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What's new in iJamming!...
Mon, Apr 2, 2001
The iJAMMING! interview: DAVID SYLVIAN
"I don't think people realize that life can become so exciting and interesting that it can draw you away for long periods of time from creating music - & why not?"
HEDONISM:
An intrigue of early 90s New York nightlife.
CHAPTER 1 now online with QuickTime videos and music
From the Keith Moon archives:
the JEFF BECK interview .
The iJAMMING! chat:
MARK PERRY

"If I was asked why Sniffin' Glue was so important, it was the way we conducted ourselves, the style of it, just the attitude. It had attitude in abundance didn't it?"
The Return of Shoegazing:
DOVES take New York by swarm
Forgotten Classics:
THE CHILLS: Brave Words
THE iJAMMING! Book Review:
SNIFFIN' GLUE: The Essential Punk Accessory
Musing with SALLY TAYLOR:
"I'm not interested in what the major labels have to offer."
From the JAMMING! archives: PAUL WELLER ON POP
Featured wine region:
CÔTES DU RHÔNE VILLAGES
FEATURED WINES
FEATURED ALBUMS
LAPTOP
Roll The Credit
From the JAMMING! archives: ALTERNATIVE TV
interviewed in 1978
TRAVIS.
Fran Healy explains why "you cannot own a song." (And why Liam Gallagher "is going to turn into a really great songwriter.")
The JAMMING! Gallery part 3: the covers from issues 25-36.
MUSIC ON THE WEB
Why it's hard to sympathize with the music industry
Featured Artist Web Site:
LLOYD COLE
MIX ALBUMS:
Who, what and why you should bother
Featured wine web site:
HONIG
Featured vine:
VIOGNIER:
Finally, a worthy rival to Chardonnay.
The iJAMMING! interview:
BOY GEORGE.
"Once you've had your go, what-ever it may be, they want you to piss off, and they can't bear it if you come back, they can't bear it."
SUPERDRAG
They love rock'n'roll but they don't want to deal with the hassle
WINE AND MUSIC:
What wine fans and music devotees have in common.
The full iJamming! Contents
March i-ditorial:
What's with iJamming?

It may be a digital medium, but a decent web site has to grow organically. You start off with one set of intentions, but as you proceed and develop, you find out what works and what doesn't and adjust accordingly. I've found that IJamming! is not the kind of site that can undergo daily maintenance and updates (though the Music and Musing and Wine sections are all worth checking back on at least once a week), and that it makes more sense to upload a number of stories at once then make a mass announcement to the e-mail list.

As such, iJamming! is becoming more and more like a magazine - to which end, just as was the case years ago, I have found myself this past couple of months gathering content across all formats, ensuring it's then balanced within each of these headings, putting in some shorter asides to counter the in-depth features, setting myself deadlines, sailing past them, and finally deciding that nothing else gets done in my life until the update is finished! Unlike a printed magazine though, material can go straight from the word processor to the internet in less than fifteen minutes; I can correct mistakes as I see them, improve copy every time I feel fit. It's an entirely amorphous medium, and I love it that way. There's no income from doing this site - but there's no expenditure either. There are no trees being chopped down, you don't have to read it one go, and you're not faced with the choice of putting it out for recycling in a couple of other weeks or hoarding it in the basement/attic for eternity. You can simply bookmark the home page, and check back to see what's new as and when you want. In iJamming!'s case, you can even be notified when a specific page changes by using the new search engine. You can also copy/paste/download the text if you want to save it on your hard drive or print it out - something you can't do with the increasingly dominant Flash format, visually impressive though it may be. All the while, I'm glorying in the fact that there's no advertising needed to offset the printing costs - and given the current freefall in the tech markets, I doubt if I'll be under much pressure to accept any in the near future.

I wanted this update to be substantial, and once I made that decision it was amazing how much material seemed to be out there. I interviewed David Sylvian with my friend Geoffrey. Mark Perry came to town (literally, to Brooklyn) with Alternative TV and was too perfect an interview subject to ignore, after which I read the Sniffin' Glue book, and decided to write about that too. As the site seems to be focusing towards more discussion of the music biz, I realised I was sitting on an intriguing interview with Sally Taylor, so put that up; I was enthralled by Lloyd Cole's new declaration of autonomy as shown by his self-designed web site, so decided to publicize that; the Doves show in New York prompted an explosion at the word processor; listening to the Chills first album brought back all kinds of memories I wanted to share. Over in the wine section, I'd been planning all along to put up the Côtes du Rhône-Villages section, but doing so involved more work than I anticipated - though an evening chez nous when we opened a dozen bottles to contrast and compare doesn't count as part of the work. A whole bunch of other wines that have been opened and enjoyed make it into an ongoing review section (with music matches - we want to have some fun here too). The Keith Moon section has been greatly tidied up, with the enthralling Jeff Beck interview added and an ongoing 'news' section as informtation about Keith and/or the bio comes to light. The Jamming! Archives continue to grow: all the covers are up there now, a Paul Weller editorial from 1981-82 likewise, and one old manuscript in original form for the fun of it. Other interviews from back in the day more won't work in that format as the manuscripts are too ill kept, and there are too many pages (meaning too large a series of files), but scanning a twenty-year old typed manuscript results in so many errors in the text reading software that I sorely need help with correcting these documents if I'm ever going to get interviews by Pete Townshend, Paul McCartney, the Jam, and dozens of others online.

