Reznor's Secret Message: Inspire Music Culture

The 20th Century hosted all kinds of musical revolutions. We’ve all got a favourite, supporting its history and culture like football fans. Each of these magnificent dots in audio history left their seed growing into great oaks, colliding and intertwining into the forest of modern music culture.

This week, Trent Reznor posted a great article stating the obvious in Web 2.0 utilisation on how to get your band noticed. YOUR band. Not other bands, not other people you don’t know, not people the other side of the world, whose progress would not benefit you personally in any way whatsoever. That is how most people will perceive this post of his. But the real message is not in the content of his post, but behind his motivation for posting it.

A youth club, The Shak (where I first garnered an interest in music ten years ago) is where for the past year I have been working voluntarily to gather funds to refurbish this creative establishment. Over the last few months, after convincing the UK government to give us £25,000 to test the water, we have some rocking innovative equipment, in particular one very exciting piece of kit, the Akai APC40, which is making music production a lot more accessible.

I’ve just finished a session showing the local teenagers what an Akai APC40, Ableton Live and some dedication can do. The APC40 is the latest controller from musical hardware legends Akai, and has kicked DJs on record desks into the frozen water. It utilises the last revolution, Ableton, and creates this unique interface between your brain and digital audio, knocking with a sonic boom any barrier a producer, engineer or musician ever had in the studio. In summary, it makes music production very, very easy.

In only the last two days, people as young as 13 have walked in knowing nothing about music production, and literally 30 seconds later they are performing a basic remix of ‘Ready or Not’ by Fugees. Three minutes later they understand what the delay, reverb and filters do, and begin to jam an entire song structure, all in perfect sync. By the fifth minute, others have heard a kick drum thumping through the studio walls and come in to see what is making the noise. Their friend, they see, is pumping beats like Timbaland. I ask if they want to have a go - almost universally they decline, and I say to just press one of the light buttons on the APC. Their friend, who now feels like a bona fide producer, starts explaining how to control the effects. They share knowledge together just as humans evolved to do so efficiently through our history.

Today, I started the lunchclub session (they get to come to the youth club and studio in lunch breaks at school - how cool is that?) by calling in one lad called Jason. The above happened within minutes, and a dozen teenagers of varied age and gender cram into the studio control room, staring and listening like they’ve never seen through the looking glass behind hits on Radio 1 or MTV. I don’t need to say a word; they see what the last person did and take turns/jump in to have their own go. I am dazzled by the instinct of certain individuals - these are already predicting where a loop will end, where to kick in the chorus, where to insert a wash of delay before pulling back the dynamic to a verse. They are laughing and giddy, nodding to the beat and explaining what they are doing to others.

My subconcious starts talking out loud. “You know, considering your ages, if you come to my classes on Monday nights you could be doing this kind of thing professionally by the time you’re 20.” I was wrong; they’ll be pros faster than anyone my generation ever was. Give it six months and they’ll be performing at their own clubnights here. Two years and they’ll have their own releases and radio play. Five years, they’ll be names on whatever local scene they’re leading, and beyond that, maybe a career. Certainly, they’ll be earning more from music than I currently am.

Another Shak staff member comes in the studio, and tells me they’re all late to go back to school. With regret they hit stop and head out. “That was amazing,” Jason tells me. I know, I say, the APC is the coolest kit to be released since… well, Ableton Live. “No,” Jason emphasises, “that was amazing.

I think I understand what Trent Reznor was really displaying, when he wrote that article on getting new music out there. Trent is demonstrating how to encourage and inspire people he doesn’t know, and thus throws his own seeds into the forest of modern music culture.

This is the real lesson we should learn. It’s not all about you; it’s about doing something to inspire other people. This world thrives when we support each other. It is time some people stood back, thought less about themselves, and thought how they could also contribute the greatest to the forest as a whole.

I see flowers through the thickets.

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