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Rules Of Life

Michael Bishop is a Richmond musician best known for his work with GWAR. In the late 1980s, Bishop started as the bassist for the shock rock band while in high school, creating the character Beefkake the Mighty. Bishop left the band to concentrate on Kepone, a post-punk group who released three records between 1992 and 2000. In 2012, he earned a Ph.D. in music from the University of Virginia, specializing in popular music ethnography and performance studies. Following the death of GWAR singer Dave Brockie in 2014, Michael became the band’s vocalist, the Berserker Blöthar. Today, he stays busy as a writer and learning strategist, a member of Kepone and a country and soul group called the Misery Brothers, and the bassist for Sarah White. He also works with composer J. William Adkins on music, stage, and animation projects.

The talk is about the intersections of regional identity, economics, slavery, and creativity — and how it all relates to Gwar. Intrigued? Read on for a fierce look into the life of Gwar.









GIFs via TEDx and Upworthy

As a music fan obsessed with uncovering the secrets of life, I tend to let my love of artists guide me to some knowledge. Last week, it was designed that I saw Australian pop rockers 5 Seconds Of Summer, and a few days later, country music superstars Rascal Flatts. As far away from the radio format as they can be, they’re both disruptors in their own world. The division between them isn’t good and bad or true or false but interesting and dull. Both bands were completely in control of their own sets, each other, and their audiences. Here’s what I’ve learnt from them that I think you can too.

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1. Respect Your Audience
Both artists play music that feeds the soul of the audience. Consisting entirely different music, both audiences truly appreciated the work it took to get not to just to this present point (5SOS formed in in 2011, Rascal Flatts began in Columbus, Ohio in 1999), but their current albums. Take a look at 5SOS on Twitter or Instagram, they respond and engage on a daily, and sometimes an hourly basis to their followers. Want to blow your audiences? Respond to them and make their day or week or even year. Gary LeVox, Rsacal Flatts’ lead singer, worked at Ohio Department of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities in downtown Columbus, and it shows. His kind gestures and facial expressions to the audience shows he truly appreciates them. How many countless hours do you think Gary spent working, dreaming of being onstage, thinking about how he would want to be treated the same way when it comes to artists that he loved listening to. There might not be a kinder frontman in country music today.

2. Management Is Everything
5 Seconds Of Summer is managed by Richard Griffiths and Harry Magee. The former has worked within the music industry for over forty years, starting off initially as a London based booking agent. In 1974 he founded Headline Artists, where he became the first International Agent for AC/DC. Richard has held senior executive positions at a number of leading companies on both sides of the Atlantic, including BMG Entertainment, Virgin and Sony Music. Harry has had a career within the music industry for over thirty years working in retail, music publishing, concert promoting, executive positions in major record labels and as a partner in independent record labels and artist management companies. Harry started off joining an independent music publishing company in 1982 but has since worked at BMG Records as MD of RCA, Big Life Records as MD and A&M where he became General Manager. He also formed the successful Wire Records. In 2001 he joined Richard Griffiths at the UK arm of The Firm. In 2003, the pair left to form Modest! Management.

Clarence Spalding of Spalding Management takes care of the day-to-day arrangements of Rascal Flatts, and Jason Aldean. Scoring Jason his second consecutive Billboard 200 chart-topper, Old Boots, New Dirt, with first-week sales of 278,000 — without the aid of a major label, Clarence knows country music. According to Billboard, as Maverick’s sole Nashville member, Clarence has interacted the least with the label staff prior to joining it. He has been particularly keen to learn the global touring secrets of senior label heads, and see how those can translate to his country roster.

To be a good music manager you need to be organised, excellent with people and have a good understanding of the industry as it stands today. The role is to bring together the people and projects which meet the goals of the artist and their record company (especially the record label). That goal can be working on the artist’s first hit, or headlining the world’s biggest stadiums. It’s like a car – you need 4 wheels to go forward – the label, booking agent, manager, and songs. I’d put a manager as the single biggest decision an artist will make, other than allowing your drummer to write a song. Kidding.


3. It’s The Connection
I don’t care what year it is, what style of music you’re playing, creating that connection by embracing new norms and challenges, new ideas to reach out to your audience, while constantly reinforcing the artist’s values and the emotional bonds that allow the listeners and audience to see themselves in you. Pete Townshend from The Who says, “I felt that the elegance of pop music was that it was reflective: we were holding up a mirror to our audience and reflecting them philosophically and spiritually, rather than just reflecting society or something called ‘rock and roll.’ Both 5SOS and Rascal Flatts are part of a long line of performers in a community that speaks with their audience, rather than project that value onto them. Both bands, when speaking to their audience, spoke in the second person, rather than the first. “You will really enjoy this new song and video” “How are you feeling?” instead of “I just wrote a killer song” or “I feel this is going to be a good night! Woooo!”

One of the few times both bands spoke in the first person was when they said “I want you to show how much we appreciate you being here tonight” or “I want to tell you, we couldn’t have gotten here without you.” It’s cliche, yeah, but it works. Every single time.

Future regrets might be many with these bands – bands are destined to break up, after all, by the smallest actions turning into a massive blow-up. But 5 Seconds Of Summer and Rascal Flatts’ outlooks are unstoppable for now. Just like you’ll be if you follow along to these secrets of the stage, that will quickly turn into rules of art.

