“I’m not particularly interested in punk rock as a sound…but what I think is enduringly interesting and valuable is punk thought”

A good reminder from Jason Farrell:

The Dischord work ethic is very similar to skateboarding when I came to know it. If you wanted to ride something, you had to build it. So you had to learn how to build. A ton of enthusiasm, coupled with a crude understanding of hammer, nails, and wood gleaned from building tree forts would be the basis for a series of horrible ramps. But each one got a little better. Eventually, you’re good enough to build a house. It’s the same with music: it’s borrowed instruments plus a little talent, and bash it out until your skills catch up with your enthusiasm. I still live by that way of thinking: Don’t let not knowing how to do something stop you from doing something. Just get started—figure it out.

Source: Dischord Records: A Roundtable « Bandcamp Daily

“If you’re in a small town, you have to get down on your hands and knees and dig a ditch so that the water can run”

With no foreseeable end in sight for rising rents in the cities, expect this trend to continue.

But with the same cities stricken by intensifying affordability crises – premiums on space that make somewhere to live, let alone rehearse and perform, available to a dwindling few – they don’t beckon young punks like they used to. And though reports of music scenes’ deaths tend to overstate, news of shuttering venues (see eulogies for The Smell, The Know, and LoBot) deters some of the intrepid transplants needed for invigoration. Dissipating metropolitan allure, however, helps account for the strength of scenes in outlying towns.

Source: Rock in the suburbs: why punk moved out of the city and into the cul-de-sac | Music | The Guardian

Entrepreneurism: “what Americans are doing for themselves in communities across the country”

This…this gives me hope…

At a time when policy consensus at the federal level seems impossible, a grassroots movement is sweeping the nation and kindling a radical transformation in how Americans grow their local economies. Cities, communities and regions are building “ecosystems” of entrepreneurial innovation to generate new businesses and jobs that America needs. It’s no longer enough to recruit businesses from other regions in a perpetual zero-sum game. Nor is it enough to construct buildings, infrastructure, airport terminals or other projects that require heavy subsidies. Instead, we’re witnessing the birth of a new model of economic development — one based on collaboration among entrepreneurs and innovators that elevates culture as a driver of economic growth.

These ecosystems are not only located in the coastal states most readily associated with innovative economies, they are emanating from the center of America. Midwestern cities like St. Louis are offering both hope and optimism for renewed economic growth. With the presidential race providing seemingly no new solutions, Americans should support and expand this movement, for it provides the best hope of revitalizing economies throughout the nation

Source: Communities Across America Are Harnessing Entrepreneurism to Drive Growth

Ian MacKaye: “We want our own sys­tem and you can’t stop us from build­ing it”

From a recent interview with Ian MacKaye linked below:

I was say­ing to you ear­lier that I think of artists and mu­si­cians and film­mak­ers and writ­ers as trans­la­tors. This is some­thing that I got to think­ing about: “What the fuck are these peo­ple do­ing?” And I think of them as trans­la­tors. In other words, that some­body hears some­thing and they are try­ing to ex­plain to other peo­ple, us­ing that medium, what is it that they are hear­ing. Vi­sual artists see some­thing, they see the world in a way and then they are try­ing to show peo­ple what it is that they’re see­ing. It’s lit­er­ally a trans­la­tion. That was re­ally help­ful for me in terms of meet­ing peo­ple who I felt like, “well this per­son is in­ter­est­ing to me be­cause the rea­son they are do­ing this is that they don’t have a choice in the mat­ter.” And maybe that’s what you’re talk­ing about. Like, I think that some­times, whether or not they ad­dress it in sa­tanic wor­ship, or even peo­ple who are just like, “I wanna make money,” some­times there is noth­ing else for them to do. They have to do that. Peo­ple say to me, “What is your fa­vorite kind of mu­sic, what do you like to lis­ten to?” And I al­ways say, “my fa­vorite kind of mu­sic is the mu­sic made by peo­ple who don’t have a choice in the mat­ter.” So I can lis­ten to any­thing… it could be punk or blues or what­ever. I just want it to feel like the per­son who’s mak­ing that mu­sic heard some­thing and is say­ing, “this is what I’m hear­ing.” It’s the same way with any kind of vi­sual stuff. I’m not par­tic­u­larly well ed­u­cated about vi­sual art, I don’t have a de­gree in art his­tory so just don’t know a lot of that stuff, but oc­ca­sion­ally I’ll see some­thing and in my mind, I’ll be like, “Wow, some­thing is go­ing on here that it re­ally com­pels me.” And then if I read about it and find out that per­son saw some­thing, they are like, “Here’s what I saw! Here’s what I fuckin saw!” That’s what I want to feel when I look at things, that’s what I want to feel when I hear things. That is a form of in­de­pen­dence, right?

