re living the life that is authentic to our core. The first side of the album is done (I am conceiving it as a 2-LP set, which will also be on CD). It’s a 17 minutes track, that explores a lot of those questions, in a darkwave/dark ambient sound.

Will you release These Fleeting Moments with crowd funding or will it be a normal Projekt release (in the ‘old fashioned’ way)?

Sam: It’ll be crowdfunded, for sure. Why? Honestly, it is much more fun this way. I like getting people involved in the process of making the album, meeting old and new fans of what I create. It’s inspiring to get to know people who like my music, and want to see me succeed. The old fashioned way is sort of dull, isolating. Me at home alone most of the time. And then one day, POP! The album comes out. With crowdfunding I get to share with the listeners the process. “Hey, look! I am working on the cover!” “Hey, look I just recorded drums with Brian!” That’s fun.

Is there a chance we will see Black Tape For A Blue Girl performed live in Europe in the near future?

Sam: Sure, there’s a chance. But playing live is a big undertaking. Time, and money. And generally, the band loses money playing shows, and that’s just not really what I want to do. If a festival wants us to play, they need to pay our expenses and pay us something for our time. It’s only fair to the people who work with me in the band. They are taking time off from their job and their lives, and they deserve to get paid for that. Otherwise, if it is going to lose money, I’d rather lose money on something like making a video or buying some new gear. Or going on a vacation (laughs)!

Something you always wanted to say, but never were asked…

Sam: I guess I wish I was asked more interview questions about my lyrics. About the themes behind the music. I think that’s something the audience really connect to. But I don’t think it’s something that journalists take the time to delve into. So yeah, about the themes.

Thanks for the interview, I appreciate it.

Kickstarter to donate: http://kck.st/1Fkr0T1 Hurry, because there are only a few days left to get involved!

SamPhoto2015

May 15

What’s cooking at Projekt? -and- music industry thoughts -and- TSU.co

If Projekt’s webstore was a cafe, we’d be excited about how much you are enjoying the specials we’ve added to the menu. The top-2 sellers in May are combo packs featuring our latest releases. It’s nice to see people picking up the new menu items! You can see many more new titles here. We also have a great selection of day old items; they are still amazing and tasty just not the current flavor. And then we also have the 20-4-$45 box, it’s sort of like the last few bottles of the cherry soda that was the rage two summers ago, but are now forgotten at the back of the cooler. Still delicious, of course! The 20-4-45 box has been a big seller, there are just 10 left! Quite honestly, I am not sure how much longer I can torture this webstore/cafe metaphor, so I’m going to move on… : -)

Here are the Top-5 sellers for May:

1 Steve Roach: Skeleton CD 2-Pack Experience the beauty of 100% pure analog modular sequencer-based music. There’s a worldwide analog modular synthesizer resurgence in full swing. Pioneering electronic musician Steve Roach taps into the zeitgeist on Skeleton Key. This 2-pack gives you the Skeleton album, plus a 2nd CD with 5 tracks from 2004 that inspired the album, and 3 more analog sequencer tracks recorded after Skeleton was completed. 2 Dirk Serries & Stratosphere CD 2-pack Two drone ambient albums from these Belgian artists. Dirk Serries is the creator behind Projekt’s highly successfull 90s act VidnaObmana, and Stratosphere is the project of Ronald Mariën, Dirk’s long-time friend and soundman. 3 VNV Nation: Resonance 6×10″ Vinyl & CD Box Set (Preorder, Expected Early June) Years in the planning, this album features many of the best known VNV NATION songs, performed purely with orchestra and voice. No other studio instruments were used as the goal was to be as authentic as possible. This is the album that VNV NATION have always wanted to make. This vinyl edition contains the exclusive bonus-track ‘If I was’ on the 6th 10” ! 4 Dirk Serries: Disorientation Flow Serries’ second album on Projekt is a suitable follow-up to his warm and welcoming now-sold-out 2014 release, The Origin Reversal. More than a critically-acclaimed re-boot of his classic vidnaObmana sound, this is ambient music that flows from its discreet origins of sonic purity, washes of harmony, and languid textures. Unfurling with seductive deliberation and orchestrated with just a handful of effects and electric guitar, this album is again fully improvised and recorded in real-time. (Limited edition of 300) 5 Stratosphere: Aftermath The second Projekt release from Stratosphere (a.k.a. Ronald Mariën), is built upon layering shimmers of guitar and bass-generated tones and drones. The album’s core seems inspired by post-rock, drone ambient and the work of Fripp & Eno, yet it speaks its own expressive voice.  (Limited edition of 300)

Rounding out the top-10: 6 Dirk Serries: The Origin Reversal (now out-of-print) 7 Erik Wollo: Blue Radiance 8 Steve Roach: Skeleton 3-Pack, LP + 2 CDs 9 Steve Roach: Skeleton Keys – CD 10 Steve Roach: Skeleton Keys – Vinyl

Four days remaining on the As Lonely As Dave Bowman MONOLITH Kickstarter

120 amazingly supportive people have chipped in $3659 towards the Kickstarter for my electronic / space music album MONOLITH. You can listen to the whole album for free, right now, at my Bandcamp page. My goal was to fund the physical album (success, thanks!), I also hoped to have my music heard. Please feel free to grab your copy, even if you don’t plan to donate to the cause. Why am I ok with this, but not with torrents or Spotify? Because *I* get to make the decision how and when my music is heard for free. That gives me back my agency, and I appreciate that.

The crowdfunding campaign is almost over. But there’s still time for you to grab the limited edition CD, the über limited edition plexiBox version, or the recently added MARCH OF PROGRESS Tshirt.

If you’ve already backed MONOLITH and want to add on a shirt, Kickstarter makes it easy to change your pledge, details on their FAQ. If you don’t want to add the shirt, don’t do anything. You’re really wonderful for backing in the first place!

