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H-E-Y!!! Please REMEMBER that you can order fantastic Zzaj Productions CD's from our HOMEMADEMUSIC site, at: http://www.homemademusic.com/~zzaj We are in URGENT need of your support, too, as we were caught in a "lay-off" situation (that was a direct result of the WTC affair). Wouldn't hurt (I suppose) if you remind them that the C-mas season is getting near, & a ZP CD makes a very nice gift for friends who love adventure in their music(s)
Improvijazzation Nation - Issue # 42
INTERVIEW with Jerry Kranitz
RZ: I enjoyed the paper issues of AURAL
INNOVATIONS. I understand (some of) the desire/need to move to the WWW...
pressure, low subscriptions, etc. Were there any other specific factors (job,
time, whatever) that influenced your move to the Internet?
JK: Time and general pressures had nothing to do with the decision to make Aural Innovations a web-based e-zine. I still have all the time I ever did to work on it. The decision was totally based on economics and the need to maximize our readership for the least cost. I was printing and assembling AI at home and the resulting costs, including postage, came to several hundred dollars per issue. At our high point we only had 100 subscribers (but there were also all the unavoidable promo copies). At such a high personal cost, and only 100 subscribers, it was hard to avoid the fact that I’d accumulated over 10,000 hits on my web page in just two years. And that’s when it was really just a big list of links! I’m responding to these questions only two days after Aural- Innovations.com has gone live and we’ve had nearly 300 hits already. I really enjoyed doing a hard copy mag, but if I can get more readers for little cost than that’s what I must do. It also frees up a lot of funds to expand the growing AI catalog, a logical next step for me in promoting independent music.
RZ: Though your 'zine & label cover Psych/Prog/Space Rock, you seem to have a much "broader interpretation" of what that means. Why? How do you think you can "get away" with that? (I'm assuming there are some Space Rock folks who are just as much "purist" as there are improvisors who are that way).
JK: My interpretation of spacerock is intentionally broad because of the inherently limiting nature of labels, categorizations, and definitions. “Purists” only limit themselves and close the door to hearing great music that they probably would like if they gave it a chance. For example, in Aural Innovations I recognize the pioneering contributions Hawkwind, and am a huge fan myself. But Hawkwind is only one part of what spacerock is all about. Now the Hawkwind purists would surely throw stones at me for not putting the band on a higher pedestal, but I also know that many Hawkwind purists subscribed to AI and praised the mag too.
I grew up listening to all sorts of progressive rock, spacerock, psychedelia, and jazz. I never really knew about genre names until I got on the internet in 1993 and joined all the discussions. Spacerock is a loose theme AI is based on and will accommodate a lot of people’s idea of what they can expect to find in such a mag. Spacerock is LOADED with possibilities. It is limitless. So I deliberately include freaky, but more jazz-oriented artists like Joseph Benzola, W.O.O. Revelator, and Rotcod Zzaj, just as much as I include Hawkwind, Gong, and Amon Düül. In short, Aural Innovations has a theme, but is really about the CREATIVE SPIRIT. If you put your heart and soul into creating something mind expanding, then there’s a home for it in Aural Innovations. How can I “get away” with this? The great thing about this being my magazine is that I can cover anything I damn well please. But I’m comfortable with my arrogance because in over two years and 9 issues, nobody has ever complained about our interpretation. And I truly believe there’s an element of “space” in nearly everything we cover. I’ve been very fortunate to have a handful of wonderful contributors who have submitted articles based on their own interests and conceptions of spacerock and I think we’ve succeeded in covering the gamut of perceptions of what spacerock is all about.
RZ: Since the focus of my 'zine is D.I.Y. (Do It Yourself, for the uninitiated), I'd like your thoughts & observations on just what that means? Is D.I.Y. music a "threat" to the music industry or IS there a "music industry" anymore?
