Revisited album- Innerpartysystem, by Innerpartysystem

2008 saw the self-titled release from Innerpartysystem, an industrial, electronic infused rock/pop group from Pennsylvania. The genre sounds like a real mouthful, but I really can’t think of a more concise way of fairly expressing what they represent. If they were to be compared to anyone, they’d be somewhere along the lines of Nine Inch Nails, with their heavy synth and percussive nature, with stylistic hints at Rob Swire of Pendulum’s vocal technique. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that is a particularly accurate representation of their vibe though.

Their style becomes apparent very quickly as the introductory track, ‘Die Tonight Live Forever’ thrusts a pulsing synth groove straight into the mix with a tornado of layered parts and such heavy percussion that this track would be at home in any club venue. During the main hook, the insanely melodic vocals have chance to shine through as the beat is lowered. The lyrical content is pretty deep at this point too, with ‘If we all should die tonight, we will have no regrets’ and ‘If this night should take my life’, which are just morbid enough to sound utterly brilliant throughout the track.

Track 2- ‘Last Night in Brooklyn’ gets an honourable mention on this album as one of my own personal highlights. I’ve always been a fan of melodic trance music and the humongous synth pads at the start penetrate my ears with warmth and have the most fantastic atmospheric qualities before being replaced by the band’s signature sound of heavy synth leads and fierce percussion.

Their most famous track, and first single from the album, ‘Don’t Stop’ is a pulse pounding addition to the album, with a social commentary about celebrity idolisation as its main theme. The opening lyrics, “The road I walk is paved with gold to glorify my platinum soul” suggest how the public view their celebrity idols. Later in the track it reiterates the public view of celebrity in the line “I am the closest thing to God, so worship me and never stop”. The contempt of modern culture and dislike of hero worship continues with their pre-chorus lines: “The wretched blood runs through my veins. I gave up everything for fame. I am the lie that you adore. I feed the rich and fuck the poor”. Normally, I don’t agree that an album’s main single is their best track, but on this album, I think it probably is. The electronic synth wizardry alone is enough to warrant this as a great track, but with the lyrical content, this song is a complete package, which under many circumstances, would be enough to propel a band on to bigger and brighter things.

Towards the end of the album, it does seem to taper off a little bit, with a couple of tracks that seem to be there for the sole purpose of filling up space, and don’t get me started on ‘Home’, the bonus track. It isn’t a song at all; it is a kind of synthesised digital soundscape, elecroacoustically delivered. It’s a decent showcase of sound effects, but to be featured on what is otherwise a melody driven album of songs just seems a bit silly to me.

Upon revisiting this album, I feel that I’ve unearthed a genre that deserved so much more. It was as though it was ignored because of what people thought it might be like – dated sounding electronica bands like Prodigy, or maybe even that it sounded too much like Trent Reznor and Nine Inch Nails. It disappeared into obscurity as quickly as it appeared at a time when the market had an Innerpartysystem sized gap. It’s a crying shame, because overall, this is a great offering from the Pennsylvania based quartet.

Would it hold up in today’s market? Honestly, probably not. The industrial-come-electro-pop genre seems to have passed us by. After the EDM market took a hold of the masses, most electronic bands were tilted towards the polished, clear sound, rather than the rugged, thumping tones of Innerpartysystem. The guitar led market has also moved away from the use of electronic synths, and is much heavier these days. I just don’t think there’d be room for a modern day Pendulum, or a melodic version of Prodigy. Having said that, maybe the only thing this band needs is a second chance to latch on to mainstream success.

 

Feature – Intended for the ‘Music Industry’ section of http://www.jobsandcareersmag.com

A guide to making a career from composing, from the perspective of BBC composer, David Mitcham

 

We’ve all seen those TV documentaries where sweeping visuals leave us breathless, and sprawling orchestral numbers enhance the experience beyond belief. As a composer myself, I am a member of several music career-based forums, and every day I see people ask the question ‘How can someone like me get a job doing something like that?’ I am fortunate enough to find out first hand, from one of the composers responsible for documentaries such as ‘Ice Age Giants’ and ‘Elephant Island’, as I interview David Mitcham via email. I’m positive he’s heard this question numerous times before, but I go right ahead and ask the obvious one first: “How can you go about making a career out of composing?”

