Tag Archives: singers

Things musicians say…and what they actually mean (from my book Mind The Bollocks)

Merely playing music is not enough for the 21st century troubadour. They also need to be able to sell themselves as a fully-formed lifestyle package for their listeners to identify with. That means they have to talk, sometimes at length, about what they do.
Invariably, they won’t have been faced with that problem in their previous job, as a newspaper delivery operative, shelf-stacker or Government artist (chief responsibility: drawing the dole). So when faced with a tape recorder and a pressing need to draw attention to themselves, they tend to fall back on tried and trusted soundbites we have heard from generations of musicians before them.
However, these pronouncements are not always to be taken at face value. Here’s a quick guide to the unspoken subtext behind some of their more familiar utterances, as their artistic fortunes rise, peak, fall and, if they’re lucky, rise again with a lucrative comeback tour a decade or two later…


You really have to see us live
Sorry, our demo is rubbish

You really have to hear our demo
Sorry, our gigs are rubbish.

The sound/production really didn’t do us justice
Sorry, our gigs and records are rubbish and we blame the producer/soundman

“We don’t sound like anyone else at all”
We sound like a soup-bland, character-free mush of The Libertines, Arctic Monkeys, Arcade Fire and the Kings of sodding Leon, while managing to avoid inheriting any of the more arresting qualities of those acts, although we have added a hackneyed pomposity and some instantly forgettable hooks that are all our own.

All these categories are meaningless
Which is why when we advertised for a drummer we put ‘Indie/alternative four-piece needs drummer. Influences Arctics/Libertines/Kings of sodding Leon’

Each of us have really different influences, and We all bring different influences to the table.
The drummer likes playing Tour of Duty 7: Race War on his Xbox and fighting bouncers, the bass player is into Depeche Mode and hardcore dutch piss-porn, the singer sometimes pretends to be Michael Hutchence in the backstage mirror. All these influences are thrown into the mix, and then discarded, because the guitarist writes all the music and lyrics and totally controls everything the band does.

We’re like a street gang. The band couldn’t operate if one of us left.
However, if a record label were to point out that the drummer isn’t very good we would replace him with a session drummer as quickly and unfussily as it takes the sound engineer to skin up.

We’re essentially a soul band
The singer likes to do his ‘sex face’ when hitting the high notes

We want to get our message to as many people as possible
And that message is: “We want to be rich, successful, universally adored and up to our back wheels in soft, worshipful groupie-guts”


We’re the best band in the world
Or we were shortly after our last visit to the rest room (sniff). In fact I could do with another. Can you pass, that, erm, hanky I borrowed earlier?

If you really believe in yourself, you can do anything
If you really believe in yourself, you can fool yourself that your success happened due to talent, hard work, and force of your dazzling personality, and being a jammy chancer who was in the right place at the right time with a good producer played no part at all.

The lyrics are open to interpretation
As long as you don’t interpret them, or I’ll get annoyed when you assume they are all about my ex-girlfriend.

They mean different things to different people…
But those people are all wrong because in fact they’re just a bunch of random words with no narrative structure whatsoever which I strung together in the studio table tennis room 20 minutes before I was due to go in and lay down my vocal track, thinking “these sound OK.”

They mean whatever you want them to mean
They mean whatever you want them to mean as long as it’s not: “Harry Redknapp is an earthly emissary of Satan and must be destroyed, along with a shopping centre full of people just outside Aylesbury.” Because that’s definitely not what they mean, so please don’t make me part of your defence case in court, you screaming nuthouse.

We’re not being politicians, we’re not trying to preach to people
We’re not so passionate about our convictions that we want to risk alienating anyone who might disagree with us.

We don’t write b-sides – I think the idea of writing inferior songs is insulting to the fans.
So we’ll do a cover version, and turn that into an inferior song instead.

We hate that sort of band…not mentioning any names…
We hate that sort of band…but last time we mentioned any names we ended up supporting them at Northampton Roadmenders and they wee’d in our monitors.


“I don’t understand why people think we’re depressing. There’s a lot of humour there.”
If you turn the volume up to maximum, turn the bass right down and put your ear to the speaker right as the last track is fading out, you can hear the keyboard player farting.

Continually comparing us to Arctic Monkeys/Libertines/Arcade Fire/Kings of sodding Leon is just lazy journalism.
Which is kind of apt, because sounding like Arctic Monkeys/Libertines/Arcade Fire/Kings of sodding Leon is just lazy music-making.

“We’d rather people hate us than don’t give a shit.”
…but we’ll cry and gnash our teeth if you say anything bad, and put it down to a global conspiracy against us involving the media, the CIA and probably Brandon Flowers.

It’s outrageous. They printed all these quotes I never said.
It’s outrageous. They printed all these quotes I said but then my mum read them.

