Tuesday, 17 June 2008

£6 please.

This photo is borrowed and may be misleading people in the actual line up of this band.
The people within are in fact Mic on guitar, Mark, in the dodgy sheepskin and Mic's daughter, Melanie on tambourine.

I was stalking my friend Daniel Treacy on l’internet and found out that this guy called Jowe Head from Swell Maps played bass in the TVPs for a bit. So then I started perving on him and found a record label called Topplers [http://www.topplers.net/] that gave you all sorts of my favourite sort of terrible music for free. Going through all these bands, I found these guys: Pioneers of bad music, a band determined to make not a penny out of their songs, they gave away free cassettes, played free shows and sung about it. Meet my new love, The Instant Automatons.

Maybe completely by chance I downloaded their most FAMOUS song (ha ha). You can have it too....http://www.instant-automatons.com/mp3/albums/well/04-PeopleLaughAtMe.mp3

Record company people are shaaaady. So
kids watch your back
cos I think they smoke crack
I don’t doubt it.
Look at how they ackt.

I found Mark Automaton and decided to grace this terrible blog with its first interview. I hope, that in reading it you can’t tell that I was ever some sort of professional journalist. I hope the information contained herein in confusing, misspelt and without any sort of preachy, argument about what everyone chooses to do with their lives. I just like this. Here is mine and Mark Automatons conversation, all but unedited.

You always put your music on cassettes. Cos, I guess, if you were making it yourself, that was all there was. Peeps now have a thing about collecting vinyl, as if its better (me) than MP3s, or cataloguing their CD collection. Do you think the format of music matters? At all?

Mark: As an ex-practitioner of music (as opposed to merely a listener), I’ve always thought that the medium is very much not the message. When the Automatons began their recording career, technology – even “state of the art” technology, which was about as far as you could get from the gear we were forced to use – was pretty crude. By today’s standards, anyhow. Some people, in hindsight, have referred to us as “lo-fi pioneers”, but really we were just doing the best we could with the equipment we could afford. We didn't want our recordings to be drowning in tape-hiss; it was an unfortunate by-product of our sub-standard equipment and methods, and we just put up with it or attempted to reduce it as much as was practicable. I can’t deny that cassettes were a boon when it came to taking control of the means of production and distribution of our work, but if CDs had been around at the time I’m sure we would have utilised them instead. Having taken the time to write what I hoped were meaningful lyrics and construct a suitable musical framework to hold them, I wanted my songs to be conveyed as clearly as possible to whomever was going to be listening to them and I didn't want tape-hiss and analogue mud getting in the way (although inevitably it did).

MP3s are an even better and more immediate way to deliver music, short of injecting it directly into people’s brains. Although I don’t currently own an iPod or similar device, I like the idea of being able to carry around your whole music collection in your pocket. So I guess what I’m trying to say is that the only difference I perceive in those various music-delivery methods is the extent to which they “get in the way” of the music itself – if that makes sense?

Me: You called your gang Pioneers of Bad Music. Why do you think, even people who kick against the pricks still feel the need to name movements, genres etc etc

Mark: Humans have an innate need to name and organize and classify everything, because we (as a species) just can’t handle the idea that everything is just random chaos. We’ve even “classified” this process by giving it a name (taxonomy). It’s only natural, therefore, that the arts fall victim to this process along with everything else.

More often than not, “movements” in the arts are identified and labeled by critics and/or the public, rather than the artists themselves, unless the artists involved are trying to make some sort of point (like the Surrealists or the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood). I suppose the term “Bad Music” was coined ironically to second guess what a lot of people would think of it anyway. Personally, I never liked that particular label because I felt it implied that proponents of so-called “Bad Music” had to be unable to play instruments or construct recognisable “tunes” – which wasn’t the case. The main philosophy behind this movement was (as I saw it) similar to conceptual art – that the initial idea is more important than the final product. If the attitude of the “Bad Music Movement” could be summed up in one sentence, it would probably (unbelievably enough) be in a line from a song by Lisa Loeb:

“I will not judge you by the way you play your instrument”

Me: Wait! I have missed things. I am guessing most people won't know who you are. I barely know who you are. so, who are you? I should have put this at the beginning.

Mark: I suppose I could be lazy and just point you to either the Biography page on the Automatons website (www.waterden.net/history.asp) but I’ll give you a potted history:

The Instant Automatons were me (Mark Lancaster), Protag (Martin Neish) and Mic Woods. We flourished between 1977 and 1982 and were instrumental in the establishment of the cassette-swapping network that formed the backbone of the so-called UK DIY Music scene. Geographically, we came from North Lincolnshire (or South Humberside as it was called then) and Woolwich (Mic). Artistically, I suppose we were originally forged in the crucible of Punk – although the mix was considerably adulterated by influences from other musical areas.

Me: Done. And, do they still exist?

Mark: Only in the hearts and minds of those who remember us! We all still exist as people – in that none of us are dead yet – but the band no longer exists, and it’s highly unlikely – for multiple reasons – that we’ll ever play together again.

Me: Free music. Should all music be free? If you had to explain how you think music relates to the music industry, as in um, a spoon is to lighter as ovaries are to sperm....how would you describe their relationship?

Mark: How about “music is to the music industry as Eastern European prostitutes are to their Russian gangster pimps”?

More seriously: I have always stressed that my views on non-profit music are entirely personal – I would never presume to preach to anyone who wanted to make a living from their art; it’s just not what I want to do.

Me: What is the problem with punk?

Mark: Is there a problem with punk? Does “punk” even still exist? If there was ever a “problem” with the original movement, I think it was possibly that it was eventually overwhelmed by wannabes who didn’t understand the original motivating force and just wanted to pose at the 100 Club or The Roxy wearing safety pins and ripped bin liners.

Me: But they're not pressed in red, so they buy The Lurkers instead?

Mark: Earlier today I thought it was quite amusing to hear the lead singer of The Zutons launching a pathetic attack on The Sex Pistols after playing with them at the Isle of Wight festival. The core of his discontent seemed to be the fact that John Lydon had once appeared on “I’m A Celebrity – Get Me Out Of Here” – nothing to do with the music at all. Of course, there’s a venerable tradition in music of new bands slagging off their predecessors – the Pistols did it themselves – but the Pistols were at the core of a movement that irrevocably changed the face of modern music. Exactly how much have The Zutons changed the music scene, with their extensive catalogue of incendiary, life-altering songs such as…er…um…? I wonder: will The Zutons be playing the Isle of Wight festival in 30 years time? I think we all know the answer to that.

Me: Can you take out bets for that? Make some money? Cos K.A.$.H. you gotta do something for it. And you gotta do the things you love too. So, you do both, together, separately, what?

Mark: I think the point that Protag makes exceptionally well in the interview we did for Chainsaw fanzine is totally valid; that no matter what you do, if you do it for money you'll end up at some point not wanting to do it. So as far as getting money is concerned, I do it in a way that has little or nothing to do with artistic endeavour. My artistic efforts (predominantly photography nowadays) are still created as and when I feel like it, and usually given away to people I like. If I wake up one morning and decide I don’t want to take photographs any more, I don’t have to. No one’s going to starve or be made homeless. I suppose my philosophy was neatly summed-up by George Eastman (founder of Kodak) when he said, “What we do during our working hours determines what we have; what we do in our leisure hours determines what we are.”

The End.