This Vice thing really gave me a big head yesterday (HUGE, you have to scroll for eight minutes to get to the text). This morning, Dan Mangan wrote me an open letter (read it here - you are welcome for the mad hits Dan).
Dan’s seems like the nicest guy in Canada, to the point that I had a hard time saying anything mean about him during this exchange:
VICE: Yeah, but just because I think Dan Mangan’s music sucks doesn’t mean he hasn’t created a successful business strategy.
PAUL: I would never argue that Dan Mangan shouldn’t be able to make a living.
Dan, I stuck up for you!!
Here are some quick responses to Dan’s open letter, formatted it so it looks like he is interviewing me.
Dan Mangan (DM): Based on what I can gather about you, I do agree with some aspects of your general beef. However, I think your frustration is misdirected.
Paul Lawton (PL): I am actually curious about what you do agree with Dan, but lets hear the rest first.
DM: FACTOR doesn’t give money to bands to line their pockets. FACTOR gives money to 2-star hotels, shitty diners, toll-road attendees, gas stations, publicists, record stores, record distributors, record labels (including small “true” indies), van mechanics, guitar shops, camera operators, recording engineers, dingy basement recording studios, graphic designers, poster illustrators and a billion other variables in the world of a touring band. Bands don’t live off of FACTOR, they live off of the audiences that FACTOR helps bands to attain in a third party kind of way (hopefully).
PL: In an ideal world, I would hope that this is the case.
DM: You’re pointing the finger at bands that you don’t like. Their success is frustrating because you find that their art isn’t in line with what you want to hear. It’s frustrating because they have large audiences, and other bands that you prefer have smaller audiences.
PL: Again, as I said in the Vice interview, it really doesn’t matter what I think about Metric, so I think you are missing my point a little. What I say in the interview doesn’t make a lot of sense, so let me clarify: it is true that I have my own taste and opinions about what is or is not “good music.” But so does FACTOR, so does CBC, so does Exclaim! and so on. Those institutions have a lot of power to define mass taste, and that power ends up creating a very specific ‘object’ - in this case, the object can be defined as “RADIO3CORE” a specific kind of “indie rock” that gets replicated over and over again because young bands think that if they want to succeed they have to make a certain kind of music. The FACTOR approvals, to me, prove this point in that the bands with the most funding - yourself included, make a very specific kind of music.
DM: What you’re mad at isn’t FACTOR, it’s fucking LIFE.
PL: Whoa, hold on. I’m not mad at FACTOR! I am pointing out flaws in the system that favour insiders, businessmen and business-minded musicians at the expense of a more equitable system that favours a healthier system. I believe that the milquetoast that is Canadian music is a direct result of milquetoast being rewarded culturally and financially thought FACTOR, CMW, CBC and so on.
DM: You seem like a genuinely smart guy.
PL: Thanks! *blush
DM: Your wits and talents and lust to critique the scads of endless bullshit that we face in modern society would be better suited toward a myriad of more deserving causes. The WORLD is full of things like patriarchy, nepotism, insider exclusion, old boy networks, suffering, unfair power systems, sexism, racism, blah blah blah.
PL: For the record Mr. Mangan, I actually agree with you here. Here is my social justice resume. Do you think I am happy to still be talking about FACTOR? No.
- In my current day job, I get paid to educate people about global warming. I would kill to have the visibility this dumb tumblr account has had over the last few days for the topic of my real job - global warming actually means something. But that is life and that is partly why I’m FURIOUS at it as you suggest.
- When I was a student at the University of Lethbridge, I battled the student newspaper for an entire semester about how they were creating a culture of rape acceptance. That was fun, the paper used their power made fun of me for an entire year.
- I helped run an NDP campaign in SOUTHERN ALBERTA. We did really great too, we came in second place and only lost by 30,000 votes!
- I was a primary caregiver to individuals with disabilities for thirteen years. I still talk to those guys all the time. I have a big heart.
- I protested the G8 Summit in Calgary in 2003. It was stupid and a waste of time.
- I own every Propagandhi record
- I used to be a Sociology professor (look it up!)
Apparently, there is also room in my head for some ideas about the Canadian music system. From your list, I see: insider exclusion, old boy networks and unfair power system. In what world is the highest funded rapper WHITE, MALE and CHRISTIAN? That makes absolutely no sense to me on so many levels.
DM: I’ve met a handful of people at FACTOR, and just like you, they’re doing everything they can to maybe make an impact for the better given the inherent institutional /societal boxes that surround them.
PL: Dan Mangan, you are right again. Good people surely work at FACTOR. That doesn’t mean that the system isn’t painfully flawed.
