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From the archives: Robert Palmer

From the archives: Robert Palmer

In December 2002 I was working for the BBC’s Top of The Pops website. Mostly I wrote silly pieces of content, like Top 5 Most Depressing Depeche Mode Lyrics, or the three news stories that the site used to publish every day. But then I was asked if I’d like to do some interviews, and I jumped at the chance. My first interviewee was Robert Palmer.  I knew who he was, of course, but I wasn’t a particular fan or an expert, so I was not only worried about stuffing up the interview technique, but also about being revealed as a know-nothing charlatan. So I did my research. I spent a whole day tracking down and reading every single profile, article and interview I could find online and making lots of notes. I noticed one thing – the interviewers rarely asked him about music. Fashion, videos, the industry, his career, his private life – but rarely ever music. And the one or two times a musical question slipped through the net I thought I sensed flickers of interest from Palmer that the rest of the interviews lacked. So I decided I would make music the focus of my interview. It felt like a gamble, but it seemed logical to me. I presented myself at the Landmark Hotel in Marylebone – a very upmarket hotel that was kind of intimidating to me. Mr Palmer arrived with a spin of PR folks. I was his first interview in a day set aside solely for him to talk to the press. It was clearly going to be long day for him – he was professional...

Make / Let

I’m beginning to see a theme emerging in the various discussions taking place about the future – specifically, the changing nature of the interaction between individuals and organisations, be they commercial or social. Two TED talks I have watched in the last week both articulate the same thought, and bring the theme into sharp relief. Both are very worth your time. Sugata Mitra: Build a School in the Cloud A brilliant, funny, inspiring mashup of history, science and pedagogy. “It’s not about making learning happen, it’s about letting it happen” Amanda Palmer: The art of asking I backed her Kickstarter, and although I remain agnostic in some respects, her contribution to the conversation is invaluable. Plus, crucially, her album kicks ass. “I think people have been obsessed with the wrong question, which is how do we make people pay for music. What if we started asking, how do we let people pay for...

Independent online marketing & ‘Underwater Sunshine’

A few years ago, Counting Crows kind of stunned everyone by walking away from Geffen and announcing they were an independent band. Whether this was prompted by a perceived underperformance of the superb ‘Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings’ or a wider dissatisfaction with the music business is unclear. But band leader Adam Duritz’s impassioned talk on interconnectedness, marketing and audience interaction at a recent technology event confirmed that he really, really gets the brave new world of digital independent music. I was intrigued to see what they’d do with their next album, a set of covers called ‘Underwater Sunshine‘ due for release on 10 April. What new and exciting things were the band going to do to take advantage of their newly indy freedom and push their first indy release? Stop Press: I’ve heard it, this is a great record by a great band and I want it to succeed more than I can say. That said, I’m about to criticise their online strategy, and writing a blog criticising my favourite band, even though my critique comes from love and passionate regard, leads me to worry that I might be being a dick, I certainly hope not, but here goes… if by any chance you’re reading this Adam, this is me trying to help, not tear you down in any way shape or form. Things started well, when they ran a competition to crowdsource the cover art. This generated buzz and, perhaps surprisingly, a really good cover. Today it seems they’re rolling out the next stage of their campaign, with the whole album being streamed in its entirety on...
From the archives: Counting Crows

From the archives: Counting Crows

Here’s a piece I’ve dredged up from the archives – early 2004, to be precise. At the time I was working for the BBC’s Top of the Pops website, which occasionally involved interviewing guests who had come to the studio to play on that week’s show. The highlight was when I got to have a sit down with Adam Duritz, the man behind what I would probably nominate as my favourite band, Counting Crows. Here’s the interview, from April 2004, conducted in a dresssing room in TVC before their performance – and yes, you could see me on the broadcast, right at the front, singing along and dancing like a mad thing 🙂 How’s your new drummer Jim Bogios settling in and how has the departure of Ben Mize affected the band? Adam: It’s worked out great. It meant we had less vacation time because we had to do all the rehearsals but Jim’s really great – great drummer, great guy. We’ve all known him for a long time too, so he fits right in. It wasn’t like he was a new guy coming in. I’ve been friends with Jim for years, Immy [David Immergluck, Counting Crows guitarist] used to play in a band with Jim, and I know him through Sheryl [Crow] too. So it’s going real well. I mean, you miss Ben because you miss Ben, because you spent nine years together and every once in a while I find myself looking for him to tell him something, but I just have to call him. I did a radio show in Dublin the other day, DJing for...

Death & Fear & Horror, oh my!

Back in the dim and distant I used to write copy for the Top of the Pops website. Yesterday I was asked to provide samples of my online writing, so I dug out this little beauty from 8 years back to demonstrate how I can tailor my writing to an established house style; in TOTP’s case the house style was basically ‘snarky pisstake* with lots of alliteration’. Top 5 Most Depressing Depeche Mode Lyrics You can keep your Smiths and your Leonard Cohens – the Mode are the kings of pain, the sultans of sadness, the maharajahs of misery, the apotheosis of angst. If you really want songs to slit your wrists to look no further than the Basildon lads, they’ll see you right. The first hint of the Mode’s future moroseness came with the early Vince Clark-penned track ‘Sometimes I Wish I Was Dead’, but it was the aptly named Martin Gore who took the theme to the heights. Or the depths, depending upon your perspective. For example, check out ‘Black Celebration’s little paeon of joy: “Let’s have a black celebration tonight, to celebrate the fact that we’ve seen the back of another black day.” Cripes lads, what’s wrong, your lottery numbers not come up again? Or perhaps someone else ate the last rolo? This title track of their fifth album from 1986 firmly established the band as far and away the most depressing mainstream popsters of the day. ‘Girlfriend In A Coma’? Pah! Suck on this, Mozza: “Girl of 18, fell in love with everything, found new life in Jesus Christ. Hit by a car, ended up...

The sentimental geek strikes back

Be-caped and beguiling, Ryan Adams stages a triumphant solo return at the Barbican. Being a Ryan Adams fan can be a bit of a rollercoaster. There’s his habit of releasing everything he records, often for free, simply because he feels like it. For the record, I love it, but it drives some people nuts, and just confuses others. If mellow country classic Heartbreaker is your all-time favourite album, chances are you probably won’t be spinning his death-metal sci-fi concept album Orion all that often. Then there’s his personal life and his well documented spiral into drinks and drugs which pretty much everybody assumed would end with him choking on his own vomit in a hotel room, a la Gram Parsons. Erratic, angry, funny to himself but not others, stoned Ryan was a sad spectacle, even if the music kept flowing at a startling rate. Then there are the fans. Every fandom has a small core of nutters with a hugely inflated sense of entitlement, who make way more noise than they should and seek to spoil it for the quieter majority. The tiny coterie of fuckwits who sit at the heart of Ryan’s fanbase like some malignant tumour composed entirely of self-regard and pressure-cooker spite are as bad as the worst Doctor Who fans, and trust me, that’s some benchmark. Ryan struggles to deal with these prats, engaging with his fanbase online for periods until overwhelmed by the bile of a vocal few and retreating, shutting down accounts and websites, retreating into his shell to lick his wounds. Eventually he pops up somewhere else in some other guise, Quixotic,...