Back from the Abyss

I have had a bunch on my mind lately…I guess that makes me a rarity (wish I knew how to make that new snazzy sarcasm symbol which I think is basically the upside down “?”) Note to self: Learn that this week. None the lesser I have been working up the parts to 18 newly recorded basic tracks with the assistance of two of my most favorite drummers in the world, Joshua Mallard (NashVEGAS) and ARKansas’ own RJ JUKES. I also have about 8 more I want to throw into the pot. I am also working on a new guerilla campaign and am going to do a total revision on how I spread the word. As I have stated in the recent past I am abandoning fully the quasi traditional paths I have taken and will be heading more towards MUSIC 3.0 which I think I have totally invented by the way (Again I need to learn that symbol this week). I also had a hand in producing a tribute album of a very dear person who passed far too soon. I will have much more information about that forthcoming as I do not want to let the cat out of the bag on that one too soon. I am also going to record another Tribute for another person who is no longer with us. The first one will be a pretty awesome compilation with some of the best players I know on it. The second aforementioned one will just be me (insert sarcasm symbol) OH JOY.

I am really starting to see a clearer path to this thing and am re-reading the incessant words I save in my incessant journal-ing I tend to do. One quote in particular is attributed to Kurt Vonnegut’s son who said “I am pretty sure the reason we are all here is to help each other through this, whatever this is.” I think I paraphrased that but I am still close enough to Rock N Roll on it I think.

I have a great deal of music in me and am blessed with so many beautiful and talented souls that I cannot bitch nor complain much. Besides it would do NOT one whit of good. I seem to have helped stir a bit of controversy by being included in a Bob Lefsetz Leter email update, first I am honored, second I stand by every word I wrote. I am vaguely familiar with the original subject, the lead singer of Cracker guy, and I did actually take the time to read his long, ass, whatever you want to call it, maybe not screed, but that stuff was a long read. And at the end of the day I still think he totally misses he point, which is with all his fancy words and “eloquence”, whatever that means, he is like the foreman at the buggy whip factory circa whatever year the auto took over. Get over yourself and make some great music. I am not saying you have not made some great tunes, you obviously have done it much more than myself. At leas from a sales perspective but at the end of the day you cannot not move forward. I do believe Mr. Lefsetz is correct about one thing and that is this: Great music does its thing well. Keep making it. Also there is a great blog by the  former lead singer of the Verve Pipe and this guy did what he had to do. And honestly no one is saying David Lowery is not but he could show us and just not tell us about it.

OK I am done for now just know these things will be happening with me:

1) I am getting my keyboard fixed this week because my “T” key keeps sticking and also I am going to get that sarcasm thing working as an add on

2) You will see some new approaches on my part in the coming months to promotion and touring

3) I will get back to blogging more. Sorry for the absence I just felt I had more to think over than write over if that makes any sense


And what the world needs now…to borrow a phrase…is less complaining and more doing. And also I do not always agree with everything the man writes either but he bats really high up there in my book and is usually dead on.

Bon Iver says: UH UH

Bon Iver has said they are not going on the Grammy Awards because they worked too hard to be lumped on stage with a bunch of other acts, American Idol style, and good for them!

Ten years ago this was unheard of, short of a major political protest, for a band to snub the Grammy show. The times they are a changing.

I tweeted this the other day:

The nerds are inheriting the entertainment business. They’re stealing it from the guys who couldn’t get a date in high school who put on three piece suits and declared themselves important, but they’re not.

It is a quote from Bob Lefsetz but it is right in line with the bravery of a band telling the establishment to take their show and go somewhere else with it. Kudos to them. Kudos to us all. Wonder why SOPA didn’t pass? The people are too powerful and we need to start empowering each other more.
Imagine if internet had been available in the 60’s? Imagine what it can do now? Scary huh? If you are the establishment, yes.

In Defense of Common Sense: Auto Tune does not make ART!

