The Long Decline #12

September 26, 2010
By Brad Rose

So to kick off my first column on the new & improved Foxy site, I’m gonna change things up a bit.  This is sort of inspired by a discussion on the Type Records forum over the weekend, but it’s also something that seems to come up fairly often in conversations I’ve had with various people.  Basically it’s about how prolific is too prolific or is there even such a thing?  And to further expand on that – what are the problems with prolific-ness and what are the positive aspects?  Personally, I don’t have a problem with ultra-prolific artists (which is probably obvious), but I can understand the frustration a lot of people have at times.

The big question I would ask is why do you think an artist being prolific is a problem?  Quality control is an obvious answer, but at the same time it seems like a lot of artists who are releasing an extreme amount of material are doing it from a perspective of sharing in the process of their art as much as anything.  I still think the John Olson MethodTM is one of the best ways to go because even though he does release a shit ton of stuff, most of it is in miniscule quantities which, to me, recognizes the ‘importance’ of certain releases vs. others.  I don’t buy some of the uber-short-run American Tapes because I’m expecting I’ll hear one of the year’s best releases.  I do it because, in a way, its like having a running dialogue with the artist – you experience what they’re up to RIGHT NOW and how they are developing their current ideas, moving toward the next “major” release.  I find that fascinating and wholly worthwhile.

This isn’t to say I need every single release by certain artists – far from it.  For me, choosing what I release and what I don’t release of my various projects is a very personal decision.  I don’t try to be prolific for the sake of being prolific or whatever – I release what I do because, even if I don’t think a particular tape or whatever is some kind of definitive statement, I think there are ideas on the recordings being explored that ARE worthwhile and that fans of the music (however few there may be) will also find it interesting to hear.  So does the number of copies of a release indicate how important the artist/band in question thinks that release is?  Honestly, I think it does, especially when its coming from someone more established like Olson/Wolf Eyes and with those bands, you have to decide how much you want to hear and whether or not looking at the road map to figure how they went from Human Animal to Always Wrong is important to you.  I applaud them for letting it all hang out.  I won’t question whether or not anyone should release something – release whatever you want.  I will, however, question whether or not it is actually good, but that’s all so subjective that trying to make any kind of rule about it is beyond the pale.  Making music/noise/whatever should be for anyone and everyone who wants to get involved.  I’m not going to tell someone they need to practice more or whatever before they let their ideas out into the world.  Fuck that.

All this talk of process kind of harks a bit to what Ned was saying in his column about process vs. product.  But it really turns that on its head because, in a lot of ways, the process has become the product.  I still think, in the end, the final product when it comes to releasing music and such is the most important thing, but I still find people’s process absolutely fascinating.  Look, I want there to be a constant deluge of new releases – bring it on.  I love knowing that there is a pile of great stuff out there I will never, ever hear because there is, simply, too much.  But if ever there was something where excess was a good thing, DIY music and art is it.  I encourage everyone to get some cheap electronics and get out aggression making noise.

In the end it all comes down to figuring out what you like and what you want to hear and going from there.  Thanks to the internet, you can hear just about anything before you buy it (though I think that can sometimes take the fun out of record buying, but that’s another thing altogether), so its pretty easy to know what you’re getting into.  I still don’t think you can be too prolific as long as you don’t have some expectation that everything you crank out is something everyone needs to hear.

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5 Responses to The Long Decline #12

  1. Warren Ellis » On Being Prolific on September 27, 2010 at 10:15 am

    [...] Brad Rose, at the newly-redesigned Foxy Digitalis site: [...]

  2. Stephen Clover on September 27, 2010 at 11:02 pm

    I have nothing sensible to add, other than that to somebody with borderline-OCD such as myself, prolificity — coupled with limited availability — is a big old pain in the ass.

    Look what I found!

  3. Brad Rose on September 27, 2010 at 11:43 pm

    Fuck, well it’s good to know somebody else already wrote about the same thing and basically said the same thing, but I do think the overall point I was trying to make is summed up perfectly in Dan’s piece:

    It seems to me that the best thing to do is to abandon all hope of ever being able to see the Big Picture, and simply enjoy what little one manages to get hold of without worrying about where it might fit in.

    Don’t overthink what you’ve heard and haven’t heard and just enjoy the fucken tunes.

  4. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Chris McMahon, musehick, carl ritger, Andrew Weathers, Will Thomas Long and others. Will Thomas Long said: The Long Decline #12 – [...]

  5. Cody on October 6, 2010 at 11:55 am

    I completely agree, Brad. I find it great (and useful!) to be able to trace the trajectory of artists/soundmakers that I really dig. These “smaller” (for lack of a better term) releases really are windows into where someone’s at, what they’re working through at the moment, and their current processes, which, for a fellow musician, is always insightful. Like you say: “…I release what I do because, even if I don’t think a particular tape or whatever is some kind of definitive statement, I think there are ideas on the recordings being explored that ARE worthwhile and that fans of the music (however few there may be) will also find it interesting to hear. ” Not to mention, there are certain cases where the smaller projects really get to you even more than the “big” releases–this is true for me in terms of William Fowler Collins: I love all of his stuff, but I’ve really latched on to his tape releases.

    You’re right about the quantity/format as indicator, too: for those musicians who churn out tons of releases, you can often glean what the artist thinks is a bigger deal based on quantity/venue/format. I was just thinking about this recently with the new Pete Swanson album, “Feelings in America.” On the surface, it looks, feels, and sounds not unlike his many self-released LP/tape projects, but the fact that it was recorded, at least in part, in studios, that it has a producer, that it was recorded over a couple of years, and that it’s on a label definitely seems to signal that, according to Pete, this is a bit bigger of a deal than, say, his cassette releases.

    I appreciate the post, Brad, as it gets down on “paper” a lot of ideas similar to those I’ve been mulling over for a while now.

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