Saturday, January 1, 2011

Music is his Day Job - Shotguns Part One of Four

Shotguns is a musician who hangs out on IDM Forums. His interview has been split into four installments.

Obscure Robot: Do you define yourself more by your music or your day job?

Shotguns: This is an interesting one for me, since I've chosen since day one to make music "my everything". It's not just simply a case of me figuring out something that I can exploit to make my day job - I genuinely don't want to do anything else with my life. However, since my interest in production is legit, I also do it on my "spare time" (if such even actually exists) and then I tend to explore genres and learn things from scenes and eras in music that are now "forgotten". So in one sense I define myself as a musician, but in another sense I am always going to be about exploring and interpreting things - so this is a tough one to answer. I am going to tackle it like this; If someone works a day job and still practices with their go-nowhere-band 4 days a night, they're a still musician, right? Well, I would most certainly do that even if I spent my days working at Mickey D's. While trying my best to not sound pretentious - I'm a musician.

Obscure Robot: Do you place boundaries between music, production, and the business aspects of music?

Shotguns: Again, this is a tough one to answer and my answer will probably be different to most others so I will do my best to not have people look like I've just placed a dog turd under their noise when they read this.. For me - it's all about "the package". I think that the music, production, gear, business aspects and even image should all be included into an "act". It is the entertainment business after all and I would like my musical projects to be as all-encompassing as possible. At first, the business aspects would likely just be "future goals" and "bigger picture"-type issues, and from there it would define my choices in all the other fields. Projects are created for different reasons and you need to make sure that you know where you ultimately want to end up with it because if you don't know - someone will tell you and it will end up being the opposite of what you intended it to be.

I don't think that "branding" should be frowned upon as much as it is these days. Sure, good music is most likely not going to come from a board-room, but once you've got your initial idea down, why not try to streamline it a bit and make the most out of it?

Obscure Robot: Going back to branding for a moment, I'm not convinced that good corporate branding come s out of a boardroom either. The best corporate brands come from an individual leader who makes use of but doesn't depend excessively on the skilled professionals around him (or her). Consider Steve Jobs and Jon Ive, for example.

Shotguns: Exactly. It's all about knowing your field from the ground up. This cannot be faked. This is the reason why all the top music talent management firms who actually make money these days were founded as recently as the early 2000's, when ex-members of bands decided that they weren't done with the music business.

Obscure Robot: Did you start out knowing where you wanted to go, or have you developed a sense of direction over time?

Shotguns: All I knew was that I did not want to end up like most of my favorite bands and best friends sadly have over the years. No matter how good your music is and how much heart you put into it - the interest will dwindle and the standard band format/setup is a quite costly one to keep up doing - both financially and physically.

I wanted to push beyond the quintet/quartet guitar-based format, by taking this "one guy in a bedroom" template that exploded in the early 90's and mesh, combine and breed them into something different. I knew people would accept this, because a lot of electronic music and "band" music has a lot of crossover, it's just that one might be a bit outlandish to the other in terms of listener base.

Obscure Robot: how hard was it to make the crossover work?

Shotguns: Actually, as long as you're in a state where you like aspects of both sides - it's not that hard. I simply took what I liked about each field and after a few years of confusing, alienating and simply just pissing off people - it just started clicking.

Obscure Robot: Alienating and pissing people off can be fun at times, but it can also be depressing. How did you maintain the energy to keep moving forward past your early missteps?

Shotguns: Yes, agreed and this should be a hard question for me to answer; But it's not. A big part of the crossover were that whatever project I played with always played on bills with actual bands, so every single gig, I saw people in that same "depression"-type of "is this really worth it? what am I doing with my life". This might sound like pure schadenfreude, but what you have to keep in mind is that these people actually tried to be like their idols, they spent a lot of time practicing, writing songs and being the best they could be, whereas my pseudonyms/set-ups were countless and simply just me having fun experimenting. Even if a gig went south, I at least had fun doing it and I never had to feel like a regurgitating circus clown because I could always change it up at any given moment.

Obscure Robot: It sounds to me like you were working towards an inner goal rather than trying to achieve recognition for imitating someone else.

Shotguns: Definitely. Since I first got into music, I've seen people pour their hearts into their music and then end up homeless, broke, with no prospects at the age of 23. That is not human and it must be soul-destroying.

Or even worse, people in their early 20's being told that they're passé, "old news" and that they're just hopeless. It's so inhuman and it's something that you can't really fathom unless you've been there.

Obscure Robot: As you describe this, I realize that I've been involved in electronic art (visual and musical) for over 15 years, but always online because I'm not willing to directly face my critics.

Shotguns: That's interesting. After all, I guess it's all about your roots and where you come from. I grew up going to shows, so that "instant-feedback" thing has always been connected with music for me. I love that aspect of it because it's something that can't be faked, usually can't be replicated and is the main reason why the music business will never "die". You can't pirate that experience. Sure, you can watch a dingy cell-cam version of it on youtube - but even if LiveNation go through with their "e-ticket" (streaming every single live show and selling tickets online) - it won't replace the real thing.

Obscure Robot: That's a great point - bootlegs and streaming video have helped me discover artists and driven my interest in attending their next show. The concert experience is always better than the living room experience. Except maybe stadium rock.

Shotguns: Exactly. I am definitely not dismissing them. Here's a little insight into my life; I spend 2 hours every single day before I go to sleep, watching live videos on YouTube. It has helped me a lot in the way keeps me interested and constantly aware of what's going on.

Obscure Robot: Youtube definitely exposes me to music that I would never have been aware of pre-internet.

Shotguns: It also gives that extra in-depth look. I mean - I'm not even sure if I would recognize the band members of half the records on my list of top 100 records of all time. This ties together with the "full package" thing that I touched upon earlier too. The new technology offers you a chance to project all those aspects upon people within seconds.


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