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09 février 2008

"Book of Love" wake-up

The seven Atlantis astronauts are awake for their first full day in space and getting ready for today's chief activity: inspecting their spaceship's heat shielding for any damage that might have been done during Thursday's launch from Kennedy Space Center. Mission Control beamed up Peter Gabriel's Book of Love as this morning's wake-up music for the shuttle astronauts.

The astronauts awoke Friday to "Book of Love" by Peter Gabriel, a dedication to French Air Force Gen. Leopold Eyharts from his wife and family. Eyharts greeted his loved ones in English and French, saying, "I know it has been a somehow hard day for them and I want to thank them."

Artists Support Record Store Day

Saturday, April 19 has been declared Record Store Day in the USA and big name artists are getting behind the campaign.

Paul McCartney said in a statement, "There's nothing as glamorous to me as a record store. When I recently played Amoeba in LA, I realised what fantastic memories such a collection of music brings back when you see it all in one place. This is why I'm more than happy to support Record Store Day and I hope that these kinds of stores will be there for us all for many years to come. Cheers!" The day is a promotional drive by Independent retailers to rekindle the thrill of scouting through music releases.

"I was introduced to lots of great music through my local record store. It was a place where people knew music and they knew me, and could make great suggestions and discoveries. Whether it is in the physical world or on-line, the value of a great and knowledgeable record store has not gone away,"
said Peter Gabriel. Singer/Songwriter was a little bit more poetic with his quote. "Dusty violin maker shop small corner record store water holes for dreamers don't stop breathe more," he said.

Blur's Damon Albarn says his local store is like a library. "My local independent record shop (Honest Jons) is a library, where you can go to listen to music, learn about it, exchange ideas about it and be inspired by it. I think independent record shops will outlive the music industry as we know it because long term their value to people is far greater, because even in our era of file-sharing and blogs, you cant replace the actual look on someone's face when they are playing something they really rate and think you should listen to it too. It's special," he said in his statement.

As a prelude to Record Store Day, an introductory party will be held at Waterloo Records at SxSW in Austin on March 15.

by Paul Cashmere - February 6 2008

Lanois’ U2 Warm-up

“I’M doing some writing with (Brian) Eno and U2,” mega-producer Daniel Lanois tells Spinner magazine when asked about his work with Bono and the boys on their new CD. “We’re gonna knock out another record that’s promising to be a fantastically innovative collection of songs. I’m excited about that.”

Lanois is much more than a U2 insider. His fingerprints have been all over the production knobs of some of the greatest CDs by the likes of Peter Gabriel, the Neville Brothers, Willie Nelson and Bob Dylan. He creates that trademark spooky, atmospheric vibe on the discs he touches. It’s that same aura that made U2’s The Joshua Tree unlike anything you ever heard.

Lanois has also made a number of albums on his own, and they’re just as satisfying as some of the ones he shepherded for his famous friends. He just started a record company, Red Floor Records, and has chosen to release his newest disc on the label.

A soundtrack to a homemade documentary film of the same name, Here Is What Is sports a haunting collection of rough hewn tunes. “Joy” is a spooky gospel tune set atop a churchy organ and watery pedal steel guitar riff. It’s a little bit country, a little bit Sunday morning. “On my way home I looked up at the sky/and the stars held up the night/destiny set me free,” he sings, a trio of pleading voices behind him in chorus. “Luna Samba” has a wicked backbeat that bounces the guitar riffs to new heights.

Lanois also revels in his collaboration with Eno, also a former U2 collaborator who appears in Lanois’ film, Here Is What Is. “I play really well with Eno,” Lanois says. “In a manner of minutes we’ve got something happening in the room that’s special — even without talking about it. We just pick up our instruments and we’re there. We just thank our lucky stars that we have that chemistry within us.” There is a snippet of dialogue from the film spoken by Eno. “I hope this film shows how beautiful things grow out of s***,” he says. “Everyone thinks Beethoven has those tunes in his head and they think that they just tumbled out. Things come out of nothing. The most beautiful seed can sometimes grow into a promising forest.”

This disc is a fascinating look into a very different kind of life. Log onto for more information.

