What happened to the Musical Industry?

Discussion in 'Bassists [BG]' started by bearclaw, Nov 14, 2000.

  1. bearclaw


    Nov 13, 2000
    I must say, that the 90's were a very mediocre decade for the bass community. This is a touchy subject I do realize that. Of course the Limp/Korn/Primus/P.Jam/Blink 182 fans will disagree with me. Aside from Les and at times Jeff Ament, who really broke new ground with their playing in the rock genre?
  2. I wish I had more time to answer (I have to leave for a gig so maybe I'll add more later). I see 2 main problems (or partial causes) - digital recording technology and extreme conservatism.

    Digital recording - it has become so easy for absolutely anybody to record these days, so everybody's doing it at home, by themselves without any creative soundingboards like established engineers and producers. These people often have a lot of great ideas through their many years of experience and are a really good resource that should be tapped into.

    Perhaps the bigger problem is the extreme musical conservatism that is prevalent in today's society. So much of the music biz (and culture in general) is dumbed down to the lowest common denominator. Ultra experimental groups that experiment with time signatures, textures, dynamics and more complex musical ideas are discouraged. For some reason, progressive rock bands went out of fashion and are actually frowned upon by the critics but instead we are left with post-adolescent amateurs recyling the same three chords over and over. It seems like great musicianship and creativity are now ignored by the media.

    Rock music became really great when groups like The Beatles, The Beach Boys, Yes, Genesis etc., pushed the limits of what was expected of rock music. These groups were popluar in their day too while pushing these limits.

    I think a lot of people have just stopped experimenting so were left with very little change.
  3. bearclaw


    Nov 13, 2000
    I must agree 100%. The general public of today just isn't ready for odd time signatures and off beat rhythms. Eventhough it was somewhat "in vogue" more than two decades ago. The three chord rock thing is so limited and mindless, is this what the future holds for us?

    What happened to bands such as The Police who used three chords, but used interesting chordal voicings in their earlier work? It does stem to the musical education these groups have and haven't had I believe. How many bassists have graced the covers of Bassplayer and Bassics magazine, having not an inkling of what they're playing?

    I was that type of player until I reached a stagnant point in my playing. I needed to be challenged and pushed into a new musical direction. After studying under Nick Beggs guidance I had a brand new way of approaching my instrument! I never thought about my Modes/scales and how they can assist you in understanding your neck and hand positioning.

    Enough rambling, lets just devise a way of opening up the public eye and letting society know that the "Boyband" phenomenon will not last!! Support music that is different and never stop pushing the envelope creatively.

  4. Many things,including music,seem to go in cycles.
    There is nothing new under the sun.Every generation has their twist on the style(s) that influenced them.I'm meeting kids who were born in the 80's and hadn't heard of "New Wave" and such.Others still are just "discovering" "classic rock." It's wild to see how each generation reacts to what might be considered "new."
  5. I guess my main point is that bands like Genesis, Yes, Jethro Tull, Gentle Giant, etc., really opened up their musical vocabulary to explore less common harmonies, rhythms, textures, etc. They didn't limit themselves to such narrow parameters, so by extension, their music had a much greater chance of being different and fresh.

    There's only so many ways you can rearrange the I, IV and V chords in a straight 4/4 meter before things start to sound like they've been done before.

    Increase the musical vocabulary, and the possibilties will be infinitely greater. Stay within that tight box, and things won't be innovative.

    I think the big mistake people make is that since it's "rock and roll", it should be basic and fun and not too "demanding". Basic music serves a necessary function since sometimes we just want a quick fix of "feel good" music. There is another side of me that likes to hear much more "sophisticated" music which has been a little more carefully composed with extreme attention given to the emotional content of the music.

    I chose to be a classical musician for a living for a variety of reasons, but probably the foremost reason is that while playing classical music, I get to play music all the time that uses a huge range of tempos, rhythms, textures, dynamics, intricate and simple harmonies, etc. Classical composers (especially modern ones) tend to really push the limits of what has been done before, so the chance to be doing new and fresh ideas is always there. If I were a typical rock bass player for a living (especially in a band), I would probably be stuck playing within a "box" for most of my carreer. As great a song as "Satisfaction" is, don't you think Bill Wyman might want a bit of change after playing it every night for 30 years?

