Category Archives: P A B L O ‘ S M U S I N G S

Our influences. Radiohead Pabs

 

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As I write this blog Radiohead have just shared their 9th album, a Moon Shaped Pool on Spotify. Thom Yorke once described Spotify as the “last desperate fart of a dying corpse” and pulled his solo work and Radiohead’s post parlophone albums from the streaming service.

So what has this got to do with Weird Decibels blog? I want to  explain the influence that Radiohead have had on our band.

Around 1994 95 Radiohead had already released the single ‘Anyone Can Play Guitar’ my father didn’t seem to care much for the record so he kindly handed me the vinyl and I ran upstairs and played it.

Anyone

Anyone Can Play Guitar was hugely influential for a young guy trying to learn guitar. Then there was the song Creep.

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Weird had already formed when Radiohead’s 2nd album The Bends had surfaced and this more accomplished album would eventually see me experimenting with delay pedals and the structure of songs. It also opened up the possibility of mixing acoustics with electric guitars. That would be Firkin Outburst then.

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Greg and I went to see them at the Barrowlands towards the end of the Bends tour. Perhaps one of the greatest gigs I had ever been at (I think Greg would agree). Witnessing Thom Yorke jumping around onstage and publicly displaying his every emotion when singing was now on my repertoire

At this point Derek kinda lost interest in Radiohead, Greg no longer listened to them and Stu would visit the ‘head later in his musical journey, for now Ok Computer was mine. I loved the CD, studied the extensive artwork and slotted it eagerly into my Philips CD drive (again supplied by my ever influential father).

Ok Computer would be the latest album to be imprinted on my psychi. Nirvana, Soundgarden, Smashing Pumpkins had only held this honor until now. Radiohead showed me that British music could be as good as the states.

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Ok Computer… I cannot work out where to begin. My love for the structure and ambition of this album almost frustrated me as I could not reach it. Then I had started to sit up and listen to Nigel Godrich’s spacious production. Steve Albini had been my hero for a while, both these guys would now influence my desire to try sound production. This obsession of mine would influence the sound of Weird Decibels until the present day (for better or worse)

Ok Computer unlocked another band for me, Grandaddy, and well that’s a whole other blog

As I moved away from my grunge rock roots (I was writing acoustic solo albums) Kid A arrived to the distaste of music critics and much of the radiohead masses. Only the true fans clung on after this ( there were many). Kid A was and still is a fascinating record (Derek hated it, Stu and Greg didn’t say much). I conquered Kid A,  listening to it several times and unlocked the beauty of the wonderful sonic landscapes that Yorke and co had created. Then it dawned that you could do anything with music but it was incredibly hard to get right. I recorded a terrible solo ep called ‘The man without a heart’ although I do still listen to it for my own selfish indulgence.

It was now the year 2000 and we all survived the millennium bug but alas Weird did not, the 17th (more on this at a later date) would be formed for a while and I would continue to consume whatever Radiohead had to offer. Indeed Amnesiac would influence my contributions to the 17th significantly. Pyramid Song would forever teach me how to find a mood for a song. Its a beautiful piece of music.

Hail to The Thief was the first kick at the shins, the first stumble from my biggest influence. I found myself floating away from my heroes and by 2004 the punk ethic had gripped me as Weird had reformed to  record One More Solo. In our opinion one of our best.

Radiohead had left EMI and for them things went south, they didn’t record an album until 2007’s wonderful return to form ‘In Rainbows’. We went on to the ‘Acts’ arguably our weakest era.

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In Rainbows was a great album however it wasn’t the shiny disc that influenced us this time. It was Radiohead’s decision to let listeners ‘pay what you want’ for their new album. I remember not trusting this, I wanted a CD not MP3’s so I steered clear, however this would have a profound impact on the industry. People downloaded albums for free, privacy was rife anyway and I think Radiohead were trying to find a new approach,however they alone would be unable to stop the demise of the record industry that had bloated to greedy heights in the 80s and 90s.

Our next album (2012) Weird Decibels 1 would be the first to embrace the online community( we were behind the times). It would be the first album to have different price entries. Free on Spotify, pay for a normal CD or pay more for a deluxe CD, Radiohead’s decision to let the fans pay what they wanted had helped pave the way for what was now an option on Bandcamp.

By the time King Of Limbs had surfaced I hardly listened to them. Thom Yorke started his spat with Spotify, yes it’s shocking how much these services pay and we have to see an increase in payments per stream but his won’t happen until Youtube in particular stops being a free platform for artistic content. .

