Archive for the ‘Inside Projekt’ Category
Here are a few paragraphs that covers what it’s about.
…Artists say that aspects of the law that were written in the late 1990s make it too easy for tech companies to ignore rampant piracy on their sites and put too much responsibility on the artists themselves to find the illegal music files.
It may be hard to feel sorry for high-profile artists like Taylor Swift — but you might feel bad for Sam Rosenthal, who runs a small independent label, Projekt Records. He’s been making a living as a musician and producer of electronic music for 30 years. Over the past decade, he says he’s struggled to keep his business alive.
“It involves continuously finding more ways to save and downsizing. And trying to keep ahead of the decline basically,” Rosenthal says. “I had 11 people working for me in the ’90s and now I have two part-time people working for me.”
and then later:
“Google could solve this problem — 90 percent of this problem — with one switch,” Rosenthal says. “And if they were really on the side of the creators they would do something about that.”
To contact Sam, email sr.projekt-at-gmail.comThere were two things I realized while doing this interview.
1) Projekt is more than this silly little thing I do for a living. It’s not just my job, it’s actually a small business, that has served a purpose in the financial ecosystem of many lives. And – unbeknown to most – over the last 20 years Projekt has brought in and spent over $7,500,000! Very little of that stuck to me, mind you. It went out to the artists, and the manufacturing plants, and rent, and salaries, and shipping supplies, and the promotion Projekt has done.
Projekt is one of those “small businesses” you always hear politicians patriotically talking about. I once employed eleven people, many full time, paid a decent salary, and even covered health insurance for some of them for a while. I’ve written checks to artists for a lot of royalties over the years. But so much of that was rapidly destroyed by the changes in the music industry.
Think about $7,500,000. That’s a lot of cash that Projekt has swirled around the economy; especially when you consider that Projekt is a teeny-tiny little label that 99.9% of the people who listen to NPR have never heard of.
2) I really *do* blame the tech industry for the destruction that has befallen artists: musicians, filmmakers, video game makers, porn makers. We’ve all become the content that consumers want for free; the content the tech industry wants to provide for free, without having to pay anything for it.
When I said “Google could solve this problem,” I wasn’t actually talking about Google talking the files down, which is the way the article frames it. What I specifically meant was that Google knows exactly who the bad actors are. Google’s Transparency Report is a running tally of DMCA complaints filed with Google, for sites that post links and post illegal content. There were over eighty-eight million (88,171,520) reports filed in the last month! 4shared.com has over 3 million in the last month and fourty-two million since they started keeping track.
I highly doubt 4shared is doing something legitimate.
Google could flip a switch and block 4shared from their search engines across the world. Problem solved.
I know. Some will cry censorship. And others will cry, “Yeah, but what if Google gets complaints about my website and block it?” Well listen, you’re not getting 3 million DMCA complaints a month, are you? (If you are, you’re doing something wrong). Google could establish a threshold. How about, “If your site gets 250,000 complaints in a month, you have to clean up your act and reduce that number by 99%. If you get the same or more the next month, and then the next month, Bam! You’re off the Google search engine.”
Cry censorship, but that’s not what this is. This is blocking bad actors who continue with unethical activities that kill other businesses. Like I said, I used to have 11 employees. Now I have one, and two part-time helpers. All these tech companies are screwing the artists you love as well as the people who work in the artistic industries. And you know why? Because tech companies (and the illegal hosting sites) are making money from doing this. Nobody in the tech world wants to change; not when they’re getting rich off of us.
But something has to change.
Google and the other tech companies could solve problems without the government rewriting the DMCA. While the major labels are renegotiating just how screwed they’ll allow themseves to be by youTube, why don’t they hold out until Google makes some changes to search?
Seems like a deal that should be struck.Left, unsaid
There was something that didn’t make it into the interview.
When I mentioned this self-curating of the bad actors, Laura said something like, “Well the tech companies would say this is infringing on the free flow of information…” And I shot back, “Well of course they would say that, because saying that is in their best financial interest.”
What they are not saying is it would infringe on their freedom to make money off the work of artists and creators. Google pays nothing – but gets rich – off other people’s content when they share these links to illegal content and sell ad space around it. Has Google paid an advance to an artist to create music? Has Google funded an artists’ tours? Their videos? No. They don’t support creativity.
