Tuesday, November 9, 2021

A bit on socials

A few weeks ago, my football team played a game that was so unbelievably bad, that I immediately swore off football for the foreseeable. I sat down and muttered "right, I'm done" and logged into twitter. I unfollowed the team, the players I was following, the accounts that I liked who talked football, everything. I'd had it. After that, the team had another game the following Friday. I was on holiday at the time (in Scotland - very nice it was too), and thought to myself that if I log in and see this game unfold, on literally the first day of this 3 day break, I'll be bloody miserable. It'll make me angry, sad, and it'll fuck up my holiday. So, with all my might, I stayed off twitter. After the match, and then the holiday, I just kept it up - I didn't want to know the score, or how badly the game went, even when I was back home. Once I'd done a day or so of staying off it, it was easy to just keep off it. So I did.

I'd logged off and not come back in for like 2 weeks - only occasionally popping in for some band related admin to do, but not sticking around. I didn't post, didn't look at the trending topics, nothing. And it felt good. Really, really good. I mean, I'm not naive - I know part of my job as a musician now (sadly) revolves around cesspits like twitter, and trying to get the best out of it, but for that brief period, it just felt nice. No screencaps of the Jeremy Vine show talking about whatever he and his cabal of gammon faced lunatics whinge on about day to day, no Daily Mail headlines, no snarky bullshit from dead-behind-the-eyes irony accounts, no nothing. I missed so many culture war flashpoints that when I logged back in, I couldn't believe people were seriously mad at fucking Big Bird, or a bridge, or whatever it was that had people frothing at the mouth. What a load of bollocks.

But, then, sadly, came the realisation: the music 'biz', no matter how small my little part of it is, still requires me to be there. It's just a fact of life now. I'm old enough to remember life in the biz before twitter, before facebook, spotify, etc. It wasn't much better tbh, but at least didn't require you to strap yourself to a seething, toxic messageboard 24/7. I guess that's the pay-off for having things a little easier these days.

Yet for all the talk of 'democratizing the industry' - yes, it's easy to just release on Bandcamp yourself - the cogs of the biz still prefer everything the old fashioned way - release schedules, booking agents, crunching numbers, etc. etc. plus ca change.

If you want to aim a bit higher than self-releasing CD-rs, or spending ungodly amounts on vinyl pressing from your own back pocket and then trying to shift copies any way you can, then you have to play the game a little - followers, plays, clicks, buzz - it's all still looked at, and you're still judged by it. Now all the blogs have died off, trying to get any kind of press attention for anything is akin to a Battle Royale style fight to the death - you've no chance of getting the serious heavy hitters like Pitchfork (which makes it even more strange that satan did indeed get a p4k review in 2009), so you have to scrabble for anything - and does it matter? Sort of, maybe, I don't know? I suppose you have to try something.

I remember an old manager of a band I was in once who said that a booking agent wouldn't look at us unless we had 10k fans on Facebook. I knew it was bollocks, even then, but I realised that's what you're dealing with - these people are obsessed with this stuff. It's not enough that you make the music, and you tour it, and do everything else, we've now also got to come up with a way of getting TEN THOUSAND people to sign up to our stupid FB page.

Socials aren't neccesarily bad, it's just our way of using them has devolved into such a mess that I don't know how anyone does it for a living. I'm not exactly a massive name, but I have my little corner of the biz and I'm happy to have it. I understand people will want to interact, and they understand I'll have to spam new records, new tours, etc. and that's fine. But sometimes you just have to cut this stuff out of your life and do something, literally anything, else.

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

EP02 CD

Not to sound too much like a myspace blog or a livejournal entry from 2004, but a strange thing happened to me today... I went for a quick look at the CDs in my local charity shop, and came across this:


A still sealed, perfectly pristine copy of 2007's EP02

Which is weird, as I've not seen a copy of this for a long, long, loooong time, let alone one in such good condition! Anyway, I bought it (obviously) and I'll add it to the merch desk for next year's tour.

It's all very odd. 

Those CDs were great btw - 3 panel digifile, artwork on both sides by Cam Steward, and a professionally duplicated CD to boot. Doesn't sound like much in 2021, but back in 2007 it was a pretty cool thing to have, especially for a band that didn't have anything like a label or a manager, etc. 

It was our first foray into pressing something up properly, as EP1 was just a digital download (although I did press up handmade CDr versions of it to give away at gigs), but I think it came out looking really pretty nice. Back in those days, there wasn't a Bandcamp, or Soundcloud or Spotify, so physical pressings were what you did a lot of - I think we got a few hundred of these IIRC, which looking back was probably too many, but you could barely get on the few digital stores there were at the time, so a lot of people just gave away their mp3s via netlabels or p2p sharing sites, and sold CDs at gigs, or by having a Paypal donate button with the price listed next to it haha!

