On Saturday, I ended up heavily involved in Stay-In-Fest. As well as DJing an early afternoon set that seemed to go down well (setlist: /DJ/Guest/098), four online/video interviews that I’d conducted with different artists over a previous couple of weeks were broadcast.
/Talk Show Host/065/Seeming
/Talk Show Host/Links
/Talk Show Host/2019-20
/060/Then Comes Silence
/059/Teeth of the Sea
/056/The Golden Age of Nothing
/055/Witch of the Vale
However, I did record a fifth interview, one that was quoted briefly in their live/video appearance later in the Online Festival, and that was with Alex Reed of Seeming. This turned out to be a lengthy, fascinating discussion of much more than just a new album – indeed like previous interviews with him on this site have done, too.
In a site first, too, this interview is available on YouTube to watch as well as in text form below. The audio comes from two sources, and due to latency issues there are points where it isn’t quite fully synced. I’m going to try and fix that at a later point, but for now, this will do nicely as a document of one of the longest interviews I’ve ever conducted.
A note about the interviews on amodelofcontrol.com. This is now a long-running, occasional series, occasional because of the fact that I only interview artists when I have something to ask, and when artists have something to say. I don’t use question templates, so each is unique, too. Finally, I only edit for grammar and adding in links, so what you’re reading is the response of the artist directly. Thanks, as always, to the artist and indeed those that help to arrange such interviews.
This is Adam from /amodelofcontrol.com, and we’re at Stay-In-Fest, and we’re with Alex Reed from Seeming. Hi Alex!
/Alex Reed/Seeming: How’s it going, Adam.
How are you?
/Alex Reed/Seeming: Doing ok.
You have a new album. It seems to have been an eternity since SOL, but not really, I don’t think.
/Alex Reed/Seeming: It’s been about three years since the last record dropped, and one of the challenges in making this new record was that SOL: A Self-Banishment Ritual was this big, occultic sprawling, sort of thinkpiece from 2017. It was so much effort to put together that I didn’t want to fool myself into outdo it and do more and better, and make a bigger, longer album. Instead, I wanted to something punchy and immediate, and that felt really really real, and sometimes doing something that feels really immediate, and sometimes that takes a month, and sometimes that takes a year, and that’s the paradox of it.
It feels…in fact the single Go Small helps sum it up, that it seems to be about “you” rather than looking at the wider world – or at least that’s how I felt it came across.
/Alex Reed/Seeming: I think so many of us were raised with this idea that you can change the world, and that you can have a say in the direction that things are going. At least in the UK and the US, over the last five years, a lot of people’s assumptions like that have really been challenged. Again and again, I just feel that the people with the money, and the people with the guns (at least in this country), are the ones that are ultimately in control, and the people who put the most thought, and the most compassion into their daily lives, and the people who have the most creativity, are completely irrelevant to the big picture. What do you do when there’s no way to get a foothold, or at least there’s no way for most people to get a foothold, in having an effect on the world.
Industrial music has been so concerned historically in talking about the great big issues, the epic landscape of the entire genre, and I love that, and I relate to that deeply, and I feel that like it’s my genre inheritance. But also, what do we do when the only control that we have is over the five square feet in front of us. When you say “OK, I feel like I’m going crazy”, I’m being locked down in the middle of a pandemic – I can’t fix a virus, I can’t fix Brexit, I can’t fix fascism rising, or something like that. But I can…bake bread.
Industrial Music and Goth Music are not seen as super domestic genres. There’s almost a resistance against that. I think that’s kinda worth unpacking. It might be that we need to re-examine that. But at any rate, writing the album and the song Go Small, which is this really quite tight, punk-influenced thing, which alternates very rapidly between the very tiny and the very epic, writing that felt like a good first step for reconciling how to exist in the world in 2020. Because the more that people think that they can just write songs about the same old topics of heartbreak, or tyranny, or whatever, the more that that seems disharmonious with the world. It seems out of step, and got me thinking about what does it really mean to make a twenty-first century record that responds to twenty-first century problems both personally and politically.