Yet they certainly love making money off creator’s labor!
Honestly, I feel this is an old fight that I have personally moved on from. I know artists have lost and tech companies have won. I can’t keep re-arguing an ethically correct (but real-world unsuccessful) argument. I am finding new ways to continue making a living, keeping Projekt in business, earning income for the artists who work with me, while following my vision for what Projekt should be.
I am resigned to the fact that the tech companies will keep making money off creators, while screwing me and my friends.
But I do thank those of you who support artists with your purchases. You’re the good guys.
From Facebook:August releases on Projekt from Sam Rosenthal:
Picking up Blacktape’s classic 90s darkwave, ethereal, darkAmbient sound; original vocalist Oscar Herrera returns on their 30th anniversary.
Black Tape For A Blue Girl: These fleeting moments
Deluxe-CD, limited edition of 500, order CD for $20 Deluxe packaging: CD in a 7″ x 5″ landscape-shaped dvd-sized digipak with internal pocket holding the 12-page booklet. Matte varnish. Thick stock. Signed by Sam.
These fleeting moments
Black Tape For A Blue Girl returns to their evocative ethereal, neoclassical, darkAmbient, gothic roots with an album exploring the existential predicaments of time’s passage, choices questioned, and loves lost. Original vocalist Oscar Herrera rejoins the band after a 17-year absence. His darkly dramatic vocals are complemented by Dani Herrera’s emotional and heartfelt voice, Nick Shadow’s visceral viola, Brian Viglione’s (The Dresden Dolls) driving drums, and band-founder Sam Rosenthal’s pensive electronics and revelatory songwriting. These fleeting moments, their 11th studio release, is 70 minutes of powerful, gorgeously yearning tracks born from the same place as their 90s classics Remnants of a Deeper Purity and A Chaos of Desire.
1 Lycia: A Line That Connects CD (out of print) 2 Erik Wøllo: Echotides (ep) 3 Alio Die & Lorenzo Montanà: Holographic Codex CD 4 Erik Wollo: Blue Radiance CD 5 Dirk Serries & Stratophere: 2-pack CDs 6 Steve Roach: Etheric Imprints CD 7 Lycia: Quiet Moments CD 8 Forrest Fang: Letters To The Farthest Star CD 9 Steve Roach: Skeleton 2-Pack CDs 10 Mirabilis: Here and the Hereafter CD (with 2 bonus CDs)Projekt Webstore Top-5 for the previous 30 days:
1 Forrest Fang: The Sleepwalker’s Ocean 2-CD 2 Steve Roach: Vortex 2-Pack 2-CD 3 Steve Roach: Emotions Revealed CD 4 Steve Roach & Mark Seelig: Nightbloom (50% OFF) CD 5 Steve Roach: immersion : three (50% OFF) 3-CD
Doing a Kickstarter? Here’s my #1 piece of advice for your last 3 hours.
Once your campaign ends, the main page is locked down and you cannot make any changes. Your Kickstarter page will be up for ETERNITY; consider what you want people to do in 6 months when they drop by the page. I add a graphic to the top of my page with a link to a website; I want to provide an easy way for people to find more info about the THING that I spent all that time Kickstartering.
Don’t make them dig three clicks in to find the link!
Here’s one I created for my friend….
and here’s one I made for Black Tape For A Blue Girl
Yes, streaming is growing, while physical & download sales are shrinking. Projekt has seen this pattern, like most other labels. I would love to see a chart that shows TOTAL dollars year over year for the last decade, then breaks that pie out out between physical, digital download, and streams. I am quite curious what that would look like. If you have such a chart, send me a link.
From my perspective (as the guy running Projekt), I sense there are many people who have switched to streaming as their primary source of music (with perhaps a couple purchases a year of limited edition titles from their favorite artists). While many artists reflect nostalgically about the way it was in the 90s, I am a realist; I have to think about what is happening NOW, because (alas) we cannot go back to the way it was. As a business person, I’m always looking ahead and following along with the formats that the audience is interested in. If people aren’t buying CDs (or downloads) anymore, then Projekt as a label (on behalf of my artists) has to pick up the pennies wherever I can.
