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March 27, 2003 - Image 15

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The Michigan Daily, 2003-03-27

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10B - The Michigan Daily - Weekend Magazine - Thursday, March 27, 2003
Record labels help Detroit's music hopefuls

The Michigan Daily - ieekend iagaz
How to make your own garage band

By Niamh Slevin
Daily Arts Writer
6 I f you have a passion to
make music, your
music will be heard,"
says Kelli Miller, guitarist for
The Trembling, one of Detroit's
Sp-and-coming bands.
While Miller's message denotes the
positive aspects of the area's broad music
scene, the harsh reality of record label
woes and venue buy-outs tears down the
hopes and dreams of many a new band.
Regardless of the problem, The
Trembling, along with several other
Detroit artists, offer helpful alternatives
end marketing strategies in the publicity
battle between corporate America and
the common band.
Often, artists try to snag a record deal
from top labels, thinking the only way to
achieve success is through the main-
stream avenues. But, it is these same
labels that, whether intentionally or not,
are star ing artists out of key exposure

opportunities. From booking venues
entirely for their purposes to monopoliz-
ing the airwaves, corporate labels have a
history of manipulating publicity in their
favor.
Miller explains, "Most of the venues
that exist in the city are booked by Car
Channel, and they tend to focus on their
own bestinterest rather than the idea of
giving local bands a chance to play."
Even smaller companies recognize
the downsides of their larger counter-
parts for local bands. Marie Kelly, a
producer with DataFeedback
Recordings, says, "A major label ...
may be able to front a lot more money
for someone starting out and not worry
about the outcome as much."
Detroit and its surroundings cities still
boast a lively, supportive music scene in
the right environment. Community-
based venues, like Detroit's The Lager
House and Ann Arbor's The Neutral
Zone, usually prefer the independent
crowd. Indie labels, such as Plumline
Records and Dischord Records, are com-
prised mainly of musicians who are also
striving to publish records, and such

By Graham Kelly
Daily-Arts Writer
So you've learned to play the guitar.
You can cover a few songs, maybe
you've even managed to get
"Stairway to Heaven" down in its entire-
ty. Or, perhaps you've penned a few of
your own songs and now you want to
share them with others. What's your first
step? Well, you need band members.
Karl Sturk of Dropjaw, who has been
playing the guitar for close to six years
and has his fair share of experience in
bands (he used to be in the Codepen-
dents and One Block West) recom-
mends asking around.
"The best chance of finding another
musician is through acquaintances," he
explains, whether it's direct friends or
friends of friends.
He also recommends putting up flyers
around town, at venues or at music
stores. If desperation hits, there is always
the possibility of asking a musician
from another band to play with you and,
if you're lucky, he may even switch over.
What could be either a last resort or a
first move in forming a band is a web-
site all about Michigan groups
(wwwplusminusrecords. com/michigan).
It's incredibly easy to navigate and has a
classifieds section in which current
bands post ads for members that they
need. The site offers easy access to
bands in your area that like the same
music as you and are looking for anoth-
er member. Updates are added almost
every day.
With a band formed, you pretty much
have two options in a college town. You

studio.
The Loft, run by Andy and Tim Pata-
lan, is another option. The weekends
are the hardest to book, but the Patalans
say that they are feasibly open 24 hours
a day. Everything here is recorded onto
a one-inch or two-inch tape, both 24
tracks, or on 32 tracks using the newest
version of ProTools. The possibility
there is to combine both tape and Pro-
Tools for 56 tracks if you're aspiring to
be the next Queen. The Loft has a slew
of both vintage and new gear for use:
"The coolest things of yesteryear and
the best of today. Whatever sounds
best," according to Andy Patalan.
Prices are either $60 or $40 an hour,
depending on what equipment you use
to record. Those prices are set and there
is no reduction if you bring in your
own engineer.
Your cheaper option is setting up in
your basement with a 4-track cassette
recorder, found on Ebay for as low as
$49.50, though Sturk dissuades most
people from recording seriously onto
cassette. "Tape is still fun, but you don't
use it for demos because the conversion
is difficult," he warns. He recommends
a digital 8-Track, which costs around
$300 and can be found on the Internet at
sites like www.musiciansfriend.com or
www.samedaymusic.com.
You never know where you'll find
another band member, though. Kristen
Howard of Yakum Schmakum met
James Lower during a semester at sea
program, where they would sit together,
play songs and sing. When James and a
few friends decided to form a cover
See MAKING, Page 4B

1\

Courtesy of The Trembling

Courtesy of Dropjaw

The Trembling understands the hardships of being a Detroit band.

labels are often more willing to help out
newcomers.
Amid the fight to find an open venue,
Detroit bands encounter trouble just
drawing people to the gigs. "Since
Detroit is primarily a commuter city, it
can be difficult to get people to come out
to a show, especially if it's on a week-
night or in an unfamiliar neighborhood,"
Miller notes.
The task of starting a label is undoubt-
edly overwhelming for any brave soul,
and almost anyone will tell you it takes
much more than a little money and hard
work to make it happen.
"There's so many resources and so
many aspects and avenues to focus on,
from booking to promoting; mastering
to pressing; duplications, tours, venues
and even how to conduct yourselves,"
Kelly warns.
Although creating a label is a viable

alternative to existing labels, the process
requires even more sweat from already
dedicated groups.
Dale Nicholls, a musician with the
band Spy Island, says, "You need a good
product, money, imagination and a love
of music. Mostly, (you need) money."
Because brand new labels are so
complicated, it is sometimes easier to
hook up with a friend in a musical
coalition or find a trustworthy, reliable

Even if you have a label, it's not time
to relax. There's still music to create and
a band to keep together, which can be
troublesome jobs themselves.
"Starting out in Detroit, I think, is
easy. It's staying together and staying true
to what you believe in that is the daunt-
ing task. It's also difficult not to get lost
in the shuffle," observes Monday
Busque, bass player with The Trembling.
Nicholls and fellow band mate David
Serra endorse the concept of just writing

can write your own songs and try to
forge ahead or you learn other people's
hit songs and play those to a bar full of
people anxious to be taken back to the
grunge era.
Either way, you need to cut a demo.
That means it's off to the recording stu-
dio. In Ann Arbor two studios outshine
the rest.
40oz Sound, managed by Drew
Peters and BenBegan, has state of the
art technology, running everything
through a dedicated CPU (dedicated
as in only handling audio programs
and not browsers for surfing the net).
They have 48 tracks and a hard disc

recording system. A choice of either
vintage or new equipment is available
if you feel like you're not getting the
sound you want out of your own drum
kit. If you want to get in on a weekend
to record, you could be waiting a
while. If you need a demo immediate-
ly, the best times to go are during the
weekdays, although they could be
booked in advance. The price is $35
an hour with an engineer, though you
can save some money by bringing in
your own man who knows how to run
the boards. Check out their website at
www.4Oozsound.com for more tips on
how to prepare before going into the

company to
Stars, a fair-
ly well-
known inde-
pendent
label now,
began as a
community
of friends
looking for
interesting

support you. Kill Rock

"It's staying together and staying
true to what you believe in that is
the daunting task. It's also difficult
not to get lost in the shuffle."
- Monday Busgue
Bass player for the Trembling

songs and
having fun
with the
w o r k .
"Making
music is a
kind of ongo-
ing dialogue,
and we want

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musical talent in their own city.
Supporting a local company more often
than not gets the job done the way one
wants it and also allows the label's
name to be noticed more, which in turn
helps other bands gain recognition.
In regard to the question of what labels
look for in their future exploits, there is
no real answer. They all have a different
definition of what is marketable and
what has character. DataFeedback
Recordings looks at the band's target
audience, how often one is looking to
tour and what the artistic goals from both
parties are. Grand Haven's Fall Records
think originality and determination are
the two key factors.
Marie Kelly argues almost the exact
opposite. "(DataFeedback) is not neces-
sarily looking for 'cutting edge' all the
time. I personally love good old-fash-
ioned rock and roll, but a band that we
appreciate as musicians will work well."

to mash it up
a bit, put in our two cents worth."
After all these criticisms and com-
plaints of the music business, it isn't hard
to imagine that some people consider
musical success to be an unattainable,
stressful idea. Busque replies, "Be in a
band because you love music, and you
love to do it. Don't do. it for so-called suc-
cess because it's a success if you've just
gotten a band together. It's a success if
you play for ten people in a basement or
500 in a club."
The search for the right publicity
manager has its paybacks in the end,
despite its problems in the beginning.
Stronger and perhaps more deter-
mined, a band comes out with a fan-
base, a crowd cheering the music, the
excitement and the struggle within a
meager four walls. Kelly admits,
"When you put all that together and
it works, you've got something truly
brilliant." .

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