Well We Ain’t Back In The Day

There is a line from The Soprano’s that Tony uses to end a long Paulie Walnuts rant about the good old days. He says, “it’s just that ‘remember when’ is the lowest form of conversation.”  We here at Bums Logic might have a lean towards a back-in-the-day mentality–especially when it comes to music–so we understand that some readers might not always want to hear about “how much better it was back then” or “you gotta listen to it on vinyl vs. mp3…and CDs just suck!”

Django Reinhardt

Django didn't need Pro Tools to be fuckin awesome!

Living through the 80s, 90s, and 00s, we have been lucky enough to not only witness but take part in the so-called digital revolution. We have seen a changing of the guard. Yes, we have reached an age where we find ourselves muttering, “remember when…” or what we here a Bums Logic like to refer to as a “get off my lawn” moment.

Just how different are things now for playing in a band? Let’s look at a few changes that have taken place over the past 15-20 years:

Performing

Back In The Day
You started a band with your friends and classmates. You hoped that one of you had either a basement or garage and parents or roommates willing to let you practice in their homes. The band rehearsed as often as they could and tried to learn and write as many songs as possible. If you were lucky, someone had a tape recorder they could put in the middle of the room so you could record yourself a “demo tape.” You played as many local gigs as you could and got as many of your friends and classmates to show up as possible.

Today
You start a band with your Facebook friends or connect to other musicians through Craigslist. You each get an iPad and download an instrument app. Sign in to Skype and have a virtual jam with your drummer in Australia, keyboard player in Japan, bassist in Italy, guitar player in Sweden, and singer from San Francisco. Each musician never has to leave the comforts of their own home (and you can use ear buds!). Record the entire process in audio and video (easily done with your laptops and/or smartphones). You write as many clever songs as you can this way and have your friends follow you with their iCameras and film you performing in various public locations in your locale. You become a huge YouTube sensation and become the first band to ever appear on Letterman via Skype.

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Process? We Talkin’ ‘Bout Process?

Over the last several years, as technology moves at hyperwarped speeds that we haven’t yet invented fancy enough new words to describe, there’s been a backlash of purists and throwbacks who prefer things how they used to be. That could be true of film, art, sports, journalism, lots of things. But it’s particularly interesting in how it pertains to music.

This is not what's inside a laptop.

I’m mostly talking about process. It’s not just the access, the fact that anyone can record their own “album” in their basement with a laptop (and seems like everyone has), but also how the technology at the high end affects the professional artists we know and love and the ones we’ll actually discover tomorrow. Somehow the process has become a bigger part of the back story for a particular album or group. “They uploaded their demos, went viral, and now they’re selling millions!” It’s the updated take on discovering the Next Dylan on a barstool at an open mic somewhere.

Nowadays, musicians are reclaiming some sort of authenticity in what seems a reaction to this technological explosion. One of the poster boys for this movement has been Jack White, using vintage gear, cherishing vinyl and launching a real full-service label, not to mention that scene where he strings together a homemade guitar in a cow field in the film It Might Get Loud (contrasted by tech wiz The Edge and all his pedals and effects). But these analog guys who take a similar approach to Jack White’s (with less memorable results) are too numerous to list. The point is, we tend to gravitate toward authenticity, and it’s also natural to yearn for “the old days” (again, no matter the genre or medium).

It’s also easy to tear down and rip on anything that could be painted as “synthetic” or simply created (faked?) through the use of computers. It stinks of money and, possibly, inauthenticity! But really, I don’t care how many laptops and how much fancy software you have, you can’t fake not having songs that suck. The songs don’t lie. Sure, they can trick you and maybe you might think they’re better looking in a certain light late at night, but the next morning always comes. The same holds true for Mr. Vintage Authentic who only records to tape and refuses modern technology. That’s fine, but he too still needs good songs.

So assuming we’re only talking about our own personal vision of “good songs” and quality artists, we’re back to process. Does it matter to you when you hear someone “recorded his new album on a 4-track in a remote cabin in the woods” vs. “layed down tracks in various professional studios in L.A. and NYC”? The end result is all that should really matter, but subconsciously I think we all assign certain imagery and associations with the process. “Oh I heard he got sober and found god and had his yoga instructor in the studio with him” or “They locked themselves in the basement and rocked out live and recorded it all in one or two takes.”

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