Moonlight Snackbar at Technival 05-09-2015

TechnivalIt’s been a little quiet lately, but that’s because I teamed up with a colleague as Moonlight Snackbar for a gig at the Technival where I performed a few years back solo. We’re basically doing a live DJ-set with some of the best dance songs of the past decades mashed together. Sort of like 2Many DJ’s. Sadly, it’s a closed party and invite-only for people who work at OGD. But if you’re friends with some one who works there, you can tag along with them.

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Is The Sign by Ace of Base about a neo-nazi?

Ace of Base - the SignThe Ace of Base song “The Sign” might be about a neo-nazi seeking redemption. I know I risk sounding like Quentin Tarantino explaining what Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” is about, when saying that. And I’m not saying it’s true, it’s just a theory that’s been playing in my head for a while. But why?

The Sign is one of those nineties pop songs that seems simple enough. A girl sings that she she “saw the sign and it opened up her eyes” and she leaves the person who is suggested to be a bad influence on the main character. A lot of people assume “the sign” is just a metaphor for a red flag and that the main character in the song is getting out of a bad romantic relationship. The video for the song seems to support this with romantic imagery. But is it a romantic song?

It’s well documented that Ace of Base member Ulf Ekberg made some unfortunate choices in his youth, by sympathising with anti-immigration groups and even playing in a neo-nazi band. He has stated publicly he had regrets that and closed that book of his past. And I believe him, because I think The Sign is actually about him, realizing he had hung out with the wrong friends and saying goodbye to them. Just look at the lyrics:

  • I got a new life, you would hardly recognize me, I’m so glad” could be about closing that book on the dark past.
  • How can a person like me care for you? I, why do I bother, when you’re not the one for me?” Apparently a friend or some one he looked up to drew him into this, but now he realises that that person never really cared for him.
  • Is enough enough?” “Full is Full” is often a term used by anti-immigration groups to imply the country is full. Is enough enough could be a play on words, by throwing the racist words back at the racist.
  • I saw the sign and it opened up my eyes” He got a hint and he realised what he was doing.
  • Life is demanding without understanding“. Instead of understanding for the main character, this could be understanding for immigrants/other people and that it’s too demanding to hate on people all the time.
  • No one’s gonna drag you up to get into the light where you belong. But where do you belong?” Note that this is aimed at “you”, not “I”. No one is going to put you in the spotlight where you (think you) belong. But does this other person belong there. The question mark seems to say: No, I doubt you do.

If you re-listen to the song with that in mind, you’re listening to a completely and much more sinister song, albeit with a very happy ending still. There is however a really strong argument to be made that this is totally not about Ekberg’s bad youth: he didn’t write these lyrics (let alone sing them). His band mate Jonas ‘Joker’ Berggren wrote it. Of course it could still be he wrote it about Ekberg, but there’s also this line in the song (and this is where the theories get really crazy):

  • I, under the pale moon, for so many years I wondered who you are“. Could be simply about wondering what makes his friend tick. But this could also be a very direct reference to a quote of The Joker in the first Batman film : “Ever dance with the devil in the pale moonlight?” The Joker from the film asks this before he shoots some ‘his prey’. As a joke. And the guy who wrote The Sign has ‘Joker’ as a nick name.

Errr … what? Obviously, this is where I must stop making theories. So what do you think? Is the song just a silly pop song about happy departure from a bad ex-lover and is this just digging to deep into a simple song?

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Nomad: why your artist name is important

Nomad - I Wanna Give You DevotionI’ve written before about why it is important to pick the right artist name either for yourself or as a band. There’s plenty of artistic reasons like:

1. You want to stand out in the crowd.

2. You want to seem original.

3. You want something that defines who you are and what your music is about.

But there’s one really important reason:

So people can find you. And just you and not some one else.

It’s very tempting to go with something simple you can remember, but every first or last name is most likely already taken (The Smiths, Jackson 5, Sabrina), every animal is pretty much taken (like The Turtles, The Eagles and you could try the Beetles, but I’m pretty sure that would get you in trouble with the Beatles) or any single word in the English dictionary probably is too, like: Yes, Foreigner, Kiss, The Doors, Blur).

You could just ignore this and pick any name that sounds right and just ignore any other band that may have had some success with the name, claiming you’ll be much more famous. It worked for Nirvana. No not that Nirvana.

Here’s a great example of how not to do it. If you have Spotify, do a search for the band ‘Nomad’. Now for the record, I know Nomad as that house music duo that cored a very minor hit with this 1990 track: I Wanna Give You Devotion:

Nomad isn’t obviously the first to use the name, since there’s an Swedish band named The Nomads. But let’s focus on the name ‘Nomad’ in Spotify. According to Spotify, Nomad has been really busy lately and released:

Now, either that house duo from 1990 has gotten really diverse and multi-lingual and managed to produce 27 albums in the last 14 years or some people really start to use more original names for their band. Cause right now, unlike Discogs, Spotify will mercilessly throw all the Nomads onto one really big pile. Well, except the Nomads of course. So next time, naming your band something dumb like the Foo Fighter, might not be so dumb after all.