I think there was something interesting that…I’ve listened to it quite a bit over the weekend, and something that struck me on about the fourth listen was that it goes from being pessimistic and defeatist at points to almost being…I’d hate to use the word “celebratory” but there’s a kind of hope by the time you get to Reality Is Afraid and beyond that, and there’s this kind of feeling that you’re willing yourself out of that funk and going “no, actually, we can do something”. Was it a deliberate sequencing that it was done like that?
/Alex Reed/Seeming: It was. I wrote a lot of songs for this record. I ended up actually making a whole bonus record, that gets packaged with the CD if you bought the 2CD version, and if you want the digital version that’s coming out on Bandcamp Day (04-September) this month. The songs that I ended up putting onto this album which is called The Birdwatcher’s Guide To Atrocity, I thought pretty carefully about which songs constellated together, and which songs wanted to go in what order – and I agree with you, there is ultimately something kinda hopeful about the record, which is kind of funny, as here I am, saying “The earth is radiantly suicidal” and saying “I’m going to make myself extinct”, and the last song on the album I’m talking about bashing my head in with a rock, and things like that.
And yet, I think that’s kinda exorcising a lot of these demons that’s kinda saying, OK, these are the problems, but what does that mean when we start focussing on the people right around us? What does it mean when we cut out everyone in our lives that we don’t need, we cut out all of our racist uncles on Facebook, what does it mean when we say what are the essential parts that I can do a good job of fostering, and what happens if I start acting as a beacon for other people around me, and gosh, this is going to sound really really hokey, when you start living the way that you want to be living, when you start being your real self, people start noticing that, right? You have an energy to you, and people say “Holy cow, that person seems to have their stuff together”, whether or not you think you do or not, and that’s how movements happen, right?
That’s whether it’s the creation of a subculture, or the creation of a family, or the creation of a political revolution, on any scale, small or large, it always begins with someone that knows what they are doing and is making it happen. If we’re making songs that are criticising the Government, a Government we don’t have a lot of power to take down, short of taking grossly illegal actions, which I don’t not endorse, then we have to focus on what we can actually change. It’s very much a real world record, and I think that despite its real world trappings and despite its occasional bits of hope, I think it would translate really well to the classic Trad Goth/Industrial audiences.
Part of that is because these are styles of music that I have deep, deep histories and deep knowledges of, and when you look at touchstone bands that people talk about, let’s say you’re talking about The Cure, or Siouxsie & The Banshees, and Depeche Mode, these are bands that had real variety and real range, right? Siouxsie was doing Peek-A-Boo, Depeche Mode was doing But Not Tonight, The Cure was doing Inbetween Days, and yet we act, or at least we’ve acted the past twenty-five years like the only thing you’re allowed to do is cover The Hanging Garden, or sing Stripped, or something like that.
So I think it’s really important to widen the palette, and at this moment when we’re trying to look for new possibilities, both personally and politically, and let’s say we’re talking about subcultural scenes, right? Let’s say you’re going to Whitby, or something like that, and you’re thinking “Golly, are there fewer people here than last year, where’s all the new blood”? Well, maybe, to get new people involved, you have to have new kinds of expression, maybe you need to be a little bit open, such that someone who might be having A Good Day is attracted to listening to your music.
And I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with that, right? I guess that I’m just confident enough in myself and who I am at this point that I don’t feel that I have anything to lose by doing that, and I’m not worried about being “uncool”.
I think that’s entirely fair. You say that about the Whitby thing, that’s absolutely a concern. There is that concern we have about the festivals. Could it be that all this infighting that goes on between the people that organise these festivals probably doesn’t help, but also people policing the scene. The DJs still playing the bands that sound like The Sisters of Mercy twenty-five years from when The Sisters were even relevant and…do we need more of that? And the post-punk movement at the moment is great, and there are bands taking it to new places, but there are also still bands using the same old basslines that Peter Hook was playing in 1982 (or earlier!).
