A few of your questions answered...

Last updated 09:43 31/07/2012

Last week I gave you all the chance to question me - meaning that you could directly ask me a question or two relating to music, writing, music-writing, why I do it, who I think I am, what I like and why I like what I like - that sort of thing. I did this last year and the answers took up a few posts. So it'll probably be the same story this year - though it does at least feel like many of the questions are different; I'll do my best with the answers. So let's get started - and see how far we get today.

Q&AFirst up Gavin B. wants to know how much I was paid for my appearance in Autozamm's video for The Review.

I wrote about the video/song here. I am not very good at judging humour, as people will know from reading my reviews of stand-up comedians. Particularly the apparently hilarious Kiwi ones - so I'm just going to have to assume that Gavin B. was trying to be funny here. And either succeeding brilliantly. Or failing.

David snapped me by saying that I pointed out last year that I hadn't written about Devo - and here I am pointing that out again. "When," he asks, "are you going to write about Devo?"

It's a very fair question, given the circumstances. My reference to not writing about Devo two years in a row is due to the fact that I often ask people for blog-topic suggestions on the Blog on the Tracks Facebook page. And regularly I'm asked to write about Devo. And I have, to date, not ever done this. The thing is - I was very lucky to see Devo live. Several times, in fact. It was over the summer of 2010-11, right here in the city where I live; Wellington. Every second weekend across a 12-week stretch Devo would appear at Mighty Mighty in Cuba St. Of course, arty pranksters that they are, they changed their name every time, never appearing as Devo. And never quite looking like Devo. But it was Devo all right. The sound gave it away. Very special. Far too special to write about, naturally.

Otis Lift suggests that I can't possibly have met or know personally all the bands I review and then wonders how I justify to myself "the obnoxious and vitriolic comments" that are in some of my reviews. Otis would like to know if I do this to purely try to retain readership. "Or," Otis asks, "is it that are you just merely a wanker?"

Yes Otis, that'll be it. Of course you can't possibly have met or know personally all the bloggers whose blogs you comment on...Otis is right, though, in suggesting I can't possibly have met all of the bands I review. It would seem to me to be a disadvantage in reviewing music if you do know - or have met - the musician involved with the gig or album. And if you read most music criticism in New Zealand you will see this is the case. Friends patting friends on the back, breakfast hosts of radio stations sucking up to people because they've been a guest on the show and are now Facebook friends, or worse, because they would dearly love them to be a guest on the show and then be Facebook friends!

I have never thought to justify the obnoxious and vitriolic comments I make because I don't really see them as obnoxious or vitriolic. And if I did want to see them justified I could argue that seeing them in print, or here posted online, is the justification. They exist. You are the person who gets to attribute levels of vitriol to them in the judgment that you make in reading/viewing the comment/s. And then fire it right back in the comments you make. So how do you justify that?

Gaz would like to know when Off The Tracks is coming back.

He is referring to my site where I started The Vinyl Countdown series - working through my own record collection, posting a few thoughts on an album as I flipped past it in the rack and/or when it made it on to the platter. The site was hacked and the content was made unavailable. There haven't been any new posts since May. The news on this is that Off the Tracks is making a comeback - the Countdown will continue. And there'll be other content besides The Vinyl Countdown. I'll make an announcement about this soon here at Blog on the Tracks. It was heartening to know that some people enjoyed my random/silly Vinyl Countdown posts. And I am looking forward to continuing counting down.

Oscar rocking the hornsShane would like to know if, since the birth of Oscar (my son), I have had to modify what I listen to and when I listen to music.

It's a good question - and one that other parents might have more of an answer to. The short answer is no. Not yet. We're really interested in introducing Oscar to music and he loves the chance for a dance. His arms flap, he kicks his ankles together. And we play anything and everything (last night a bit of Louis Jordan went down very well). He has his own music that goes on when he sleeps - more to get him used to noise in the house than anything. So a range of jazz and classical, some pop and rock, a few "world" music compilations. (Autozamm for when he really needs to go to sleep). But when he's up and there's music on it's usually whatever I feel like listening to - including albums I have to review or records I'm listening to that might assist (or trigger) a blog-post for here at Blog on tthe Tracks.

When we start watching our language at home - which I figure should probably be any day now - then I'll probably start thinking about certain albums that shouldn't be played in the house around Oscar. But even then, it won't matter so much for a while. I figure. We make time to play music for Oscar to be part of - so bathtime was always a chance to put on a record. And morning bottles are when I sit and play something on the stereo holding the wee bundle of joy and getting very close to misty-eyed on occasion. That new Paul Buchanan album for example...

UK Music Fan doesn't think that I have ever mentioned The Lightning Seeds and he/she would be right. The questions from UK Music Fan relating to The Lightning Seeds are: why I ignore such an influential band, if I am in denial about latent Lightning Seeds fandom and do I agree with the UK Music Fan that Life of Riley is the spiritual descendent and logical extension of Strawberry Fields Forever.

First of all, welcome back UK Music Fan. You have been missed here. And I think many people would agree with me about that. (And that's not something I get to say very often.) Anyway, I said first of all...and I really didn't mean that. I can't answer your questions because I really (genuinely/sincerely) have no opinion on The Lightning Seeds. Would it be fair to call them Landfill Britpop? And does it matter if that's fair? There you go UK Music Fan - a couple of questions for you...

Channel Kubrick wonders what I would choose for Quentin Tarantino if I was tapped to be his "Musical Adviser" for a new genre picture. He asks what retro 60s/70s/80s songs or albums I would pick and why.

A great question - and one that I hope some other readers will want to play along with and have a go at answering too. I wrote a bit about Tarantino's movie soundtracks last year. And I've collected up all of the soundtracks to his films - even if I don't like the film all that much (or at all - as has been the case). But to pick three pieces for this hypothetical role and his hypothetical film, that's tricky. First up I'm going to say something from Gabor Szabo's 1966 album, Jazz Raga. Because I've recently picked up a reissued copy of this on vinyl and it's an album I really like. I'm sure Tarantino would have his way with Gabor's cover of Paint It Black but I would recommend Sophisticated Wheels. Maybe Tarantino could be the person to help in making Paul McCartney's solo/Wings work cool. I could imagine Tarantino doing something good with Let 'Em In. But what we really want is for Quentin to create another great monologue for Samuel L. Jackson - right? And when (if) he does he should have this gem from Pastor TL Barrett and the Youth for Christ Choir playing underneath, or pre-empting the speech/setting up the scene. And in that vein I would also recommend The Har-You Percussion Group. Hard to limit it to just that small handful of choices - I mean who hasn't figured that it would be a dream job selecting music for a Tarantino film?

Mark wants to know when I am going to mention that the greatest album of all time, Appetite for Destruction, just celebrated its 25th anniversary.

Just then, Mark. In fact it's you mentioning it really. I'm not at all sure that this is the greatest album of all time - but it would be in my top 10 albums that have meant something to me (and for me) in my lifetime. And I know that I've written about it in that context here already. So that's probably the reason I haven't felt the need to mention its 25h anniversary. But it's such a right time/right place album - and one I listen to still. Often. I have it on my iPod. I have it on my phone. I have a CD copy that lives - permanently - in the car. And I have a copy with the original (banned) artwork on vinyl.

I'm asked by El Jorge who I think performs Moby Dick better, John Bonham or Jason Bonham.

It would be churlish to suggest that Jason Bonham is not a good drummer - but he's playing with one huge shadow hanging over him. And I don't hear the personality in his playing that was all over and around everything his father did. To me there's no contest - because Moby Dick isn't even the best example of John Bonham's playing. But still, when you hear his version you hear that wonderful feel of his; that compositional approach he had to playing the drums. There's a huge sound, and a huge belief in what he was doing while he was doing it. Huge risks too. Such a feeling of spontaneity and surge. Just a great player.

Chris Philpott - hey, I know that name! - offers a hypothetical: I'm signed up as the producer for a talent contest/reality TV show called Idol's Got Voice Factor Australia; he wants to know what I would do to fix the show and turn it into something that I would watch.

I have never lasted very long with watching any of the singing/Idol shows on TV. I think this is because singers tend to come from an am-dram/speech-and-drama background that makes them almost instantly grating. And the worst thing you can do for a singer is let them know they are in front of a camera. The best thing you can do for a singer is make them help you pack up all the gear at the end of the night and set up the PA early in the afternoon. Singers generally think they are the most important aspect of a band - more important even than the song - and this is mostly incorrect. We see this when singers from established bands move on to solo careers and their material is not good. Nor is it even interesting. Yes, yes, there are exceptions - but broadly speaking...

Even people who are good singers - and in fact great singers - are often not the most important part of the band, though the truly great singers know this.

So it is hard for me to answer this question - but I think an entertaining music-based talent show would feature lead singers working with the band (a real band) - convincing the group why a particular arrangement works, discussing options for delivery and being forced to perform the same song in more than one style. Okay, so we've established that I would not make very good television.

His Lordship asks what I think about Jethro Tull.

I go from thinking Jethro Tull were a brilliant band to thinking they're utterly ludicrous. And I'm very happy with that. That's a good fluctuation, I think. Unless of course you actually meant this chap. In which case I have no opinion on the matter whatsoever.

Jen wonders how I deal with readers who clearly do not realise that reviews and my blog are simply my opinion - something that everyone is entitled to (and yes, I like to think that means that everyone is entitled to my opinion). She also wants to know if there will be a Led Zeppelin blog.

I am almost constantly baffled by the rage and passion that people offer when it comes to reviews and blogs - and then, yes, it's rather frustrating when people can't tell the difference between the two. You almost always find that the angry letter-writer ends up proving him- or herself wrong - or arguing against their own (attempted) point in some way and often it's the same with people commenting on blogs. At the very least they make themselves look stupid. This blog is interesting for me because there are some remarkably intelligent and insightful comments from very smart people. And then there are some idiotic comments from, well, idiots. That's probably how it is with all blogs. But it is always interesting to me. People seem almost proud of their ignorance.

I did write about Led Zeppelin a long time ago - in terms of a dedicated blog-post. I've been thinking of revisiting that soon. So, watch this space.

Kirsty asks what my favourite pro-wrestler entrance theme is.

Hard to go past the vintage Jake "The Snake" Roberts theme for a bit of a John Carpenter-type mood - in more recent times I can't say I've cared for any of the entrance themes. I was once a big fan of pro-wrestling. I was young. Then, close to a decade ago I became very nostalgic for it, keenly fascinated by its pull - the storylines, the manipulation of the audience (so those themes, as it were). I never quite worked out whether I was trading entirely on my own early interest (and therefore the nostalgia; a reconnection with a specific part of my own past) or if I was actually a fan of the product in this day and age. I kept with it until very recently.

I did some writing about pro-wrestling. And I'm proud of my interviews with Ric Flair and also with Bret "The Hitman" Hart. As a writer, you look for ways to tell your story through the stories of others - in part. But I moved on from the writing-about-wrestling and then I moved on from watching wrestling altogether. It wasn't that I got sick of justifying it to people who felt it was easy to mock a grown man watching wrestling. I just don't think there's enough time in my life for it now.

I also used to love that classic Hulk Hogan theme.

Don't Question MeWe might end it there for today. That's a long workout for me and you both. Thanks for the questions - and I hope you feel satiated with those answers. Or if not please complain bitterly below.

I will answer more of the questions in a future blog-post or two (or three) but will space them out every couple of days - so as to give you a break if you're not interested at all. There will be a new topic tomorrow. If you have a suggestion for what tomorrow's blog-post should be about you can leave that in the comments below.

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19 comments
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m.s.p   #1   10:13 am Jul 31 2012

Enjoyed that, especially the Devo bit. Very true. And lovely picture of Oscar!

Mark   #2   10:22 am Jul 31 2012

Thank you (or is that me?) I too have AFD on several different formats including the vinyl with banned cover (original issue and re-issue). Wish they would do a 25th anniversary remastered re-issue with some b-sides

Cafe Chick   #3   10:43 am Jul 31 2012

"The best thing you can do for a singer is make them help you pack up all the gear at the end of the night and set up the PA early in the afternoon." Simon, I'd say this is the best line you have ever written! Ever tried to teach a singer how to wind a lead? Or repeat the experience? I'll never forget one of our (disposable) singers announcing years ago that she deserved a pay rise, as equally splitting money between the band wasn't fair. After all, she "had to be the star" and that wasn't easy. I'm guessing she saw the tasks involved in "being the star" as arriving late, leaving early, never setting up/packing down, not harmonising and getting paid more than the rest of us. Needless to say, that was her last job with us and we all ended up with a pay rise next gig - splitting her share between us while I took over singing and with none of us feeling the need to "be the star". Now, how do you teach that to someone auditioning for an Idol show?

Myk   #4   01:09 pm Jul 31 2012

Some great responses there Simon - and very true about the singers! I'd like to put forward an idea, though.

One that might be an interesting exercise - for each regular reader/contributor (you know who you are, guys/gals) to suggest one, and only one, song for the hypothetical "Bub on the tracks" compilation - music from BOTT readers/appreciators for your/their/our kids. Would be an interesting compilation, I think, and would certainly provide a broad range of musical flavours.

Keep it seemly, folks - music you really would see as appropriate for kids of all ages to be exposed to ('Killing in the Name' of is probably not a good idea). I'll open the bidding with Cream's "Mother's Lament".

His Lordship   #5   01:35 pm Jul 31 2012

Tull were a great band (back when) and are ludicrous (now). This is, sadly, true.

But boy, that guitar work in Minstrel in the Gallery!

Jacob   #6   01:41 pm Jul 31 2012

The only “talent” show I paid much attention to was the “Find INXS A Singer” one (and the 2nd season a little, just to laugh at them). The point where I realized they we complete idiots was when after a reasonable cover of Jimi’s “Fire” the criticism of the contestant (the one who was runner up I believe) was that he “fitted into the band too well”, and that they were looking for a “front man”. What the hell? Surely you want a singer to fit with the bad first, and find ways to project their personality second right? Otherwise you just have… well… whatever the brief abomination was that came out of that show.

I guess they got what they were looking for. Quick cash?

Sans   #7   01:48 pm Jul 31 2012

# Cafe Chick BRILLIANT !!! You should write your own blog.

breen   #8   02:18 pm Jul 31 2012

"I have never thought to justify the obnoxious and vitriolic comments I make because I don't really see them as obnoxious or vitriolic."

And therein lies the problem, Mr Sweetman. Your ego prevents you from looking at anything from an objective viewpoint.

Darryl   #9   03:28 pm Jul 31 2012

Nice one Simon. @Cafe Chick, there are exceptions. I was in a band with a lovely gal, while not into doing much of the really heavy lifting, she would carry guitar and drum cases set up mike and drum stands and could French coil cables as well.

@Myk: I'll see you Mother's Lament and raise you Hendrix's "Little Wing".

anmar   #10   04:27 pm Jul 31 2012

"But what we really want is for Quentin to create another great monologue for Samuel L. Jackson - right?"

Expecting him to create it may be a bit much... http://www.cracked.com/article_19826_6-iconic-scenes-ripped-off-from-lesser-known-movies.html


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