29 March 2012

This music biz malarkey / Why do we do it
About a week or so ago, would-be-trend-making magazine 'The Quietus', twitted the following:
'Was a time when a track-by-track preview of an LP involving Jack White would bust a site. What's changed, readers?'
There's a pretty easy answer to that:
- Nothing has changed, while everything has changed.
The music industry is driven by a single non-stop motion: churning forward.
Jack White was the man of the moment, about, say, 5 years ago?
We haven't stopped loving him or his music, it's just that now there's this new guy in town, you know the one, Jack Red?, or Black? or whoever. Now, he is the one we all wanna read about.
Nothing profoundly wrong with that, it's just the nature of the entertainment beast, but it does pose the question: why do artists keep releasing music and remain willing participants in an incongruous carousel that, as the years go by, will inevitably throw them further and further to the back of the fading queue?
Why do we keep doing it?
To understand why we do it, we need to unravel the reasons why we don't do it.
No - I can safely say, fame is definitely not the reason why we do it, as most artists are quick to realise the weak nature of this animal, and disregard it as a mere offshoot of your desire to release and share your works with the public.
I used to be on the vip list at Damien Hirst's Pharmacy restaurant in Notting Hill (yes, go ahead, Isabel, you name-drop it like it means something) - but, my point is, what does this mean?
Does this have any tangible meaning?
None whatsoever, only that some PR person, who probably never even heard my songs, one day came across my name and decided I was cool enough and deserving to be on that list. Well done.
Your music, your universe, made of real sweat and real blood, now reduced to the bottom of the formaldehyde who's who c-list. Pitiful.
I never went, as eating fake fish'n'chips from a medicine cabinet didn't quite appeal to me.
And it proved particularly useless when I was down and out, and could barely scrape enough for a portion of chips at my local Mile End chippie.
The only vaguely good thing about fame I can think of, is that it will make your parents feel proud of you. Yes, you - the rebel nothing-good-can-come-out-of-this-one has finally found something to do with his wasteful life, and we have printed articles and newspaper photos to prove it. There! - I knew he was special.
My mother used to collect magazines cut-outs and it makes me happy to know that all those mostly irrelevant, long-forgotten reviews and write-ups brought her some joy.
But ultimately, fame is feeble, all forgotten, amounts to very little.
Money - now we're talking, right? Katchinnng!
Sure, it's good to be able to pay bills like normal people do, and not have to dread that knock on your door, and hide away from the bailiffs. But most artists I know will indeed have chosen to live for their art, and make whatever sacrifices necessary to do so.
It's not martyrdom, it's a life choice.
It's wanting to spend as much time as possible doing that which comes naturally - that's not entertainment, that's fulfilment, and how can you put a price on that?
And for many the road ahead will be tough and unpredictable, a gauche and broken path, with no certainties or clear direction.
It's also pretty obvious that so very few make any real money in this industry - only the fat dinosaurs, people like Lady Kaka or Madonna - but for most, the chances of making a fortune this way are so slim and remote - that I can confidently say that, if it's money you're after, then you'd be better off digging for gold in your neighbour's back-garden.
It baffles me that most of humanity seem to be fixed on this idea that money is where it's at - as the High Establishment discreetly laughs away at our own stupidity: 'Yep, we got the suckers where we need'em: quietly working their asses off into oblivion.'
No - money is certainly not the reason why we do it.
But you do get free drinks, though, which, I suppose, is a nice incentive.
Now, perhaps you're thinking, maybe you're tempted by that whole ego-trip-mind-bling: dozens of strangers loving you, telling you're the greatest thing in the world, cute guys wanting to sleep with you just 'cause you managed to rhyme alone with heart of stone.
Surely, that's got to be where it's at, non?
Well, from experience, let me tell you - I really don't think artists need their egos boosted at all - not an inch. But why?
Because in order to cross that line, to take your work into the public arena, you need to have complete belief in yourself and be totally confident that what you're doing is worth doing.
Otherwise, you just couldn't do it.
The only way you can overcome the many pitfalls, the heartaches, the setbacks, is by having this innate, near irrational faith of Kierkegaardian proportions in your work.
And I really don't think this is a trait particular to Monteiro or Drugstore, but something secretly shared, but often not acknowledged, by most artists.
It's not arrogance, but sheer belief.
We don't do it to be loved by others, we do it, because we love what we do and believe in it wholeheartedly.
So, if it's not fame and fortune or ego-stroke that get us going, what in the name of Don Quixote is it, then?
I have long suspected that all artists suffer from this common creative disease, this little bug that bites inside, and from which we can only recover by fulfilling the ideas that keep cropping in our heads.
For once you've seen it as an abstract tugging at your thoughts, you simply have to succumb to it and bring it to life.
You just have to do it.
I once wrote, right at the beginning of this 'anatomy' process, just as I was starting to write the 1st songs for the new album, jokingly, that an army of naked Venusians armed with rayguns could not try to stop me - cocky, huh?
Guess I was trying to get across this feeling, this drive, this need to do it and not be in peace until it's done, no matter how many or tall the windmills ahead.
In a funny way, artists have much in common with house-builders and painters-and-decorators, we both have the drive to get things done, and once the dust settles, and the work is finished, there's that precious moment, when you finally stop, sit and stare, quietly thinking:
'Yep, I've done that, and it's pretty much how I pictured in my head.'
It's a real nice feeling, and that I believe, is one of the genuine reasons why we do it.
I cringe every time I hear a musician state that: 'Well, if other people like our stuff... that's a bonus'.
What?! Are you seriously telling me you went through all this trouble, heartache, effort and pain, and you don't even care what others are going to make of it?! Why bother releasing it, then?
It simply doesn't make any sense - for keeping it locked inside the cave would certainly be an awful lot easier and way less stressful by the hundred-load.
The sole reason why we put our stuff out in the open, is in hope that someone else will get something from it, make some sense of it.
Everyone's got a story to tell, but a story remains dead and quite redundant if there is no one else to hear it.
That is a primitive and natural human instinct, to share, to talk, to get feedback - it's at the very heart of what it means to be human:
w-e -- c-o-m-m-u-n-i-c-a-t-e.
And whether we do it for thousands of people at the peak of our musical lives, or a few hundred, and even a single dozen towards the end, it really is totally irrelevant.
As long as the drive and need to write and share is still kicking inside - I believe it is your god-forsaken-given right to do it.
And when eventually someone else makes a connection with your work, it feels like the project has at last reached its ultimate conclusion, and the long line of fairy-lights you've been painstakingly stringing along, finally gets switched on.
And that is the other real reason why we keep doing what we do, regardless.
For when it fully lights up, it never fails to be a pretty sight - worthy of all of our efforts.