    There's no reason why rock music can't be approached in a highly experimental way as well. Yes and Genesis, among others, really pushed the limits in the early '70's and still made very accessable music.

    It would do us good to have some new bands exploring these areas again. Starting with the Beatles who really started the "Art Rock" movement then through the end of the '70's with Yes, Genesis and Jethro Tull. Unfortunately after that, the media and critics took it upon themselves to really bash the whole "progressive" movement for whatever reason. In order to survive, these bands "dumbed" themselves down to survive commercially (remember "Owner of a Lonley Heart? - which is still a fine tune, but is certainly much more straight ahead than "Close to the Edge"). Although Tull, and more particularly Yes, are back doing much more adventurous music again, they are sadly ignored by the media and general public. Every year or two, Tull or Yes will come to your town and sellout a 2000 or 3000 seat hall (or bigger), but you won't hear about on the news. The flavour of the week will be frontpage news though.

    So although so much experimentation happened before, we're pretty much back to the ritualistic "beat" music that the Beatles et al worked so hard to strive beyond.
  6. rickbass

    rickbass Supporting Member

    I agree, the pickings, (no pun intended), were pretty slim for bassist innovation in the 90's. Ironically, BASS innovation went wild, what with body woods, optical pickups, LED fret markers, and the number of strings expanding so insanely that the widths of some fingerboards are now in different time zones and innovation in other genres of music, especially jazz/fusion, was real healthy. Robert DeLeo (STP's), Ben Sheperd (Soundgarden), Mike Gordon (Phish), and Steffen Lessard (D. Matthews Band) might get rock MVP awards but I don't recall anyone going into unexplored territory. With the innovations in basses, the means to do so are certainly there.
    One thing that's really ruined it is that if you want to hit the big time these days, it takes such a commitment of your time and money that going back to your "day job" is no longer a viable option if you don't make it. If the Stones didn't make it, Mick J. could have gone back to accounting, Watts could have gone back to jazz, and the other....well, I guess Wyman would be playing at Holiday Inn lounges and Richards would be selling dime bags of crushed macadamia nuts/soap shavings. Recording companies don't give aspiring artists advances anymore. Instead they make loans that must be repaid. Your aspiring band wants to go on the road nowadays ? That comes out of your pocket. But I see hope in the relationship between Napster and Germany's Bertelsen. I was listening to Bertelsen's CEO on Charlie Rose the other night and he said the music business is crazy these days, with respect to the fact that the music companies have created a hostile relationship between the consumer and the recording companies. As it stands, what is good for the consumer, i.e., Napster's formerly free music, is bad for the record companies, ergo, they tried to kill Napster and some of their megabuck artists were their hired guns in court. If Napster appears to be a viable investment for Bertelsen, they will acquire it even if Napster hasn't repaid the loan the company made to keep it alive. So my point is, in a consumer-friendly environment, artists could once again have the permission to fail when recording companies re-adopt the gambler mentality instead of Scrooge in the CD/IRA markets mindset. As Wavy Gravy said at Woodstock, "It's beautiful. It's a free concert now, man."
  7. "What happened to the music industry?"...just look at the word industry...that's the problem. They are gonna run whatever sells into the ground so stop sniveling. :D What are you doing to rectify the situation? Let's just go out and make the best music we can and don't sweat it!<p>
    BTW, it's not how many chords, it's how you use them.
  8. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I think that this discussion is missing out on where the creativity and good playing is in the musical world. In the 70s I listened to bands like Yes, Genesis etc. Mostly "local" to me in the UK!

    Nowadays I only listen to Jazz and throughout the 90s, the Jazz field has had great bass players (for example) playing great music with interest in terms of musicianship, compositions and group improvisation as you would expect.

    Dave Holland, Nils Henning Orsted Pederson,Christian McBride, Avishai Cohen to name but a few have contributed virtuoso bass playing and great compositions. I have seen local Jazz groups and composers in my home town playing adventurous experimental compositions and there is a huge wealth of ideas and innovation.