On Monday, there will be an interview posted on Italy’s OndaRock website (I don’t know if you’ve noticed how much support Projekt receives in Italy’s press, but I honestly think we get more reviews in Italia then all of America. It’s nice they still have magazines that appear on newstands that feature our kind of music.) I’ll link to the full interview when it’s posted; I’ll share a sneak preview with you here.

Many of you enjoy my longer blog posts when I write about the state of the music industry. While this interview is mostly about my music and MONOLITH, there are a number of questions about my views on where the industry is at today…

OndaRock: Regarding Spotify, what’s the situation nowadays, after years and years of “resistance”, from your point of view?

Sam: As the Borg say: Resistance is Futile (laughs).

I think that ethically artists should be properly compensated for their work. But Google already won that war. The battle is over. The tech companies have demolished the little guys, and the majority of ‘customers’ will pay hundreds for their iphone and hundreds a year for their internet connection; but won’t pay for the music.

I can keep fighting like some lost soldier out on an island in the Pacific, or I can decide what is possible with the new overlords in place. While 90% of the audience have moved on or moved to free, the other 10% feel a connection to their favorite artists and to supporting their art. And that’s great. But us artists need to do the work to reconnect and be part of the change. Some of the darwave artists I worked with — while great people — have their heads buried deep in the sand! They think that if they keep wishing, it will be 1996 again, and they’ll sell thousands of CDs again. But reality says that ain’t happening. So you have to be realistic about today.

You know, thinking about this, reading Thich Nhat Han helped my thinking alot: Suffering is failure to see reality as it is. You can’t fight reality. Reality is an illusion. The idea about being “fairly paid” is an illusion that we created that once worked. But now we have to see the new reality, in order to get away from our suffering.

Something to think about, while you’re out on the weekend: Where do we each bash our head against the wall, rather than accept reality as it is?

Tsu, the Tidal of social networks, pays you for posting. Article at Macworld

I, for one, am excited by the prospect of a new social networking site evolving as a replacement for Facebook. I’m on TSU at tsu.co/SamRosenthal and you can join by clicking on my profile link. TSU doesn’t squelch who sees what I post. Unlike Facebook, there is no algorithm designed to make TSU money by getting me to pay to be seen by people who have already signed up to be my friends. Furthermore, TSU will pay us a microscopic payment for views and clicks. Yes, they will pay YOU when people check out what you post. There’s a lot of griping and screaming online about TSU being a scam or pyramid scheme. I don’t know if I buy that. It seems to be a new experiement at a new model. One that’s not about making investors money, at the expense of users.. What I know is that I am over Facebook, and the way they have ruined the social networking experience. I want a site that works like Facebook did 5 years ago: a site that lets you see my posts!

Some say, “Not a lot of people are on TSU, so what good is it?” Well, what good is having 6000+ followers on the Blacktape Facebook page, and less than 300 of you see what I post?

Will TSU succeed? I don’t know. I hope so!

My plan is that once the MONOLITH Kickstarter is complete, I’ll take a one-week Facebook Sabbatical. Only pop in to let you know what’s happening at TSU (or to promote my showing of Edward Scissorhands, the events section of Facebook still functions properly!). I am hoping TSU can have some of the spirit of MP3,com or Myspace or Facebook in the early days, before they each started sucking.

Martin Bowes of Attrition is on TSU; he’s been on for 5 months. Hey, Mr Early Adopter! : )

Visit my page and join: tsu.co/SamRosenthal

Have a great weekend. Sam

MONOLITH Kickstarter: kck.st/1aWKvCr Free Bandcamp download: blacktapeforabluegirl.bandcamp.com/album/monolith

Livestream-Logo(L)2

Apr 20

Projekt Livestream Video Q&A Chat #1

Livestream is a casual and fun way for us to interact. I’m on the video, answering questions you send in through the chat window. Don’t worry, you’re not on the video. This will be like “The Projekt Talk Show” where I’ll answer your questions and talk about new things happening here at Projekt!

The first one is Tuesday April 21st @ 6pm in Portland / 9pm East Coast

Watch here: https://livestream.com/accounts/12292130/events/3987208

*I* will be on the video, you can chat and submit questions in the text-chat window. Don’t worry if you are shy, you don’t have to be on camera. You don’t have to do anything but watch. The Video Chat will be one hour long. You can drop in whenever you like. If there’s a snafu, and there’s nothing at that link abobe, check my channel: https://livestream.com/accounts/12292130

Grace5

Apr 19

Blacktape in the studio with Nick Shadow

Black Tape For A Blue Girl

Saturday April 18th 2015, working on a new track in the studio with violist Nick Shadow.

Box-SamRosenthalInterview

Mar 24

Upcoming Interview with Sam Rosenthal

Upcoming interview with Sam Rosenthal on WFKU.org — Monday – April 6th – 10:30pm EST.

“Dj Despair brings us an interview with Sam Rosenthal of Black Tape For a Blue Girl. This amazingly talented musician speaks with us about the band, his record label Projekt, and the Patreon campaign to support passionate and introspective music. Don’t miss our special program on The Pit of Despair, only at WFKU.org!:

Box-2014

Dec 28

This was 2014!

From Projekt Records’ Sam Rosenthal.

2014 was another productive year for Projekt: the label released 18 CDs, repressed 4 older out-of-stock CDs, and added 10 digital-only titles to the roster. The physical releases were a mix of standard editions and limited editions, choices that made sense with the ongoing devolution of the music industry. Stores hardly stock music anymore, so we’ve lost the “random discovery” that retails stores once provided. Instead, most sales are at Amazon or directly from our webstore; which means it’s only the dedicated and hardcore who are discovering Projekt releases. This leads to limited edition releases, to satisfy those specialized needs. These releases have a finite issue, and will not be repressed when they sell out; you should buy your copy while you can. Bare in mind that some titles are nearly sold out (see red text below). With that in mind, here’s a list of the 18 physical CDs from 2014.

