Why I Support Record Store Day Australia

Record Store Day Australia (RSDA) takes place on April 16th this year and it is the third consecutive year that I’ve agreed to be an official ambassador. I’m very happy to join fellow RSD ambassador’s Ella Hooper and Adam Brand to support this wonderful day of music and fun. The purpose of RSD is to celebrate the culture and diversity of the independently owned record store. The Australian Music Retailers Association (AMRA) promotes RSDA and it has the unqualified support of record companies and Australian music icons that know the importance of supporting independent music stores. The day brings together fans, artists and thousands of independent record stores across the whole of Australia.

Chris Brown, who was an employee of independent CD, DVD, games and book retailer Bull Moose, originated Record Store Day in the USA. The concept was loosely based around the idea of the already successful Free Comic Book Day. Inspiration came from a brainstorming session held during a record storeowners’ meeting in Baltimore resulting in Record Store Day being officially founded in 2007. It is now celebrated at stores throughout the world, with hundreds of recording and performing artists participating in the day by making special appearances, performances, meeting and greeting their fans, the holding of art exhibits, and the issuing of special vinyl and CD releases along with other promotional products to mark the occasion. Each store holds their own party for the day, to celebrate the unique individuality of each store, and the place it holds within its community. Although Record Store Day, the actual day, only occurs once a year, AMRA (the organisation) provides promotions, marketing, and other opportunities for stores throughout the year, maintaining a website, social media and other means of promulgating its views about the value of independent record stores.

The key word here is ‘independent’. RSDA is about celebrating this word ‘independence’, as in freedom, liberty and self-governance. I am well aware of the advantages of a globalised world economy; indeed I am an English man who now lives in Melbourne, Australia who also lived and worked in the USA. For the whole of my working life I was involved, directly and indirectly, in producing and selling mass appeal contemporary popular music to a global audience. So it may sound contrary when I pontificate about the virtues of independent retailers. But I believe that it is possible for independent retailers to exist in a globalized economy, adding value and variety to our otherwise over standardized lives. I come from a family of independent retailers, my brother Nick and his wife Annie, are proprietors of the UK’s coolest bicycle shop, East Coast Bicycles, my father owned a number of different retail operations and my grandfather ran a shoe repair business all of his life. Our retail spaces are now almost exclusively the preserve of trans national global corporations who view the entire planet as one large connected market place. This can work in the consumer’s favor e.g. economies of scale resulting in lower prices and standardization of products across the globe; I’m not anti-globalization per-say. The globalized retailers take care of the generic, standardized, bulk of products but with little deviation resulting in limited choice. Take globalized furniture retailer Ikea, as an example, each store throughout the world carries exactly the same lines. The world’s biggest music retailer, iTunes, is a truly global phenomenon even though it only exists virtually.

This is where independent retailers come in, no matter what they are selling be it recorded music, groceries, shoes, clothing, wine or bicycles. The independent retailers are the purveyors of choice and are more often-than-not the local arbiters of style and taste. It’s the independents that seek out the bizarre, unusual, quirky, sexy, individual, niche, local and personal items that we desperately need in our lives. Granted these ‘desire’ or ‘life style statement’ items may cost a little more but they are the artifacts that become family heirlooms, the items that we cherish, the ones we love, the items with a narrative attached to them. I for one think that’s worth the cash premium.

Go into any independent retailer of whatever variety and you will invariably find the owner or his family serving you as opposed to some minimum wage earning, polo shirted/fleece wearing, badged, robo-drone who has no interest in the item that you wish to purchase. With an independent you are getting the attention of an expert/enthusiast, someone who has invested countless hours in researching their stock line, they can point out the almost indistinguishable differences on what appears to be similar products. At my favourite record store I spend many hours of my Saturday afternoons flicking through the racks. More often than not the owner, lets call him Buddy, comes over and strikes up a conversation with me and discusses music, records, artists and gigs. He’s not ‘upselling’ rather he is genuinely interested in my musical taste and me. Try this approach in a giant, on-line, globalised music retail environment it’s not the same. Reading the on-line ‘customer reviews’ below a product on a web site is useful but its not like being there. My local store plays loud music on a great sounding system with the cover of the album that they are playing highlighted on a plinth with “Currently Playing” written on it. OK, this is upselling but its upselling of the kind caring type, the type I like. You can buy wine at the supermarket but isn’t it much better to chat with the independent retailer who can describe the characteristics of that particular wine and what dish it is best served with? It’s the same with recorded music.

