These days, high-quality production doesn’t always translate through the methods we listen to music.
It’s about embracing it, though, isn’t it? As soon as we get into the proper stages of mixing, we listen to our music on laptop speakers all the time. You can’t sign off on a mix until it sounds good on a pseudo-broken-down Mac. It’s the same way they did Thriller. It was a big production, but at the time, those mono radio speakers were the only thing that people listened to music on, so they had the world’s worst speaker in the middle of the room and mixed it down on that. Regardless of your love for sonics, a lot of people just want music.
The notion of audio fidelity has always been classist, too.
If fidelity really mattered, Loveless wouldn’t be one of the best records of all time. I’ll tell you what: don’t spend $100 grand on a fucking session at Jack White’s studio. Use ProTools, record it in two weeks, buy a tape machine, master it to tape, learn how to master and mix properly. Learn your craft. It takes a lot of energy and time to not be a purist as a producer. We need to move things forward.
I was listening to “The Man Who Married a Robot” with a few colleagues, and everyone had a different reaction to it.
When we all listened to “Fitter Happier” on [Radiohead’s] OK Computer for the first time, it was scary. “A synthesized voice! That’s unsettling.” Now, you could have “The Man Who Married a Robot” in the background and no one would notice. People buy these voices and put them in their kitchens. It’s so totally part of our environment. If you describe ordering off UberEATS as a robot saying “the collection of cooked animals,” it sounds like the description of a dystopian universe, when it’s actually an accurate description of where we’re at right now.
As a recovering heroin addict, I find it interesting that when there’s things we don’t want to talk about — like how we’re all addicted to our phones — the initial reaction is, “I’m actually fine with my phone, because I’m not addicted to it. I maybe use it a bit too much, but that’s because everyone else uses it.” The rhetoric is that of an addict — immediate and defensive. “Don’t call me out on something I’m so comfortable with. It takes a change bigger than me.” All this bullshit. Because I’ve been forced in my life to address those ideas, they’ve become quite evident to me. No one likes being called out, do they?
There’s also a lot of good examples of bad music that’s about digital life and technology.
I’d agree with you, it’s a bit lame. “The robots are coming!” Throughout making the record, I really struggled with questions of the objective. It’s me asking questions, even at my most passionate. “Love It If We Made It” is really objective — there’s no opinion there. I’m signposting passionately and angrily, but I’m asking questions and saying, “I hope this is gonna be alright.” I’m opening up dialogue to talk about this, and the reason that it sometimes doesn’t work is because people judge. I’m never judging anybody. As soon as I see something beautiful or interesting, my first reaction is to get my phone out and film it or take a photo. That’s how I live my life, and it’s because we feel a desire to validate our experiences by sharing it with other people and seeing what they think about it. I’m as guilty as everyone else.
Someone drew a comparison to how Jack White bans phones [from his shows]. For the last couple of years, I have this part in our set where I try to empathize with everybody and say, “Just trust me, let’s do one song with no phones, and I promise you that the memory of now that we’ve established will be far more potent than a video on your phone.” It’s about reminding people that they don’t need to constantly oblige to these norms that we’ve created about the validation of one’s experience in order for it to mean anything. It’s not about saying, “Oi, dickhead, put your phone away!” You put your phone away, then! It requires intellectual consistency. Let’s not pretend that things haven’t changed. Things are always gonna change.