Take a minute to find out if The Manic Shine are your cuppa. Sure is ours! As is MyLyricalMind, a very gifted young singer/songwriter whose debut single Drop Me A Line is out now.
I have got to know some of the Pontefract crew socially and, knowing how much of a squash nut I am, they very kindly invited me to their world.
A Fish Out Of Water
Having never experienced such a setting, I didn’t know what to expect. In retrospect, what they do is not unlike what professional musicians do when making a record. They don’t do anything that different to what a hapless amateur does in the studio. They set up, the engineer presses record and then they play. The difference is, of course, in how well they do it and the focus with which they do it.
Being an old fart of an amateur club player I was nervous about getting in the way, naturally. True enough, I had severe trouble following all the instructions to do with the different drills and condition games they played. Also, it was demanding to keep up with it physically.
But, I loved it. It was so cool to be part of such a unique setting, even if I felt like an impostor in a strange world. A well meaning, hugely motivated and grateful participant, but an alien nonetheless. With my background as a graduate of the university of rock’n'roll, my points of reference are not those of normal people, let alone those of sports people.
More Than One Way To Skin A Cat
In music, we thrive on chaos, anarchy and irreverence. Seems to me the sports world with its regimented structures, hierarchies and programmes is in many ways the polar opposite of ours.
As an example, in sport they have have the saying “never change a winning game”. In music we are always looking for something different. Successful artists with long careers never make the same record twice. AC/DC are the notable exception to the rule, of course.
So, we were playing a game of doubles. My partner and I won the first game. Going into game two, we decided to change sides. (In squash doubles partners usually agree to play on either the forehand or backhand side) The coach shouted “never change a winning game!”
Yeah, but it’s more fun if we do… just because.
You Go Back Jack Do It Again
This stuff touches on why some people in music speak ill of music schools. You can’t teach someone to rock or be creative. I agree. That said, I’m a firm believer in the importance of having good technique. You can learn it in your bedroom, in small pubs and bars, in college or wherever – just as long as you learn it.
The truth is that the process of becoming great at something depends on endless repetition. The more songs you write, the better you become. The more scales you do, the faster you get. The more gigs, the better your performance. And so it goes.
About dedication: after a long session, most of us were hanging by the watering hole (some of us hanging on to dear life….) while the imposing figure of James Willstrop (pictured), the world number one, was still on court practicing drop shots on his own. He’s been playing since the age of 5. He’s written a good book, Shot And A Ghost, about what it’s like on the pro squash tour.
Spot the real athlete.
Then we broke for lunch.
Who You Know v What You Know
James’ manager Mick visited our studio a while back. He said with a well meaning smile that “nobody seemed to be doing anything, they were just laying about on the sofas looking cool and nodding along to music”. That’s the music biz for ya. The seemingly lazy, itinerant and narcissistic nature of creativity makes people not associated with the process think it isn’t hard work.
This thought occurred to me: now that I know one of the best coaches in the squash business and the manager of several top pros does it make it more likely for me to find success in that field? Most people wanting to enter the business of music firmly believe that it’s about who you know rather than what you know. Hello…? Friends…. that smell is the smell of coffee. Wake up.
Meanwhile Back At The Day Gig
A final comment on sport versus music. They interviewed the coach of some young athlete who won a medal in the Olympics. He said that his job as a coach is to leave no stone unturned in trying to help his athlete compete victoriously.
It’s not entirely dissimilar in music. When emerging artists approach us, we look at where they are and ask them where they want to get to. Then we suggest a course of action to connect the two. We explain to them what they need to do and why to achieve their stated aims.
Of course, in both worlds it’s up to the artist/athlete to actually do it. A manager can only help the artist who is ready and willing to do the work. Most say they are, but far too many are just looking for the lottery ticket, the secret key to the magic garden.
Old myths die hard, I guess.
The year so far has been successful at the ‘Farm. We’ve done European deals, our artists have been touring extensively, we had our first number one in the US, we hired more staff and bought lots of cool new toys for the studio.
Interesting fact: in Scandinavia streaming on Spotify accounts for over half of labels’ income these days. That’s where the business is. They’re not that bothered about a la carte download sites like iTunes and such.
Our next pit stop is in Hamburg at Reeperbahn Festival, arguably the most important music biz conference in Germany these days. Two of our bands, iremembertapes. and Violet Bones, are playing.
Click below to get iremembertapes.’ brilliant debut album Human Architecture.
Here’s a cool video by Violet Bones.
Final words: remember Sunset Strip Club. You read it here first. Very cool band. More news on that soon.