Interview of Jon 'Jonny' MacKinder:
Universal C. Management
4806 Fountain Ave. #109
Los Angeles, CA 90029
ZERO9, "You Are Understood"
on the web at: http://www.zero9.net/
on sale at: http://www.cdbaby.com/buy/zero9.htm
Q: The world is growing up. There are more people in it. The kids are getting smart ass, as the current tv kids' shows point out. What's the artist's role to be in all this mess?
A: Thanks for the interview, Ben. The world is getting closer. Its people are in much better communication than ever before. Communcation and transportation both have now become so fast that it is hard not to notice what your neighbors, even the ones several thousand miles away, are up to. Americanism is running rampant through the world. Really. This bratty little upstart of a country barely 200 years old is now THE culture that other countries look to and have been changing to. This is a bit of a big responsibilty to shoulder, if anyone cares to actually look at it this way. Most don't. Seems to me most art (T.V., many movies, magazines, books, music) in the popular culture is created using marketing demographic data with the idea in mind of "What will SELL?". This is ok as long as it is not abused. Here is where I see that that concept could be bettered. Artists...all artists have this responsibility whether they like it or not: Their art is going to influence the public. Always has. In greater or lesser degree to whomever experiences their art, it has made a change in someone else's view. So when art is not something that will actually benefit, in however a small way, even if it is just to bring a general awareness up to seeing that there are conditions that SHOULD NOT BE, the artist is in danger of creating an effect that could make for a less flourishing culture. To put it more heavily and directly: this culture could end at any time with the push of a button. Why speed it up? Instead, put out great art. Change the way people look at things for the better so that they are happier and survive better; so they are more productive. And put out LOTS of art. Don't be too picky about much else about your art. Make sure it is high quality and that a majority will benefit from its message and create and distribute it in QUANTITY as well as quality. So getting back to the marketing viewpoint of "What will sell?" it could be bettered by looking at "What would sell that would benefit the society?" It is easier to sell violent and sexy movies. These have their place. So do smart-ass kids...but for God's sake..NOT EVERY SHOW! PLEASE!! Since we are now the exporters of Americanism and our art inevitably influences those who experience it, I believe the artist's place is definitely one of leadership and responsibility. I speak for myself. But there are others who now share my view and these are the artists who will be influencing this next millenium. If it isn't this way - *poof* - no culture to really create art for. Its really not much of a step down from Wise-ass antagonism to violent hostility. There is some improvement that could be made.
Q: Money is the thing. Tighter than a shark's underwear. How is the little man with his self-released music suppose to fight the big suits who are buying out the music world every day? If we can't stop 'progress', how do >we tie ourselves to the tree?
A: This has been said before, but it is nonetheless true:
The Internet has really leveled the playing field. I have been intimately involved with it since 1994. With the Internet being used by several hundred million people now, sales to a small percentage of these, say .5% would create a platinum album. This is all theoretical still. I don't know, personally, anyone who has done it yet, but it will happen. There are guys right now who are in the position to make this an easy reality. Derek Sivers at CDBABY.com is one such person. He operates the most amazing CD store on the Internet for independent musicians. If there are others of you out there, let me know!
An independent musician can do these things once he has a CD to sell:
1) Put up a website and promote the hell out of it. Every search engine, free for all link page, etc., that one can get their website listed into and often.
2) Get your CD available for sale by credit card online, like at CDBABY.com
3) Get your CD into every major and minor store you can get it into. Most of the majors like Wherehouse, Tower, etc., have a person who handles 'consignments'. They will place your CD in the store and sometimes allow you to put a nicely-done Point of Purchase stand on the counter. This is especially helpful if you make an endless loop tape with samples of your music so that people standing in line can listen while they wait. A lot of impulse buying occurs right there.
4) Play gigs, promote the CD, promote that it is in the stores, promote your website, and promote that your CD is available online.
5) Get the contact data of everyone who buys a CD so you can promote to them later. They are already fans and know your music. This is the fastest way to build a fan base. When you remind them of your band, they are likely to tell someone else about you that you never would have reached otherwise. And that's how you battle the big companies. Besides, they are playing their own game of "What will sell?" and that's the majority of all that's cared about. Record companies are expensive to maintain and they MUST make a buck to survive. Why play THAT game? We're making ART here!
