Slagging Off – a how to guide

Congratulations, your band or musical project just won the band lottery and we just made fun of you. How should you respond? What does it mean? WHAT NOW?

Don’t panic. Ultimately, it isn’t going to matter. This is just a generic tumblr, and we are just unfunny dudes with our own shitty bands, so you don’t need to worry too much. Really.

Our tastes are subjective – rest easy with the knowledge that our bands are way worse than your bands, you have more likes on facebook, and that you are DOING THE RIGHT THING and are ABOVE CRITIQUE in any form. 

Besides – how is someone saying “you suck” critique at all? Isn’t all critique supposed to appear in essay length analysis unpacking every aspect of the music and the recording?

There is no reason to change anything! If we made fun of you, it is because we are (a) jaded (b) hipsters (c) talentless (d) losers with (e) nothing better to do.

Here are some suggestions:

1) Write a series of tweets that allows your GROWING FANBASE to see you as a vulnerable musician who are unable to handle even the smallest slight. Again, remind us that our own music sucks. The more you get worked into a lather about it, the better to whip your fanbase into action. It will make you look really good.

2) Physical violence: These aren’t just words, kick someone’s ass!

3) Remind everyone that taste is subjective and that the only valid words about your music are (a) positive/ encouraging and (b) come from monk-like music writers who live in a subjectivity-vacuum who have no real ties to the real world. Music writers should be unable to play even a simple c-chord (TASTE IS SUBJECTIVE!) on a guitar because any inside knowledge is damaging and may influence/taint them from having valid opinions. No music writer with an opinion should ever set foot on a stage, period.

Elos Arma (Toronto, ON)

Toronto has a lot of bands. I didn’t even realize how many until recently.

Here’s something constructive Elos Arma: your band sounds exactly like 90% of the other indie bands in Toronto. Maybe that’s what you are going for?

But do the math. If there are 700 bands doing THE EXACT THING YOU ARE DOING – guitar tone, WHOA OHH OHH backups bands like you just fucking love, drum fills – then how is anyone ever going to care about you?

Most bands love playing the band lottery. They look at bands like Yukon Blonde and think “if the most boring band on the planet can win a SIRIUSXMINDIEAWARD, then so can we” because the only way Yukon Blonde is a THING at all is that they won the band lottery.

I’d rather think that you should make your own luck. Try new combinations of genres and styles and backing vocals (here’s one for free – OH OHH OHHH WHOAAA) and give it hell.

IMPLICATED

When I decided to go anonymous, I didn’t expect a witch hunt.

I moved to Toronto and took a job. That job was previously held by the lovely Terri Coles. Terri’s partner Dan books at the Rancho Relaxo in Toronto. Someone sleuthed the old header and discovered it was uploaded by a computer run by Terri Coles, and Dan and Terri were accused (multiple times). 

Except I used that computer – Paul Lawton – made that dumb header. I’m not even trying to “protect them” or whatever – I’ve never had any contact with Dan. I don’t know him personally, but I know that Dan and Terri are amazing people who have a new baby who is super cute and you should know they had nothing do to with this and leave Dan alone about it.

Terri and Dan, I’m sorry you had to put up with this sloppy thing. 

My band Ketamines is playing tonight at… CMW. We didn’t apply, but were asked to play by Music She Blogged. I bet they wish they didn’t now. Sorry Music She Blogged (who also has nothing to do with this). Be at the Velvet Underground at 10. If you are looking to spit in my face, that’s where I’ll be. I made fun of some of the bands we are playing with so it wont be awkward at all.

The best revenge is just to do better.

Recent FACTOR approvals

If you ever want to really get yourself into a knot about the current state of the Canadian music industry, check out the FACTOR approvals page.

A bunch of people pointed out yesterday that FACTOR gave CMW $200,000 this year to run the festival. Where does THAT money go? Not to most of the musicians. 

Legitimately curious how much METRIC and MARIANAS TRENCH are getting from CMW for their showcases (slaggingoff@gmail.com if you can get me numbers – I promise to keep you anon). Of the “1000 bands” playing CMW, what is the percentage of bands that get paid in dollars and not useless wristbands (though I’ve been using mine to check out the comedy side – Dave Foley and Scott Thompson at Yuk Yuks was particularly enjoyable).

My educated guess: less than 3% of the bands playing will get paid in dollars.

The most recent Factors approvals for making a music video in the $20,000 range: 

Metric    
Doug Crawford
Stars
Lesley Pike
Yukon Blonde

If you want to know the difference between “HAVE” and “HAVE NOT” bands in Canada, look no further. “HAVE” bands take initial success (Metric, Stars, Yukon Blonde) and work it into a career heavily subsidized by FACTOR and provincial arts funding. I have no problem with arts funding, but there was a limit to how much I could take out in student loans, so why should grant be different?

