I had promised to make an effort and write something long today. It’s true, I say that quite often. Spotify are in the news now, with a new facebook linkup that looks set to chase the last few buyers of music off their iTunes accounts (where at least the option to buy exists, even if it’s not pursued) and onto the all-you-can-eat-who-cares-how-little-the-artists-get streaming model. I was going to write about that, but honestly, the lines above get that across better than any amount of waffling. If you read this blog regularly, you’ll know that I’ve gotten into a couple of spats with the proponents of the ‘let free music be a promotional tool for the brand you develop around the act – then monetize that presence with merchandise and special editions, etc’ approach. Frankly, I think it takes away from the music and pushes all that promotional wank that you used to get free with Smash Hits too far to the front, and leaves the only eternal bit – the music – forgotten. Things seemed to have gone too far when one act in particular announced that they were including phials of their own blood in an upcoming boxset, but, to be charitable, I allow that there might be a satirical comment on Music 2.0 buried somewhere in that gesture.
Then I came across this article. I’ll just paste it in, and let you decide whether things have truly gone too far.
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European artists have been mutilating themselves for their art since Van Gogh took a blade to his own ear in some Provencal cottage near Aix les Bains. It’s what they think of as tradition, and there’s none more prone to it than musicians. British art-rockers Manic Street Preachers shot to the front pages of music mags and tabloids alike way back when guitarist Richie cut his forearms up with a razorblade in the early 90s, more recently, Libertines frontman Pete Doherty has been shooting his own blood at journalists through dirty junk-syringes. By now, you’ll know all about the latest waymarker in the annals of the self-mutilating, you could hardly have missed it. Mobo Fyfe’s dark indie distopia was always an acquired taste, but if Richie Manic could prove that he was ‘4 real’ by cutting his forearms, Fyfe’s decision to remove his own penis surely sets a benchmark in the race for that ever-elusive indie credibility. Notoriously media-shy, the reclusive performer reluctantly granted Canyon West Sentinel a near-exclusive interview last week to put his side across. Makes you wish for the simple old days of drive-by shootings, don’t it….
‘Auto-tune! Some of those old farts can’t even manage PowerPoint!’
Mobo Fyfe laughs cruelly at that one, his British teeth clenched hard. Clearly the pain from his self-modification has not fully subsided. Obviously the subject is a dear on to him, and beneath the slightly-forced humor is a clarity of focus that matches his famously come-hither baby blues. The stiff lunchtime crowd at the businesslike Laurel Canyon bistro shuffle uncomfortably – with reason – many of them are facing the abyss that comes from staking their careers on less visionary performers than Mobo Fyfe – the very ‘old farts’ that brought on his scornful laugh.
‘You still see them around, dinosaurs, luddites….I don’t know, I suppose it’s sad in a way, like looking at the old guys at a war memorial or something. They were the future once, you have to respect that. But you know, you just see them tuning up their guitars and doing scales and shit. It’s quaint, I suppose…. Thing is, you go into a boardroom and the lights are all on you, you only get one chance to make your pitch and no amount of pretty arpeggios is going to get those VCs on board, you know? Doh, ray and fucking mi doesn’t pull in the investors.’
The smog has risen high today, well up into the Canyon, suffusing the vine-shaded terrace with a flourescent yellow glow. Our pretty waitress, Yoshoki, hovers, ostensibly to top up our glasses of French viognier, but she is clearly drawn toward the centrifugal energy emanating from Fyfe’s Don Juan-esque aura. An event horizon of dark indie energy, curving the fabric of sex-time around himself, the ultimate singularity (despite his now-notorious handicap in the pelvic region). As if to change the subject, the waitress flicks her glance momentarily at the crotch of Fyfe’s cashmere pants, reddening as he catches her eye.
