Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

Prince The Machine

Friday, September 22nd, 2017

Prince inside the music and the masks

“and I don’t need to hear that anymore.” I’m screaming. This book, Prince, Inside the Music and the Masks was a great read. It focuses on the creative endeavor and business side of his life which was basically his entire life or so.

Prince’s parents, with six kids and a father dreaming of making it big in music, were struggling. They divorced, his dad left the piano behind, Prince started playing it. The rest is history.

His relationship with Warner starts almost immediately. He is poor and receives his first advance, $80,000, from them after they heard his prowess in the studio. Then he has to give the label seven albums. But producing creative outputs is not like producing furniture or food. He was sometimes right on point –Purple Rain- and sometimes way off –rapping- and it’s fascinating reading about him conquering the world, losing influence, battling with the music industry practices, being thirsty as fuck –his duo with Beyoncé at the Grammys- while he was destroying every single stage on earth on monstrous tours (his last one made close to $100M). So many of his songs sound much, much better live.

He was constantly looking for new ways to sell his shit. He pioneered many business models. His songwriting might have gone down –just kinda lazy I’d say– but he was sharp as hell on the contract/payment end. I’m really sad to not know what he would have been doing right now. I am pretty sure he would have started a social network/streaming service. During the 2000s, he was around but he was mostly just making more money than ever. For what? What would he have done with it? Building a new label with only women artists? Just burn bills in a giant fire pit during one of his show with a new song called Money Flames? Would he have released a dozen jazz albums now that he was getting older? Would he release them only on DVD Audio with discrete surround sound?

We’ll never know.

What’s wrong with you DJs

Monday, September 4th, 2017

It has become so stupid.

DJs these days “spin” 30 seconds of some stuff, add a fucking air horn, spin another 30 seconds of something, repeat a hook over and over, completely changes the genre of music after half a hour. What the fuck is this?

We had a block party on my block yesterday and I wanted to get on stage and cancel the entire shit.

It’s like DJs have become incapable to make people enjoy the music, the vibe, to make them slow dance. It’s about them doing something on the mixer, like pressing buttons and reading waveforms on a laptop is a big skill. The more you like and know the music, the more infuriating it feels like.

“Oh now that’s my JAM” well enjoy real quick girl because that’s going to be over in 3, 2, 1…

I don’t get it. Is it a copyright/broadcast issue? DJs have to pay fees to if they play 75% of the song so they only play 20% of it? I’m still mad.

And what is this weak ass selection? You want to represent the West Coast there are so many anthems, not just Dre and Eazy E. Like, ugh.

Jay 4:44

Monday, July 17th, 2017

This is a very good article on Jay Z and his last album. Political and smart, yet ignorant. This line made me shake my head for sure: “Credit. You ever wonder why Jewish people own all the property in America? This how they did it.”

You mean they were free to capitalize and invest unlike black folks? Jay, you know about discriminatory practices of those times when black people could have done it, right? You probably heard of the Federal Housing Administration who from 1934 to 1968 explicitly refused to back loans to black people, haven’t you?

There are a lot of articles about that and you are pulling a Cosby on us. You probably have heard of Black Wall Street and how it got decimated, then rebuilt a bit to finally get a highway to settle it all down, to mute it in concrete blocks. Just like the 10 freeway was built in the middle of a thriving black business area along Washington Blvd in Los Angeles, cutting off communities. Those could have leveraged an unimaginable amount of great things and great people. Credit gone.

So….OK, Jay.

The case of SoundCloud

Friday, July 14th, 2017

SC had everything. But it lost its mind, then money and now the service will die. Let’s face it, it died a while ago.

There’s something that just doesn’t add up: startups need a return on investment immediately while music is a very, very long term game. SC didn’t execute well even though timing was perfect. For its successors, here’s a few points:

– Don’t make it about streaming

Bandcamp has been fantastic about this. Don’t make it about consuming music like switching channels on a TV or running water at the faucet. Make it like it’s better to download and listen, because it is. Buy an album, download it and listen to it. In the beginning I had way more downloads on SC than streams. It changed so rapidly –like within a month, everyone switched to streaming- that I always was suspicious about it. Streaming sucks, listening on phone speakers suck, don’t do that. People will stream, no need to push them.

– Don’t invite major artists and/or labels

They take all the oxygen of artists like us who pay for your service. And those invite major labels to put pressure on you. That might make you feel good, make you feel legit but it’s not good at all in the end.

– Don’t do anything social

All the social tools destroyed SC. People immediately abuse those tools to spam every channel they can and discovery goes down. Just make it about music and big cover art. Sharing is done everywhere else with a link. Be the audio backbone of the future and stay this way.

– Don’t do meaningless stats

Advanced statistics are bad. They are a rabbit hole and unhealthy. How many times someone listened to my song doesn’t matter, what matters is if that listener stays around, spreads the word and buys my shit. That’s all that matters.

– Have the best embed player of all time

Make it ultra fast. The web sucks, FB sucks, Twitter sucks. They all have so many scripts and bullshit stuff going on, the embed player needs to load at the speed of light. No need for fancy waveform or spectrogram no one cares about that. Copy Bandcamp’s and add a volume slider, you’ll thank me later.

Instaud.io and Octave.is are alternative worth exploring. RIP SoundCloud.