19 March 2012

Trip the North / Hebden Bridge gig report
Oh what fun we had.
It's one of the many weird contradictions of this Drugstore life: we go out there, deliver the saddest of songs and have a wonderful time doing so.
This has been both my favourite trip and gig so far.
Best trip 'cause the vibe in the camp is real nice / best gig, cause, although a little rough 'round the edges, it was the 1st time I felt some genuine chemistry/bond with the band onstage and was comfortable enough to start playing songs they've never even heard of.
The band, Peter, Steve and Oli, did us all proud and totally captured the spirit of our perfectly shambolic universe.
We stayed at a lovely B&B a few miles away, although whether we will ever be allowed to stay there again, now... that's a totally different story (read pathetic, shameful R'n'R tale below...)
The venue was sweet and we were really well-looked after by Mal, the promoter.
And the warmth of the crowd and everyone we talked to was really, second to none - friendliness in abundance.
There were some emotional scenes too, both onstage and after the gig - real moving stuff - I'm always touched by the support we get and talking to some of our fans brings it all home to us.
We were all dead nervous, 1st time playing together, so I can understand all the craziness that followed after the gig.
Craziness, did I say craziness?
'Affraid so. There was much lovely-craze stuff that could not be blogged, but not forgotten.
After the gig - we got some chips and headed back to the B&B in very high spirits indeed. Ended up drinkin'n'talking nonsense till 5am, your usual post-gig band-monteiro-crap:
I'm not worth it - life's not worth it - We are great - life is great - life is rubbish - no one loves me - I love this band - I love you, man, I really do - fuck the business - fuck everything - Did you say, fuck? - Did she say fuck? - NO! I didn't! YOU did - Why do men always bloody bring Fuck into EVERYTHING? - Scoundrels! - Booze, we DEMAND to have some more booze! (usually followed by mad scramble to find the last bottle of anything) - Man, the gig was great - You were great! - No, YOU were great - but...We are nothing and the universe is huuuuuuuuge - I want to be alone - no no no - please, dont leave me - I dont wanna be alone... - a toast to Drugstore!' etecetera etecetera etecetera.
Christ, the amount of crap we talked could easily tip the planet off its orbit.
6am - picture the serene Yorkshire moors scene:
Quiet hills, early birds singing, all the people in the land peacefully sleeping - but wait - what the F is that?
A NAKED GUITARIST wondering round/ drinking vodka and talking to pigs?!
No, I must be dreaming/nightmaring, right?
Nope, you were not - Oliver Marvin went on a craze walk BUTT NAKED, but the little star had the misfortune of getting himself locked out - he then had to wake the WHOLE B&B up, trying to get back in. Pathetic. Foking pathetic.
Later in the morning, a couple staying at the B&B, demanded a refund and we ended up having to pay for their stay -
Great. Yep, cheers, Marvin, there goes our post-gig pizza-with-the-band mini-profit.
Thankfully, as it turned out, the landlord was a DRGSTR fan, and as we were leaving, had album to be signed at the ready, and laughed much about it and I quote:
'You guys restored my faith in rock'n'roll - good to see bands misbehaving like this, brings back memories of the good ol' days...'
We were just about to hit the motorway heading South - when got call from the promoter: 'Hey, you left a guitar behind, looks kinda of expensive...'
Maradona mia - leaving £2.5k guitar behind? that's another 1st for this band.
Still, nothing dented our spirit and good-humour - as we drove back to LDN chatting away, still buzzing from the wonderful time we had in Yorkshire and some of us, secretly pondering...:
'Can a boy love a pig?'
Thank you Yorkshire - we got some great memories to treasure.
Now wait.... - did you hear that?
Yes - loud and clear: Bow-bells-a-ringin.