Limited Editions

PRO291 Mercury’s Antennae: A Waking Ghost Inside 85 COPIES LEFT – Buy the Projekt CD PRO294 Stratosphere With Dirk Serries: In A Place Of Mutual Understanding 13 COPIES LEFT – Buy the Projekt CD PRO300 All my faith lost…: Redefine my pure faith — Sold Out!  PRO301 black tape for a blue girl: Remnants of a deeper purity 2-LP Vinyl 100? COPIES LEFT – Buy the Projekt LP PRO306 Erik Wøllo: Tundra (ep) – Sold Out!  PRO307 Mirabilis: »Here and the Hereafter« 59 COPIES LEFT – Buy the Projekt CD PRO308 Unto Ashes: Ghosts Captured 26 COPIES LEFT – Buy the Projekt CD PRO309 Dirk Serries: The Origin Reversal 16 COPIES LEFT – Buy the Projekt CD

Standard Editions

PRO292 Alio Die + Sylvi Alli: Amidst the Circling Spires – Buy the Projekt CD PRO296 Paulina Cassidy: Sugar Wingshiver – Buy the Projekt CD PRO297 Steve Roach / Kelly David: The Long Night – Buy the Projekt CD PRO298 Erik Wollo: Timelines – Buy the Projekt CD PRO299 Loren Nerell and Mark Seelig: Tree of Life – Buy the Projekt CD PRO302 Steve Roach: Structures from Silence (3-CD remastered) – Buy the Projekt CD PRO303 Byron Metcalf and Mark Seelig: Intention – Buy the Projekt CD PRO304 Byron Metcalf & Dashmesh Khalsa & Steve Roach: Dream Tracker – Buy the Projekt CD PRO305 Steve Roach: The Delicate Forever – Buy the Projekt CD PRO310 Steve Roach & Jorge Reyes: The Ancestor Circle – Buy the Projekt CD

What were your fellow Projekt aficionados purchasing?

2014 Top-10 sellers in the Projekt webstore

#1 PRO305 Steve Roach: The Delicate Forever – Buy the Projekt CD #2 PRO307 Mirabilis: »Here and the Hereafter« – Buy the Projekt CD #3 PRO291 Mercury’s Antennae: A Waking Ghost Inside – Buy the Projekt CD #4 PRO309 Dirk Serries: The Origin Reversal Buy the Projekt CD #5 PRO306 Erik Wøllo: Tundra (ep) – Sold Out!  #6 PRO302 Steve Roach: Structures from Silence (3-CD remastered) – Buy the Projekt CD #7 PRO308 Unto Ashes: Ghosts Captured – Buy the Projekt CD #8 PRO300 All my faith lost…: Redefine my pure faith — Sold Out!  #9 PRO297 Steve Roach / Kelly David: The Long Night – Buy the Projekt CD #10 TIM30 Steve Roach: The Desert Collection (Volume One) – Buy the Timeroom CD

2014 Top-10 sellers in the Projekt Bandcamp Store

#1 PRO302 Steve Roach: Structures from Silence (Deluxe edition) – Buy the download #2 PRO297 Steve Roach / Kelly David: The Long Night – Buy the download #3 PRO303 Byron Metcalf and Mark Seelig: Intention – Buy the download #4 PRO298 Erik Wollo: Timelines – Buy the download #5 PRO306 Erik Wøllo: Tundra (ep) – Buy the download #6 PRO310 Steve Roach & Jorge Reyes: The Ancestor Circle – Buy the download #7 PRO305 Steve Roach: The Delicate Forever – Buy the download #8 PRO144 Steve Roach: Mystic Chords & Sacred Spaces (complete edition) – Buy the download #9 PRO300 All my faith lost…: Redefine my pure faith – Buy the download #10 PRO291 Mercury’s Antennae: A Waking Ghost Inside (300) – Buy the download

As somebody who loves data, I look at this and see a number of interesting points: 1) On both charts, 9 of the 10 titles are 2014 releases. 2) The top-6 at the webstore are completely different from the top-6 at Bandcamp. Not a single title on both! 3) Everything on the physical CD chart (except #10) was a Projekt-label release. The big sellers are Projekt’s own titles, as opposed to about 10 years ago, when we had non-Projekt CDs in the charts. 4) However, it’s not just the top-sellers that keep the webstore in business, it’s the overall totals; and that tells a different story.           2014 Income from the Projekt webstore:           Projekt CDs = 42%           Non-Projekt CDs= 40%           Projekt sale CDs = 18% You guys still like the variety of music we stock in the store, and enjoy the deals you can get on Projekt sale CDs. 5) That’s a lot of ambient/electronic on these charts. It’s a chicken-and-the-egg question. Does Projekt release more electronic, because that’s what you buy? Or do you buy more electronic, because that’s what Projekt releases? My impression is it’s harder and harder to sell a Darkwave title these days, so I focus on the electronic releases. 6) 4 of the top-10 physical sellers are in the Darkwave genre, including 2nd & 3rd slot; while only 2 of the top-10 Bandcamp are Darkwave, and they are in the 9th & 10th slot. It’s interesting how electronic-focused these download sales are. Not what I expected, when I started using Bandcamp. I thought it would be more for the darkwave side of the label. 7) Look at #2 + #3 on the physical list. Both feature Dru on vocals. (Hi Dru!) 8) I think All My Faith Lost… would have been higher on the chart, if the release hadn’t been limited to 200. That was the first in the limited edition series, and I underestimated your interest in this band. 9) A lot of the electronic focus is the work of Steve Roach, an amazing & prolific artist. I counted recently. 60 of Projekt’s 310 releases are from Steve. If you consider that at least 50 of those 310 are out of print, that means just about 25% of Projekt’s CDs have Steve’s name on the cover! And even more, many of the titles consistant sellers at retail are Steve’s. I love his music, and it’s very rewarding to see that so many of you love it, as well. 10) Buy those limited edition releases before they are all gone!