JK: Technology has made disseminating one’s creative efforts (and information in general) affordable and relatively easy for nearly everyone. D.I.Y. music means being empowered to take responsibility for reaching an audience without relying on the music industrial complex. For many years musicians who were aggressive networkers could affordably sell, trade, and give away cassettes of their music. Now they can burn CDR’s on their computers. The problem has always been the limited audience they were able to reach. The internet has taken away many of these limitations because previously the only people the bands could reach were those who actively sought out indie music. But now that the internet has become so widespread the opportunity is there to reach many more people and perhaps open them up to something new. It costs very little to set up a web page where you can put up information about your music and provide sound samples or even entire albums that you’ve encoded into RealAudio or Mp3 formats. And these are perfectly valid mediums. Now that we’re online you’ll start to see reviews in Aural Innovations of albums that can only be heard on web pages.
Is there a “music industry” anymore? Sure there is. Just look through the music section at Barnes & Noble or Media Play, or turn on MTV or VH1. Is D.I.Y. music a “threat” to the music industry? You bet it is. And I’m glad because the music industry couldn’t give a rats ass about the creative spirit. They care about the bottom line... which means $$$$$. But I don’t need to rant about that because anyone reading this publication already knows it. The problem with the music industrial complex is that talented artists who are bold enough to actually challenge listeners get “excluded”. And D.I.Y. music empowers artists to get a shot at being included.
RZ: What do you think the impacts of the Internet on music will be over the next 25 years? Will we see new formats? New presentation methods? Is this good, bad or indifferent?
I think the internet offers possibilities that are very good. For example, web sites allow me to enjoy music as either an active or passive experience. I can listen to a band’s music passively while surfing other sites or working on something else. Or I can make the experience more active by reading the band’s bio and history and such while I’m listening to their music. And oh look, there’s a link to a page where I can go ahead and order their CD right online directly from the band. The point is it’s my choice how involved I want to be. And it will become more and more likely that the average person will be listening to an indie band rather than some band a major label is promoting because it’s all apples and oranges whether you’re visiting an indie artist’s web site or a major label artist’s web site.
I think we’re only in the earliest stages of developing formats and presentation methods. Things will explode once the bandwidth problem is resolved, which I’m sure isn’t very far down the road. Modem speeds, RAM, all those limitations will go away. Computers will soon have the ability to function as stereo components where you can download albums and then play them on the your traditional stereo system. You’ll just select the album from a software “CD Rack” on your computer instead of putting an album on the turntable or popping in a CD. And getting back to your previous question, that’s the point at which the music industry will really be in trouble. But they’re not stupid. I’m sure they’re already planning and plotting for this scenario.
RZ: Back in "the day", when I was only 19 (mid '60's), drugs/trips were considered to be an essential for Space/Psych listening (or playing). I've since gravitated away from that scene (stuff just makes me sweat too much now)... are they still an essential? Which raises a question we often asked (ourselves). Which comes first? The "substance" or the "experience"?
JK: “The day” you refer to was the 70's for me. And yes, drugs were a big part of listening to the music, though for me it was never really part of the “experience”. The music sure as hell sounded better when I was stoned. But I had a much better “experience” sitting alone in my room blaring the stereo and focusing on the album jackets and reading rock magazines. Except for occasionally sampling mother nature, I’ve mostly given up drugs myself too. The “experience” of music comes first and I’m not sure how much drugs really enhanced that for me. You’ll get LOTS of different opinions on this question.
RZ: What's your dayjob (or do you have one)?
I manage a software quality assurance team. We help the programmers develop new products and test the software before giving it to customers, but we also work with large companies that want to build interfaces to our system. So I get to see technology doing its magic every day. And I believe that technology should move forward just as rapid-fire as it is. But I also believe we need to keep our feet firmly on the ground. I have NO cell phone, NO beeper, NO palm pilot, none of that crap. Technology is a means to accomplish tasks in not only the most efficient way, but the SIMPLEST way. It shouldn’t rule our lives. You’ll never see me talking on a cell phone in the grocery store. It really pisses me off when I see that.
RZ: Your advice for HOMEMADE musicians?