DM: Despite your keen understanding of culture, I actually seriously doubt that you could do a better job. FACTOR is juggling an endless political quagmire of public policy changes, cultural changes, and the need to rationalize its existence to the government based on track record (ie: “Look what we did with Metric! It’s working!”) whilst trying to continually invest in young unknown bands (ie: “They could be the next Metric!”)
PL: Here is where our paths diverge Dan. First of all, I could totally do a better job. In fact, put me to work anywhere and I will do a better job than anyone! I’m just that good.
Now I have to be careful: Metric probably has enough money to hire a hitman or something, especially after their new Blue Jays song that makes me want to Van Gogh my ears. The Blue Jays probably paid METRIC a LOT of $$$ for that song, so how is it that they just got another 20K in FACTOR funding for a video last month? Wouldn’t it be BETTER if FACTOR could say “Look what we did with 50 bands from all across Canada! It’s working!!”
DM: Is this really the biggest fish you can fry? Sometimes the world sucks, and you’ve chosen to shit all over the one fucking public institution that could help you broadcast your cultural frustrations.
PL: Not the biggest fish, but it is a fish and I love cooking. I’m not sure how this comes back to “the world just isn’t fair”? Of course it isn’t. Also, I’ve done fine so far without public funding with this nifty little thing called THE INTERNET, which has benefited both my music and my big mouth. I don’t need FACTOR funding to broadcast my cultural frustrations, and the very fact that you are writing me an open letter proves that point.
DM: I’m assuming your general disdain for humanity makes its way into your music.
PL: You assume wrong. I don’t have a general disdain for humanity: just shitty music. Wait, there is that nasty subjectivity again - what I think of as shitty music! When I was teaching Sociology, a bunch of my students skipped class to go see your concert in Calgary. I said “I can’t believe you are skipping my class to go see a shitty Dan Mangan concert.” At the time, I had no idea if your music was shitty or not. I just said it because I thought it sounded funny.
DM: What would be daring is to actually walk the walk, make some amazing music and get out there, play a billion gigs and inspire people to find truth and honesty rather than settle for mediocrity.
PL: What are you saying? That I make shitty music? That I settle for mediocrity? Perhaps. I don’t happen to think so.
DM: I get a lot more truth out of listening to The Constantines than reading about why Canadian music sucks. Action speaks a lot louder than words.
PL: Hey, I like the Constantines too! Bry Webb is the best. I wish more people were into his solo stuff, next-level good.
DM: You’re painting a picture where the ratty punk bars your band plays are the only places where truth can live. Sometimes it does live there. But for god sakes, man, open your eyes.
PL: To tell you the truth, we don’t usually play ratty punk bars, because ratty punk bars have a really hard time staying in business. I’m like anyone, I love going on the road, not living like a pig-person, staying in a hotel sometimes, maybe even eating the occasional meal. Have you ever eaten the burritos at Amigos in Saskatoon? So good. There is as much bullshit fakery in the small clubs as there are in the larger venues, my eyes are wide open to that truth.
(sorry Dan, I skipped some stuff because you lost me a bit and also I got bored of doing this).
DM: (insert story of how you made it)
PL: Again, I’d like to refer you to how I stuck up for you against VICE MAGAZINE.
DM: (insert story about how Vice is out of touch)
PL: I don’t read Vice unless my picture is 1000x1000 px as a the header.
DM: But if you really want to make a difference, cultivate a scene of thoughtful, truth-seeking musicians who give a shit and go ahead and make incredible music. I promise it will make you happier than sitting around refreshing your twitter feed, waiting defensively to refute all the venom you no doubt are now affronted by. You just might catch more flies with honey than vinegar, my man.
PL: Oh how little you must think of me! This is actually the most refuting I’ve done because I find so bizarre that you wrote this open letter to me, but I’m weirdly flattered by it at the same time. Without getting into specifics because I’m worried that the shit smear I’ve created with this blog will rub off on them, I’ve definitely worked really hard to create a scene of thoughtful, truth-seeking musicians. I’m not sure that it makes me more or less happier than refreshing my twitter feed because NOTHING IS MORE FUN THAN REFRESHING TWITTER.
Sadly, this dumb tumblr is proof that you catch more flies with vinegar. This fact is depressing to me too.
DM: Drop me a line any time. And when The Ketamines come to Vancouver, I’ll come see the show. I’ll even let you copy my successful FACTOR applications.
PL: I won’t do that because can you IMAGINE how awkward that would be for the both of us? BUT, if you insist, Ketamines are playing in Vancouver or JUNE 15 at a venue called JOHN (1870 Pandora S, entry in the alley) with some AMAZING BANDS like Vancouver favs The Ballantynes, Warm Soda (from Oakland, really great band), Zebrassieres from Ottawa and my favourite new band out of Vancouver TOUGH AGE. I will guarantee that your name is on the guest list and that I’m actually really nice in person, especially if you bring those applications.