Holograms

Happy New Year 2019!

wishing any and all The Guitar Cave readers a Happy New Year! I hope it goes well for you! May there be many prestigious and emotionally charged artistic moments added to the Scala gallery that is your life! I hope for some of the same for myself, of course, but at this point, I’m also at that “eh…whatever happens” point in my life. That’s okay though. Personally, I’m amazed that it’s 2019 because I never expected to be living through this time, not because I expected to die early, but rather, I just never gave any thought to the distant future or my later years. While I’m aware that there is a plethora of industries devoted to helping people prepare for certain eventualities, I’m not so sure a) that many people can and/or do think that far ahead, or b) the unforseen circumstances of life can render any planning moot and pointless anyway. So when I was 24 I didn’t sit around and wonder what it would be like living in 2019. Even though there aren’t any flying cars (and considering how people drive terra-cars maybe that’s a good thing) me and the rest of my generation has lived through a completely unbelievable set of changes, advances, and age of progress. In the coming months I will talk more about that.

Now that 2018 is in the books, I took stock of last year and was pretty happy with how things went on the blogging front. I hadn’t published anything between October of 2017 and May of 2018 and then I just banged it out; almost thirty-five posts and an unbelievable amount of jazz, alt, and rock guitar disc reviews. It doesn’t even matter that most of this stuff will never get read, it was, from a personal standpoint, a momentous achievement! Hopefully, this year, my 9th year of blogging will be even more entertaining. I have some serious plans for at least the first part of the year and if I can get all of what I have planned done, I might have to take some more time off. I hope I have the energy and health to see it through, but that’s what we need to hope for most, doncha think?

I’ve already mentioned that I’ll be posting/linking a bunch of video content soon; old days NYC rock and roll shot, edited, mixed and produced ninja-style. It should be pretty awesome! I’ve also mentioned a few other things, like review The Aristocrats album. Yes! That will be the next post, because I’ve listened to the disc a whole bunch of times. Like probably several hundred…or, at least more times than The White Album. [As an aside, I’m going to be launching a campaign soon: The White Album SUCKS and SO DOES SANDINISTA!] I don’t know how successful that endeavor will be, but I think, if nothing else, it’s a great post title!

I’ve been thinking I need to be more biting and controversial but that’s a very tight line to walk when you’re an old guy because that’s what everyone expects from an old guy. From the beginning I set out to avoid the “snark” that drives so much online content, because…it is everywhere…and after a while it’s really tiring. The problem with me is that I like many “voices”, and there are many literary styles and approaches that I find entertaining and pleasing to read. Just the other day I read this interview with famed author Vladimir Nabokov (of Lolita fame) with Alvin Toffler from 1964, in Playboy magazine no less. It’s pretty amazing to read the level of ideas, vocabulary and discourse in this interview and try to find anything remotely similar in today’s media. Would that “voice” work for a blog of this nature? Probably not and I wouldn’t be capable of pulling it off anyway, but since I believe music and the guitar to be worthy of all of the respect, intelligence and seriousness given to other topics and forms in the world, I would certainly hope to have all of the abilities necessary to impart what I think to readers. Sometimes passion, especially passion just for passion’s sake, is not enough. Incidentally, Nabokov had no ear for music. None. Imagine what that’s like:

“…I have no ear for music, a shortcoming I deplore bitterly. When I attend a concert—which happens about once in five years—I endeavor gamely to follow the sequence and relationship of sounds but cannot keep it up for more than a few minutes. Visual impressions, reflections of hands in lacquered wood, a diligent bald spot over a fiddle, take over, and soon I am bored beyond measure by the motions of the musicians. My knowledge of music is very slight; and I have a special reason for finding my ignorance and inability so sad, so unjust: There is a wonderful singer in my family—my own son. His great gifts, the rare beauty of his bass, and the promise of a splendid career—all this affects me deeply, and I feel a fool during a technical conversation among musicians. I am perfectly aware of the many parallels between the art forms of music and those of literature, especially in matters of structure, but what can I do if ear and brain refuse to cooperate? But I have found a queer substitute for music in chess—more exactly, in the composing of chess problems.”

