Archive for the ‘Artists’ Category
From Sam Rosenthal | December 25 2010 | Last year I started a Projekt holiday tradition. Rather than an eList filled with things for you to purchase, I decided to give something back. Some insight from Projekt’s artist. In 2009, I gave you our thoughts on Success. I really liked what was said. This year, I asked the artists to share a bit about:
“My Creative Process”
Sam Rosenthal of Black Tape For A Blue Girl and Projekt
I was out with a painter friend; she was telling me she hardly remembers making her paintings. She goes into a chaotic / productive state and works without thinking. That’s really different from how I create music. For me, it’s a very orderly process (editing, thinking, refining, working with all the other musicians, etc). However in reading what my friends wrote, I see elements from each that makes perfect sense to how I create. I especially relate to Michael’s idea of “play” — because for me, making music is fun. “It is fun to play,” perhaps, is as good of reason as any for creating. It is fun. It is joyous. It is making something exist that previously did not exist. Creating something that I enjoy listening to. It is an opportunity to go from nothing to something, without ever really knowing WHY it happened. Mystery.
I wrote this to Steve Roach, one day last month: It is pretty amazing how humans train ourselves (and our kids) to use our brain in a very specific, and generally logical, way. Everyday, we put a lot of energy into being practical, thinking “like a human,” putting our pants on before we leave the house. We kind of take it for granted how amazing our brains are. That we can do all of this really complex stuff, and do it again tomorrow……….. I was in the studio this weekend, working on a song. “That volume needs to go up. That needs a bit more high end. That needs to end a second sooner.” It is such a strange process. What makes us “know,” in advance, what it is that needs to be done? What guides us to know, without question, that without that slight volume adjustment, the piece just would not be correct? And we make 10,000 of these seemingly arbitrary choices every time we make music. It might come to us all very naturally. But making art is such a high-form function of our brains. And it is such an amazing process of cellular / animal evolution, that we wake up to this reality every day.< The Blood of My Lady
Michael Laird of Unto Ashes Sam asked me to write about “My Creative Process.” I’m not really sure how to address that, but here goes: Usually what happens is that I will pick up a musical instrument of some kind. This is easy for me, because I make sure to have lots of different kinds of instruments all around me all the time; for instance: acoustic guitars, mandolin, dulcimer, hurdy-gurdy, autoharp, even a viola da gamba. Some of these instruments are not easy to play, but they all have different characteristics, and all of them are welcome distractions for me. I really enjoy taking some time just to *play* music, without any expectation about the end result. I suppose the operating word here is “play.” I am now inclined to believe that this is similar to the kind of “play” that children do: they simply “play” and that’s it. They don’t have to know why they do it; they don’t need to have any kind of finished product to show for what they do. They just play.
Similarly, I might sit down with a musical instrument and just play for awhile until something develops that sounds interesting to me. If I like what I hear I’ll play it over and over, and just let the music go where it wants. Then I’ll put the instrument down for awhile. If, after a day or so, I can’t stop thinking about that particular musical progression or sequence, I’ll come back and play it some more. When that happens, it means that there’s some music out there that wants to find expression of some kind.
That’s when the *work* begins.
For me, the “work” may involve developing a real song structure, thinking about lyrics and actually writing them down, creating parts for other instruments or other voices, thinking about harmonies, and so on. I enjoy this process, but it does take some work.
If I haven’t abandoned the song by this point, then I need to record it. This is a process that also involves “work.” Don’t get me wrong: I love to record, but it can be a lot of “work” (as compared to “play”). It’s time consuming, it can be exhausting and even expensive. But I still enjoy doing it. And if I don’t have a lot of fixed ideas about what I want to accomplish in the studio, then the recording process is a lot closer to “play” than it is to “work.” It’s still work — but I’m not complaining! In fact, I think I like “working” on music even more than I like “playing” it. But that’s just me.
To summarize, I would say that my creative process involves a flash of inspiration while “playing,” followed by a long process of “working” towards the realization of that which inspired me initially.
Erik Wøllo My creative process has always been divided into several stages. The first phase is where I am preparing and collecting ideas. This can be collecting sounds, writing patches for my instruments or just rehearsing. I am kind of setting up an environment where I can be inspired. The next phase would be just trying to create something. Letting my conscious and subconscious mind work freely. This is a very fragile stage and I try not to be interrupted by things around me. And if I am lucky, I am given these moments where everything seems to flow: The music leads me, not the other way around. The next stage is where I do an evaluation of what I have created so far. Like doing the arranging, editing and the mixing. But I always try to follow that first, original impulse or idea. Not forgetting why I saved this particular song.
Disciple Mark Seelig My Creative Process: recording initial tracks for Wachuma’s Wave and Disciple in India. I was lucky enough to slip all my recording gear past Indian customs and had set aside about 6 weeks to stay in an Ashram in India to practice my bamboo flute with my Indian teacher, and do some recording. Indian musicians like to chew ‘Pan’, a mixture of Bethel Nut with some other ingredients. It gives them a small high and lots of stamina, kind of like the Coca leaves people in the Andes use for their arduous lives. After having tasted ‘Pan’ a couple of times I decided that all it really does is give a steep rise in blood pressure and energy. I wanted to offer my Indian flute teacher, who is from a remote shamanic tribal area in Manipur, East India, something better and more fun and told him about the San Pedro Cactus (native name ‘Wachuma’ or Huachuma). He was thrilled and said he definitely wanted to try it.
We both ingested a fair amount, and after some time of playing our flutes, with him explaining things in his heavily broken English with that special Indian twang, the cactus started taking effect. We keep playing, and after a while he pauses, grins at me and says: “Veddy nice feelink coming to de head.” I smiled and noticed his reserve (he is from an aristocratic tribe in Manipur). We keep playing, getting deep into the Ragas with closed eyes, losing all sense of time, and then after a while he pauses again, and now with a wide unbridled smile across his Tibetan looking face he says: “Now REALLY nice feelink coming to de head.” I laughed out loud in delight, continued playing after he left, and eventually started toning with voice and playing the flute interchangeably, laying down some basic tracks which later found their way into Wachuma’s Wave and Disciple in the collaborations with Byron Metcalf and Steve Roach.
