Analog to Analog

Back in 1988 when I was a junior in high school I’d been playing drums for several years, but was still pretty much a hack. I’d taken some private and group lessons, but my playing was mostly confined to putting headphones on and playing to my favorite records. I didn’t ‘practice’ in any way, shape or form.

One of my friends at school was Joe Reinsel. He was the real deal. He was in the school band, could read music and also played drums. I’d go over to his house sometimes and he’d show me licks and beats he was working on or figured out. I remember one time he was breaking down some Stewart Copeland stuff from Police records. Fantastic stuff that I either didn’t know about, or couldn’t get my head around. He had some Police albums on vinyl. So I borrowed them, went back to my buddy’s house and recorded them to cassette from his dad’s turntable.

Although a few years ago I sold all my CDs, I’ve kept all my cassettes in the garage. They’re what I listen to when working out there on bikes, or whatever. Radio reception is only so-so. The cassettes are great because they don’t really mind the cold, the dirt, or whatever. They just work. And the guaranteed trip in the Wayback machine each time I throw one in is great. I’ve got mix tapes, store bought tapes, album copies. Most of them I hand-made artwork/sleeves for. The best are the non- or ambiguously labelled ones without any track listing. Throw one in and go along for the ride. Because they were often copied from other people, there are many artists/albums that I didn’t get into that much or never acquired on CD that are fun to revisit all these years later.

I borrowed 4 albums from Joe – Regatta de Blanc, Zenyatta Mondatta, Ghost in the Machine and Singles – which I recorded on 2 cassettes back to back, one album each side. One of the cool parts of listening to these is there’s a ton of vinyl hiss and fuzz recorded right in – especially in the silence between the tracks. It just dawned on me the other day that these particular Police cassettes are now 31 years old.

John Butler, Ocean, 2012

John Butler has been playing this song his entire career from busking on streets to stadiums. Like his career it has morphed and changed over time, and like one of his shows is unique each time he plays it. Many artists have ‘signature tunes’ that become canon. This is his. So cool to see a) a piece of music that is essentially a part of who the man is that he never seems to tire of playing b) someone in such complete command of their instrument while simultaneously channelling something from somewhere else.

I remember years ago when a friend of mine played me a different version of this and it blew me away. This was/is like discovering it all over again.

From the YouTube description:

“OCEAN is a very interesting aspect of my life. It is part of my DNA. It conveys all things I can’t put into words. Life, loss, love, spirit. As I evolve so too does ‘Ocean’. The song was first recorded as part of my first album/cassette, “Searching For Heritage”, which I sold when I busked, then for my first self-titled studio album 12 years ago — “John Butler (1998)”. The song has been watched online incredibly over 25 million times in various formats, nearly always live, be it from MusicMax Sessions or from one of the many festivals I have had the pleasure to play. I’d like to thank you for your continued support over all these years; it means so much to me. I would like to thank you by offering this first studio recording of ‘Ocean’ in over a decade as a free download. I recorded it in my favourite studio, The Compound here in Fremantle Western Australia, a studio you helped me build. This marks just another fleeting moment in a career that is very much ongoing. I look forward to bringing you many new songs and albums into the future and continuing this amazing journey with you ALL. THANK YOU, J.B”

John Butler

Nick Cave Kicks Out The Jams While All the World’s AI Moshes in the Pit

In this great post over at Brain Pickings – Maria Popova shines a light on Nick Cave’s answer to a fan question about future artificial intelligence creating ‘perfect songs’ with no humans needed. The short answer is, yes they will, but the long answer is they still won’t be the same.

Nick fucking lays it down and single-handedly summarizes what I’ve been feeling but was unable to get out in any coherent way when I’ve been thinking about the future of music in an AI world. Get over there and witness his glory for yourself.

I don’t feel that when we listen to “Smells Like Teen Spirit” it is only the song that we are listening to. It feels to me, that what we are actually listening to is a withdrawn and alienated young man’s journey out of the small American town of Aberdeen — a young man who by any measure was a walking bundle of dysfunction and human limitation — a young man who had the temerity to howl his particular pain into a microphone and in doing so, by way of the heavens, reach into the hearts of a generation.

Nick Cave

Amen, Brother.