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Consolidated:

A NOTE FROM UNDERGROUND

I feel that social/political context is a telling as well as unavoidable filter through which all aesthetic choices and reflections are made. The historical means and images by which the culture industry informs and exerts control over both artist and listener (record deals, writing and acting contracts, radio/TV, advertising, fashion, pornography, male violence) is the clearest affirmation of the culture industry as propaganda arm of capital. As our descent into the ‘escapist and vapid climate of privatized consumerism’ continues, so does the sterilizing commodification that makes mockery of historical cultures of resistance that were expressed through blues, protest folk, free jazz, funk, reggae, women’s music and late ‘80s hip-hop.

Yet, rarely do artists (through their compositions) or listeners (through their purchases) reflect any of the insult and indignation that goes with being played again and again as faceless statistics on a demographics chart in some marketing meeting. As the executives order expensive take-out and confirm their seats on the latest industry seminar panels, we artists wonder where our next paid gig is and consumers engage in rigorous intellectual debate over the ancillary options offered by the Nashville Pussy website…blah blah blah…

When I started Consolidated, I basically wanted to do three things. First, I wanted to make live music so jarring that even the most oblivious frat guys and stockbrokers would be forced from their sexual predations in such an environment of pain and unpleasantness. I wanted to make sounds that would be repellant to the ears of the delusional well-intentioned liberals, who after years of stockpiling Motown anthologies, U2, Dave Matthews and Lenny Kravitz albums, still believe that “great songs will change the world.” Second, I wanted to write lyrics that could help me examine my own violence and the violence and oppressive tendencies of a class I relate to (privileged white men). Also, I wanted to write lyrics that created a different kind of subject/narrator, lyrics that questioned the fashionable “the lyrics mean whatever you want them to mean”; that questioned the tidal wave of bureaucratic songwriters mining the eternally reprocessed dreck of meaningless linguistic cliches. By doing this, I thought I could simultaneously compose from within the music and critique its’ impact from outside. My third objective is relevant to the last in that I started investing more in the impact that music has on the audience and the gulf between that and the intentions of the artists. While personally experiencing as well as witnessing the futility of waving the peace sign from the stage only to see an army of young men engaged in ritual blood-letting and sexual harassment, a somewhat democratic public sphere was created at one of our shows, purely by accident. We gave the microphone to the audience. Although these free-form rants were governed by the usual parameters of male entitlement and drunken belligerence, record executives, radio programmers, or press editors did not mediate these discussions. The notion of creating a musical public sphere is still a defining component of the project.

By ’94, many things had changed (predictably). The very momentary heyday of ‘industrial hip-hop’ had been relegated to the ‘pop-up video’ archives of VH1. The inspiring sonic and lyrical reflections of violence in society had long been sanitized and re-appropriated for children’s music. ‘New’ markets emerged. One of them was devoted to the latest incarnation of ‘good liberal’ sentimentality (activist music). I’ve been involved on and off for twelve years in activist communities advocating for inner city youth, survivors of domestic and sexual violence, animals, survivors of porn and prostitution, etc. I’ve been really inspired by the activists that I’ve worked with or that have spoken for tabled at our shows. However, the glut of benefit compilations and concerts, LollipiLilith, Liveaid into Netaid, with meat eating porn consumers paraded as spokespeople for animal and women’s welfare agencies, gives me an uneasy feeling. That some of these groups are interested in Consolidated may indicate a categorical shift in my status regarding ‘Strum’s second conception of the political artist’.

On a musical level, I watched with disappointment as the swell of political noise bands repackaged for mall consumption saturated all sub genres. Listening to my old records affirmed for me that it is NOT the pimp suits and car chase soundtracks mythologized in his name that makes me love Curtis Mayfield. It is his soul music genius and his lyrical courage to critique the very perpetrators of blaxploitation that he was employed by. It was not the fact that he humped or burned his guitar on stage that makes me like Jimi Hendrix. It was his utterly unique ability to guide people through the whole continuum of human emotions, ideas, and catastrophic political events simply with his guitar and his voice. Hendrix expresses his compassion and individuality when he writes the earliest pro-choice lyrics from the position of an unborn fetus. If citing the influences of such artists does little more than inspire me personally (politically), it at least points to the existence of a history of cultural resistance. I get that the radical spirit of past musical/political eras has been callously drained in the culture industry’s exhaustive quest for historical amnesia and better hair products. It is my belief in this spirit, however, that arms me against the bitterness of technocratic resignation that dooms all in the culture industry.

“We belong to the culture industry long before it recognizes us.” (Adorno)

Consolidated: www.consolidatedmusic.org

Thanks to Consolidated.

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