“Music has always been my constant, my salvation. It’s cliché to write that, but it’s true. From dancing around to Michael Jackson and Madonna as a kid to having my mind blown by the first sounds of punk and indie rock, to getting to play my own songs and have people listen, music is what got me through. Over the years, music put a weapon in my hand and words in my mouth it backed me up and shielded me, it shook me and scared me and showed me the way; music opened me up to living and being and feeling.”


Do stories grow? Pretty obviously – anybody who has ever heard a joke being passed on from one person to another knows that they can grow, they can change. Can stories reproduce? Well, yes. Not spontaneously, obviously – they tend to need people as vectors. We are the media in which they reproduce; we are their petri dishes… Stories grow, sometimes they shrink. And they reproduce – they inspire other stories. And, of course, if they do not change, stories die.


Ween co-founder Aaron Freeman revealed his latest project – a Billy Joel tribute band – performing a handful of shows without a hint of irony, opening a floodgate Freeman on creativity and merit that shows questionably a longtime respect for The Piano Man.

Read More: Gene Ween Returns With Billy Joel Tribute Band | http://ultimateclassicrock.com/gene-ween-billy-joel-cover-band/?trackback=tsmclip

I’m not into the ironic thing. I don’t wanna look like a dumbass. I don’t like to make fun of anybody. Billy Joel is really … I’m a serious fan. I grew up with him. So I consider him a part of my life and my influence. And he’s difficult, music-wise. We were all really challenged trying to do his music. All of the musicians and me, too. He’s quite a singer. Just from a singer’s standpoint, the way he breathes, his cadence, his projection — it’s really intense. So for a singer, for me, it was a great challenge to try to learn how to do it. And it’s exhausting. Don’t ever underestimate Billy Joel. He makes it seem simple, but it is not simple.

For me it was Glass Houses and The Nylon Curtain. Both of those records I had discovered right when I had really got involved listening to music on my own. I had a handful of records and Glass Houses really got me. I guess I was around 11 or 12, and it was like my record. It wasn’t my parents’ record. It wasn’t my other friends’ record. So it was very intimate. And the old Billy Joel stuff everyone knows and grew up on. But who knows. We’ll do others. If you wanna go into the “Uptown Girl” stuff…

I think if you’re gonna try to be cool you’re not really gonna succeed at being cool. In Ween and in my career, the more uncool I can get is actually cooler. I just wanna devolve into just like … I don’t know what. But if I wanna try to get cool, that’s a relative concept. I have a different concept of cool and it’s not like, I’m a rocker and I’m hip with the kids and I’m staying forever young. I could relate. I wanna go the opposite way and make old people music in a home on a fucking 10-harp ensemble. Back to Glass Houses … he could do no wrong. He wrote all these songs and they’re all amazing. I think just then he wanted to something different. He wanted to make a bar rock record instead of just luxuriously produced things that he’d been doing in the past. He said “let’s make a bar record” and that was the concept. Every single one of these songs we can play in a bar with a fucking bar band. And that’s what you get. So he got a group of musicians together. He took some of these songs that could’ve been Billy Joel classics, just like on The Stranger, and really dumbed them down and rocked them out. And you can hear that. And it’s very interesting. They’re just stripped down rock ‘n’ roll songs. So if you wanna play ‘em live it’s really cool. Because they do; they rock. So maybe that was just a phase he went through. But he’s too good and he’s too much of a master-class musician to try to be something [he’s not].

Via Stereogum

I considered what my peers were listening to and I thought, “God if these people are listening to this stuff, this stuff has to be stupid.” I was making an association that was false and there was a lot of stuff I had to go back and learn to appreciate, things that I skipped over before. Early 50s, the people that came from, let’s say poverty, and were exploited as songwriters but could make a hit record without any instrumentation short of their vocal sounds — that was really intriguing to me.

God, there are so many great ones but I would say I listened to a lot to Dion: Dion and the Belmonts, Dion as a solo artist. He had a beautiful voice. In retrospect it turns out that a lot of the groups of people that I liked ended up being a little bit more pop, a little bit more corny, a little bit more like Top Ten.

But the 50s is where the youth market really came into its own. In order to make things appealing to young people so that they would take their money and buy it, it had to be a little bit “pushing the envelope” from what was comfortable for their parents. The most important thing about rock ’n‘ roll is its use as a symbol of rebellion. Rock ’n‘ roll is all about rebellion.

I mean, life’s the reason the Vandellas are dancing in the streets. We’re not riding in the streets. We’re dancing in the streets. When you have people like some of these conservative douchebags that pretend to be rocking out and actually they’re buying up rock venues then the next thing you know the less-than-authentic music starts coming out.

There has been a paradigm shift between the 80s and now, as far as the honesty and the actual pushing of the envelope that is taking place with rock music. It’s gotten to be very producer-driven. It’s gotten to be like an assembly-line, Pro Tools environment where the only reason you need an artist is to have somebody that looks sexy so you can put their record on the cover so that there’s a direct association between what people are looking at and lusting for and what they’re actually hearing when they have their eyes closed, imagining that person.

Via The Smart Set