Auf Der Maur cools rumours of Hole reunion

Melissa Auf Der Maur

Melissa Auf Der Maur, former bassist with Hole, has played down suggestions that the band are about to reunite.

Courtney Love said earlier in the year that Hole’s classic lineup – featuring Love, Auf Der Maur, Eric Erlandson and Patty Schemel – would work together again following a series of successful jams.

Speaking to the Guardian however, Auf Der Maur said: “Courtney described it as, ‘We went on a date but we did not make out.’ That’s what I can say.”

“It was fucking beautiful to be in the same room with them for the first time in aeons. That was special – it was truly beautiful and there was a group hug. That’s as far as it’s gone. Now I’m back to being a mother and having a big old factory.”

Auf Der Maur co-runs the Basilica Hudson art centre, a converted factory in New York, with husband Tony Stone. As well as playing in Hole, she had a brief stint in The Smashing Pumpkins, and has released two albums under her own name: 2004’s Auf Der Maur, and 2010’s Out Of Our Minds.

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Under The Skin: Is Heavy Metal in rude health, or just rude?

Download Festival 2013
Photo: Download festival

Following this year’s Download festival, Skin Back Alley’s Founding Editor pens some thoughts – and poses some questions – about the heavy metal community, the perception of it within other segments of society, and how it wants to be seen and understood in the future.

I read an article in The Guardian last week about heavy metal that, if you’ll forgive the music related pun, struck a chord with me on many levels.

Timed to coincide with the advent of this past weekend’s Download festival, the thrust of the article was ostensibly that whilst trends in the popularity of certain genres of music may come and go, metal’s popularity has remained remarkably consistent.

The article notes that, according to data from the UK’s Official Charts Company, metal’s share of UK album sales has varied by no more than one percentage point, from a high of 7.3% in 2006 to a low of 6.3% in 2009. So, despite many declaring that rock is dead, one particular strain seems to be doing just fine, thank you very much.

Stuart Galbraith, chief executive of Kilimanjaro Live, organisers of July’s Sonisphere festival at Knebworth, is quoted as putting this down to “…the vast loyalty of the audience, and that’s engendered by the enormous sense of community. It’s much more avid in its love of music, much more likely to spend money to see it live, and music is much more likely to be part of their lives and something they talk about in the pub. If you look at the social media stats on a festival such as Sonisphere, the numbers engaging us are far ahead of any other genre.”

That seemed to chime with my recent thoughts about the maligning of heavy metal as a genre in the wake of the recent furore surrounding Metallica’s headline appearance at this year’s Glastonbury festival. I argued here that at it’s best “…Metal is supportive of – and promotes – education, intelligence and critical thinking, in order that you might make the best of yourself as an individual, and help those in the world around you make the best of themselves, too… For all it is seen as an aggressive form of music, the metal community is actually extremely tolerant and open-minded.”

I would stand by that summary and defend metal as a genre to anyone who chooses to attack it, but a few things have made me sense-check my own thinking in the past few days.

The first was a response to my previous article from a very close friend, suggesting that their experience of metal and it’s fans was very different. Speaking as black, Jewish female living in the Caribbean, she had been subject to something much less than my experience as a white, male fan living in the UK.

Secondly, whether I like it or not, outside of it’s fan base, there is a perceived conservatism within the metal genre; a perception of a resistance to change. But yet again, as the Guardian article notes: “…metal is actually one of the most restless of genres, with a profoundly experimental outer edge.” So why is that perception of metal in the wider community there?

Finally, I’ve been amazed, appalled and pissed off in recent days by the grumpy prejudice I’ve seen amongst the metal community about popular and mainstream events such as football’s World Cup. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, of course they are. You can reject the wider public, sport and football in particular if you so wish. But at the same time, just as I was recently highly critical of ill thought out, over-simplified and clearly prejudiced arguments against heavy metal, football fans are just as likely to be pissed off at the metal community for the comments I’ve seen of late.

So what is my point in all this? Essentially, that as a community of fans we need to practice and promote what we preach. Individual expression, freedom, tolerance, love, acceptance, equality, a progressive attitude: these are all things that, at it’s best, I still believe heavy metal values, supports and encourages. But do we outwardly project that?

Metal has historically actively positioned itself in opposition to the mainstream, providing an alternative experience for those who do not feel they can accept, or are a part of, the dominant hegemonic models. That’s great; amazing. But we also need to be careful that we don’t become over-zealous in criticism of those who do feel a part of that mainstream. Remember, for some, sport and football, pop music, religion, fashion – all the things I've seen metalheads stereotype and be simplistically critical of in recent days – have provided exactly the same solace, comfort, acceptance and purpose for them as metal has for us; for you.

heavy_metal_liveLet's be what we want to be; let's live outside of mainstream culture in the dedicated and loyal community that we've built; but let's do that in a way that is respectful and tolerant of those who don't wish to join us.

