23 March 2010

Halifax, NS

A little post about my trip to Nova Scotia (March 9-13).

I was invited by a childhood friend of mine, Yassine Ouhilal, to perform at his art opening. We went to school together from age 6 to 16 or so and have not seen each other in 10 years... more concretely, in 15 years.

Yassine has become a surf photographer who travelled in the Arctic Circle and managed to captured the beauty of these arctic landscapes, mostly in Iceland and Norway. It was really nice to see him again to catch up, eat sushi and well, drink a lot of coffee: when I got there, he was in stress-mode as the opening was in 3 days, and no print was ready yet.

There wasn't much time for sightseeing, but I got to witness and be part of the whole production process of 50-60 prints or so, from the last photoshop touch-ups to the pure pigment on watercolor paper printing process to the cut to the frame assembly to the exhaustively precise mounting process --- which in the end, we had to do most of them ourselves in a borrowed studio space for 2 days in a row & into the wee hours of the night. I may even have learned a new trade; I got out of this training with several paper and glass cuts on each of my hands.

So, it wasn't exactly a vacation but it was nice and somewhat fun to be a part of something relatively big in terms of a real art show. The prints were framed in size ranging from 7"x14" to panoramic 32"x44" views, some in unique or extremely limited edition of 5 or 25. As you can imagine, all that material was pretty costly. You can check out all the prints here.

As for the music, we were supposed to work on a soundtrack for his projected time-lapse films of weather-changing landscapes à la Koyaanisqatsi. When I got there the first night, I plugged in all my gear at his place and improvised some ambient soundscapes mood patterns... but we never got further because we were working around the clock on the framing. Instead, for the art opening at Argyle Fine Arts gallery, I played an improvised three-hour ambient set, from 7-10pm on a friday evening. It was different from anything I've done before, performance-wise --- I was like a paid musician performing at an event, and it is really a weird feeling because I've never considered myself like a musician, but rather an artist that pours his angsty emotions through brushstrokes picks on strings of steel!! (okay, no --- but see article below).

Usually, at my shows, people are very attentive, hypnotized and surrounded by the wall of sounds with the addition of the ghostly abstract visuals. But in this context, it was mostly background music, which was fitting because the point is to sell those large prints to the Halifax bourgeoisie, not scare them away with doom-metal riffs (maybe I could get away with it if I wore a top hat?). However, there were quite a few people who came up to me while I was playing, to compliment me on the music and tell me how it fitted the ambiance of the Thawscapes art show. Three prints were sold that night, that was pretty good. The show runs until April 6th.

The other show at 1313 Hollis with D/A A/D the previous night was a little bit disappointing in terms of turnout, despite the article in Halifax's only alternative free paper The Coast. But it was good to play a real loud show with my own visuals (as a contrast to the hired-musician-at-the-art-show context), for the people who came (those are always rare, in any city) and to play with Alex. We also got to hang out a little, eat at Freeman's, drink some Propeller beer and get one of those famous hfx sweet donairs.

Here's a transcript of the article in The Coast:

"Guitarist and sound engineer Eric Quach first picked up an instrument after discovering the shoegazing genre, which he describes as "creating a huge wall of sound with guitars, using a lot of effect pedals to alter their sound." Quach adds that it's a place of music that has the artist spending "a lot of time concentrating and staring at the floor, making it an introspective performance, as much as for the musician as for the audience." Quach says he used to paint a lot, pouring out his feelings onto canvas, and after creating thisquietarmy five years ago he now pours his feelings into his music, creating sound brushstrokes with the guitar. For his shows, Quach creates soundscapes with his own visuals, just like the real-time scoring of a film. "Every sound produced is created live on the fly, in real-time," he says. "The themes of the visuals are dark and abstract, dream-like and ghostly, which I guess is what you can also say about the music." Be hypnotized by thisquietarmy at Quach's 1313 Hollis show, or go to his specially created soundtrack and performance for photographer Yassine Ouhilal's art opening at Argyle Fine Art on Friday. –Holly Gordon"

Unfortunately, I had to catch the plane to Montreal rather quickly because I was playing the day after the art show with my power-drone outfit Ghidrah with Tom Carter & Zaimph for the Under The Snow festival. On the way to the airport, Yassine showed me his cottage house area and the beach on the eastern shore... it seemed like a really nice place to relax in the summer.

22 March 2010

The Bandcamp model

I spent all weekend uploading all my releases on bandcamp.com --- it's only when I was faced to all my releases freely available and streamable for real, that I was starting to feel conflicted about this particular business model.

For those who don't know what Bandcamp is yet, it's a platform that allows you to upload all your music and have it available to listen and download, either for a name-your-price fee or a minimum fee, at the artist's choice. Since you upload everything in WAV format, Bandcamp converts everything and creates the tags to make the downloads perfectly available in high quality 320 kbps MP3s or even FLAC/other lossless format. It also gives you tools for viral distribution such as to share on blogs, fb, websites, etc. And the best part to me, is that you can also set it up to sell the physical copy immediately and have the purchaser get an instant download of the album while he waits for his copy to appear at the door. It's easy to manage, it's clean and it looks great. You can probably customize your URL and have it integrated as part of your website. All in all, this is a great tool.

Every artist I've seen that uses the Bandcamp platform (big names, small names, artists I respect, artists I respect less), whether they choose to charge for download or not, has put all their tracks of all or most of their albums fully available and streamable for listen. This can be seen as a good strategy. I've been reading a lot about viral marketing that promotes this music business model, about how people have to hear music as to grow to like it, repeatedly and for free, in order to finally engage in an economic relationship in order to consume. I agree with this, no question about it. People won't buy a piece of music they don't know, let alone have not heard. The radio works that way, doesn't it.

