i write this column mainly for other musicians. i do it to encourage the music scene here in germany. why do i want to do that–because i am a nice guy? well, i am a nice guy, but my motives are more selfish than that. if the music scene in germany is growing then there is more of a market for my music as well as yours. you see, we are all in this together & not so much in competition with each other. if your band becomes very popular & is able to get people who haven’t been out for awhile to come out & see you in a club or concert, they will be more likely to come & see me if i play there next week. if another band from my home town becomes popular, it helps me because it raises the reputation of the local music scene. let’s say you are a band from kiel & you send your press package to a record company in berlin or hamburg–they are likely to say “what ever came out of kiel?” but, if another band from kiel just had a number one record, they are likely to pay more attention.
germany is the most prosperous & free nation on earth right now. prosperity & freedom are good for a national music scene. the arts can only flourish if people have some spending money to buy music & go out @ night to have some fun. musicians & artists need to have money to buy instruments, technology & all the other things you need to promote yourself. artists also need a lot of freedom, more than most people–freedom of thought, freedom of speech, freedom to travel & to live an unconventional lifestyle, among other freedoms. germany lost many of the best creative artists during world war 2 & many of them settled in the united states, which was still a free country @ the time. now the situation is reversed–america has become a tyranny where everything is politicized & you have to be doing propaganda in order to get a gig. there is no freedom of speech or thought in america any more & creative people are fleeing. i can also tell you that the german government has a very good attitude about music & the arts, they want to encourage the music business here. that’s why they let me stay here. so, here is the big question: if germany has such good conditions for a music scene here, why are there so few world-class german bands & music artists? i have been wondering about this since i got here. it isn’t because of having a different language, many german artists sing in english. the french are also known for guarding their own language & only sometimes sing in english but they have had world-class, cutting-edge artists like daft punk & air for a long time (before the socialists ran the scene into the ground by throwing the country into poverty & driving away their stars with insane taxes). a tiny country like iceland has given the world two of the most important pop music artists in the world–bjork & sigur ros–& sigur ros doesn’t even sing in english. they are not only popular, they are highly influential & artistically respected, as opposed to people like lady gaga & miley cyrus, who are very popular but are not respected & are considered a load of commercial crap. there is no reason that germany cannot produce great artists, all the ingredients are here. so what is the problem? i don’t pretend to know the answer to this question, but i have some ideas on how germany can develop a more vital, growing musical culture.
when i was growing up in california i used to listen mainly to english music. it was just so much better than american music with a few exceptions. the new movements in music came out of england. america was slow to follow. my impression of the reason for this is that england has a real musical culture where artists are cultivated & nurtured & supported. they have art schools where talented people are encouraged to develop. music artists in england are considered a national resource & it’s not hard to see why–ever since the days of the beatles & the english invasion the music business has been a huge source of income for england. even artists who are not from there like M.I.A. & bjork move there because of the musical culture. a lot of american artists move there too in order to escape the nasty american music business, run largely by criminals. artists in america are considered a dime a dozen by the music biz–if you don’t want to do what they tell you to do there are ten more right outside the door who will. music artists often end up getting ripped off & left for broke there by dishonest business hacks. so, is it any surprise that america lags behind england in good pop music?
still, a lot of music artists come out of the US to influence the world, even if they are not as creative or stylish as the english. i think that the reason for that is that the US has what i call a good “musical infrastructure”. what does this mean? well, in order for artists to get on with their thing, you need certain support systems in place. you need contact services to help you meet other musicians, you need booking agents, you need music stores with the lowest possible prices, you need rehearsal studios & recording studios & video studios, you need good clubs to play. when i would get a band together in los angeles i would first find another singer thru various newspaper ads & online contact services. we would get together a song list, then we would advertise for the rest of the band. we would listen to their demos & have them come over & meet them in person. we would give them a tape of songs to learn & then schedule a rehearsal studio to audition them. one thing that is lacking here in lubeck is rehearsal studios like i am used to in los angeles & like my friend nick is used to in glasgow. we could rent them by the hour & they were equipped with a PA system so you could go in & set up quickly. once we found the players we wanted we would give them the songs to learn, have photos taken, make a demo (audio or, better, video) & then we would go to a booking agent who would start getting us gigs. i am talking about paying gigs playing mostly covers. with some money coming in we would then work up our original material & play showcase clubs in hollywood when we weren’t playing some suburban bar for money. do you see what i mean about infrastructure? how do you get a band together around here when there aren’t any rehearsal studios? you have to buy a PA system & rent a monthly lockout rehearsal space (probably having to soundproof it yourself) before you can even think about starting a band. most musicians don’t have that kind of money & the ones that do probably aren’t very good musicians because they are spending all their time working a day job instead of playing music. if you have to work a day job you will never be as good as musicians who spend all their time playing music. but that’s not all–even if you do manage to get a band together, where is there to play? here in lubeck there is only one good club & it is dark most of the time. all the kneipen have nothing but acoustic singer-songwriters or lounge bands who have to play very quietly so the waiters can hear their orders. i am sick of this kind of music so i rarely go out to hear anybody even though i would like to. people around here go out anyway but they usually ignore the music & spend their time talking (sometimes drowning out the music) or smoking in the parking lot. even in hamburg, famous as a music town, the club scene leaves a lot to be desired. i have been to the two biggest clubs in hamburg, the ones who present touring world-class bands, & i think they are both shit. one of them, docks, oversold the show & there was no room in the club for us, we had to stand in the lobby. so, we spent 100 euros to see nothing & hear jack white somewhere off in the distance. we left after 15 minutes. this is a ripoff & i will never go there again. the other club had sound so bad it sounded like 1000 blown speakers just flapping in the wind. you couldn’t see the stage from most places in the club, even upstairs, & the bad sound was physically painful it was so loud. we left early & i will never go there again. these club owners are just pissing on the audience & ripping them off. i am spoiled by the hollywood club scene, where you can often actually get a table, see the stage & enjoy good sound in an intimate setting. just about every club i have been to in germany wants you to either get knocked around by moshers if you are lucky enough to get close to the stage or else stand in the back trying to look over the heads of some very tall people. this is bullshit. we need some people to open some good clubs & drive these ripoffs out of business, there is no reason to put up with this. people in germany are so desperate for someplace to go that they will put up with anything. we need to get tough & competitive. we need people to open rehearsal studios & start contact services & nurture new musical movements instead of presenting the same old tired stuff over & over again. we need to do this as a matter of national pride–nations spend millions to send their best athletes to the olympics as a matter of prestige. the global music scene is much more important than the olympics. german business needs to invest in german music because they don’t want to be considered a third-rate musical culture.
tune in next time & i will continue this discussion of growing the german music scene. until then–fly low & avoid the radar.