Rock on. Horns up. \m/

You can read the entirety of the Guardian article referenced here.

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Metallica confirmed for Glastonbury


Well, unless you’ve been living under a rock, you can’t help but have noticed that Metallica have been confirmed as the third and final headline act for this year’s Glastonbury festival.

The US metal titans will play the main stage on the evening of Saturday 28th June. They will be the first heavy metal act to headline Glastonbury in it’s 44 year history.

Fans, broadcasters and journalists have reacted with both dismay and delight at the announcement.

Metal Hammer’s Dom Lawson writes for The Guardian, “So yeah, Metallica at Glastonbury. Whoopee-fucking-doo. Like most things the band do these days, this has nothing to do with heavy metal or a patient but long-suffering fan base. It’s just another symptom of the disease the band picked up when they became multi-millionaires and lost their hunger.”

Meanwhile Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich has called the decision a “no-brainer.”

“To be honest with you, we didn’t sit around and have a big conversation when the call came,” he continued, speaking to BBC Radio 1’s Zane Lowe. “In Metallica we have a saying called a ‘no-brainer’. Headlining Glastonbury is a no-brainer. We didn’t need to sit around thinking about the pros and cons.”

When asked about the negative reaction from some quarters, Ulrich said: “Trust your friendly neighbourhood Metallica, we’ll put something suitable together. It’s great that, 32 years into our career, we’re still able to knock down doors – doors we didn’t think were open to us.”

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Under The Skin: Is This News?!

broken-record-300x300It may sound like artistic temperament, or hipster schtick, but we really don’t care all that much about genre at Skin Back Alley. Sure, it’s useful to a point in terms of being able to discuss styles of music and pull out trends, themes and common traits. But it also gets used – like all labels – as a way of limiting and pigeonholing. An easy way to put music in a nice, neat, inoffensive little box.

So, what to make of UK newspaper The Guardian’s story today that “rock has once again overtaken pop as the UK’s most popular album genre”?

Well, frankly, not very much, surely?

Says Gennaro Castaldo of the British Phonographic Industry: “While the appeal of pop remains consistent, the popularity of rock music tends to ebb and flow a little more, reflecting as it does the excitement that can quickly build around new acts as they burst through. With Arctic Monkeys now taking on near-iconic status, and the likes of Jake Bugg and Bastille to name a few connecting with a new generation of fans, rock music looks set to enjoy another wonderfully vibrant period.”

Does this really tell us anything new? Very broadly speaking, Pop music tends to be favoured by more youthful listeners, and is afforded more funding and exposure by record companies, broadcast channels and Saturday night prime-time TV shows such as The Voice and The X-Factor.

I would hazard a guess that Pop is also the dominant force in sales of singles because it’s youthful audience are more au-fait with digital technologies. Those technologies allow the delivery and consumption of single tracks in an immediate and cost effective way, tying in nicely with the means by which younger people listen to them, namely digital players such as iPods and smart phones.

But heck, even from it’s earliest days, Pop has been a singles orientated style of music, and whilst youth may dominate the style, it certainly isn’t confined to teen fans.

Very broadly speaking, rock music has tended to be more oriented towards the album format and it’s audience older in years. It doesn’t get the same exposure as Pop in terms of TV and radio coverage, or have the same level of funding from major record labels and promoters. I suspect that rock music fans are more likely to buy physical formats such as vinyl or CD, and tend to buy more full albums than pop fans.

Given the album vs. single trends, then, is this really news? And can’t rock be pop, and pop be rock, and both sets of listeners cross-over and mix and match and vary their tastes and purchasing patterns?

I think that the recording industry would do well to stop thinking in terms of mass markets and audiences and start understanding, as a few notable bands and smaller music labels have done, that those models of selling and distributing music are no longer viable – at least not in the longer term.

The music industry has been slow to cotton on to what the manufacturing industry is now also having to consider. Namely that in the post-industrial, digital age, mass models of marketing and distribution are failing. To greater and lesser degrees, people can now access what they want, when they want it, and will no longer accept waiting inordinate amounts of time, or spending inordinate amounts of money, to get it.

Those who have grasped the nettle are essentially doing it for themselves; using cost-effective digital distribution channels to build direct connections with their fans and audiences, understanding what they want, and delivering it at reasonable cost and on-demand.

In short, they are cutting out time, cost, and giving themselves artistic freedom and direct dialogue with those who are listening and, yes, buying.

Albums vs. singles? Rock vs. pop?

Who cares. Ultimately, there is only music.

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