The Music Scene According to Blink

The guy behind Camp a Low Hum just wrote a book about the state of the New Zealand music scene.

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Jul 10 2014, 4:26am

Wellington based indie bigwig Ian ‘Blink’ Jorgensen, just published his third book The Problem With Music In New Zealand And How To Fix It & Why I Started And Ran Puppies. You may know Blink from various A Low Hum endeavours including touring bands, releasing records, and of course the camps. TPWMINZAHTFI&WISARP not only makes for a fabulous acronym, it’s also harsh schooling on the realities of New Zealand, music, and money.

Did you know that people in bands make scratch? That APRA is probably ripping you off? Do you know how to stage a DIY show? Do you know anything about NZ?

We caught up with Blink to learn more.

Noisey: Writing a book is not something people seem to do that much anymore.

Blink: It was just a bunch of wanky blog posts. The good thing about a book is that it makes things more authoritative. Even though more people see blogs, they aren’t taken as seriously.

Who’s it for?

A lot of it was just stuff to try to inspire people who want to make a difference within the scene, trying to make more people aware of how the industry runs, how shitty the situation is, and ways it could be more efficient and more transparent. It’s for everybody, for people in NZ, and for people in Australia where it can be quite similar.

What’s keeping you in NZ?

I don’t think people should have to go overseas, that’s kind of the point of the book. I love NZ and I’m sure a lot of people would love to live here and to have a career here. We just simply have to look at things differently. In the 80s and 90s, bands were able to create careers by selling records, now we have to create careers by playing live and making sure the companies involved in royalties do it properly.

The ‘The Alcohol Industry Uses The Music Industry To Further Dominate Its Presence and Influence Over Youth Culture’ chapter made me super uneasy.

I didn’t recognize how bad it was until doing tours with bands overseas, and going, “Wait a second, there’s a ton of places that bands play that aren’t bars.” It made me realise that in NZ and Australia you’re grown to accept that every event is usually sponsored by a booze company. Those sponsors have a monopoly over music and, yeah. I’m totally fine with people drinking, I do have a problem with it constantly being perceived as cool, and that association that music and alcohol go together.

And years ago I was part of that and was sponsored like that for tours I did, and I feel pretty shit looking back on it.

And meeting Ian MacKaye changed your mind?

He definitely woke me up. I hadn’t even thought about it properly until I met him, you know, the whole straight edge movement wasn’t necessarily about not drinking, it had a lot to do with getting the alcohol companies out of music.

The chapter, 'APRA and PPNZ Are Ripping Off New Zealand Businesses In The Name Of Songwriters Who Have No Idea This Is Going On' was scary.

I just wanted to get other people talking about it. And even in the last couple of days since it’s been out, it’s really resonated. Big articles in newspapers, meetings with APRA and a whole bunch of really high profile NZ acts coming out to talk to me and wanting to be involved with reformatting and making sure APRA become more transparent.

So you’re the man who took down APRA?

Not quite. The idea of APRA is great, but thinking that a band would chase every single radio station and shop that is playing their music is insane. It’s great that we have a company that does this, but the company assumes too much. Music gets played that isn’t on the radio.

‘New Zealand Needs More DIY Venues’ focuses on the idea of 'punk'. You’re saying it’s not punk to be a dickhead?

Yeah, like people don’t see me as “punk” for the stuff that I do, for setting up financially viable projects that go against the mainstream, and provide outlets for young musicians—but that is punk, you know? I don’t piss off the police, I don’t do stupid shit that makes people angry, but I just create infrastructure. Creating a venue that can host bands for years, and doing it without pissing off the local cops, is incredibly punk.

Steve Albini’s essay 'The Problem With Music' has been an inspiration. How important was he in terms of your thinking and ethics?

He was like the first person to really acknowledge what people knew but weren’t talking about. Everyone knew that bands were being fucked over by majors but no one laid it out as clearly and directly as that. And how inflation somehow skipped the music industry. Since the 80s, everything else went up, and bands no longer get record sales, but the cost of going to shows is the same cost as it was 30 years ago. Inflations gone fucking crazy, it just doesn’t make sense.

Not enough people seem to be talking about these problems on a wider level and it can be very easy to just gloss over. Then ten years later everything is worse.

People talk about it, you know, that’s kind of the point of these essays: this is the stuff everybody talks about behind the scenes. I wrote eighty per cent of this book five-years-ago, when I was touring bands, and we all bitched about this stuff in the car. And a lot of the time, it’s quite condescending, like a lot of it makes me seem like I’m a real cock, like I’m telling people how to do their job. Because it’s so simple and clear and obvious, it makes it seem like I’m being patronizing. And that’s part of the reason I didn’t put this out five-years-ago, that I felt it would piss people off for the wrong reasons. I don’t mind pissing people off if they’re going to have a punk reaction and they go and do something fucking rad, but I didn’t want people to read this and think I’m telling people how to do something.

What’s next?

I can’t actually say yet, there will be an announcement in about a month, and larger one around October. I’ve got the next three years planned out already, like I could tell you what I’m doing in April 2017.

How does somebody function like that?

I think I’ve always had a five-year-plan. And if I’m doing a project, I need to know what it’s leading on to. I try to not get too attached to things. I got really attached to camp, and it was pretty emotional for me to end it, which is why I had to finish it. I had become too much part of it. But there’s too much other stuff I want to do.

'The Problem With Music In New Zealand And How To Fix It & Why I Started And Ran Puppies' can be downloaded for free, (if you’re a scrooge) or with a donation. Hardcopies of the book are $12.

Take note of the disclaimer found on the copyright page, allowing for sharing and redistribution, as long as you are cool about it.

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