Monday, 21 January 2013

This week, Aquatic Ape. Or, is a swimming pool anything like the music business?

   Welcome back Ladies and Gentlemen, to The Honest Music Blog. This week has seen myself temporarily left to my own devices - with Holly away on a no doubt thrill-a-minute trip to Oxford with her day job (that’s right folks, music ain’t paying no bills), I found myself adjusting to life without my partner in crime. And what did I do you ask? Did I trawl the internet making contacts and enquiries about gigs and venues? Did I sit down and work on my modal scales? Did I do anything musical worth mentioning on this blog about music? The answer is: No. I went swimming. Which did in turn lead me to ask myself - is a swimming pool anything like the music business? The answer is: Yes. Yes it is.

   Now bear with me here, because I thought this up while slowly paddling round the deep end. Imagine if you will, a swimming pool. This swimming pool is the music business. Its big, its potentially fatal and full of strange people. Upon arrival, you never really know what you’re going to find. It smells funny and is slightly confusing. It’s not really like anywhere else. Your response to all this? What is the first thing you do? You take off all your clothes. Now, I not saying that being part of the music business requires you to get naked. Maybe it would help, maybe it wouldn’t, but that’s by the by. My point is exposure - is changing into Speedos in front of a room full of people really that different to getting up on a stage and playing a song that you have written? Both open you up for potential criticism or possible admiration (in a weird way), but the fact remains that without this initial vulnerability, nothing would happen. You can’t swim without your Speedos and you can’t play music without people hearing it.

  Anyway, having braved the first stage, you find yourself with two options: sit on the side and watch everyone else having all the fun, or take the chance and chuck yourself in. You may as some people do, dip your toe in to test the water first. What do you always find? Its lukewarm. The water, like public reception, is never quite as hot as you’d hope for. Some people may be put off by this and pack it all in before even really starting. They go and sit next to the vending machine and read Heat magazine. Some people don’t even notice and dive in anyway.
   Now, assume you’ve got this far and find yourself in the water (music business). This is how my train of thought started - my approach to swimming is pretty much like my approach to music - I don’t take it too seriously, I change direction without warning and mostly wish I was a bit better at it than I actually am. I then wondered whether everyone’s swimming style was comparable to people’s musical style? In both instances you meet the same types of people. You have people like myself, changing strokes like I change instruments, going backwards and forwards and sideways, making big noises and little splashes. I’m the musical equivalent of an impressionable youth with a short attention span. There are those who hurl themselves in with an almighty crash and thunder down to the shallow end. These are your Rock’n’Rollers - noisy, hairy, short lived and really only in it for the women. There are those pairs who swim very slowly, holding long conversations between themselves - these are your folk musicians, using far too many words which are only really relevant to themselves and wondering why anyone else bothers to swim any differently. There are those who bring all the swimming paraphernalia - caps, goggles, nose plug, verruca socks - these are of course the prog musicians, never leaving home without far too much kit and taking an age before anything happens. Those who insist on fighting a losing battle with the water - groping their way along with pleading eyes and shocked faces because in truth they’re slowly drowning (those who want to be in it but just aren’t good enough to get by), those women, the pop stars, who enter the water with full make up and a salon styled hairdo are an example of style over substance, those kids who think its all such a laugh until one of them has a asthma attack (read drug overdose). What about the opera stars you ask? Overweight men involved in situations that require them to strain every sinew in effort while everyone else strains to understand what they’re doing? Look around you. Somewhere, there will be an overweight old man using a beach towel to strenuously floss his undercarriage, gleefully unaware that people around him are struggling to hide the horror on their faces. I could go on. And I will. Look at the Life Guards. These are your audience. Are they paying attention? You hope they are, but in truth, they’re not. Unless you do something crazy that is. Or you are so crap at swimming that they are forced to intervene. A musical audience would leave. A Life Guard would dump you on the side, cold and embarrassed. They’re really the same thing.

   On leaving the pool and returning to the changing room, I noticed a genius piece of scrawled graffiti. I once read that the novelist Stephen King writes down all the graffiti he sees, because he says that it is the closest, most concise insight into the human psyche as you can find. I hope for Phil D’s sake that this is not true - ‘Phil D has shitty wort nob’ it read. Poor Phil D. Although, this analogy once again serves to highlight the plight of another swimming pool/music business contender: The Groupie. Stay safe kids, stay safe. You don’t want your dirty laundry (or in Phil’s case, your STD) aired in front of strangers via shower room walls.

   Maybe I was onto something. Maybe a swimming pool is just like the music business. When I eventually left the bath house, I had less money than I went in with, a lingering doubt that I probably could of tried harder, and bad hair. Would you not be in exactly the same state if you gave up music right now? I know I would. And that’s why I’ll keep on trying. Music that is, not swimming. But probably swimming as well. But not simultaneously. That wouldn’t make any sense at all.




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