Take Feist winning Polaris last year. So what if the milquetoast Canadian music press were so dazzled by “METALS” that they awarded it with the Polaris, but that prize came with a fucking TOURING VAN. There is no way Feist needs a touring van. WHERE IS FEIST’S TOURING VAN NOW?

Doug Crawford is going to take his $20K and make another music video with girls in bikinis (at the very least, blatant objectification of women should bump you down to the $5K club). Leslie Pike has a Reverb Nation account, and sounds like a modern-day Jann Arden, so I can’t wait for that vid.

I am really happy to hear from an insider at FACTOR that the rules are changing, but I don’t expect the main benefactors to be any different than they are now.

#whereisfeistsvan

Eagleson (Ottawa, ON)

The worst part of being outed is that I’m now in danger of getting beat up by other bands, like these terrifying dudes from the band Eagleson. Just because I think their brand of inoffensive, derivative riff rocking is the audio equivalent of beating a dead horse with a sledgehammer doesn’t mean I should have to watch my goddamned back all the time.

Dress Rehersal (Toronto, ON)

A word on cultural critique:

Sometimes bands get skipped because there is just nothing to say about them, except to wonder out loud why they bothered. I almost decided to skip Dress Rehersal.

Some people are saying to me: “you shouldn’t just write a band off with a one-liner!” “Where is the substantive critique?”

How do you critique a band like this? You can’t say anything funny about them. Maybe an amusing “this sucks” or “boring. zzzzz.” How many times can I say that? You can’t find anything in the bio that is worth discussing, just words about being in a band and that band doing stuff. On the music front – I can hear it coming into my ears, but there is nothing to hold onto. You just feel absolutely nothing.

I bet their friends and family loves their band! Hey, there’s our bud with his little band tearing this place up, what a thrill! People love it when their pals have a cool band. Maybe they even try to help them with the Searchlight contest “vote for our bud and his little band!” but then they get cut, and that dream is dead and everyone is left empty. :(

I guess what I’m trying to say is you would have got all that information with my initial quip of “The very definition of Friend-rock.” That would have been funny, take up less of your time, and got my point across. Not everyone has to be Zizek. 

Sensitive Folk Guys in the “D” section of CMW

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Dominique Fricot (Vancouver, BC)

Thinks he sounds like: “Coldplay, Counting Crows, Ray Lamontagne, Bon Iver, Jack Johnson”

Mr. Fricot has a weird thing where he can slip seamlessly between Chris Martin and Adam Duritz. Pretty neat trick! I think it’s safe to say that if I liked Coldplay or Counting Crows I would still rather listen to Coldplay or Counting Crows. But neat trick!

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Donovan Woods (Toronto, Hell)

Thinks he sounds like: “Hayden, Paul Simon, Damien Rice”

This is the guy responsible for “My Cousin has a Grey Cup Ring” that you would know if you watched the Grey Cup, which you probably didn’t. 

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Dustin Bentall (Vancouver, BC) – the first song on the CMW player is “As Bad as They Seem” with an annoying violin.  Sucks.

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Dylan Guthro (Halifax, NS)

You’ve heard this guy before. Well, not him specifically. But trust me, you’ve heard this before. Radio3core.

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Dylan Murry (Toronto, SuperHell) – Bio says that “Entertainment Tonight (Canada) named him one of the next artists to look out for.” I love the qualifier “(Canada)” there. So Rick the Temp is into this guy and he thinks that information is something that should go on a bio.

On that note, have you ever seen Entertainment Tonight (Canada)? I didn’t think anything could get worse than E-Talk Daily, and then they made ETCANADA. If you watch those shows, you should kill yourself.

My name is Chris Laramee. I play in Shooting Guns, Foggy Notions, Wasted Cathedral and do some music reviews and rants. I posted a couple of things in here, the Hayden and BOATS rants specifically. No personal invective involved beyond the music. Conversation and dialogue is always a good thing to get going, as all confirmed music junkies can attest to. Agree or disagree, they’re opinions and that’s that. Kudos to Paul for getting the ball rolling and having some fun as well. Anyone offended by anything I wrote can feel free to slag me or my bands off as well if you desire. I’ve actually learned a hell of a lot from some blastings I’ve got. Peace and Love. 

Mythology

Due to the fact that there are some sleuthy ppl out there, I have to come out because there are so many angry people who spent a lot of time and energy to out me.