February 6, 2008 From the hob

Young singer creates intelligent pop music

Courtney Jones is a self-confessed “piano-lesson dropout.” However, she did find “a couple of chords I liked. I just played them over and over again and then found some words I liked,” Jones says. It all started when she was walking home from school one day. “I just had a concept stick in my head,” she says. “Nobody ever told me I couldn’t write a song.”

That’s quite apparent from her new album “Awake & Dreaming,” a tasteful collection of her soft rock tunes that would fit comfortably in anyone’s collection along with titles from Fleetwood Mac, Sarah McLachlan and Paula Cole.
The album was mixed by Mark Needham, who’s worked with Fleetwood Mac as well as The Killers, and features a number of standout musicians, including Stevie Blacke, Bob Glaub and Butch Norton, who’ve worked with Jennifer Hudson, Bob Dylan and Lucinda Williams, among others.

One of the CD’s cuts, “Long Way Down,” is part of the soundtrack for the new movie “Cosmic Radio,” which stars Michael Madsen and Daryl Hannah, and which also features cuts from Peter Gabriel, Elton John and Cat Stevens. It’s a long way from her days as a regular karaoke singer in a pizza parlor, Jones notes. “It started to bother me after awhile,” she says. “I didn’t want to keep singing other people’s songs.”

But she also knew she didn’t quite fit in with her peers, some of whom are more concerned with producing blaring, belligerent music that rips out your heart rather than tickles your ears. She feels called to a more meditative sound. “It’s not angry enough to be any number of genres,” she says with a chuckle. “I think there’s a really subtle connection that’s happening here with music that doesn’t smash your face in with a lot of bass and percussion.”

She also knew she had no desire to create escapist fantasies for her audience. “A lot of people go for flash because they want to distance themselves from reality, their reality. But that’s not me. I go for the narrative. I want it to be what’s actually happening.”

With her father, Andrew, encouraging her to concentrate on music, Jones left college a few years back and devoted her self to writing and singing. Just 21 years old, Jones, who hails from the Salem area, has made a relatively quick rise, having already worked with some top music industry guns, including Peter Malick, who’s played his guitar alongside another Jones – Norah Jones – not to mention Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Otis Spann and others.

Malick notes that unlike Norah, whose first hit “Don’t Know Why,” was written by Jesse Harris, Courtney pretty much wrote all of “Awake & Dreaming.”

“She’s a much stronger writer than Norah,” Malick says of Courtney, adding that her words betray great emotional depth. “I think lyrically she really gets into the heart of human existence, and you can’t do much better than that.”

Courtney, who’s done 140 shows over the past 15 months, has played everywhere from the House of Blues in Chicago and Room 5 in Los Angeles to Berbati’s Pan and The Roseland in Portland. She’s set to perform with her band – guitarist Mike Dongug, bassist Steve Morgan and drummer Steve Turnell – at Borders in Gresham this Saturday.

Jones hooked up with Malick through, sending him a demo of her music, and the rest was history. “She’s got a great voice,” he says. “She is captivating.” Jones adds that she hopes his opinion is something people of all generations share. “I want to reach everybody,” she says. “I really aim to write and make music that everyone can draw from.”

By Rob Cullivan The Gresham Outlook, Feb 5, 2008 (news photo)

05 février 2008

'Songlines': How a world music magazine came full circle and found itself

The genre wasn't even recognised until 1987, but 'Songlines', which marks its 50th issue, has found an irrepressible beat, writes Jonathan Brown

"It is not a much-liked term," the former BBC producer concedes. The term "world music", it seems, was dreamt up over a few pints at the Empress of Russia pub, in the distinctly British confines of Islington in 1987. Among the group gathered were record-company owners, festival organisers and promoters who had become frustrated at the inability of their potential customers to find the latest cut by their favourite Ethiopian begena player or Portuguese fado singer when browsing in their local record shop.

"Now, you can put all these people with unpronounceable names in one place, alongside classical or opera. It has worked brilliantly," says Broughton.

The north London drinkers not only brought practically the entire musical world together under one umbrella, they even agreed to spend £3,000 promoting their niche. And while there are some – including the British-Asian composer Nitin Sawhney – who refuse to label their music thus, the niche has grown large enough to sustain a publication devoted entirely to fans willing to part with £4.25 to read the lowdown on the latest sounds emanating from the streets of Dakar, Belize or Jerusalem.

