Suffering for Art – or – the Art of Suffering.

Gramps/Tony Lind
Gramps, aka Tony Lind. Photo, as always, by Christopher Anderzon.
I have always been deeply suspicious of the notion that the only ”real” or ”good” or ”important” art is one created out of misery, pain and suffering. That concept always smacked of unchecked ego and inflated self-importance to me.
A lot of unbelievably great art was created out of sheer joy, the pleasure of the creative process and loving inspiration, and is in no way less valid than the art born out of pain and hardship. But for some reason, a lot of people seem to perceive depressed and/or depressing artists as ”honest”, an idea I find dubious at best.

I personally never trust an artist who takes themselves too seriously. They may take their art as seriously as a fucking heart attack, no problem there, but when they allow their sensitive minds, bleeding hearts and fragile little baby souls to demand that you laud them for the suffering they have endured, rather than the quality of the work they produce, fuck it, I’m outta there, faster than a paycheck.
Those ”artists” are often whiny little pricks who should have a therapist rather than an audience. They are often also dismissive of and even indifferent toward their fans, which is a cardinal sin in my book. Like when Morrissey scoffs that he doesn’t perform. ”Seals perform.” Yeah, right. If that’s the case, get off the stage, you have no place there.

When I walk onstage in front of an audience, I feel a huge responsibility to make sure that these people are entertained in some way, and I feel disgusted when I see bands who obviously don’t give a shit. I was raised on artists who know how to put on a show, in their own different ways, and I took those lessons to heart (at the end of this rant I’ve put together some clips of bands who know how to treat an audience). That doesn’t mean that your act has to be all out party animal energy, that’s not what I’m saying, it would be really boring if everyone was like Angus Young all the time, but there should be an effort to communicate with the people who bought their ticket for your show, and the least you can do is to acknowledge them and let them know you appreciate them coming to hear and see you.

Michael Stipe was absolutely right when he sang that everybody hurts. Everybody does, sometimes. And just because you have the creative outlet to vent your pain, which is fantastic and beautiful, that does not mean that you hurt more, better or deeper than anyone else. I love that you have the gift of touching people in a way that allows them to understand their own struggle a little bit better, ease their pain for a moment, or just recognizing that they’re not alone. But that gift does not entitle you to be a primadonna. Art is about sharing, so don’t be so fucking precious about what you do.

A lot of people suffer from depression and anxiety, and I think it is a very positive thing that we as a society are starting to unstigmatize mental health issues, although that process is still way too slow. And in that sense, it is also a very positive thing that people create art about their struggles, to show that not only is it ok to acknowledge that you have this burden in your life, it is essential to do so in order for things to change. But that doesn’t mean that the Suffering Artist should be put on any sort of piedestal. And to perpetuate a lifestyle of misery, as some would at least like to give the impression of doing, just to make ”better” art, is stupid as shit.

/Gramps

Guest blog #2: Becoming big

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Birgitta Haller, management Billy Momo.

A bit simplified: there are two major ways to get a breakthrough as an artist (or at least one that will last for more than 15 minutes) – a hit on the radio or building an audience performing live. Come to think of it, I would say the only way to get a real breakthrough is performing live. (Spice that up with a hit on the radio and you’re safe.)

The radio scenario is a quick fix, it can make you big in no time. It will most probably be accompanied with anxiety, because you have to follow up on that radio hit with another one, and another. The radio listening crowd might be interested in seeing you live, performing that radio hit. I use the word ‘might’, because the radio listening crowd doesn’t always attend concerts. And if you can’t follow up on your hit, and you suck at live performance, you will lose your following just as quick as they came.

The really slow (and a bit tiresome and frustrating) way to get a breakthrough is to perform live. This is where you reach an audience who really likes music. Work, work, work! Practice, take every opportunity to try out your material on the live scene. Act out, become performers, become awesome at what you do on stage. Practice to be able to feel secure and safe on stage, work on your show, practice and play until you feel sick. And when you think you’ve nailed it – do it all over again. And: get paid for your craftsmanship – if you’re good at performing live, you should get paid. Unfortunately, this section needs a totally separate blog post…

The live show performance was the thing that made me convinced to sign Billy Momo in the first place. These guys are totally awesome live and are constantly working on their live set, making it fun to watch and, musically, a feast for the ears. And the continuously growing crowd of followers that gets to see them live, agree.
I know this band is going to make it big, but one piece is still missing. A live agency or a promoter, someone who can take them outside our native country and out where they really belong – worldwide.
Ash Pournouri, the manager of Avicii, once said that a breakthrough takes minimum 5 years. We have just entered Year Two. (Birgitta Haller, management) 

Fans, fans, fans!

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Oskar Hovell, aka Orren. Photo: Christopher Anderzon.

Do you sometimes read or hear about extraordinary people doing great deeds, changing the world for the better and are you then thinking to yourself “Fuck! I should have been one of those guys!”

I do, sometimes. When our fans write to us, when we see them at shows and when I see the things they do for us. The way they selflessly and without ego dedicate their time and energy to spread music, it awes me every time I see it.

I’m a music fan of course. I go to concerts, I tell my friends about new bands I’ve found and so on. I have posters on my wall and I think Ennio Morricone is probably God. But I dedicate my time and my great efforts into spreading my own shit, boosting myself, telling the world about my own greatness.

The way our fans interact, showing us and everyone else their enthusiasm, giving us all the extra energy we need and at the same time spread our music, is of course great for us. But we are not the only band that enjoys this. Fans and independent bloggers, putting in ten times as many hours into finding new music than any A&R have ever done, keep fighting to introduce us to new, formally unknown, great music!

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Orren. Photo: Christopher Anderzon.

Even though a lot has changed, still a few powerful people hold more or less monopoly on the channels that spread music to the world. We often come across those guys. They generally seem mysteriously uninterested in new music. There seem to be almost nothing that tires them more than having to hear a new band play.

I don’t know how many music biz VIPs I’ve heard claim they know a hit when they hear one. And I didn’t really believe any of them. They know a marketing plan when they see one, they know a guy who knows all the right people when they meet one, they know a significant sync when they see one and they know heavy rotation on a radio station when they hear it. But most of all, nowdays, they know a youtube hit when they see one. And guess who made it a Youtube hit? You did.

Fans, we love you. Not just because you are rubbing our egos, but because you are crucial to the survival of music innovation. Fighting that monopoly, finding other ways to spread interesting music. Because you guys, if any, know a hit when you hear one!