I figured it might happen eventually. I didn’t expect this to go viral, etc etc etc. no excuses. I just didn’t want to do this.

My name is Paul Lawton. There are others writing here too, but I started it. I play in a band called Ketamines (save you from looking). I was heavily involved in the Alberta scene for 20-ish years, but I’m in Toronto now.

The mystery is over, but honestly, it was getting dumb anyways. If you know my real twitter (@quartermass) you know I talk about this stuff all the time. I’m sorry if your feelings got hurt. I speak for myself, and none of my close friends or associates have anything to do with this. Don’t drag anyone else through the mud, if you are gonna.

I started this blog because I really care about Canadian music. The harshness was from a place of love of what I’ve devoted my adult life too. I’m not bitter, I have had a zillion opportunities.

But there is a LOT of bullshit in this system.

Have fun!

Crosss (Montreal, QU)

Crosss / I Smell Blood

I heard from CROSSS from Montreal were a band that was NOT accepted to CMW. This information blows apart the theory that the people at CMW had humans with ears selecting bands, and not some algorithm or robot.

Crosss are a good band that I like, that I’ve gone out of my way to see on at least (1) occasion, that I will go see again. If you like heavy stoner-rock with a psychedelic edge, you will like Crosss too. If they were doing CMW, we could all go see them together and have fun. They should wear their non-acceptance to CMW as a point of pride.

Canadian Music Week: Where Music Comes Last

We made an honest attempt to evaluate every single artist on the CMW lineup this year,  many hours listening to the bands “selected” for participation at Canadian music week, and even skipping some bands and genres completely, we are still stuck in the Ds with no end in sight.

Some trends so far:

1) There is just no way that Canadian Music Week sat and listened honestly to all of these bands. Too much evidence of some bands who are terrible by a UNIVERSAL STANDARD.  Have you ever heard a band who applied to CMW that was NOT accepted to CMW? Give me one example and I’ll shut up about this.

Here is an example:

Met a young man from Calgary, who is in Toronto for CMW to play his “first concert.” He was really enthusiastic about his showcase at 1am at a small cafe, and provided some insight:

  • He applied to a bunch of festivals, CMW was the only one he was accepted to, and was surprised to get accepted. He took that acceptance as a sign that he was  “heading in the right direction.”
  • He spent $800 to fly here, $600 for a week of hotel, and paid to attend all the industry panels (etc) at CMW which costs $600. Feeding himself, renting a car, this kid easily spent $3000. For someone who has never played a show before, I’m sure all of this seemed absolutely worth it for the “huge opportunity” of playing at CMW (his words).
  • He was sad because he has three hours of material and CMW was only giving him 40 minutes. His music is country acoustic with rapping verses.
  • I listened to his CMW page when I got home. Guess what I would have said about him? Yeah… not good. Kid was real nice, but he is not at a place where he should be flying across country.

2. A majority of Canadian bands are stuck in 2004 and/or 1994: Hopefully that means 2014 will have something new?

  • Modern rock radio still favours 1994, and really only pay attention new bands that sound exactly like Stone Temple Pilots,  so it makes sense that there are a zillion bands that sound like Stone Temple Pilots. If you play rock-type music want radio play, you have to fit the mold or you don’t exist.
  • CBC Radio 3 / Exclaim! / Polaris / Factor (the Canadian indie music elite) favours the early 2000s and the populist indie rock of that time. Garden State (2004) and the memorable line Natalie Portman says to Zach Braff “You gotta hear this one song — it’ll change your life” and then plays the fucking SHINS for him. Apparently that was an incredibly powerful moment because the Canadian indie music elite are still trying to change our lives with a million bands that sound exactly like the fucking SHINS. 

 

Sadly, Canadian Music Week doesn’t care about any of this. They can accept every band because the music doesn’t matter in the least.

The real winners of CMW

!) Sponsors: look at this list. There are more sponsors than bands! Bands who get accepted don’t get paid, they get writsbands. The sponsors are paying money that goes right to CMW.

2) Bars and Beer Companies: All these shows are happening at bars that sell beer. The bars sell beer to get paid off the CMW enterprise. The bands still don’t get paid.

3) P.R. Hacks: My personal number one enemy. The biggest problem in the modern music system is that P.R. hacks. 1000 bands are playing CMW, making it impossible for anyone to get a handle on what to check out. This is where the CMW guides and posts on “best things to see at CMW this week!” almost universally are bands with P.R. machinery behind them. It’s the only way.

4) CMW itself: A perpetual motion machine!