Songlines sprang into life in 1999 as an occasional supplement to the stately Gramophone magazine, the leading classical-music publication. The venture was conceived in response to a growing interest in music from beyond the English-speaking world and outside the confines of Anglo-American musical norms.

Aware that they had tapped into a vibrant market, the publishers soon spun off the supplement into a quarterly, if somewhat academic-looking, magazine in its own right. Broughton, who had broadcasting experience and had worked on the original Rough Guide to World Music published in 1994, was at the helm when Gramophone was acquired by Haymarket.

"They inherited it and kept it going for a couple of years, but Haymarket didn't really know what to do with it. It just wasn't their scene, so they decided to stop it. But by this time, it had made a big impression and a lot of people were upset to see it go," he recalls.

The magazine was still fairly niche, barely breaking even with just 1,500 subscribers out of 8,000 copies sold. But brighter times were in store when the title was purchased for the nominal fee of £1 – complete with the potential debt of unmet subscription payments.

Financial backing was secured from Chris Pollard, the former owner of Gramophone, and Rough Guides veteran Mark Ellingham. The magazine was redesigned, with a larger format, and it went to eight issues a year – each with a free multi-track CD of new music attached to the front cover.

Today, with a staff of five journalists and a small army of freelance writers, all experts in their field around the world, Songlines has undergone another injection of capital and relocated to new headquarters in Shepherds Bush. The bottom line is also looking healthier with a circulation of 20,000 copies, a quarter of which are sold by subscription.

Although the majority of readers are in the UK, the magazine reaches a significant audience overseas, particularly in the United States where it has no competition and where publishers see major potential for growth. The Songlines website offers a slimmed-down version of what is on offer in the magazine, plus the opportunity to listen to free podcasts on iTunes and the rundown of the latest world-music chart.

With a predominately well-educated, affluent, thirty-something readership, which Broughton says includes as many women as men, the appeal to advertisers is obvious, not least on the back of the current boom in live music.

Full-colour adverts for a dizzying array of festivals, shows, albums and travel feature heavily throughout the 100-plus pages of the magazine.

But world music offers much more than some simply beautiful tunes, says Broughton.

"It is not just about the musical interest – it is also a window on politics around the world. It is a way of looking at a much broader picture. What is interesting is that people come to it from so many different denominations, whether it is Radio 3, through folk or through travel. I am very aware we have to cater for all these audiences," he says.

It is also a force for good, Broughton says. "Take Pakistani Sufi music: someone like Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan (below). Extremist Islam is what grips the headlines, but if you listen to his work you realise that there is a whole different side to Islam, which is about peace and love."

We're having a vinyl revival

Everywhere you look, dark clouds are gathering over the music industry. Sales were down 10 per cent last year. The number of songs illegally ripped off the internet outnumbers legal downloads 20 to one. Last week, the musician Peter Gabriel told an industry conference in Cannes: "It's time to put the corpse of what we know as the record industry in the ground and let some other beautiful things start to grow out of it." At the same conference, U2's manager, Paul McGuinness, saw things differently - even if he agreed on the death bit. "The collapse of the old financial model for recorded music will also mean the end of the songwriter," he warned. As REM once sang, "It's the end of the world as we know it".

Yet there is a bright spot amid all this gloom: specialist vinyl shops are experiencing a mini-boom, and they're feeling fine. "Vinyl record sales aren't affected by downloads," says Phil Thomson, the owner of The Vintage Record in Annandale, which specialises in vinyl LPs from the 1940s onwards, with a classic rock bent. He bought the shop two years ago, and doesn't stock CDs. "It's all doom and gloom if you're selling CDs now," Thomson says. "I figured you can't download a record, you have to go out and buy it. So I took a punt, and it's paying off."

The mood is similarly buoyant at many of Sydney's other specialist music shops, from Newtown's Egg Records (second-hand vinyl, CDs, DVDs and memorabilia) to Birdland (jazz, soul and blues) in the city and Erskineville's Revolve Records Relics ('50s to '80s vinyl, prog, funk, jazz and hip-hop).

A steady stream of analogue purists, collectors, diehard fans, DJs and young converts keeps business turning over nicely. "Rumours of our demise are [exaggerated]," says Kieran Stafford, the owner of Birdland since 1991.