Source: Ian MacKaye and Brandon Stosuy on independence, creativity, and The Creative Independent – The Creative Independent

“To push the status quo without having resources and comforts”

Good reminder from Ben Weinman of Dillinger Escape Plan in the article linked below about DIY, creativity, and responsible business:

Not only are good art and good business not incompatible, they are in fact nurtured from the same creative spirit.

To understand Weinman’s artistic and business approach, we must consider that Weinman grew up in New Jersey in the late ‘80s and witnessed the burgeoning hardcore scenes of New York and D.C. There, he learned about the business ethics and ideals that were a necessity in hardcore — do-it-yourself (DIY) — because no one will do it for you.

It was from the hardcore scene that record labels such as Dischord Records (started by Minor Threat’s Ian MacKaye) and Touch and Go Records (founded by the Meatmen’s Tesco Vee) sprung up to demonstrate that creative music and innovative business practices could go hand in hand.

As an example, Dischord Records was known for refusing to charge more than $10 for a record and $5 for a show, all while insisting on all-ages shows to make sure that young hardcore kids could attend. They also would not advertise in traditional outlets such as magazines, because many of those magazines ran cigarette and alcohol advertising that violated the straight edge ethic of MacKaye.

via Ben Weinman and the Business of Responsible Creativity

Neko Case: “Employing people in a shitty economy is a good motivator, too, because you want them to have health insurance and homes, you know?”

Some really great insights here from Neko Case:

“Early on I would have loved to be signed by a major label, but the greatest thing that ever happened to me is that I wasn’t,” Case says. “I really had to do it myself at that point. Now I have accomplishments that, to me, seem pretty far ahead of their time. When it comes to being in control of my own business, I was way ahead of the curve. I’m really proud of that. And the most important thing was that I didn’t have to fuck people over to do it. They want to make music sports, and music is not fucking sports. There’s this idea that you have to have some sort of hard-ass management that treats people like shit. Those people are a representation of you. If you think that sort of corporate stuff is gross, it’s because it is gross. It’s not a competition, and there’s room for everyone. You should be proud of what the people in your scene accomplish. It sounds cheesy, but generosity opens doors.”

Source: Neko Case on punk rock and the importance of staying independent

Glen E. Friedman: ‘I’m Trying To Wake People Up’

Inspiring words from one of my favorite photographers:

I guess I live for just continuing to inspire people with things that I’ve learned. I have a particular lifestyle, I have a particular view of the world, and I would like to inspire more people to think for themselves — and maybe in the same direction that I do. Not to have copycats or something, but a way that I see we could all make the world a better place. Stop eating animals. Care about the environment. Do things from the heart, have some integrity. These are touchstones that I believe that people are lacking these days, unfortunately.I don’t think the word “integrity” is even in the vernacular anymore. It’s like, people don’t get it. They consider it a success if someone comes to them to sponsor their tour or if they have some brand behind them. To me, that’s the antithesis of what we want.

Source: Counterculture Photographer Glen E. Friedman: ‘I’m Trying To Wake People Up’ | Bandwidth

Ian MacKaye: “Never in the history of the world have people worked ten hours and nothing has moved.”

This is one of the best interviews with Ian MacKaye that I’ve read. So much food for thought. The full interview is linked below.

You got me thinking. When I mentioned this issue was about survival, you said that wasn’t something you could relate to. It’s the word survival – the idea you would ‘survive’ something. I understand that people, melodramatically, may consider life something one has to survive. But you’re alive, that’s what life is, you are surviving. It plays into this idea that people’s lives are narratives – that it’s a film or book and you have to survive all this craziness. I think it’s a disservice, ultimately, because it makes others feel like their lives aren’t crazy enough. In my mind, life is not a war – although human beings create conditions that make it feel that way – and I think that navigation is a fairer term. I see life essentially as an empty field. The construct of that empty space has to do with society, but it also has to do with us. The only real question is how are we going to navigate that space, from beginning to end. If people thought of themselves as navigators, maybe they would have more purchase. Navigation is about having a say in the matter, whereas surviving is about dealing with things being thrown at you. With navigation you get to decide whether you want to be in that situation in the first place.