RSDA is motived around a single day, 16th April this year. This is the day when we celebrate the independent music retailers. Bands, acts and artists release special limited runs of ‘product’ and often perform in store with a real party atmosphere. There is a misconception that RSDA is solely about vinyl sales, its not. RSDA is format agnostic, buy whatever you like on whatever format you like, but make sure that you buy it from an independent retailer. This is a use it or loose it deal. If people don’t support local independent retailers they will disappear. Indeed with the ‘long tail’ online globalised retailers increasingly colonising our leisure space it’s becoming even harder for independents to keep the lights on. At the most basic level, when you buy local more money stays in the community.

The New Economics Foundation (NEF), a UK based independent economic think tank who’s aim is to transform the economy so that it works for people and the planet rather than profits, recently compared what happens when people buy produce at a supermarket vs. a local farmer’s market or community supported agriculture (CSA) program. This research found that twice the money stayed in the community when customers bought locally. “That means those purchases are twice as efficient in terms of keeping the local economy alive,” says author and NEF researcher David Boyle. The local producer/retailer also adds creative elements that make either the product or materials used more appropriate to the location. For example in my adopted home city of Melbourne, RSDA will see local stores offering up some superb one off recordings of local bands. Check the lists of releases on the RSDA web site for what’s available in your city.

Another argument for buying locally and independently is that it enhances the ‘velocity’ of money, or circulation speed, in the area. The idea is that if currency circulates more quickly, the money passes through more hands, a greater number of people benefit from the money and what it has purchased for them. “If you’re buying local and not at a chain or branch store, chances are that store is not making a huge profit,” says David Morris, Vice President of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, a nonprofit economic research and development organisation based in the USA capital Washington, D.C. “That means more goes into input costs such as supplies and upkeep, printing, advertising, paying employees, which puts that money right back into the local community.

By shopping at the independent record store, instead of the global online retailer, you can stop your community from becoming a ‘clone town’, where the Main Street now looks like every other Main Street in the world with the same fast-food and retail chains. This is a compelling argument for supporting RSDA and its fun too. Save some cash and get into those independent record stores on 16th April and spend, spend, spend. Not only will it give you a smug good all over glow feeling but you will also come away with some music in a tactile format that will stay with you for the rest of your life. That’s why I support Record Store Day Australia; I’ll see you in-store on 16th April?

The Dr Who of Rock ‘N’ Roll

It’s been a difficult few months in the world of rock ‘n’ roll because everyone seems to be dying. I know this is a new phenomenon (rock stars dying not death per-say). This is because the commercial music industry is relatively young when compared to other artistic endeavors. The early pioneers of this industry are now reaching their late 60s and early 70s, so I suppose death is inevitable. An often-repeated quote is, “the only certainties in life are death and taxes”. Although death is inevitable, it is no less of a shock. Sadness and shock were the first emotions I felt when I heard of Keith Emerson’s death early morning on Saturday 12th March 2016, Melbourne time.

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Keith Emerson, the Dr Who of Rock ‘N’ Roll

I worked with Keith Emerson in 2002 for almost the entire year as his tour manager and his de-facto go-to guy; that’s how I earned my living back then. However, my connection to Keith goes way back to a childhood in Hull, East Yorkshire. My hippie parents, Karl and Jenny, always had a very eclectic taste in music and I remember in 1972 that they played the Emerson Lake and Palmer album Pictures At An Exhibition in heavy rotation with other weird and wonderful tunes. As a ten year old I found this a very difficult piece of music to comprehend. Indeed any ten year old that could fully fathom the testosterone fuelled butchery of this classic Mussorsky piece would probably be painfully precocious and end up pursuing a career as a popular music academic later on in life. But lets give credit where its due because ELP’s iteration has become one of the seminal documents of the progressive rock era, a record that made its way into the collections of millions of high-school kids who had never heard of Modest Mussorgsky and knew nothing of Russia’s Nationalist ‘Five’. At the time, it introduced the new genre of classical rock to millions of listeners, including the classical community, most of whose members regarded this record as something akin to an armed violent assault. Track four off this record really stuck in my mind, a short original Moog synthesiser interlude, which was never part of the original Mussorsky template. Little did my parents know they were hegemonically pre-programming me to love synth-based music that would stay with me for life. Philip Larkin was right about parents.

