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Looking For Interviewees For Danny (&c.)...


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Having suggested a revival of the “Danny the Dog Innerviews,” I find myself on the lookout for people doing innovative things. One was mentioned at the Writers’ Guild meeting last night. There’s a fellow hight Kray Van Kirk in Alaska who is refusing to sell CDs; all his music is downloadable for free from his Website, www.krayvankirk.com, on a “donate what you want” basis. He does have a family—single parent with kids, he is. Where does he make his money? Concerts—not just in Alaska, but as far away as the East Coast and Europe.

I know somebody else who’s doing the “download it for free, pay what you want” thing, and that’s friend and fellow songwriter Gene Burnett in Ashland. (His Website is www.geneburnett.com.) He’s probably not as widely known as Van Kirk—but he should be. He’s written some really good stuff—one of his songs, “Thing Are Getting Better Now That Things Are Getting Worse,” has become a staple of the Deathgrass setlists. And Gene’s not doing too bad, either. This is a marketing model that probably bears repeating.

Others? I know a music publisher—they’re the real estate agents of the music business—who mostly doesn’t market songs to record companies any more; most of her business is “placement” of songs in TV shows and movies. Having experienced first-hand the closed-circle mentality of the Music Industry (and having formed some definite—and pretty critical—opinions about it), I could hazard a guess why—but it’d be better to ask.

(There are side effects. Those TV and film people are cheap. They’re not going to have your song re-done in their own studio with their own people like the Big Boys do; they’re going to run it “exactly as wrote,” so what you have to give the publisher is a professional “radio-ready” recording. But isn’t that what everybody’s doing these days, anyway?)

For all those folks, the question would be: “How would you like to be interviewed by a dog?”

From a technical standpoint, the interviews are not a big time-consumer (I have to worry about that stuff); I have the tools to do everything, and even some experience at it as well.

The foregoing begs the question, “Am I doing any cutting-edge things myself?” I don’t think so: I’m an expropriator, really—I rob other people’s ideas, and maybe adapt ‘em a little, and mix ‘em up a bit. It’s like the music. The music is just like Hank Williams—except that Hank could sing, and he didn’t write about dead animals. I am always after ideas. And one of the things I do is disseminate those ideas (that’s the background as a newspaper reporter coming into play), and see what other people do with them. Of such things, I think, is change made.

Homework for the Writers’ Guild is to write something—poem or song—about the war. It’s practice being timeless: can you write about something that’s current events in a way that somebody a year, ten years, or 50 years from now can read and say, “Oh, yeah—I know what they’re talking about”? Bob Dylan did that a few times; so did John Prine, once. It’s not easy. I’d presented the group as my “homework” from last time a song by Gem Watson, “Final Payment” (another Deathgrass standard), as an example of a well-written and well-composed song; one of our writers thought it referenced World War II (and I’ve always related it to the economy, even though I’m sure Gem wrote it before things started to fall apart). That’s the sort of timelessness I think one should be shooting for.

45 Degrees North concerts Friday and Saturday; solo at the “Hoffapalooza” Saturday afternoon, too. Willamette Writers Group next Thursday (our Writers’ Guild won’t meet that night), and Deathgrass at Garibaldi Days Saturday. And I didn’t get the job in Wheeler (I’m disappointed, but not surprised).

Joe

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