When I think of all of the musically oriented pleasurable moments in my life I can’t imagine that “chess problems” or the composing thereof, would serve as a substitute. Perhaps I could never be a writer of Nabokov’s level because I can enjoy Debussy, Django, and Led Zeppelin. Hmm. Anyhow, (wow what a detour) another album I said I was going to get to check out was Muriel Anderson’s Nightlight Daylight double album. Soon, and more reviews in the already thriving rock guitar category. Another thing I have planned is to resurrect the GuitarSong series because, though it took awhile, those articles get a lot of page views now. Well, three out of the four; nobody seems interested in the Eddie Van Halen I’m the One article, which I thought would be the most popular. Just goes to show there’s no telling the interests of audience. Those posts are pretty labor-intensive, but I’ll probably do 4 more and the sketches of those articles are starting to take shape. Finally, the only thing I definitely did NOT do was venture across town to see the Velvet Underground Exhibition. There were a couple of reasons for this I’m going to tie into a post on rock writers and the Culture of Suck that I’ve wanted to do for a while now. Maybe it will be a series. Who knows? There’s something to be said for staying busy, even if it’s pointless. Right after Christmas NY Magazine ran an article titled, How Much of the Internet Is Fake? Turns Out, a Lot of It, Actually. It’s a pretty amusing/terrifying article because it details how the clicks, metrics, people, businesses, politics and consumers are ultimately fake. It’s like The Matrix or that Hologram world I keep writing about. An example:

“…How much of the internet is fake? Studies generally suggest that, year after year, less than 60 percent of web traffic is human; some years, according to some researchers, a healthy majority of it is bot. For a period of time in 2013, the Times reported this year, a full half of YouTube traffic was “bots masquerading as people,” a portion so high that employees feared an inflection point after which YouTube’s systems for detecting fraudulent traffic would begin to regard bot traffic as real and human traffic as fake. They called this hypothetical event “the Inversion.”

So I’m not laboring under any Rupert Pupkin type delusions here that someday my blog will be Time Magazine, because I’ve never had those delusions and ultimately that isn’t the point anyway. It’s fun to have ideas and see them through to completion and ultimately it helps to keep the body and spirit young and healthy (as possible). There is certainly a bad type of “busy”, or an unhealthy compulsion on the part of some to overwork themselves for whatever reason, but that isn’t the same thing. Whatever you do though, I hope your year is fun and prosperous and a big Thank You! for reading the blog!

Tidbits V

and so we come to the final weeks of another year! Give yourself a big pat on the back! You made it! That’s not always easy to do, ya know? Don’t let any of that Holiday-type stuff get you down, because…totally not worth worrying about. In this day and age one can boycott the Holiday Season but I’m not that much of a revolutionary, so I’ll just ignore most of it. I had a pretty happening Thanksgiving and Xmas the last two years, so except for a dinner with some fam this weekend, I’m gonna be taking it easy.

Last month in Tidbit IV I wrote about how I had “discovered” The Aristocrats; a funky fusion band that stars guitar sensation Guthrie Govan. I’ve seen a lot of Guthrie on YouTube over the years; in addition to being an amazing guitarist/player/teacher, he has always introduced himself like, “Hey, it’s Guthrie” like it’s no biggie and he was the guy you smoked spliffs with the night before. But he has this very formal-type of British accent so it’s like you hung out and smoked spliffs with royalty the night before…Way cool. Anyway, I promised to buy the latest music and report back and true to my word, I have done that and now own the Tres Cabelleros album. The music is actually older than I thought; it was recorded many years ago in 2015. The band: Guthrie Govan guitars, Bryan Beller Bass and Marco Minnemann drums, convened at legendary Sunset Sound studios in Hollywood, USA and banged out nine absolutely FUSION tunes. I haven’t listened enough to write a proper review, but this music is definitely TIP-TOP great and recalls the best of Zappa, Jeff Beck, Satriani, Di Meola, but is also thoroughly original. All three musicians are fan-friggin-tastic and Guthrie does some totally mind-blowing things on the guitar. Much of this material is also online in video form, so you can check it out for yourself, without even buying the music! (But if it rubs you the right way, you should probably buy the music). I’m just not sure about the name…it’s more than likely a British thing. If you search for “The Aristocrats” though you either come upon a movie you probably don’t want to see or that dirty joke…that someone made a movie about that you probably don’t want to see. But I guess the band likes it and at this point it’s too late to change.