However, by seeing all my releases available to be streamed online, it makes me realize how we're taking this philosophy a little bit to the extreme, and how much it cheapens your product by doing so. As a fan, or even just someone mildly interested in an artist, who wants to discover that artist's music, it's an amazing platform. But as an artist, it totally devalues the music. In fact, my opinion is that downloading a product illegally increases its worth a lot more than just having it accessible that way. I almost want to say that piracy is a better viral marketing tool than Bandcamp for the following reasons: when you see people sharing a link to download music on their blog or when you see seeders/leechers ratio on torrents downloading an album, it means that people are interested, no? There's something there, maybe not necessarily good - that's for you to judge, but it does create a hype and you feel drawn to join and see what the fuss is all about. With Bandcamp, it feels a bit like: "OK hey, I'm the one making the music, I'm the one making it available for free. I want the attention, pay attention! And pay me maybe? ... before you're tired of listening to my music since it's all freely available."

So, where is the middle ground? I think you need to add a touch of black metal mentality into this business model, especially for experimental music. Especially in this short-attention spanned ADD society, where everyone expects things to be easy and accessible.

Seriously, who wants to listen to 10 available albums worth of ambient/drone music? Especially for a first-timer, someone you want to lure into your music. What's the point of having all of those available? Moreso, why would anyone purchase or even bother to download it if it's so readily available and streamable on Bandcamp? Most people have a computer or is connected to the internet. People often listen to music while being on the computer, Bandcamp provides a platform to be your personal library that you can access any time you want --- if you're not a fan already, if you're only mildly interested, why would you even bother downloading it? Even for free! Yes, it is freely available in attempt to turn you into a fan. But let's not be disillusioned, the process of creating a fan is not an easy one. Especially with this kind of music.

This is where the black metal thing comes in. It's like those undecipherable black metal logos. You're being somewhat drawn to the music or type of music, to a certain level. You kinda want to know what the logo is spelling out, you're trying to figure out their name, trying to find out things about them that are not so easily revealed publicly, you're peeling out the layers, digging deeper into the world that they have created. You're getting lured to where they want you to be; the element of mystery is always present. This is the kind of marketing that should be aimed instead of whoring it around like that.

Yes, yes. It is an ADD society out there, and most people won't care. But at the same time, you're aiming for the people that do care! And not just trying to brainwash anybody who listens to music. I mean --- if you're starting out, maybe it's a good thing to put it all available. But when you're jumping on the bandwagon with a dozen of releases under your sleeve, you gotta think twice about selling short, no matter what your status or popularity is. Maybe if you're releasing a new album, it might be justifiable as well. The point is, the strategy has to be re-evaluated for every case scenario, and in particular to less accessible, less available music.

In conclusion, unlike what the Bandcamp creator had in mind, what it was made for and how most artists are using it at the moment --- I will be using its platform to present my works, and so that people are able to sample full-length key songs of the album only (instead of all tracks, by hiding all non-key tracks) --- as to lure people in and retain the mystery of the rest of the record, while having an immediate download or purchase option available.

The out-of-prints EP will be available to download for name-your-price fees. The albums which are still physically available to purchase, will be also be available to download, but for a minimum fee (as long as I have the digital rights, gotta re-read all my contracts now). Don't forget that the downloadables are high quality 320 kbps MP3 or FLAC/other lossless format and that if you purchase the physical copy of the album, you will be able to download it immediately and listen to the album instantly. I think everyone wins this way.


8 March 2010

Upcoming shows in Halifax: March 11th & 12th

I'll be flying to Halifax to play 2 shows on March 11th and 12th. First time there!

The first one will be with my friend Alex who plays analog synth doom as D/A A/D at 1313 Hollis St. This will be the ultimate TQA multimedia experience...

The second one will be for my friend Yassine Ouhilal's art opening at Argyle Fine Arts. I will be playing a soundtrack to his visuals this time:

Yassine Ouhilal | Thawscapes: visions of global warming

Art opening Friday March 12th 7:00-9:00pm at Argyle Fine Art
1869 Upper Water St.

Yassine Ouhilal's images have graced the covers of the world's most coveted publications. Over the last 10 years, he has traveled the world extensively as an editorial photographer. Thawscapes will show some of Ouhilal's most personal work. These images from the arctic regions of the world are an honest portrayal of the impacts of global warming on the far north. While some glaciers Ouhilal photographed are receding at alarming rates-many of which will be entirely gone in our lifetime, the thawed spaces left in these glaciers wake are revealed for the first time in recent geologic times.

A series of limited edition pure pigment on watercolour prints will be on display along with select, unique edition pieces.

Live music will be performed by Montreal's thisquietarmy.
A short film will be presented during the opening.

IF YOU ARE AT A DISTANCE, YOU CAN STILL SEE THE SHOW once it has opened at www.argylefa.com

2 March 2010

Video trailer for the Aftermath album: Spring 2010

Teaser for the forthcoming album called "Aftermath" :

It will be released by Basses Fréquences from France, in April 2010. Details and track sample here: http://bassesfrequences.org/frequences/aftermath/index.htm


1. The Hierarchy of Angels

2. Heaven and Earth

3. The Iron Harvest

4. Melted Lead on Ashen Fields

5. Finding the Fallen

6. Unearthing the Past

Label: Basses Fréquences

Format: Full-length CD Digipak

Distribution: 500 copies

Release date: April 2010