I could stare at these numbers all day and come up with new observations. But actually, I’ve been not working the last five days, and will continue not working for the next three days. I’ve been in the studio creating new songs. I’ve never taken a staycation to work on music. It’s a lot of fun, though the days all seem to blur into each other, and day and night flashes by, kind of like that scene in The Time Machine. Harley yowls at me from the living room, and storms into the studio demanding pets… and new music comes from non-existence into existence!

Well… That’s a statistical wrap-up for 2014. Thanks for your ongoing support.

I hope your holidays have been wonderful, and that you enjoy a great New Years Eve with people you love.

Sam

Sam-2014

Nov 10

Everybody loves the old days

From Projekt Records’ Sam Rosenthal. People love the old days.

Ok, I get it. There was that certain point in time when that certain song just hit you. Or the first time you discovered an artist. Or maybe it’s a special somebody, and the music they always use to listen to, which still brings back great memories. There’s all sorts of good reasons.

And sometimes it’s because, “Music was just better back then,” or, “All new bands suck.”

Yes, there are many reasons why the 90s were a high point in music.

I get Facebook messages from people along the lines of, “I just discovered your page. I didn’t know Projekt was still around.” I ask a few questions and discover the last album they purchased from Projekt was something like PRO51, Love Spirals Downwards’ 2nd album Ardor. And, oh boy! Projekt has released 259 albums since then! (They’re reminiscing about a very thin sliver of a pretty lengthy Projekt history.)

And hey, I appreciate those memories! I appreciate that Projekt was there for you at a certain point in your high school or college years. But artists keep making art; and times change. Love Spirals Downwards and Lycia aren’t even on the label anymore, they haven’t been for years. Time keeps on slippin’ slippin’ slippin’…

Swag, merchandise, stuff! I was wondering a few days ago: What do people our age want? I know that the majority of my readers are not millennials. My estimate is the average age is 45, with most of you falling into the 35 – 55 range. What do we want? I recently received a care package from the Treehouse, a no-kill shelter in Chicago that I’ve donated to since the late 90s when I released A cat-shaped hole in my heart (a benefit CD, where all royalties went to the Treehouse). The care package contained a metal water bottle, a t-shirt (Ewww, white!!! Who’s gonna wear that?), a reuseable supermarket bag, and a set of writing cards. I guess this is the sort of stuff that people like me want? Actually, the water bottle and supermarket bag were immediately useful to me. And a black American Apparel Medium shirt would have made it 3 out of 4!

Cards? Do you write a lot of cards these days? Would you like a set of 5 cards with images from Projekt albums from the 90s? That’s something I could put together!

Water bottle? Yep. We already have that, in fact two: 24 oz and 32 oz. We also have an 18 oz corn travel mug and a nice cobalt blue coffee mug.

Maybe we need something new? A new thingie with the Projekt logo on it. Do you have suggestions? Post them in the comment area below.

Back on topic… People love the old days. I admit it: I listen to a lot of old music as well. I guess I don’t hear that many new bands that excite me. Is it because I’ve listened to a thousand bands, I am too picky, or what? I try. I try to listen to new things, but I do keep finding myself drifting back to music I already know I love.

Robert S wrote: “By the way, your music (Black Tape…) and the music that you recommend has been a part of my life going back to the late 80’s when I first started working for Parks and Recreation. I loved the manual stuffing of the packages when you mailed out everything by hand, especially the post cards. Would you believe it, I am now officially retired and I still follow your music endeavors although on a pretty fixed income; I cannot buy as much as I used to. I hope you keep up the interest in creating music and ensuring that the younger generation has the opportunity to listen to, enjoy and even learn from quality music. I may be old fashioned to a point but the current “pulp music” really has nothing to offer and makes no significant statement that has any kind of meaning. Thanks for what you do.”

My reply: Well, the orders are still stuffed by hand; just that it is Joe doing the stuffing these days. And it’s interesting what you said about a fixed income. More than one person replied that they don’t buy as much music as they used to, because of the economy. That sort of gets to the heart of last week’s rant. But ok, wait. Not ranting today….

What about Black tape for a blue girl?

With my own music, I’ve tried new things. In the 2000s, I released three albums, the latter two approach a “pop” territory, perhaps fully realized on 10 Neurotics. I’ve heard from people who love it, and also people who don’t love it so much. Ha! Taste is such a fickle mistress. I think artists have to follow their muse. I love when bands release another album that I love; but I also respect them for trying something different. Doing what strikes their fancy at that moment.

For me, I’ve been thinking about the stylistic elements that make up the sound of Black Tape For A Blue Girl. What are the elements and genres that are primary to my music? I find that I’m making Ambient tracks at the moment. Lots of Ambient! I guess that’s part of the process to get to the ethereal / song-like tracks that I know are coming…

I planned to tell you about my idea for Black Tape For A Blue Girl… but I was introduced to a website that seems to provide the service I thought I’d have to code and build myself! I need to do some more investigating to see if it fits the bill. I might be able to realize my idea more fluidly than I previously imagined.

Polyphasic sleep

I posted this blog about the polyphasic sleep I have been doing for the past 300 days.

What’s new at Projekt?

We have November releases from Unto Ashes and Roach/Reyes (read about them below). Both are amazing & wonderful albums! There are two January 20th releases going in to the pressing plant, and an early February release I am about to guide into production. I am out of town again most of this week, and THEN I will start nailing down the plan for my new Blacktape thingie-doodle.

