….for all of you who are wondering where Mr. Anonymous is or when new music is coming, here’s the scoop. I have a new Punk/Reggae band called The Plates. We put out a debut album called “Punky Reggae” in February of 2014. I’m working on a second one as we speak and playing tons of live shows in the Denver area as well as the UK in November…we also have a music video and more on the way….you can check out all of it on my new website www.theplatesmusic.com as well as any news about the band, tour schedule, Mr Anonymous, drumming tips, and more.
…So i’ve been asked this question probably a million times over the past couple years, and I figure it’s as good a time as any to shed some light on my thoughts. Maybe this will inspire some of you and turn off others, but keep in mind it’s just my opinion and what’s worked for me.
In a nutshell, the biggest hurdle for me in “selling” music was NOT “major labels” or the “music industry” or lack of the “right publicist” or “management” or “booking agency” or “Clear Channel” or radio stations or some invisible alien force designed to derail my career. That’s a common theme among bitter artists, and I think its a bit off of the real issue. I certainly dont think the music industry and Clear Channel have helped independent artists or paved the way for creative innovations to the masses. But regardless, we are all here now and the REALITY I think is that the biggest hurdle is technology!!! iphones and ipods and youtube and facebook and twitter and ping and pandora and bing and zing and whatever else that’s taken people’s attention spans from 10 seconds to less than a nano-second while flooding them with more information than ever.
Here’s a scenario: A typical man sits at his laptop at work or home listening to PANDORA while his buddy shoots him a new music video on YOUTUBE of the latest cutting edge death metal/bluegrass dj from Bulgaria and he downloads it for free from a website that burns youtube tracks free and adds it to his IPOD library of 20,000 songs…and the tune is rocking!!! And then his 10 year old daughter walks downstairs with her new release she made on GARAGEBAND and its even more rocking and he downloads that. And the next day he gets a TWEET about the latest remix and music video from a band from Iceland while he sits on his XBOX with his son who just downloaded his best friend’s video from a Green Day concert onto his IPOD…and around and around we go.
When I started my music career with The Samples in the late ’80’s/early ’90’s, there were “hypothetically” 50,000 bands that you could mostly find out about in Rolling Stone or on MTV(when they played music videos) or on the radio. Today there are probably 100 million zillion bands just in Minneapolis alone, and fans can find them all in a second on their ipod while they’re having cereal at the table(Lucky Charms perhaps).
So in an effort to sneak on that ipod mix with all of the other million zillion artists, I felt like eliminating the purchase factor would be a great first step in getting seen in that nano second of attention span. People are constantly bombarded with “catchy” ads and reviews and sound bites and imagery, and I honestly dont think any of it works. I tried the traditional route with my first 2 releases, hired publicists, signed to 2 different labels and solicited every other record label in existence, management companies, and booking agencies and the result was me staring at boxes full of cd’s in my living room with less than 400 sales(no joke). They made great coffee tables, and I named one of them “Kevin”, but things ran their course. And now since my music has been free, I’ve had thousands of downloads(just hit 12,000) and there’s been a smooth free flow of my songs going directly to the ones who REALLY want to check them out.
I don’t expect my fans to like everything I do, and I’m not worried about the people who haven’t heard of me. But making the music free has eliminated any hurdle for somebody new(and old) to AT LEAST take a listen, kinda like taking the hesitation out of an impulse. There’s no RISK for a first time Mr. Anonymous listen. If you like it great and if not, no worries. And now my fans are really like my own personal record company without even knowing it. They promote my music easily by sharing with their friends, and my tunes get into the ears of the people who really want them and enjoy them… and the music is still available for sale on itunes and cdbaby.com(hard copies of the cd’s) , and I actually sell more now because more people know about the music…all because its free on my website.
…anyways, there it is…enough blabbin!!!
….this pic sums up the 2nd half of the show yesterday…geesh…first half was rockin but 2nd half turned into a reunion party and slop city…sorry about that…next week will be tight!!!
…here are the tracks we played in no particular order:
Bob Marley/lively up yourself(live), The Samples/waited up,Bad Brains/rally round,Salif Keita/soro,Bob Marley/real situation,Doobie Brosthers/it keeps you runnin’,Yellowman/mr. chin,Black Uhuru/general penitentiary,Black Uhuru/guess who’s coming to dinner,Gregory Isaacs/one man against the world,Justin Hines/natty take over,Gregory Isaacs/cool down the pace,English Beat/spar wid me,Third World/lagos jump,Police/voices inside my head,Burning Spear/no worry yo’self,Black Uhuru/pain,Peter Tosh/wanted dread and alive,Stevie Wonder/master blaster,Richie Spice/earth a run red,Groove Armada/superstylin’,Third World/irie ites,Pablo Moses/dubbing is a must,Pablo Moses/revolutionary step,Eek A Mouse/wa do dem,Yellowman/soldier take over,Barnabas Collins/Lone Ranger,Bob Marley/running away,Xtc/my bird performs,Aswad/pull up,Pinchers/mass out,Alpha Blondie/jah houphouet,Third World/jah jah children moving up,King Sunny Ade/ase,The Clash/armagideon time, Gregory Isaacs/soon forward