I left school in 1979 at the age of 16 to pursue a backstage career in rock ‘n’ roll. Initially this was as a sound engineer before I drifted inevitably into tour management and subsequently a variety of other roles; but that’s a different story. This career development was all done without any formal education; I didn’t complete my first degree until I was 30. I learned on the job as everyone did back then. One of my frequent places of work was a rehearsal studio complex, John Henry Enterprises (JHE), located on Brewery Road just behind Kings Cross railway station in a shabby part of North London. Kings Cross was my de-facto arrival point in London when I rode the East Coats mainline train down from Hull. JHE also had an excellent on site café and a pro shop, which was managed by an incredibly scary; take no shit, Scouser called Barrington ‘Bazz’ Ward. Bazz was king roadie, the roadie’s roadie and what he didn’t know about roadieing probably wasn’t worth knowing. Many a time I stood before Bazz in JHE’s Pro Shop knees trembling while I attempted to purchase all the supplies for a forthcoming tour. Initially I was a very green; know nothing, regional kid working with crap up-and-coming regional bands. Bazz verbally and very bluntly confirmed this fact whenever I met him. But over the next 20 plus years my knowledge base and standing grew and Bazz had obviously taken all this in from behind his shop counter.

Jump forward to mid 2001 and I received an unsolicited out-of-the blue phone call from Bazz Ward, who even over the telephone sounded angry and scary. During this call he summoned me to a meeting at The Balmoral pub on the corner of Caledonia and Brewery Road right opposite the notorious Pentonville prison. During this meeting I discovered two things: 1. Bazz’s bark was much worse than his bite and 2. he had a cunning plan. Bazz had spent many years working with Keith Emerson. Keith was restless out in Santa Monica, California and wanted to tour again. Bazz made it very clear that I had undergone a 21-year observation period and it was deemed that I was now capable enough to be the tour manager, though Bazz was still the boss. Bazz would handle all things technical and I would take care of budgets, staff, contractors, musicians, travel, logistics, accommodation and anything else. For the next few months I worked with Bazz and spoke to Keith many times over the phone while we planned the tour. The tour was to be billed as Keith Emerson and The Nice. The Nice was Keith’s pre ELP band formed in 1967 with Lee Jackson (bass), David O’List (guitar) and Brian Davison (drums) to back soul singer PP Arnold. When PP Arnold departed, the band carried on but with a sound focused on Emerson’s Hammond organ showmanship, and abuse of the instrument, and their radical rearrangements of classical music themes and Bob Dylan songs.

Original member Lee Jackson and Brian Davison were augmented with seasoned session players Dave Kilminster on guitar, Phil Williams on bass and Pete Riley on drums. I hired a road crew, broke into Keith’s lock up, liberated his long retired equipment and commenced rehearsals at JHE. I hired and fired three sound engineers before I blackmailed an old colleague of mine to come out of retirement for the tour (it involved some graphic pictures of him and some strippers in Abilene, Texas that his wife wound not want to see).

It was day one of rehearsals when I got to meet Keith face-to-face for the first time. Soberly dressed in Prada he came across as a quiet successful businessman, which I suppose he was, as opposed to the show business exhibitionist. During these rehearsals I spent many hours discussing the tour with Keith. He was interested in all aspects of the tour including detailed scrutinising of my budgets, logistics, venue information, crew backgrounds and everything connected to the tour. I attended numerous meetings with his accountant in New Cavendish Street in London and even found myself sitting next to Bryan Ferry in reception on one of these occasions. I found the right coloured tour bus that met his very exacting requirements, made sure that hotels and transport details were precise.

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Rehearsing with Keith Emerson at JHE London in 2002.

I enjoyed my time with Keith as he was always polite, punctual, fair, humorous and strangely introverted often bordering on shy. On a personal level I found him annoying at times especially his inability to undertake everyday tasks such as opening a door, making a decision over mealtime menus or requesting “tepid water”. I guess that middle class upbringing and all those years of being a world famous, high-living rock star resulted in his aberrant behaviour. I hired one of my college students to work as his personal assistant during the tour to take care of these annoying shizzles; the best move I ever made. During the tour Keith would regularly throw me curve balls e.g. moments before departing on the carefully selected tour bus he’d announce that he wanted us to travel by train. Quite often the train option was a much slower, more expensive and more inconvenient then riding on the tour bus but he was the boss so I complied.

