Irrational Encounters With The Modern World

Posts tagged “Music

It’s All Fun And Games Until You Realise You’re Being A Dick About Music.

When I was eighteen, I knew everything. I knew that I was smart, I knew that I was funny, and I knew that the music I listened to was the only music worth listening to. I especially subscribed to the mantra “if it’s not metal, it’s not music.”

This elitist belief denied me some of the finest music ever made, and although my taste widened enough to incorporate a vast amount of classic rock and even some indie, as well as the punk I had discovered at the age of 16, I deliberately denied myself the pleasure of anything vaguely termed “dance music.”

It was not always this way, but my earliest album purchases – Iron Maiden’s The Number Of The Beast and The Shamen’s Boss Drum – had seen me pursue the former as my way of (teen) life. I spent entire student loans on Maiden memorabilia, which is still in my possession (and soon up for sale.) I still love the latter album, but for years I stubbornly refused to acknowledge the artistry or musicianship involved in any of the music that got repeat radio airplay. There were songs that came out that I liked – Born Slippy by Underworld; Hey Boy, Hey Girl by The Chemical Brothers; Around The World by Daft Punk – but in an age when music had to be bought to obtain it (or taped off the radio) I didn’t engage with these iconic songs enough to purchase them.


It all changed when I was nineteen, and it all changed because of a girl. I think the age had less to do with it.

It was a chance meeting: I had gone to a gig with a friend to see some band he was into, their name being the only thing I now recall about them. Afterwards, he was refused entry to the club night due to a lack of ID. He went home, and I went in to see a casual friend I’d seen at the gig and recognised from school. She introduced me to the group she was with, and one girl in particular caught my immediate attention. This was in April 2001.

On the back of this turn of events, I found myself with a new social life, going to The Cathouse every Friday night to hear the same music played upstairs that now, in April 2013, they still play downstairs every Saturday night. The girl I liked, she despised Iron Maiden, and her own all-time favourite band was Depeche Mode.

Depeche Mode. “Haha, Depressed Mode!” I said, full of the ineptitude and cockiness that had helped render me entirely single for the duration of my life up to that point. This wordplay combined two of my favourite things – being a play on words and also a pop culture reference (it’s the name of a remix on Type O Negative’s Least Worst Of album) – or three of my favourite things if you include my longstanding habit of making quick-witted remarks at every available opportunity. Well, almost every opportunity – I’ve spent years learning that sometimes it is better to remain silent, for various reasons. Learning to enjoy the silence.

This conversation may have been the moment that changed my life.

I didn’t particularly want to belittle someone for their taste in music, finally maturing a bit as I then was, and I certainly didn’t want to do so ignorantly. Not to a girl I liked, anyway. I decided, perhaps for the first time, to check the band out before dismissing them out of hand. That way, I would have an informed opinion, grounds on which to judge them. If that sounds like a mixture of arrogance and common sense, then that is probably what it was.

It was the time of Napster and AudioGalaxy, of 56k dial-up modems that screeched intolerably as they downloaded one MP3 file every fifteen or twenty minutes. Depeche Mode had just released an album – Exciter – and I picked a track from it at random, probably based on the size of the file or the anticipated download time. I forget which track, although I think it was “Shine”, but down it came and I played it. To my surprise, I liked it. I liked it a lot. I downloaded the entire album, and burned it to CD using then-emerging technology. Given how commonplace downloading has become, the speeds now involved, and the gradual eradication of physical media formats, it is crazy to realise that a mere 12 years ago we still believed our VHS tapes were collectors items, while DVDs were some exotic and expensive novelty.


I enjoyed the “Exciter” album, and I went out and bought, on CD, in shops, the compilation albums “Singles 81>85” and “Singles 86>98”. The latter opened with Stripped, and I knew there was no chance that it could possibly be as good as one of my then-favourite tracks: Charlie Clouser’s remix of the Rammstein cover version. Again, I found myself proved wrong. Stripped, in its original form, is such a beautiful and subversive song. It far surpasses the excellent cover.

My eyes were opened, as was my mind, and I fell in love with DM and their melodic, entrancing music. I loved their experimentation with musical styles and with samples. I loved their music, I loved their lyrics, and I loved how dark and subversive they were. This is how it began. I started buying up their back catalogue on CD, including the occasional maxi-single when it appeared in the local second-hand record stores, and I picked up most of their early video releases in the same way. Again, those VHS tapes were collectors items at the time, yet they are now obsolete and (I suspect) largely worthless. I had been wrong.

I downloaded one of their tracks, so as to have a basis from which to decry them. And then I downloaded the rest of that album. Then I bought their two “best of” albums. Over the years that followed I bought the entirety of their back catalogue, various tribute albums, half a dozen second-hand videos, three or four DVDs, a paperback band biography, five t-shirts, a hooded top, some posters, most of singer Dave Gahan’s solo output, and tickets to see them on four occasions on three tours in two countries.

I think there was a valuable lesson in there, about prejudice, about arrogance, and about not being a dick. It has certainly led me to be a lot more open-minded, and was the first step in the considerable broadening of my musical taste. Not least because I barely listen to Iron Maiden (or even metal) these days, and now own a huge number of albums by The Chemical Brothers, Underworld, and Daft Punk. Underworld are one of my top five favourite live acts too.