Bob Lefsetz really sums it up nicely here:
“As a result of crass commercialism, primarily MTV and now the Silicon Valley
rush to riches, our vision of art has been skewed. Money comes first. It’s
readily available to he who succeeds, and there are short cuts to ubiquity. But
most people employing these short cuts are not art.”
—The Lefsetz Letter
I found this after I wrote the blog below. Hang onto it mentally if you decide to read the rest of this.

I have wanted to get at this one all day. Mr. Oyola has the right to his opinion for the same reason people have the right to walk off a dock into freezing waters. Now here is mine. The link above is a blog entitled In Defense of Auto Tune. Auto Tune is a device, and now software, which can be used to modulate a sound wave (a vocal recording) and alter it. Many times this is used to make people who cannot actually sing sound like they can. You can read the blog at the link above but I have included (in bold) most of the main assertions the writer, Mr. Oyola, has made in his blog.

“When someone argues that auto-tune allows anyone to sing, what they are really complaining about is that an illusion of authenticity has been dispelled. My question in response is: So what? Why would it so bad if anyone could be a singer through Auto-tuning technology? What is really so threatening about its use?”

First of all I would not argue with anyone whose knowledge base is this challenged about music. The assertion that authenticity is an illusion is a contradiction in terms by the very nature of the statement. If authenticity was an illusion we would not call things authentic, especially since humans have been singing for at least 4-5 thousand years and authenticity gauged that entire time. Magicians create illusions, musicians make music. David Blaine makes us see things that are not there, illusion. Aretha Franklin sings her rear end off, authenticity.
And also to assume that someone who is musically or vocally talented is threatened by auto tune is silly and sophomoric. It is not about the technology being a threat it is about the continual debasement of music or creating a misunderstanding to the uninitiated. Do I care that Lil Wayne uses auto-tune? No. What I care about is someone asserting that authenticity is not real or that it is an illusion. It is a spit in the face of real artists who create music, not because they think it is cool or it would be neat to make a song, but because they have to! They have no choice because there is a compunction inside of them that emits a force which is called authentic talent and it bleeds from their pores.
I have had many experiences in my musical life where a barely functional PA system was in place to reinforce the audio and have had chills run down my spine. Or sat in a room with a group of people and had someone shake my soul with an acoustic guitar and their voice. Or stood in a church and listened to one voice, no accompaniment, bring tears to people’s eyes. Were these experiences illusory? Was there no authenticity present? The only thing inauthentic is the depth of this writer’s experiences.

“Mechanical reproduction may “pry an object from its shell” and destroy its aura and authority–demonstrating the democratic possibilities in art as it is repurposed–but I contend that auto-tune goes one step further. It pries singing free from the tyranny of talent and its proscriptive aesthetics. It undermines the authority of the arbiters of talent and lets anyone potentially take part in public musical vocal expression.”

Karaoke does the same exact thing. It is a definite that it potentially allows someone, anyone, to take part in public, musical, vocal expression. But do we call it art? No. For the same reason that people who create vocals exclusively with auto-tune are not artists but hacks. Used to move a note a micrometer up or down the musical scale is not going to be taken to the task maker but if your entire performance is based around the use of auto tune you are not a vocalist nor does it a vocalist make.

“Auto-tune represents just another step forward in undoing the illusion of art’s aura. It is not the quality of art that is endangered by mass access to its creation, but rather the authority of cultural arbiters and the ideological ends they serve.”

A person capable of making this assertion has not experienced enough music in a true live setting or during their life in general. There is no illusion of art’s aura or it would not be art in the first place. The whole point of art, any art, being special is that it is a rarity, one of the rare things that make humans human. I would not take anything for experiences like seeing RL Burnside perform whilst sitting at his feet, Steve Earle tell a story and then sing a song the story was based around from 15 feet away, or witness Etta James WAIL “At Last” in front of a crowd of 80,000 in Memphis, TN. No sir. The authenticity of any of these, and many other, experiences are without question. And they were done by humans with their own voice, the aid of auto tune happily absent. I have no ideological ends to serve I just like the idea of a real human’s voice.
Just go sit in a song circle in Nashville,TN, a picking party in Appalachia, or a juke joint in Clarksdale, MS and listen for it. If you do not hear it your ears are broken.