THE DIFFICULT SECOND/THIRD/11TH ALBUM (After a long delay in releasing it)

We’re quite perfectionist, we didn’t want to just put out something sub-standard
“We were only too happy to foist any old tripe on the public but the record company demanded we included a couple of these things they idiotically refer to as ‘tunes’, or, more pathetic still, ‘hits’.

I truly believe this is the best thing we’ve ever done
I am so stir crazy from six months sensory deprivation cooped up in a studio with only narcotics, video games and skunk-addled paranoid schizophrenics for company that you could send me on a six month holiday to Jupiter and use electro-convulsive therapy to return my brain to a blank slate unfettered by outside influence, and I still wouldn’t be able to tell you if it was any good or not. But if I say it often enough, and everyone around me says so too, maybe it’ll come true. Then I’ll read the reviews and have a nervous breakdown.

”We played most of it live in the studio. I love that organic approach to making records. It was so liberating”.
“We played most of it live in the studio. The record company love that cheap approach to making records. It will be so liberating when they finally drop us after the first single stiffs.”

We wanted to get back to basics with this record
We wanted to get back to selling records with this record

This record has a darker / harder sound than our last record
This record would like to be taken more seriously than our last record

“With this album, we could have just gone into the studio and made another (insert name of previous, successful album), but that didn’t interest us.”
“With this album, we could have just gone into the studio and made another (insert name of previous, successful album), but that scared the wits out of us, because we’d have to write more hits, and we haven’t the faintest idea how we managed it last time around.”

There’s always been a dance element to our music
The drummer always tries to do breakbeats in rehearsals, until we hit him.

We might not make another album after this one.
Or we might remember that we can’t do anything else.

“I think we’ll follow up this record quite quickly, we just want to get back in the studio before the end of the year.”
But the record company think we should tour radio stations in North Wyoming for the next two years supporting Bowling For Soup, then re-release our last single twice, then sack our A&R man, then sack us.


Make some fucking noise!
We can’t make you excited by doing what you paid to see us doing – playing music – so let’s try this – it works in panto, so why not for us?

“We used to be into groupies but you soon realise it’s a very shallow and unfulfilling way to behave.”
“We used to be into groupies but you soon realise they have a very shallow and unfulfilling way of behaving, such as boasting about shagging rock stars and selling their stories to tabloids, which invariably leads to a whole heap of trouble with the missus, who still hasn’t forgiven you for those funny little crawly things you passed on to her which you caught ‘swimming in a river’ on the last tour. So we now only do it in Europe and America, where the girls are far dirtier anyway.”


The time wasn’t right for the album.
And nor was the place, or the people, or the music.

It wasn’t the fact that it was a bad review…it was the fact it was so personal.
It wasn’t the fact that it was a bad review…it’s the fact that it was a bad record, and I, personally, made it.

“Say what you like about me – I’m in a privileged position and it comes with the territory – but when they start upsetting my family/friends that’s not on.”
“Say what you like about me, but preferably with some reference to someone else, so I can use them as an excuse to have a pop back at you and thereby give the false appearance of being a) thick-skinned and able take criticism b) loyal to my family and friends and (c) in possession of an ego that is not so dangerously over-inflated that it could explode at the slightest prod.

They took my words out of context and tried to turn them into something else
They took my words out of the context of repeated ums, uhs, ‘man’s and ’knowwaddah’msayin’s and tried to turn them into something resembling English.

They twisted my words to make me look bad
They twisted my words to make me look reasonably intelligent and able to string a coherent sentence together, which is no mean feat.

We don’t need a label, we’re going to do it all ourselves….
Can anyone explain to me how this ‘internet’ thing works?


We just wanted to explore other avenues outside of the creative confines of the band
We just wanted to explore other avenues outside of a 12.000 mile radius of those bastards who I now hate more intensely than a third reich parking attendant.

It was down to creative differences
It was down to creative accounting, which resulted in the main songwriter earning three times as much as me even though I’m the real star and that ungrateful swine’s own mother wouldn’t recognise him at the Tesco checkout.


“I wasn’t sure about appearing on this guest spot on the new Tweenies album, but my six-year-old granddaughter said “if you don’t do it, I’ll never speak to you again.” So that settled it.”
I wasn’t sure about appearing on this guest spot on the new Tweenies album, but my six year-old granddaughter said “Are you unemployed?” So I figured I needed to do anything I possibly could to remind the world that I’m not dead.


If we’d wanted to reform for the money we could have done that years ago.
If we’d wanted to reform for the money we could have done that years ago, but I wouldn’t have had the pleasure of seeing my hated former bandmates remortgaging their homes and begging me, as the most successful solo artist of the group, to get back with them. But now my last two albums have sold like second-hand pensioners’ vests, my attitude has softened somewhat.

We’ve got unfinished business as a band.
We’ve got unfinished business. The band part is neither here nor there – we’d clean seagull poo off a North Sea oil rig wearing tutus singing Agadoo if someone offered us half a million quid every time we did it.

We never really split up in the first place
We never really split TWO MILLION QUID between us for playing a couple of stadium gigs. TWO MILLION. I mean, what would you do?