Eifelian Scott of Autumn’s Grey Solace My creative process involves using my guitar as an instrument to bring that which is in my being into the physical world. I almost always use one of my nine guitars to start creating a composition. Each guitar has a unique tuning and string arrangement, so they help ignite my creativity and allow me to come up with exotic guitar chords. Also, having a wide range of guitar effects and accessories like EBows, capos, etc. can spawn new ideas when writing. These things help to bring out the music that’s inside me. I usually start with something chordal, either arpeggiated or rhythmic, and compose a series of progressions or riffs which become the structure of the song. I then construct a rhythm section around that and then overdub some more guitars as embellishments. That’s my part, and then Erin composes all of the vocals, vocal overdubs, and lyrics. Erin: The creative process: a chance to express what’s in my imagination by putting together abstract thoughts into something that can make sense, like pieces of a puzzle that show a bigger picture than what’s on each puzzle piece. The process for me must stem from somewhere inside my mind, heart or spirit. External influences that mean something to me like people and nature can paint impressions in my thoughts. I store those impressions inside my head to be used later when I decide to work on music. When I create words with melodies over Scott’s music, I pull from my mind the words and piece them together using what my heart feels and what my spirit is in the mood for. Sometimes the external influences are superficial and that is when I lose my ability to glue together a song because when there is no depth there is no mind, heart or spirit to create with. So with some discipline and drive I proceed with the creative process with careful intentions on using my mind, heart or spirit to feed my imagination.
Spiders, Aether & Rain Ashkelon Sain of Trance to the Sun / Soriah / Blade Fetish / Submarine Fleet I devote a good deal of my visualization process to thinking about what I would like my album to sound like when it’s finished. What elements should each song have in common? In what ways should each song stand apart individually? This helps greatly in deciding how to proceed with new song ideas.
The Hours Federico, (Viola, Fabio and Stefania) of All My Faith Lost… Sam asked us to write and describe the creative process behind their music. We think this is a nice way to give our listeners another point of view on our art. However, we admit it is not easy to speak about and describe what sometime “just happens.” Probably the best way to explain our “Creative Process” is to pick up one of our song and trying to remember how it came to life. We have chosen “Notti Bianche” from our album The Hours just re-printed by Projekt Records and originally released in 2007. “Notti Bianche” – The creative process
Let’s start by saying that this is not the creative process happening for every song. Yes, it is the method we follow most of the times but not the only one. When we composed The Hours we wrote all the lyrics before the music. The Hours is a concept album on literature: we took the authors we love and we wrote about their life, their books and their words. “Notti Bianche” is our personal reiterpretation (in music) of the novel “White Nights” (“Notti Bianche” in Italian) by F. Dostoevskij. Why the title in Italian you ask? Well, “White Nights” sounded too much as a Christmas song title to us.
I remember our studio was full of books, sheets with handwritten lines from our favourite novels. We attached photocopied bookpages on the walls, we hanged pics of Anais Nin, Virginia Woolf and Pier Paolo Pasolini. We created a small world made of paper, ink and music.
“Notti Bianche” was born inside this small world from a guitar arpeggio. Most of our songs grow from guitar lines or arpeggios. Not sophisticated ones. I have to find the “right” one, the one that sounds good in my head, the one that makes me think: “this is the one!” Once the guitar line was done, me and Viola satrted working over the vocal parts and we easily found them out. We spent a little time trying to understand how to split the parts among the two of us and we decided the right thing it was for me to sing only some shorts parts together with Viola. At this point, the song was done … or better, the bones of the song were all put together. The subsequent work was all about the arrangements we were able to do by ourselves. Viola found a warm synth sound, as we wanted an electronic part to overwhelm and sustain the acoustic guitar. We found also an additional guitar part and some other small electronic parts and piano notes.
It was now the time to call Martina Bertoni (Cello) and Fabio Polo (Violin). They listened the song and composed the strings parts. First one to record was Martina and then Fabio added his violin. We think they composed and recorded some lines that give a delicate and at the same time strong feeling to the song.
So, you now know how the creative process of one of the best songs on our album The Hours. I really hope you like this short explanation and I hope it helps tu understand better what there is hidden after a few minutes of our music. The HoursWe wish you all a great Christmas and a happy New Year.
A World We Pretend Todd Loomis of The Twilight Garden Usually for me, things begin with a great sound or a great riff – or really anything inspiring. It could be a lyric idea or a mood I have in my head at first, or a reaction I feel to something happening in the world. Then, I may spend quite a bit of time making a sound or tweaking a synthesizer, or rewiring my guitar effects until I find something I think is really neat to complement the idea. Once I discover it, I’m usually pretty excited by it, and that excitement translates immediately into the creative process. I’ll end up jamming around – working and refining it into something I can actually recreate. Once I have the idea going, I can find another sound to complement the first one; and I can do the same thing again – create a part that works with the first part and layer them together. I can do this over and over to build up a piece of music both vertically in textural layers, and horizontally in time. Eventually, I’ll pull the lyrical ideas together and build the song around the idea and the vocal. Also, I should say that improvisation is a great way for me to instantly connect emotion inside my head to sound in the world outside my head. When I improvise – whether on piano, guitar, vocals, etc., it’s always the same. If I can let my mind wander, my playing will reflect naturally what I might be feeling inside. Usually, it comes really naturally. I just play what I feel. If I find I’m thinking too much, I just go do something else besides music. If the mood is right though, I’ll just play and let the ideas grow into a song. Because I’m just reflecting things, I don’t really even have to try; it just happens when I put myself in front of an instrument and play. Also, I can reflect anything really – so the creative possibilities are endless. I could probably write an ode to mustard if I was in the right place mentally. Anyway, improvisation for me is a way of generating things with very little effort. I find it forces me to relinquish control and to let the notes flow naturally without correction. If I’m a good enough musician, those notes will speak like words in a sentence or paragraph – the idea will be cohesive, and they will not need editing. Of course, if the recorder is running, then a song is in the works.