Anyway, if I discover any more old back catalogue CDs in local charity shops, I'll add them to the merch desk too ;)

Thursday, October 28, 2021

A quick war story 1

Seeing a friend of mine posting on social media yesterday about being dumped off a line-up without being told reminded me of a war story of my own. I thought I might start a little series of these, as 1) they're quite funny, and 2) burst the bubble that being in a band must be 100% fun all the time. Yeah, it's shit sometimes. Anyway, as there's a bit of downtime in satan land at the moment, here's one for you:

This was back in 2016, and the band was doing quite a bit to celebrate a new album: Blank Tape. That album had it's own war stories, lemme tell you, but that's probably for another day. Anyway, so we were asked by a very reputable London promoter to play a show supporting a fairly well known, and very critically acclaimed artist, at a pretty big venue. Of course, we were delighted and said yes. And then... nothing. Not a peep. Time (months) went by, and I thought I might as well check the listings and see if I can grab the poster to put online. But still there was nothing - just the main act listed. To see what was going on, I emailed the promoter.

"Oh yeah, sorry, just heard from [artist]'s management that they want [up-and-coming DJ/ producer] to support instead. Hope we can work something out for the future"

Yeah, cheers for that mate. I mean, if it wasn't for me being impatient and annoying, we'd probably be there on gig day, equipment in hand, being told to fuck off. Promoters: please tell bands who've been bumped by management off bills that they've been bumped by management off bills. FFS.

I heard from the promoter a few months later, asking if satan could support someone I'd never heard of for barely any money at 10 days notice. I politely declined.

Actually, this happened before - a gig in Liverpool if I remember rightly. Big band suddenly brings support act at the last minute, and I get bumped to just 'DJ' instead of 'live' on the posters. This meant I just took my laptop and played tunes in between bands. Not the worst thing in the world, but I do distinctly remember the main guy in the headline act walking up to me, half pissed, asking if he could DJ instead. You should've seen the look on my face: I was taking zero shit that night, let me tell you. I mean, he went onto work with Katy Perry, and I'm sat at a desk writing this, but whatever.

Friday, September 17, 2021

how do you go on tour?

Thought I'd share a bit of the process behind the scenes, as I'm currently booking a tour at the moment, and thought it might be of interest to some of you, especially those of you in bands. Personally speaking, I tend to hire venues and promote each show on a tour myself - not ideal, as it's a lot of work, but smaller, DIY promoters aren't always available or musically fitted, so I tend to just avoid that altogether and go it alone where I can.

OK, so first off, you have to have an idea about the general level of the band. For me, this means I can't really approach any venue over 100 capacity, as the demand for tickets past that point just won't be there, which means I'll lose money, the venue won't be very pleased with me (and that will effect any future events I try and organise with them), and I'll end up playing to a half empty venue. Which sucks. So I lean on my knowledge of playing small venues for 15+ years now and pick the ones I think I can probably afford to hire without having a shit time. This is a lot of trial and error, sadly.

Once you've located one of these venues in cities you think you'll have a good time in (trial and error again) you have to pick a week or so in a month where you think you can maximise the availability of your fans. Bank holidays, easter, summer, and general large swathes of the year for no apparent reason, are still sort of no-go's. Satan did a few dates a little too close to Halloween a few years back, and they were dire. About 6 months down the line, we did the same venues just not around any kind of holiday, and they were packed. Lesson learned.

Always at the back of your mind, you'll be thinking 'why do I have to do this? Can't someone else do all this for me?' and the answer, sadly, is no. Without a booking agent (that's a whole other thing), you'll have to work independently. Smaller promoters do exist, and it's always worth saying hello to as many as you can in your particular genre, as they're worth their weight in gold at the moment. The bigger promoters in your city of choice will pretty much only work with bands and artists on rosters of booking agents.

Back in the early days of satan, we'd have a huge database of these DIY guys, and we'd tap them up whenever we wanted to hit the road, to add to gigs we could easily just do ourselves at little sweatbox venues. It's a whole different world these days of course, and my list of familiar faces in the biz gets smaller every year, but it's still worth keeping them close if you can.

Once you've sorted all that out, and paid to hire venues, you need to think about what your night is going to look like. You'll need some posters for example, just so the venue can stick em up and remind everyone you're coming to town soon. Online stuff is great, don't get me wrong, but there's also a lot to be said for just putting a fucking poster up. So you'll need someone to design a poster if you don't want to do it yourself. Plus, you'll need a support act (or two?), so you'll need to think about who's making your type of music in the area, who's good, and who actually plays live. Sounds obvious, but trust me - you'll soon build a community as people who tick all those boxes tend to be few and far between. Anyway, you'll need to rope them in as soon as you can, so you can start to build the night. Make sure to pay em as well, as there's nothing (and I mean *nothing*) worse than doing free shows for people you don't know.

