May 25, 2011

Generic Headline informs readers of new content.

"I shot the serif" ? wtf did that have to do with anything? What the fuck is a serif and what does any of this have to do with punk rock or even with the person's question? Why are your headlines always so stupid? Your not punk. - unsigned.

Dear reader-
As always, I thank anyone who takes the time to write in to AAP, no matter what their question, or attitude but, as I also often point out: If you don't like the content, please feel free to just move along. I don't see the point of starting a flame war... but I will answer your questions.

I am forever shocked at how freely some people admit, almost to the point of pride, that they "don't know" something... implying that people who DO know certain, obscure things, like say - what a 'serif' is, are somehow to be looked DOWN on because they know something you don't. Is a defensive reflex? ...and really there is no excuse since you could easily type "serif" in the search window at the top of your browser and find the answer in less than .0000478 seconds... and while you're at it you could google "the difference between your and you're." ...I'm getting pretty sick of the ascendancy of the moron. Do you really aspire to live in a country where knowledgeable = suspect and ignorant = acceptable? Stupidity isn't "punk" either.

As far as the headlines in general go, I'll admit to a certain weakness for puns, but also SEO101 says that a good headline is one of the best ways to hook new readers... Maybe I go a bit overboard sometimes, but hey - the whole point of having your own blog is so you can do things EXACTLY the way you want, without having to seek anyone's editorial approval.

...and I'm guessing you don't know what "SEO" is either... please just google it and leave me alone. Maybe you could find another website where they just blow stuff up real good. You won't be missed here at AAP.

May 18, 2011

I Shot the Serif

Dear AAP-
The question last week from the guy about his band wearing masks or not made me think of the last band I was in where we argued for months and eventually broke up with me quitting first over the look of our WEBSITE. I couldn't believe we were even arguing about it. I didn't care how it looked mostly, but two of the the guys were acting like it was the biggest issue in the world and wouldn't compromise about anything from the pictures to the colors to the logo to the font. I don't think the Clash and those guys worried about these kinds of things. Is the problem the technology or is it the people? - Just Play.

Dear JP:
The truth is that even bands like the Clash (and especially The Ramones) were VERY particular and focused right from the beginning when it came to crafting their public image and the icons/pictures/typography that presented them to the world, and I'm sure that, if the web had existed back in 1977 their respective websites would have been equally thought out and "on message." ...but as with all things, if the product itself (the music & the underlying message) isn't great, then it doesn't really matter how good the "packaging" might be.

There are tons of great musicans in the world and there are countless great bands... but ultimately there has to be something special, some kind of X-factor that separates the immortal bands from the rest. Call it a common purpose, wavelength or vibe, the bands that really explode in people's heads usually click on some internal and I would even say, mysterious level. I think about all the people I've played with, from bandmates to strangers I've just jammed with once or twice and there is something internal that you just FEEL when you're really clicking with other musicans and when the music you're making somehow just sounds like more than the sum of its parts. Know what I mean? ...and you can't really predict when lightning will strike.

For example. I've played with countless friends and strangers who, like me, could play whole bunches well-known punk rock songs... but, even though we were hitting the right notes at the right time, the sonic result just sort of laid there in people's ears, but then I would jam with one friend who was purely a "Led Zep / Thin Lizzy" kind of guitarist, who had barely heard of the Ramones and never liked them all that much, but when we jammed together in his livingroom... man... It. just. sounded. awesome. I still have no idea why.

May 11, 2011

The Man in the Ironic Mask

dear aap:
My band has been together for almost 2 years. We haven't played out much because we want to already be 'good' when when start, so instead of rushing things we've been practicing and writing songs and trying to get better at playing our instruments and stuff, but now that we're getting close to being ready we're starting to disagree with how we're going to look on-stage I mean. One of the guys is getting more and more intense about us all wearing "masks" of some kind and actual costumes and stuff... I think this is a bad idea and not punk rock at all. The rest of the band seems sort of undecided still, what do you think? - No Costume Rock.