I don’t think the streaming model can sustain smaller artists, the pay rate is too low. However, it’s a case of SOMETHING vs. nothing at all. Yes, I know; it sounds like I’m “endorsing” streaming. Not exactly; but at this point what’s the other option? You can’t force customers to buy something when so many have given up on buying. Loyal fans (like those of you who buy CDs from us here at the Projekt site, our Bandcamp page or iTunes), can be relied on to buy objects. But it’s tough for that to support a small act’s $14 standard retail release CD.
I tell anyone who wants to listen that things aren’t over for us artists. It’s about (a) using all the distribution/funding tools available, and (b) having a conversation with fans that financial support is really important to help us pay the costs involved in creating art.
In the end, streaming is the way a lot of the listeners are headed. Nearly all labels I speak with report substantial streaming growth in the last two years; it’s now part of how we stay in business. You can’t leave the pennies on the floor. You gotta pick them up.
I still love when people buy from Projekt, and at the same time I realize that isn’t the way everyone wants to get their music. I do what seems best for the artists I work with.
Thanks for your support.
We collected questions from followers on the Steve Roach Facebook page. Here are Steve’s answers:
David DeWolf: Steve, what inspires you the most in creating sounds? Thank you for the endless beauty within your music!
Steve: Creating sounds from a blank slate is like mixing your own colors to paint with; there is a kind of blending of many senses during this process. The sensual nature of hearing and feeling sound is vital in this, and it’s what defines an artist’s “voice.” The pathways into one’s perception as these sounds are developed over time is an experience I crave on a daily basis. The inspirations come from living life itself with a curious mind, from the subtle points of awareness that can’t be described with words. The same feeling I receive when discovering a new place out in nature for example. The sound carving impulses are also certainly drawn from the larger more dynamic episodes of the day to day as well. In most cases the creation of the sounds comes first, then the music emerges.
Louie Bourland: Steve, it was your music that introduced me to the sounds of the didgeridoo. Can you please share how you first came in contact with the didgeridoo? Also, what advice or tips do you have for musicians that are just learning how to play the didgeridoo?
Steve: I first heard the didgeridoo in the movie the Last Wave in the late 70′s. Immediately the sound spoke to to me the same way certain organic synth drones did in those days.
Eventually I started on the early ideas that would become Dreamtime Return. As fate would have it, I was reading more on aboriginal culture and working on the music when a filmmaker heard my music and contacted me to score a documentary on the Aboriginal Rock painting art of the Australian Aborigines of Cape York. The very book I was reading was part of what the film was drawing from.
Soon I was traveling to Australia to experience all this firsthand with a expedition into the deep of the outback and the sacred sites that few westerners had ever seen. During the adventure I met Aboriginal Didg player David Hudson as part of the music/dance group he led in Cairns. This meeting was pivotal for me and the didgeridoo infusion. In the late 80s, I recorded David’s Wollunda. At that time there were no CDs of solo didgerdoo music anywhere on the planet that we could find, Wollunda was the first. I had to convince the owner of the record company there there was audience for this.
Eventually I learned to play from him. As for new players and ways to learn, there has to be a lot of youtube demos. Back then, I was giving day-long workshops on how to play.
Also for learning, playing along with didg albums is a great way to entrain the brain to circular breath. I continue to use the didg in various modes morphed and blended with the electronics and play it for fun and health benefits – deep breathing!
David Leavitt: Steve, what similarities do you see or feel between mountain biking and the process of making music? : )
Steve: David! Yes we have had some great rides in the outback of Tucson. The movement of the rotating mass is highly psychoactive for me, and it’s been fueling the music for years. I have been riding mountain bikes since the mid 80′s; this is great way to get out there and – at the same time – deeper in there. With the kind of mountain bike rides I do, the power breathing, cardio and brain functions are all working towards a sweet spot of what I like to call the endorphin dreamtime, otherwise known as the zone. I access a lot of insights and just pure raw emotion, unassigned joy, and body ecstasy from this state. It feeds the creative fire immensely and might help me to live a bit longer too.
Jamie Blackman: What was Jorge Reyes like, not so much as a collaborator, but as a person? He received practically no English-language media coverage, so I’ve never even read an interview with him. Anything you could say would be awesome.