Dies Irae Alessia and Massimiliano of Atrium Animae (a new Projekt signing, from Italy, with their debut coming in April) Well…the creative process takes place through a series of steps in which the instrumental and vocal parts are designed according to an initial idea. Typically, the tracks are conceived as a score composed of several parts, sometimes very different to each others. We devote much attention to the process of transition between all the parts. It’s a very long process, because the tracks are composed of over 40 different elements in some cases, and very complex vocal parts. It’s strange, because the creative process is on the one hand very intimate and friendly, but at the same time a long process of refinement is required to arrive to the final result. For example, Alessia has in mind the final harmony in her head. But only when she sings the different melodies she instinctively understand how to combine them. Meanwhile, the instrumental parts are combined with the voices and the song refined….. and again, with other voices… and again, changing parts… and again… until the reaching of a “stable state.”
At this point, the song is put in a state of “waiting” for a period of time, and we concentrate the attention on other songs previously in that state, in order to listen to them and evaluate if they need some refinements. So, at the end, hundreds of revisions of the same song are produced in some cases! In addition, we are two different people with so different ideas about the project and the themes treated in the project. It’s just like a mutual influence. Both of us want the total control of the whole process. It must be perfect…. and remember that we are a couple in life, so there’s a strong relationship between us. But we believe that this dualism creates the right combination and chemistry, and our creative process is linked to our frame of mood, our suffering, our questions about the existence of this state of loss and despair… and the album has all these questions within…
Phantoms Forrest Fang I have a somewhat chaotic process for creating music. More recently, I’ve tried to give my instincts full rein, at least in the initial stages; I go through an extended “demo” phase, where I try to record as much raw material as I can, without thinking too much about it. Sometimes this involves creating ambient textures, other times, fragments of a melody or rhythm. A lot of material is just experimentation that doesn’t stand on its own, but may give me idea to record a variation on it later. The hard part is listening to all of this to catalog the most interesting bits. Sometimes this stage takes longer than the original recording. I then try to conceptualize an entire album from these sounds, by thinking of the textures I want to appear at different stages of the album. The recording I do after this is more structured, but often the recordings end up being more appropriate for other projects! This might be because I’ve tricked myself into playing more spontaneously by not caring if it gets used. An example of this chaotic process is “Little Angklung” off of my Phantoms CD. This piece started as an experiment with an algorithmic program called “Angklung.” Over the course of a year, the direction of the piece changed when I junked what was the “backing track” based on Angklung, and replaced it with a gamelan improv I had originally recorded for another project. This new backing track suggested other instruments, which I added, but I kept much of the original ambient material I had recorded over the original backing
Makaras Pen Doug White of Makaras Pen Makaras Pen has been hard at work recording a follow-up CD. After a summer of area shows and some out of town road work we are 8 songs into what we think might be an 11 song full length. Videos have become a really great creative outlet for us so we have a new high end one in the works for our song “What’s Really Happening” that we are super excited about. We hope to have it back from the film company to release in early January. Our creative writing and recording process has changed a lot for this new CD. Our drummer Dennis really likes to hear a final product before he decides on drum takes. Of course in the process of indie/shoegaze recording there can be so many layers it’s hard to tell early on what might be the sound and arrangement in the end. So Val and Doug have been writing and recording full songs to a click and having drums go down last as the finishing touch. This has really gave a new element of power and creativity to the new Makaras Pen material. Emma has been deep in lyric writing mode. It’s been a great release and outlet for her thoughts and emotions. It is really nice to watch somebody become more comfortable writing and expressing themselves through music that they love. Some of her new melodyies have given us shivers.
There is a deep friendship and bond with Makaras Pen band members that is hard to describe but we hope to portrait it in our music to fans. We sure appreciate all of the overwhelming support and mail we have gotten. It is truly satisfying to hear from so many people who enjoy what we do.
Moments in Time Johnny Indovina of Human Drama I’ve never sat down to work on songs. Like, it’s time to write… I only sit down when I feel something, and hear that feeling musically. Then I try to complete the task of getting it on tape. Sometimes it starts with a phrase, sometimes with a mumbled melody. Sometimes it starts with looking into a stranger’s eyes. Also, I never try to finish. I let it finish when it wants to. “This Forgotten Love” started at midnight and was finished by 6am. “King of Loneliness” started in 1991 and didn’t finish ’til 1998… One more part of my writing is that I never have written a song based on who I thought my audience was. I think a writer must write for himself (or herself), complete the idea so that it best captures the original feeling, then send it out. The song is an extension of the writer. Let the audience come if it moves them.
I enjoy the process, but I cannot say I enjoy a lot of the feelings or themes I write about. But that is my work.
[a lantern carried in blood and skin] Joshua of Lux Interna Weave my skin on the spiritloom tight Fill my flesh with the blood of light Oh, come down, Oh, draw with up On creating.
In my experience many of the best songs seem to come out of nowhere, unawaited. They appear as gifts or guests: spectral entities needing a body. And often, the truly difficult part is to find a form fit for their invisible light. In this sense, I often think of the post-inspirational aspects of songcrafting as steps in the construction of an holy space. One can never force a presence to present itself, but one can prepare, furnish, and decorate a space in order to make the presence welcome. Indeed, especially of late, I’m learning the importance of waiting and listening, treating the song as a subject rather than merely an object upon which I am acting. One of the most exciting parts of creating, for me, is when you hear or feel something in your own creation that surprizes you because it seems to exceed the contents of your own private subjectivity. It is a beautiful – if somewhat eerie – experience to feel that you have somehow been a conduit for something other than your own ideas.
Sam’s memories of Peter Steele April 19 2010
Listening to October Rust as I write this…..
Peter Steele of Type-O Negative passed away a few days ago. I thought I’d put together my recollections of the times my life intersected with Peter’s.
