Sheffield’s 65dayofstatic defy easy categorisation with their eclectic mixture of post rock and electronica, and their energetic live show has been annihilating ear drums for over ten years now. The band recently used fan-funding site Indie Gogo to finance the recordings sessions for their last album, a soundtrack to the 1972 sci-fi film ‘Silent Running’, so M3 decided to ask multi-instrumentalist Paul Wolinski about whether or not this method is a viable alternative to the traditional record label setup…
M3 – First of all, could you tell us a bit about yourself, and what it is that you do?
Paul – Ok. My name is Paul. I am one quarter of 65daysofstatic. I play piano, guitar and do some of the programming for the band. We’ve been together for around ten years and released five studio albums and a live record.
What inspired you to start 65daysofstatic? What are your own musical backgrounds?
Back in the fuzzy days at the turn of the millenium, there was some really exciting electronic music happening as more and more people got their hands on affordable laptops and using (and abusing) digital audio became possible for people like us. At the same time, there was equally exciting guitar music emerging from those terrible nu-metal wastelands in the shape of bands like At the Drive-in and …Trail of Dead.
The four of us were all listening to both of these things happening, and wondering why people weren’t doing them at the same time. Back then, I was mainly programming beats and noise, and Joe was playing guitar. So we started a band together.
Your last release (the Silent Running soundtrack) was funded by money raised through the crowd-funding website Indie Gogo. Why did you decide to use this site?
To be honest, there were a few websites all offering the same kind of service. We’d only heard of Kickstarter at the time, and as far as we understood you had to be registered with the American tax people, or something, to run a campaign on there. Indiegogo seemed to have a lot more European campaigns running on it, and looked the most user-friendly of the alternatives, so we went with them.
What benefits and/or disadvantages have arisen from this way of funding?
There’s a lot to say about this, and I’m sure there’ll be lots of debate about it in the future, but we didn’t really use this platform in the way that other people are. We weren’t (and still aren’t) entirely comfortable asking for donations from our fans. There’s a lot of really bad stuff happening in the world, so if people are in a position to donate, then I’ve a feeling there are organisations more deserving of that money than us.
That being the case, we used Indiegogo more of an ‘advanced pre-order’ system. That is – we weren’t encouraging people to donate for nothing. At the very least, they got a digital copy of the record we were raising money to make. At the top end, were these limited edition ‘noiseboxes’ we made, and in between were limited edition vinyls and t-shirts.
Doing it this way, the benefits were that we had direct contact with our fans and the satisfaction of making a record entirely on our own terms. We never set out for it to be a money-making venture, and therefore we priced everything too low to actually make any money. I suppose this was a disadvantage – we’re really bad at being capitalists, so leaving things like this in our hands means we’re forever broke.
Would you say fan funding is a realistic alternative to the music industry’s traditional ways of financing records?
Only for bands who know in advance that they will sell X-thousand records. For new bands who don’t yet have a substantial following, I can’t see how it will work. There’s billions of hours of music from new bands being given away for free on Soundcloud or wherever. If you’ve yet to build up a following, who is going to pledge to help you make a record? I’m sure everything will change over the next few years in ways nobody can anticipate, but at the moment it doesn’t seem realistic to me.
Much has been made of the supposed death of the record store in recent years. Do you believe the digital age has killed the record store, and if so, do you think that this is a necessary part of progression, or a tragic loss?
I almost find the debate irrelevant at this point. It’s been a question asked for about a decade now at music conferences all over the world. Music still exists. Bands are still making it and touring. Record stores are wonderful places and I am very sympathetic to their cause, but pretending that the internet doesn’t exist or that people can’t download an album for free in about five seconds should they be so inclined, isn’t going to help matters. It’s not even that it’s a ‘necessary part of progression’ – it might ultimately be terrible for music, but it’s happening anyway, isn’t it?
Debate about whether it’s a good or bad thing should be second to debate about how to make the best music it’s possible to make and how to get it into the ears of kids who need to grow up to save the world.
What would be your preferred medium to listen to music (eg. Vinyl, CD, tape, MP3 etc.), and why?
My home stereo. Most of my music comes off of iTunes. Maybe my ears are too tired from a decade with 65, but a 192kps MP3 sounds fine to me. The days of awful 128kps internet quality downloads and streaming are behind us, at least. My CDs have been in storage for about four years and I can’t remember the last time I bought one.
I still do listen to whole albums at once though, not just songs. That’s probably a bit old-fashioned, isn’t it? I think that’s more of a shame than any particular format disappearing.
Do you feel the idea of an album, as a piece of art that people will listen to from start to finish, has been undermined or forgotten about in the digital age?
Oh. I just started to answer this question, didn’t I? Yes – out of all the changes in the world of music you’ve asked about so far, this is the one I feel saddest about. I don’t think the nature of the album has been ‘undermined’ – it’s not as if kids today have deliberately set out to deconstruct and ignore the way anyone older than 25 listens to music, but you can understand why, with the internet, jumping from one song to the next is popular. Everyone’s a DJ.
But, you know… ‘the album’ as a concept doesn’t seem to have suffered yet. People who still yearn for that pleasure still have it.
What is your take on the recent SOPA/ACTA controversy?
As I’m answering this a couple of months late, as far as I’m aware these things have been shelved. There’s another one – I forget the name – that’s just as bad doing the rounds instead. Also, yesterday the British government decided that ISPs had to ban The Pirate Bay and as a result The Pirate Bay received a bump of, like, 12 million visitors or something and gave instructions about how to unblock it.
All I know for certain is that the people in charge of our countries are fucking idiots. And that the people who are actually on the internet are a lot cleverer when it comes to the internet than the people who run the huge companies that are trying to make money from controlling it.
Finally, what does the future have in store for 65daysofstatic?
We are writing a new record. It’s taking up most of our time. Sounding quite good so far though.