This week Sinead O’ Connor ruined John Lennon for Fragmented Frequencies. It was during the Conversation Hour with Jon Faine on ABC 774am. She was relaxed and low key, but spoke with the kind of weary cynicism that you get from having been a ‘controversial’ artist for the ideas impaired conservative media over the last few decades. Whilst they discussed her refusal to pander to top 40 sexpectations, i.e she shaved her head and refused to dress like a prostitute, it was when she addressed record companies, and their total disregard for their own artists that the fatal blow landed.
“if you look back at who owned record companies you’re talking about arms dealers,” she offered, singling out EMI and suggesting that “when you’re standing there singing ‘Give Peace a Chance,’ they’re going to buy a whole lot of land mines with it, or sell land mines.” There was a certain sadness in her words, yet also an acceptance. She understood the beast. So now the beast can’t control her. If you want to lose your innocence too, you can find a podcast on ABC’s website. Then if you choose you can go and buy a newly repackaged/ remastered/ rewhored collection of John Lennon’s greatest hits, or the 20th anniversary edition of her I Do Not Want What I Have Not Got, out via, you guessed it, EMI .
It’s a notion that Godseed You! Black Emperor touched upon in a diagram on the back of Yanqui U.X.O, way back in 2002, detailing the links between the big four major record companies and arms manufacturers, yet it’s easy to ignore whilst searching for a greater good. We tap into the emotion of the music, not the profit margins. We want to feel. We want to believe. Yet for the majors the message is irrelevant. Unless it could impact upon profits. During the heyday of gangsta rap ICE – T was dropped from Warners for penning Cop Killer because shareholders were fearful of a backlash. Now he’s spent a decade as TV Cop. Irony anyone? Controversy is fine provided it’s contained within a comfortable framework. Like Lady Gaga. Does she really have a penis? She’s so weird isn’t she? The medium isn’t the message. The medium is the profit.
Indie producer of choice Steve Albini (Nirvana/My Disco) penned an instruction manual on the modus operendi of major labels back in the grunge heyday that still holds true today in our current Idol X Factor endorsed path to stardom. He talks about a trench of shit that you need to swim through just to sign a contract that will exploit you. When you get there you fight with someone else who wants it just as bad, before being informed that they want you to swim backstroke through the shit one more time. If you’re lucky enough to get signed he then calculates the amount of debt you will incur. Full article is here.
But thankfully the days of cocaine blowjobs are now over, with the empire is crumbling due to illegal downloading, Big news last week was you can become number one in Australia by selling 3,600 albums. How much did Thriller sell again?
But you don’t need to attach yourself to the diseased teat of major labels. Melbourne is blessed with a small batch of local independent labels, refusing to acknowledge that no one buys records anymore. Whilst they’ll make little more than they need in order to put out their next record, they’re also less likely to be responsible for having some kids leg blown off in a third world country. Chapter records for example, responsible for such luminaries as Fabulous Diamonds recently released Bum Creek’s debut album – on vinyl no less. A trio of melody impaired experimental lunatics, they’re kind’ve stupid, very funny, highly demented and slightly genius. To put out this highly non commercial fare is undoubtedly financial suicide, but it should be rewarded. But Chapter isn’t alone, Lexicon Devil recently offered up experimental musician and composer Anthony Pateras’ latest duo with Agents of Abhorrence drummer Max Kohane PIVIXKI, who have a previous EP on Sabbatical, who specialise in small run releases that highlight the darker side of experimental. Sensory Projects keep the local fires burning with the new organic electronica of Mystery Twin, whilst Mistletone frequently release albums that would never make it to Australia like the incredibly weird Prince Rama from Animal Collective’s Paw Tracks label as well as a slew of local artists. Then there’s Two Bright Lakes, Extreme, Psy Harmonics, and a slew of other optimistic fools driven by the love of music, not evil. But they need your help to survive. Don’t finance war. Support creativity. Buy local today.