/Alex Reed/Seeming: Yeah. I don’t need everyone to be doing something different all the time, I mean I literally listen to The Sisters of Mercy every week. But I do think that it’s important that we let a little bit of air into the room sometimes. This has been less of a thing in the past few years, but remember about eight or nine years ago, when Witch House started, and there was a lot of really reactionary gatekeeping in the Goth scene – not that Witch House is much of a going concern in 2020, I’m just using it as an example – there were a lot of people who were asking “who are these new people, why are they naming their bands such weird things, it looks like it should sound like something I like but doesn’t sound like anything I like, and why is there hip-hop in my goth?”, and that’s just not a productive way to be thinking about growing and changing as a person, an individual, a nation, and a globe.
I recall being at Festival Kinetik (Montreal) in 2011, and exactly those conversations being had about Witch House at the time. The festival, now I look back at it, had some great bands, but also had some pretty reductive Aggrotech on the bill, because that was what the cool style was at the time, right? And we couldn’t wait to get rid of it.
/Alex Reed/Seeming: If you want to Aggrotech in 2020, fine, do it. But be doing it for the reasons that you want to be doing it. Be doing it in some way that you…or what you want to express, and not just because you’re like “Oh wow, I could really sound like Suicide Commando if I <plays piano hook of SC>”, just something like that.
I mean, fair! And this brings me onto something that my wife and I were talking about – the playlist that you shared; around the time of the Black Lives Matter movement really pushing into the public consciousness, about the fact that – and we’ve discussed this before in previous interviews – the influence of black music on Industrial and Goth is downplayed, whether we like it or not. That playlist you shared, we shared it, it went around a lot, and there were a lot of (great) bands we found. Incredible Togolese metal bands, other friends have shared Kenyan powernoise from Nairobi (a band called Duma who’ve blown up recently – two loons who seem to like grindcore and industrial noise at the same time), it is there but we have to go and look for it.
/Alex Reed/Seeming: Especially because we tend to put on these airs of being objective about our taste, right? We say we listen to the best stuff, and yet, for some reason, why is it that 90% of the music we listen to is all in English, do we really think that English, that’s spoken by 12% of the world’s population somehow has the market cornered on good music? Why is it that all the music that happens to be made in the world happens to be made by people that are young and beautiful? That’s a weird coincidence, right?
You get the idea, right? I think that it’s important in principle to be broadening your tastes, but that’s not everyone’s individual duty, I’m not saying that anyone should feel guilty about listening to the stuff they listen to, but once you feel that reactionary push coming from within, once you feel that “but I don’t wanna…” or that “What are you doing here” feeling, that’s like that little inner fascist within. No-one, almost-nobody actually says they’re a fascist, but all of us has somewhere between 1% and 10% of that in us, and that’s really really important to interrogate and recognise, and when you look at that in the face, you’re going to do a much better job getting rid of it than when you pretend that it’s not there.
Another thing I was saying to my wife earlier – we’ve both been listening to the album – was that I was finding it interesting that I couldn’t find reference points this time. So SOL, there were wild influences, wild things in there, like “MY GOD that sounds like CHIC, disco” and whatever else. This time, my first thought was “this sounds like Seeming”. It sounds like what I’d expect you to do, to an extent, because it sounds like you, you’ve got the sound now. What were the influences this time around?
/Alex Reed/Seeming: Golly, I really didn’t think too much about individual influences as such, there’s sometimes individual songs or individual moments that I might pick up on, like I was listening to early-sixties Motown music around the time that I was writing the song Celebration Song, the last track on the album, and so it’s got this Phil Spector drum-beat “THUM, THUM-THUM, tish; THUM, THUM-THUM, tish;” kinda thing, and there are other things that found their way into the record, anything from listening to Zola Jesus, the new Young Gods record, I listened to all kinds of stuff while I was making this, a lot of Barry Adamson, who for whatever reason never got his due in America, and I love his work.