Dear NCR-
Well, it worked for KISS, GWAR and Slipknot just to name the first three that jumped to my mind... but you're right about one thing: It is extra tough when you're just starting out to really pull off the masks/costumes/stage-show aspect of Rock-and-Roll that these bands did (and continue to do.) It takes COMMITMENT and a decided lack of the ironic detachment that seems so essential to most bands (and people) now. The masks and all that stuff have to matter a great deal to you in order for them to ever mean a great deal to any future fans.

So is it do-able? Yes. Is it still punk-rock? It very well could be. Should your band do it? I have no idea.

It sounds like the whole mask thing is just one guy's vision and the rest of the band, you included, have probably been polite and indulgent since so far all the talk is just that: talk and theory... When the time comes, the band will have to decide, as a group, whether or not to suit up and that could lead to some conflicts for sure. I think you really have to address and decide this situation sooner rather than later... What is the point of spending more time rehearsing as a group if all of your personal 'visions' for the band aren't the same?

It is about personality and 'vision' and all that but it is also about the songs... Certain songs (and kinds of songs) are better tailored for the big theatrical rock-and-roll treatment, while others are not. As a whole, would you say your band's songs are "big" and anthem-like somehow? or are they intimate and more 'real/honest' ? Do you get what I'm saying? Would a big mask-show presentation really 'fit' the attitude, vibe and sentiment of the songs themselves? ... if not then what would be the point of all the showy stuff, if it all just obscures the music?

Although it might not sound 'punk rock' to throw around douchy new-media buzzwords like "branding" etc, the truth is, it has always been this way... Your band (or any band) needs to know what its CENTRAL message or theme is... While it is good to have grandiose plans for the future, you ARE just starting out, so you have to look at things realistically. What IS it you want to get across to the audience in the 15-25 minutes you might have as an opening band? ...and notice I said 'the' audience, not 'your' audience... because when you start out your primary job as a band will be to win over roomfuls of strangers to find 'your' audience... and if you're going to do that from behind masks, you better be damn sure you're wearing them for the right reasons... Because you can be sure that if you're not, the audience will smell bullshit before you play the second note.

Good luck.

May 4, 2011

Oh Death Up Yours !

Last week's AAP posting was already pre-loaded and ready to go when I read the news that Poly Styrene had died. Truth be told, it had been a long time since I listened to some (or even thought much about) X-Ray Spex, but it is still sad to see yet another punk rock icon shuffle off this mortal coil at what I now perceive as such such a young age... adding yet another name to the list of dead Punks.

Now, I don't specifically wish ill-health or death on anyone really, but it does strike me as unfair, on a nearly cosmic level, that Johnny, Joey AND DeeDee are all dead, but every member of the Eagles is still alive and well... Where, I ask you, is the justice in that? The list goes on of course. Anyone who is a reader of AAP probably already knows the roll call so there is no need really to run it all down again here. I think we all remember where we were when we found out that Joe Strummer had died etc.

Of course AAP does have some mail/questions we could answer this week, but I think all I want to do today is think about how impermanent everything is... and if that sounds a bit heavy on the Buddhist, my apologies. As I try to picture my long-gone record collection from those days, I'm trying to think of who might die next -- someone whose music moved my head and soul in new and unexpected directions "way back when" ...even if I haven't heard/played a note of their stuff for a decade or so... and that, of course, makes me think of actual friends, acquaintances and etc who influenced me (in ways both good and bad) over the course of my life who are now also lost to time and space and...did I mention time? As we get older we can't help it - we spend more time 'looking back' than is sometimes healthy for us... In my case it isn't so much a lament for long-lost youth (although, admittedly there is some of that - especially when I find myself searching for my newly mandatory reading glasses) ...I'm mostly wrestling with the "What, if anything, did it all mean?" questions. I'm not coming up with any skull-ringing answers yet.

So that is the column for this week. Now I'm going to dig through my iTunes, play some old music and (more importantly) go through my phonebook and call up some old friends.