I'm a sucker for the lost soul,for the guy NOT getting what he truly
deserves. I'm a sucker for the guy who shines like a light and the world
just doesn't get it. I'm reminded of all those beautiful "blues
artists" who never saw a dime from their work. I'm turned off to
the masses responding to Brittany and Snoop who's music treads no creative
ground. Is there anything more revolting to the "under ground"
artist or musician, than seeing masses of fist raising audience members
"baaaa ing" like sheep as they follow the top 40 mass hysteria?
It makes me think of all those old films of "Adolph" on the
OK, I guess I'm for the underdog. I guess I'm an elitist. I also don't
like mean people. I guess I qualify for the moniker of A FOLLOWER OF
Oh well. BUT, there is one thing I just don't get. Why is it that so
many in the "underground" don't include music that pushes
the parameters of rhythm, meter, key change, and modulation? I mean
they love the poet who's verse flows like a river. I do too. But, is
it me, or does it seem that "underground" music is music that
is just angry, crazy, loud, and caustic? DON'T GET ME WRONG. I love
music that does all that at times. It's a genuine form of expression.
But it seems that much of what the underground groups are really playing
is the same 3 chord structure you'd find with Brittany. I wonder why
bands that are absolutely miraculous with their instrumental technique
are not sought after? What about the musician that SINGS as well as
SCREAMS, OR DOES BOTH AT THE SAME TIME (Jimi Hendrix, Gato Barbierri,
Charlie Parker, Bela Fleck, Alan Holdsworth...)?
What about the band who's rhythms bend your head and make you respond
with self questioning? A band that drifts from 4/4 into 9/8 with the
smoothness of a clean caress from a beautiful lover? What about the
musicians that morph into Basa Nova, Bluegrass, classical, and Klezmer,before
taking you back to their solid roots of rockin' blues?
Oh My God! I might be old!!
Maybe it's just me, but I don't see folks really looking for artists
that push the instrumental horizon, or the musical envelope. I find
it an irony that at a time when our composing tools are so sophisticated,
most of the music we hear is a straight 4/4 that never changes? There
are times when this is great!! I love rock and roll. I love folk music,
I dug early Public Enemy. It seemed honest and angry. Not mean
There's one piece of reality that perhaps I must face. Maybe I'm an
an old fart? God help me!! There is a "sameness" to much music
today. All I hear is 4/4. I long for a key change, a change in meter.
I long to hear an Afghanistan Daduk, or an Egyptian Oud, with the push
of rhythm. I long to hear passages that speak with the softness of an
angel, and then bark with the force of Ulysses. I long to hear shifts
in expression. When I listen to a poet or a great actor, I want to hear
how he tempers his voice relative to the dialog that is written. Smooth
soft passages blending into thunderous orations of passion. If I'm coming
off like I am invalidating this other "underground" music,
forgive me. I honestly don't mean to do that. I just can't figure out
why "the underground" doesn't include this other music with
what we normally hear?
Digital Computer Folk Music?
Other musician friends of mine sometimes say that this underground
music is so popular because it is so easy to create. You don't have
to train for years, in order to play your instrument. I don't believe
that . It's too simplistic an answer. AND, as I said, we shouldn't devalue
this music. It's simplicity of creation and the ease in which it communicates
to others, makes it an incredible new form of folk music. Music for
the masses that is passed on through oral ( And - digital) tradition.
THIS is a valid form of creation and expression.
But, I don't want to see "cutting edge" music, considered
"cutting edge" simply because it pisses someone off. I don't
want it proving it's artistic validity simply because the record industry
places an offensive warning sticker on it. If it just does that, we
devalue the definition of "cutting edge". We make pushing
the parameter too easy.
I really think it is based on the fact that more "complicated
music" lies too far down the field of esoterica. Folks don't know
about it. OR, haven't gained an appreciation for what goes in to it.
The work, passion, complexity, and dedication isn't taught in schools.
AND - here is an irony - the music that is sold as "cutting edge"
such as Rap, is the most powerful music from a financial standpoint.