Steve: Jorge was a man of the world. He spoke 5 languages and was quite well versed in many areas from an intellectual dimension and into the shamanic realm he lived so fully within.
There was a certain wild feeling in him as well. I could feel this when he was staying at my house; wild like maybe a kind of animal – a wolf-like feeling.
He was also gentle and had a warm open heart; and then we would go to these places together in the music that were just off the chart – dark and confronting.
His concert with me in Tucson was his first real U.S. appearance. We were planning more, and I know if he was still here he would be much more known in the states now.
He was very well-known in Mexico; he was on TV and played large concerts for thousands on a regular basis. We did some of those together in the 90′s, and these remain the largest audiences I have played for.
Also his presence in Europe was strong. Lots of interviews occurred in Germany, Netherlands, and Spain. He played constantly over there. That’s were we met.
Philippe Jeudi: Almost no musician today has interest for multichannel engineering, although technology for both recording and music playing are more available than ever. Even the companies who promote these technologies have no interest in native multichannel music. Pioneers like Edgar Varèse in the 1950′s would probably have enjoyed it. Is it something you would like to experience for your music?
Steve: While I feel my music is suited for this kind of application I don’t feel the demand is there to support the overall investment this would involve. Or maybe there’s a multichannel world out there I am not aware of. I am just not able to go out on a plank to find out.
Tim Preston: I want to know if Steve would consider coming to the UK or Europe in the near future.
Steve: I played in Europe over the course of 12 years up through 2003. These days I am keeping the travel here in the US. That can change if the right situation appeared with the proper support to make it happen. It’s a complex matter to air travel my gear these days, after 9/11. We will see.
For the time being, my US concerts will continue to be the destination if people want to see me live.
Robert Millsop: Steve, what might you have to say about your experience(s) working with the late Jorge Reyes? I’ve been specifically fascinated with the Forgotten Gods album and how that came about.
Steve: I will add to the part about Jorge above. We met at a festival on the Canary Islands in the early 90′s. Guitarist Suso Saiz was also at this event. The concert was in a volcanic lava cave made into a theater. I would say this set the tone for our entire run as a group and our duo collaborations, playing in locations that feed our process.
We were asked of do a set together and afterwards the connection grew. Some more concerts in Mexico occurred, and we made plans to create an album together at my house in Tucson.
At that time Linda and I had just moved to Tucson so the Timeroom was in the master bedroom of the house. This is where the entire Forgotten Gods album was recorded and mixed over a week’s time.
The album was built in a live mode; we would play and compose through improvisation, and then record live to capture the feeling, adding the final brush strokes in the end. We completed Forgotten Gods in a few days; as soon as it was finished John Diliberto flew in to record a living room concert in our house for the Echoes radio show. We just moved the gear from the studio to the living room, set up and with about 15 friends around – and John recording the music – we performed what we had just created the week before.
We went on to do a tour in Europe and recorded Earth Island in Madrid, Spain, and Osnabruck, Germany.
Philip Thompson: What was the last CD you played in your car?
Steve: Alive In the Vortex – my new release coming in December. I was listening to a test master on the way to the airport for the Philly concert.
Before that the Jimmy Page remastered Led Zeppelin 3.
Parrish S. Knight: How is something like “See Things” scored? It’s hard to see how you could create sheet music for it.
Steve: All of my music is created the way a painter works: starting with blank canvas of silence or no sound and then letting the first impulse be revealed…
From there the interactive process unfolds in the way which I think any creative act evolves as you focus on your intentions, or just going with the flow of no exceptions.
George Martindell: Hi Steve. Being someone who prefers composing and creating music at night, my question to you is this: do you find yourself recording and composing your extraodionary music more so during the night, or in the day hours? Thank you.
Steve: Indeed the more womb-like pieces are often created in the deeper hours, but many are often made at high noon. If it’s an ongoing piece that involves lots of tracks and arrangements, I might work on these throughout day into night. But I would say the initial birthing is more nocturnal for the pieces that have night feeling. I also really love to work on sounds and explore first thing in the early AM. Wake up, cup of coffee and meditate to the carving up of sounds or playing and working on music before the day gets started.
