Before continuing with part 2 of our interview with Bob Crain, we have a special treat for you.
Bob teamed up with Adrian and Stuart at Incubator Studios in Melbourne, Australia to film this exclusive video of Bob performing his song "Genre Gap". This song is currently not available anywhere else but might appear on a future release from Bob or his band.
You can watch in full below before you continue the interview. If you missed Part 1, check it out here.
About "Genre Gap" (in Bob's words)
I have for a long time been amused by the whole "genre" thing it just seems that every new band that comes along (or their manager) dreams up a new genre to try to separate them from the pack ... if it is not one thing then it must be "alternative". It's all BS in my humble opinion there are maybe five or six main genres and some sub genres or composites like Folk Rock or Country Rock the rest are just made up names of things which can't accurately be described.
What really set me up to write this song was I was reading reviews of the 'Years Best Albums" in Acoustic Guitar Magazine a couple of years ago and as I read through the reviews I was reading things like "it's pure country with a healthy dose of bluegrass" " the album is folk blues alternative with a Mississippi Blues beat" and so on and so on and after each review I had no idea whether it was a album I might like or just a bunch of mumbo jumbo. Thus the song was written ... it was originally a bit longer in my normal 'Dylanesque" (I made that word up for this song) style but I cut it down as I am tending to do now. It was written to be played in a band mode but it goes ok solo ... it has no genre label of course.
I think I pretty much got the point across in a sorta tongue an cheek manner which I tend to do a lot rather than a direct assault on the subject. I wonder if many songwriters like myself (not the commercial production pop song constructors) ever think about what genre they are writing in when they are writing either the lyrics or music for a song or are they "just playing for fun"? There are a couple lines in the song which I really like but I think it contains one of my best "We'll have to find The Lost Songs Home a place for songs that don't belong".
The song has not been recorded for release, except as this exclusive video release accompanying the interview, at this point in time but it will undoubtedly be on my next album whether it is solo or with Ashbury Medicine Show is yet to be determined. If it is a solo album the name of the album will most likely be "The Lost Songs Home" I even have a draft of the cover design. We'll see.
About the Engineers, Adrian and Stuart
Engineer - Adrian Akkerman - Adrian has been the engineer on all of my previous recordings including 2 full CDs, he is originally from Portland, Or. and has developed his engineering, mixing and mastering skills over many many years. He is also a musician and has played bass in numerous bands and has done lots of live sound tech work around Australia. He invested in building his own purpose built studio which as you can see from the photos and his website it is a professionally designed and built studio catering for all kinds of recording. I suppose what got me in to Incubator and has kept me coming back and recommending it to others is Adrian's people skills and his ability to draw out the best without being critical or pedantic and of course he gets great audio results as well.
This was my first professional purpose shot video and I knew little about the process, I learned a lot. The teamwork between Adrian and Stuart Jaymes, who did the camera work and all the editing to put the video footage and sound together to make this video, was just brilliant all I had to do was sit there and play. It was interesting as there was no amp on in the room as Adrian ran it through a faux amp in the booth and I didn't want to wear headphones so I could only hear the unampped guitar while I was playing. Stuart was great with the cameras and it never distracted me from what I was doing.
I chose to do the video at Incubator Recording Studio which is in Melbourne, Australia one because it gave it that music atmosphere and two so there would be no audio interference, noise and or distraction like you would get anywhere else. Stuart and Adrian worked out how to get the best sound quality and I think they did a great job ... so much of the time with live videos its the sound quality that let's them down.
Stuart Jaymes has been working with videos for many years and is also a fantastic drummer, he was looking forward to this one and pulled out all the stops to get the best result for this video which both he and Adrian will use as a promotion tool in the future. Stuart does not have a website at the moment but he does have a FB page.
How sick are you of tech companies preying on naive artists for profit? I think I need to sit down now that I brought it up...
I think I made some reference to this in the last question … yes sit down maybe even lie down. This is actually a major social question and not just related to naïve artists but naïve people in general.
My Mom told me many times and we have all heard it many times “if it sounds too good to be true it probably is” so while I despise the bloodsuckers who are out there looking to take something from someone else to trick someone in to giving them something, there has to be some blame handed out to those that fall for that stuff.
I have tried to teach my kids that there is always someone around the corner trying to get over on you … they will tell you that I have said this a thousand times “stay away from people they are nothing but trouble” that of course is a gross overreaction and generalization but what it really means is be cautious step in to things slowly with your eyes and ears open and with a clear exit strategy in place.