To a certain extent, specialist outlets are insulated from the effects of illegal downloading because of the type of customers they attract by offering deep back catalogues, rarities and knowledgeable staff.

"The downloads market is predominantly the Top 40 market - which is why singles don't exist any more," Stafford says. "They're the kind of people who think they've got a record collection when they've got two records. Our average customer probably buys one or two albums a week."

The appeal of LPs is not only nostalgic; it is also tactile and aesthetic. You lose sound quality and the romance of the object with downloads, say the store owners. Coveting a limited-edition green vinyl 12-inch of the Cure's song The Forest? (That's $80 at Revolve.) An original local pressing of INXS's Listen Like Thieves? ($16 at The Vintage Record.) The complete On The Corner sessions by Miles Davis in an embossed metal box? ($180 at Birdland.) To teenagers used to getting their music for free, the maths doesn't add up; but for fans the price is beside the point.

"I'm finding that kids are starting to come back into the shop thanks to bands like Wolfmother citing their influences as Led Zeppelin, or similar," Thomson says. "There's also been a bit of an '80s revival - Duran Duran, Adam and the Ants, the Eurythmics - kids are coming in and buying them on vinyl."
Barry Scott, the owner of Egg Records, has also seen a surge in vinyl sales. "Business is fine," he says. "We also sell reconditioned turntables, and I sell one every week or two. It figures they're going to buy vinyl." CD sales are only a tiny fraction of the business at Revolve - the bulk is vinyl and memorabilia. Employee Peter Prifunovic says: "The boss tells me vinyl sales have been growing over the last three years. It was one of the reasons he hired me. We get fairly young customers, anywhere from 18 up, and generally male. Younger guys don't collect so much, they come in to buy records to sample."

The vinyl market is not only second hand: reissues are good sellers, and such acts as Radiohead, Bjork, the White Stripes and Ben Harper have released their latest records on vinyl. Recently, a boutique pressing plant called Vinyl Factory Australia opened in Marrickville. Thomson talks about unsigned bands offering songs for download on MySpace and then pressing a seven-inch when enough people have shown an interest.

It's not all good news. Graham Nixon, who has run the punk and hardcore specialty shop Resist Records in Newtown for 10 years, says downloading has had an enormous impact on his sales. "I'd say 80 per cent of customers under 20 come in and they don't look at music, they go straight to the T-shirts," he says.

Stafford thinks the future of music retailing will include physical and digital sales.

"I think it won't be one or the other but a mixture of both," he says. "Not everyone's interested in downloading. The quality is not as good. As for the big stores - whether or not they survive, I don't care. We'll still be here."

Time they are changing

- The recorded music industry has changed enormously in the past five years. In 2003, there were about 30 legal download services available; now there are more than 500.

- People can legally access about 6 million songs online.

- The digital music share of the global music market has moved from almost zero in 2003 to 15 per cent or $US3 billion last year.

- In 2003, customers could buy an artist's release in only a few formats - typically on CD.

- Last year, Justin Timberlake's Future Sex/Love Sounds was released in 115 products or formats (including ringtones, mobile full-track downloads, video, iTunes and others) which sold a total of 19 million units. Only 20 per cent of its sales were CDs.

Kelsey Munro

04 février 2008

Peter Gabriel : l'homme-orchestre

Figure inoubliable (et déguisée) d’un rock progressif et théâtral avec Genesis, gourou des musiques du monde et pionnier des technologies du futur appliquées à la musique, Peter Gabriel demeure un artiste toujours aussi passionnant, capable d’improviser avec des singes bonobos et d’investir le Net en précurseur avec ses plateformes OD2 (en 2000) et plus récemment WE7 (en 2007). Pour La Presse, Peter Gabriel – déclaré «Personnalité de l’année» du dernier MIDEM (Marché international du disque et de l’édition musicale) – revient sur sa carrière et ses projets.

Q- Votre précédent album, UP, remonte à 2002. Vous avez prévu de sortir un disque cette année?