It’s a great way to merge into the day and sometimes before you know it something lights up a small spark from a sound and this could become a larger piece that keeps drawing me to it.
Tweedel Dee: How many licks does it take to get the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop out of your kid’s hair the night before school picture day?
Steve: This seems obvious. The best workaround is to use scissors.
Amay Progrez: A lot of your albums have the spiral shape. What is the significance of the spiral shape, or is there something about the shape that appeals to you?
Steve: The spiral is a visual metaphor for my work on many levels and the unbroken connection of this creative life I live. I always sense a through-line of life when I see this shappe. From the center outwards, or into the center, it’s a visual form I receive energy and grounding from. Also with its presence in the different cultures and ancient rock and cave art and throughout the world, there is the powerful universal imprint contained in this form.
Witek Borkowski: How much of an influence did Jean Michel Jarre have on your music?
Steve: In the early days I listened to his classics always looking to learn and see how people were creating music with the emerging technology.
I can’t say there was big influence but a strong appreciation.
That live performance DVD from a few years ago of him with the group playing Oxygene was pretty amazing.
Rod Smith: What was the set list for your recent show at St. Mary’s Church in Philly? It was one of the best shows I have ever seen?
Steve: Thank you. The set you experienced had, along with some of the familiar themes, a lot of material that was being created on the spot never to happen again.
In this list “new” means it was created in the moment as you were hearing it.
Opening the Space – the piece out front on the solo synth. – new A Majestic Void – new Endorphin Dreamtime Flow State – new Primal Portal – new Looking for Safety Kairos Portal Vortex Immersion Zone Going Gone Melting Gone – new Spiral live part 1 – new Spiral live part 2 – new The Way-back Machine – new Its All Connected This Delicate Life – new Today Structures From Silence – Epilogue version
Jonathan Graham: A two-part question. A: What piece of equipment or instrument (digital, analogue, acoustic or otherwise) have you had the longest and still use? B: the most recent one?
Steve: The Oberheim Xpander-Matrix 12 and the the Oberheim OB8 are the elder analogs. The DSI Prophet 8 and 12 are the recent current synths to join the studio.
The DSI has the deep matrix patching and feels connected to the Oberheim Matrix 12 and Xpander in terms of the intuitive flow, sound exploring options and build quality.
New synths always pass an initial test of my personal needs to get installed in the studio. From there it can still be a few months of working with them to see if they are in for the long run.
Emil Karlsson: Hi Steve, I’m pretty sure I’m one of your fewer younger listeners here, but an avid one all the same. I was just really curious about when you have an idea for a new project, do you do any kind of planning beforehand like many artists/composers? Do you draw out a “map” when you set out, in a figurative sense, or do you simply allow the music and soundworlds to evolve, thus taking on a form of their own in a “spur of the moment” fashion as you work on them in the Timeroom? I hope this isn’t too broad of a question, since it’s really for any of your projects, though if there’s one you’d like to talk about in particular. I’m all ears, and it would be very insightful indeed.
Steve: Great to know you’re listening and curious. Some projects can take months or years to take seed and start to grow, they can live either in the realm of thought before action. Some pieces are created over time that start to reveal a the bigger picture. With Skeleton Keys the desire to create these pure analog-based mandala-like pieces came before the music. As it started to build, it felt like pulling a cord off of a spool, unrolling a connected and highly electrified current. Once you start this kind of connected feeling, the pieces build an energy with a pull that won’t let go.
In this case it was created all live in the studio. Other pieces like Bloodmoon Rising are created in layers and offer the opportunity to listen and work on over time, like a painting on an easel.
This is where the times of day, the magic hour at the end of the day and the light changes in the studio and in the view I have, the deep hours of the night, all inform the process of working on the piece.
Kim Lynn Blackhurst: what is the most favorite piece or composition that you have done and how does it differentiate from your other compositions?
Steve: It’s nearly impossible to choose any one piece. Something like Dreamtime Return has some very deep memories infused into it. Going to Australia as part of the creation of the music, and that time frame over all. There was so much opening up within myself and in the world around this music at that time. Each recording has this kind of imprint of the life I am living at the time infused into the music; even if it’s not something a listener will ever be aware of, it’s there and I can hear it and feel it years later. It might be a subtle awareness that is recalled when I hear the piece or a reconnection to one of those Ah-ha moments.
