Archive for fracturedspacesrecords

Obituary: PETER ‘SLEAZY’ CHRISTOPHERSON

Posted in Obituary with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 26, 2010 by simonmarshalljones

Back in the dim, murky depths of the late 80s, I came across a band that was to practically change my life forever (in terms of musical perception, anyway) – Psychic TV. Through them, I discovered a whole new world of independent, underground music, material that truly challenged the definitions and boundaries of what could actually be considered ‘music’. In some senses, Psychic TV answered a question that I didn’t even know I was asking: were there people out there pushing the envelope, breaking through the creative straitjackets that musical genres of the time were being constrained in, and piercing the staid narratives that had become the acceptable face of ‘popular music’ in the late 20th century?

The answer was most definitely a resounding yes. Punk, of course, enacted the blitzkrieg strike at the heart of the ‘dinosaur’ music industry in the late seventies, allowing smaller entites, both bands and labels, to emerge out of the woodwork and evolve a self-sustaining ecosystem of their own. After the initial outburst, not to say furore, created by punk, came other groupings, of which COUM Transmissions was one.

This was a performance art group, the nucleus of which was Genesis P-Orridge and Cosey Fanni Tutti. Later on, along with Peter Christopherson and Chris Carter, they were to morph into probably the most influential band of the emergent industrial music scene, if not the founders of the whole movement itself – Throbbing Gristle. Despite the superficially ludicrous name, TG established the parameters that were to define the early iterations of industrial music – in essence, that there were no parameters. Despite those early subterranean beginnings, industrial music is now a permanent fixture in the lexicon of popular culture, in its turn spawning other subcultures in its bastard wake (goth and cybergoth, gabba and dark ambient, to name far too few).

Peter Christopherson, who died peacefully in his sleep yesterday at his home in Thailand at the young age of 55, was a part of three of the most pivotal projects of the industrial era, at least for me – Throbbing Gristle, Psychic TV and, perhaps my favourite, Coil (founded with his partner Jhonn Balance, who also unfortunately passed away in 2004, a man who used to send me signed CDs of their’s on a regular basis). All three of these entites liberated and inspired me in ways that are still being felt even now, even if in recent years it was more of a subconscious influence. In 1989-90, I launched my very first foray into publishing, FRACTured fanzine, a publication devoted entirely to the fledgling industrial scene and which lasted for all of three glorious issues, only coming to an end because of a combination of youthful fecklessness and personal issues. Then, in 2008 (after rediscovering the scene thanks to Justin Mitchell of Cold Spring Records, one of the original FRACTured ‘zine correspondents), I was inspired to renew my ties with the scene by starting up FracturedSpacesRecords – this time its demise was through factors outside of my control rather than through want of hard work.

I nearly went to see the reformed TG last year, at Heaven, in London, but again personal and financial issues prevented me. Like I felt after the news of Ingrid Pitt’s death, I now find myself wishing that I’d found a way to circumvent the problems and attend the gig. More recently, Peter was part of a successful tour by X-TG, essentially Throbbing Gristle without Genesis P-Orridge. Peter was never one to sit still for long, always being driven to push and reinvent and experiment.

Yes, he may have gone, but the legacy that he left behind is enormous and profound, and is still being felt. He and his collaborators were the progenitors of an entire movement, one that still exists today, albeit with less of the frisson of electricity and excitement that the early scene engendered back then. He might not have been as well-known as either Genesis or Jhonn, or even Stephen Stapleton of Nurse With Wound or David Tibet of Current 93, but that doesn’t matter. What he brought to the emergent scene and subsequently made deep and lasting impressions on many people, myself included. And, I have to say, I am enormously grateful for that – I wouldn’t be where I am now without that influence, however unseen it was.

Goodbye, goodnight, and RIP Peter.

Peter ‘Sleazy’ Christopherson, musician, artist, sonic provocateur, was born 27th February 1955, and died of natural causes in his sleep at his home in Bangkok, Thailand, on 24th November 2010.

Are reviews useful?