Listening to music

Wednesday, May 31st, 2017

It’s difficult to measure exactly how better audio people become at listening to music. In my case, it started with bass. Before playing bass in a band, I didn’t care so much about instruments I had my preferences and knew some of them I guess but didn’t care so much. Now I’m playing the 4-strings bottom so I’m more into that. It took over my life.

The first step was to watch music videos but the 80s sucked at that because you would have people fake playing instruments that have nothing to do with the music. It was confusing as hell. They didn’t even plug instruments in! In the 90s with the resurrection of rock and guitars, it was much better. I was spotting the longer neck, and big strings and looking at what bass players would do.

These days I can hear a clap, the reverb behind it and tell you if it’s Dayton or Kashif. It means I can recognize an artist with no melody or harmony information, just on a mere 900ms of percussive sound. It’s kind of nuts how much you can train your ear. I loved it when I started to be able to recognize styles of production. I remember being like I KNEW IT when I heard the Ross Robinson-produced Limp Biskit’s first LP. I knew that sound.

Sound is a mix of specific brands of instruments, specific effects, composition skills and mixing techniques… And they all influence each other constantly. It’s hard to pinpoint but your ears know, they will sense it. Knowledge obviously plays a huge part. Once you play some Stratocaster and Les Paul guitars, you know and understand. Once you know that FM rhodes sound, or that 808 hit hat, you know. And once you listen to Nile Rodgers Pharrell or Thom Bell for a while, you know too. It takes years, decades. So many parameters to memorize and remember.

As often with everything people are either too much into the detail “I think he uses this keyboard but the thing is busted so it sounds different” or don’t know nothing about musical instruments or the basics of low and high frequencies. Sigh.

Music is organized and satisfying noises layered in a convenient package and I love it so much.

Sowing the seeds of love

Wednesday, May 31st, 2017

Listening to that song after hearing it at my local supermarket, instinctively knowing when the song changes because I loved it so much when I was a kid.

You know that feeling when you hear a song you know and all you picture is you in the back of a car, looking outside with music coming out of the radio? I love that feeling.

This song –and the singles from that album- is incredible. There’s so much going on. It might be too much. There are not a lot of song out there that have an opera singer and a vocoder, big drum toms dropping left and right, reverse snares and trumpets, luscious strings and still sound like a pop song only it’s over 6 minutes long. That break kills me every time. I remember DJs talking over the sound design at the start of the song.

At first the album was a total financial disaster. A huge toll on the band to the point where they parted away. I try not to focus on the fact that everything today is made to make efficient money but when I hear big stars having really conventional music out there, not taking any risks, I cherish those absurd late 80s jams man. They are out there, forever.

Fast Lane

Wednesday, May 24th, 2017

LA, 2017.

Fell on a Thursday

Thursday, May 18th, 2017

The first CD I bought was Rage Against The Machine’s first album. the second one was Soundgarden’s Superunknown. I was nervous as I only knew Black Hole Sun. Keep in mind that I was in France, MTV was not really available there –unless you were wealthy, I knew like 2 people who had it- but I had been in a hotel on vacation and that song was on heavy rotation on Music TeleVision.

So gen X. But also, so hipster in my old country. Very few people around me knew about that band.

I remember spending summer ‘94 listening to those two albums endlessly. I went on a small Soundgarden binge a couple months ago, talking about how that album is so good to friends on Slack. I hadn’t listened to it in over a decade. Superunknown is one of those albums, it’s so much better than the previous ones and the more recent are just following that beast. The master of them all. I have no idea what he’s singing about, it’s all music to my ears and I just felt Chris Cornell’s voice was just right in all circumstances.

At that time I’m 15, in my room in the suburbs of Paris surrounded by green trees, opening the window trying to catch some wind, loving that heavy rock and anger from the West Coast. Playing with the EQ on my sound system. It was around that time that I was deciding that when I grow up I’ll be somewhere at the corner of music, audio engineering and computer games, all that stuff. The Seattle sound. The Simpsons. Street Fighter II. Sony Playstation incoming.

And Chris singing “alive in the superunknown”. The only lyrics I could understand. Well Chris got fed up to be alive in that motherfucker.

Music videos

Sunday, May 7th, 2017

I don’t watch them. New song that just came out or old nostalgia trip on YouTube I don’t care, I’m not watching I’m listening. I will switch to another window/tab to avoid the video stream. What bothers me the most is that the video will become my memory attached to the song and I don’t want that, I want my own visuals, my own vibe.

It’s super interesting to me that 90s born people don’t separate music and music videos. It’s just one single thing to them (almost). “You know that song?” Yes. “You seen the video?” No. “You have to” No I don’t.

To me music videos were more like an add-on to the song, an ego trip for the artists. A fun way to spread the word out.

You simply don’t listen in the same way when watching a video, it’s a processing issue: when eyes are fully used –music videos have insanely sharp colors, fast edits, a lot of movement- ears take a backseat. The brain can’t do both at the same time.

Thus it’s no coincidence if music has gotten simpler –melodically, harmonically- while videos and “visual albums” got more popular. It’s to let the brain focus on pictures. It’s not a coincidence if trap music works so well with visuals, there’s something hypnotic with minimalist 808 beats, sub bass and some kind of ethereal melody and mumbling voices on top of a slow motion pan in Atlanta.

LMK

Monday, April 24th, 2017

Composed in 2014 in Paris, lifting and re-mastered in 2017 in LA.