    I can't see why any truly adventurous musician would want to look towards a music "industry",when they can find so much going on in the Jazz field. I suppose the only difference is that some people thought that in the 70s they coudl actually make money out of appealing to a wider "rock" audience", but I think in the end, this was never going to last and most people have to choose between playing interesting music or playing boring stuff like the Bill Wyman example and making money.

    The vast majority of the audience is always going to want to hear something familiar and "safe" and an audience that is open to experimentation and improvisation is almost by definition going to be small.

    [Edited by Bruce Lindfield on 11-15-2000 at 03:51 AM]
  9. I think that the media has a lot to blame for the current state of music. In times gone by (the good ole days) music such as jazz was considered popular by the masses and it appealed to the younger members of society. Those teenagers who wanted to rebel against their parents could listen to some of the upcoming forms of jazz such as be-bop or free jazz. Since the advent of rock and roll the music that is promoted to the public has become increasingly dumbed down. Now I'm not saying that this is the fault of rock music, it is more the case that the record companies and radio stations have become overely fixated in the mighty dollar (now I know they are buisnesses) and only tend to promote the music that appeals to the lowest common denomonator.

    It seems to me that if more complex music (or any genre) were more widely publisized, promoted etc then more people would gain an interest in these forms of music and perhaps we could see the end of boy bands (and I use the term band very loosly) and the Brittney's of the world. Why should popular music be dictated by 9-15 year old girls (one of the strongest demographic bands). Bring back the real music. Bring back the groove.
  10. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    I must say, that the 70's were a very mediocre decade for the bass community. This is a touchy subject I do realize that. Of course the Zeppelin/Police/Cars/Van Halen fans will disagree with me. Aside from Sting and at times John Paul Jones, who really broke new ground with their playing in the rock genre?

    I must say, that the 80's were a very mediocre decade for the bass community. This is a touchy subject I do realize that. Of course the U2/Journey/Level 42/Mr. Big fans will disagree with me. Aside from Mark King and at times Billy Sheehan, who really broke new ground with their playing in the rock genre?

    etc. etc.
  11. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Although I see no reason to remain so fixated on the "rock" genre, I can name dozens of innovative bassists who worked in "rock" from the 70s and 80s, just off the top of my head and many more if I really think about it - in the 90s, I can really only point to Jazz players.

    70s - Chris Squire, Boz Burrel, John Wetton, Roger Waters, Hugh Hopper, Various basssists with Zappa, JPJ, Jack Bruce, Andy Fraser (Free), John Entwistle, Mike Rutherford, Greg Lake, Ken Gradney, Kasim Sulton, Chuck Rainey(Bassist with Gentle Giant - can't remember his name)Stanley Clarke, Rick Laird, Jaco for "Jazz rock fusion".
    etc. etc

    80s - Peter Hook, Barry Adamson, Nick Beggs, Pino Palladino, Mick Karn,Julian Cope, Colin Moulding,Tony Levin, Anthony Jackson, Jean-Jacques Burnel, etc
  12. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    OK, burcaw called me out on my reply above.

    My feeling is that in "rock" no new ground has really been broken since the early 70s when Larry Graham got everyone slap-happy.

    That's pretty normal, I'd say, after all the bass guitar was only invented in 1951 so it took about a decade before bassists started treating it as something different than a string bass. The 60s were like an atom bomb in the bass world: Carol Kaye, James Jamerson and Joe Osborne in turn inspired guys like McCartney, Jack Bruce, etc. These players defined the instrument and we are still working out all the possibilities that they opened up for us.

    By the early 70s things had cooled down in rock bass but jazz guys were starting to accept the instrument as Stanley Clarke and Jaco came on the scene.

    Since then, as far as I'm concerned nothing has happened except consolidation. I don't see Billy Sheehan as an innovator (I see him as a descendant of Jack Bruce) nor do I see Flea or Les Claypool as innovators either.

    The closest thing to an innovator I can think of in th elast ten years is Jonas Hellborg and he is not a rock player. He has been making music on acoustic bass guitar that treats it as more than just an unplugged P-bass.

    I have absolutely zero problems with a period of consolidation in music, it's only natural. It's happened before and it will happen again.
  13. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I would dispute the "no new ground" since the 70s - have you ever listened to Peter Hook's chordal work with Joy Division and New Order - both very popular groups in the UK. Best album to listen to is "Closer" by Joy Division, where the song is defined by the bass - a lot of the songs are nothing but bass vocals and "atmosphere".