 

What about when that perpetual state is propelled by an imperative of growth. Capitalism seems to be founded on this idea that you have to grow in order to keep moving forward. Have you ever felt those pressures?
I reject that concept wholeheartedly. Dischord was just some kids who put out records that nobody cared about, except for those kids and their friends. But it was such a valid time for me. When you are the one actually glueing the records, that’s the record industry for real. All the money generated stayed in the label, but it never occurred to me that it wasn’t working. I had something I wanted to do every day – what more could you ask for in life? Ten years later we were selling hundreds of thousands of records and that presented other challenges, but I didn’t feel like, ‘Oh, now we’re successful!’ I thought, ‘Now, it’s today.’ The label is smaller now, but it doesn’t feel any less significant. The hardest part is the observer’s perception of the situation. Relevancy, or irrelevancy, isn’t a concern for the participants. The people who are actually the doers don’t do it for relevancy, but they are judged by a society that focuses on abstract and ridiculous concepts of what is or isn’t relevant. This is fucking art, people! If it speaks to you, it speaks to you, even if it doesn’t speak to other people.  The idea that you have to grow all the time… I mean, visualise a person, you or me, perpetually growing. It’s not a pretty picture. At some point we’re going to burst. And that is true of all things. The real issue here is a different word that starts with G R. Greed. That’s what we talk about when we talk about growth. More for me – that’s the concept.


Do you think technology is a good thing for the culture you have been a part of?

There will always be people who identify themselves as punk who recognise that technology is a tool not a lifestyle. So, I think punk will survive, or navigate that just fine. But when you say,  ‘This culture that you are a part of,’ I don’t think that you can define what that culture is. I mean… could you?

It depends on how you define the idea of punk, or DIY. To me, it’s about whether you value self-reliance above anything else. I think all kinds of people would be inspired by that, beyond music. Is it a good time for young people to make something happen for themselves?
I think it’s always a good time for that. My definition of punk is the free space. It’s an area in which new ideas can be presented without having to go through the filtration or perversion of profiteering. So, if we’re not worried about selling things, then we can actually think. The problem with new ideas is that they don’t have audiences. And in terms of the marketplace, an audience equals clientele. If you have no audience, it’s not profitable. Punk was an area, for me at least, where it didn’t seem to matter. I didn’t know any punk rocker who thought, ‘I’m gonna make a living out of this.’ The ones that did quickly left. What I received from the counterculture was a gift; the permission to create freely. And my reaction was to take care of this gift and keep it alive because it continues to give. Of course, there were some people who thought, ‘Wow. If I polish it, I can sell it.’ And then it ceases to be a gift.


Self-reliance is an amazing navigation tool, but what advice would you have for somehow who was crippled with self-doubt?
I have this concept about changing the source of light. The way things appear has a lot to do with where the light is. Sometimes things seem impenetrable, but maybe we just need to change the source of light. For instance, if you felt paralysed by your work – you’re miserable but you’re scared to leave your situation, because  you think you’d become irrelevant – then I would say: stand back. Change the source of light. Look at the situation and realise that, though it is important to you – and I will say this to myself  – though it is important to you, your work is ridiculous. And your fears are unfounded. You said, ‘People are inspired by you,’ but however one rates my ‘celebritydom’ or fame or whatever the fuck I have, it’s worth pointing out that 99.9 per cent of the population of the world never has, doesn’t and never will know of me. I don’t exist. There are entire giant cities in Indonesia where not a single person has ever heard of me. The music I make does not matter. And if it’s causing me duress, I should realise it’s ridiculous and that my fears are unfounded. Because what’s the worse thing that could happen. Like, what would be the worst thing that could happen to you?

That I miss my deadline. I have anxiety every week before we go to print – which is now. One voice in my head says, ‘You’re gonna miss it! You’re a failure!’ The other voice is like, ‘It’s a magazine, get a grip.’
Exactly, it doesn’t matter. Nothing matters. Life is just a straight line. There are two definitive points, one at the beginning and one at the end. It could be argued that should you decide to procreate that may merit another point. Everything else is affection – accoutrements, add-ons, additives. The way we speak, the things we own, the way we identify ourselves, they’re all artifices on some level… While we’ve been talking maybe 100 people have been killed, maybe 1,000, who knows, and yet this development hasn’t affected our conversation whatsoever. If you put things in perspective one realises how it just doesn’t matter. So the value is up to us, and if we’re gonna assign the value, then why would we assign negative values?


 

What is the most important navigation tool that people should rely on?
I would never pretend to have an answer for you. But at some point in my life I decided that the basis of all my reasoning is this: pain hurts. That’s true for you and it’s true for me; I don’t wanna hurt other people because I don’t wanna be hurt. Keep things simple and they suddenly seem doable. I read this book in my early twenties – by C.S. Lewis, I think. There was this image of life as a tree and each decision we made was a branch. And then every decision we made, once we were on that branch, were smaller branches and smaller branches until you got down to the twigs. The author explained that if you are on the wrong branch, if you made a bad decision, you have to go back to the trunk – because once you’re on that branch, every decision will be wrong. That was such a great thing for me. I was just navigating, I made a mistake, so I have to go back to the trunk. Because back at the trunk, life – simple life – is always right.