One of my favourite singers took his vitriol out on the wrong (or flawed) service of Spotify. He took a stance and removed his music.

So where are we now. Have Radiohead been paid a handsome fee to upload their new album? Is it the record company that have done it on their behalf? The bottom line, they won’t lose money (it’s been suggested that streaming sites actually encourage consumers to buy physical products albeit on a far more selective way) on this but bands like us continue to do so.

Thanks to piracy, MP3’s and a general reluctance by the mainstream consumer to pay for music we make nothing yet pay a significant fee to get on these services. The bands who are at the top shouldn’t be fighting against the payment per stream, it’s here to stay until the next industry disruptive format arrives. Perhaps they should be asking a local band from every town they visit to open their shows. This would be far greater that anything they could do including anti streaming protests.

Moon Shaped Pool lands on Spotify on the 17th of June. Click and listen, it’s a sombre but beautiful piece of work from one of my favourite bands.

 

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Its Ticket Time.

The incredible Third Class Ticket radio show

There are two gatekeepers of the music scene in Scotland. Two. Jim Gellatly and Vic Galloway. You send demos and you hope that they are in the mood to listen to what is probably the 100th WAV file they have heard on a cold damp March morning.

I guess it helps if you are young, energetic, lucky, well connected and to be fair, really good. There are established rock bands in Scotland; a few lucky acts have met the approval and allowed past the gates; however, generally, no one in the mainstream circuit wants to hear it.

Admittedly the Scottish scene had passed over Weird Decibels. It overlooked us and we had left it behind resigned to a life of full time employment with a bit of music on the side.

Then we wrote Weird Decibels 1 and played a one off gig at Box Glasgow. A sparse crowd enjoyed it and our confidence returned. We decided to hook up with PM promotions who asked us to support (the rather good) Life on Standby at the Oran Mor; grudgingly we accepted the harsh ticket deal just to play this venue. It was an incredible night.

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it does take you on a musical journey

The next day I woke up happy and energised then received a message from the guys; this bit is hazy… (hungover) a guy called Tommy Clark liked our tunes and wanted to play our music on his ‘Third Class Ticket’ show. Intrigued I contacted Mr Clark and I received a friendly message from him asking me to send some tracks from Weird Decibels 1 via dropbox.

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Discover these bands and many more

Tommy posted a playlist and a link to Mesi Radio; we were on the tracklist, I tuned in and since then I have enjoyed hearing our music nestled in beside many other band’s homemade and professional recordings. It is an eclectic mix.

Then there is Tommy. I have never met the man but he strikes me as a friendly individual who simply wants to share as much music as possible. His early shows (from when I listened) were an impressive collection of bands from up and down the UK. Tommy had networked and a wide range of unheard acts were submitting tracks and tuning into the show via the Mesi platform.

 

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Tommy wears his ticket tee with pride

At the time Tommy himself was a functionary presenter who stuck to the task of letting Scotland hear as many bands as possible. This included his ‘featured artist’ that would have the privilege of having a few tracks played on a show.

Admittedly I gradually tuned out; my Thursday nights had become more about getting the work week finished and while The Third Class Ticket continuously supported music I had returned to the gatekeepers for musical inspiration. I didn’t find any.

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the many acts who happily send Tommy music for the show

I had promised Tommy a first listen of our new album Weird Decibels 2. When we finally got it finished I got in touch with him and posted out our shiney new CD. Despite the loss of contact Tommy was as friendly as ever and genuinely seemed pleased to be getting first listen of our record. I found that he had moved from Mesi and was now broadcasting on a new platform.

As a returning listener something struck me about the show. The music acts were as delightfully varied as ever but the sound quality of the show had improved. Tommy himself is more confident and relaxed in his role; he adds more of his personality as he introduces the many new tracks that he has discovered. He creates scenes for the listener, in one story he tells of driving to work on a sunny Ayrshire day while listening to the latest songs from hopeful bands, some of which very few people have heard.

Listen carefully to the show. You can hear Tommy switch off his mic as a new song comes on. It adds to the feel of the Third Class Ticket. This is a show, I assume, lovingly crafted in the spare room of Tommy’s home. He plays music that has been crafted in the spare room of the artists.

 

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A cracking wee show created by Tommy

This is the beauty of the Third Class Ticket. It is a grass roots radio show untouched by critics, demographics or industry influence. This is one man encouraging hundreds of bands to get in touch and giving them their first play on a radio show.

