Innovators vs. the Machine

I won't name names, but it's tiring to see really good electronic bands do nothing more than press play on their tracks and mess with the mixer EQ knobs

I won't name names, but it's tiring to see really good electronic bands do nothing more than press play on their tracks “live” and mess with the mixer EQ knobs as if they're really doing something. That's one reason why Underworld graces the cover of this issue. One of Remix's main goals is to hunt down the innovators of music to tell you about their recording and performing processes. And while you may think, “Underworld, again? So old news,” up-and-coming electronic dance duos/bands can learn something from these guys.

As you'll read, when Underworld finishes up an album, Rick Smith insists, “The final mastering and printing of the studio version is absolutely not the end of the writing process, just a semi-colon.” Every Underworld show is like a high-wire act; the band doesn't necessarily even know what song is coming next. That element of the unknown in live, performed dance music is something to strive for.

Also featured in this issue are plenty of other innovators, including record archivists, Egon and Strictly Kev. These treasure hunters scour the world for long-lost gems and bring them back to the light. They aren't looking to strike it rich. They're just trying to find the early innovators of music who missed their due and introduce the music to a new generation. Hats off to record labels such as Cali-Tex, Solid Steel, Ninja Tune, Now-Again, Trunk, Jazzman and Blood and Fire for fighting to keep good art flowing.

And even with all the plug-ins inundating studios with a million ways to simulate any sound you could hope for, it's good to know that bands such as West Indian Girl and Louis XIV are still experimenting in the studio old-school style, miking cymbals being thrown out of windows or capturing the sound of a mic in a light can. Add to that list the other innovators and pioneers of the issue — Steve Aoki, Buck 65, X:144, Dave Gahan and Tony Wilson — and it's clear the art of music creation is not dead, even as the major labels crumble and the music industry as a whole continues in chaos.

While it seems there are tons of new options for artists to make money and start their own labels, on the flip side, I still hear stories about the business that make me cringe. A film/TV licensing agent recently told me that TV shows such as Grey's Anatomy are paying artists less and less nowadays because bands will agree to practically give away their songs. This agent told me that pretty soon, film/TV licensing may pay nothing and in fact might turn the other way, requiring bands to pay the networks to be placed in shows! Is that for real? Art should not be free just because it's fun to make. If artists continue to get the short end of the stick, they'll turn to other means to feed themselves; good musicians will have to spend less time in the studio and more at a 9-to-5. It's more important than ever for the innovators in the music industry to outsmart the industry to make their way. I wish the artists could just be artists, but now they really have to become entrepreneurs, as well.