Q: Are you spiritual? Is there a way of asking for help from people who aren't there? What are the tricks of going the extra mile when shoes are scarce?
A: Three great questions.
3a. Yes. I am absolutely spiritual. There is definitely an intangible communication that occurs at the live shows which hasn't been captured in recordings thus far. At a great show, you can FEEL the performer - not just hear the music. You know what I mean? This is definitely not machinery we are talking about here. And certainly not just a body. This is the raw life force, the spirit, communicating.
3b. Yes. It is easy to communicate with people who aren't there. For this I like to use the telephone. But email works well too. I usually avoid snailmail just because it takes too damn long to get a reply.
3c. The trick to going the extra mile isn't a trick at all. It all comes down to, "What are the greatest benefits long-term for the greatest number?". Then it becomes a duty or responsibility to see it through. That's the main way I motivate myself. The other is, "What is going to be the most fun thing to do?". These work well together especially when one inspects these its easy to extrapolate that if what you are doing is fun but harms broadly to no good consequence, then there are likely to be a lot of pissed off people who are now after you as a result. Not a long career on that route. However, on the other...if things are fun as well as beneficial, chances are there will be a few people who are pretty glad you are around. Much longer career this way.
Q: Tell me a bit about this trilogy of cds you're putting out. Seems like an epic project with a huge story. What's the story about?
A: It is huge. When I decided to do this project I wanted something that I would be very proud of for a long time. I decided to create a vast story with a soundtrack that could stand on its own as its own artform independent of the story or stories.
The trilogy involves 2 main characters about 10000 years and several galaxies apart. One exists in the present day society and the other was very influencial in the eradication of a very destructive force on his planet in his own time. The former is on Earth today and notices conditions which long since had been outlawed on his planet. Very evil, insidiously so. So masked that present day society is either very unaware of it or just can't confront how evil it actually is and instead tries to pretend it isn't there or is something else. I am speaking exactly of psychiatry and its offshoots, psychology and psychotherapy. Amazing and shocking as this may seem to some people, documentation can be easily found to show how this "science" since being introduced broadly into the culture has brought about degraded morals, rampant drug abuse and increasing illiteracy in school children and graduates of these schools. Crime has risen sharply too since its introduction. The harm to artists and the lives taken by this charade is documented here: http://www.cchr.org/art/eng/index.htm%20 It is fascinating reading, but be warned, you may need a strong stomach to read it. Peter Green, Marilyn Monroe, Kurt Cobain and even Frances Farmer's stories are here. But really, don't read it if you have a faint heart. It might kill you to know just how evil this really is.
Getting back to the Zero9 "You Are Understood" trilogy, Disc One http://www.zero9.net/discone.htm starts like this...there is a golden temple that has flown over the main city since before anyone can recall. Many religions and philosophies were developed in the evolution of that culture to explain its mysterious presence. The main character, Jonny, is more interested in writing songs about and chasing girls at this time, but becomes involved in a political upheaval not long after the government had sent a camera to fly by the temple to learn more about it. [Temple fly-by simulation: http://www.bionicsite.com/zero9/welcome.ram%20 ] The technology had just come up to a point to allow them to create such a thing as the flying camera. What was learned in the fly-by forever altered the way the temple was viewed and several myths were disproven overnight. Several philosophies were proven false. Several religions became extinct instantaneously. In all this confusion and instability a new philosophy emerges calling itself "The New Thought" urging its followers to put away such silly and useless things as worshipping the temple, but be more practical. There was a reason why these high preists of "The New Thought" wanted no one to pay any attention to the flying temple and this is what Disc 2 is about. Incidentally, Disc 2 contains some beautifuly romantic acoustic-guitar centered pieces with lush orchestral arrangements as Jonny finally met the girl of his dreams...lost her...and can't seem to find her again...so the chase commences and the battle is just begun...how will it turn out? Have you seen the cover of Disc 2? http://www.zero9.net/disctwo.htm
Q: Are you fearful to be an 'unknown' releasing such a large group of songs - a trilogy! - into the public's sometimes dust-covered eye? What are your plans for success? What are your plans against failure?