Posted in General Musings with tags , , , , , , , on October 27, 2010 by simonmarshalljones

In this blog-post, I want to talk about something that I’ve been pondering for a little bit – whether reviews affect sales in any way, either positively or negatively. Here, I am not talking about my reviews in particular, but just about reviews generally. There’s a specific reason why I’ve pondering this, which I will explain below.

As many of you know, until the beginning of this year, I ran a record label, an enterprise which I’d started in 2007 – 2008. As is the nature of such things, one of the ways in which to broadcast your product’s existence to the world is to send out review copies to magazines, webzines and radio stations, in the hope that some of them will do a write-up on them. And so, when I released the very first CD, from Swedish noise outfit Keplers Odd, I sent a goodly number of them out, here, there and everywhere. And indeed, within a month or two, the reviews started coming in.

And every one of them was a positive one. Even some nationally- and globally-distributed magazines thought that not only was the music itself good, but the whole package spoke volumes about the careful thought that had gone into every aspect of the release. One or two reviewers even hailed FracturedSpecesRecords as a promising new star in the underground music firmament, with a bright future ahead of it. Needless to say, the elation (and the vindication) sent me off on a high.

Every subsequent release had exactly the same thing happen – universally positive reviews (except one for the very last release – but that was still only one out of something like a hundred reviews altogether…). And each one of those releases I thought would be the breakthrough CD, the one that would kickstart FracturedSpaces into a regularly-selling concern. In parallel I was also running a small online webshop, selling not just my own CDs but those from other labels as well – with the uniformly positive reviews then it would only be a matter of time before more people would be visiting the website and that would be helping to pay for itself, too.

Alas, even after two years and a lot of money spent, the dream of making even a small living from the business turned into something of a nightmare. Sales were abysmal, even with the universality of acclaim for the label. A lot of the blame for its ultimate failure must be laid at my door – I admit that. Inadequte understanding of the market, for one. Releasing too many CDs for another. But there were other factors involved, like bad timing – launching a record label at the start of a recession wasn’t one of my better ideas.

But still, I would have thought that a good review would have had some positive influence on sales of the CD, in just the same way that a bad review would dent the figures negatively. I have had a few people say that one of my book reviews has actually persuaded them to buy it, for instance. So, the fact that even with good reviews people were still reluctant to buy the CDs (recession notwithstanding) came as somethng of a surprise. Perhaps those who buy music are either incredibly fussy or just more careful with the money they have. If they’re faced with an unknown quantity, they go for what they’re familiar with instead.

The experience has taught me some valuable lessons – this is why, for instance, Spectral Press is going to be on a much smaller scale. Additionally, the writers on the roster are either well-known or are starting to become noticed. They already have track records and fan bases. My ambitions this time are quite modest. I have plans for the imprint, but they will only come to fruition if things take off.

What I am asking you out there, both writers and publishers, is whether reviews have affected sales of your books either way. Also, have the readers among you ever been influenced by a favourable review of some book, enough to persuade you to go out and buy it? Is it, perhaps, just a case of  the markets in question simply being two very different demographics ie, the music-buying public is very different to the book-buying one? Therefore, that priorites are different as well. Also, did the depths of last year’s recession bring in an added sales-depressing effect, regardless of any positive reviews garnered?

By the way, I am not denigrating the efforts of reviewers here – quite the opposite, in fact. Publishers rely on them to do two things: make the public aware of new publications and to grade the quality or otherwise of the books in question. Sometimes, it’s a thankless task, because you occasionally get sent books which are so bad they’re practically unreviewable. I am not saying that reviewers can make or break a book (or CD), but that they can affect how it’s received and perceived by potential purchasers. How do any other reviewers feel about the points I have touched upon here?

Next year I will once more be putting myself (and my writers) at the mercy of the reviewers, as well as the book-buying public. I am hoping, of course, that Spectral Press will be an unqualified success for all concerned, and that any good reviews forthcoming will positively affect the sales. Being on this side of the table has given me an indication of how it all works, but my experience with FracturedSpaces necessarily affects how I see things as well. I do feel that book buyers, with horror book buyers in particular, are distinctly different to those who are more into their music. Only time will tell, though – and, whatever happens, I am excited to see what the future holds for Spectral.