Being a Creative Independent (2/4): What it Means

I’d like to make an observational comparison. If you know me you know that most of my time is actually taken up by serving coffee/tea/food. It’s my day job and I enjoy it. It’s what keeps me afloat financially and I like to think I’m good at it.

What this also means is that I like to visit other places that do the same thing, or rather I like to visit the people. This comparison is between Independent Creatives and Independent cafes. There’s been an ever increasing amount of them pop up over past years and they are something I’m quite fond of.

When I visit an independent cafe the one thing I like to see is the owner behind the counter. The owner working hard and setting an example to their staff or to their customers. The reason I like to see this is that I like to see the passion behind the product. Even if they’re not the best at what they’re doing, I like to see them trying, learning and improving at their skill with each visit I make.

What ultimately puts me off is when I don’t see or stop seeing the owner. Now this can be for a couple of reasons which are completely understandable. 1) There’s too much work that needs to be done behind the scenes in order for the shop to run and to support their staff or 2) They’ve discovered new ways to make even more money and leave the shop to it’s own devices to go and start making more money rather than delivering their product.

The latter although still independent, I start to drift away from. Despite however many hipsters they’ve got working behind the counter, the latter I see as business. I completely understand that opening and running a cafe is a business, and that you have to be business minded in order to open and run it effectively; however I’d like to imagine that in an ideal world can’t someone open a cafe and be content with the success which allows them to meet financial needs at home rather than constantly search for the next money making venture in order to make even more of a profit?

It’s also extremely rare to find staff as passionate about the product as the owner. The staff may appear to be and act as if they are but at the end of the day they are there to get paid.

I’ve diverged from the point a little here I understand, but being an independent creative is about using your own passion and skills to set an example and to show to those around you. We each have a skill set and being independent is about using this to the best of your abilities and showing others what we have and what we can do or what we want to say; not by using other people to get the job done, and not by looking to be like other standard models (ie. what’s ‘hip’ at the time). We’ve all seen it. The producer that just makes dubstep, the producer that just makes hip hop, the producer that just makes drum and bass, or just makes IDM (the list goes one). There’s nothing wrong with these producers if they have their own sound and take on the genre, but many of them don’t. They’ve affixed themselves to a genre and bound themselves to a set of rules that are rarely broken. They aren’t unique (enough) to warrant being listened too, their abilities are respected, but their personality isn’t heard. Perhaps their aspirations are met but it’s still not who they are. Many people can make genre specific music by abiding to set of rules just as many people can make coffee by abiding to a set of rules, but what sets them apart?

When you walk into a cafe and see the owner their product is their living. There’s an element of care you don’t see from the other workers. If you find that element of care in the other staff members then the owner has been lucky enough to hit a gold mine; but this occurrence happens rarely. Many people apply for a job as a means to make money and that’s it. Of course they want to be happy doing what they’re doing, but as long as they’re getting paid they’re happy and content; it’s down to the owner to pay them right? When it’s the owner behind the counter you see a different mindset in action. This is their living and they could be a deep trouble if they don’t meet the standards set by themselves. That mindset transfers into their product and what they put down in front of you. You don’t see this in those who have succumbed to the love of money until they witness the dissatisfaction on the customers face for themselves (which once they’ve hit the big time they rarely do).

Being independent is about being your own voice, representing yourself and finding a way to be heard in a world where there are plenty of other people being good at what you’re trying to do also. What makes a good independent is the individuality and differences which come from your own personality, not trying to copy something from pinterest or instagram. Being different is when you don’t follow a trend. You simply be. Be independent.

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News: What’s about to happen… New releases, Networking, Sŵn Festival and more!

I briefly spoke about what’s been going on this year, but didn’t mention what’s about to happen…

Workflow has been few and far between due to increased live shows and the day job. I spent quite a bit of time concentrating on how I was going to start performing my music live. Chose a drum kit, and created an Ableton Live template to have running beside me with my Livid Instruments CNTRL:R, a small Korg Volca Keys Synth, and sometimes a little Akai MPK Mini 2 Keyboard (mainly for playing the synth). Playing that synth live is a pain on the ribbon controller…

I’ve still got a lot of work to do on the live aspect of playing. I make a point of meeting members of the audience and talking to them about what they enjoyed, and try getting some honest critisism. Some love it, but some get bored of seeing someone ‘just play drums’ and want to see something more. I try to put as much into my live show as possible when I’m playing, but I think taking it one step further may be the key.

First of all what I’m playing. Live drums can’t be good enough if I’m just playing what’s already on the track, so my aim is to start experimenting more. Filling the holes a little, stripping back to the idea of live drums being texture to add to the production, something extra you don’t hear on the original to make my live shows unique. I discovered more recently that if I try recording my drums to place into my productions that it kills the need for them live, but I don’t want that to happen. For this reason I think the most I’ll ever record in is the odd cymbal or percussion. Adding a live sound on top of electronic drums is so much more powerful.

Imperfections V3

NEW EP RELEASE 10/07/14

With this in mind, on the 10th July I’ll be releasing a new EP for you all to enjoy, entitled ‘Imperfections’. This release for me is a middle ground. I’m wanting to release another album by the end of this year, but that’s quite far away, so I wanted to get something out there for you all to enjoy in the meantime.

This EP is made up of 4 tracks… ‘Running Crows’, ‘Dancing Dragons’, ‘New Dreams’, and ‘Underwater Coin Catcher’.

I wanted to keep a vibe going throughout the EP, so I spent an afternoon creating ideas for it a few weeks ago in one session (picture below high on caffeine after I’d finished the session in my living room). Those ideas I arranged a week later in my studio, and I’ve been mixing them whenever I’ve had the chance to since. Finally I’m at a point where I’ve just got a few small changes to make before mastering them to send to you, and I really hope you’ll enjoy it.

I’m planning to do a short performance of this EP along with a couple of older tracks on the 16th July at Fizzi’s networking event at Fourbars in Cardiff. This is a free networking event for musicians and creatives to get together and meet each other. Create contacts, make friends… It was a great evening last time, and I’m so pleased to have been invited back to play for them. Although it’s a little nerve wracking.

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Free Music Networking Event 16/07/15

I would also like to mention that after the previous meetup I got in contact with Ian Tully, one of the attendees who runs ‘Cardiff Electronic Producers Group’ on Facebook. These guys meet up once a month or so, and the next one will be held at Waterloo Gardens Teahouse in Penylan, Cardiff on the 30th July. I’ll be there so it would be awesome to meet some fellow producers.

Last but CERTAINLY NOT LEAST I would like to announce that I’ll be playing Sŵn Festival 2015 in November. Details about venue etc will be announced closer to the time, but I’m so very pleased to be featured at this event.

swn-festival-listings-poster-web“This year’s Sŵn will take place on Saturday 7th and Sunday 8th November (a little later than usual due to the Rugby World Cup) across a bundle of venues in Cardiff. If you’re new to the festival, all you need to know is that one wristband gets you in to all the venues (subject to capacity), as you walk/run/meander around to discover as much new music as possible.” – http://swnfest.com/

It’s always nice to see how other people describe you too –> http://swnfest.com/artist/5th-spear-2/