It is with great sadness that we note the passing of Bryn Jones on January 14, 1999. Enigmatic to an extreme, Bryn recorded over 90 releases (to date) under the moniker of Muslimgauze--his on-going musical appeal to the plight of the Palestinian peoples. Preferring to allow his music to speak his politics and outrage, he produced a prodigious amount of material that is unmatched in its passion and melding of raw sound, location recordings, beats, and ethnic instrumentation. There was an advert last year that listed his live show as an evening of "Arabic electro-acoustic tribalistic fusion." That barely covers the dense atmospheres which his records produced.
Last year he released sixteen titles for a total of more than twenty hours of music. The joy in keeping up (or trying to) as a listener was the sense of discovery and forceful direction that went with each release. There were things Bryn wanted to say with Muslimgauze--and he did--but there was much more that he had yet to say. It was inspirational to see someone push their craft forward so consistently and with such conviction. I followed Muslimgauze not just because the music was amazing, but because it was breath-taking to be linked with an artist who really strived to accomplish something with his art. -Mark Teppo
After a long and courageous struggle with cancer, Vicki Capponi passed away peacefully in her sleep the night of January 30th. I was honored to have known her and cherished the time spent in her company both on and off the soccer pitch (esp. her fiery vocabulary when it came to dealing with lackluster referees). Her quick smile and bright laughter will be long remembered and sorely missed. Journey in peace.
"You would know the secret of death.
For what is to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun? And what is it to cease breathing, but to free the breath from its restless tides, that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered?" -Kahlil Gibran
With Seagram's 10 billion dollar buyout of PolyGram in January, a lot of people on both sides of the music fence were handed their walking papers as the company consolidated PolyGram and its subsidiary labels with Seagram's own Universal labels. The embrace of these two multifuckingnational musical juggernauts has had wide repercussions impacting all corners of the musical globe. A&M, Geffen, Motown, Island, Mercury, and Interscope are looking at dropping two-thirds to three-quarters of the artists on their rosters. Last count was 500 layoffs of label personnel (with potentially hundreds more scheduled later in the year), and over 200 artists.
But fear not, o' music connoisseur! The chances of Beck having to busk for a living or No Doubt having to write a decent tune to earn a paycheck is not likely. It's guaranteed that the new Universal Music Group will be keeping those Grammy friendly artists whose chart topping mediocrity has kept the company's coffers full. "UMG is significantly stronger than either of its predecessors, integrating the complementary strengths inherent in both current businesses […] with unparalleled depth and diversity of music," is how it is stated on UMG's web site.
While it's more than a little upsetting to see so many artists (and the hundreds of label personnel who supported them) let go, I have begun to think that this was not such a bad thing, and I eagerly look forward to watching all the big money hit-makers become consolidated under one fat dollar sign.
Why? Because I think there is now better potential for artists who are true to their craft to make it in the business without having to sell their soul to some corporate logo--to someone who is only interested in the sound of cash registers cha-chinging and not in the welfare of those musicians whose creative expense is fattening the companies' accounts. There are those who have stayed true to their own vision and paved their own path to musical "success" without having to compromise their beliefs or sell out in the process. Ani DiFranco, Fugazi, Robert Fripp and his Discipline Global Mobile label…these are just a few that readily come to mind. And now with the Internet at so many creative, able and eager fingertips, it's possible to create, promote, and get the word out with little expense in comparison to the potential return. Granted, it's not an easy road. This is not the expressway to the top, but for those "true defenders of the craft" (to quote Mike Watt) it is a road they should be willing to take.
Point is, while it may appear the musical world has just gotten smaller, it hasn't. It's gotten much, much larger. For those with the creative vision and determination to "make it" (to whatever degree of definition), it is possible. Nothing scares the record giants more than the possibility of music being able to thrive without them. Think about it--and place your vote by recognizing where you spend it. Support independent music. Let them know they make a difference. Even small acts of buying music directly from the artist (if possible) or from independent record stores has noticeable impact. Let's raise a glass to the ambulance chasers, and begin working towards and looking forward to the day when it's not just the Big 4, but the Big 3, then the Big 2, the Big 1…and finally the Big None.
For those paying attention there are a large number of artists doing things their own way who have not had to compromise everything they respect in the process. In this issue we take a look at a couple of musical pioneers who've done it by their own rules. D.O.A.'s sound and uncompromising ethic have been influencing other bands for over 20 years now. Earpollution's Steve Weatherholt caught up to Joey Shithead at a recent show, and in this month's Cool By Proxy he sits down with the Elder Statesman of Hardcore. Finding artistic release in two turntables and a microphone at a time when there was nothing close to this style of music in Japan, DJ Krush has been subtly reinventing both himself and the art of being a DJ. Profiles finds Mark Teppo looking deeper into Krush's deft approach to the turntable and the rhythms that guides his hands. All this plus three days of live Sadhappy, the horror of Bandemonium, local goth-industrialists Zero Flip Side's debut album, Money Mark, Pitchshifer, Bruford/Levin, Scarnella, Talvin Singh, Black Sabbath, Fear Factory, Diamond-First Werny, The Swingin' Utters, and a whole lot more! What are you waiting for? Step on inside.