This is very exciting: I wrote a short scene in the style of Rye. I went to a coffee shop and wrote, without distractions. That is a preview of my personal plan for 2015: focus on priorities. More time to work on my art. More great scenes to write. More lyrics and music to create.

Thanks for your support in that.

Projekt’s two November releases

Unto Ashes: Ghosts Captured

Ghosts Captured is extremely limited; 200-unit edition in ProCDr 4-panel ecoWallet. While supplies last, your CD purchase of Ghost Captured includes a free copy of Unto Ashes’ Burials Foretold.

For fifteen years, acclaimed darkwave ensemble Unto Ashes have been unrepentant and uncompromising purveyors of apocalyptic folk, neo-Medieval, gothic, neoclassical, and ethereal music. Their newest release, Ghosts Captured contains a total of 25 cover songs (18 on the physical CD and an additional 7 available for free download at Bandcamp), breathing “blood-lit” life into an incredibly broad array of songs from some of the most improbable bands on record.

Facebook-fan William K writes, “I purchased this the day it was released. I’ve been looking forward to it for so long. A very diverse mix of covers. Amazing album. It is truly like hearing these songs for the first time.”

Read the full the description at Projekt.com

Steve Roach & Jorge Reyes: The Ancestor Circle

Conjuring images of a primal futurism, this alchemical blending-of-sound is a ceremonial offering to the forgotten gods. The Ancestor Circle is a new tribal-ambient-electronic collaboration, steeped in a frothy mind-altering blend, waiting for years as the potency increased. Like the audio artifacts of a lost tribe, the studio source recordings that form this album’s foundation were uncovered in 2013 on a cryptically-marked set of tapes. Created the week before Roach & Reyes’ May 2000 concert at Tucson’s Temple of Music and Art, this is their last joint studio project as Reyes passed on to The Ancestor Circle in 2009.

Joe T wrote on Steve’s Facebook page: “Just received my copy today! Totally excellent and evocative of all that is Jorge Reyes (of which I have all his music) and the perfect ambiance of Steve Roach who I’ve followed since Structures from Silence premiered.”

Paul O: “This is a important part of musical history. A gathering of great musicians, such as Steve, who are taking us on a spiritual journey via music of the spheres. This is some of the best music happening now and hopefully for some time to come.”

Chris R: “This album is spellbinding, that calls from that deep well of magic and mystery. The circle will never be unbroken, Jorge lives and breaths in this release his presence is felt throughout the whole album. A fitting bookend to the Roach / Reyes collaboration. Farewell Jorge…”

Read the full description at Projekt.com

Link-a-doodle-doo

Not One Artist’s Album Has Gone Platinum In 2014 Ouch!!! Read at Forbes Magazine.

Steve Roach is included in this Oberheim DMX feature Read at TheVinylFactory.com.

Voltaire: The Legend of Candy Claws Pre-order yours at Voltaire’s website.

Mapanare.Us Miami Art Show Thanatos’s Patrick Ogl is crowd-funding an art show at Kickstarter.

NYC pastor: Starbucks is flavoured with the semen of sodomites Oh shit, I just thought the problem was that Starbucks was burning their roast…. : ) Read more at pinknews. This guy is kookoobirds! Funny comments from my facebook friends.

My son likes to remind me that you’re more likely to die from a soda machine falling on you, than a shark bite. This is another good statistic: In the average year, you’re around 10x more likely to be bitten by an inhabitant of New York City than you are to be bitten by a shark. Read more at Shark.ch. And then all this, from my friends on Facebook: Julie B: With the Ebola fears, I’ve cut way down on biting strangers. Susan R: And during the zombie apocalypse, this number will go up significantly. Steve M: “New Yorker injured by falling soda machine after being bitten by a shark.” Susan R: Shark, attempting to bite face off man exiting subway, crushed by mysterious soda machine falling from 11th floor of near-by building. Susan R: OR, band of zombies throws soda machine onto shark. Steve M: OR, sharks attack zombie with soda machine during New York “Hug a shark for Christmas” Susan R: ^win Sam Rosenthal: I assume the soda machines are falling onto people who are shaking them, trying to steal soda. The machines take revenge! Susan R: Clearly then, the sharks need to be shrewd and seize this opportunity, by hiding IN the soda machines and biting the hands of people as they reach in to retrieve their sodas.

A fan alerted us to another wonderful review of Steve Roach’s Structures from Silence, which was reissued earlier this year on Projekt (Records). Read the review at hypnagogue.net. Purchase the 3-CD set or download at Bandcamp.

Here’s how you can hear more Projekt music before you buy

In an email message, David B wrote: “The musician-artist has a power that one can’t put a price on. I will gladly pay the money if the artist touched a nerve with me, and gosh, I would hope there are many others out there like me. The problem for me is justifying the cost if after listening the music doesn’t connect with me. A physical artist’s offering is viewed and you either connect or not, then purchase based upon that. With the musical artist, I struggle with music reviews and the 30 second sound-bite to make a decision – do I buy it or do I not.”

About 18 months ago, I heard that fans wanted to preview more than 30 seconds, and I think Projekt’s Bandcamp page provides a great solution for this request. Stream full tracks from Projekt albums; sometimes, you can stream the whole album!

Hypocrite

Oct 19

ProjektList#20141020 | Too much input, not enough output!

From Projekt Records’ Sam Rosenthal.