The first time I recall hearing Steele’s name was from Mike VanPortfleet of Lycia. This was after the 1993 release of Lycia’s A Day in the Stark Corner. Peter said complimentary things about Lycia in a few interviews. I do not have the original quotes, but I searched my hard drive and found:
MKUltra Issue #1 (1995) Q: I think the production on Bloody Kisses is phenomenal! Peter Steele: You should be familiar with Lycia. It’s dark, ambient Goth music. The last album is called A Day in the Stark Corner. I would like our next album to sound something like this. It is the most depressing thing I’ve ever heard in my life. If I put it on in the morning when I get up… I’m useless for the rest of the day. It makes me feel like killing myself. It’s like, why even bother getting dressed when I can just slit my wrists. Such simple hypnotic beats. Everything is drowned in reverb, yet the emotion comes through so loud and clear. It’s just devastatingly beautiful, as beautiful as it is devastating. That’s how I want to come through. INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE: Full exchange between Alex and Peter.
Honestly, I wasn’t familiar with Type-O Negative but I got to know the Bloody Kisses album. Peter asked Lycia and The Electric Hellfire Club to open a small Type-O Negative tour in October 1995. I was living in California at the time and flew to the East Coast to be Lycia’s soundmixer. Not long before, the drunken leaders of The Electric Hellfire Club (Thomas and Shane, RIP) had gotten into a confrontation with me at NEO in Chicago, something about my supposed Judeo-Christian beliefs. Total non-event and something I have always found funny / absurd. When I got to the venue in Boston (?) Peter came over, picked up my quite large suitcase and tossed it on his shoulder (he could have picked me up as well as the cabl!). He said something like, “We’re not going to have any problems with the Hellfire Club.” And I was certain he was right!
Oh yeah, speaking of Chicago, I remember now that a woman I knew there was seeing Peter now and then….. so I probably had heard some stories about him by then.
Peter was down-to-earth, charismatic and charming. Peter was totally straight edge. He would talk about other people smoking pot on the bus while he lifted weights in the back. This was during the multi-year touring for Bloody Kisses, when Type O were getting their music out to the fans and developing a strong following. It was great to watch them from the side of the stage as they performed each night at smaller venues, 300 – 500 people. I remember a really lovely old theatre in Poughkeepsie, NY; I was watching from the balcony during sound-check, Type-O were running through covers songs, I think it was DEVO and The Beatles. At one show, Josh’s keyboard was acting up, he pushed it out of the stand and it crashed to the floor. A roadie ran in with a replacement. At the show in Syracuse, I watched the bouncers drag some guy out the back door by his feet, head bouncing on the steps and into the parking lot. Lycia did not get the warm reception Peter expected; stuff was thrown, spit was lobbed. Just a bit too much violence for me.
I believe it was this tour when Type O played the massive Roseland Ballroom in New York City. Really nice to see them on such a big stage, big risers for each member, as if Peter needed to be even taller, to get his point across! ; )
MK Ultra Issue #7, Summer 1996 Q:Two of your favorite bands, Electric Hellfire Club and Lycia, you’ve had the chance to tour with them. Do you feel a responsibility to the public to turn them onto bands like this? Peter: (takes a very deep breath) Um, I think the best way to answer that is to simply say yes. I try to put together an interesting package that I felt if I was a fan I would want to see this package that I would want to see all three bands. Q: How did hardcore fans react to a band like Lycia? Peter: Some of our fans are quite rude. At some points, I felt like I wanted to go out and say something to these few people who were giving the opening bands a hard time, but I figured that might egg them on even more, so I just let it be. Q: Projekt uses the quote you did with us in the first page of the Lycia press kit. Peter: (laughing) Where I said it was “devastatingly beautiful?” Q: And why even bother getting dressed when you can just slit your wrists. They loved that. Peter: (laughing) That’s great music, man.
Black Moon #7, 1996 We did shows with Lycia and the Electric Hellfire Club last October and I thought that the line-up was great. But the management wasn’t happy with the line-up because everything seems to come down to money these days and they would rather put people on the bill that they are sure will draw a lot of people to the show. It sucks that finances have to rear their ugly head.
When you look back on it now, you see a long list of bands that Peter asked to open for Type O Negative, even though the bands might have been obscure and not “adding to the bill” the way management thinks about it, these days. Meaning, Lycia were never asked to pay to get the opening slot, nor did Peter worry about how many heads the band was going to add to the evening. I think Peter genuinely liked helping bands he enjoyed, and he was confident that Type O could draw on their own.
Back in Los Angeles, in the summer of 1995, I caught Type O opening for Queensryche at some massive place, probably the Laker’s Arena. At the end of Type O’s set, roadies walked on stage and wheeled away their equipment, mid-song; staged as a smart ass comment about the 30 minute opener’s set length. Eva-O, Patrick and I didn’t stick around to catch much of Queensryche, we went backstage to hang out with the band. Pat recalls, “Peter was really sick but nonetheless took time to chat before saying we should hang around but that he had to go ’cause he didnt know which end it was gonna be coming out of next!”
Lycia had another opportunity to open for Type-O at an outdoor show, I think it was Toledo. I was living in Chicago at this point so it might have been Summer of 96(?). The sound system was shitte, I think there were no monitors, so Lycia didn’t play. At the end of the set, Type-O’s roadies handed out what seemed like a crate of toilet paper, and a massive toilet paper fight ensued, with long streams of paper flying all over the venue. I just googled “Type O Toilet Paper” and found this fan comment: “Once one guy beaned Pete right in the head with a roll on stage. Peter immediately looked down at the guy and said ‘you should pitch for the Yankees.’ ”
In October 1997, I saw Type-O play the Vic in Chicago, on their October Rust tour (the in-door snow machine was very cool / the blow-up dolls were dumb – but I guess that was the point). As Projekt fans noticed at the time, the album showed sone of the haunting and spacious qualities of Lycia (such as “Red Water (Christmas Mourning)”). Peter lived up to his artistic promise. They were growing, maybe more than his audience wanted. Back stage after the show, a woman had Peter sign her breasts. Another woman sat on his hand and he picked her up as if working a 10 pound weight. As always, Peter was very polite and friendly, he might have been enjoying himself.