Off stage I found Keith very quiet; he spent almost every minute playing a small portable keyboard or harmonica. He’d sit on the train/tour bus with his headphones on ‘clacking’ away playing music (unheard by the other occupants) with a sly smile on his face. I often witnessed him playing his keyboard back-to-front just to make it more challenging. His offstage personality was in direct contrast to his stage persona. On stage he was a maniac and the audience loved it. He fought his Hammond organ every night, stabbed it with daggers until it howled with pain and forced weird and wonderful sounds from his ginormous six foot tall Moog synthesiser. I hated the music; I could not listen to Tarkus or Brain Salad Surgery but that was OK because once I’d put him on stage I would head to front of house to chat up the T-shirt girl while drinking tall glasses of Bombay Sapphire gin and tonic for the next two hours.

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Keith Emerson’s mighty Moog synthesiser.

Our merchandising was as eclectic as the music. The biggest selling item was Keith’s self penned book Pictures of an Exhibitionist that we literally shifted by the truckload. Not many rock ‘n’ roll tours can claim that their biggest selling merchandise item was a high priced, 350 page piece of literature. He signed my copy “To Touringtim lots a luv careering Keith”. He knew of my love of Public Image Ltd album Metal Box and the single Careering. While on tour in Glasgow, we recorded a live album which turned into a three CD box set where I was credited ‘Executive Producer’; I really must add this to my CV. While on our way to the Croydon Fairfield Halls gig we stopped off to have afternoon tea and scones with his lovely elderly mum. Touring with Keith Emerson was full of these wonderful surprises.

Only last week I was stood in an open plan office taking the mickey out of Keith and doing my inept impression of him to a bewildered audience of wage slaves and office drones. Don’t let this mickey taking fool you. I was incredible fond of Keith Emerson, he made an indelible impression on me. I saw the vulnerable side of Keith and the last two nights have passed without much sleep thinking about his lonely violent suicide. His degenerative medical condition in his right hand, resulting in his inability to play keyboards, had taken to him to a very dark depressed place. Of course he could have bought a cheap plastic USB keyboard and smashed notes into a computer programme with a single finger and let some fruity loops software do all the work but that wasn’t Keith. He was a perfectionist. I remember when we were preparing for the tour, Keith absolutely insisted that we have a $150k Steinway 8’ 6” grand piano on tour with us. We found a piano, built the world’s biggest flight case and shipped the thing around the globe with us. The tour’s trucking company loved us because we had so much equipment; the bright blue pantechnicons with the eagle on the front sure made for an impressive sight outside of the loading bay each night.

My thoughts go out to Keith’s family, who he never discussed with me, and the fans that loved the man. I still feel shocked but not entirely surprised that he chose to take his own life in such a violent fashion. There’s another article to be written here about the absolutely appalling duty of care that the music industry has towards its participants, but that’s for another day. My memories of Keith are all pleasant ones, despite the mickey taking. He was a visionary musician who fused rock ‘n’ roll with classical, jazz and world music and he set a standard by which others would be judged. Thanks for the music and the memories Keith; to me you’ll always be the Dr Who of rock ‘n’ roll and part of my childhood past.

Album Rescue Series Book On Sale!

The Album Rescue Series book is now available for sale at Lulu.com

ARS_cover

At Dalton Koss HQ we love to empower those around us. To accompany the Album Rescue Series book, the very talented SAE Institute audio students were asked to put together an album of songs reinterpreted from some of the rescued albums found in our book. Students put their Producer hats on and were given total freedom to scope their reinterpretation as they wished. The resulting record has some very interesting responses, many of which reflect the students’ area of passion or expertise. Have a listen while reading the Album Rescue Series book! (Note: language warning on some tracks). To hear this music, click here.

