Pre-cursor: Last week, we reviewed Extradition Order‘s new album Since The Bomb Dropped. Guitarist of the band, Alastair Harper, wasn’t best pleased so reviewed the review. Reviews/Features Editor, Natalie Shaw, reviewed the review of a review. Now we’ve got Alastair back again, to discuss discovering bands. Ta dah:
For most people, being in a band is an act of humiliation. Bands are required to take their private work and recreate it in public, reproduce the art from scratch right there in front of people. Painters and writers can hide back at home after they place their work in the world. It is only musicians who have to go through the experience of playing live.
Because of this, it requires arrogance to be in a band. But, perversely, to make something good there must be complete self-doubt. The arrogance and self-doubt must go together if you’re to set foot on that poorly lit stage in front of the few dozen strangers (well, hopefully strangers, rather than just a few colleagues and family members) and show them something interesting.
And there also has to be far too much intimacy. If it’s going to be any good there is no hiding behind boorish stage moves. Don’t take people for fools. You have to be honest with them. And by intimacy I’m not talking about writing songs about yourself. Any stories in my songs are pretty obviously fictional (given the amount of murder in the lyrics, one would hope so). What I mean is the ideas, the sounds, must be completely believed in by the band, they show your complete aesthetic manifesto for life. If you’re going to be good then you must stand in front of strangers and let them see you in a way that you would never normally want to reveal, showing something that you would ordinarily flinch to show your old spouse.
And when it’s there, when there’s a great band on a stage, what do the audience usually think about all this honesty? Usually, very little. They are not there to watch a bunch of scrawny youths pour out their coarse version of truths. They are there to have drink. And a chat. Perhaps finally fornicate with that elfin young thing they keep seeing in the same club. They will whoop a little after each song, applaud, perhaps congratulate the singer when he is spotted pissing in the loo after. And then get on with life, completely forgetting the show ever happened. And quite right that people do. Much more important to fall in love, have an affair; take part in this world. I am the same. Of the hundreds of good (and I’m only counting good) bands I’ve witnessed for the first time live, goodness knows how small the number is that I still remember.
So would I ever notice my own band existed? Now, I’m sure if I did notice us I would like it. I would hope that I can count at least myself as a potential fan for Extradition Order. But would I ever notice us to know that I like it? If I happened to be in a bar or club where we played, I wouldn’t push to the front and focus on my own guitar playing. That would not be in character at all. I would stay at the back, nursing some drink or other. Would I take in the band on the stage or would I just catch up with folks on the scene I haven’t seen in a while?
How do I ever find out about new bands? I’m certainly of the internet generation. Music journalism had already vanished into terrible pr recycling by the time I was a teenager and MP3s were just about invented when I was the right age. So I bounced off interviews and websites of bands and discovered more music from each one like a pinball being thrown from flipper to flipper. These days I guess it’s the same. Usually between midnight and three AM when I am drunk on my own and using the internet. That’s when I really take in new music. Stalking myspace, or, with bigger bands, sitting back and realising through Spotify that the hip new thing I had snobily scorned actually have their moments. And it is such a wonderful experience to find new music that is great. Or discover great old music that you never knew. I could write a whole thing about why I think I like to hear new music but this is rambling along enough. Instead, let me get to my point.
My band has made an album. I’m absurdly excited about it. Every sound in it is an echo of love. I think me and the other chaps (all my oldest friends that I grew up with) have done something that should be taken to every heart in every land. I’m like an unbearable new parent who sneers in delight at how ugly everyone else’s baby is in comparison to his own. But would I, if it wasn’t made by me, ever hear it?
We’re on a tiny, budgetless label, we don’t have any fancy PR men behind us. It’s not exactly going to have the same push behind it as the Florence and the Machine record. Instead, all I can hope is that there will be enough for it to wash up on the shore and for people to pick it up, listen when drunk between midnight and three AM and decide they really do like it and become what we call fans. Whether that will happen is the Russian Roulette of all art.
We have not heard the best music ever made. Most great bands are never noticed. How many Velvet Undergrounds have we never heard of because they didn’t have Warhol promoting them? How many old men from Liverpool could, if they had not taken a regular job after their band finished in Hamburg, have created something far more fascinating than the White Album?
And here’s another thought – we have lost centuries, millenniums of our best music. All the music we have before Edison is that which was written down – almost entirely compositional music. But as soon as we could record sound the music that became the most popular was instantly that created by those who could not write music down – blues, jazz, rock, dance. Compositional music, in response to this change, has shrank and merged with more artistic pop. But we will never really know the sounds loved by the thrall in the sixteenth century. All we have is the king’s composition of ‘Greensleeves’. We don’t know the best music humans have ever made. We just have that which by pure chance didn’t vanish without a trace. And so I wonder will anyone ever hear of my band? It will be luck if they do. What I can say, with complete lack of bias, is that if they do have that good luck, then they will like it.