Over the years, I heard about Type-O wanting out of their contract with Roadrunner, so they could move to a major label; Roadrunner wasn’t letting them go. I don’t know the politics of this; who was right, who was wrong. I think Peter ended up stepping on too many toes. The band seemed in a holding pattern, it was unfortunate because Type-O had a lot of momentum after the success of Bloody Kisses. I can imagine their frustration, and it spilled out into interviews.
I was doing a catalog mailing one day, and in the Brooklyn addresses I noticed Petrus Ratajczyk. It turns out that years earlier, Peter ordered some CDs and mailed them to his mom’s house. (I remember talking with a manager at one of the shows who told me he sometimes ordered Projekt CDs for Peter.) From that point on, I’d mail a couple of new releases to Mom’s house. It was sort of my “bat signal.” I send something, and a few months later I would get a thank you call. Peter’s deep voice, “Hello Sam….” and a few minutes of jokes and friendly chatter.
Outburn Magazine #11 May 2000 Q: And Type-O Negative toured with Lycia… Peter: They are such a great band. It was such an honor. But unfortunately sometimes our fans can be very ruthless to the opening bands. And there was nothing I could do. I thought it was actually pretty interesting. The October Rust album just came out, and it was all about creepy things and Halloween. I always thought A Day in the Stark Corner was one of the most depressing albums I have ever heard in my entire life…. it actually influenced me somewhat.
Revue Noir, my band with Nicki, had a show in New York City in 2005, I sent a postcard to Mom’s. A few months after the show, I got THE CALL. My son was a few years old, I was getting ready to get divorced; my life was frazzled. But Peter’s life was hell. I had read that he went through rehab, but had fallen back into his old ways. Peter called to say he’d like to come see us play some day; he said he was glad I was happy with my son, but that people like him should never be permitted to breed. The conversation devolved (and I paraphrase) to: “I would like to plunge off the Coney Island Parachute Jump, except I will not do it because that would just make them happy. They have my place bugged. I dismantled and smashed everything to find out where the listening devices were hidden. They were in the lamps and in the sockets in the wall.” Them. Them. Death. Suicide. Destruction. Paranoia. Some of what he said was about getting into Catholicism and that being a good thing for him, but most of what he said was really sad and scary stuff. I kept wondering “Why are you telling ME this?” Had everyone around Peter heard it to the point where they were sick of it, and he needed new ears for this story? We talked (which means, me listening) for about 45 minutes. Said goodbye. The next day I called a business friend who worked with his management at Roadrunner. “Can you ask them to check in with Peter, see if he’s Ok. See if he needs help or something?”
I was on the guest list to see Type-O Negative at Irving Plaza (May 8 2007). The band was really tight, but Peter was so annoying. It sounded like he was intentionally mumbling the lyrics to the songs. The melody was there but the words were not. I had a feeling he was doing it to annoy the other guys in the band. Midway through the set, Peter said something about “eating a bad slice of pizza and having to go throw up,” and the band left the stage. There was 5 – 10 minutes of cartoon music playing through the sound system, and then Peter came back to mumble his way through the rest of the set. If I had paid, I would have been really pissed. I spoke to somebody in California, who said Type O took the same mid-set break at the show there, and he thinks Peter went off-stage to breath from an Oxygen tank.
December 2007, Peter called and asked if I’d be interested in releasing Carnivore’s new album on Projekt. I was honest and said I did not know the material (“Lucky you,” he quipped) and was not sure if it was my style; but I would certainly work with him on releasing it, if it was something he thought made sense for his career (meaning I felt that while Projekt had the distribution network, he needed a bigger label with a budget). I made a few follow-up calls, but never heard more about the idea.
I sent another card to Mom’s house in the fall of 2008. I was working on the 10 Neurotics album, and looking for a vocalist. I thought it might be interesting to have Peter sing a song or two, he could do a really unique interpretation of “Sailor Boy,” or “The Perfect Pervert.” Over the years, Peter has offered to work with at least 5 people I know, but he was always busy and things never materialized. My expectations were very realistic. I just thought it was a cool idea. We talked and Peter said, “Sure send me something to listen to.” I sent him the album in progress; he called back and said he had met somebody and was living in Pennsylvania. “Yeah, I’d like to do something on the album, but can you wait? I’m going into rehab for a month, and I won’t be available until January. Here’s her phone number, if anything comes up and you need to get a message to me.” Of course I could wait, taking care of himself was more important than recording a song.
In January I called, and after a few false starts, we set up a time to record. He was going to drop by my studio in Brooklyn on a Saturday. The day came, I didn’t hear from Peter, then got the expected call. “Hey Sam, sorry about this. But I blew out the tranny on my car, it’s gonna cost me $300 to get it fixed man, I cannot make it today, maybe we can reschedule?”
A transmission doesn’t cost $300 to fix these days; I bet Peter has used this line since high school, when he needed to ditch somebody. You gotta laugh at life and move on. He had his reasons, it wasn’t mine to question them.
I never sent another CD to Mom’s. Peter didn’t call again. I never again heard that baritone “Hello Sam…” nor dreaded the scary reality that might follow.
As you can tell, I know little about Peter Steele and his life…. just how it intersected with mine. It is a pity that Peter is dead, but I think he has gone off to a better place. What I witnessed was a very sad story about a caring and talented guy whose demons got the best of him. Life turns out that way, sometimes.
A few years later The final part of this story is that a few years later I got a phone call. I think it was Peter’s sister, or maybe his ex? They said they were going through Peter’s CDs, and there was a copy of my solo-electronic release, Pod by As Lonely As Dave Bowman. Along with it was a note I wrote with my phone number. She called just to say Hi, and Peter had saved my CD from among the tons of things he received from people over the years. That was nice of them to call about.
From Sam Rosenthal | December 24 2009 | I thought I would do something different for the Xmas Projekt Email List. Rather than tell you about some great music to buy, I asked Projekt’s artists to send me their thoughts on this question:HOW DO YOU MEASURE SUCCESS?