Johnathan Woodson: Would you ever consider reissuing Structures From Silence on vinyl?
Steve: There is talk of it now with a few people maybe for next year.
Next up on vinyl is NOW, my first release. This will include a unreleased 23 minute-piece from that era. I should have this in November.
Robert Logan: Hi Steve! How did you get such a great sound in the live acoustic percussion recordings on your ‘tribal’ releases – particularly on something like Trance Spirits? (Sorry for such an engineery question . . . But it’s all part of the depths of feeling in the music!)
Steve: The acoustic percussion was recorded in a studio with a collection of great microphones by Jeff Fayman. It was recorded with a few percussionists all locked in together, and that energy is captured in the tracks and processed and enhanced the final tracks and built the pieces on these foundations.
Patrick Van de Ven: Steve, while listening to your more sequencer-approached music, I’ve often wondered if you’ve ever played with/considered odd time-measures like 7/8 or 9/8. A good example of a 9/8 sequence part is in Kit Watkins’ “The Impulse of Flow”.
Steve: I always go with a feeling that sits in the body and mind when carving out these sequencer pieces. I often use different length sequences set against each other. That’s a big part of the beauty of this style of music: the way the patterns interlock and then cycle around and back into phase. I tend to go for a feeling in sequence music that hits a kind of sweet spot, where it grooves and hits you at that body pulse place, so really the groove element is essential in this music for me. There is an infinite calculation of options to what you’re talking about, and we all have a different take on it. Speaking of Kt Watkins, one of my favorite pieces in the style you mention is from his group Happy The Man and the song “Service With A Smile,” great track!
Maarten van Valen: Are there any artists who you would like to collaborate with which would draw you out of your comfort zone?
Steve: I would like to combine my comfort zone with Jon Hassell’s to tell you the truth. I know Jon a bit and was in contact with him back in the late 80′s when he first moved to LA.
Right now I have so many ideas in my own universe I am consumed with, I am mostly focused on my solo work.
I do have a wicked collaboration coming with a young electronic artist based in London. His name is Robert Logan, you can find his music online. We have been working on tracks for a few years along side all the other work. It’s very kinetic and the generational difference is creating a nice melting pot. He is in his 20′s and brings a different perspective on things. At the same the time, he was drawn to a lot of my music both in the deep ambient and pieces like Body Electric, listened to a lot of this in his formative years. He has a brilliant feeling for creating the full range of this music, talented and musically wise beyond his years. 2016 will see the release of our album BioMass.
Thomas Lowther: Not sure if anyone asked this yet. How do you come up with your track titles?
Steve: Sometimes the titles emerge first, and I will live with them for long time before any music is made for that set of words or title. They gather an atmosphere and energy and work like keys to a place that help visualize the music. Other times when the piece comes first, the hours of living with the music will reveal the title or set phrases or words that are born from the essence of the piece. It’s a ongoing mysterious process.
Andy Barbara Dent: Does the desert remain a mainspring of inspiration?
Steve: The desert remains my soul tone zone from which I can return to for recalibration and renewal. At least 3 days a week I venture out into my local outback areas and never take it for granted.
Blair Harrington: Hi, you were the only person I’ve ever listened to that has the ability to to create three dimensional music. I would like to know how you created this. How can you make it sound like you’re playing in a canyon or landscape? Your subtle, very quiet and distant echoes of some of the sounds actually create the landscape around you as you shut your eyes and listen to it.
Steve: Thank you Blair, there is no easy answer as to how this happens. I think the complexities of being human are what defines the soul of an artist. It’s the way of an artist to apply this understanding to the process of creating and pushing the boundaries of one’s self. Indeed I use a lot of modern tools to make this music now; but even 30 years ago — when the tools I used were considered modern and are now vintage — the feeling and desire to make these spaces transcends the technology at hand. In this way I see something that plugs into the wall for power the same as elemental instruments made of wood, clay, stone, or metal; they are all working together to create the expansive, transcendent picture. I am driven to keep reaching for the inexplicable and bring it into form.
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.
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!
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
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
*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
Saturday April 18th 2015, working on a new track in the studio with violist Nick Shadow.