Saturday, December 18, 2004

what do you think?

A comment from somebody who downloaded some Assistant stuff just came through to me, which in quite interesting reading.

I did look at your website and thought it ok. I did download one of your tracks 'Easy To Leave' which reminded me of 1980s Indie as expounded by the great late John Peel and was actually a nice track. I would have downloaded more but my connection speed was very slow and after listening to one track I didn't want to download more. The trouble with this live track is that it sounds like it was recorded on a tape recorder at the back of the room, starts with a jarring click, a burst of noise, is woolly sounding, the vocal is inaudible, can't hear the guitars or keyboards and the drums swamp everything. There is no evidence of mixing or production or any attempt to make this 'nice' to listen to. It's true that people get signed on the strength of some pretty ropey demos but you have to think about why you would want to expend the effort of being in a band and then showcase your sound in such a sloppy careless way. It either implies lack of effort or an assumption that a demo just has to be the roughest most slipshod thing you can turn out for nothing and along will come some record company to pay for a studio and make it sound nice. With the kind of technology available today it's possible to record anything anywhere to a pretty high standard. I like ropey demos my favourite being 'The Ark' which is of Frank Zappa and Co playing in a night club in 1968, recorded on three mikes it lacks a little in technical quality but it sure does rock but then the man was extremely gifted and could get away with releasing what some people would call bootlegs, which happen to be fun to listen to. On the flip-side you get people like Phil Collins or Elton John recorded live in 48 track glory and you are still left thinking what the point was in all that. I'm still trying to work out why such a weak song as 'Invisible Touch' ever got to be a hit. Easy To Leave is just painful to listen to, more effort required. I was going to volunteer some live recording advice/time but you get instantly treated like a hanger-on by bands if you make offers like that completely for free, nothing personal I just seem to have learnt my lesson in that department. I don't think your singer is all that good either but that's a personal preference....

Hmm, what he says makes me rethink my decision to put all our stuff online a little. The basic premise in doing so is that we've recorded a ton of stuff which - for the most part - we find pretty interesting, and I don't much like the idea of a band getting all possessive about their art - after all, if someone can come along and watch us flail through a ropey live set why shouldn't they get the chance to hear it back the next day?

So the commentator above, who is - incidentally - quite nice about the song itself, rightly questions our quality control mechanism. Are we right to allow all sorts of stuff to appear under our name online? At the moment you can download proper Assistant recordings, badly recorded live tracks (done, as Anne-So pointed out in response, via the mic on a video camera), MDed versions of early rehearsals and home demos. If this reflects badly on us I guess we shouldn't.

But... I hate the crap mystical bullshit about music; this 'gang' bollocks, the perfectionism. I'm not happy when I record something and it comes out crap but I haven't the means to do things properly and so I get used to the cracks and flaws. Probably to other people this sounds like shoddiness, like I just don't care. Hmm.

I don't expect people who read the blog to keep up with the band stuff if they're not interested, so sorry for inflicting this extended monologue on you - but my explanation is this. We like sharing, and we share what we've got. And if you do come and see us live, sorry for the mucked up intros, the bum notes. But I think it's cool how the chances are that stuff will probably be online the next day, ready to be cringed over and - maybe - enjoyed. But let me know if you think that's crap.

Anyway. Here's a relatively crisp take on the same song. Cheers.

Assistant - Easy to Leave (right click to download)

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

I wouldnt worry too much about what he said. Which of you is the singer?

jonathan said...

Ha ha. I am!

aaaggghhh said...

Sorry for the rant but this made me really cross.

"it sounds like it was recorded on a tape recorder at the back of the room" - No shit Sherlock. It was.

"the vocal is inaudible, can't hear the guitars or keyboards and the drums swamp everything" - Rubbish.

"There is no evidence of mixing or production or any attempt to make this 'nice' to listen to." - It's live you cretin. Wasn't 'mixed' or 'produced'. If you knew anything about recording you'd be able to hear that.

"It's true that people get signed on the strength of some pretty ropey demos" - not everything's about getting signed. I'm sure you're signed to Sony though.

"lack of effort" - what a bender.

"I was going to volunteer some live recording advice/time but you get instantly treated like a hanger-on by bands if you make offers like that completely for free" - or like some moron who thinks their opinion carries sufficient weight to make us change the songs we have on our website. Jesus what a nob jockey.

"I don't think your singer is all that good either" - What are you talking about. Jonathan's a legend. He's a got a fucking amazing voice.

Idiot.

'Are we right to allow all sorts of stuff to appear under our name online? At the moment you can download proper Assistant recordings, badly recorded live tracks (done, as Anne-So pointed out in response, via the mic on a video camera), MDed versions of early rehearsals and home demos. If this reflects badly on us I guess we shouldn't.' - Nonsense. Assistant rule. Even Jonathan's strange home demos that bare no relation whatsoever to the finished songs. Don't chance a frigging thing cos of this imbecile.