Speaking of buying the music, well that’s the other interesting part of this story. As you know, I have been doing my best to keep up with everexpanding landscape of the musical/guitar/instrument business and have written on the topic many times. How and where I bought The Aristocrats music is pretty neato because I didn’t get it on iTunes, or @Amazon or from some CD clearinghouse online or even a boutique dealer here in NYC that specializes in hard-to-find music that pretty much nobody is going to buy (proportionally I mean). I purchased the music through Jam Track Central, which is an instrument instruction site based in the UK. I had the option to buy just the band’s music or the music and some backing tracks or a Grand Pack that included tabs, backing tracks and the music. Pretty awesome and the exactly correct place for this band to be as the people who are going to be the most into it will probably (at least a few of them) want to learn how to play it.

I’ve certainly profiled other teachers, teaching tools and teaching sites over the years; that was always a major focus from the beginning of this blog. You can find a nice list in the right column. The JTC site is certainly in the same ballpark as DC Music School and The Rosenberg Academy, both of which I have written about here over the years. I’ve been a member/buyer of both places and now am a member of JTC! They even send me their Help Wanted notices! I also wrote in review of Gypsy Jazz stylist Romane’s CD Gypsy Fire, that the disc came with tabs and a second disc that contained backing tracks! So this is an idea that has been around for a while and is an effective method of organizing and providing content to a specific audience and “teh tech” allows it to be provided easily and at a low-cost. I’ll admit that personally, I’m too long in the tooth to be taking on a further guitar instruction, but that’s okay. I can still take advantage of the listening end and hopefully younger players will jump on all of this stuff and make good use of it because it’s a great way to learn a whole lot of cool stuff quickly!

In other news…Lately I have been a music reviewing machine! There is new content in the Rock and ALT/Jazz sections of the site and more to come! Look for The Aristocrats review soon! Great to read when you’re bored at work!

Finally, a few months ago in this post I questioned the purpose of Bohemian Rhapsody, the Freddie Mercury biopic, and sort of, kind of predicted it would flop. Boy was I wrong about that! I haven’t seen it myself but a few people I know, NONE OF WHOM WAS EVER A QUEEN FAN saw it, thought it was great and then proceeded to buy Bicycle Race or something! I guess that’s a good thing. One of these people is a younger female and it’s pretty funny talking about Queen or classic rock with her. Or anything actually. ‘Cause before she saw this movie no music produced prior to Shakira!! was worth more than a big EWWWWW. But now she’s an expert on Queen and 70s Rock. Whatever it takes to get more people into great music is fine with me! Movies like Bohemian Rhapsody function as stealth marketing for people who would never listen otherwise. If I would’ve given this chick a CD (LOL a CD…what are you? A million years old?) of Queen’s Greatest Hits it would’ve never been opened. But, by making an updated version of the story that checks all of the right boxes on current-year thinking and sensibilities with some hot young actors and actresses…GOLD MINE! Genius! Brilliant! So I guess I learned something there. On the other hand…I’ve gotten back to being semi-active on social media and have learned that there’s a lot of hate for Rock Holograms out there in the universe…so on that front…WINNING!

Update: The Guitar is Totally Not Dying!

(Would I lie to you?)

Over the past year I have posted a couple of times on the drama surrounding the financial difficulties of Gibson Guitar and Guitar Center, and the alleged cratering of the market for guitars that was going to result in The Walking Dead or a Music World Ruled by Holograms! (Nobody else is making the “hologram” connection, but that’s just the kind of hard-hitting journalism you should rightfully expect from THE GUITAR CAVE. Think I’m kidding? Watch this video and be frightened, outraged, and amazed!)