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The XX – Intro

The usual culprit for clone songs are advertising companies. Not wanting to pay the original artist, but still use their funky tune, they usually resort to making something so similar to the original, you’d think it was the same song with a few notes out of place. It happened to Eminem, Sigur Rós, REM and now it seems The XX are the latest victim. Compare the following songs:

The song “Intro” by the XX, released in August 2009:

And this Hugo Boss commercial released in April 2014:

Obviously, the XX’s record company is not pleased about this.

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Why there are only 12 songs in most albums

I noticed this question on Why are there only 12 songs in most albums? Of course I tried to create an account there to answer the question, but since it failed, here’s my researched answer to that question.

Most record deals from major labels require the artist to record an x amount of “albums”. The record deal usually clearly defines “an album” as being a musical recording that is 40 to 50 minutes long. You can see an example of it here (in the first clause) and here (paragraph 2d). Since most pop-songs are between 3 and 4 minutes, it has become an industry standard that this means about 12 songs (4 x 12 = 48 minutes).

Artists that have more than 12 songs usually have short ‘in between’ or ‘intro’-tracks that are just between 30 seconds to 90 seconds, but often you’ll notice the total running time of the album is still between 40 and 50 minutes, like the contract specifies.

The line that specifies it has to be 40 to 50 minutes prevents an artist by getting off easy by recording a 20 minute ‘album’, but also prevents the artist from recording an epic work that lasts 80 minutes, that the record company could have sold as two albums.

So why 40 to 50 minutes? There’s no limit on how large a modern digital release can be. A cd can hold 74 minutes and in some cases 80 minutes of sound. There’s even an anecdote that the cd is 74 minutes long, because Sony executive Norio Ohga felt that the London Philharmonic Orchestra’s recording of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony should fit exactly on one disc.

But before the cd there was the vinyl LP which can hold only 22 minutes of recording on two sides, so a total of 44 minutes. The LP was the industry standard for the longest possible recording that would fit on one disc for 30 years from it’s introduction in 1948 until roughly the 1980s when the CD was introduced. As such the ‘album’ become synonymous with a 44 minute recording, even when the CD was introduced. In the beginning this was because ‘albums’ still had to be released on both LP and CD. CD’s did some times get bonus tracks, also to lure people to buy the more expensive CD.

But over the years, the recording industry simply held onto the ‘standard’ 44 minutes and simply loosened the definition to somewhere between 40 and 50 minutes. Or like usually … 12 tracks.

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Bon Jovi vs. Van Velzen

I’ve talked about clone songs before. Sometimes it’s obvious a clone song tries to rip off the original, but sometimes you can wonder whether it is meant as a tribute to the composers favourite music or simply that they didn’t even realise they were using a melody of their favourite artist. In the case of Shine a Little Light by Dutch artist Van Velzen it might be the latter. The song’s vocal line strikes a remarkable resemblance with Raise Your Hands by Bon Jovi. The most obvious clue there was no ill intention when writing the song is that in 2008 Van Velzen performed as the opening act for Bon Jovi (source in Dutch) when he performed in The Netherlands.

Homage or Fromage? You decide:

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Follow your dreams?

If there’s one bit of solid advice I got in 2012 that I would like to share with you in 2013, is that you don’t have to chase dreams to be happy doing what you do. The advice was given in a comic by Maaike Hartjes (she makes great comics by the way, check out her stuff) that I’d like to share here:


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Infinite Jukebox

One of my currently favourite toys is Infinite Jukebox by the people at the Echo Nest. The Echo Nest is a spin-off from research done at MIT Media Lab. They analyse music and music contextual data and make programs and intelligent services based on that.

The Infinite Jukebox is a simple, but brilliant example of this. You can upload an mp3, their tool analyses the song, finds the beats and notes the similarities on those beats, which are essentially ‘skip points’. Once you press play, the song will play and seamlessly skip back and forth through the song on those skip points, creating an infinite length version of your favourite song. In case you hadn’t heard Gangnam Style enough yet.

More on the workings of the Infinite Jukebox on Paul Lamare’s blog. Note: it does require Google Chrome or Safari to work.

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I think I’ll pass

I got this in the mail today:

I think I'll pass

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Gabber is dead

In October 2010 I posted about Mid-Town’s Rotterdam shop closing on my personal blog. Last week however, the curtain dropped permanently for what was left of Mid-Town (the labels and webshop). They went bankrupt.

What’s kind of interesting to see from the official papers, is that with Mid-Town some infamous labels also cease to exist: Rotterdam Records, DJ Paul Elstak’s Forze Records and Terror Trax Records.

It’s sad to say but it’s the last in a long string of ‘gabber landmarks’ that have disappeared: the demise of the FFWD dance parade (also in 2010, while not strictly hardcore, usually had a large hardcore following), the radio program Turbulentie on the also bankrupt radio station Stads Radio Rotterdam over a decade ago and the infamous Parkzicht club. Like it or not these things were part of Rotterdam’s cultural heritage and something that gave Rotterdam a voice in the rest of the world.

While a common slogan among gabbers is “hardcore will never die“, it can be concluded that gabber is dead. In Rotterdam at least. Or that it’s least a spirit without a body.

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