Eight Steps To Becoming A Sound Engineer

As a Partner at Dalton Koss HQ (DKHQ), I regularly visit educational institutions around the world to give Master Classes and lectures on careers in the audio, music and creative industries. Over the past 36 years I’ve earned my living as a live sound engineer, tour manager, studio engineer, record producer, artist manager, A&R consultant, rehearsal/recording studio owner, record label executive and more recently as an educator. Discussions with early career professionals always trigger the question, how did I get started on my 36-year career in the music industry? What was my personal journey? One of my most frequently asked questions is, “how do I become an audio engineer?” It’s an interesting question as there is no standard route into the profession. It’s highly unlikely that you’ll ever see a mainstream advertisement in the jobs pages of a newspaper for an audio engineer. I maintain that working in the audio production/music industry is not a job or even a career, but it’s actually a lifestyle, which requires a huge amount of personal commitment. If you are looking for high pay, hedonism and fame then a career in music and audio production definitely won’t be for you.

The music industry does an incredibly clever smoke and mirrors trick where it tries to make itself appear revolutionary and anti-establishment. In reality the music industry is probably the world’s most compliant, conservative and least revolutionary art form on the planet. If you want to be creatively cutting edge and revolutionary then try fine art, fashion or architecture as an art form. To help re-align perceptions of both employers and students, I have organised a number of speed dating with industry events in the UK, USA and Australia. At these very popular events students meet music industry managers and owners and speak to them one-to-one. Results are always positive from both sides of the table. Students start to realize that the product may be music, but ultimately, they will experience a very similar working life to everyone else. The job description may include activities that might seem like social occasions e.g. going to shows, visits to the studio, riding on a tour bus, but being involved in these activities from a work perspective is very different from hanging out with your mates.

The music industry is first and foremost a business and a very serious financially focused one at that. Whether you end up working in the independent music world or for a major international music label, you will be expected to work very long hours in a highly competitive work environment to achieve measurable successes often under difficult circumstances. You may get to wear skinny black jeans and Converse to work, but this doesn’t mean that you are working any less then your friends who have to wear a suit and tie to work in their office jobs. There will be long hours, with the potential for advancement if you perform well, the potential for dismissal if you don’t, good bosses, bad bosses, troublesome clients, all the standard workplace related experiences will apply. There will definitely be some cool perks, but trust my 36 years of experience, they will be very few and far between and they’ll definitely be hard earned. Anyone who is hard working, creative, passionate and motivated will fair extremely well in a music industry career. Here is my personal eight-step guide to become an audio engineer: –