But you’re right. At this point I have enough of a musical sensibility that it’s pretty hard to trace individual moments. Taking for example that first single Go Small, that was originally written at the piano, and was originally done at half-tempo at about 87BPM, so <clicks out a rhythm>, a kind of groove-based thing, but when I started working with Sarah Hennies, who did some really really good work on the album (an experimental percussionist), we ended up recording most of the percussion for the record in her garage, and we just started playing around with the songs. Saying “OK, what happens if we play it at double-time, what happens if we take all the cymbals and hi-hats out and play it just double-time on tom-tom drums? OK, that’s great, but what happens if we take the synths and replace them with harps?”. It’s just these sort-of, “what if” moments.
I have this gut-level sense of…I like unlikely instruments. I like dulcimers, I like harps, I like real stand-up bass, I like giant drums that sound like clattering chains. I’m not so much into lead synths these days, I’m not so much into pads these days, but I am into humming, I am into choirs, so just kind of getting a sense of what feels good, that is inspired by omnivorous tastes, and thinking about music for a long time, and thinking alright, I want this to sound a little bit classic, so instead of using a synthesiser pad I’m going to use a mellotron flute sound or something like that. That was something I did a lot on the SOL record to give it a sort of seventies vibe.
But yeah, at this point I have a pretty good set of instincts that the songs kinda lead me in their own way, such that every time I make a new song, I feel like I have to reinvent music. I feel like I have to rebuild it from the ground up, and say alright, what’s my instrumental palette here? And gosh, wouldn’t this just be easier if I was just a folk singer with a guitar. Wouldn’t this just be easier if I was a techno producer that used the same 909 sounds on every dance song.
It’s just my weird curse, I have to use some new instrument or some different sound that I’ve never used before, so we wind up with trombones all over this album <shrugs>.
Which reminds me, what was the element at the end of The Fates, the first song on the album, there’s a really fascinating bit in there with a female vocal that reminded me of something but I could not nail what it is.
/Alex Reed/Seeming: That’s Kulning, I believe the Norwegians call it. A Scandinavian practice, usually sung for herding cows in a field, actually. So if you go and find videos on YouTube, it’ll be like “see this Scandinavian witch call the cows from across the prairie!”, that’s the kind of sound that she’ll be making.
Right. Fair enough, I asked! There is one last question about this album before I move onto other things – what’s with the title, as that’s really bugged us. What’s the significance of it?
/Alex Reed/Seeming: I have no idea, that is the short answer.
Things like the title, certain lines across the album, are these phrases that show up on a gut level for me, they feel like they are just channelled in from nowhere. I write these things down all of the time, I’ve got this giant notebook at home that’s like 200 pages of me just writing whatever stuff comes to mind. Most of it is absolute garbage, you’ll open up a page and it’ll say something like “The Ape in the Apiary”, which is not useful for anything, right? But eventually, you’ll go through and find the one line that I feel really compelling out of these twenty pages or something like that, and you wind up with “So be the red-hot miracle among Cosmonauts” that shows up in the last song, and again, I have no idea what this line means, but what I do trust is that my gut, or the universe, or whatever it is, is going to be channelling something meaningful and that when my aesthetics say “Yes, I like that thing”, it’ll have something to do on a subconscious level, a primordial level, with my other aesthetics.
And so, let’s say we’re just taking that line right there, “the red-hot miracle among Cosmonauts”, you’re thinking about something crashing to the ground at this point. That was a line that I had written a few years ago when I didn’t yet know that the album was going to have anything to do with birdwatching, and when I didn’t yet know that the cover was going to be Icarus, and when I chose Icarus for the cover, I hadn’t thought about the fact that he falls because he melts after coming too close to the sun, and that my last record was all about the sun.
So these are all these things that happen on a gut level for me, and lot of the time I don’t realise what I’ve done until after the fact. These connections are there if anyone wants to make them, or if they want to stand on their own as these strange phrases, like The Birdwatcher’s Guide to Atrocity, that’s fine. I could analyse that title for you, I could certainly tell you how I’m fascinated by nature, animal rights and de-centreing the human, so what does it mean when you have a birdwatcher watching atrocity? Does that suggest that there is some kind of crisis of nature, the birds are all dying, or is it that we’re trying to align ourself with some kind of animal that’s watching humans go down the drain?
At any rate, I wanted to show that it was both intimate, quiet, birdwatching, I wanted to show that epic, atrocity, and I wanted to de-centre both myself and humanity in general. That’s kind of the best answer I can give you.