The losers:

Lower-tier Musicians: Traveling from all over Canada to play to empty rooms. MUSICIAN TIP: don’t travel to any festival that is not paying to bring you there. There is two quotes that apply here: “I play the show for free, they pay me to travel” and “Exposure? People die from exposure.”

Music fans: the sheer number of bands – good and bad – seems like it will benefit music fans. But people suffer from an abundance of choice. It isn’t healthy or natural to have to pick through 1000 bands.

Music: What is the sound of 1000 guitars playing at the same time? Noise that nobody wants to listen to.

The entire “DJ” section of CMW

Worth a laugh just for the bios alone:

DJ CRUNCH: “What is it to be a tastemaker?” (great question)

DJ COMBO!: “He has successfully rocked parties in Chicago, L.A, Tokyo, Seoul, Manila & Montreal.” (emphasis mine).

DJ DAVE CAMPBELL: “With the dancefloor as his canvas, the turntables his brush, the records his paint.” (yes?)

DJ ILLO: “Music is Illo’s life – Its almost as if he had no choice.” (pretty sure DJ ILLO had a choice).

DJ PUMP: “In a world so often plagued by mediocrity, it’s depressingly common to have to endure run-of-the-mill DJ’s. Here to save the day, DJ PUMP stands out as being unique in his delivery and exquisite talent. (and yet: still a DJ).

DJ Richard Stanley from Beliefs: wonder if his DJ set will bore me as much as his band?

Dirty Radio (Vancouver, BC)

BIO: “Put DiRTY RADiO beside the Swedish House Mafia one night and The Whitest Boy Alive the next, and you’ll find neither evening to be an out of place coupling.”

Picture yourself at a Dirty Radio show: the lads are opening for Swedish House Mafia (or The Whitest Boy Alive, it doesn’t matter). My guess is that you will catch yourself thinking “I am bad at making good decisions.” Dirty Radio sounds like a combination of TRAIN and Maroon 5, music for people who are editors at Toronto Life magazine.

A few notes before we start today:

slaggingoff@gmail.com had 200 new messages this morning.Holy.

Four types of messages:

1) People wanting to help. And if you cared enough to write offering to help, I’ll just write here to say “yes” but I’m too busy/lazy to write all of you individually to say that. My message to you is: just email me what you want me to post and we will post it.  Just note that we won’t post racist/misogynist/homophobic stuff. Just because we hate what has happened to Canadian music doesn’t mean we don’t care about people.

2) My identity. Actually, there is more than one person posting now, and none of those people know each other. I started as one man, but I let in a few good people. I’m sure my identity will be revealed sooner than later, but I’m not going to hurry that process because its might cause a shitstorm that I don’t really wanna be bothered with. I just trust that when my identity comes out people are smart enough to recognize that I am speaking for myself and not for the institutions and projects I’ve been involved with. Also, as a musician, its going to cause every single musician who I’ve said mean things about to listen to my band and say “oh yeah, well your recordings sound like shit” because that is what I would do in that situation. Or maybe it will cause my band to skyrocket in popularity… for all the wrong reasons. Either way: not interested.

3) Interviews. This little blog has obviously struck a chord, but I’m saying all I need to say here. No need for interviews. I think that your publication/blog/radio station sucks and if you cared enough to write us, you should care enough to fix things. One article about a shitty TUMBLR isn’t enough, you should know that.

When P.R. hacks and ad agencies are the only ones left making a living in the Canadian music sphere, that is something that YOU are directly responsible for. Why not find good music and write about it without everything being spoon-fed to you? 

4) People asking me to honestly evaluate their music, which I will do. This confirms my suspicion that Canadian musicians are desperate for honesty. For example, the sick state of the P.R. machine that is the Canadian music blogosphere, where everything is “good!” all the time. The golden rule of Canadian music writing hasn’t done anyone any good (if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all). Wouldn’t you rather know your music stinks so you can find something you are good at?

NEGATIVE RESPONSES:

1) When we started, we had a few funny responses from bands who we slagged a bit, but overwhelmingly people are saying really nice things. This is disappointing now.

2) Some people have said that the writing here is terrible. It is. Everything here is posted without any editing or thought. Personally, I write about bands happens as I listen to the bandcamp or whatever, and I want to finish the response as fast as possible, because the faster I type, the faster I can stop listening.

Bounty:

1) Canadian music celeb phone numbers. We will post them Buddyhead style.

2) Insider dirt. Did you work at CBC? FACTOR? Exclaim!? MuchMusic? We want to know about it. Obviously you will be kept annon.

3) Gossip. We need to hear it.