1. Do you still have people who recognize you or contact you from the Samples?
I do get emails from Samples fans for sure, and I’ve recently been reaching out to a lot of those folks. A lot of Mr.Â Anonymous fans remember me from my drumming days in that band, so it’s cool for me to still keep in touch, especially since I’m back on the drum throne when I play live. As far as walking down the street getting recognized I would say no. I’m actually opening for the “new” Samples in September down in Denver which will be fun because I can share my new vibe as a drummer and musician to a lot of folks who think i’ve disappeared over the last 10 years.
2. Do you look at the success a band like O.A.R has had and think the Samples were ahead of their time?
I don’t know much about OAR but I have heard the name…I assume they are kind of a jam band..?? yes? As far as The Samples, I don’t feel like we were ahead of our time necessarily. I think we started up with an original sound for sure. We were always linked in with the “jam” bands, but we had more of a pop sensibility with the songs. We also brought in a lot of world, ska, punk and reggae elements to the music. The biggest difference to me was that we were more of a non “noodling guitar solo” band than some of our cohorts at the time like Widespread Panic, Phish, etc….so maybe in that sense we inspired similar vibes that followed us.
3. Mr. Anonymous is mostly a studio animal. Do you miss touring? Do you do any live gigging?
It is a studio animal but we do perform live and are planning on doing some touring this year. The way we do it live is with me on drums and my dj/co-producer Ben Bussard on turntables. It is presented as kind of a live dub sound system, and sometimes we bring a singer with us and sometimes just the 2 of us. I approach the music drummingwise as kind of a dub meets ministry vibe with a lot of tribal beats on toms to augment what the dj is doing. Some of it is rehearsed and some is very freeflow. Vibewise it kind of comes alive similarly to the old jazz/bebop context with a lot of improv over a rough sketch of the song. Playing with a dj for me has opened up a whole new approach to my instrument because I am really more of a percussionist there to augment what he is laying down rather than holding down the backbeat like a band situation
4. So why reggae or dub? Why not find influence say in Stax or the punk movement?
Reggae and dub have always been my favorite music. The vocals, drumming, etc…I love it all…and before that old R&B like Stevie Wonder, Zapp,and The Gap Band. The first album I ever bought was “Talking Book” by Stevie Wonder. I do listen to Minor Threat and Husker Du though…I would love to do a project with Bob Mould or Ian Mckai down the road…maybe “Mr. Anonymous 7” will be a punk collaboration. I dont have any preconceived limits on anything musically. I like to flow with what feels good to me at the time and the reggae sound has ALWAYS made me feel good!
5. Mr. Anonymous 2 sounds like it has an added layer of studio craft than your first release. Was that intentional? The sound of Mr. Anonymous 2 is a huge step above the first album in terms of experimenting and pushing the limits of the music…and it WAS intentional in the sense of me working with Ben. He has an approach to everything he does as a live dj(DJ Psychonaut) and as a producer(21 Dread) that is like nobody else I have heard… and I feel like he and I have the same ear for trippyness and psychedelia and “less is more”. His biggest asset as a mixer, first and foremost, is that he hears the beauty in the “song” and vibes off of that more than anything. Sometimes when a tune just isn’t working, we start pulling out stuff to give the space for the song to speak. There is always going to be somebody who makes a “fatter” groove or “faster” drumming skill or “shreddier” guitar solo etc….but the song has to have a vibe without all the chops. Some of the songs on Mr. Anonymous 2 are guided by the acoustic guitar and others by the drums or vocals or bass, etc. It’s almost like letting the tune drive its own vibe rather than forcing it into something it’s not. Sometimes I listen to stuff, and I can hear that the band or mixer was simply trying to have the biggest bass sound with the most loops crammed in…and at the end of the day, theres nothing memorable to walk away with. My vibe on the Mr. Anonymous music is that it has to leave you with a feeling, kind of like watching a classic movie orÂ looking at a beautful painting and seeing new images every time you see it….and Ben steers the mixes with that same vibe!
6. You’ve written and spoken about working with reggae legends like Sly and Robbie. What’s something about working with Sly and Robbie or another collaborator that surprised you?Â My biggest surprise was working with Ranking Roger from The English Beat. I went to Birmingham to do the tracks with him and instantly we felt like we were best buddies with the same views and taste for music and everything. We drank coffee, ate curries, and went to record stores and hung out for a couple days just as friends before we even did the first song…It felt like hanging with an old buddy from 3rd grade playing with G.I. joes with Kung Fu Grip. He and I are planning on doing more music together for sure, and I’m in the midst of organizing a west coast tour with him as the singer…It was a pleasant surprise linking up with him for sure!