Ok…As Seeming has now been three albums, various other tracks here and there, the Worldburners EP inbetween, and you don’t play live a great deal. Was live performance something you always wanted to do, or was it something that you do when you have the time, and you’d rather be recording?
/Alex Reed/Seeming: For one, I’m busy. But yeah, if someone wants to book us to play live, hit me up, e-mail me. We will make it happen – or at least, under a pandemic, we’ll try to make it happen. I like playing live just fine, booking a tour is difficult, and…this is not a complaint, but I will say that a lot of the people that most get into our music are people who spend time listening closely to it. They are people that spend headphone-hours with our music, and relate to it in a way that might not necessarily be the same set of reasons that some people go out to a club, or go out to see a live show, at a festival or something like that.
I remember when I was in my old band (an act called ThouShaltNot), I would get frustrated – and I shouldn’t have got frustrated by this, but I was – by the fact that people would come out to shows, and they would just want to stand at the back, and hold their beer, and maybe dance when a good beat came along, and I was up there thinking “you’re not recognising how much effort I put into the deeper meaning behind this song”, and now, I understand that most people want to go out, they want to have a good time, they want that physical immediacy of a live show to rip their scalp off with loudness, or something like that, and a) we can do that, we do this now, and this is part of our presentation, particularly for the Worldburners-era material, but b) and per the issue of “going small”, and per the idea of anarchistically building your own little community, I would rather play to people that want to hear our music, and are going to appreciate on its own terms, than play to someone who says “this is fine but it doesn’t sound enough like :wumpscut:“.
Becuase I’m never going to please those people. Why should I try to be something that I’m not? Again, playing live is great, and we’d love to be playing everywhere live, we’d love to go on tour, but for timing and money, and also language reasons, we tend to have a fanbase that is…more online?
Hopefully you’ll make to Infest one year…
/Alex Reed/Seeming: I would love to come over and play, I would love to do a European tour. We played over in Malmö a year or two ago at electriXmas (in Sweden) – that was great, we played with Apoptygma Berzerk and Daniel Myer and bands like that, so yeah, I’d love to make something like that happen, so if any promoters are listening, bring us over, we’ll make it worth your while.
We have been requesting that it happens. Still, your music is a “home-listening” thing a lot of the time, and sometimes I need to go away, sit down and listen to your music, and I’ve listened to The Birdwatcher’s Guide to Atrocity a lot over the past few days, because it’s been where I’ve listened to it once and gone “hang on a minute, I need to go back and listen to that again”. I had a journey across town last week, a train journey that took about forty-five minutes, which was perfect as I had noise-cancelling headphones, could listen to the whole thing and get myself into the detail. Suddenly, after about three listens, I was “I get this now”, I started to see where you were going, and I’m now picking up those details. I like albums like that, I like being rewarded.
Another that has done that this year has been the new Neubauten album Alles In Allem, which is one of those that has some exquisite detail in it – and if you deride it as a “quiet Neubauten album”, you’re missing half the fun.
/Alex Reed/Seeming: Oh yeah, every Neubauten album is like that. It just asks you to listen more, and think a little more, and I’m reminded of what it was like, not to sound old, but when I was eleven or twelve years old, and I’d go and spend my only ten dollars on a tape, and because I only had fifteen tapes and I’d spent my last ten dollars on it, I was going to listen to that thing until I learned to like it, whether it grabbed me offhand or not.
So if I didn’t like something, I guess I’m failing this album, I guess I need to do a better job of appreciating it. That doesn’t mean that you should like garbage, right, it doesn’t meant that I should like things that aren’t good, but I do think that the economy of attention in the twenty-first century is a pretty toxic marketplace. The idea that if we don’t have our attention grabbed by a piece of music on Spotify in the first ten seconds, that we’re going to skip on, people are going to miss out on a lot of really good things, and I think that over time they’re going to feel a little undernourished.
