A Musical Manifesto (Of Sorts)

I’m in the very early stages of recording a second LP under my pseudonym, Red State Soundsystem. (I’m also recording an acoustic EP of some of the tracks from my first LP, Ghosts In A Burning City, as well as some new tracks, primarily on guitar and piano.) So I’m thinking a lot about music these days.

I don’t want to make a “pop” record, except in the most broad sense. I am bored with pop music. I’m bored with shiny, happy, sun-kissed music, with Brian Wilson fetishism, with ELO close harmonies and layers of major key Mellotron. I’m bored with beardo indie pop. I’m bored with Prozac music, blissed out “happy” music that actually has no passion behind it. I’m sick of danceability, of 8-bit synths, of the almost hysterical infantilism of most modern rock and roll.

I grew up in the 1980s. I love much of the music of the 1980s. I have absolutely no fucking desire whatsoever to attempt to replicate it as closely as possible, down to spending thousands of dollars buying really shitty “vintage” digital synthesizers that are easily and precisely replicable on any device with more complexity than a ten year old Nokia candybar cell phone. (Trust me on this; you can exactly replicate a TR-808 drum machine or Yamaha DX-7 synth in software now. There’s no magic in them, no secret ingredients, not even the random variation of a 1970s analog synth.)

I want to make music for unhappy people. I want to make music for sexually frustrated people. I want to make music for losers, geeks, freaks, drunks, addicts, burnouts. I want to make music that people will sit in the dark and listen to and burn incense and smoke cigarettes, and I want the music I make to maybe stop them from hurting quite so much. I want to make rough music. I want to make glitchy music. I want to mix the sounds of electronic music, which I love, with the emotional intensity of rock and roll. I want to make music for adults with adult emotions, ambiguous and not always beautiful. I want to make music that drones, that has beats, that makes you want to go out and fuck or kill or die or live. I want to make music that pretty people hear and get aneurysms and fall down dead on the street. I don’t want to be experimental, because making atonal horrible noise isn’t experimental. A lot of people already tried the experiments and produced a lot of pompous, shitty records.

I want to make a record, not a collection of singles for YouTube. I want to make videos, but I want them to be interesting, otherwise there’s no point.

Fuck Brian Wilson. Fuck Jeff Lynne. Fuck the Arcade Fire. My music is influenced by: William Gibson, Lorca, Clive Barker, T.S. Eliot, Anne Sexton, Tom Waits, Lou Reed, Tricky, Garth Ennis, Hunter Thompson, Neil Gaiman, Van Morrison, The National, Grant Morrison, China Mieville, Dave McKean, Nick Drake, Sant’Elia, Bowie, Harlan Ellison, Nick Cave, Jon Hassell, Brian Eno, Leonard Cohen, Leonard Cohen, Leonard Cohen. My music is influenced by all the horrible nights I spent drunk hurting myself and all the terrible things I’ve done and all the redemption I’ve managed to scrape together. My music is influenced by every pack of cigarettes I’ve smoked and every tab of acid I’ve chewed on and all the good sex and bad sex I’ve had and every shit bar I’ve ever been in and every beautiful salon and not at all by wonderful white suburbia. I don’t give a fuck about the lives of suburbanites unless they go mad.

I can’t sing. I don’t care anymore. I sing the way I sing. I write better songs than people who sing better than I do. My music isn’t complex. It doesn’t have the kind of chord changes that other musicians get excited by. I don’t care. I’ll write songs with two notes.

Lyrics matter. If you don’t think so, you’re doing it wrong.

I want to write songs that make people want to sell everything they own and get on a plane and disappear into the world, born again under wilder skies. I want people to fuck to my music. I want people to want my songs played on a boombox at their graveside. I want to make people happy. I want to make people think

I don’t need to rock harder than anybody else. I’m a pussy. I write gloomy mid-tempo music. That’s fine. I make gloomy mid-tempo music as hard as I fucking can. It’s not made to drop in the club to help morons find other morons to fuck. I want smart people fucking to my music.

I don’t care if anyone else likes my music anymore, or buys it. If you don’t like it, it’s not for you. Maybe in a hundred years, somebody will dig it. Maybe you dig it now. If you do, I’m glad. Really glad.

I will never be on the cover of a glossy magazine. Prom queens will never want to meet me because my music speaks to them. Nobody will ever ask me to do a celebrity remix. Nobody will ever put my music over the closing credits of a blockbuster movie. That’s fine. I don’t care.

Every song I record, every record I make, is a paper boat with a candle in it, set onto a wine-dark sea and sent off into the world. I don’t know where they will end up. I hope interesting and crazy and maybe useful places. But it doesn’t matter, in the end. All that matters is that I make them and set them free, until the day I die.

Anything else would be pathetic.

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