Also, here's one for you - does the venue you like have a soundsystem? Sounds silly, but the amount of times I've turned up and there either isn't one, or it's falling to pieces or has integral bits missing (here's looking at you, sub woofer that's almost always never there), it doesn't bear thinking about. So that's another thing on your tick list: who rents out a PA? and does that come with a sound tech to help out on the night? Otherwise it'll be you pushing up faders and assembling monitor cables. Which is not ideal, trust me. For those nights satan used to do in a church in Leeds way back when, we'd have to hire a PA, sound guy, and the venue all seperately. Not fun.

Then there's all the other irritating stuff: who's going to be sat on the door all night? Have you got a float for the door entry money? Who's sat on the merch desk? Who does the sound tech need to speak to? Chances are it'll be you to all of those. Trust me, I know how that goes from very personal experience. If you're not comfortable doing any of it though, it's more favours you have to call in, or money you have to pay to people.

So there you go, once you've got all that sorted, you only need to worry about rehearsal, transport, budgets, parking, merch, promotion... the list is always growing. Oh, and obviously you have to do this for each show on the tour. For satan, that meant doing all this madness roughly 5 nights on the bounce every time we decided to tour. And it looks like I'll have to do it all again this time round too.

In short, it's a lot of work. But work that's also really rewarding if all goes to plan. Nothing ever does, 100% anyway, so there are a lot of bumps in the road. For every gig you do for no money in Oxford (6+ hour round trip on a school night), there'll be one at the Scala supporting Apparat. Just remember to keep the faith.



Friday, September 3, 2021

Circles II

Today sees the second instalment of Circles available for pre-order via the lovely people at Shimmering Moods.

The first one, rather obviously called Circles I, came out back in May (remember spring?!) and now the second round, Circles II, is up and out there. It was good fun doing something a bit different, so big thanks to Paul at the label for indulging me in this slightly wacky idea - and thank you for listening to it as well!

The record is similar in sound and atmosphere to the first one (they were both recorded at the same time), but I think this one is slightly more electronic? Although, thinking about it, there's plenty of guitar on it anyway. The last track is all guitar - even the rhythm - that's just me hitting the pickup with a plectrum and the sound being reversed via a pedal. 

ANYWAY, here's the pre-order:


You can also pick up a limited edition cassette of both Circles on one tape! That's highly recommended.

Also, I roped in my old friend Gregory Hoepffner to come up with a video for a section of the record called Tunnels: 


It's pretty crazy, right? When I sent him the track, he said he got all these visions of optical illusions and wanted to incorporate them somehow, and as the track was so short, it meant he didn't have to do a more narrative focused video, and he could really experiment. Perfect! We even hatched a plan to have the illusions get increasingly more intense over the course of the video, and even to have some fake ones in there to really mess with your head. See if you can spot any...

Anyway, go and buy the CD & tape, and watch the fuck out of that video. Seriously, it's ace.


Thursday, August 19, 2021

worriedaboutsatan FC shirt 2021-22

Yes, it's that time of year again when I slightly lose my mind and get it into my head that spending ridiculous amounts of money pressing up 1 (one) solitary football shirt, and filming a really over the top parody kit reveal video, is a worthwhile use of my time. Well, it's nice to take a break from music sometimes isn't it?

Anyway, this year (season?) I've opted for an away shirt, which looks really rather nice doesn't it? Took fucking ages to get it sorted as well, as there were all manner of holdups with getting it made up. Here's the silly reveal video, as shot by my lovely girlfriend Sophie, on a football pitch in Saltaire, just down the road from me:


And I suppose whilst we're talking these ridiculous things, here's last year's inagural video:



and the first shirt I made up, all the way back when (I didn't do a video for this one, sadly)



Monday, August 16, 2021

Deep Breakfast mix

Been a while since I did a mix, so thought I'd try something a bit different. 

When Francesco from the brilliant Deep Breakfast series asked me to do a mix, I couldn't stop thinking about the phrase deep breakfast. I love a nice relaxing breakfast time, and although it sounds odd me saying it now, it properly sets you up for the day doesn't it? So I thought instead of doing the sort-of regular mix thing of putting some ambient things together, I'd try and soundtrack a really nice breakfast time.

I thought of those really nice hotel breakfast buffet things you get when you're on holiday - sun out, French doors open onto the balcony, massive bowl of cereal in one hand and a tiny European coffee in the other. I sort of went on holiday in my mind and wanted to put something together that would be ideal to play over the stereo as you sat down with your alpen and croissants.

So out went all the very good, but quite dark or melancholy stuff, and in came all the laid back, groovy bangers. See what you think anyway: