Talking Bollocks – DIY Music

One of the things that I tend to bang on about in reviews is my soft spot for DIY artists. Something about music that has been entirely recording in-house, self-mixed, self-mastered, self-released and promoted… I can’t help but see it in a more positive light.

Take, for instance, my review of Cold Summer’s Fight To Survive; I’m not a huge fan of their style of music, as I’m not a fan of their commercial edge, however, hearing it as a DIY band made me think about what they have achieved on their own and was wholly impressed.

Now why do I feel this way about it? It could be a number of things. For one, I was brought up with a record collection filled with Indie artists (proper eighties indie bands) and the slightly more experimental and unique albums (I’m looking at Sonic Youth and Spacemen 3.) My first ever favourite album was Pavement’s Slanted & Enchanted; a release snubbed for the more popular on the scene Smashing Pumpkins. Billy Corgan once said about this exact point that nobody wakes up with a Pavement song in their head. WELL I HAVE!

Rant over, I have to fast forward to college, where alongside the more “boring” subjects (half of which I didn’t end up attending and/or had to retake in a third year) I took up music technology (where all of my friends enrolled in the music course, I didn’t see where a qualification in music would benefit me as opposed to actually learning to do something hireable.) Admittedly I spent half of my time watching Beavis & Butthead on my laptop, but I actually enjoyed working my ass off and learning how to properly record things on real equipment and software. I had dreamt of making music for the majority of my life, and this was the step towards achieving a dream.

I was in half of a band at the time. My best friend formed it with me at school while we were serving community service in the library (the way the best bands start out?) but we never managed to find other members, but it was still a thing for a few years. The best we managed was to pull a few other people in to cover a couple of System of a Down songs, and I recorded us covering Aerials for my coursework (also my first time self recording).

Half way through college the band died a death, and after I completed music tech, I took to the home studio (consisting of a laptop and a bass amp) to start recording my ideas. I managed to create an EP with just a bass (using amp simulators in Cubase to make them sound almost like a guitar), then bought a cheap, beat up Gibson remake guitar and fudged an album with that while I taught myself how to play it along the way.

Following a few minor breakdowns I started a new band, still on my own, but actually had some form of idea as to what I was doing and how to make my “setup” work. Then over the course of a few years I built up to using a good desktop computer with a high end sound card (no mixing board but who needs that…), a pedal board for real overdrive and effects (still just using a bass amp) and microphone recordings on top of the DI (microphones are built in to my Surface Pro 4 but same thing.) Point being, over time, trial and error, I have travelled a journey of DIY music. I haven’t put a penny into what I do, I just make music and throw it out there. And that works for me.

And that’s the beauty of DIY music. It’s something that musicians can do out of passion and at their own will. You can work a day job and keep music as an enjoyable hobby. Sure, some artists deserve a lot more attention than they get and the reach will be nothing like a properly pursued music career, but in this day and age, the risk is too high, and I for one chose job security over slaving away and losing control and enjoyment over my favourite thing in life.

On top of it all, I know what it is like trying to get your music out there as a nobody. I am overly familiar with the one response to every fifty e-mails. And this site isn’t any different to that, I am still on the same level as a reviewer as I am a musician, so I want my attention to go to the people like me, those who are doing things on their own without any major footing. I have only ever had one site consistently share my work on request (The Sirens Sound – check it out) so want to be there for those with the same experience and opt for the smaller bands over the bigger, company backed requests.

…I’ve forgotten what my main point was supposed to be.

Jake Hancke – 14/04/2017

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