A: HA! No. I'll promote it as best I can. If it gets lost within the gazillions of other great works of art that are released every day, I only have myself to blame. I'll try not to let that happen. I'm not entirely unknown. I may not be on the usual communication lines like MTV or VH1 yet, but there are still fans all over the world, Boznia, Taiwan, Europe, South Africa, Brazil, many other countries as well as the US. Some people are looking for art like this and don't mind that it isn't being broadcast on the radio every hour in tight rotation or on the television or plastered throughout the latest issues of Rolling Stone, Spin, Billboard, or Teen Beat.
My plans for success include making more art using better resources than are at my disposal now. Creating better, broader effects.
I don't plan for failure. I can carry on as I am endlessly. Failure only means that someone decided to stop doing something if you really want to look at it. I have no plans for stopping. Sure there are those who try to get in my way or drag me down covertly or otherwise, but when I spot them, and its pretty easy to do now, I either handle them so they cease to be a drag or I just continue without them. These are simple tools that anyone can learn to do. It is a small part of the technology that comprises Scientology. I recommend this course to any artist. It is called "Handling the Ups and Downs of Life Course". Its a quick way to learn how to spot people who you wouldn't have suspected were stopping your career, or if you already know of some such character as this, you'll know how to handle them so they don't stop you or hinder you. Great course. Very fast. Cheap, too. Vital. Its available at any Scientology Organization or Mission.
So, no. I don't have any plans for failure. Neither should anyone else.
Q: This may be part of ? 3's answer, but are you getting the support you need or want from your loved ones? Your fan base? How are you promoting yourself?
A: Absolutely. You get what you give, you know? My fans are the greatest people I have ever had the fortune to meet. I try to, but it is hard to match and give back the same amount of appreciation that they give me. My family and loved ones are fans too. They don't ask me for autographs or anything...I have 8 brothers and sisters. All younger. Big family. And they are all very smart and able in their own fields. They were not all supportive of me early on. But in time, as I got better at producing or communicating my art, they understood it better and became fans. I am just as big a fan of what they do too. I have a brother who is an actor and playwrite, another who is an illustrator, another brother who is a brilliant software programmer. Mom and Dad are great too.
As far as promotion goes, I do those things I mentioned earlier and always keep on the lookout for any other way to make myself well known and well thought of. That last part is the more important part or promotion that gets missed. Any publicity is NOT good publicity. GOOD publicity is GOOD publicity.
Q: What are your obvious musical influences? Have you ever been compared to someone that you just never thought of?
A: My favorite bands growing up were KISS, Boston, Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin. Later, The Beatles, Richard Wagner, Beethoven and Mother Love Bone. Other than that, just great songs are influencial. I love "Dream Weaver" Gary Wright, "Mayonaise" Smashing Pumpkins, "Motorcycle Drive By" Third Eye Blind - lots and lots of others like this.
But mainly, my influences are non-musical. I am more influenced by the silhouetted hills in the distance and sailing ships floating into the harbor over the reflecting water showing the rippled hues of orange and rose as the sun sets some fine evening while I am next to my girl, sitting, watching, sometimes sipping wine.
More influenced by the intense exhilaration of pursuing and courting a beautiful woman and its resultant adventures and misadventures.
Compared to someone I Never thought of...hmmm... ...someone once said Ry Cooder. I have no idea what they meant by that. I have ex-girlfiends (not mis-spelled -- not all are fiends. Most are cool.) that probably compare me to things that don't need to be printed here... ...but that's a story for some other time...on a very slow news day...
Q: Do you like being an artist in the late 90s? Seems Congress just voted to take money out of the mouths of upcoming artists by voting that no monies have to be paid to artists when their shit is played in public places. Does this matter to you? What political headlines touch your soul?
A: Yes, I like being an artist in the late 90s. Its an 'anything goes' environment for the artist - especially pop music - but more so I look to the new millenium. There is a renaissance that is brewing right now (something that I am a small part of here in Hollywood) in the underground the likes of which has NEVER been seen before. These are exciting times. I have always loved being an artist in any time, truthfully.
I am not too worried about the new laws. There are still going to be jerks that live to keep artists down for a little while longer - all the more reason to be able to spot them quick. And the best thing to do is to just keep going and be successful, hugely successful anyway. It may take being a little more clever, but artists and musicians are known to be creative...