In a selfish way I hope the Third Class Ticket stays underground; that’s its appeal. However if Tommy Clark is to become Scotland’s gatekeeper I hope he makes Weird Decibels his featured artist!

If there are other grass roots stations like the Third Class Ticket please get in touch. We want to listen.

 

My Music Collection… The Missing Years.

Last weekend I was about to head off for a camping trip with my family when I remembered that my Dad would have his Bose CD player; we always bring together our latest CD’s and over a few beers we play them. Problem was I had very few new CD’s to let him hear.

So I thought its OK I’ll skim through Spotify at the latest albums I’ve been listening and just connect my phone to the Bose. However when I scrolled down through my recent playlists I could only remember how a few of my recent music finds sounded.

My Spotify albums; some of which i can't remember listening to!
My Spotify albums; some of which i can’t remember listening to!

I went back upstairs to my CD collection that is quietly gathering dust in the spare room. As I looked through my records I could see very few new releases, I realised that my collection now has a massive gap thanks to the wonders of streaming.

Spotify is my weapon of choice; premium is a fantastic package that allows me to listen to a vast collection of music that ultimately is not mine. The sound quality is good as well I have the stream and download rate maxed but it is not a patch on a CD through a decent amp. As I write I am listening to a CD that I streamed constantly on Spotify and there is a depth of music that I had not heard previously.

CD's old and new. Sound great.
CD’s old and new. Sound great.

I’m an artist who has music on Spotify through Weird Decibels https://open.spotify.com/album/0RqqqJ6LnoqCjbPdGYuMxL  and Morningday https://open.spotify.com/album/15QpqO4q0wT1EP4qV3LnG4 I have another concern. CD’s are hard to sell because everyone loves streaming and downloading (not to mention BitTorrent) and I get that. However my recent cheque of $8 from digital distribution service CDbaby won’t cover the cost of the CD’s I printed!

The future of Spotify is slightly uncertain, it’s losing money at an alarming rate and it is ripe for a hostile takeover. Tidal has arrived at our shores and as much as I love HD streaming £20 a month seems steep; I’m going to wait and see how this pans out. There is something that doesn’t sit right with multi millionaire musicians starting up a service to challenge the likes of Spotify etc. Are they any better? Do they want to control the market? Are they really looking after us, the wee guys?

Ideally I want to own my collection (downloads don’t cut it…) and as an artist I want to be paid for the hours that I toil for music that I hope you enjoy. I’m also worried about the vast amount of bands that I have simply forgotten about and I’m sure the vast majority of music consumers now do the same. Listen. Like. Next. Repeat.

CD nights are great
CD nights are great

So have had made the decision to buy CD’s (or pay for unsigned downloads) again (my wife won’t be pleased); perhaps not in the volume I used to (I can’t afford that) and I will continue support music Spotify will remain a vital cog in my music set-up but perhaps I will use it as the ‘try before you buy’ like I used to. A physical format is a wonderful way of transporting you back to the time you bought the product and well the love of artwork has been well documented.

Perhaps my music collection won’t be so sparse if the cloud ever starts to rain…

https://musicindustryblog.wordpress.com/ 

Music 2015. The buzzword will be ‘windows’

Not the Microsoft kind although that is due as well. Windows is the term for the difference in time between physical media releases and them appearing on streaming services. (just in case you didn’t know)

It presents a wee dilemma to our band; we have a small but perfectly formed (and extremely loyal) following and we must make sure they are looked after. Which presents a challenge as we need to pay for the album (albeit we keep the costs low)

Weird Decibels 1 was paid for mostly by ticket sales (for gigs we organised), private function gigs (covers..) and then finally CD sales. Streaming did not contribute much at all (in fact by the time we paid set up fees we lost money this way)

So this has got me (over) thinking. How do we develop a ‘release strategy’; sorry I sound like a bit of dick but hey got to get with the times.

wpid-a2078779249_2.jpgWeird Decibels 1   was the first album we released on both the internet and CD. Previously we simply handed out CD’s like everyone else from that era (90′, 00’s).

WdB1 landed on Bandcamp first; a lot of people listened on that platform but we got no download sales. Due to a delay the CD was released a month later; it sold better than our previous albums probably because our listener base is orientated to a physical release (a kind way of saying we’re getting older!). Spotify and the rest followed and the payback was minimal.

The next HMR release (my solo album) Paul Henry Smith – Morningday aired on Spotify, iTunes and other digital services first. Listening rates were good and there was even a few downloads but again not enough to cover set-up costs. The CD sold a few copies but well down on WdB1 (I won’t take that personally!!). Did people settle to listening to the album on the stream?