 

 “I think the trick with trying to make a career in film and TV is to make contacts in the film & TV business. Apart from being good at it, which is a prerequisite, it helps a lot to have relatives or friends who are in the business (sadly I didn't, so it was slow!). It can be quite a challenge to get to the right person with the right material at the right time in order to get signed up to write the music.”

 

This comes as quite a blow to me, as it means the age-old saying of ‘It isn’t what you know, it’s who you know’ is right, in fact it’s more like ‘It is what you know AND who you know’. I decide to delve deeper with the issue of being well connected and ask, “With whom in the industry should I be in contact? Do I speak directly to producers and if so, how do I find them?”

David gives some great advice when he says “It can be quite a challenge to get to the right person with the right material at the right time in order to get signed up to write the music. With TV you can look for the producer credits on documentaries and get in touch with them (not executive producer), or with TV drama get in touch with the director. With feature films it's directors you need to contact (usually via their agent – IMDB* has this info).”

 

To me, the whole world of composing for films and television is beginning to sound like a big networking event, where being a ‘people person’ is absolutely vital. I feel it would be useful to find out what would happen if a composer isn’t confident in the field of networking so is unable to acquire a commission, but has a strong portfolio of compositions at their disposal. I think that it is important to mention the people that write their music to be hosted on production, or ‘library’ websites, where directors and producers can buy tracks in the same way as they would buy a pop song from iTunes. I therefore ask:

“In an industry where being connected is so important, is it possible to write music without a commission, say a library album, and still make money?”

 

“I think the library music thing is a good route. That's the way I started. But don't give them a whole album. They usually have clear ideas of what kind of thing they are looking for, so I think it would probably be better to get them interested with a taster with a view to getting a specific commission. There's usually not a great deal of money up front for library music (I've heard of at least one library that actually charges the composer a fee!), and the income from the music is usually split 50/50. It's usually a steady seller; occasionally a track might generate a surprise amount. There are a few who can make a living just from library, but you have to write a lot of it to make it worthwhile (perhaps 5+ albums a year - that's maybe 150 different, rather good 3min tracks).”

 

So getting that elusive commission really is the way to go. Writing 150 strong, unique tracks is a crazy amount of music, and reading between the lines, I gather from David’s statement that it’s more of a ‘pocket money’ earner, and if you’re wanting to make serious advancements in your career, you’re going to have to get out there and earn some contacts.

 

At this point I change the subject a little, and focus on time management. As composers at all levels will know, we never have enough time to write for people – deadlines are always looming, and we need to lock ourselves away from the outside world, and blitz through our compositions from the confines of our creative bubbles. I ask if this feeling applies to big scale work, if the time frames are more relaxed and if the team can help out along the way because the production values are higher. Mr. Mitcham explains, “When you get a commission, it can be a bit lonely. Invariably the composer is the only vaguely musical person on the team, and nobody really knows what they want, so you have to be very self-motivated and not wait to be told what to do. There's usually very little time anyway - Ice Age Giants averaged less than 2 weeks per episode and had 50mins of music for 60 piece symphony orchestra in each one.”

To finish the interview, I say to David “Thank you so much for taking the time to give the insight into the inner mechanisms of the industry. As a final question do you have any general advice for budding composers? Any particular styles we should get ourselves accustomed to?”

 

“I have found that I have to be able to write in many different styles too. And most of the music in a film is in the background, so it is important to be able to write music that doesn't draw attention to itself (without it getting boring) in between the big musical moments - if it gets in the way of the dialogue they'll turn it down.”

 

So there it is, some expert advice from an expert composer. The importance of making contacts reigns supreme in this industry, where being a skilled composer is only half the battle.

 

To hear any of David Mitcham’s work, check out his website, at http://www.davidmitcham.co.uk/index.htm

 

*Internet Movie Database.

Opinion – All this musical elitism!