You can think of it as being (And it is being sold as) on the edge and
hip, but it has turned into the status quo. These guys are the richest
in the industry. They have the power. It sells. And because radio focuses
on it, there isn't room for anything else. AND well, it's just too easy
to have thong wearing gals stick their butt out to attract attention
from the masses. I want the MUSIC to attract attention. The men who
own the huge record labels do NOT want to take a chance on music that
will NOT produce revenue. They want a sure thing!! A thong wearing babe.
So, quite simply, folks are not exposed to this other music.
A Major Paradigm Shift?
There may be another strange phenomenon at work here. Being a cool
hipster on the edge, used to be relegated to the very few who were usually
ostracized by the community. The record exec's came to realize that
everyone wants to be cool. So, lets make cool, arty, and hip, more accessible.
And there we have it. A paradigm shift. A new set of definitions about
being cool. So - and here's the irony here - lets let everyone feel
like they're an individual and think for themselves, by encouraging
them follow those we designate as hip (This isn't just the record exec's,
it's also the Radio guys, Television programmers, Publicists, ad executives,
hucksters, and promo guys). BOOM. A new formula that works - and here
is the real kicker, the real proof of art for arts sake - IT SELLS!
I once saw a popular "artist" on the grammies who claimed
that they just reflect society, they don't create society. He said that
people think for themselves. Here is where I disagree. If this were
true, we wouldn't need ad agents and publicists. The general public
doesn't always think for itself. Hell, look at this most recent election
ARGH!! It usually happens that what is real, is usually what is created
and molded. The ad man is the GOD MAN.
Where is radio? What is radio?
Radio lost faith over twenty years ago. Certain labels such as Arista
and Virgin took a chance at sponsoring "arty" bands that offered
more than a 3 minute song cycle. BUT, it was difficult to sell (I know
this somewhat first hand because I have friends that were in bands on
these labels). Ten years ago I was being interviewed by a radio DJ about
one of my albums, when a very well known record and radio producer entered
the room. I was asking the DJ if she remembered this particular "arty"
English band, and the guy interrupts and say's, "hey, I produced
their last and worst record!" This fella was the "go to"
guy when Disney and MTV were getting started in the music business.
He loved the "arty underground" bands. BUT, he was also a
business man. He was one of the major exponents that turned radio back
around to the 2 and 1/2 minute song that is the safe bet. He knew what
he loved, but he also knew what would be more of a "sure thing."
I don't agree with him. I believe that music that challenges the brain
and thinking process, can do a lot better commercially if given the
chance. I really believe it could hold a segment of the audience and
of the money pie. But, this music was thrown out. As many radio professionals
told me, "we are not here to educate."
I remember when Pat
Metheny came to my town twenty years ago. His album
American Garage had just come out and the critics
were stunned. A friend of mine, a DJ from the local "cutting edge"
radio station interviewed him, and celebrated his concert with all kinds
of give away's, and back stage passes. One thing was missing however.
This station did not play a single cut of Metheny's album before or
after the concert.
So, I guess my concern is that this "underground" doesn't
expose composers and musicians that really take musical risk. They don't
write about bands that push the envelope using the time honored tools
of composition such as Meter, Rhythm, Dynamics, Melody, Cacophony, and
expression. Throughout history, scientists, mathematicians, and artists,
have expanded boundaries. This expansion then integrates its way into
the norm, thus birthing the genesis of evolution.
We shouldn't throw the baby out with the bath water. What is generally
perceived as "underground music," is valid and deserves its
place. But, lets not forget that the envelope and cutting edge can be
more. There are folks out there integrating musical idioms, styles,
and genres, into completely new forms of expression, and unique paths
to tread. There are composers using rhythm and meter to take us on musical
journeys that can be "awe inspiring." There are horizons out
there. But, the journey isn't always for the faint of heart. Listening
to Brave New Combo's Polka version of I Can See For Miles,
or digging the harmonic boundary leaps of John Coletrain's Saxophone
can set one up to be branded a real oddball. Listening to Sandy Bull's
5 string banjo version version of Karl Orff's Carmina Burana's,
or anything by Bela Fleck, may definitely get a few gawks from those
walking by. "What the hell is that??" Of coarse imagine the
stares one would get sitting in the park listening to one of John Cages
Symphonies for the inner city.