I don't pay much attention to news; it is usually bad...that's what people buy. The therory is this: If you hit someone hard enough, he'll give you money. Extortion, I think is what that is. That's how the news media works... It's not only "What will sell?" but "How can we make this story really horrible, embellish it slyly by putting a different angle on it so we can make people be riveted to it and demand higher prices from our advertisers?" Pretty sick, in my opinion. But the political headlines that do catch my attention are usually dealing in human rights issues. Especially funding for psychs - like the recent rounds of various state-level bills proposing funding that business owners to have to pay for mental health care for their employees out of their own pockets. Let's damage the workforce as much as possible, shall we? First we'll invent more fake diseases of the mind and then convince workers that they suffer from these, then "treat" them, knowing full well that we will only make them more screwed up, then take their insurance money by making their employers pay for it who are already missing an employee who is now a really screwed-up employee and good for nothing -- business fails. Easy to see the outcome. Or how about this one: HB 1574 - which aims to appropriate $18 million a year for the latest and most expensive psychiatric drugs - 3,500 to 6,500 per year. The target is homeless people. Bad enough that these people are down, but why kick them or kill them too? Or another proposal that allows psychs to determine at their own discretion which school children are a menace and put them on drugs immediately. If their parents object the kid can be taken away from them. There is a lot of evil in the "Goals 2000" plan forwarded by our lovely first lady. This is the kind of thing that I watch out for and work toward doing something about. If anyone wants to help too I'll put you in touch with some good guys.
Q: I'm somewhat of an absurdist, meaning I don't believe the world can change. Not until human nature changes anyway. And I see little chance of that. How are your views on this life we've made for ourselves? And does music really change anything? Or is it just something good to tap your foot to while waiting on 'God'?
A: An absurdist. Great word. I agree with you that the world won't change until its people change. But I'll let you in on a secret...there are a lot of people changing for the better, daily.
I wasn't always like this.
Many of my contemporaries could have hardly given a damn about anything either a few years ago. But times are a-changin'! There is hope. And there are people who are making changes all over the world for the better. It would probably astound you to know about all of these things...good luck trying to find it on the evening news or newspaper! And that's the only reason you haven't heard about this. There are whole countires who have implemented new technology in their prison systems that not only rehabilitates criminals so they aren't criminals anymore, but happy and productive members of society, but a program that eradicates drug use and abuse! This is incredible news. No one has to be a drug addict any longer. There is a proven technology for handling that that does NOT require taking any drugs. Even alcoholism! I know. That's heresy, right? Everyone knows its a disease...bah! Its not. Neither is criminality. Just the same as illiteracy is not a disease. These can all be handled. Now tell me if that isn't news?
And yes, music changes things. That's why I make music. If someone is feeling bad and a good song comes on, instead of doing what they were doing, if they were doing anything at all, they can be more productive. If they are more productive, then they should survive better. Many people get paid for doing a job. If they do a good job at their task they might make more money. So if each person feels better, the world is a happier and more productive place. Sounds a bit Utopian, I know. But it works out that way. Even if you are in a good mood already and a good song comes on...MAN! This is why I do it. And I hope my song is one of those.
Q: Any tips on surviving the upcoming century? As a musician? A person? Are you sorry that 2001 is going to be nothing like the film?
A: I'll be very blunt and I'll take the consequences of this statement whatever occurs: If you really want to thrive in the next century, check out Scientology. The tools for handling any aspect of life are contained in this technology. You can thrive. I don't get anything for telling you this. Except to know that you'll have a chance to hedge your bets against whatever occurs after the clock strikes midnight on December 31st, 1999.
As far as 2001 not being anything like the film... my Dad once gave me a poster listing manned and unmanned space missions and their projected timelines with pictures of the spacecraft that were to be built. He worked for Rockwell at the time and was privvy to this kind of information. Well...something happened to the space program. There was a manned flight to Jupiter in there to happen around this time. The schedule is a little off, I'd say.
But I am glad that 2001 is not going to look like a Mad Max film, either. I am reasonably sure that it won't be. And I hope that what I am doing now, in some way, helps assure this.