‘Alright, look’ he snarls, ‘I thought I’d made it clear that we weren’t going to talk about that’, defensive. ‘Frankly, if I’d known what a mediastorm it was going to kick up, I’d never have done it. I’m disappointed. In fact, I feel I’ve actually crossed over to the point where the media are, like, raping me? You know, I’ve had four videos in the YouTube most-played; I’ve got a ten-year deal with a telecomunications company; I’ve, like, played gigs for presidents, you know? My site’s won a Webby award, for fuck’s sake, and yet all you fucking hacks want to talk about is the fact that I cut off my cock. I do have other talents, achievements! I’m not going to talk about my dick any more, because, like, it’s nothing, nothing. It’s just the smallest part of everything I’ve ever done, you know, just this tiny little part.’
Fyfe ostentatiously picks up his cell at this point and makes a call. Five minutes into a conversation that includes a lot of references to analytics and SEO, this journalist takes the obvious hint and makes to leave. Fyfe is obviously of a hyper-artistic temperament – the mood-swing is instantaneous. ‘No, don’t go’, he yelps, the cry for help near-primal. Our fellow-diners shuffle again, sending the creak of wicker screeching across the terrace. There is a vulnerability; an internal struggle between the opposing forces of artistic, quasi-shamanistic removal from society that drives the soul of Fyfe; crossed with the lost child who craves the embrace of the very society he shuns. The hand gripping my wrist leaves bruises that do not subside for the rest of the week. He composes himself, troubled, drops that infamous British drawl an octave until sincerity mutates it to a breathy croak. Yoshoki, unable to stop herself, drifts closer.
‘Cutting it off, you know, was like the closest I could come to giving a piece of myself to the fans. You know, I want them to have a holistic Mobo Fyfe experience, to enter my soul, to have the whole range of my soul in a box. You don’t get that from the music alone, you know?’
To be fair, it ought to be pointed out that, technically, it was only one fan who actually got the half-million dollar version of the Cock boxset – the rest had to make do with the hundred-dollar version with nothing more than the pubic clippings of the newly-emasculated Fyfe to accompany the artwork and audio package. However, I don’t wish to interrupt Fyfe now that he has chosen to grant me near-exclusive access to his most guarded inner thoughts.
‘It was, like…. Look, you know, I can see the criticisms, how it might have looked to the critics that just don’t get where I’m coming from. Like it was something I’d done for publicity or something? But you know, fuck them. I don’t do it for the critics, I do it for the love. For the love of being up there on stage, of reaching out to people. Every show I do, I give 100% That’s what it’s about, giving 100% Whether it’s in the live show, or on the websites, or on the t-shirts or on the fan outreach optimisation. I give it everything.’
He reaches down and pulls an old-style CD out of a bag and holds it to the light. The diffuse yellow light catches the surface, making the disc look like a yellow cake. Oldskool, non-interactive, two-dimensional. He looks on it with disdain.
‘This is a cd. If anyone tries to sell you a cd, tell ’em to fuck off.’
‘I’m an artist, and the artist’s function is to express himself, to share his vision of the world. Making music is just a tiny part of that outreach. It’s about building something that the fans can be part of – whether that’s something as fundamental as selling the chance to write a line of the lyrics or, you know, something oldskool, like licensing the recording to the apps market. It’s all just a way of cutting pieces off yourself and putting them to the fans as their value-added. It’s interaction, man, it’s utilisation of fanbase opportunity. You get the dinosaurs like Reznor doing embossed t-shirts and shit and acting like they deserve to make a living from fans for that lame shit! Like fans even care! Likewise, all those old dudes from the 90s practising fucking chords and shit, spending hours tuning their guitars when they could just run them through Auto-Tune and spend the time they’d save putting up, like, a simple flash animation or something basic, you know? Give the fans what they want, man! It’s supposed to be a democracy, interaction, constant information flow. Like, do they really think anyone can hear the shape of their plectrum on Spotify streaming rates? Get real!’
And with that, he gets to his feet, body language every inch the indie rock-god (notwithstanding the absence of crotchbulge complementing his rattlesnake hips). A subtle raise of an eyebrow brings Yoshiki to his side, clearly where she is planning to stay for the forseeable future. She is practically straddling him as he stands, and who could blame her, such is the man’s charisma? He bends to unplug his cellphone charger from the wall socket and is off, she skipping to keep up, a slight wave of his hand my cue that the interview is over.
This week’s Thursday Tune: http://wp.me/pOacI-3G