So yes I hate it and I rail against it every day but there always seems to be enough fodder for these people (and in this case I agree with the Supreme Court corporations and companies that are consciously ripping people off are “people” because some person has made the decision to follow that course and they know damn well what they are doing) to get by and even get ahead.
It can’t all be written off to naivety though some of it is greed and some of it is laziness, people wanting a short cut to the top … when you're climbing up that ladder to the top you gotta step on every rung there are no short cuts and if you don’t step on it on the way up you will surely trip over it on the way down … you can quote me on that.
Unfortunately I have found that artists can be a bit lazy and they can get sold a “short-cut” pretty easily sometimes … kinda like steroids in sports some guy comes along and tells you hey you will make the pros and get the big bucks if you just take a bit of this … lazy, short cuts, greed, envy it can get the best of the human sometimes.
But yes I am sick of anyone preying on us poor naïve artists and I don’t know why they pick on us none of us have two nickels to rub together, 10% of nothing is still nothing in my book. If you want a great example of bloodsuckers taking advantage of musicians looking for a short cut to the top … all you need to do is look at the Television No Talent Shows that so many people have been sucked in to believing are real … and yes I have a song about that too T.V. Rockstars from Humanology 101 my most played song in North America and Europe … did nothing in Australia … and I still get numerous blank stares when I play it live to this day.
Listen to T.V. Rockstars
We recently published an article of yours "39 Annoying Things Venues Do" which was a response to "39 Annoying Things Bands Do".... There seems to be a big disconnect between the venues and the indie artists in the present tense. I remember a time when venues handled their own marketing and promotion but over the years it seems venues and promoters are pushing all of those duties onto us.... will we be able to find a balance again?
Well Josh you hit the nail right smack in the middle with one word in this question “disconnect” … the connection is gone. I am not going to get too long-winded on this one as this very subject is on my “to be written about” list but in a nut-shell (when talking to me and I say in a nut-shell I mean a coconut not a walnut) ...
I would like to say that it was pre a specific date or year or event but I am not sure it was that clearcut but over time say since the ‘80s things in the local music scene … where everyone starts out … have changed. There used to be a connection between the venues, the musicians, the music press, the promoters, the music and the fans. That has changed those connections that kept the circle intact have all disappeared.
As a student of music scene history back to the late 50’s can you imagine where we would have ever gotten to if the local San Francisco music scene did not exist as it did in the mid ‘60s thru to the early ‘70s. If the bands like the Jefferson Airplane, The Grateful Dead, Quicksilver Messenger Service and the like, the promoters like Bill Graham and others, the venues like The Filmore, Winterland and The Family Dog, the Free Press, Rolling Stone, the Oracle, the FM Radio stations like KMPX, the music fans who were tuned in and the music itself if they were not all connected and moving in the same direction … we would still be listening to Frankie Vallee’ and the Shirells singing songs written in the Brill Building.
The connection the circle is broken and because of that everything is going in reverse, we are almost back to the Brill Building days if some of the “artists” that won Grammy’s is any indication. Anyway you will have to wait for the full expose I will try to clear it up for everyone.
The venues are just one aspect of the problem and once again there are so many other issues and forces that influence the game and for sure the retail food and beverage live music venue game is not an easy gig I wouldn’t do it … and again sometimes musicians are their own worst enemies.
As someone who has been involved in music for a while now, how have things changed since the pre-Internet/social media days? Are they better...or worse...or a mix of both?
Once again this is really hard to just put in a “music scene” perspective because there are so many other social changes that factor in to it … I mean the world as a whole has changed and the music business had to change along with it and whether it is better or worse really depends on which window you look at it through. My personal opinion as far as the music goes, it is worse but as far as the business and the possible opportunities go it is probably somewhat better if you are willing to do the work, but there is still a lot of right place right time luck involved as well.
I got taller in a period of time when there was probably more social change in 10 – 15 years than at any other time in history. From 1962 to 1975 the world moved a long way and mostly for the better as I see it. To me the music, and not all of it of course, has really gone backwards it is so “all about me” it is just so shallow “my relationship issues” and “dance music” where is the substance, art is supposed to convey a meaning but I don’t see it nowadays sorry.
This particular question could be an interview or a very long discussion in itself. There are so many reasons for it that I can see, but a lot of it is the fact that back in those days the music was all we had, it was everything. There is a song on my first CD The Hippies Were Right called The Music Led The Way and I tell people this when I play it live if I could only take one of my songs with me on a desert island this would be it.
