How to Fix the Underground
The following is a guest post from David Hall, metal filmmaker and head honcho of Uneasy Sleeper. The views expressed in this piece are his alone and do not necessarily represent the views of any Toilet ov Hell writer.
I recently wrote a piece called “Metal is the Fucking Worst,” for CLRVYNT in which I hyperbolically described my disdain for many elements of metal music and the metal music scene. The response to the piece was quite polarizing (which I think is a good thing) and many strangers reached out to offer critique (you’re old and stupid and homophobic/misogynist) and praise (thank you for writing what I was thinking.) Based on the reaction to what I wrote, I realized that maybe there is a chance for the underground to be saved, to return it to its pre internet, late 80s/early 90s glory that old people like me apparently pine for.
Many people mistakenly interpreted my piece as nothing but disdain for underground metal, but in fact, there is much I love about it – I have worked for the better part of ten years in the underground and hope to for many more – but the underground is dying. The underground is being choked-out by corporate interests, political agendas and false artists who confuse money with success. No, the underground is not merely a “niche market” to exploit; it is not the cause of or solution to your social justice crusades. The real underground is a feral bitch, birthing bastard pups behind a dumpster. The real underground is a house show in a condemned building where junkies flock to push-off and fuck miserably in a dirty bathtub. The real underground is art and thought unimpeded by the banality of your coffee culture, your fascist youth haircuts, your pathetic, post-modern irony.
The real underground’s godhead is pure art. And if we are to preserve this holy state of culture we must implement some ideas and rules that ensure underground metal is fixed for good.
These rules will be monitored and enforced by a rotating group of artists recognized by their peers and fans as legitimate creators of true underground music. Personally, I nominate King Buzzo, Gazelle Amber Valentine, Jeff Whitehead, Steve Austin, Jay Randall, Eugene Robinson, Chris Bruni, Diamanda Galas, Scout Niblet and Mike Williams.
The following suggestions do not have to be adhered to by anyone except those seeking official underground status. Violation of any of these rules will result in a two-year ban on any musicians seeking official underground status.
- Financial caps on recording budgets will be implemented. Two thousand dollar limit on full lengths, One thousand dollar limit on EPs, Five hundred dollar limit on 7 inches. The mixing and mastering budget shall not exceed one thousand dollars.
- Limit the production of physical media. No band shall press more than 300 copies of ANY media, and all reprints will be outlawed.
- Provide eco tax credits to consumers who ONLY buy digital music.
- Create financial bonuses delivered to fans if a band earns more than $10,000 gross in one year. Any fan that has purchased music from a band in one fiscal year will receive a 2% payout of the total amount earned over $10,000.
- Limit a band’s release schedule to 1 full-length every 3 years, one ep every 5 years and splits/7 Inches/One-Offs every 6 years.
- Bands will be prohibited from reuniting.
- Ban any commercial or corporate involvement, funding, support or collusion.
- Ban all crowdfunding initiatives.
- Ban the production of all merch.
- Ban all cover art. Track listing and band name, white text on black is fine.
- Abolish all record labels.
- Abolish private ownership of vinyl manufacturers: each underground band will own a share of any vinyl manufacturing plant, and must work at a said plants on rotating schedules that must equal no less than 30 days in one calendar year.
- Ban any advertising, PR and/or marketing activities for any release.
- Make the export of any American-produced music illegal until Donald Trump is either impeached, or he resigns. It is no secret that most musicians and journalists are disgusted by the presidency of Donald Trump and consider it a stain on their country. By making it illegal to sell American-produced music, journalists and the music consumer will not have to worry they are supporting Trump’s regime by proxy through sales taxes collected on the sale an production of records. American music sales will skyrocket (patriots will rise to the occasion) and foreign music markets will once again be returned to regional-based systems. The Mainstream music community will lobby the government for the removal of Trump. American produced records will become collectors items, and when Trump does go away, the ban will be lifted, and a new era of fruitful, musical consumerism will arrive.
- Ban the import of American-made music Globally. (see above)
- Abolish all music journalism.
- Create a “Contract of Inclusivity” that all concert venues, concert attendees, live music spaces, concert promoters and bands must sign and adhere to. The Contract of Inclusivity will make illegal any discriminatory act or behaviour by anyone at live music events.
- Create and issue a standard uniform that all band members, concert attendees, venue staff and anyone attending a concert must wear. This uniform will cover all visible skin, and will include a mask. This will ensure a person’s race, gender and any physical traits will remain hidden. This anonymity will further ensure that no discriminatory actions or behaviour will ever occur.
By implementing and enforcing the above rules on underground musicians, the ethos and philosophy of true, underground music will remain untarnished and unmolested by outside interests. By enforcing inclusiveness, and holding bands and concert venues accountable for any discriminatory actions or behaviour, the social justice crusades of journalists and outside political interests will be rendered moot. By limiting the amount of profit and controlling the means of production, the underground will have no appeal to any corporate or commercial interests and therefore keep it pure.
The strict adherence to the above rules will ensure that the underground remains a fertile ground for the production of real music, and, once-and-for-all provide a clear definition of what the underground is.
The underground is broken, but it’s not too late – it can be fixed. Will you answer its call?