"That's Fairly Interesting" - an occasional series of essays on popular music.
Hi, my name is George D. Henderson; I play in The Puddle and solo (and have been in Mink, The Spies, The And Band, The Jellyfish etc.). I've been playing rock music for 30 odd years, and I'll use this guest editorial to pose important sociological and philosophical questions about Rock'n'roll. Starting with:
Have all the great original songs been written? Are there a finite number of good tunes?
If you know a little about songwriting, you can easily get the impression that all the best tunes and changes and most of the best lyrical hooks are already taken. But, true as this is, there is nonetheless as much good music ahead of us there is behind us. Consider - most of the great songs of the sixties could not have been written in the 1950s - they would have sounded fatally flawed then, full of mistakes and lyrically tactless or nonsensical. The people of every time think at least some of the work of their time to be as sophisticated and all-inclusive of taste as anyone would want, but only those who come after can see (albeit incompletely) how restricted their vision really was. Specific avenues in science and technology may conceivably run out of new ideas at times, but music (even accepting the narrow range of human hearing and the limits of human strength and dexterity) is scarcely limited by physics - surely the profoundly deaf yet imagine things we might understand as music.
The things that are finite - changes, rhythms, melodic phrases - are basic elements of song. There was never a time when they were original - before man, the birds and the wind. Lyrical hooks can theoretically be exhausted in every language, but new ones will always evolve with languages and with the changing gestalt of nations and communities. Also, the classics stand repeating. The "…I/you want/need someone/body to love" chorus has been used, with essentially the same chords and rhythm, by Jefferson Airplane, The Beatles, and The Puddle, to cite only those examples I am aware of, no doubt unconsciously (or with a sense of originality); in each case, the musical and lyrical context preceding the phrase has imbued it with a different musical sound and lyrical meaning. In the 20th century Borges's Pierre Menard recreated Miguel Cervantes' 17th century classic Don Quixote, word for word. This second text was said to be "verbally identical" to the original, yet, because of its new associations, "infinitely richer". Originality is only a state of mind.
Phrases included in a song as deliberate musical or lyrical quotations are a more problematic form of originality, but quoting from a song, book, solo, or nursery rhyme is not unique to music - "most books are books about books". As soon as we leave the realms of safe clichés we risk not only the pointlessness of much originality (clichés are powerful, after all) but also damage to our credibility and loss of face in general. Any artist will tell you that original creativity is a two edged sword - the decision to do something truly new can never be undertaken lightly; the results have the potential to affect one's career for better or worse in ways cliché and repetition never can.
Thus, we are not likely ever to be lacking in chances for originality in new songwriting. What is far more likely to oppress us is a kind of artistic cowardice - the fear that a tune or change will sound too obvious, too corny, too pompous or too strange, too heavy or too twee; that a lyric will seem too obscure, too revealing, too witty or too earnest, and the whole come across as too sleazy, too modest, too simple, too self-indulgent, too politically incorrect or too PC. We tend to under-rate how accepting the general public (as opposed to songwriters and critics) can be when assessing our work (one need only hear the top 20 to understand how deep this acceptance goes).
The golden rule of songwriting to me is, write what you wish you could hear on the radio, or on your stereo; write the songs you wish your favourite artists were busy writing for their next albums (if you're any good you'll automatically include yourself in their number anyway), and they will turn into the songs you want for your own.
Coming straight out of nowhere, Tainted have gone from strength-to-strength since the final line-up came together in late 2004. Once this hard-hitting four piece (comprised of Nick King: Guitar & Vocals, Tim Facoory: Guitars, Sean McCurrie: Bass & Vocals and Quentin Forster: Drums) set their mind to it, nothing could get in their way.
Within a few weeks of forming, Tainted had the ChCh music scene talking... “Who are these guys, when are they gonna play!?!?”. Opting to record a demo BEFORE hitting the local gig circuit, their first show at the Jetset Lounge proved to be a rip-roaring success, leaving many punters scratching their heads, asking questions like “is this REALLY your first gig?” Tainted’s reputation as a tight and energetic live act quickly gained momentum, as offers for gigs started flooding in - within 3 gigs they were supporting Auckland’s “8 Foot Sativa”, then “Sinate” - both shows gaining Tainted instant acclaim throughout the Christchurch metal community. It wasn’t long before the band had enough original material to record an album... and here it is... and not a moment too soon, the punters are getting hungry.
Tainted bring together a cohesive mix of modern metal, death metal, thrash metal and black metal to create a punishing sonic soundscape laden with grooves, meaty riffs, insane drumming and inhuman vocals... all done with a level of intensity that remains unparalleled in New Zealand.
For more information on Tainted, see their profile on muzic.net.nz.
The Madison Press formed at the end of 2005 from the ashes of Augustino and singer, Jooles’, solo project, Diefenbacker. In the short time that they’ve been together they have already kicked up quite a stir in the NZ indie scene.
Having recently earned a new recording grant from NZonAir the band are focussing their attention on recording their second single “Don’t say anything”, as well as releasing the video for their current single, “I know (what I’d do)” currently receiving airtime on several major stations.
It’s onwards and upwards for The Madison Press, with a string of dates confirmed in NZ and further afield, including an invitation to play the 2006 Rocket Festival in Spain and a 2 week tour with Brit rockers and Zane Lowe favourites, Rotating Leslie, in the UK.
For more information, check out the Madison Press page.
Who are your favourite NZ bands and artists?
The Twitch, dDub, salmonella Dub, Rodger Mannins hip flask, Pluto, the D4, MISSING TEETH, Shihad, Fat Freddy's, Trinity Roots, Dave Dobyn, the Finns,Rhombus, Farmer Pimp, Kora, Sola Rosa and many many more... (find more information on all of these on muzic.net.nz!)
What is your favourite NZ venue?
The London Bar, anywhere where there is great music and good times to be had.
What is the best thing about being in Kolektiv?
The ever present groove and the freedom. About 70% of our set is improvised, so the audience is hearing something different everytime.
What is the best live gig you have ever been to?
Iggy and the stooges BDO 06 = NOFX at the powerstation 00 = Bob Brozman at the classic 03
Where do you see yourselves in 5 years?
In a huge tour bus with a big rack of guitars and piles of crappy sweat-shop produced Kolektiv merchandise. Na, we just really want to get our music out there to as many people as possible nationally, and maybe one day outside of NZ too. Just p laying great tunes with great people.
How do you keep in contact with your fans?
ten dollar text
What rumour would you like to start about yourselves?
That David Hasselhoff rates us as his favourite band
What advice would you like to give to other aspiring musicians?
Confidence. 'Its not about what you play its the look in your eye when you do it'. Be persistent and keep learning, keep learning about music and keep learning about the industry. Keep varying the music you listen to and the people you play with.
Special thanks to Diane for providing the answers. Click here for more information on Kolektiv.