Ok, so I can’t seem to go anywhere online these days without seeing some news story about some artist bashing a different artist over Twitter about their genre of music being ‘more authentic’, or ‘better because we play instruments’. You’d think that people would learn to shut the hell up about it by now. I’m talking, of course, about the naysayers who despise electronic dance music. Accept it, EDM is here to stay, and it’s been that way for many, many years now. People just can’t seem to handle the fact that one mortal rodent with numbers in his name has made waves on a global scale just by using his computer. As I write this, I’m seeing the to-ing and fro-ing between Deadmau5 and Arcade Fire, both of them going over the top to express their point. Arcade Fire effectively saying ‘Music is better when it is played on live instruments’, and Deadmau5 essentially saying ‘Accept that it’s not’, only with more coarse language.

 

I feel that this intense hatred of all things computer is from somewhere, and I reckon it’s a kind of denial to do with spending a lot of money. I’m hearing these ‘fossils’ of ‘70s rock exclaim to everybody that ‘you’re not gonna get the sort of sound in your computer as I can get in my x-number-of-million-years old tube amplifier with hand wired blah blah blahs’. Denial has never been so obvious. Software has come so far these days that you can more or less replicate the sound of any piece of vintage gear for next to no money, on a laptop. That’s the problem. Try telling your aging rockstar that you can do what he can do, but not shell out the hundreds upon thousands of pounds that he did for studio equipment. Of course they’re going to go on the defensive, and of course they’re going to tell you why you’re definitely wrong.

 

The thing is, back in the 1950s, modern amplification was still new technology, and magnetic tape recordings were only invented a couple of decades prior. So step back in time, and the people ripping on new technology these days would be on the receiving end, being ripped on by the folk musicians for using amplifiers to sound artificially distorted and unrealistically gravelly. So what is it that makes their specific snapshot in history so much more important? Why is it that their amount of technology, not too little, not too much, is enough?

 

The music industry is constantly meandering, evolving and morphing into new genres, sub genres and so on. I think of it as a bit of a Darwinian industry where the phrases ‘survival of the fittest’ and ‘adapt to survive’ are incredibly apt. One of the metaphorical ‘environmental factors’ of the music industry is technology. Those who reject it, and don’t stay with the times are often left behind. Take classical music for example. The musicians have always had a reputation for being elitist, and seeing themselves as some higher form of entertainment, unwilling to adapt to change. This is one area that has seen a noticeable decline since the advent of popular music and technological advances in recording and synthesis. In fact the only place where classical music is seen to be safe is the film music industry, where the classical musicians who embrace technology to collaborate with electronic musicians make soundtracks for visuals on some of the highest budget products in existence.

 

I get that there are certain sounds that absolutely have to be analogue, and I personally think it sounds great to record guitars the old fashioned way if that’s the sound you’re going for. I get that this will produce a sound that will have the feel of something made a while ago. This being said however, there is no right way, and there is no wrong way. I also like recording guitars through software amplification. You use a certain method for a certain purpose. This does not mean one is better, or one is worse.

 

My favourite acts of the moment are those that embrace rather than reject or ignore. Using technology doesn’t instantly tell everyone that you’re going to sound like the next Daft Punk, Madeon or Deadmau5 (not that that’s a bad thing at all), nor does it tell everyone that you’re giving up on methods of old.

To be honest, if it sounds how you want it to sound, with or without technology, nobody is entitled to tell you that you’re wrong.

News Piece – The Continuing Feud between Arcade Fire and Deadmau5

The ongoing feud between Canadian musicians Arcade Fire and Deadmau5 has taken another turn this week with Arcade Fire openly mocking the electronic mouse headpiece that the EDM star is famous for. At their concert in St Louis, the rockers donned an LCD-lit hat that flashed up a picture of Deadmau5’s mouse headgear during the track ‘Normal Person’, that appropriately contains the line “Do you like rock ‘n’ roll music?”