The time was right
The time was right after a promoter had offered us TWO MILLION QUID for playing a couple of stadium gigs. I mean, what would you do?

There’s a lot of water under the bridge
There’s a lot of money on the table.

We will be writing new material
We will be writing new material so we can sign a lucrative new record contract and have an excuse to do more tours and make ourselves more money, and then release a new greatest hits featuring all the old songs which people actually liked, which will sell even more records for us and on we go until we all want to cave each other’s heads in with cymbal stands, at which point two members of the band will leave and we can employ session musicians to milk the last sour, stinking drops out of this once proud cash cow of ours.

We’ve grown up a lot in the last 20 years.
We’ve grown tired of only having sex with our wives and four other long-term mistresses in the last 20 years.

My songs are like my children
My songs are like children in a pre-Victorian slum – many of them died in squalor shortly after birth.

‘We never set out to do anything more than a couple of shows!’
We never set out to do anything more than a couple of hours’ work to pay for that new extension on the guest wing of the new house in Hampstead. But now we’ve realized we can buy a whole new row of houses!

I can’t listen to that album any more
I can’t listen to that album any more than once a night, which is how often I hear it, due to the fact it’s the only one anyone wants us to play songs from.

Mojo Magazine – Blog

“Pop history teaches us that spurious notions of ‘real’ singers and songs go in and out of fashion, but the old adage ‘Familiarity breeds contempt’ will always hold true.”

The end of auto-tune abuse is no longer merely desirable, says Johnny Sharp, it’s inevitable.

Many readers of this blog will have read, or at least read about, Malcolm Gladwell’s book The Tipping Point. For the uninitiated, it claims to show how many social, economic and cultural ideas, products and trends grow slowly in popularity until a point when they ‘tip’ and quickly snowball into mainstream popularity.

Partly in tribute to Gladwell, I would like to point out the existence of The ‘Oh Dear God Almighty, That Really Is ENOUGH’ point.

I’m not sure whether my theory has enough substance to fuel a global bestseller, but nonetheless you will surely understand what I’m driving at. The ODGATRIE point occurs when a trend grows way past the aforementioned tipping point and becomes ubiquitous, which is when normally tolerant members of society feel a strong impulse towards serious violence whenever they encounter it.

And the ODGATRIE point is approaching right now for the trend of abusing auto-tune on R’n’B and pop records. I’m not talking about the barely detectable studio trick of correcting the vocalist’s pitch – I’d rather that than everyone sounding like your sister singing in the shower – but the wildly fashionable gimmick of using it to create an electronicised, vocoder-style effect on the singer’s voice.

OK, so futuristic popsters have been fond of such tricks ever since Kraftwerk. And the current trend actually had a false start back in the late 1990s (remember Cher’s Believe?). But now it’s back, like a pandemic returning in more virulent form. Turn on a chart radio station and more than half of the pop or R’n’B tunes on there will feature it. While the current wave began as the trademark schtick of hip-hop mediocrities like T-Pain, now it dominates the airwaves like an all-conquering robot smurf.

Even the singer-songwriters are at it. Owl City’s smash hit ‘Fireflies’ may sound inoffensive enough but their new album features an entire album of electro-voiced disco watered down to MOR gloop. Meanwhile, the hotly tipped likes of Ellie Goulding, Ke$ha and Daisy Dares You feature heavily on ‘tips for 2010’ lists, and their self-penned efforts boast the overpowering scent of the chipmunk on virtually every song.

A backlash of sorts began in the US nearly a year ago, with Jay-Z’s ‘D.O.A (Death Of Auto-tune) and Death Cab For Cutie’s endorsement of a semi-official ‘anti-auto-tune campaign’. But their emphasis was on that always worthy-but-dull cause, ‘authenticity’.

Pop history teaches us that spurious notions of ‘real’ singers and songs go in and out of fashion, but the old adage ‘Familiarity breeds contempt’ will always hold true.

That is why I strongly suspect the current inescapability of auto-tune will be its Achilles heel, and we will see the back of it very soon. Yet things can only get worse before they get better.

You may remember back in around 1990 when every other commercial hip hop record featured that ‘Wooh…yeah!’ James Brown/Lyn Collins sample loop. Barely two years after Rob Base and DJ EZ Rock had a hit using it on It Takes Two, everyone was at it, but during the decade afterwards, any artist with the slightest modicum of taste avoided it a farmyard virus.

We had already passed The ODGATRIE point for that sample when middle-aged UK children’s presenter Timmy Mallett was among the last to use it, on his sensitive reading of Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini. The beginning of the end for any trend is when even your parents are jumping on the bandwagon.

That thought was reinforced when I recently turned on my car radio to the traditionally middle-of-the-road BBC Radio 2 to hear Steve Wright In The Afternoon using auto-tune for his signature jingle. The death knell of a trend, encapsulated in three toe-curling seconds. And not a minute too soon.