Above: Stills from the Hedonism opening sequence

You'll find an effective search engine on every page now and I've opened up a forum that I hope people will use to discuss the site's content and the issues it raises. Both are necessary for the site to claim any internet interactivity, but the section I'm most pleased with this time out, for that same reason, is Hedonism. The readings I did a year or so ago established the multi-media potential for the novel, but I didn't follow through when I first put up the web site. For one, all these dot.coms were talking about presenting it (most of which of course went bust); for another, I needed a break from living inside the story; and especially, I didn't have the software skills. With a little time, and a fair amount of trial and error, I've been able to post a multi-media rendition of the first chapter: click here and you can read it with music in the background and the occasional video link. You're equally welcome to turn down the volumes, or print it out to read in traditional, hand-held format too - and download the music that comes with it for free at the same time. As I mention in writing about Lloyd Cole's web site, spending this much time on one's site serves to focus oneself. Putting Hedonism into multi-media shape has involved re-reading some of the first draft, re-viewing the webcast, working again with my musical/video partners Jon, Kevin & Thomas, and doing some editing, all of which has got me fired up to run away and get the novel into publishable shape. Though that may mean less work on the web site in the near future, I would not have this renewed burst of energy without working on it for the web site to begin with. And round it goes. . .

If running iJamming! has enabled me to focus, it's influenced me in other ways. I have found myself enjoying far more of what I hesitantly call 'conventional' rock music of late than in many years. I can put much of this down to osmosis - or hyperlinking of the mind. Putting up the retrospective features of the web site naturally took me back to some older music I'd ignored for years. For example, writing about the Ride album a few months back made me not so much susceptible to Doves (I'm a prime candidate for such a band anyway), as more tuned into that group's place in the scheme of things - hence the lengthy article that looks back on a decade of British bands in America. Listening to the Chills made me enthusiastic again for literate pop, which may have made me more amenable towards the new Lloyd Cole album. I interviewed Mark Perry and listened to old Alternative TV at the same time as I found myself talking to Simon Reynolds for a feature he was writing about the post-punk days for Uncut; then I read the Sniffin' Glue book and the Creation Records Story back to back (the latter is as much about the history of post-punk indies as it is about the one label, look for a review of it soon) at the same time as reading Jack Rabid's account in The Big Takeover of his own early publishing years, all of which made me yearn for the free-form DIY era of the late 70s/early 80s - which had me totally primed for something like the Kleenex reissue the moment I got it.

The flip side of my renewed love for loud guitars, scraping violins, power-pop melodies, harmonised choruses and vocal shrieking (all in the same song if I can get it!) is that there is less dance music coverage than I expected to provide here. This is perhaps because it gets so much press elsewhere. From me as from others: looking at my work folder, I notice I've already reviewed albums this year by Daft Punk, Mirwais, Mellow, DJ Deep, Soulstice and Plastiq Phantom along with an eletronica soundtrack and an Astralwerks compilation - and it's still only March. Links are provided to these where possible (the Daft Punk review has ended up on this site rather than in print); there's also a selected crop of mix CDs, and the more underground electronic music is covered in the sporadic album reviews I put up. There's a lengthy Paul van Dyk feature waiting to go up too; it was intended for a glossy magazine, one that has been my equivalent of dealing with a major label. At least this way it will finally get to see the light of day.

"Many of the stories I'm posting here concern musicians who have run up against the combined short attention span/demand for immediate returns of a corporate music industry that can no longer afford to maintain artists who sell less than a million copies worldwide. It's truly a horror story, but there's a positive side to it that I want this site to be a part of."

