Many, many years ago, I wrote articles and reviews for TK’s old webzine, MetalNorth. So, when TK recently asked me to once again write for him, this time for Deathdomain.com, I thought to myself: “I haven’t written in years and I am certainly not as active within the scene as I was back then. What could I possibly contribute with?”
Then it hit me: I once was, indeed, active within the scene, releasing albums, touring and such with my bands. After I quit all that, I have been working with live music, off stage, behind the mixing console, booking bands and occasionally even on stage, performing. So, in a way, I have even more insight in the workings of the metal scene nowadays, from an even broader spectrum. The only thing I don’t have more of is time, which means that my contributions will be scarce. Still, I will give this a shot, so let’s go…
One of the articles I wrote a million years ago was entitled “The curse of the underground” and delved into the problematics of the underground metal scene, mainly the black metal scene. I won’t go into details about it, but the conclusion of the article was that too much crap was being released, mainly due to the advancement of technology and the availability of cheap recording equipment. All this was (and still is) true.
Creativity comes in many forms, but for me it’s forged into music. When I was a kid, starting a band, I used to sit at home and play the guitar between rehearsals. Now, back then, there was no Internet. Pre-YouTube, or PYT, if you will. All I had to go on was the music in my stereo and the tab-books my mom bought me for Christmas and birthdays. For me, and for many of you out there, this was a time of trial and error, a time when you actually had to listen and try to figure out how to make a sweep, where the scales was positioned and so on. There are many great guitarists that began this way, figuring out stuff by themselves. I, on the other hand, did not have the patience for it, so I gave up on the idea of becoming a lead guitarist. Instead, I focused on rhythm, vocals and songwriting, which I am actually kind of glad I did. Why? Because it nourished my creativity and made me a better musician. Or so I’d like to believe.
Today, we have this wonderful thing called the Internet and on it, you can find everything. I mean, EVERYTHING. The kids of today can learn advanced guitar techniques on YouTube, get scales, modes and tabs on PDF-files. The apps on their smart phones contain all the guitar chords in the world and all variations of them. Which means, the kids of today are far better instrumentalists than I am, even though they’ve been playing perhaps a quarter of the time I have. The skills of some of the kids I’ve seen onstage at work are ridiculous. Some times, I almost get pissed off at some 16-year old guitarist for playing stuff I can’t even dream of playing. Then I realize something: this sucks!
What sucks? The kid? The fact that I can’t play as well as the kid?
No, the music! The music sucks! The songs suck, the riffs, the arrangements… it all sucks!
So I began to quietly explore these new kids, playing metal; death core, djent, tech death, all the new stuff that the kids put on iTunes, Spotify, Wimp, YouTube and so on. I listened and came to this realization: The kids of today got skills, really good instrumental skills. But they can’t write music without it turning into crap.
So, once again, technology has cursed us. Not only is it possible to record all the crap in the world, in your bedroom, for almost no cost at all, but you can also learn all the guitar/bass/drum tricks in the world, for free, using the Internet. All you need is time, which most teenagers have. They spend their time between rehearsals practicing techniques we old school people never knew existed, learning them correctly from scratch with video clips, applying them easily by using the tabs of scales and modes in their PDF-files. And while doing all this makes them great instrumentalists, many of them never nourishes their creativity and that, friends and enemies, is why their songs are crap.
Next time you spend your work hours surfing YouTube (yes, I know you do), listen to some young metal band and ignore the crappy music. Just listen to how they handle their instruments and you’ll understand what I mean. They play them so well, and still… it’s crap?!?
Written by: GJ