Then along came Taylor Swift; not to our gigs or anything like that, no she pulled all her music from Spotify because it paid her (and her record company) a pittance per stream. This got the whole industry talking about release ‘windows’; basically your favourite artist (Swift is a long way from that) releases a CD or vinyl and then weeks later it will appear on streaming services. Great…

I love Spotify; I get my Uncut magazine and I listen to the radio; I will hunt for the album on Spotify. If I love it I will order the CD. Now if ‘windows’ are to take effect I’m screwed.

The conflict? Spotify unfairly cuts the band and I from the financial stream. I wish they would pay more.

I love being on the service; many of our friends have ventured to other lands and yet they can still enjoy our albums and even share them with new audiences. I believe, and I speak for myself, that it’s a price worth paying.

However we need to think of our next album and as you can tell by this blog entry my thoughts are going round in circles. I hate the idea of ‘windows’ I love music embracing new technology (hi def streaming etc); I love that fact I can listen to any album when ever I want and I pay for this service every month, not only that, I love CD’s dropping through the letter box!! (sorry record stores, although saying that I bought a few CD’s out of FOPP the other week)

Gigs we organise help pay for future recordings. So thanks for coming!!
Gigs we organise help pay for future recordings. So thanks for coming!!

I pay through my teeth for music, CD’s, Spotify premium and gigs and yet my record collection is all over the place because the industry has no clear vision. My CD collection slowed over the last couple of years. My iTunes collection; the hours spent ripping CD’s etc’ has stopped (waste of time and money downloading to be honest) and now Spotify could end up become a music library like Netflix is to movies (ie no new releases)

Well my head is bursting now; basically the music industry is going to have to find its feet. Those who love music will always pay; it just seems we have to change our plans for everyone else.

Anyway back to the band’s next release. We’re thinking about a ‘window’!!! ( 4 weeks tops! Buy our CD please!!)

Or maybe we won’t… Maybe we should just be happy that in this day of music overload you still have the time to listen to our music.

Love to you all

Pabs

Happy listening whatever and wherever that may be

Here is a fantastic music industry blog that tries to find the answers that I have clearly failed to find.

http://musicindustryblog.wordpress.com/

To CD or not to CD

Morningday is a wee album I made with Kevin Byrne and Jemma Burt. It was recorded when Weird Decibels had some down time. the sessions went well and we recorded an album that I am immensely proud of. It was just under a year of hard work, writing, recording, mixing, mastering and then designing the artwork.

My thoughts turned to its legacy, How do I get this recording to resonate through the world and through peoples musical conscience. I decided to try the on-line route; Spotify and itunes. The CD would come later in a big deluxe package.

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Morningday started well; there was the launch party which was fantastic (thanks Mum and Dad), the record was being played on Spotify and there were sales on itunes. So I got prepared to launch the CD packages albeit in a fumbled way. There has been a limited response; so I looked at my own listening habits to see if I could find answers.

I listen to Spotify a lot. Every new song I hear on BBC radio is on Spotify; I listen to the whole album then if I like it I will save it. I add it to my virtual collection and I lazily scroll down my albums. there are fleeting bands to which I have listened once. I haven’t paid for that album so I don’t need to invest time in it to fully understand it. I add and add until I have a huge catalogue of bands that I claim to like. Its worrying because I cannot remember much of what I have appeared to listened to yet when I look through my CDs I can remember a vast majority of the records I listened to and the joy they brought me.

My CD collection is there it exists I can pick the CD and study the art work. However my collection stops around 2012 save for a few records that I simply had to have.

So as I wade through the digital sea, through the masses of talented artists who struggled to get listened to I realise that my £10 a month for Spotify premium isn’t enough. I need to start buying the physical format of music again before it disappears and the artists years of work putting out recordings becomes a fleeting moments of a listeners attention.

As I write this I have listened to CDs; Dinosaur Jr ‘I Bet on Sky’, Sonic Youth ‘ the Eternal’ an The Middle East ‘ I want That You Are Always Happy’

I will buy a couple of CD’s tonight…Via Amazon…there is not one record shop in Falkirk.

Weird Decibels next album WdB 2.0 due late 2015 will be released on CD first with a full deluxe package including the album. the full Oakley sessions, b sides, demos, and a full booklet! Once we sell a few maybe then will it float away in the digital sea!

Pabs