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 <email@example.com>
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
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
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
- 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
- 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
- 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 <firstname.lastname@example.org> 11th March 1996