As for this girl, who was the unwitting catalyst for this voyage of discovery? We dated for a few months, we stopped, we remained the closest of friends. She was there at the very start of my twenties, and she was still there at the start of my thirties. I trust and respect nobody on this planet more, and have mentioned before how her influence, inspiration, and significance in my life is second to none. This morning, I phoned the ticketline the minute it opened and bought our tickets to see Depeche Mode play live at the end of the year. It will be only their second Glasgow show in about twenty years. We were at the last one too, and I bought the officially-released live CD recorded on the night.


“You don’t have to come with me,” she said when I asked if she wanted me to get tickets, the nature of our friendship having changed although the fierce loyalty remains. “I’m happy to just go alone.”

I cannot imagine seeing them without her beside me. We made a pact shortly after we met in 2001, having just missed the Exciter Tour, that we would definitely travel to see them on the next tour. True to that, we went to Manchester and London in 2006 (when again there was no Scottish show), and saw them in Glasgow in 2009. I have every intention that we will see them together in 2013.

Now I am 31 and I am fully aware that I definitely do not know everything. What I do know, though, is that I was exceptionally fortunate to meet her.



Dubious Claims To Fame – 10

I only found out that I’m a bastard because it is written in the liner notes of the latest Caustic album.

I first heard Caustic on a Das Bunker compilation album some years ago now, which I picked up purely for an exclusive track it featured by my favourite band. That led to me buying “Booze Up And Riot” from Crunchpod –  an underground record label whose entire roster consisted of many bands/albums that I now love – and I picked up “This Is Jizzcore” on pre-order.

I found that Matt Fanale – Caustic – is a prolific blogger and sometime comedian, who posts incredibly insightful and helpful yet entertaining musings on the state of the industrial and wider music scenes; the creation of music and art; ways in which he recommends musicians find and retain fans; the hard work and sacrifice required (he holds down two day jobs and makes music around them). His intelligent and humourous blogs were great reading, even for us lay people, and I respected his DIY approach to making, producing, and releasing his music. He always came across as very down-to-earth and appreciative that he has any fanbase to speak of, and was very open and honest in his opinions, advice, and in fighting his personal demons. I quickly came to admire and respect him, and in truth I initially continued buying his albums more for that reason than for the music he was putting out on them.

Since discovering his band, I have watched Matt publicly cast out his major demon and seen the support his loyal fanbase has afforded him, and have also heard as he has evolved his sound. His next release was funded through Kickstarter, and I happily pledged him some dollars to make his lyrically personal and literally handmade new album. I helped fund the one after that, and the highly-acclaimed most recent one too. Part of the ‘reward package’ included signed CDs, and latterly included mentions in the liner notes too.

That’s what I like about Matt/Caustic – he makes so many levels of “reward” available, and so as well as signed CDs and mentions in the liner notes (the first just my name, the second Matt decided to label me a bastard – and you can probably sense that I don’t see it as an insult), I also have my name mentioned in one of his bonus tracks from the previous album. For this album, as before, he added additional items to each reward level with every thousand-dollars in pledges above his target. Due to overwhelming public support, he kept having to find new bonuses. For $25 (seven dollars of which went on international postage alone), I have a signed CD, two magnets, a patch, a band condom, and a dogtag with chain. That is astounding value for money, and that is before you even consider the fact that this is easily his best album to date, in numerous ways. There have also been exclusive remixes and mp3s, and we got to download and hear the album before the release date.

That claim to fame might be shit, since being mentioned in the liner notes/song was part of the price I paid in pre-ordering the albums. It’s nothing that anyone else couldn’t have achieved, given the same web address, a credit card, and the desire to hear new Caustic music and/or support one of the most respected (if not, by his own admission, respectable) artists in the scene just now. I’m going to add below my own personal claim to fame with Caustic.

When he was scheduled to play at the first Resistanz Festival, Matt dropped me a line on Facebook a few months in advance to ask if I knew anybody that might give him a gig in Glasgow – he wanted to add some additional shows in the UK that week, since he is here so rarely. I put him in touch with my local promoter, who I see and speak to quite often in the club he runs, and within an hour Caustic had been booked to perform their (I believe) only Scottish date. It was kept very secret, as part of the agreement with the festival, and announced that same weekend, just days before the show. I met Matt there, and he later thanked me from the stage for setting up the gig. In truth, I just put one person in touch with another and stepped back, but I’m glad it came together. It was a good gig, and his support band (and Caustic bandmates) The Gothsicles were fun.

That, then, is my Caustic claim to fame – I helped in some very small way to arrange his sole Scottish show to date.

Having seen Matt go from strength to strength, both musically and as he has candidly addressed his personal demons and fought hard to overcome them, it is heartening to see the success he is now finding. When Crunchpod went under, he self-released his next album, before signing to the relatively-huge Metropolis Records. His latest album has received a lot of critical praise, even more than the last one, and yet he remains very grounded and seems genuinely humbled by the loyalty, support, and generosity (not just financial) of his fans and admirers.

If you want to hear some industrial and dance music from one of the most interesting people in the scene just now, give Caustic a listen. He puts out a quite ridiculous amount of free music too – bonus tracks, free EPs, and occasionally even free albums from his back catalogue.

If you want to learn a little (or even a lot) about music, art, how to succeed, engaging with people and keeping their interest, or about battling addiction and winning, then check out his blogs – old and new.

Top: …And You Will Know Me By The Trail Of Vomit (2010)
Bottom Left: The Man Who Couldn’t Stop (2012)
Bottom Right: The Golden Vagina Of Fame And Profit (2011)

Above: My name in both of the last two album sleeves.