[ Written Sunday morning ] This weekend, I am supposed to be making one final attempt at writing lyrics for a new Black Tape For A Blue Girl song, so I can record with Athan in New York City next Monday. But frankly, it’s too early in the process to create lyrics I’m excited about (the stuff I’ve written so far is perhaps up to a “m’eh!”). I keep drifting towards writing dark electronic songs based upon my horn sound named “102 Hypocrite=Me” (this is a sound I created in the A Chaos of Desire era). Ok, do what feels right, I suppose. Two new songs started…

But, oddly enough, my brain is having a few ideas for the follow-up to my novel Rye. This is good, because work on that has been stalled (and by ‘stalled’ I mean, ‘not started’). It is so stereotypical to be a writer with writer’s block after finishing a first novel! I wouldn’t go so far as to call it “block” (even thought it HAS been two years since Rye was published). I’d say I’ve just not been making enough time and space to get back in the mood for writing.

Something occurred to me in the car Friday morning on the way to my son’s bus stop. He loves turning on NPR to listen to whatever they are reporting on. I am so tired of hearing about Ebola. NPR is filling all the available space in my brain. It makes me a bit nuts; I realize the radio leaves me no space to think.

Early on Saturday morning, I walked two-and-a-half miles to downtown Portland; headed towards The Fresh Pot coffee shop. Forty minutes of walking. No radio, no news on the ipad, no texts on the phone. The only things I had to do was drop off some promo packages at the mailbox, and drop off my voting ballot at the ballot box (as an aside, let me say it is so cool that every registered voter in Oregon gets a ballot in the mail. We fill it out at home and send it back in. Every state should use this system). Anyway… forty minutes of walking. No NPR. No news. Crossing from residential to the industrial east side; on the bridge over the river, then slipping within the tall buildings downtown. Just walking and my brain randomly thinking about nothing in particular.

While I was sitting at Fresh Pot, I had an idea. I asked the guy behind the counter if he had a sheet of paper and I filled both sides with sloppy red writing. It might be something for my next book. It might be trash. But I wrote SOMETHING!

I am thinking about how to re-introduce my characters in the sequel to Rye. I find it’s a common problem in sequels that writers assume you already know their characters, and they jump right into the story. A writer I met made this mistake in her sequel. Having never read the first book, I was confused by the third sentence. One cannot assume readers know your characters like you do. And yet, you don’t want to bore your return readers with the obvious. This dilemma has been on my mind for a while.

Every day when I was working on Rye, I walked a-mile-and-a-quarter each way to Projekt; I was taking in the surroundings, watching out for traffic, seeing what the druggies at the housing project were up to; and my thoughts were also working on the issues I was gaming out with my characters and plot.

That kind of input from my environment doesn’t seem to hamper my creativity. It seems to stimulate it. But the radio, the internet, information-inflow? That seems to be a problem. My friend often says: too much input, not enough output! Too much pre-chewed information is bad for my creativity. I have to turn off the radio, stop reading so much news. Walk a mile to a coffee shop. And let me brain do it’s thing.

Hey, check this out: I finally got into the last decade and bought an iPhone. My old blackberry-styled phone wasn’t ringing anymore and the back was being held on by painter’s tape. It was time to get semi-modern.

I am very aware of a problem I’m about to face: iPhone addiction. I don’t want to use the phone as a time-filler, or as a video-watching-device. I want to use it to make my life better (find things on Yelp when I’m out of the house, read texts from the people I am about to meet, make phone calls). I’m sure you’re rolling your eyes and thinking, “Yeah, good luck on that one, Sam!” But really, I want to fight the urge to nurture this addiction. I sense people are losing their connection to other people and their environment, as they crawl into their technology. They’re walking down the street watching cat videos and reading about the ten hottest actresses in SciFi films. All well and good, if that’s how you want to fill your life.

I want my life to be filled with creativity.

Speaking of… I am supposed to be in the studio, rather than procrastinating here writing this blog. At least blogging is writing; it’s creating something; it’s output.

(Yes, I admit it, I shot this photo of my ESI on my iPhone!)

I am out of town next weekend and after that, there are two new Projekt releases to announce. Then I’ll pick back up on the intrinsic value of music (which I started talking about in last week’s blog).

Take care, Sam

Link-a-doodle-doo

Hi Florida. Which Billionaire would you like to buy your governor? Article at The New York Times.

Not One Artist’s Album Has Gone Platinum In 2014. Read the article at Forbes.

This Thursday in Portland… Sound & Chaos: The Story of BC Studio. For over 30 years, Martin Bisi has recorded music at his studio in Brooklyn’s Gowanus neighborhood. Brian Eno worked on the album On Land there. Bisi worked with many other influential musicians there, including Sonic Youth, Swans, Angels of Light, John Zorn, Foetus and the Dresden Dolls. I recorded Brian Viglione’s drums for 10 Neurotics at BC Studio. This film plays Thursday 10/23 at the Hollywood Theatre. There’s a free afterparty + performance by Martin at Club 21. Facebook Event Page.

DEVO free Concert in Times Square from last week. Watch the whole thing on youTube.

Weep: Weep (Pre-order, expected late October) | CD $14 Doc Hammer’s latest CD of lush and powerful Dark Rock with a bit of Shoegaze panache. I Die You Die writes: “The tack that the group’s taken with their fourth full-length, from its unassuming eponymous name to its intentionally buzz-forsaking promotional strategy, to its less bombastic yet no less memorable sound seems specifically designed to avoid putting Weep in the same category or conversation as its predecessor.”

Please share your thoughts below. If you are signed in, your comment appears immediately. Otherwise, it will appear when I get on-line to approved it. If you want to share this blog on your pages, here’s the shortcode: http://www.projekt.com/store/?p=6584. Thanks. Sam

bar3

Oct 12

ProjektList#20141012 | What does the future hold?

From Projekt Record & Black Tape For A Blue Girl’s Sam Rosenthal.

On Friday afternoon, I hung out with the people behind the electronic label Spotted Peccary Music. They release great CDs plus they’re the company that serves up Projekt’s 24/96k high res files.

