Saturday, March 3, 2012

Metallica, an Indie band?

Read this interview/blurb then get back to me.

Ok, a little history: I heard Metallica pretty early on. My friend, DH (no that wasn't his nickname, I'm just anonymizing him, on the off chance someone knows someone) played an import copy of Kill 'em All- I think before it even got wide release in the States, and no, I wasn't in the US of Eyyy at that time, hence my uncertainty. I'll admit, I liked that record. I also liked parts of Ride the Lightning and Master of Puppets, but that's when I stopped being a fan. It wasn't that they "sold out" although if anyone deserves that hoary tag, it'd be them. It was that they started to really become a different band. I don't know if it was the loss of Cliff Burton, or what, but all the punk rock/indie/ underground elements of what they were doing seemed to go away- even if they started being a lot more open about the Punk rock stuff they liked. The band that made Kill 'em all ween't exactly a Punk Rock band, but they seemed a bit like fellow travellers. The band that made The Black Album never heard the band that made Kill 'em All, as far as I can tell- but they sure as hell had heard Danzig and Slayer, and they sounded derivative of both. Yes, I know all the irony in that- but I live in a pretty unique aesthetic space- I'm good with the idea that Sugar ripped off the Pixies, who were ripping off Husker Du, and I think Sugar didn't do it (ripping another band off) as good as the Pixies, even if they did a great job of being Sugar. Anyway- the point is that I thought Metallica sucked years before most people thought they rooled. By that point, I'd moved on to everything from Godflesh to Sepultura for my metal-head fellow travellers. It's at the point where, honestly, I cannot say I've heard an entire song of theirs in years. I shut them off and out generally before the first chorus. Hell, someone tried to play "St. Anger' for me, and I didn't last past the 3rd detuned snare hit. I tried to play them some Disfear instead. Turned out they liked Disfear better than Metallica.
I also cannot stand the things they have come to stand for- Lars turning into a midget Danish equivalent to Tony Mottola, James becoming the Neo-Nuge, Kirk becoming Ritchie Blackmore, and I honestly don't know the bass player past what Mike Muir had to say about him.
But, taking the intense dislike I have for them as both band and people aside, I find it interesting the argument they are trying to make- they want to try to stick to the old industry model of record distribution, even as an indie band, because they see it as the only way to effectively do worldwide distribution. How utterly backwards! the evidence has been mounting for 10 years that Indie bands are far better off going for a niche market on the long tail- and that worldwide distribution happens when actual fans distribute. Take a look at Die Antwoord- they have incredibly wide distribution, and they don't have a record deal, and are actively trying to subvert the old industry standard. Take a look at Radiohead, take a look at Hip Hop Mixtapes, hell, take a look at virtually any of the successful indie records labels- as Jay Z might put it- they've got a million ways to get it, choose one. But there you have it- Metallica burned all those possible bridges, and are stuck with the old Model, and we can all see that it doesn't work. That's why it's impossible for Metallica to be an Indie band, now- that's why I'd say they sold out, and why they cannot seem to understand the market any more- they cut off and burned out any connections they had to alternatives to the industrial model of commerce. For all those who still maintain that Art and Commerce are not linked in any way, there's your counter-example: Metallica's lack of understanding even the basics of modern commerce has destroyed the aesthetics they had as a band.

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