But we’re not here to talk about holograms, we’re here to follow-up on a post I wrote back in July on a story I’ve been tracking since last year; The Death of the Electric Guitar! As you may recall, I was skeptical and viewed a lot of the info and opinions contained in articles such as this one with a fair amount of derision and dark humor and, as it turns out, it looks like I was right to do that. Current information online suggests that Gibson, a company that is now millions of dollars in debt, was formerly doing a-ok selling guitars. Annually they move about 170,000 in 80 countries and control 40% of the over-$2000 market. But then Gibson CEO Henry Juszkiewicz got bored or tried to channel his inner Steve Jobs and took his company on a buying spree:

In 2012, bought a stake in consumer audio company Onkyo.
In 2013, bought stereo maker TEAC in 2013 for $53 million.
In 2014, paid $135 million to acquire Royal Phillips’s home-entertainment systems.

None of this “stuff” really has anything to do with “guitars” and all of this “not guitar stuff” resulted in the company owing about $500 million in cool ones and no, I’m not talking about Mohitos. The debt was not accrued because Eric Clapton is old, rock is dead or any of the other reasons listed in any of those articles like the one I linked to above! Guitar sales haven’t fallen to zero levels, they just haven’t risen to the level necessary to counter the losses on this dream of being the King of ‘Lectronics. It’s very doubtful that any serious, responsible and independent study would’ve projected that the guitar market would’ve swelled to the levels necessary to cover the debts if these gambles didn’t pay off, but who worries about stuff like that anymore? Anyone who has spent even the minimum of time in Corporate America knows that no one likes a naysayer and if the CEO decides a guitar company should enter the very crowded and competitive market of electronics, who are you to say otherwise? A few months ago Juszkiewicz was interviewed and related that Gibson guitar sales had actually risen over 10% since January 2017! In my previous post on the subject I quoted Fender CEO Andy Mooney who claimed that, “Fender sales had risen and ukulele sales were ‘exploding,'” so the two largest guitar companies have actually seen a sales improvement over the past two years. Doesn’t sound like “death” to me. I think “death” is when NO SALES happen and junk, but I don’t have an MBA. Before exiting the interview, Juszkiewicz offered the following CEO-type predictions:

“…I’m not sure I exactly answered your question, but I will be here for a while, as CEO, and then I will be here for a while, for a couple of years, as an active advisor and mentor and we have a lot of young managers that are just dynamite inside the company, that are progressing and will progress into higher levels, so it’s all good.”

Bzzzt! Wrong again! I think this guy’s crystal ball capabilities have suffered critical failure. He was just bounced from the CEO chair as a condition of the bankruptcy exit plan that was approved this month! In September Gibson introduced its 2019 model line with a focus on gettin’ back to basics and this past week announced their new CEO and yes! It’s gonna be great! There’s a new Sheriff in town and he doesn’t shave, so you know he’s serious!

James “JC” Curleigh (the JC is supposed to make you think of the guy who rises things from the dead!) is billed on YouTube as someone WHO KNOWS HOW TO BUILD BRANDS! He was formerly CEO at Levi Strauss so I would expect a new line of guitars that features pockets and zippers as he merges the guitar + personal accessory markets! Potential profits = INSANE-A-MUNGOUS! It would be great if someone teaches Kylie Jenner to play guitar! Great for finance guys and investors I mean…because who cares about anyone else? Seriously though, I think we can all rest easier tonight knowing that Gibson is going to be around for a while. Even though I no longer own one of their guitars, I am happy that a deal has been worked out and hope that the right kind of positive improvements can be made to help the company prosper in the 2020s. Also, if you were one of those people who rushed into the stores to pick up a Les Paul because you thought they were going the way of the dodo…thanks for taking one for the team or something!