We were sitting at picnic tables in the open-air back-porchy-like room of a typical Portland-styled drinking establishment. Wood-planked walls, beer signs over the steps to the bar, a food-cart belching scented smoke as it turned out Philly-styled Italian food. I’m painting a picture for you, a little setting of reality before this blog heads off and becomes cerebral. We’re sitting there, drinking our what-have-yous, having a really great brainstorming session concerning many tangents in the music industry, including physical vs. digital, will people pay for music, and the new landscape for survival.

Howard looks up and asks a question, I begin to answer, but then go off topic and start talking about how fans interact with bands. In “the old days” (the mid ’90s), Projekt could release an album from a band with no image (and a lot of mystery), mention it a few places, buy a few ads, send postcards and catalogs, and wham! We’d sell 2-3000 copies. People were itchin’ to hear new music, and Projekt was a reputable source for interesting new acts.

But that’s not how you get involved with music, these days, is it? Let’s face it, “fans” can access most music for free, if they really want to. The old model of a label releasing a faceless band, you heading to a record store to buy their CD, and then hearing their music for the first time when you get the CD home… that’s sort of over. What I find through my blogs, Facebook, and Kickstarter campaigns is that you want a connection to the artists you’re excited about. Few bands can survive, reclusively hiding in their bedroom-studio-caves. Yes, maybe a few legacy bands can get by on that, but certainly not younger bands; and certainly not older bands who never successively made the transition to the promotion-connection of social media in the modern age.

I see this problem, over and over. I speak with artists who haven’t had an album in ten or fifteen years, and they pull out absurd examples for why things should be a certain way; “Back in 1994, when we toured….” or “When the old label was placing the ad campaign for my last album in 2006.” Man, that’s a million years ago. The record industry doesn’t work like that anymore!

Well, I could shorten that sentence down to, “The record industry doesn’t work.”

This is the point where my brain shoots off onto a hundred different tangents. Try to follow me here…..

What motivates us artists to keep going?

For Xmas 2009, I posted a blog concerning the topic of Success. In it, a number of Projekt (and related artists) talked about what success means to them. Hold on a minute, I am going to go back and re-read it now, with five years of perspective. …. …. ….

Yep. I still agree with what I wrote back then: “…in the end, what I really enjoy is successfully making the artistic statement I want to make. When each album is fresh and new, it is the most accurate statement of where I am, creatively. At that moment, I am complete.”

But, I would clarify that.

To me, success is having my artistic statement received by the listeners. I like when that communication is completed.

And yet, that’s not what my brain thinks about. I need to do some self-reflection, to understand why I still have a money-centric definition of success.

Units and Dollars

Here’s the thing, Black Tape For A Blue Girl and Projekt was huge when the music industry measured success in units sold and dollars earned. Back in the 90s, bands like Blacktape could sell a lot of records. As mentioned last blog, at the peak Blacktape’s 1996 Remnants of a deeper purity sold around 16,000 copies.

( That was then. I don’t live in the past. I only expect a fraction of that, for the next album. )

And yet, I find that I cling to that old belief: units and dollars indicate success. I am using an outdated measuring stick.

I know there are fans of my creations; people who really connect to what I am working on (and what I have created in the past). And yet, I am still thinking that the way to measure that success is the same as it was in the mid-90s: by looking at a spreadsheet containing units and dollars.

I’ve been asking myself, “What is success to me?” or “Why did I want to make art in the first place?” The answer, as I said above, is: I want to communicate. For me, successful communication is the goal of making art. What matters is that people receive my work. They experience it. And that is not at all related to profit. In fact, I probably have more ‘success’ (by my own definition) now, then 20 years ago. Why do I say that? Because anyone can hear my work, without the barrier of having to pay for it.

So, why doesn’t that feel good to me?

Well, part is because I cling to the old paradigm about sales.

And the other part is I have this underlying belief in “fairness.” If I spend the hours doing the work of being an artist, I should get paid!

A friend wrote — when I asked him why this “getting paid” matters so much to me — “Perhaps it’s a matter of ethics, not so much the actual number but the idea of getting paid. After all, you try and pay people what you say you will pay them, on time and quite accurately; then I think you expect the same of others.”

I don’t want my favorite artists to be amateurs.

I really want to live in a world where artists can focus on their art. Would I want John Cale to have to work as a viola instructor, so he can take off two weeks a year to play some shows? David Bowie, maybe he’s a graphic designer? Marc Almond, he’s probably a drag queen, or turning high-end tricks with members of the Houses of Parliament : ) . Voltaire is a bartender, the one that you visit every week because he’s so damn entertaining. Think about it! It’s a very weird world where the-average-joe expects to be paid for their labor, and yet people are generally OK with the artists they love working some other job so music can be their hobby.

That’s not really the way I want the world to be.

My first job was archaeologist… My first job was computer graphics

You all know that Projekt is my day job. But that wasn’t always the situation. In the late 80s/early 90s, I created speaker-support-graphics for a living. I worked long freelance hours, creating dumb graphics that were projected at conventions for the corporate executives from the likes of Taco Bell, Denny’s, Acura, Mazda, etc. etc. (This was pre-PowerPoint, but the same general idea.) It paid really (really!) well and allowed me to fund the early CDs on Projekt.

Around the time Projekt was having success with Blacktape’s This lush garden within and the first Love Spirals Downwards release, I realized I was sacrificing the label’s potential. I wasn’t at my desk answering faxes from journalists and my overseas distributors; I was somewhere around the country doing freelance work. This was in the days before the internet; it wasn’t easy to keep in touch remotely. I’d return home and have a month off between jobs; and then I worked on music and the label. But too often, I’d leave Projekt unmanaged for two to four weeks, and that was getting to be a problem. I made the decision to stop working the freelance jobs, and focus on Projekt.

