Factory Records And Punk

Chicken Rhythms or Chicken Shit?

(This rant is a response to a post on an online forum)

I think it’s difficult now to understand how important Factory were back then (and by this, I mean the 80s).

My fave Factory bands:
New Order
Durutti Column
OMD (started there)
The Wake
Cabaret Voltaire

Factory bands I could do without:

Adventure Babies

So that’s not a bad ratio for me!

Some of my favourite ever songs are courtesy of Factory. The 12″ of New Order’s ‘Temptation’ (one of the best love songs ever), practically everything by Vini Reilly and even some of the very early James, when they were all still militant vegans.

As for the book, I think you have to remember Tony Wilson is an over-read, playful fucker. So often he’s saying things just to annoy, partially cos he’s overdosed on Deleuze, Foucault, Marcuse and Derrida, partially cos he genuinely has tried to not be a normal label boss. Or run a normal label.

There’s no doubt that without Factory, you’d never have had the whole Madchester phenomenon. I wasn’t into it personally because it was so E-focussed but you can’t deny it changed the whole of youth culture overnight, even football terrace culture. And suddenly Factory, the artiest, most pretentious label ever, were actually fulfilling Wilson’s wank-fantasy of connecting with the masses. I mean, only depressive students ever bought Joy Division records but every fucker went out and bought ‘Step On.’

As for his comments on playing, I don’t think it’s any secret that I broadly agree with him. Technique, in itself, is totally pointless. The world is full of lads who can play their heroes widdly metal guitar solos note for note. But will they ever create any art themselves? No.

I think Wilson is just highlighting that it’s the rule-breakers that mostly advance music. The people who may be technically rubbish but have the wild creative fire in them so they don’t let that stop them. This is the exact reason I’d swap all of Fugazi’s output just for ‘Small Man, Big Mouth’ by Minor Threat. Often, when people learn how to play, they choose to play very, very dull stuff. (see Prog Rock.)

But I don’t expect you to agree with me cos that’s basically a punk aesthetic and you follow, basically, a rock aesthetic (this is why I call P&A a rock’n’roll band and you get grumpy).

The rock aesthetic is all about the role of musicians as curators. You have to learn the old songs, play the old riffs, get the old gear, be as “authentic” as possible. You have to be a real musician and your music is judged by how technically well you can play and sing. “Hey… those guys can really play!” Rock is retro. It’s a modernist, positivist schema. Oasis are rock.

The punk aesthetic is all about the unimportance of musicians and musicianship. If you have an idea, express it. If you can’t hack it out on a guitar, don’t spend years practising, grab a sampler or a synth. If you can’t work them – grab someone who can. Do It Yourself – you do not need and should not seek or wait for anyone else’s approval. Steal from anyone – theft is property. Punk is futuristic. It’s a post-modern, phenomenological schema. Hrvatski is punk.

although i really like that idea, and listen mainly to music which follows that idea, and like punk despite my ill informed rant, i dont think that people should dislike bands on the basis that they know how to play, which is essentially what wilson is trying to say.
(dave @ 15 Mar 2003, 01:01 AM)

Well, if that’s what he’s saying, then I also disagree with him!

I don’t automatically dislike a band because they’re technically proficient – that would be ridiculous! All I’m saying is that, generalising hugely, all the music I most like isn’t very technically complex and the musicians playing it aren’t the best in the world at playing/singing. I love Leonard Cohen’s vocals but he’s always been slagged-off as a technically poor singer.

OTOH, my fave band (and also one of Wilsons) is Kraftwerk. Who, when they formed, were four straight, white, classically trained (some under Stockhausen) German guys. About as unhip and unyouthful and middle-class as you could get. And they could all play very well technically. BUT they didn’t feel the need to demonstrate this on every record. In fact, they abandoned conventional instruments and moved to synthesizers (as well as inventing their own instruments and sequencers). And no-one can deny the impact these highly-educated, highly-trained musicians have had on everything from trance to hip hop to David Bowie. But Kraftwerk are the rare example of musicians who can surpass their training. Ironically, most of the classically trained people I’ve met have been robots – they can read and play but they can’t create. Kraftwerk, who often pretend to be robots, are actually the humans.

wilson says “keep musicians out of music”. that really worries me! because every fucker in every music magazine thinks like that, and that therefore renders p&a un-DIY and therefore shit.

I think by musicians he means what I call musos (this is before Nees and Follup nicked the word and changed the meaning). He means the dull blokes that’ll come into your shop and want to discuss string gauges for three hours. He means the people who are so busy worshipping their heroes that they never get round to writing anything remotely original. Basically, Paul Weller fans.

As for music magazines – they’re all rock. None of them are punk. Garage punkness may be selling a few issues now but it’s a passing fad. Next year they’ll all love U2 or Eric Clapton or something…

and then he starts off on one about the middle classes trying to make youth music, the musically educated trying to make youth music, and all this crap. the thing is, i suppose im middle class, and im vaguely musically educated, does that render all the things i create meaningless?

Of course not! And Wilson’s a huge middle-class ponce himself so that argument would be a paradox. Like the sentence “Everything I say is a lie.”

I really think you’re getting overly-worried here. Why should you care what anyone thinks of your music? Why should you care what a TV presenter in a bad suit thinks? Fuck Tony Wilson and his overblown theories – you should be flying by your own overblown theories.

In my little world, class is irrelevant artistically. All I care about is honesty. If you’re middle-class, like I am, don’t pretend you’re some working-class hero. Be yourself. Sing like you’re from Littleover not from Alabama like fucking Gomez do. As far as I can see, you don’t pretend in your music. Which is why I like it.

i still dont get the happy mondays at all.

I liked a lot of the early Mondays stuff. Like I say, they lost me on the drugs stuff but I do think Ryder has occasional flashes of brilliance. Wilson’s fascinated cos Ryder’s the real deal: a working class organic intellectual/poet. I’m not convinced he’s a rough diamond Jean Genet like Wilson thinks. But anyone who can come up with:

“Son, I’m 30
I only went with your mother ’cause she’s dirty
And I don’t have a decent bone in me
What you get is just what you see yeah
I see it so I take it freely
And all the bad piss ugly things i feed me
I never help or give to the needy
Come on and see me”

has got more than just drugs fuelling them, no matter what bad boy image they project,
love and kisses,