A few weeks ago, I was having a conversation with Athan Maroulis, my vocalist in Black Tape For A Blue Girl. With all the changes in the music industry, the decrease in sales, the increase in illegal downloads, and the new channels by which our music can spread…. as an artist, there is this profound question that requires reanalysis. HOW DO I MEASURE SUCCESS? I will admit that part of the reason I ask is because I do this for a living. I run Projekt as my sole source of income. My thoughts about art are inherently entangled with thoughts of sales, dollars, and fan support. To get a fresh perspective on success, I thought it would be helpful to look at the question from a different angle. I decided to ask the artists I respect to give me their insight, perhaps this will be a helpful way for me to increase my awareness on my thoughts about this question.
To the Bottom of the Sea Voltaire Once upon a time, success for a musician was measured by record sales. That’s just not true anymore. I had a meeting with a record exec a while back and he told me that my Soundscan numbers had gone down hence I was getting less popular. Quite honestly, I was more popular than I had ever been. I had gotten a book deal, released a bunch of toys and was constantly on tour. I had to point out to him that the reason my Soundscan numbers had gone down was because less people were buying CDs in stores (which is how Soundscan gets their numbers), THOUSANDS of people were illegally downloading my songs from the internet and that my most recent CD which was a self release, was for the most part, not available in stores at all! (with the exception of a special deal with Hot Topic). So while I felt more successful than ever, this guy didn’t seem to have the proof he needed because basically he was relying on a form of measurement that’s become largely irrelevant in the music business of today.
Sadly, record sales are just no longer an accurate unit of measurement for a band’s success. So what is? LIVE SHOWS:
These days, I would measure success not by how many records I sell but by how many people come to my shows. It’s easy for someone to find my music for free on the internet so I can’t say that someone who’s heard of me is a ‘fan.’ A true fan is someone who buys a ticket to the concert and comes out to see the show and to say ‘hello’ to me in person. And if they support the tour with a purchase at the merch booth, a T-shirt or poster, etc… then they are REALLY helping the cause. These are the people who keep this business afloat. Without them, all we would really have as musicians is the digital sales. The nice thing about digital sales is that while records sales have dropped, we can now sell a file of the song or of the record. The profit margin is much larger than on a record sale because we don’t actually have to manufacture a CD! Digital sales have really helped to save the artist from plummeting CD sales and piracy, but on the sinking ship that is the record industry, in the tumultuous storm that is the present economy, the benefits of digital sales are just a life vest when what we really need is a new BOAT!
THE INTERNET: Myspace
The internet can also be a measure of a band’s success, but it’s tricky. How many ‘friends’ one has on Myspace, for instance, has become very deceptive. For one, there are many bands that use ‘bots’ to gather total strangers and add them to their friend count. These bands have obscene numbers of friends, so many you’d think they were playing arena tours… and yet, if you were to go to see them play a concert, you’d be lucky to find 100 people there. That’s certainly not success… it’s the semblance of success. With huge Myspace numbers, you might be able to fool someone into signing you or booking you, but it won’t take long for them to realize how many fans you REALLY have.
I’ve also found that on Myspace, a great number of your ‘friends’ are not actually fans. They are just people who, like you, are trying to have as many friends as they can! lol! They are NEVER going to buy your record and they are NEVER going to come to your show. So really, they are sort of worthless and are just there to make you seem more popular than you really are. The REAL friends on Myspace are the ones who post comments (by this I mean REAL comments, not ‘Hey, check out my music and tell me what you think.’), people who follow, read and reply to your blogs, people who are actually engaged in what you are doing as a person and as an artist.
I get tons of email from my website and I have to tell you that some of it is a sad window into the state of things. At least a few times a week I get an email that says, ‘I’m your biggest fan in the whole world’ for some strange reason, they are always my BIGGEST fan, ‘I have all of your songs! My favorites are ‘If I Only Were A Goth, The Vagina Song and Goth Queen&’
What this always tells me is that this person who thinks they are my BIGGEST fan, has never bought one of my CDs or downloaded any of my songs by legitimate means. I know this because ‘If I Only Were A Goth’ is not by me, it’s by Thou Shalt Not! ‘The Vagina Song’ is not by me it’s by The Bloodhound Gang! The last one took me some time to figure out, but ‘Goth Queen’ is apparently my song, ‘Ravens Land’. Like the other two songs it was mislabeled by whatever 12-year-old brat put it up on Limewire. But that aside, I would say that the amount of email you get is indicative of how ‘successful’ you are as an artist because quite simply, it means you are reaching people. People are finding out about you most likely through word of mouth.
The bottom line is that this is what I do for a living. I feed my family and pay my rent by making music. As long as I can continue to do that, I’m succeeding. When people THINK they are a fan of my music but never support what I do by buying a CD or coming to a show, they are fooling themselves and hurting me. I always say, ‘if you keep picking the fruit off of the tree but you never plant any seeds, eventually there will be no more fruit and no more tree.’ The very thing that you claim to BIGGEST FAN of will be gone, because in truth, once I can no longer make a living doing this, I will have to find something else to do for a living and the music will stop. I’m not trying to sound maudlin here, mind you. It’s just the truth.
PS: It’s also possible that the number of stalkers you have might be an indication of success. I now have two. I’m not talking about a girl with a passing fancy here, mind you, I mean a truly deranged person you don’t personally know who has made you a central figure in their life and emails you several times a week for months or even years. Or maybe that’s just a an awful side effect of having some measure of ‘success.’
Different Shade of Beauty Doug White / Makaras Pen / Tearwave
One thing I know is the day of the super group is gone. Radiohead and Coldplay might be the last couple of bands to slip under the wire before the demise of the music business. Artists sometime can feel successful for personal creative reasons or fame and financial related reasons. I create for mood. Songs that have caught the right mood and feeling are a success to me unto themselves. My success is now measured in wonderful fan e-mails and questions about the music and the creative process. Having received letters about Makaras Pen music being played at funerals, in hospitals, to long personal trips that fans have taking is very rewarding to me. I think some artists hope financial gains might help them to further their music but that measurement is all but nearly gone now for an underground indie artist involved in a small genre.