Then, there is Guitar Center. A March, 2018 article here lays the blame for the company’s $1 billion debts “partly on changing musical tastes”. This statement is followed by George Gruhn’s old-guy babbling about the lack of guitar heroes, the kids who listen to rap, and how we’re all Juggalos now, homescallion! As a very prescient comment to this article notes, this is all about customer-blaming and that is what I’ve been saying in all of my posts and the reason for my sarcastic tone. The finance guys and their buds in the media never take the blame for anything and no matter how egregious the business gamble, mistake, or miscalculation, the fault gets shoved on unpredictable intangibles or hapless customers/consumers who can just never do enough for Corporate America. Let’s just look at this article for further confirmation:

“…Los Angeles financial firm Ares Management took control of Guitar Center in 2014 in a $500-million debt-for-equity swap. There has been some talk of Ares taking Guitar Center public again…“Guitar Center is a good business, and the Bain Capital guys paid a premium on it, expecting continued market growth,” said Brian Majeski, editor of Music Trades magazine. “The industry growth didn’t materialize.”…Bain Capital declined to comment. Ares did not respond to a request for comment.

Of course there was no comment from the guys who overpaid, gambled and lost…what are they going to say? “Er…we overpaid, gambled and lost?” The next sentence is also a humdinger: “A main drag has been the massive changes in retail as sales have migrated online. For example, Guitar Center has long generated income selling used instruments. But it now faces competition in that market from the likes of EBay and Reverb, an online musician marketplace, experts say.” Ebay has been around for 20+ years and Guitar Center also has a lot of competition from Craigslist in the used instrument market. Do those “industry experts” not know this or do they not think the public realizes this…even as the public uses these services? Sometimes it’s hard to wrap one’s head around the disconnect. Soon after these articles appeared, another emerged on Forbes where previous allegations of trouble were dismissed as “fake news” by Michael Amkreutz, EVP of merchandising and e-commerce. According to him, things be looking pretty cherry, yo!:

Music Trades magazine, the industry’s bible, reported the total guitar market unit volume grew 7% from 2016-2017 and in retail value 8.8%. With a total retail market of $1.3 billion, acoustic guitars make up about 56% ($740 million) and electric guitars the remaining 44% ($590 million), which grew just a shade faster in retail volume last year (up 9.1% as compared to 8.6% for acoustics).

So customers are stepping up and Gibson and Guitar Center, who just a few months ago were supposedly in a death spiral because they had been abandoned by a fickle, distracted public, have actually seen increased sales! Hallelujah! So were those articles, like this one from the Washington Post, wrong or were they part of the strategy? I. Don’t. Know. Perhaps it was the old “snowstorm” psychology at work. Doom and gloom gets people to buy! buy! buy! Similar behavior has occurred after mass shootings; because people fear legislation that will restrict their purchasing choices, they flock to the stores before the legislation happens. Who knows what kind of numbers a bunch of articles on “the death of the guitar” could drive into the stores? Tune in tomorrow for the Christmas forecast! I’m sure it will be just as confusing.

Back to the Future!

It’s time to check in on the hologram industry. If you’ve missed this technological advance in musical performance, I wrote about it last year and predicted that it would lead to: a possible revival of the over-the-hill Rock genre, save the electric guitar, or maybe even launch an all out Skynet-style nuclear attack. Of course, I’m not the only person with an opinion; writers, critics, players and fans are weighing in on this controversial topic…and others are just showing up to watch it.

I had reported in my original post that late metal rocker, Ronnie James Dio’s hologram had rocked the Pollstar Awards, and by all accounts, it was…something. Tour plans were and are in the works, but first “He” had to go back on the drawing board. Kewl! Other stars like Tupac Shakur, who appeared at Coachella in 2012, have already had their moment in post-life stardom…or Stardom from Beyond the Grave! Sounds like a horror movie…and it is! This past spring the late Roy Orbison toured England, at least his hologram did, with an orchestra to boot! Amazing! (No the orchestra was not a hologram) Given Roy’s lack of emotion and movement when performing, he was a good choice for a hologram because most people were not be able to discern they were actually watching technology instead of the real thing. Have a look-see below and judge for yourself! I can’t believe it’s not Roy!

