A little while ago I had a great conversation with Australian music critic Craig Mathieson to talk about the craft. Whilst it was for another project, he still had some great stuff to say and was as funny and insightful as his writing tends to be. Amongst other things he had a classic and concise take on the debates around authenticity, genres and who's footing the bill. Transcript of this section below.
What do you think of the popism and rockism debate in the US?
Well Americans came to pop music really late, and they always used to look at the British, because the British would write about anything, in their very British way, and the Americans were very unsure of pop music for a long time. It's almost an alternative badge now, in America, to be into pop - the more pop the better, you know, right down to this bizarre fetishising of Kylie or someone as being this completely authentic pop figure. Umm, well I used to fight about this when I was a kid, but I remember when people used to get upset because bands used keyboards on records. [Laughs] That's ludicrous to you probably, and it's ludicrous to me now, but you know we used to take that shit really seriously. So I don't get too bothered about it now. You know, music is more mashed up every year anyhow. But it's funny how indie attitudes and stupidity sort of hangs on, like "what's independent?" and "who should be in the AIR Awards?"
I find that stuff kind of exhausting.
It's just a sideshow. It's what's on the record in the end. I really don't care who drove the truck to the store. Unless it's paid with conflict diamonds or some shit, and I'm pretty sure Liberation's not doing that these days.
Well I remember the liner notes to Godspeed You! Black Emperor's Yanqui U.X.O had a diagram connecting major labels to arms manufacturers.
Well EMI used to make parts for nuclear weapons, a division, they made triggers or something in the 80s. But I mean I don't think a record company could afford to be in arms manufacturing anymore.
I love how disproportionate the cultural influence of the recording industry is, given how little money it makes. One oil company would make tonnes more than the entirety of the record industry.
Yeah it's like, no one worried about BP for a really long time, and you know, look what they were capable of doing once they fucked up. You know and everyone's worried about why Husker Du are on Warner Bros or something.