Since discovering that the wildly uncommercial band, Henry Cow, are on YouTube I've been reading up about their drummer, Chris Cutler. In this interview
he has some interesting things to say about the music industry.
We had our own PA system, lights and a bus for us (with kitchen equipment and bunks for sleeping) and a Lorry for all the equipment. So we were completely self contained. Then we organised all our own administrative affairs, tours and finances and acted as our own management and agency. All the money that came to the group we spent according to unanimous decisions made at meetings - on necessities (like repairs).
We didn’t pay ourselves until the last two years, and then the amounts were symbolic. Eventually we even released our own records, becoming to all intents and purposes completely dislocated from the usual support networks and exploitation machines.
[quoting from the Rock In Opposition
statement] ... 'The music industry makes all its decisions on the basis of Profit & Prestiege... they have ears only for the rustling of money, hearts which only pump with the blood of murdered.'
Do you think the climate within the industry is any different today? If not, what's needed to better the situation?
If not the same, worse - big companies don't take anyone on for musical reasons; music is an investment which has to pay back with interest. Nothing is needed to better the situation - who WANTS the industry to have anything to do with our work? Better they keep their sticky hands off. I think we can look after ourselves best. In the satellite economy we are able more or less to control without too much compromise.
When the punk movement sprang up, did you feel that they were suitably anti-establishment (as Cow and RIO) or were they just co-opted?
There was something real happening on the ground, but what surfaced and the way it surfaced was almost wholly and immediately coopted by a failing record industry looking for new blood to suck and new markets to create and exploit. Most 'punk' bands turned out to be middle class art students.
‘Oi’ bands - who stayed 'punk' after the fashion faded- were political fascists -that was too grim for the fresh out of college guys in the music press who ‘discovered’ and hyped up Punk to contemplate by. In other words: confusion. One the punks had kicked the door in the ‘New Wave’ rapidly colonised the opened space.
Underneath it all was a great revolution of independent production and a head clearing attitude to music - although not so much of this saw the commercial light of day. Its good effects however are still with us, and this is it’s important legacy: the moves toward independence, sexual equality and stylistic diversity. The Sex Pistols and other money hoovers had nothing at all to do with this.