July 21, 2009

Do It Yourself Rock N' Roll

So tomorrow I'm producing an interview with The Dead Weather. I produce a lot of music interviews - sort of the nature of the beast at MTV - but it's a nice bonus when its a band you really dig.

I dig The Dead Weather. their debut album Horehound features grimy, dirty, raw blues based rock. There's a rawness and unpredictability to the music that reminds me of what drew me to rock n' roll music in the first place. This is quite possibly the most words into anything on the internet about this band without mentioning that The Dead Weather is the latest of Jack White's musical projects. I refuse to call this a "supergroup" because I think that phrase is really quite stupid - and after the dude from Hanson (side note: I once almost bought a t-shirt that read "I fucked the chick from Hanson", but I opted against it. I'm not one to brag about sexual conquests, so fear not Scarlett Johansson, I won't say a thing) Where was I? Oh yeah, once the Hanson dude teamed up with the drummer from Cheap Trick and a few other guys and formed a "supergroup" I think that pretty much killed the phrase altogether. Instead, I will call it a group assembled out of members of other current bands. But that's not what interests me about this project.

Their debut disc, which was written, recorded and mixed over just five weeks is truly a do-it-yourself project. White produced the album at his personal Nashville based studio and was released on his vanity label, Third Man Records. The band photography, album cover design and layout of all of the packaging was also done entirely in house. This record was entirely created by the musicians themselves. What a novel idea!

As a movie geek, I've long lamented the end of the era where the director ruled in Hollywood. In the 1970's, visionary directors like Francis Ford Coppola, Brian DePalma, Michael Cimino and Martin Scorsese, among others, were free to make their movies their way, and as a result, we got some truly outstanding films in that decade. Jaws and Star Wars also came out of that decade, meaning the blockbuster was born, and soon it became clear to the money people that they couldn't trust the directors, who were talented story tellers with so much money at stake, so instead of leaving the artist in charge, you got "focus groups" and marketing experts to weigh in and now, instead of movies like Raging Bull we get Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.

This same sickness seaped into the music industry, now more than ever. With a large chunk of cash being syphoned out of the record companies coffers by illegal downloads (I know, can you believe some people do that? For shame) less and less artists get record deals while the labels go with "safer" choices like the 3rd runner up from American Idol or the bimbo from Gossip Girl and whoever the Disney Channel thinks they can milk next.

In light of all this, it feels like a glimmer of hope when you come across a band like The Dead Weather. Whether you like the music or not, it's refreshing to put on a CD and know that every note of the music, every aspect of the mix and even the layout of the CD cover itself is exactly the way the musicians that created the music wanted it.

After all, isn't that how it's supposed to be in the first place?

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