“Auto-tune supposedly obfuscates one of the indicators of authenticity, imperfections in the work of art. However, recording technology already made error less notable as a sign of authenticity to the point where the near perfection of recorded music becomes the sign of authentic talent and the standard to which live performance is compared. We expect the artist to perform the song as we have heard it in countless replays of the single, ignoring that the corrective technologies of recording shaped the contours of our understanding of the song.
In this way, we can think of the audible auto-tune effect is actually re-establishing authenticity by making itself transparent.”

The more I read this writer’s word the more I realize that we are not dealing with someone who has really experienced music or understands it. This writer’s grasp or understanding of music should be an inch long and a mile deep but yet it is many miles long and maybe an inch deep. Recording technology does not make talent. It is obvious that this writer has either never recorded in a studio or was not paying attention if he did. The devices available to a modern recording studio only accentuate the sound quality going into the system in the form of a digital capture. Certainly Pro Tools can realign, remix, chop, screw, and blend things into any configuration but at the beginning of each day, each session there has to be something worth opening the mics up for and hitting the red record light.

“These artists aren’t trying to get one over on their listeners, but just the opposite, they want to evoke an earnestness that they feel can only be expressed through the singing voice. Why would you want to resist a world where anyone could sing their hearts out?”

Ok he really jumps the shark on this one. Why would you resist a world where anyone could sing their hearts out? First of all they are not singing their hearts out. They are blathering into a microphone and someone else engineers it to sound like it is melodious. I reject this as valid art for the same reason that I would reject a robot created to mimic the talent of Michael Jordan or Alber Pujols. Sure it would be neat to watch a robot make shot after shot or hit dinger after dinger but after a while it would get old. It would be a pointless exercise devoid of humanness. We follow sports as much for the failures they bring our hearts because every so often a human does something that defies our collective minds and souls, same with art. If I scan a Van Gogh and then reproduce it with a printer in 3D am I an artist? Absolutely not! By the logic of this writer it is totally acceptable and authentic or by his terms it pierces the veil of authenticity which I doubt he would know if it really, not authentically, ran up and bit him in his ass.


Just wanted to toot my own horn a second. Reading over the Lefsetz Letter and he observes something I observed a while back here:
Below a section from Mr. Bob Lefsetz’s recent post about the RHCP. Love em but I too am scared that without John Frusciante they are not the same. Cribbing from a master as usual:

First the blog I reference above is talking about something entirely different about the point I am making here and I suggest you subscribe to the Lefsetz Letter.
Excerpt from the Lefsetz Letter:
#89 on the Digital Songs chart is “Adventures Of Rain Dance Maggi” by the Red
Hot Chili Peppers. It sold 19,523 copies this week, for a cume of 77,015, a drop
of 66% from last week. There was little pent-up demand or people don’t think the
track’s that good or RHCP fans are waiting for the album, maybe they don’t even
know the single’s out. Or maybe, without Frusciante, the Chili Peppers are

My take:
I have listened to the new RHCP track and it is very good. The RHCP’s could never sell another album and still be one of the Greatest Rock bands we have seen in the last 20 years for the reasons I talked about in my former blog. But John please re-consider and get back with the boys, just for old time’s sake, PLEASE!

Spotify revisited

I posted a blog a couple of days ago on Spotify.

Now The mind of Bob Lefsetz has broken down Spotify.

I have read it twice and will re-read it again. It appears, from his perspective Spotify has figuratively seized Okinawa and hoisted the flag, though I doubt any statues will be erected to commemorate the move, now, into the USA and elsewhere. I am going to check it out and have even emailed for the coveted “golden ticket.”
We shall see how this all pans out.
Elam McKnight