  1. Start working with sound equipment: Audio equipment has never been so cheap and much of it these days is software based. Get your hands on as much equipment as possible and practice your skills. If you believe Malcolm Gladwell’s theory (I do) then 10,000 hours is the magic number. Start clocking up those hours now. Audition microphones, recorders, effects, plug-ins; work out what they do and how they can be used creatively and correctively. Spend all day mucking about with audio equipment, discuss audio equipment with like-minded folk when you’re not mucking about with audio equipment and then when you go to sleep dream about audio equipment – it’s a lifestyle remember?
  2. Enrol on an appropriate audio degree:There are a plethora of different degree options out there so find one that suits you. The role of audio engineer is a diverse one e.g. live audio, post-production, programming, maintenance, design installation, broadcast, mastering, music production, etc. Go and visit the different institutions, that’s what open days are for, and see what they have to offer in terms of degrees/diplomas structure, equipment, exit qualification and consider teaching staff experience. Ideally the educational institution that you choose will have lots and lots of project work (remember that 10,000 hour rule?) so you’ll get plenty of hands on time. A degree in audio production on its own will not be enough to secure you some work so in addition go to a recording studio, rehearsal room, music venue or local theatre and try to make friends with the sound crew. Tell them you’re interested in what they do, and ask if you can hang out and watch them work. Find out about the job and then work out what you want to do and start doing it.
  3. Read some books:There are lots of books (I’m currently writing my third one), magazines and web sites out there. Read as much as possible about audio engineering, music production, mastering, equipment and everything connected to audio and music production. Audio engineering is an incredibly complex industry but the information is out there but it will require you to actively research the industry. By reading you’ll understand the history and context of the industry and that will make you a much better and more employable engineer. Become familiar with different kinds of sound equipment; do lots of research on the Internet, check out the websites of sound companies, studios, record companies, producers, etc.
  4. Learn to use different audio software: You probably already have a favourite piece of software, which you love to use. As a professional you need to be confident in using all of the tools available. Find out about the other software packages available that you don’t use including: ProTools, Cubase, Reason, Cakewalk, Sibelius, Digital Performer, Live, Ableton and Logic.Most of the manufacturers of these products have free demos available on the Internet. Go on the different forums and speak to the audio gurus about issues that you are having. Watch lots of Youtube videos that show you the shortcuts and hacks.
  5. Get familiar with lots of different types of music: As a music industry professional you’ll be working with music that may not be to your taste. It’s vital you critically listen to as many different types of music as possible. No one is asking you to like this music but you do need to understand the mechanics and how it operates. Spend lots of time critically analysing different musical genres that you wouldn’t normally listen too. This is probably the most single important skill you can train yourself to do. A good educational institution will have critical listening sessions as part of their program. When learning how to record, mix and edit music you should also know about the wide variety of music available in the world. Here are some of my learning principles:
    • Listen to different types of songs.
    • Analyse different types of sounds.
    • Try to catch each and every beat.
    • Think “how did they do that?
    • Learn to create your favourite music and even the music you don’t like.
  6. Be honest with your weaknesses and commit to improving yourself:
    After you have completed a project, look back and critically reflect on what went well and what didn’t. Critically discuss with your peers, employers, and teachers about what you have created and work out how you can make it better. Commit to being better next time by adjusting your workflow or being better prepared. Where necessary, make amends with the parties at the receiving end of your mistakes (e.g. musician, performers, a missed cue on stage or in the mix).
  7. Expose yourself to the ever-changing audio technologies:
    Chances are, there’s a better way or better tools to get your job done today than there were 6 months ago. However, whatever technology you are considering to use needs to be thought through in the context of what your project actually needs. Technology should always serve what you are trying to achieve in the project, not the other way around. Think of technology as the tools of the trade but do not become technology obsessed because it should be about the music and not the tech. If you apply a piece of tech to a project ask yourself is it helping the artists express whatever it is they are trying to express? If the answer is NO then you probably don’t need that side chained, frequency sensitive plug-in gate ducking the out-of-phase room microphone in the mix.
  8. Be entrepreneurial and become the CEO of your own brand. Just like Bonds sells upmarket underwear and JB HiFi sells electronics, you sell something that is unique — YOU.  This includes your identity, personality, work ethic, goals, aspirations, fears and much more. Think of yourself as a brand, as your own public relations, sales and marketing department all in one, and you need to be the CEO of that brand. In the creative industries, self employment and working on short term contracts is the norm so know how to sell the best version of yourself and position your image that will be favourable to all. Your digital footprint (Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, YouTube, Wikipedia, etc.) may be a huge factor in you getting that vital paying gig, so actively manage your brand.

Tim will be hosting the following music industry sessions over the next three weeks:

Tim Dalton is a Partner at Dalton Koss HQ with over 38 years of international experience as an audio engineer, record producer, record company executive, A&R consultant and educator. Originally from the UK, Tim has worked internationally with David Bowie, Sir Paul McCartney, Simple Minds, Elvis Costello, Faith No More, The Beastie Boys, Run DMC, Transvision Vamp, Primus, De La Soul, and Atomic Kitten.

ALBUM RESCUE SERIES BOOK NOW AVAILABLE

Dalton Koss HQ is excited to announce that the Album Rescue Series book is now available for sale! Order your copy via our online retailer Lulu.com

ARS_cover

At Dalton Koss HQ we love to empower those around us. To accompany the Album Rescue Series book, the very talented SAE Institute audio students were asked to put together an album of songs reinterpreted from some of the rescued albums found in our book. Students put their Producer hats on and were given total freedom to scope their reinterpretation as they wished. The resulting record has some very interesting responses, many of which reflect the students’ area of passion or expertise. Have a listen while reading the Album Rescue Series book! (Note: language warning on some tracks). To hear this music, follow the SoundCloud link.

PRESS RELEASE

PRESS RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE (2/11/15)

Album Rescue Series book launch – Monday 16th November at 6:00pm at SAE Institute, 235 Normanby Road, South Melbourne, Vic 3205.

The Album Rescue Series book evolved from some lively debates between friends, family and colleagues as to the merits of various unloved and mistreated albums. These discussions lead to committing our thoughts to paper and rescuing various albums that the press and public considered far from exemplary of a particular artist. This book rights those wrongs. The Album Rescue Series book is a contributive piece of work by music, media and cultural theorist scholars, academics and commentators, each of whom takes a unique approach in rescuing an album that they love.