Source: A meaningless conversation with life navigator Ian MacKaye

What If We Made Concert Venues More Fan-Friendly?

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“You are one of us”

This quote from Sean Agnew, a promoter in Philly, got me thinking about music venues and how they make money:

The idea is to get people to become fans of the venue so they want to come back, versus, “Oh, we can make an extra $4 if we charge them this fee at the box office.”


There’s a common misconception when you’re running a club that more is always better. More shows + higher ticket prices + ticketing fees + higher drink prices = more money, right?

The idea is that once someone has come into your venue they’re yours – stuck there for the three to five hours from when doors open until the show ends. A few clubs even charge ticket fees even when you schlep to the box office. A beer that was $4 a few years ago is now $7 and so on…


But what if you flip the script?

What if you book less shows, but they’re all quality shows? Wouldn’t your club is known for good music? And wouldn’t that help create a scene around your venue?

What if you kept ticket prices low so that more people could come? Wouldn’t the number of tickets you sold in a year increase?

And once the fans are there, what if you treated them not just like bodies in the room, but actual music fans? What if you made it comfortable for them to see the shows? What if your venue had good sound, good sight lines, and room to move around? What if you hired staff who are music fans too so they actually know what it’s like to go to shows? What if you started shows at reasonable hours and ended in time for them to take public transportation home? What if you offered free water so they could hydrate? And what if you offered late-night food options to help soak up the beer?

What if you treated your guests as fans not consumers? What if you made the entire concert-going experience more fan-friendly? 

What if? 

Indeed.

Werner Herzog: “There is nothing wrong with hardships and obstacles, but everything wrong with not trying”

Great post from Brain Pickings on Werner Herzog’s approach to work and art (emphasis mine):

I did as much as possible myself; it was an article of faith, a matter of simple human decency to do the dirty work as long as I could… Three things — a phone, computer and car — are all you need to produce films. Even today I still do most things myself. Although at times it would be good if I had more support, I would rather put the money up on the screen instead of adding people to the payroll.

Indeed, having grown up without money and earned every penny himself, Herzog considers this self-reliance closely intertwined with the question of financial struggle — a circumstance he always refused to mistake for a fatal roadblock to the creative drive. His wisdom on the subject extends beyond film and applies just as perceptively to almost any field of endeavor in today’s creative landscape:

The best advice I can offer to those heading into the world of film is not to wait for the system to finance your projects and for others to decide your fate. If you can’t afford to make a million-dollar film, raise $10,000 and produce it yourself. That’s all you need to make a feature film these days. Beware of useless, bottom-rung secretarial jobs in film-production companies. Instead, so long as you are able-bodied, head out to where the real world is. Roll up your sleeves and work as a bouncer in a sex club or a warden in a lunatic asylum or a machine operator in a slaughterhouse. Drive a taxi for six months and you’ll have enough money to make a film. Walk on foot, learn languages and a craft or trade that has nothing to do with cinema. Filmmaking — like great literature — must have experience of life at its foundation. Read Conrad or Hemingway and you can tell how much real life is in those books. A lot of what you see in my films isn’t invention; it’s very much life itself, my own life. If you have an image in your head, hold on to it because — as remote as it might seem — at some point you might be able to use it in a film. I have always sought to transform my own experiences and fantasies into cinema.

He later revisits the subject even more pointedly:

A natural component of filmmaking is the struggle to find money. It has been an uphill battle my entire working life… If you want to make a film, go make it. I can’t tell you the number of times I have started shooting a film knowing I didn’t have the money to finish it. I meet people everywhere who complain about money; it’s the ingrained nature of too many filmmakers. But it should be clear to everyone that money has always had certain explicit qualities: it’s stupid and cowardly, slow and unimaginative. The circumstances of funding never just appear; you have to create them yourself, then manipulate them for your own ends. This is the very nature and daily toil of filmmaking. If your project has real substance, ultimately the money will follow you like a common cur in the street with its tail between its legs. There is a German proverb: “Der Teufel scheisst immer auf den grössten Haufen” [“The Devil always shits on the biggest heap”]. So start heaping and have faith. Every time you make a film you should be prepared to descend into Hell and wrestle it from the claws of the Devil himself. Prepare yourself: there is never a day without a sucker punch. At the same time, be pragmatic and learn how to develop an understanding of when to abandon an idea. Follow your dreams no matter what, but reconsider if they can’t be realized in certain situations. A project can become a cul-de-sac and your life might slip through your fingers in pursuit of something that can never be realized. Know when to walk away.

Source: Werner Herzog on Creativity, Self-Reliance, Making a Living of What You Love, and How to Turn Your Ideas Into Reality – Brain Pickings