New York’s Black Dice have evolved from their harsh noise origins into one of the most forward thinking contemporary artists in the experimental electronic music scene, and have shared the stage with everyone from Godspeed You! Black Emperor to the Residents. M3 spoke to Black Dice’s Aaron Warren to find out about the death and apparent resurrection of the record store, the future of the album format and the downsides of SOPA…
M3 – First of all, could you tell us a bit about yourself, and what it is that you do?
Aaron Warren – I’m Aaron, I’m in the band Black Dice and I play the sampler and do some vocals and percussion.
What inspired you to form Black Dice? What are your own musical backgrounds?
I am not an original member of the band, though I’ve been in the band for 13 years now. So I’m still sorta the new guy! I was in a band before Black Dice based outta Colorado and LA called T-Tauri and I did a couple records with those guys and a bunch of DIY tours. I had some friends in common with Black Dice in LA so I checked the band out when I moved to NYC. I ended up crashing on Bjorn and Hisham’s couch for a while and when their bassist quit, I started jamming with them. At that time, it was basically about making a really rowdy rock’n’roll show in what was at the time a pretty mild mannered post-HC DIY scene.
Many people have claimed that there is no longer any money in record sales, and that touring is the most efficient way to earn an income as a band. How much truth do you think there is in this sentiment?
Well Black Dice basically don’t make any money off of records or tours, so it’s hard for me to say. I guess we generally come closer to breaking even on our tours than we do on our records, so that sorta supports that idea. The only money we we really make without lotsa expenses are on local shows and big one off fests. But even pre-demise of the label world, we were non-profitable!
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 think there still is a place for a physical space where people can browse music, get enticed by physical artwork, meet people, and discover music together, and think there will continue to be a need for that even if the format changes. Some kind of listening gallery or something, perhaps. But the communal/community aspect will still need to be met, sorta like the way movie theaters still exist past their supposed demise.
What would be your preferred medium to listen to music (eg. Vinyl, CD, tape, MP3 etc.), and why?
I like vinyl a lot, love the tactile quality, the big art, the linear album experience. But I don’t honestly listen to records so much these days. I mostly listen to MP3s like the rest of the world, and I’m fine with that.
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?
I think real music fans, those that are serious enthusiasts, will continue to care about the album for a while to come. I guess though that since the album was just sort of a side-effect of a format, it may continue to grow and change as a concept, as formats change, which I am open to.
Recently, there seem to be a large number of bands offering their releases for free via sites like Bandcamp. What do you think of this distribution method, do you think it is a realistic solution to the problem of illegal downloading?
I think anything that empowers both bands and fans alike is positive, as long as its a somewhat sustainable situation. I don’t personally see illegal downloading as a problem, just a reality for the moment. But I believe the forces of capitalism will find a way to make a new source of revenue for bands eventually. Perhaps the Bandcamp model is the start of that.
What is your take on the recent SOPA/ACTA controversy?
I don’t think the government has any place prosecuting the individual music fan or “protecting” gigantic entertainment corporations. I don’t think illegal downloading is a sustainable environment within a capitalist world, and market forces will necessitate a format/distribution change, but I don’t think the government needs to legislate that change.
What would you say are the main challenges facing an up-and-coming musician/band in today’s cultural climate?
Well it’s always been tough to make a buck off of music I think, but if the music is great, then I truly believe it will always find some ears. And then I guess the question becomes how to make enough money to survive and also make good music. But in a lotta ways if the main goal is to get the music out to people, that’s easier than ever.
Finally, what does the future hold for Black Diece?
Try to live as long as we can in an unsustainable situation! And make some great tunes if we can….