The disagreement all started when the Arcade Fire frontman made remarks relating to the number of electronic acts with performances at the Coachella music festival a few weeks ago. Edwin Farnham ‘Win’ Butler gave a “Shout-out to all the bands still playing actual instruments at the festival” during their headline slot of the opening weekend. Around two weeks later Deadmau5 responded with numerous angry Tweets, expressing his feelings about the band and what they had said, to his extensive Twitter following.  He wrote “shit to remember: a computer is a tool, not an instrument”. Just thirty two minutes after that, the next Tweet emerged, this time aimed directly at Arcade Fire: “arcade fire needs to settle down. some dudes devote their lives to instruments, others to electronic composition by cpu, dafuqs yer problem?”. The electronic artist’s tirade didn’t end there. Two minutes after his direct words to Arcade Fire, he reasserted his point with: “i dont expect to see daft punk pull a steve vai on stage…i expect to listen to some decent music, n see cool robots. no problem.” and “if i wanna watch real artists perform, id pick the opera before wasting a fucking minute of my life with arcade fire. #do youevenscorebro?” The final attack on the subject was “but since some EDM is enjoyable to me, ill go watch them fake it, and enjoy it more than you hate the fact that they cant play guitar.”

This is not an isolated feud or occasion where a musician has proclaimed something passionate to defend their own genre. In 2012, Dave Grohl of Foo Fighters said, whilst accepting the Grammy award for Best Rock Album: “To me, this award means a lot, because it shows the human element of music is what’s important. Singing into a microphone and learning to play an instrument and learning to do your craft, that’s the most important thing for people to do… It’s not about being perfect, it’s not about sounding absolutely correct, it’s not about what goes on in a computer”

Both Deadmau5 and Arcade Fire are playing festivals this summer, so they may well come to blows again throughout the upcoming season.

To view their upcoming shows:

http://www.deadmau5.com/shows/

http://www.arcadefire.com/live/

(Deadmau5 Twitter uploads are quoted verbatim without grammar/punctuation correction)

Live Gig Review – The Safety Fire, TesseracT & Protest the Hero at Manchester Academy 2 – February 6th 2014.

As a fan of the progressive metal genre, I am always dreaming up the perfect live lineup. The same fistful of names circling my mind as I wait for something to crop up. I have been quoted saying ‘Imagine if TesseracT played live with The Safety Fire and Protest the Hero; that would be amazing!’ Tonight, I get the opportunity to discover if my prophecy of this ‘amazing’ lineup is worthy of the word.

 

Entering the stage first are the British lads of The Safety Fire. They dominate the stage with their technical prowess. I notice everybody in the first twenty rows frantically thrashing their upstretched arms about in perfect synchronicity as if to show the band that they know the intricate riffery from their monster singles ‘Huge Hammers’ and ‘Mouth of Swords’. The Manchester crowd loves them. Their presence on the stage seems to put me in an even better mood because they look like they’re enjoying every last second of it.

 

Then emerge TesseracT, the more ambient of the evening’s entertainment. They take the crowd’s excitement and multiply it tenfold with their opener, ‘Proxy’. The insane bass-line provided by Amos Williams blasts through the venue with thunderous grooves, all the while keeping within a crystal clear mix that makes me wonder just how it’s possible. On the theme of live mixing, TesseracT has a reputation of sounding particularly clear, but this is staggering! They play fan favourites ‘Nocturne’ and ‘Singularity’ before making way for the headliners.

 

The crowd is already berserk when Protest appears. These guys do a killer show every time with blistering solos, and their crowd interaction is second to none (including a ‘hunk of the night’ contest). But I can’t help feeling underwhelmed by their sound. It is somewhat muddy and lacks the clarity of the previous band. Maybe I’m unfairly comparing the sound to the flawless efforts of TesseracT, but these thoughts remain throughout PtH’s show.

 

Walking out from the gig I ask myself a couple of questions. Did the fans get what they wanted? Yes! A sea of red faces producing clouds of evaporated sweat in Manchester’s brisk February air backs that up nicely.

Was I right when I conceived the notion of this gig being ‘amazing’? Double yes.

I was treated to mastery, with all of the ‘djentlemen*’ throwing fierce riffs down our throats with fret-perfect precision and mathematical polyrhythms that were enough to blow the brains out of any numeracy graduate. I must say however, TesseracT owned the night with the clarity of their overall sound. I believe the lineup could only have been improved if they topped the bill.

  

*djent is the a name given to the sound a progressive metaller’s guitar makes.