JK: In the few years that I have been networking with HOMEMADE musicians, they have typically been the ones to give me advice. But the one recommendation I’ll make is to network with as many people as you can. And always be willing to help out others when you see the opportunity. I’ve learned firsthand that people will be just as quick to return the favor. It’s just like any community.
RZ: You've (quite often) expressed that you believe musicians ought to be "paid" for their work? What generates that feeling? How important IS it (to you; to musicians)?
I feel this way for two reasons. First, and the more simplistic reason, is that despite what I said before about the low cost opportunities for producing and distributing music, it still does cost something do to this. The musician is offering a product that will benefit the listener so the musician should, at the very least, be reimbursed for that. Also, if the musician who is burning CDR’s in his/her home can sell and profit from them, then perhaps they can then take the step of having a batch of several hundred made professionally. Even this isn’t financially out of reach anymore. But it takes money.
The second reason is more complex. I firmly support the indie ethic and artistic values. Anyone who has seen Aural Innovations or dealt with me knows that. But I also function quite comfortably in the corporate world and see absolutely nothing wrong with making a profit. In fact, I don’t believe the world can function without SOME element of a capitalist market that includes buyers and sellers. I think it’s great that musicians are willing to create adventurous music that the music industry isn’t interested in supporting. But if that musician does find an interested “consumer” for his/her music, then the musician should profit from it. Some level of dollars probably went into the project, and certainly a lot of time and effort.
But when I talk about artists being paid for their work, I’m really talking about a physical medium like a CD and middlemen like myself who sell them on the artists’ behalf. I’ve been slowly growing an Aural Innovations mail order catalog and the reason it grows slowly is because I pay the artists up-front for the product I carry in my catalog (there are a couple exceptions). I hear indie musician’s frustrations all the time with sending out their CD’s on consignment. That’s not to say the catalogs that carry their music are bad. It’s not possible for them to pay up-front for everything they carry. But there is usually a substantial cost involved to the bands for having to provide this music in the hopes that it will sell. But that’s how, by necessity, the game is played.
I don’t do this for a living so I can afford to run it by a personal philosophy, but I’d rather take on bands slowly, and pay them for their music knowing I’ll ultimately sell the music. I’m currently experimenting with different kinds of advertising and am very slowly proving that I can idealistically sell small label and home produced CDR’s by indie musicians. Despite the “hobby” status of the whole thing right now (albeit a serious one), I would love to do this full- time for a living. “Profit” can be a good thing and benefit multiple parties. If I can pay a band for their music, they in turn have additional funds to keep making music. If I can then sell the music I bought at a fair markup I have helped the band get their music out to listeners that may never have otherwise heard the music, AND in process raise additional funds for myself to add more artists to the catalog. Markets are cruel only when they function purely for the sake of profit, and without a larger goal that seeks to benefit as many parties as possible. Ask me about this again in a year and we’ll see where I’m at.
RZ: What other 'zines/labels would you (especially) recommend to folks interested in music that departs from the norm?
Unfortunately I have little time to check out other zines. But one really wonderful printed zine that’s been around for a number of years is Expose’, which is subtitled “Exploring The Boundaries Of Rock”. They cover all kinds of progressive rock, spacerock, psychedelia, and experimental music. They have a web site at www.expose.org.
I could go on FOREVER about labels, but I’ll mention one that has impressed me. The Music & Elsewhere project is a British label that releases cassettes and distributes CD’s from all kinds of bands, all over the world. Spacerock, psychedelia, electronica, metal, you name it. Just fantastic stuff. They do lots of cassette compilations that allow you to sample the artists they represent. They’ve only recently gone on the web but all indie artists should check them out. They have a web site at http://musicelsewhere.hypermart.net. Carl “Nomusic” Howard had a similar thing going with his Audiophile Tapes here in the USA, but that was sadly discontinued last year.
RZ: Please use this space to insert profound philosophical thoughts (or inane ones that might someday be considered profound).
Jerry’s quote of the day: “Worthy projects that are not backed by big money only succeed when fueled by people willing to devote their time and expertise”.
Jerry’s advice to EVERYONE: If someone helps you out... never forget it, and never take it for granted.
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