Things really took off, there was a lot of interest, and slowly Projekt ate all my time; my own art suffered. By the end of the 90s (because of all the obligations to the bands on Projekt plus the 11 employees), I rarely made time to work on my music. Then into the early 2000s, and the downsizing (mentioned last blog), and I had plenty of work to do (and I had a son!).

My best friend often reminds me that I cannot pass off responsibility for the decisions I made. And he’s right. I chose to put my energy into Projekt, rather than my art. It seemed like a wise move at the time: Projekt was getting very successful.

At any other record label, the biggest artist (Blacktape) would have been begged, cajoled, and bribed to get back into the studio. The label needed its biggest act to keep releasing music (if for nothing else, for purely profit reasons). But I was the guy at the label and in the band, there was nobody at Projekt pushing me, to get me on track. If I had a manager, he would have asked, “Do you really think it’s smart to keep putting all your energy into dayjobia, rather than into your music?” That was the thing: Projekt was a new day job and just like computer graphics, this job took lots of time away from my art.

It seemed like a wise decision at the time. However, what ended up happening was that I supported 30+ band’s careers, while letting down the most important thing: my own creativity.

I let my art go cold for years at a time.

If I had been focusing on my own work for the last 20 years, would I be surviving at it? Would I be like Steve Roach or Voltaire? Spending a huge chunk of my time making art?

(I hope this doesn’t come across as regret. That is not the intention, per se. This is me reflecting with awareness of choices I have made in my life, and contemplating whether I’ve gotten to the place I intended to go.)

It brings up the question, “Could I survive off my art?” I told myself many times over the years, “I don’t mind that Projekt is taking up so much of my time. If I had to support myself from my music, I’d have to make compromises to get by.” Yeah, sure, a guy in his early 30s can say that. But I’m older now, and I see Steve and Voltaire creating without compromise. And I ask my younger self if that argument was just an excuse, to avoid the hard work. To avoid having to lay it all on the line, and be an artist. If ‘an artist’ is what I am here to be, then was I chickening out? Hiding behind a reasonably justifiable excuse for not making more art.

Ben Franklin looks around the bar

Ok, so back to my meeting on Friday with Spotted Peccary. The smell of Italian sausages fill the air again, Howard looks up and poses another question. “What’s the future for record labels like ours?”

And I reply, “I’m sorry to say it, but there is no future. Projekt will not be able to continue as the label that discovers amazing new acts and releases them on CD. Because these CDs just don’t sell anymore. I cannot keep investing in CDs, when the demand is for less than 250 copies.”

Some will misinterpret that statement, so to be clear: Projekt is sticking around! I will keep releasing exciting music on my label. But the logic of releasing acts that barely sell? There is no logic in that at all.

I have to be realistic.

For me, personally, I want to make a transition back to being an artist who runs a record label, rather than a record label guy who has a (mostly) dormant artistic career.

I have thoughts on how to do that (which I will discuss in an upcoming blog).

The intrinsic value of music

For now, I have to be aware of my old connection to dollars and units. I have to recognize that my goals as an artist are not tied up in those numbers. Yes, I definitely believe there are ways to make a living creating music. But even more than that, I believe I can foster a better connection with each of you. Many of you are fans of what I create. And you still value music. It’s the core of what matters to you. It’s your soundtrack. It’s what gets you through your days, both good and bad. And I am told over and over (via email, Facebook, and Kickstarter) that music is worth a lot to you.

You are the completion of the circle that gives what I do meaning.

Music has an intrinsic value to you. It is important in your life. The same way NPR is important, and modern dance companies, and historic art house theaters. You don’t want to see music disappear, or become the realm of amateurs.

We’re thinking the same thing. Music has value, and it’s something that’s worth supporting.

I’ll post some great new ideas about this shortly.

Sam

New Releases Now In Stock

Project Pitchfork: Blood 2-CD Book $59 Various Artists: God is Goth (2-CD) $22 $15 Staubkind: Alles Was Ich Bin (Limited 2-CD) $23 Sopor Aeternus: Mitternacht Book & CD $55 | 2-LP $90 Heimataerde: Kaltwaerts Limited 2-CD Box $85 | 2-CD $23 | CD $19

October Webstore Top-5

1 Mirabilis: Here and the Hereafter (with 2 bonus CDs) 3-CDs $15 2 Dirk Serries: The Origin Reversal CD $15 3 Steve Roach: The Delicate Forever CD $14 4 Steve Roach: The Delicate Beyond CD $10 5 Steve Roach & Mark Seelig: Nightbloom ~ SALE $7 CD $7

October Bandcamp Top-5

1 Dirk Serries: The Origin Reversal Download $10 2 Steve Roach / Kelly David: The Long Night Download $10 3 Steve Roach: Structures From Silence (Deluxe 30th Anniversary Remastered Edition) Download $18 4 Erik Wøllo: Tundra (ep) Download $4 5 Mirabilis: »Here and the Hereafter« Download $10

Malcolm McLaren – authenticity vs karaoke culture

To speed things up, you can skip the first 27 minutes with this summary: “Two key points to explain my struggle today, two words sum up culture: authenticity & karaoke. A karaoke world is one in which life is lived by proxy and liberated by hindsight. It is unencumbered by the messy process of creativity.”

Karaoke society = becoming famous overnight without any talent, while reveling in our stupidity.

Jump in 27 minutes; he’s talking about art school in the 60s: http://youtu.be/E-wtmV0fAAg?t=27m27s

Flamboyant Failure vs. benign success

Please share your thoughts below. If you are signed in, your comment appears immediately. Otherwise, it will appear when I get on-line to approved it. If you want to share this blog on your pages, here’s the shortcode: http://www.projekt.com/store/?p=6477. Thanks. Sam