It is about this very subject the music back then was the light on the path, it was the witness, the confirmation of what we saw happening around us the Viet Nam War, the politics, the drugs, the Civil Rights Movement, the changes to the social structure that our parents and their parents lived through, it was all wrapped up in the music.
We didn’t read the newspaper or listen to commentators on TV tell us how to think or see we listened to The Doors, The Stones, The Moody Blues, The Jefferson Airplane, The Who, The Buffalo Springfield, Dylan, Joni Mitchell, The Beatles and the rest “the Music led the way”.
Listen to "Music Led The Way"
Is there any music out there today that is inspiring people to be better, to see further, to look deeper I just don’t see a lot of it … some, and some really good stuff but not much to text home about in my opinion, so to me that is the biggest change and certainly for the worse.
The business has always been the business ever since the Pope talked Michaelagelo in to painting the ceiling of a church not for money but “for exposure” artists have been getting the short end of the stick. To us it’s the passion that keeps us driving and hopefully one day find ourselves in front of audiences who are actually listening to the music.
So to me the music business hasn’t changed that much the tools are different and the social conditions like the fact that kids in smaller families live at home until they are 30 and their parents fund their lifestyles so they can all pick up a guitar and the Pro Tools Program and become “recording artists” that’s different but it’s still the business… to me because of all of those same things it is the music that has gone backwards.
As far as the local music scenes go (and this seems to be universal according to my correspondence) it is very difficult to get anywhere. Like everything else there are lots of factors and like the digital arena you have to try to get ahead of the game and think outside of the box.
One of the things I have done locally is put together a “Collective” of local independent artists and acts which has become known as The Taste of Indie Collective. It has gone through some changes and adjustments it originally started out as just trios but I found there weren’t enough of us to keep the gigs going.
From there it expanded to about 20 acts and almost single-handedly I put together a mini-festival at a local venue with 16 acts on 2 stages which as an event went really well ran like clock-work, the weather co-operated, there were plenty of people there, and the bands were all really good about being on time getting on and off and all that…but in the end financially it was a bust which I wore for the most part…hell it was my idea.
The problem with the full band collective was that the acts for the most part didn’t really understand the meaning of the word collective (not all of them some of them were really great) … and that everyone had to be putting some gigs in to the basket for it to work. In the end it became Bob’s Booking and Promotion Service which was not ever what it was supposed to be.
You get back to musicians being a bit lazy and why should I do something if someone else is going to do it. Again lots of factors some of the bands wouldn’t know how to organize a gig and others were a bit stingy and not really willing to throw their hard earned gigs in to the mix … and its true gigs are hard to come by in this town and if you put the work in well … but you also shoot yourself in the foot.
The idea behind the collective was that because the venues expect any band or promoter organizing a gig to put the whole thing together headliner, supports, promotion, flyers, backline, organization etc it would be altogether easier if there was a pool of acts and artists to draw from and to work together to do the necessary work. Well so I thought anyway I just, and I still don’t, think the band eat band format works for us independent original music artists locally.
So I was just about to throw in the towel completely and just work with a small group of local folky rocky bands and do gigs together mostly just to keep my band’s gig calendar full which I am still doing when I struck on another idea. Call me a die-hard or just plain dumb but I wasn’t prepared to let what I had built up just wither and blow away.
I remembered a songwriters format that I saw at the Tamworth Country Music Festival quite a few years ago which has 3 or 4 songwriters on stage together taking turns talking about and playing songs they had written which was a very entertaining format to me. There were a couple of other “songwriter” things being done around town but nothing like that with songwriters on stage together chatting and playing.
So I approached one of the really good venues, The Brunswick Hotel who do support local independent original artists and bands and they are not afraid to try something, with the idea and they said yeah let’s give it a try. They gave us Sunday Afternoon and we put a couple on which while they didn’t attract big crowds the people that were there were there to listen … and that was a break through.
Since then I have approach more venues and two more put their hands up to host The Songwriter Sessions got an internet radio station, that has also been very good about supporting local original music, on board as a sponsor and we have 3 session at 3 different venues in March and in April.
More local songwriters are hearing about it and wanting to get on board and I suppose one of the best things about it for me is there is not much work to do they are pretty much are run by the musicians 3 mics and 3 bar stools pretty simple really. We have some really good local original songwriters here and it will be fantastic if we can build on this and keep getting people through the doors that want to hear the stories behind the songs and really listen to the music.