There’s something interesting we’ve noticed while Lockdown has been going on. A couple of my friends have resumed DJing, and we’re Livestreaming sets and whatever – and they’ve become quite popular – but what’s really interesting has been that people are paying more attention to the music that’s played. With the chat feed on the side (on Twitch), you can get immediacy from people going “hello, what’s this, I really like this”, you can put a link right there and say “this is <this>”, and they go “I’ve just added this to my ‘to buy’ list – next Bandcamp day I’ve got ten albums I’m gonna go and buy”. My partner-in-crime last Friday played End Studies, and I played Go Small the previous time, and we had people asking both times “hey, what’s this?”, and it was one of a few bands where we had this, and this is what we’re doing. We are now in a better position as DJs to promote music than we ever were before, and it’s probably one of the few good things out of this, in that people are paying closer attention, and it means that people are hearing new music, and maybe in a club, people don’t, as you’ve had a few beers, and “that song’s alright…”, but you’re not going to remember it.
I think that’s a positive, I think it gives us a chance, it’s not going to last forever, and hopefully we’ll be back in venues and we’ll be back seeing live music, but things have changed and I don’t quite know what that means for the future. Not to put a downer on it, but we don’t know what the future holds right now, and that’s one of the weird things about this year I think.
/Alex Reed/Seeming: Taking it optimistically, when nobody knows what the future holds, that means that you and I have just as much a chance in having a stake in what the future holds as anybody else. When everyone is caught off-guard from – what’s the line from Game of Thrones? – “Chaos is a ladder”, so alright, fine – even when everyone comes back to venues, I’m going to keep doing this online DJing thing, and maybe that could be something people have learned to love.
It’s something I’m going to keep doing for now, as I’m enjoying doing it. I’ve actually got a love of doing it again, perhaps for the first time in ten years. I don’t make music – I’m in the peanut gallery firing shots at people who write it. It’s an important conversation that needs to be had between both sides – we can promote music, but we also have the power to do the other side, to be negative about it. Right now, many of us are knocking down the negativity, because it’s not really the time to do it.
But I think we’re in a good place right now, and thanks for doing this today.
/Alex Reed/Seeming: And thank you, as I’ve enjoyed this.
I’ve always found you a fascinating interviewee, as you have a lot to say, and a lot of important and interesting things to say. Sometimes I’ve interviewed other people where you’re teasing answers out, you get two-line answers and… “great”.
/Alex Reed/Seeming: I remember when I was doing interviews for the book I wrote on Industrial music (Assimilate: A Critical History Of Industrial Music), and I was interviewing like seventy-five people for this book, and there were some that instantly when I met them I was “Holy cow, this is going to be great”. I remember talking to Patrick Codenys of Front 242, and at least in my encounter with him, he was just as intelligent and gracious and thoughtful and interesting than I could possibly have hoped for.
And then, sometimes, you meet someone and you’re like “Oh golly, I love your music, but <whistles> I am working to get you to say anything“, or on the other hand, you get people who blab and blab and who think that everything they say is positively ingenious, and you know you’ve definitely heard these things before, and these things are not so ingenious. I’m not going to name names, but one of my favourite bands in the whole world, the lead singer wrote a gigantic brick of an autobiography saying “YES! These are my memoirs”, so I’ll read this whole thing, and I’m “oh, jeez, I’m going to go back to listening to your records, and not worry too much about your inner life, as reading the stories behind these songs didn’t make any of them better.
I had the same with Patrick from 242, as I interviewed him when they played Infest in 2008 – one of the first interviews I ever did, and he was fascinating. There was so much to say, and they were almost like scientists. There was a scientific approach to how they experimented with music, they hypothesised about it, and there was no-one else I’ve heard describe music in this way.
/Alex Reed/Seeming: I had the experience with him of having a long, fun conversation with him as I was able to get onto his page. One of the things that I do is that I collect magazines, and if I read old interviews with Front 242, say from the 1980s, especially the ones in the mainstream publications, the interviewers have no idea how to talk to this band. It’s so funny and frustrating at the same time, to see this impasse where they ask “what are your influences?” and “well, we really like powers of two, that’s a good influence, right?” and they can’t find any common ground to talk about this. When I know what they were trying to say was really fascinating at the time, but they’re not finding the right language for it.