Oooooo, Flip city, that guy is weird man. AND he refuses to ride on
a double deck bus because there's no driver at the top.
Bands I like that may be considered - well - underground?
Oh, first, Check out itsaboutmusic.com . There are a number of folks
there quite good. Some even famous but I won't hold that against them.
Happy The Man I
always enjoy listening. These guys always teach me something
Kit Watkins Originally
from HTM above. Been solo for quite some time now. Pretty talented guy.
Soft Machine Well I always had a soft spot for these
guys. They are always tracing an unusual path
Caravan Always had a soft spot for these guys. I'm
a child of the 60's
Bela Fleck OK, If you haven't heard or seen him you
better. Bela was born on another planet
Bill Frisell What a sweet, eclectic fellow. A great guitar painter
King Crimson Ya gotta remember these guys. Alot of
Morphing thru the ages
Adrian Belew Da man from every band ever invented.
Never Lawrence Welk tho
Steve Hackett Ya remember Genesis? Very good guitarist
Hatfield and the North Smooth, sweet, Interesting and
never boring. Even sing thru telephones.
Brian Eno The man who does alot. I don't believe
he does plumbing but really folks, he does alot.
David Torn He knows how to use a guitar so you don't
really think it's a guitar
Brand X OK. Trivia time. What famous drummer and
singer played skins for these guys?
http://www.camelproductions.com/English Prog rock.
My friend Kit played with them awhile
Gentle Giant My friend Gary played guitar in this
band. From England. I always learn from these guys. So many musical
lessons, so little time.
Michael Schrieve OK Another trivia question. This
guy was filmed playing a very famous drum solo at age 19.
Matching Mole Great name huh? Robert Wyatt and others.
Richard Sinclair A great musician and perhaps one
of the most beautiful voices around.
Echolyn Very good band. Always interesting. Great
Health Can anybody say Canterbury??
Frank Zappa The wiry Zappa. Always interesting and
took many risks
Phil Keaggy A nice fellow and great guitarist
Djam Karet Great Prog Band from California
Richard Thompson If you don't know this guy you should.
A BIG man
Tony LevinGreat musician and nice head. Bass whew!!
Chapman Stick Whew!!
Bruce Cockburn One of my favorite Canadians. Great Great
Bill Bruford Drummer extraordinair. YES, KING CRIMSON,
Peter Gabriel OK, he doesn't fit. He's successful,
but I like him
Bill Champlin One of my Fav's. Originally with the
band below. Now with Chicago as well as THE SONS
The Sons of Champlin Can anybody say Bill Champlin?
This band is EXTREMELY talented.
Zorki Don't know how to describe him. But, talented
and great work!!
Grey Eye Glances These guys are very good.
Brett Kull From band above as well as Echolyn
David Hardin Good singer songwriter
Avery Sharpe Great Bassist from McCoy Tyner's band
John Berenzy Hey, this guys good
Tim Steele Hey, this guys good. Oh, I said that
James Lee Stanley.
A gifted songwriter and what can ya say about someone who calles himself
"a freelance human being?" That says it all. Way ta go James.
Who you ask? OK a MONKEY can also be an underground musician. He's a
good friend of James and does great stuff when not Monkied. Well, ya
know what, some of that Monkey stuff is great! But this is his other
Robin Trower. Another
friend of James and this guy still plays great! And of coarse this must
lead to a favorite old band....
Procol Harum. What
great music. Never got their just rewards. Still going at it and valid.
God Bless them.
and many many more ... Boy, in placing this list together I realize
A. It isn't nearly complete AND
B. I am thrilled that there are so many good musicians
out there!! I feel less alone in the world.
Where to listen and buy esoteric music
It's About Music
Creative Musicians Coalition