Veteran rock ‘n’ roller Tim Dalton (Faith No More, Beastie Boys, Primus, Public Enemy, Run DMC, Atomic Kitten, Transvision Vamp) heads up a team of passionate authors: – Matt Bangerter, Broady, Mat Caithness, Ian Dixon, Lisa Gotto, Ian Hunter, Ragnhild Nordset, Gareth Parton, Adam Spellicy, David M. Turner and Nick Wilson. At the Album Rescue Series book launch you can meet and chat with the authors about the albums that they have rescued.

Tim Dalton is available for all media requests to talk about the Album Rescue Series book and/or his 36 years of international rock ‘n’ roll knowledge and experience.

Contact:

Tim Dalton (touringtim@aol.com)

Rebecca Koss (beccakoss@hotmail.com)

Dalton Koss HQ
8 Brand Street
Hampton Victoria 3188

‘Earth Vs. The Wildhearts’ The Wildhearts by Ian Hunter

The early 90’s were a turbulent time. Just a few years after grunge turned the music scene on its head, so the sudden death of Kurt Cobain caused another seismic upheaval. With rock’s biggest bands still readjusting to this brave new world, and grunge’s superstars dazed and in mourning, rock badly needed an adrenaline shot.

Into the vacuum poured a new breed of bands and none more talented volatile, or unhinged, as The Wildhearts. Offering a noisy alternative to the mainstream ‘Brit-rock’ these disparate-sounding newcomers flawed both audiences and the music press with their first almighty sucker-punch.

The bands auburn haired front man/guitarist, known to all as Ginger, for reasons too obvious to explain, had been promising to make his presence felt for a number of years. Latterly the hard living guitarist with UK Rod and the Faces, sound-alike’s, The Quireboys, Ginger’s lifestyle and belligerent personality had seen him fall out with the band’s new management,  Sharon Osborne. Cast adrift, just as the Quireboys were about to break into the mainstream, and tour the world as support act for The Rolling Stones, it’s fair to say that the volatile man with the flame hair decided to view the situation as a call to arms, rather than the knife between the shoulder blades that it undoubtedly was.

For months, the rumour mill turned with whispers of Gingers new band. Names were mentioned, line-ups confirmed, and still nothing happened. Then, just as the music press was about to consign all the speculation to the bin, rock radio came alive with the sound of Turning American, by The Wildhearts, and no one had expected it to sound as it did.

To say that Turning American was a thinly veiled attack on Ginger’s previous band would be doing it an injustice. There was nothing veiled about it. ‘The smell of easy money and you’d follow it to death – I can smell the shit upon your breath.’

As alluded to earlier, Ginger Wildheart had always found himself to be a Vegemite personality. People either loved him or hated him; and it is something that continues to this day. A belligerent, aggressive, and hugely unpredictable character, with a yo-yo penchant for some of the darker indulgences of life, made being in a band with Ginger Wildheart as exciting as it was dangerous. However, right from day one of The Wildhearts, it was obvious that Ginger had a talent that the majority of his contemporaries could only weep into their Jack Daniels about.

After testing the waters with the EP’s, ‘Mondo Akimbo a Go-Go’, and ‘Don’t Be Happy, Just Worry’, the band’s line up finally stabilized with the release of Earth Vs. The Wildhearts. Even the album’s title betrayed Ginger’s worldview that he was always the outsider and fully prepared to fight his corner.

Earth Vs. The Wildhearts hit the record stores on August 17th 1993, and it had jaws hitting the pavement from the get-go. From the opening of ‘Greetings from Shitsville’, to the fade out of, ‘Love U til I don’t’, eleven songs later, it left the listener in no doubt that there was never any chance of a compromise. We can all think of albums we own that slowly welcome you into their world. As the more radio friendly and melodic tracks become that bit over familiar, you discover the layers and intricacies of the hidden gems. They invite you to enjoy your own journey of discovery, at your own pace and in your own way, but Earth Vs. The Wildhearts was an album with very different ideas about your listening pleasure. Like Malcolm McDowell in A Clockwork Orange, you felt as if you had been strapped to a gurney with your eyes and ears pinned back, and then psychologically assaulted by the kind of chorus melodies and hooks we generally consider to be the preserve of Lennon and McCartney, or the best of the mid sixties Motown stock writers.