But FEAR NOT!…er other music lovers. This technology is taking the world by storm and no musical genre will escape the tendency and temptation to take what was once a great thing and reduce it to…wackiness and approximation. In January of this year Maria Callas, who died in 1977, returned to Lincoln Center to bellow out the arias from Carmen and Macbeth. Writing in the New York Times, Anthony Tommasini related:

“It was amazing, yet also absurd; strangely captivating, yet also campy and ridiculous. And in a way, it made the most sense of any of the musical holograms produced so far. More than rock or hip-hop fans — and even more, you could say, than fans of instrumental classical music — opera lovers dwell in the past. We are known for our obsessive devotion to dead divas and old recordings; it can sometimes seem like an element of necrophilia, even, drives the most fanatical buffs.”

So I guess that means that by 2025 Washington DC or New York City will be home to the Necrophiliacal Center for the Performing Arts because this new industry has nowhere to go but UP! The Bizarre World of Frank Zappa will tour by the end of the year and will feature big stars like Steve Vai and Warren Cuccurullo. This gives whole new meaning to the phrase ROCK IS DEAD, doesn’t it? Well, yes and no. After all, this is a conglomeration of a whole bunch of advanced technology making this happen and we love technology, don’t we kids? Even regular old music (that stuff hardly anyone plays anymore) needs a whole bunch of technology to function in today’s market…. ’cause that’s just how it’s done. The world has embraced this new way of doing things; it has pulled technology to its collective bosom and said, “Yes! (eargasm) this is for me!”

There are some people who just aren’t onboard though. While some of these people may be [Haters] or trolls, there are others who have well-reasoned arguments and legitimate concerns. One such argument (from the inside no less) is that this whole thing is just a cash-grab by people who are no longer capable of really earning it the old-fashioned way, by playing music. (Pfft! Who does that anymore? Anyone?) Another, similar type of argument is that it may be disrespectful, and that could also true. After all, nobody knows what Ronnie, Roy, and Tupac would’ve wanted….well they say they do, but CaChing! My well-reasoned argument against is that there are generations of people out there who aren’t Baby Boomers and these people are really tired of Baby Boomers and their old people smell and personal concerns. I have no idea why people still turn out to see REAL, LIVE (sort of) bands that average 60-70 years of age. I mean seriously, you don’t have anything else to do tonight? Look at this! (It’s really terrible!) I sense a lot of anticipation for the official last Baby Boomer to bite the dust, but if this technology takes off, they’ll be around forever! Not just forever, but FOREVER. Reminding you, yes you, you stupid Millennial and Generation Z, that you don’t know what hard work is, your music sucks and you’ll never be as great as Generation Woodstock/Punk Rock.

So the deeper ramifications of this whole thing become clear. The tech industry is putting this hologram rock together and even though the technology is gimmicky, it’s still early days. Think what the internet was like early 90s. Or before. Imagine where this can go and then it’s not about what’s possible any longer, it’s all about what people will accept. Would everyone go along with creating a digital Pet Sematary? Where anyone can come back and be recreated? If they can do it with Jimi Hendrix or Prince, why not Grandma? Or your true love who was killed in an exploding blender accident at the tender age of 25? As Leonid Bershidsky writes in the NY Post:

“Also, I’m not sure there’s such a thing as an artificially recreated emotional connection. I’d rather remember real conversations with a deceased friend than try to have new ones with a bot trained on his words. And I suspect watching an undead rock hero would be less satisfying than seeing old footage of his or her performance….Perhaps people living today should be asked to put a check mark on a form, next to the one for organ donations, to specify whether they’re OK with being revived as bots and holograms. I’m sure a lot of musicians would do it, and then their fans would know.

The future holds many awesome and terrifying possibilities and holograms are just one avenue. Think of some of the bad things that could come back. Hitler? My God! The Adolf Hitler 2022 World Tour! Live at The Necrophiliacal Center for the Performing Arts Why not? Have you ever read Pet Sematary? Or watched the movie? Yea, okay, so the movie wasn’t very good even though Herman Munster was in it. But hooo! Scary! It’s a scary idea! Stay tuned!