Ros Coleman : Damn These Vampires

April 1, 2012


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Ros Coleman is a festival producer and member of the band ‘Death of Death of Discotheque’. 

Their debut album ‘Count My Face’ was released on orange vinyl they foolishly forwent food to pay for.  It looks nice, also loud.  It has only seven songs on it because they do not believe in overstaying their welcome.  One of their songs is called ‘square! ham! factory!’ which they have represented pictorially on the sleeve but if they are honest it looks a bit like it says square! fish! crown!.  It’s too late now, they’re printed!

Hobbies and Interests : Noise, Toys and Existentialism

I’m reading a book called ‘Your Brain On Music’ by Daniel Levitin.  It’s partially because I was really annoyed not to make it to a lecture at the Royal Institute in London the other week on Locating Consciousness.  It’s somewhat because my interest in neuroscience is resurfacing.  It’s a bit to do with reading a book on Existentialism recently by Gary Cox: “How To Be An Existentialist. Or, “How To Get Real, Get A Grip and Get On With It.”  It’s mostly because I bought it for Tom for Xmas and it’s been sitting there looking at me for a while, and tinkering with my synapses.

I mention it because I am going to, over an installation of several, perhaps many columnesque interviews such as this one, pursue an investigation into why music is so damned addictive.

“Do you wanna go up to the studio?”

“We can go up to the studio if you like, but if you’re comfortable here it doesn’t matter, it’s just for the photo.”


The reason behind the title is also multifarious.  Damn These Vampires is a song by The Mountain Goats, a favourite band of mine.  You should You-tube it.  Or maybe you should buy it.  It being that You-tubing it will not get them paid.

As an ex-compulsive downloader of music, I was a leech with a hard and fast habit.  I used to download music that wouldn’t see any musicians get paid, whilst al of the time harping on about how broken the music industry is, how downloads were freedom, how the live music event was the only thing worth paying for and how the album was obsolete as a form of music compilation.  I was young, I was daft.

These days I buy records.  Or at least, Tom buys them and I get to play them.  These days I miss music more than I interact with it, and I still play in a band, but I don’t spend days at a time downloading at a rate of a million mp3s per minute.  This column is an attempt to get some of that back, some devotional music listening and interaction into my life, beyond gigs and band practice.  Hence reading the above book.

The book told me some screwy fact that in the West, we spend more money on music than we do on legal or illegal drugs.

I’m interested in the way in which we put musicians on pedestals, for us to worship, and that some of us listen to music, even while thinking ‘I could never do that’.  Interesting in the wake of the story below, as taken verbatim from the introduction of the book I am reading about a shy Anthropologist called Jim conducting fieldwork in a small nation called Lesotho, surrounded by South Africa:

‘There, studying and interacting with local villagers, Jim patiently earned their trust until one day he was asked to join in one of their songs. So, typically, when asked to sing with these Sotho villagers, Jim said in a soft voice ‘I don’t sing,’ and it was true: We had been in high school band together and although he was an excellent oboe player, he couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket. The villagers found his objection puzzling and inexplicable. The Sotho consider singing an ordinary, everyday activity performed by everyone, young and old, men and women, not an activity reserved for a few.

Our culture, and indeed our very language, makes a distinction between a class of expert performers – the Arthur Rubinsteins, Ella Fitzgeralds, Paul McCartneys – and the rest of us. The rest of us pay money to hear the experts entertain us.’

Finally, I genuinely do think that the music business is still a blood sucker.  And I think that part of our thirst for it, and our lack of disposable income are exacerbating the problem.  And for a beautiful visualisation of the problem see here : ‘How much do music artists earn on line?’

And I wonder if our recent proliferations of digital connectivity will eventually make music more everyday and available for everyone to have a go at, rather than being the pursuit only of the genius and the misunderstood.

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