The UK’s New Musical Express (NME) reviewed it with the words; “Earth Vs. The Wildhearts is akin to being jumped by a gang of hells angels on your way home from the pub, and receiving the worst beating anyone would wish never to have; yet through the blood and exhaustion, you crawl away feeling utterly exhilarated and wanting it to happen again.”

So what made this album what it was? Of course it has to start with the songs. In the twenty plus years since its release, Ginger Wildheart has continued to fuel the opinion that, somewhere in the Cayman Islands he has an offshore safety deposit box, full of killer chorus melodies and crunching guitar riffs that he can dip into whenever the mood takes him. Another defining factor is what a hybrid it is; a true Frankenstein of an album. Diamond pop melodies, guitar riffs that bands like Metallica and Slipknot would cut off an arm to have composed, and all delivered in musical arrangements and time changes that have more in common with some early seventies prog-rock album. They are musical elements that, on the surface, are like oil and water; they seem to have no earthly business being in the same recording studio at the same time, yet the fusion is absolute, and without there ever being a musical moment where you can separate any of them.

What comes across is that Dr Gingerstein was never going to give a **** what you, me, or anyone else thought. In the song, ‘Miles Away Girl’, he sings, “You never seem to have any money, because the decent people never get paid.” The line is just one of the dozens of allegories within the lyrics, and a typical Ginger Wildheart statement that he really doesn’t care who you are, or how great your life has turned out; his world view is seated in the person, and not what you have.

Like many great albums, Earth Vs. The Wildhearts didn’t fulfil its potential until the band had imploded in a spectacular mess of booze, bar fights, and hallucinogenic fungi. No sooner was it claiming its plaudits, and starting to dent the music charts, the party was over; at least for a while. Just like Dr Frankenstein in Mary Shelley’s book, Ginger Wildheart succumbed to the monster of his own making; famously carving his initials into the boardroom table of Mushroom Records with a flick knife, when signing the band’s deal with them. As the band’s lead guitarist once said to me, “Ginger is never happy; if he found a bar of gold in the street, he’d complain it was the wrong shape.”

Earth Vs. The Wildhearts was a true monster rock album. It broke so much new ground whilst raising its hat in respect to so much that had come before it. Nirvana had become the Khmer Rouge of rock music. They had drawn a line in the sand and stamped year zero on guitar music with a battered Converse. Just as punk rock had blazed a scorched earth policy over the self-indulgence of seventies progressive rock, you could argue that music needed Nirvana in much the same way. However, they heralded a period where rock music became insular and sometimes dark. Kurt Cobain, Layne Stayley, Andrew Wood; the Jim Morrison’s of Grunge, dead before their time, and buried in a t-shirt that says ‘Everyone Loves You When You’re Dead.’ The Wildhearts debut album was the first clarion call in returning rock music to what it had once been, and should always be. It said rock music should be fun again; it should be about having a great time with your mates, and not sitting in your room contemplating your navel over a big joint of weed. It was an album that gave the finger to those who refused to acknowledge the past; Nirvana B.C, and wore its influences boldly on its sleeve. It was Metallica covering the early Beatles, or Nirvana covering Lynard Skynard, and produced by Phil Spector with a gun.

Earth Vs. The Wildhearts is a lost gem, and its legacy is rooted in that very fact. I once heard it described, as like owning a piece of banned or subversive art. Only a select group are aware of it and understand its weight and significance. Occasionally its owners might trust it to new ears, having warned them of the consequences. As Morpheus says to Neo in The Matrix, ‘Red pill or blue pill?’ There really is no turning back because you can never unhear it.

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The Album Rescue Series (ARS) book will be launched on November 16th 2015 during Melbourne Music Week. The ARS book will feature 35 albums that the press and general public considered to be far from exemplary of a particular artist. This book rights those wrongs. The ARS book is a contributive piece of work by music academics and scholars, each of whom take a unique approach to rescuing an album. Earth Vs. The Wildhearts is written by Ian Hunter who is a music industry A&R, artist manager, occasional novelist, magazine writer, mischief maker and general trouble causer. Ian is now based in Sydney, lectures at the Australian Institute of Music and is part of a globally successful artist management team. (Follow Ian Hunter on Twitter @IanHunterwriter )