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I am the night
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I am its agony as it struggles against the light
And dies with the strike of the Sun God.






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Rollins at Music and Multimedia Conference, Toronto CA...
Last Saturday (March 9, 1996) Rollins gave a 1-hour talk at the Music and Multimedia conference in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, between 5 and 6pm. I attended, and here are some of my impressions (I tried to tape the talk, but my recorder screwed up, so I'm going by memory only here).
David Tenenbaum <e5tenenb@cquest.toronot.edu>

Getting in: As another rollins-talk list member (CJ Clancy) had hinted at, it was indeed expensive. $15 Can. to get into the conference, and another $15 Can. to get into the seminar. Altogether more than $20 U.S. to hear Rollins talk for an hour. Pretty steep! Luckily, I scammed some complementary passes to the show from a friend, so I only paid the seminar fee.

The venue: This was a nice aspect of this talk. It was held in Room 104AB of the Metro Convention Centre. About 40 metres wide (120 feet) by 25 metres long (75 feet) with a short stage (maybe a foot high), with nice chairs set up, as close to the stage as they could be. There was a mike and a small P.A. system. Bottom line: I didn't have to wait in line very long (~10 minutes) and I sat in the third row, close enough to actually really see and hear what Rollins had to say.

The focus: Rollins chose to focus his presentation on his advice to up and coming artists in the music industry and also his advice to industry types. He made his points and reiterated them several times, trying to basically get one thing across: Music is important and should be treated as such. Don't make shitty music just to make money (ie. Artists: don't let the industry types force you to change your music so that it is mediocre, and Industry: Don't screw around with artists). After finishing what he had to say, he took questions for about 15 minutes.

The highlights: I really wish my tape had worked, because retelling the funny stuff never really does it justice. I'll just relay the subject matter, and if you've heard Rollins Spoken Word enough times, you can pretty much imagine the jokes:

- Everyone should be able to make whatever sort of music they like, and release it if it is good. Except for Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians. In their case, Rollins is not entirely against censorship.

- Lollapalooza has transformed from being kind of cutting edge, to a mainstream make-money event. The problem: "The same white guys show up every year" (Rollins words). "Bring in some Nigerian master drummers, and I'll come see it." "Metallica is headlining this year's Lollapalooza. So Lollapalooza is alternative to what?"

- You should really love music if you're going to be in the music industry. Otherwise, find another job, like selling computers or stereos or whatever. Because music is important to people. No matter who you are, there's some kind of music that makes you "Rock out". Everybody has some artists that when you listen to them, you think "I'm really glad that guy's around making music". So produce good music, and don't release mediocre crap if it's not ready. Rollins analogy: The Real Thing versus Nutrasweet. Give people the Real Thing.

- Mediocre music is even worse than bad music. Why? With bad music, you know it (imagine Rollins jumping up and down, waving arms and shouting "Here I am, I am bad music, I suck!") With mediocre music, you hear it the first time and ... blah. You hear it the 100th time and still .. blah. You hear it the 800th time and .. Hey that's not bad. Before you know it, you're singing "Ice, ice baby" to yourself and they've got you! It's in your head like a virus, and you can't get it out.

Now for more factual/sombre/serious moments:

- Rollins Band has is going to be recording on the new Dream Works Label, formed by the former Warner head honcho (can't remember the name). Rollins is quite excited about this, because he has a lot of confidence in this guy and the label, which release maybe ten records a year instead of several records per second. The Band has 18 new songs, and should have an album out within the year. Rollins chose to sign with Dream Works because he was impressed with the former Warner guy: Apparently, all the other labels made offers, said they'd make lots of money and did all the things that Imago/Chrysalis did (former label that got dropped by the big company because they weren't making enough dough). Apparently, the head of Dream Works told Rollins that he recently had lunch with Rollins' long-time friend Ian MacKaye of Fugazi. Rollins scoffed at this prospect, asking the Dream Works guy if he actually expected to sign Fugazi who `aren't interested in money'. The Dream Works guy said that he knew they wouldn't be signing Fugazi, but he just wanted to meet MacKaye, someone who had started his own small label, to see how he did it. So this millionaire record company head just wanted to meet Ian MacKaye and have lunch with him. Rollins was impressed by this.

- About Rollins experience meeting and working with Rashied Ali: Rollins was apparently floored at the prospect of recording with Ali, since he worked with Coltrane, and Rollins regards this to be just amazing. Towards the end of the session, Rollins says that Ali asked questions like: "Am I ever going to get paid for this?" Apparently, Ali was accustomed to getting stiffed after doing a lot of session work. Also "Are you going to put my name on the back of the album? It's the least you could do." Apparently, Ali was also accustomed to not getting credit for his work. Rollins says "I was on the verge of crying. Here's this guy, one of the greatest jazz musicians to ever live, asking me if he's going to get paid and get credit for his work? I said: Of course you'll get paid, and your name will be on the album."

Rollins was relating this in context of Artists getting screwed by the Industry. Rollins: "Can you imagine alternative music where you need session players to do the studio versions. I mean, take the poor drummer from Soul Asylum. He doesn't even get to play on his own album. He's a member of the band, and he tours it, but on the album there's a session player. I can't tell you how many drum tracks get separated, resampled and quantized so the guy will actually hit the beats. I'm not going to name any names...well, Nevermind."

- the music industry better start treating artists right, because soon the artists won't need the industry. Using affordable equipment, small lables can produce music of the same quality as the big companies, so artists eventually won't need the big labels as much.

During the question period, there were a couple of hecklers who made an attempt to piss Rollins off:

- one heckler posed the following: "Following your analogy of the Real Thing versus Nutrasweet in music, can you apply that to your appearance in The Chase?" Rollins responded by explaining why he did The Chase and how he got the part: "I did The Chase because I liked the idea of playing a stupid pig. For the audition, I met with these guys from the movie studio and dressed up in a pig uniform, and they asked me questions and I would answer them as this stupid pig. Also, all the dialog in the whole movie was not scripted, Josh Mostel (Rollins' partner in the film) and I would just make it up as we went along. We had a great time doing it."

- another heckler: "If you and your label are so open-minded, then why don't you sign some Nigerian Master Drummers?" Rollins response included a couple of things: "First of all, 2.13.61 doesn't have any money to sign anyone else right now. All the money is committed to projects into 1997 and 1998. Also, I'd love to sign Nigerian Master Drummers, but I don't think anyone would come to hear it, and I'm not going to go into something where I know I'll lose money."

- another heckler: "If you were so angry at Imago/Chrysalis, why did you do the Powerbook ad with Imago's president?" Rollins: "I came to Apple to do that ad. I love Macs, I have 13 of them at the 2.13.61 office, and I thought it would be a cool ad to do because they are so useful in our work. And they gave me the Powerbook for doing the ad."

David Tenenbaum <e5tenenb@cquest.toronot.edu> 11th March 1996