11 March 2012

Hit the North
As we're gearing ourselves up for our 1st gig in northern England in over a decade, excitement at the cave is reaching peak levels.
There's always that heightened sense of freedom and possibility when you hit the road with your band, and leave behind all that heavy burden of worries and petty concerns, that constantly conspires to grind any possibility of life happiness to a halt - We say no to that - and armed with our ol' bass guitar, a homemade pedal-steel and a set of discounted fairy lights - we intend to Hit the North with our shameless desire to play a little music and have some fun.
Have the best memories from gigs up north - the Manchester Union, which we played year after year, often to no more than 100 people, the Leadmill in Sheffield, the Lomax in Liverpool, and so many others - all shared one thing in common: audiences that were 'up for it' - and that's just how we like it.
There's always an element of 'unpredictability' at our gigs, not sure where that comes from, if from a bottle of wine, or childish desire to break our own rules and not follow the setlist all the way - but one thing is certain - we may be a little older now, but time has not dented in the slightest our spirit and passion for music, if anything, it has added depth to our character and strengthen our commitment to play straight from the heart.
So c'mon all you good people of Yorkshire and beyond: the Drugstore doors are wide open - all you got to do is step right in.
massively important ps: and oh, behind this mini drugstore starlet, a group of very talented, awesome musicians and really good people too, the best we've had since the gran restoration - it is thanks to them, that our music is still here. salut!

1 March 2012

Aquamarine single / homemade video
A few weeks ago I came across some archives of criminal mugshots and crime scenes - pretty fascinating stuff, in a twisted sort of way - like when you see a car crash, you don't want to, but you can't help but look.
One face stood out, this man bearing the longing stare of someone whose life had derailed so badly, that the only road ahead was a lonesome bottle of cheap vino.
I fell in love and decided to finally give him the break that had so eluded him in his life, and made him the star of our little video.
I'm no videographer and only have at my disposal my crappy PC and an old copy of windows movie maker, but I think this mini-vid captures something of the sadness of the characters in the song, and their sweetness. (I'm getting a bit tearful, now - don't know why).
The single is out on apr 2, the last outpost from the Anatomy harbour, and probably my last for sometime.
enjoy. we're still here.
. .
----------------------------------------------------------------- Aquamarine mini-vid extra footage source credits:
* 'lonesome cowboy on the beach' - Sydney Pollack 1969 'They Shoot Horses, dont they?'
* 'dance teaser' - 'Sheree Tiger Dance' - vintage erotic film / public domain
* 'blue water horse legs' - aquapacer horse rehabilitation machine
There is a wealth of clips/footage and effects freely available to everyone /one of the cool things of our digi age, all you need is a little bit of time and effort to source it out.
postscript - In conversation with Jeff Buckey - the clouds within
In reference to the post below, 'in conversation...', it was prompted by a recent review of a Drugstore show - brazilian journalist was watching us for the 1st time - wrote a really nice review, but..., here we go, he was surprised by how upbeat our between songs' banter was, given that a lot of the material was so sad.
Well, amigo, I say, guess you caught me on a good day, and as far as I'm concerned, whenever we're onstage, playing music, is always a good day.