We, the Collective, have been given a dedicated live radio performance show on our sponsor AMR.fm so that will give The Songwriter Sessions and the artists a bit of a boost. If it all becomes successful with artists, venues and fans all “winning then I will feel that I have accomplished something for the local music scene, my fellow musicians and the venues that have supported us …
I’ll let you know in a couple of months how it’s travelling or if I am back to square 1 again.
What was the last song you listened to?
At this point in time at 4:28PM on Wednesday the 24th of Feb. it was Word Game by Stephen Stills. Last night while I was at the computer working I listened to the entire Jefferson Airplane set from Woodstock … fucking dinosaur I know, I have the Jayhawks California Country on the player in the car if that helps.
Who or what influences your sound and style of writing? Have your tastes changed over the years?
My “sound” or musical style is basic California Hippy Folk Rock its lyric driven but in saying that the lyrics, the feel, the music, the vibe has to gel and blend to be pleasing to the audience or the message never gets across. I am not a great musician, guitar player, singer or theorist I am a wordsmith but I have learned to intertwine it all to come up with a song … hopefully I am getting better.
I have really had to work on my Dylanesque long-windedness and to paint the picture clear enough with fewer verses and words. I am trying to get more collaboration going with other songwriters to get more variety in the music and more ideas in the lyrics. So if you have to label it (and I hate the fact that you do .. even have an unreleased song about that called Genre Gap) go with New Age Folk Rock … new world issues put to old school Folk Rock music.
Have my tastes changed?…refer to the previous question. That is not to say I don’t like or listen to anyone new Counting Crows, Jaykob Dylan and the Wallflowers, Florence and the Machine, Suzanne Vega, The Jayhawks, The Avett Brothers and a lot of country folky people like Fred Eaglesmith, Terri Hendrix, the Australian, Kasey Chambers, and of course everything that you listen to, I mean really listen to, influences you.
As far as subject matter I don’t have to look too far for lyric subjects the music business, music, the environment, politics, social issues, people, things I see and hear going on around me … not too many autobiographical songs but there are a couple in there.
I have been married to the same wonderful woman for nearly 30 years and I haven’t been in jail, so not many country songs really. I just recently completed my 50th registered song which I wrote in conjunction with the newest member of my band ASHBURY MEDICINE SHOW it’s another environmental based song but with a very independent twist hopefully that will get on the next recording which will be an Ashbury Medicine Show CD rather than a solo work.
My biggest problem is I have around 30 unfinished pieces with complete lyrics and no music and worse for every one I do get the time to put music to … I write two more so the unfinished list never seems to shrink much. I am a bit like those guys who believe you can never have too many guitars but with me its songs … I still only have two guitars.
Where can we find you online? Stream your music?
You can find me on my website www.bobcrain.com.au it’s all there along with links to my other social media and music pages but make the first point of call my website … it is the only place you can order my CDs and unlike Itunes, Amazon, or Spotify …. I am always willing to negotiate.
Any plans to perform in the states soon? Or should we prepare to go Down Under to catch you live?
I hope so, but soon is the relative word there, I have lots of people that want me to come and play and plenty of opportunities and contacts to organize gigs in cities all around the country but of course it will have to be self funded for the most part.
I also have a daughter in Spain that I have to go visit and some people in Europe who want to do some gigs together there so who knows. When I do come and hopefully it is later this year I will certainly be giving you guys the heads up and hopefully get in to the studio for a bit of Bob Crain Live.
Now if you do want to come to the land Downunder I can promise you that you will not be disappointed it’s a pretty cool place and we’ll throw another shrimp on the barby for sure … just let me know I will surely be playing somewhere.
Any last thoughts? Shout outs?
Shout Outs well yes firstly to MTM Josh and Bret who have thought outside the box and have really done something to help independent artists and been straight up and honest many thanks, hope you can keep it up.
Australian Musicians Radio AMR.fm and their sister station in Salt Lake City American Musicians Radio … Gareth McDowell in Melbourne and John Farmer in Salt Lake are passionate supporters of local independent original music acts and artists and have been nothing but supportive of everything I have tried to pull off.
I suppose everyone else I have tortured and chewed ears off of trying to get my point across. Last thoughts just this … you can rehearse music but you can’t rehearse passion, that just comes naturally.