And that brings me to the other thing this web site has done for me - to renew my belief in artistic independence, or at least, autonomy - the whole fanzine/indie label ethos I grew up with. Certainly, some of this stems from the thrilling sense of freedom I've found in being able to publish what I want to write as I want to write it, and that has clearly crossed over into support for musicians who exercise the same options. Yet this too has been accidental. Believe me when I tell you: some of my best friends work for major labels. In fact, the employees are rarely the problem: most of them love music with a passion. It's just that the multi-national corporations they work for are so enormous these days, with so many diverse, often conflicting interests, that the music-loving employees are often powerless to achieve what they want to (i.e. to make popular the artists they believe in). And given that you have to be pretty ballsy to give up a major label employment contract with all its perks and benefits, it's always the acts who suffer.

It wasn't initially intended to be this way, but so many of the stories I'm posting here concern musicians who have run up against the combined short attention span/demand for immediate returns of a corporate music industry that can no longer afford to maintain artists who sell less than a million copies worldwide. It's truly a horror story, but there's a positive side to it that I want this site to be a part of. The consolidation of the industry has happened at the same time that the growth of the Internet has thrown up the possibility for musicians to communicate with their audience directly - and that the likes of Napster have rightly raised the issue of copyright value (and ownership) in a digital society. Together this offers the opportunity for a paradigm shift such as we haven't seen in music since rock'n'roll first came along. That shift requires musicians to totally re-evaluate the core issues that have driven their medium for thirty years - i.e., whether they expect to make most of their money by selling hard copies of singles and albums through record store, and whether they want to cede entire ownership of their copyright to a major corporation for the small chance that they will actually become famous. (Read my Musing feature for a more in-depth essay on this.)

Clearly, a seismic shift is not going to be as sudden as an earthquake in Seattle; this is a gradual process that involves new technologies and how we decide to live with them. (Look how long the Napster court cases have been dragging out as an example.) But sitting at this seat, at my computer, making the links (hyper and otherwise) between the different musicians who are taking control of their careers and re-evaluating their priorities, it's obvious that a new method of communication is already in existence and that some people are using it as the foundation for a new means of thinking. I realise in writing this that I don't sound too much different than when I was 18 and writing madly enthusiastic editorials for the printed Jamming! Have I not grown up at all? Sure I have, and I've fallen out of love with the music world a couple of times in the process, usually when doing anything positive on a large scale seems such a relentlessly uphill struggle. So perhaps what's getting me so excited right now is seeing a potential shift of control to the artist - and with it the freedom to experiment - as first drew me in during the hazy post-punk heyday of self-pressed records, self-promoted gigs and self-published fanzines. Except that this time around, that self-publishing and distribution can reach around the globe at just a fraction of the cost. What's not to be excited about?

The major labels will always be necessary for mainstream commercial acts aiming straight for the top, and most people given the chance will sign to one. (I did it myself at 18, which is one reason I sympathise.) If this web site was only about the likes of David Sylvian (who was dropped by his label shortly after our interview) or Lloyd Cole (who got out of his major deal four years ago and shows no inclination of returning to one), then we could say that major deals are rightly tied to commercial viability, and that no artist should expect to maintain the same level of popularity in perpetuity. But then why am I not the only one enthusing about Superdrag (enjoying a top ten alternative album after being dropped by a major), or Laptop (dropped by a major after one EP, yet receiving rave reviews across the globe for an album ultimately released in Norway)? Why do I find myself talking to someone like Sally Taylor (who is opting to stay independent from the outset), or the Rosenbergs, a group that turned down a national TV opportunity because the small print was skewed in favor of a major label and has since signed a profit sharing record deal with another outsider, Robert Fripp. I don't know how much good this site - iJamming! - can do, but if the gathering of quotes in the Musing section, and the content of these various interviews and reviews can provoke up and coming musicians to at least think about the control they want to have of their careers (and it should be a career, not just a flash in the pan) then it's served an extra purpose I hadn't originally intended.

Anyone recognize Tony's t-shirt? A clue: it relates to the subject matter of the Doves page. Post on the Forum if you know the answer.
My pro-indie stance is only reinforced when I write about the world of wine and see just how many of my favorite producers are family businesses that have maintained their independence even as they grow in size and stature. If it's news that the likes of Pete Townshend and Lloyd Cole and Underworld communicate directly with their audience now via their web sites, it's something of a shock to see that these wineries, many of them multi-million dollar industries, have been dealing directly with their audience throughout. It's amazing how many wine-makers you can make personal contact with just by phoning, e-mailing, or stopping by. I believe in the stardom factor: I think musicians should consider image and presentation and carry inordinate self-belief around with them. (Just as the more famous wine producers are image-conscious, self-promoting unique individuals.) But they need to balance that with an understanding that the world is so closely connected nowadays they can't retreat to the ivory tower without potentially losing an audience; and that the way to hold onto that audience can be found at home, at the keyboard end of a modem.

Tony Fletcher March 2001

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