R- Oui, mais j'ignore quand. Franchement, à mon âge, cela m'importe peu. Je le sortirai quand il sera prêt. Il m'est difficile d'en parler aujourd'hui, car il peut encore partir dans différentes directions. Je compose assez facilement, mais pour l'écriture des textes, c'est plus laborieux, je dois m'y consacrer pleinement, m'enfermer dans une pièce sans téléphone, ni la moindre distraction. Ce qui est un peu difficile, d'autant que j'ai une fâcheuse tendance à mener plusieurs projets de front, mais j'ai toujours fonctionné ainsi...

Q- Par exemple?

R- Je travaille sur la bande originale du prochain dessin animé de Pixar. L'histoire, sans dialogues, d'un robot chargé de nettoyer l'espace de la pollution humaine. Je trouve l'idée amusante et intéressante. Le réalisateur, un passionné de science-fiction, l'a conçu comme une réponse, une suite au chef d'oeuvre de Kubrick, 2001 l'Odyssée de l'espace. Un film crucial pour moi. Sinon je collabore avec de nombreux musiciens dont Tom Newman, le cousin de Randy Newman. Je prends aussi beaucoup de temps avec le projet de Nelson Mandela, The Elders, une sorte d'ONG composée de sages issus du monde politique, économique et culturel. Sans oublier mon fils de 6 ans (rires).

Q- UP abordait les questionnements d'un homme confronté à la vieillesse, puis à la mort. Comment vivez-vous vos 58 ans?

R- Cinquante-huit ans dans deux semaines! Je vis bien mon âge, à part le fait que je me suis cassé une jambe au ski à Noël. Mon premier accident en 15 ans de pratique assidue du ski. Sinon, je suis un homme heureux, merci. Aujourd'hui, je vis surtout à Londres, pour ma femme - elle préfère l'activité de la ville. Par contre, tous les jeudis, je retourne au studio à la campagne, jusqu'à dimanche soir. Cet équilibre entre la ville et la campagne me convient parfaitement.

Q- Vous avez assisté au concert de Led Zeppelin à Londres. Vos impressions?

R- J'ai trouvé le concert fantastique. Pourtant, je n'avais jamais été un fan absolu de Led Zep durant mes jeunes années. Mais j'ai appris à les apprécier avec le temps. De la musique solide, puissante, musclée avec de l'intelligence, beaucoup de pertinence. La veille du concert, Robert Plant m'avait envoyé un mail avec cette blague: «Lequel va se prostituer en premier, toi ou moi?»

Q- Justement, la tournée de Genesis l'été dernier ne vous a pas donné envie de rempiler avec vos anciens camarades?

R- Je n'ai même pas eu le temps de les voir en concert. Mais je n'ai rien contre une reformation. J'ignore où, quand et comment. Mais une chose est certaine: ce n'est pas hors de question!

Q- Vous êtes musicien et un entrepreneur dynamique. Deux activités faciles à concilier?

R- Là, c'est un héritage de mon grand-père. Je refuse cette illusion un peu naïve mais toujours vivace selon laquelle l'art serait une forme d'expression pure et spirituelle, presque religieuse. Et le business une activité bassement commerciale et sale. La vérité est plus complexe. Avec l'argent gagné, j'ai pu créer mon label et promouvoir les musiques du monde, à l'époque méconnues en Occident. Le but n'était pas de gagner de l'argent pour gagner de l'argent, mais d'assouvir ma passion et de préserver ma liberté d'artiste. Et cela passe par l'indépendance financière. D'où l'obligation de me dédoubler en homme d'affaires.

Q- Bien avant iTunes et Napster, vous avez lancé en 2000 une plateforme de téléchargement de musique (vendue à Nokia en 2006). Vous semblez plutôt stimulé par la révolution internet, à la différence de l'ensemble des acteurs de l'industrie musicale...

R- Oui. Pour moi il s'agit d'une occasion excitante. J'espère voir une grande révolution se dessiner: le Net peut changer la nature même de la musique produite, avec plus d'audaces et d'expérimentations. Avec internet, les musiciens dits «marginaux» peuvent produire et diffuser leur musique par leurs propres moyens. Les artistes auront un peu plus de travail, mais aussi plus de liberté et d'occasion pour se faire connaître. Certes, le marché du disque a chuté, mais les succès de Mika ou d'Amy Winehouse apportent un démenti évident à «la crise du disque».