Good turnouts and merchandise sales at live events are a nice successful feeling as well but those become secondary for me to fan mail and personal interaction with people hearing Makaras Pen’s music. The one remaining savior for underground music with smaller cult followings has been I-tunes along with direct sales like at Projekt.com. I-tunes is the last place where the ‘honest’ music buying public can go and buy music and the artist is compensated some for their efforts. This also is a good feeling to know the music has ‘moved somewhere’.
At this point I think SUCCESS can only be measured on how much an artist’s music is reaching the interested listening public. It can not be measured in dollars or chart sales anymore. How to gage this success is still being determined. Can’t use the myspace play counter anymore as a barometer.
Andrew Hulme / O Yuki Conjugate
HOW DO YOU MEASURE SUCCESS? As the satisfactory completion of your ideas.
Defining Musical Success
The main question is always whether to define success in terms of the quality of the music and how the music touches the lives of others, in contrast to how many CDs sold.
Along the way in my musical career, I try not to forget why I started with music. What influenced me so strongly back then when I was 11 years old? If I can say that I still get that feeling, well, that is success to me!
I try to remind myself about this everyday.
Everyone has to find his or her own definition of musical success. But my overall goal is simply to find joy in music. I want to enjoy every step of the process of writing, recording, and performing my own music: And then hopefully inspire and move the listener. Nothing compares to listening to a finished song that you think yourself is fantastic. And then get the same response from the listeners.
Also success to me is to be able to spend 10-16 hours in your studio everyday, trying to make an even better song than the one you made yesterday.
Disciple Mark Seelig
As the world changes, the idea of what success might be changes as well. Success now is becoming the expression of synchronicity between an individual’s creativity and her or his resonance with the collective energy of the present time. If the artist becomes a channel for this synchronicity, then she or he will be successful in a way that will continue to be completely independent of the darker collective forces at work, such as illegal downloads etc. Much rather, she or he will touch people’s souls in way that will quench a thirst that both artist and recipient carry. That kind of success will not primarily address the bank account but the soul. If this perspective becomes natural to the artist, the reflection on the bank account is bound to follow, but it’s not the primary target anymore. True ‘success’ means service to the spirit of humanity.
[a lantern carried in blood and skin] Joshua Gentzke / Lux Interna
As an artist one is always in the strange position of making what is essentially intimate, public. And this complicated situation is further compounded by the introduction of economic concerns into the equation. Thus, the artist, the audience, and the flux and flow of material concerns continuously interact with each other, often in uneasy ways. Not to give voice to clichéd sentiments or – given the type of music we create – state the obvious, but Lux Interna has never been about playing at the game of becoming pop sensations. We do what we do, make the music we make, because we love it. And perhaps, more to the point, because it is simply what we must do. That said, it is important for us to be able to share what we do with those who have ears to hear, and this means bringing the music from the stage of an initial vision to that of a finished work. This process obliges us to be concerned, at least to some degree, with economics, CD sales, and all the usual benchmarks of success. Luckily there are still those out there who will seek out and support independent music that moves them, rather than remaining content to consume the mass marketed sounds force-fed to them by the mainstream music media. Equally lucky, both for these intrepid souls, as well as the musical artists who likewise follow their own muse, is the existence of labels such as Projekt willing to invest time, energy, and money in enabling and fostering relationships between independent artists and independent audiences. And enfolded in the term “relationship” are, we feel, terms of success which are able to transcend the fluctuations of the music industry brought about by new media, mass marketing, downloading, etc. This is to say that many of the relationships that have come out of our ;making what is essentially intimate. public,” have given, and continue to give us, a strong feeling of being successful in what we do. Many of the people whom we have crossed paths with due to their interest in our music, whether through email, at performances, via letter, or in some other capacity facilitated by the presence of the music, have touched our lives in deeply fulfilling ways. Therefore, though the chance to “get the music out there” is necessarily bound up with the instabilities of the modern music industry and the fickle climate that influences it, there remain measures of success grounded in real, human, and very tangible interactions and exchanges that reach far beyond economics. In this, we are successful.
Phantoms Forrest Fang
I had to think about this question for awhile. It’s a little difficult to answer. The most satisfying moment for me during a CD project is at the moment I’ve created the music, since it’s coming from a very subconscious part of me that I don’t see that often. Success seems like a much more subjective concept to me. Ideally, I feel that a project is successful if it connects with the listener and I can tell from their feedback that they really ‘get it.’ I prefer it if my music is heard and seen the way I envisioned it, in full digital fidelity and in a conventional CD package. But I know that a quiet session in front of the home stereo is not a luxury that everyone has these days. As for illegal downloads, I hope that if people like what they hear, they will buy it. It can be little disheartening to work on a release for several years, only to see it pop up on a torrent site within a month or two after it comes out. Please support the artists on the label by paying for their music, so that Sam and Projekt can continue releasing CDs in the future.
Spiders, Aether & Rain Ashkelon Sain / Trance to the Sun / Soriah
My evaluation of ‘success’ can be measured conclusively by the level of enthusiasm I feel for what I’m doing. And this is the way it has always been with me, ever since the day when I was about thirteen, and some inexplicable force drove me to pull my childhood guitar down off the high shelf in the closet to see if I still knew how to play it. Since then, countless factors have influenced the way I’ve perceived and carried out the process of creating and performing my music. And yet I still cannot seem to draw a distinction between what I deem worthy of the word ‘success’ vs. my own personal sense of motivation & enthusiasm toward my objectives. If I could go back into the past, and change one thing, it would be to instill more faith in the future into my younger self. I think that being driven solely by one’s sense of enthusiasm in it’s worst case scenario can lead to a distracting sense of ‘wanting everything right now!’, and sometimes this can be a hindrance to really effective planning and foresight.
Although I would be thrilled to find that the income generated by my music was sufficient to live on, this has never been a requirement to continue. It’s become increasingly obvious to me that the most rewarding things about music making usually have nothing to do with money. For me personally, the opposite of success would be the loss of the ability to interpret feeling into music.