My view on this is that I will only interview bands that I’m interested in, and I feel that I want to ask them something. So no boilerplate questions and actually listen to what they’ve done. If it’s new, talk about that, but also understand what they are trying to do. Otherwise you get those boilerplate questions and it’s awful, it’s cringeworthy.
/Alex Reed/Seeming: I’m always happy to answer questions about a song. Say, talk to me about this one, talk to me about why you made this choice, that’s the kind of question that I find really productive and stimulating, and can get at some of those bigger issues. Whereas if someone is, like, “describe your music for someone who’s never heard it before”, isn’t that your job, journalist? Or isn’t that Spotify’s job, can’t we just go click on it?
One last question – What are your thoughts on the fascinating debate that has most recently been on Jason from ACTORS on facebook the other week, about the whole business around Spotify and Bandcamp, and Jason was saying that he sees Spotify as an excellent tool for advertising that you’re there, not necessarily making money, but giving you a presence and giving you an ability to reach a size of audience that you would never otherwise reach. Obviously there are other artists that are like “NOPE, Spotify is garbage and I’m never touching it”, and it’s like, well, we’ve got to get the music somehow, and this is the new reality?
/Alex Reed/Seeming: There are a lot of ways to get music, and… a) I will say that there is no ethical consumption under capitalism. When you listen to someone’s music, somebody is getting ripped off, but if you buy a piece of vinyl, that’s also terrible for the environment. I happen to like Bandcamp, but I also recognise that there is no good software for playing MP3s anymore, because iTunes got too bloated, and nobody uses WinAmp.
Bandcamp does allow artists to set their own prices, it does allow artists to focus on albums, and it does allow users to own the music, such that if some tiff happens at some higher-up copyright-related level it doesn’t suddenly disappear. For those reasons I like it, but I also recognise that the real reason I might like Bandcamp is probably that I’m a collector of music, and that I was born when I was born. I don’t really ask or expect a sixteen-year-old this year to see the wonder that is Bandcamp. If they’ve grown up with the Streaming world, they are going to want to have the easiest, fastest streaming, with the biggest catalogue, and if they are thinking in terms of playlists and albums, I’m not going to say you’re wrong. Here’s our music, and if you’d like to click on the album and listen, you might get a little bit more out of it that way, fine.
But Spotify is an advertising platform, they underpay their artists, I have problems with the ethics by the way they perceive Spotify as the product rather than music as their product, but of all the battles I’m going to fight, I don’t really have the time to wage that one, per se. There’s a lot of things in the world…going back to the :wumpscut: fan who I’m not going to please, I try and focus on the things that I’m going to get some kind of positive energy out of.
So yeah, I put the music up on Spotify, the label helps me promote it, I say you can go check it out, go listen to it, I discover music sometimes on Spotify, I also put it up on Bandcamp. I make more money from Bandcamp, but I get more opportunities from Spotify, like soundtrack appearances and things like that go. It’s really a wash, and money is not why I’m doing this anyway. If money was why I was doing this, I’d be making a different kind of music. I certainly wouldn’t be calling albums The Birdwatcher’s Guide To Atrocity.
It is what it is, but as someone who drives a car, as someone who runs on toxic fumes and all this stuff, there are only so many places where I can put my energies, for making myself happy or for making the world better. I talk about this in the song Beatlock, “In a body fed with slaughtered chickens, clothing made by labor victims <…> Laughing at the thought that there’s a way out of this system“.
I do what I can, I get music where I can, I encourage people to get music where they can, and the last thing I’ll say about that is that I really do enjoy old-fashioned crate digging – and again, this only speaks to probably when I was born, but more to the point, I enjoy finding and listening to music, and finding and reading books, and encountering media that nobody has put in front of me. I like it when I’m not being advertised to, and I like it when the discovery is mine, and it feels something like a secret so that I can listen to it as it is, rather than as a product competing for my attention. And I really, really value that.
The Birdwatcher’s Guide to Atrocity is out now.