Q- Vous avez récemment lancé We7, une plateforme de téléchargement de musique gratuite, financée par la publicité. Vous ne croyez pas à l'avenir des sites payants?

R- Certains seront toujours prêts à payer, à condition de se voir proposer un contenu supplémentaire, avec des bonus, des interviews, des vidéos, un lien plus personnel entre l'artiste et son public. Pour les jeunes, le modèle payant est dépassé. Ils ont grandi avec l'internet et n'entendent pas débourser un centime pour de la musique. Aujourd'hui, le prix de la gratuité passe par la publicité. Et je ne suis pas un adepte fervent de la publicité, loin de là. Sur mon site, chaque titre téléchargé sera accompagné d'une publicité. Mais la «nuisance» sera temporaire puisque la pub disparaîtra au bout de quatre à six semaines après le téléchargement. A l'arrivée, vous gardez la musique sans la pub.

Q- Les publicités diffusées sur votre site sont ciblées à partir d'informations obtenues grâce à des données personnelles des internautes. Que faites-vous de la protection de la vie privée?

R- C'est un problème. L'option devrait toujours exister, pour l'internaute, de communiquer ou non des données personnelles. Il ne faut pas oublier un fait important: l'ère de la sphère privée est aujourd'hui révolue. Si je veux des informations sur une personne, il suffit de faire un tour sur les réseaux sociaux comme MySpace et Facebook, pour ne citer que les plus connus.

Q- Madonna a récemment annoncé son départ de chez Warner pour Live Nation, une société de spectacles américaine. À terme, les maisons de disques vont-elles devenir obsolètes?

R- Les maisons de disques existeront toujours. Radiohead ont réalisé une belle opération avec leur nouvel album: laisser l'internaute fixer le prix du CD en téléchargement. Mais dans le même temps, ils ont mis en vente un très beau coffret avec un livre, des visuels et des bonus pour 40 livres. Je l'ai acheté d'ailleurs. Et aujourd'hui, leur album se retrouve finalement distribué par une maison de disques.

Q- Durant votre carrière vous avez fonctionné comme une éponge, en absorbant différentes cultures musicales. Une démarche nécessaire pour évoluer?

R- Bien sûr. À la base, le rock est une musique noire. Des musiciens blancs ont essayé de les imiter et sont arrivés à autre chose. C'est un métissage, une musique hybride. Le rock est une culture très «affamée», mais c'est propre à toute forme d'expression de se nourrir de l'extérieur, de ce qu'il y a d'intéressant dans d'autres cultures. Dans les années 20, Picasso a peint Les demoiselles d'Avignon après avoir assisté à une exposition de masques africains. C'était le début du cubisme, mais attention, ce n'était pas de l'art africain, mais le résultat combiné de son influence. Et c'est pareil en génétique. Prenez la consanguinité: les membres d'une même famille, quand ils se reproduisent en circuit fermé, s'affaiblissent fatalement. La musique est plus dense quand elle est au confluent et se nourrit de plusieurs influences.

Q- Des nouvelles de Robert Lepage?

R- Pas ces derniers mois, mais je serais heureux de travailler avec lui à nouveau. Il a su parfaitement mettre en images mon univers musical pour lui apporter une nouvelle dimension. Son travail visuel dégage une véritable poésie. Chez Robert, le langage visuel est tout aussi important que le texte.

Q- Vous avez publié huit albums solos en 30 ans de carrière. Cela vous semble un chiffre suffisant ou vous auriez aimé en produire plus?

R- Parfois, oui. Mais si j'ai quitté un groupe, c'est justement pour avoir la liberté de m'engager dans plein de projets différents. Je suis très fier d'avoir crée le Womad, le premier festival des musiques du monde. Je suis aussi heureux d'avoir récemment lancé, The Hubb, un YouTube pour les droits de l'homme. J'aurais aimé mener à terme ce projet avec Brian Eno, celui d'un parc d'attraction interactif entre Disneyland, une galerie d'art géante et un musée de sciences... Alors bien sur, si je m'étais un peu moins investi dans différentes activités, j'aurais sans doute pu produire trois ou quatre albums supplémentaires. Mais ma vie aurait certainement été moins passionnante.

Éric Mandel/La Presse/Collaboration Spéciale