    I also think that Barry Adamson's work with Magazine, was some of the most innovative bass playing I've ever heard - full stop. Best album is "Correct Use of Soap" (in which he pays tribute to Larry Graham).

    If you want fretless playing in a "rock" context that sounds nothing like Jaco - or anybody else - then listen to Mick Karn, particularly on later Japan albums like "Tin Drum". I also see Pino Palladino as an innovator on fretless and what about all the great basslines on any Steel Dan or Little Feat album? You just need to look a bit further, I think.

  14. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    I'm not sure why you call Pino and Mick innovators. Great players, sure, but what real innovations did they bring? Colin Hodgkinson of Back Door was doing chordal bass work in the early 70s long before Peter Hook. Etc. There's a difference (in my mind) between an innovator and a great player.

    To me innovators have noone before them that sounded remotely like them but after them a lot of people did. That's just my perspective.

    Back to the original post, I'm not sure that I think the music industry is stifling creative players any more today than it has in the past. They have ALWAYS stifled creativity, it only gets through by accident.
  15. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    This exactly describes what happened with Peter Hook - there is nothing that sounds like his bass playing before and he spawned many imitators. (I trie dto cop most of his lines myself)! I had Back Door albums and Joy Division sound as different from Back Door as you could possibly get!! Hook's playing is nothing like this - it's not the fact that he's playing chords that's innovative - I was just pointing towards the better examples of his work. It's a combination of playing atmospheric effects and 6-string "lead" bass in a song setting without losing the rhythmic impulse essential to this music. "Blue Monday" was the biggest selling 12" single ever released in the UK and has bass solos all over it, but it doesn't detract from what was a dancefloor hit. I saw New Order live several times and the bass dominates the music in a way that doesn't happen except in Jazz before.

    I think Mick Karn is a true innovator and some of his solo albums are "way out there". Again a lot of Japan songs are constructed around a weird bassline. It was explained that on many occasions in the studio, he played a line that was so strange that the rest of the band re-recorded all the other tracks to fit better with it - they liked the bass line so much! I'm not so convinced about Pino Palladino, but anyone who gets slapped solos on fretless bass into pop songs can't be that bad. ;)

    My favourite of those I mentioned is Barry Adamson, who really inspired me in the early 80s - I transcribed everything he did and tried to fit the ideas into all the original bands I played in in the 80s!
  16. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    I think you're being a little hard on some players there, Brian... :oops:)

    There are very very few players who have ever had no precident for what they were doing. Jaco got licks from Chuck Rainey, Jerry Jemmott etc.

    Mick Karn got ideas from all over the place - it was the synthesis of ideas that was unique.

    It's possible to have a 'voice' without having to enter 100% uncharted territory.

    I would also add that being good is infinitely more important than being original. I've heard some very proficient bassists who've lost it due to their need to sound 'different'. I want to play what's inside me, and that is bound to be a synthesis of the various musical and non-musical elements in my life. So I'll aim to be as true to that as I can, and not get too hung up is someone says 'oh, that reminds me of...'


  17. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I think Steve is dead right here - I've probably gone a bit over the top in attempting to defend my opinion of some players as innovators, when I am probably happy enough with the definition of an "original voice" - I'd certainly be very happy if I was identified as an original voice and if you do take the argument to extremes it is impossible to defend any music as entirely without precedent.
  18. Turlu

    Turlu Supporting Member

    Sep 11, 2000
    Ottawa, Ontario CANADA
    Hi guys,

    I agree with you when everybody say that music industry is not what it was in the 70`s.

    But, as a big Yes, Genesis, old Rush stuff, UK, ELP and others, I was kind of discouraged with the 90`s until I started to listen to groups like Dream Theater, Porcupine Tree, Spock`s Beard, Transatlantic, etc. These new super groups are simply pushing the limits a lot more contrary to old bands like Yes who seemed they stopped to do with their recent releases of "Open your eyes" and "The Ladder"(which is a little better).

  19. rickbass

    rickbass Supporting Member

  20. BOYCOTT Seattle, Grunge, Nirvana, Etc......

    ......if you groove it, they will come.......