Gavan has spoken.

Anonymous said...

The trouble with this live track is that it sounds like it was recorded on a tape recorder at the back of the room, starts with a jarring click, a burst of noise, is woolly sounding, the vocal is inaudible, can't hear the guitars or keyboards and the drums swamp everything. There is no evidence of mixing or production or any attempt to make this 'nice' to listen to.Not very rock and roll, is he? What he's saying is utter crap though.

I was going to volunteer some live recording advice/time but you get instantly treated like a hanger-on by bands if you make offers like that completely for free, nothing personal I just seem to have learnt my lesson in that department.If he's got so much expertise, then why all the fucking about writing emails to unsigned bands? Surely he ought to be getting paid for this precious time of his. Musicians must be queuing up in droves.

Keep doing what you're doing and ignore pretentious wankers like this one.

Anonymous said...

Judging by my comment above, your blog doesn't seem to understand paragraphs or spaces.

BB said...

Speaking as another band member who makes tracks available on the 'net: firstly you're getting something for free which may have taken days or longer to work on; secondly, insisting that everything a band (unsigned, remember) produces is scrupulously produced and squeaky clean costs more money, more time, and reduces the amount they can release. Finally, I like to hear rougher, or earlier versions of songs I grew to love. It's just more interesting for the fans.

Anyone heard the live version of Joy Division's "Transmission" on the '88 Atmosphere CD single? Rough as anything, but it's still great. Orbital's "Analogue Test Feb '90" is still one of my favourite tracks.

So let's hear more Assistant, not less.

PS. I quite liked "Invisible Touch" when I was a kid :-)

Andrew Brown said...

The thing I'd have thought is that you've got to be happy with what you make available. It needent be perfect but you've got to feel okay about it; don't you?

Anonymous said...

I just downloaded most of your demos and live stuff and I think they are really cool. Normally you don't get to hear that stuff at all, but it's fun. Also those live songs sound quite good to me, not unlistenable at all. Keep up the good work!!!

Anonymous said...

Fuck him. You guys are right. He is wrong. E.

Anonymous said...

"I'm still trying to work out why such a weak song as 'Invisible Touch' ever got to be a hit."

A worthwhile thing to spend your time doing if you ask me. Still, they didn't say anything bad about the bass...except I'd like to point out that it's taken years for me to perfect that "jarring click noise."

Anonymous said...

I think this guy will be regretting his too-hasty comments about Assistant. Kick one of us and we all limp!

Vic

Powerful Pierre said...

I wondered why my leg hurt.

Stephen Newton said...

I’ve listened to a little and I’d agree that the production could be more polished, but I expect that from an unsigned band. I think criticism of the vocal is particularly na├»ve on your critic’s part. Great bands are rarely made up of the technically brilliant. But somehow they gel and, together, make something special. Your vocal certainly fits Assistant well.

That said, some people will have unrealistic expectations. Perhaps it would be better to restrict the amount of material you make available. A showcase consisting of just handful of tracks as polished as you can get might be far more effective than a lot of material. After all, how much does a record company need to hear before they call you in? And if they’re only going to listen to one track, make sure it’s the best it can be.

jonathan said...

Hi all,

Thanks for your comments; pretty much what I thought myself. I'm not minded to make changes right now. I think Stephen is probably right to say that you wanna make it clear which your best songs are right away, and if at some point on the future we do a really good recording session perhaps we'll push them right out front. But right now I'm happy with the idea of people mooching through the stuff and making their own conclusions.

Thanks everyone for sticking up for us!

Anonymous said...

in future people betta not fuck with assistant

Milk said...

I wouldn't let anyone stop you doing it the way you want to do it. I always find it odd when - making the kind of music that you want to make - other people think you're doing something 'wrong'. I'm in a band and we get stick because our demo's sound too 'hi-fi'. You can't win.

Personally I've always thought you should make the most of what you've got - and if all you've got is a basic tape recorder or whatever, it's better to use it than hang around and wait until someone offers you something better. I know people that have been waiting for 'the right studio' or whatever for ten years, and they've done nothing as a concequence.

ALl you should worry about it whether it sounds good to you and yours. Attitude is everything - NOT technology. A demo is just that.

Anonymous said...

I went to the Assistant website and it looks quite straightforward to me. Your MP3 section goes to an area called 'latest demo' and those songs sound pretty well recorded to me. Beneath there's a bit labelled 'live tracks' so it's obvious the quality won't be high. Then the link at the bottom takes you to demos and out-takes. If this guy couldn't work out that clear labelling then he's obviously a bit of an idiot. The proper demo stuff sounds really good anyway, so it's a lot of fuss about nothing.

Paul.

anne-sophie said...

Thank you for your comments everyone! It's nice to get some feedback, so please let us know what you think about the MP3s!