A World We Pretend Todd Loomis / The Twilight Garden
I think in order for me to measure success, I have to have an ideal. If I have a dream or goal that I want to attain, I measure success by how close I come to those goals. Sometimes, my goals are probably pretty unrealistic… and in those cases, obviously I don’t feel any sense of success at all. In those cases, I usually end up re-defining my goals – breaking things into smaller goals and more attainable ‘steps’ that will hopefully eventually lead to my larger goal. I try to learn to celebrate the steps as well… sometimes I do get frustrated that the larger goals seem so far off… but having smaller independent goals, or smaller goals leading to larger ones are what keep me sane – so I feel like I am working toward something. I like to always have a sense of direction. Without that, my life feels worthless. Considering the music industry and goals in particular, when I was a kid, I dreamed of playing sold out stadium shows and uniting the world with my music! hahaha… I actually sort of still have that dream/goal, but I have redefined it to make it more realistic. When someone contacts me and lets me know that my music has really moved them in some way… that they really ‘feel’ what I do, it gives me a sense of accomplishment and a connection with them. Connecting with people in my music is a valid goal for me, and one that is attainable. Hopefully enough of those connections will lead to a bit more success – which will hopefully allow me to get better music equipment, to make better recordings, to better connect with more people. I dream of just making a decent living making music even. That being said, I will do this music anyway until the day I die, because my love of music and the act of creation doesn’t depend on any of those types of goals… but without the connection to other people, obviously it isn’t as fullfilling… and without a bit of financial success doing this, it’s obviously difficult to keep purchasing new equipment, and difficult to spend the amount of time that I would like to spend doing music – simply because I am busy earning money in whatever way I can in order to survive. I know there are some people out there who may have never had to work for a living, but that has not been a luxury I have ever experienced. I don’t think I deserve that anyway… even if I became a huge star, I believe I would still expect myself to continue creating good works – and connecting with people – creating something they value. Obviously if all I cared about was money, I would have spent all of my time pursuing a more attainable lucrative career as a lawyer or doctor or something – rather than spending my time in the music industry! 🙂 Being a part of the music world though seems to be where my heart lies… and I believe it will stay that way throughout the remainder of my life. I am sure it will be fruitful in many ways.
Kill The Buddha! Martin Bowes / Attrition
The recording industry has turned on its head….. physical sales are nothing compared to what they were 10 years ago… we were lucky that we came through that time and have that fan base built up already… but for new artists in particular it is very hard…. and for labels too…. small sales means less money to spend on promotion which is a vicious circle in the end…. illegal downloads CAN help…. we toured russia last year and ALL the promoters had downloaded our music illegally…they didnt even WANT a copy of our latest CD…. so it saved us money and meant we toured all over Russia… we could hardly complain…. LEGAL downloads obviously help a lot more… but in a time when everything is free and available on the internet i think that is always going to be a problem… but there are more things to consider…. the internet has its good side too… the easy contact and promotion and channels for people to listen to music…. we have more live shows than ever before… and live shows never really change….and people do still buy CD’s and shirts at shows…. they want to take home a souvenier…. and there are more places broadcasting our music… online or offline.. and more TV channels and more independent film makers using our music… we have received more money from broadcasting than ever before…
so now is difficult…and now is changing…. but now is still ok….
oh i forgot about the question!….
Success is nothing to do with sales it is to do with artistic satisfaction. have a great 2010
Dakini Lisa Hammer
‘Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.’ – Sir Winston Churchill
The Perfect Dream Steve Jones / Area
Of course there are no simple and easy answers to this. Underlying the question is an age old conundrum for artists and society: Can art and commerce mingle? Obviously, they do, but in every instance that they do the consequences are significant, sometimes disastrous and other times marvelous. What is interesting to me presently (aside from how the internet continues to befuddle the recording industry) is that in our era of almost unlimited, and inexpensive, choices for music, we are beginning to see people making choices that the recording industry is not forcing on them (Susan Boyle being a good example). What is distressing, though, is that while there is a lot of talk about how the recording industry must find new models to make money and survive, there is not a lot of talk about models by which artists make money and survive. Perhaps the first level of success is simply survival. How many artists, whether musicians or not, can survive by their art? I daresay not many. I also daresay that probably not all should. But I would like to see the proportion tilt toward more of them being able to do so than not. While there is some merit to a system that winnows the good from the bad by, at least in part, financial criteria, it should not be only those criteria that count, for if they do then only those with the werewithal (or backing) will rise to our attention (or be shoved down our throats). I would prefer to make the choice about what comes to my attention myself or via my friends and acquaintances. The internet makes that somewhat possible, but it has not (or not yet) solved the problem of providing sufficient support that artists can make it on their own. Or, possibly, it has had a neutral effect: As regards music, on the one hand it provides new sources of revenue (iTunes, streaming, etc.) but on the other hand it provides means of file sharing music for free. To return to the core of the question, though, for myself the best answer is as follows. We cannot live without music. I feel successful as a musician when I create music that someone, at least for a time, feels they cannot live without.
10 Neurotics Sam Rosenthal / Black Tape For A Blue Girl / Revue Noir / As Lonely As Dave Bowman
I like having a new CD out. I like knowing that all the ideas I had been working on, and the hundreds of hours of recording and editing in the studio have resulted in this OBJECT which is my art in exactly the form I want to present to the world. I do love the process of working with my band in the studio, I even have to admit that I kind of do not loathe being on the road with Athan and Nicki. Yet 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.
Just as I was preparing this email, I received an email from a Rob MacDonald, who was one of the VPs at Ryko, our former distributor. It was a ‘goodbye email’ and it included this bit:
When the consumer hears that certain piece of music, watches that cool film or reads that amazing book they are touched in so many different ways. That emotion is key to the continued success of what it is that drives us to get up every day and work so hard. To be blessed we can be part of this wonderful part of life that touches so many people in so many ways! Keep the faith and keep the great Music, Film and Books coming because we all need this like air.
As the guy at Projekt, I think THAT is what I want to know – again. I want to know intuitively that Success is being part of the process that facilitates THAT EMOTION in the audience. It is not the $$$ figure on the bottom line that should be looked to as the definitive statement of whether an album is a ‘success.’ I am part of the process that makes the art available — the process that allows you to feel that feeling, that joy, that introspection, that satisfaction.
Here’s to the start of an amazing new decade All my love, Sam