7. You’ve got a regular spot DJing for a Boulder radio station. A look at your playlists shows a heavy dose of reggae. Is there a non-reggae band/ artist that you’re enjoying listening to?Â Well it’s called the “Mr. Anonymous reggae radio show” so that’s a good thing as far as my playlists. As far as my music taste, I am very seasonal with what I listen to. I am a huge fan of jazz and bebop in particular, so I tend to listen to a lot of Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Dizzy, etc. in the fall and winter months…I also LOVE the band Sugar(Bob Mould’s former power pop band) and some hiphop like Tribe Called Quest, the new Mos Def(which is AWESOME), and some new dancehall artists.
8. What’s your take on the current state of reggae music? Do you get a chance to listen to what the Easy Star All Stars are doing with their Tribute albums?Â Yeah I like the Easy Star stuff for sure. As far as the current state of reggae music and dancehall in particular, I think there are a lot of hugely talented singers with amazing skills…Sean Paul has some SERIOUS skills along with Beenie Man, Buju Banton, etc. My biggest complaint with a lot of it though is the music behind what they are doing. I feel the same way with hiphop in this country. This is partially why I do what I do with Mr. Anonymous because I try to showcase that vocal talent in a different context with melody and depth. Some of the grooves coming out of Jamaica are slamming for sure but a lot of them for me get a little boring and redundant, at least for my taste. I hate saying anything is good or bad when it comes to music because it’s all just art and as long as even one person enjoys it, that’s everything!
here are the tracks I played yesterday(8/3) on the radio show:
1. Black Uhuru/Monday 2. Jacob Miller/We A Rockers 3. Peter Tosh/Stepping Razor 4. Peter Tosh/Mama Africa 5. Gregory Isaacs/Sad To Know 6. Stevie Wonder/Master Blaster 7. Bunny Wailer/Rastamon 8. Burning Spear/Fittest Of The Fittest 9. Yellowman/Jamaica A Little Miami 10. Ranking Screw And Ginger/Nuh Do Dat 11. Ray Lema/People Yo 12. Third World/Irie Ites 13. Mutabaruka/Check It 14. Bob Marley/Mix Up 15. English Beat/Whine And Grine 16. English Beat/Hands Off She’s Mine 17. Alpha Blondie/Jah Houphouet 18. Black Uhuru/ Botanical Roots 19. UB40/One In Ten 20. Sly&Robbie/Computor Malfunction 21. Jimmy Cliff/Bongo Man 22. The Clash/Police And Thieves 23. The Police/Masoko Tango 24. Musical Youth/Pass The Dutchie 25. Grace Jones/Use Me 26. Burning Spear/Garvey’s Ghost 27. Eddy Grant/Electric Avenue 28. Black Uhuru/Sinsimilla 29. Bob Marley/Them Belly Full 30. Lone Ranger/Barnabas Collins 31. The Heptones/Country Boy 32. Gregory Isaacs/One Man Against The World
NEWS BULLETIN from Mr. Anonymous:
Original drummer for The Samples Jeep Macnichol (a.k.a. Mr. Anonymous) will be breaking ground in late July with a fresh summer single called “Some Gal A Move”. Blending his own style of dancehall machine gun toasting against ethereal falsetto harmonies, Anonymous steps out as a pseudo crooner delivering hypnotizing melodies over a slamming backbeat and unshakable guitar labrynth. Serving up ever-changing harmonic hors d’ oerves as it sways and flows, “Some Gal A Move” at its core is a testament to raw melodic simplicity over an unstoppable backbeat.
“This is a song that HAD to come out” says Anonymous…”It just flowed out of me like raw emotion. After I laid down the instrumental tracks, I felt a vibe right on the spot. The vocal ideas were all pure improv. The first vocal track I sang laid the foundation for the whole vibe, and I could “Feel” it when it came out. It was a “first take”, and I could feel it like no other vocal I’ve ever laid down. ”
“Then I started the overdubs which were all a random freeflow between falsetto ‘Come Away’s, megaphone ‘Gal A Move Gal A Moves’, and robot ‘Bong Gong Diggy Diggy Rocks’. We kept them all “as is” including the spot where I laughed and clapped my hand because I was so psyched on what was coming out. In a weird way I felt like I was channeling something through the mic, releasing a lot of headspace I guess…and man I was psyched!”
The drum track was also kept “as is” because of the intensity and spirit in the first take. “There are a couple drum dropouts that happen purely because I dropped a drumstick. I was laughing when I dropped the stick, and I wanted to keep that “life” in the performance. I like the element of “slop” in a recording, and there’s a great vibe in those mistakes.”
Enough said and stay tuned for the music video and track when it comes out in late July!