Published in Aural Innovations issue #28 (July 2004)
2004 is the year of the British Stone Premonitions labelís Tenth Anniversary. Aural Innovations is taking part in the celebration with an article about the history and development of this extraordinary label project, a Stone Premonitions "family tree" and a follow up of the interview that appeared in AI #9 in January 2000. The interview was led through cyber space and lengthy talks on the telephone.
AI: I read on quite a few occasions that Stone Premonitions is still not run as a business to make a lot of money, but that all money that comes in is "reinvested" into new projects. That leads to the question whether you and the musicians featured on your label have day jobs, or can you live on your music and the output of Stone Premonitions?
TJ: Stone Premonitions basically pays for itself but it cannot afford to employ musicians as such. Tim & Terri~B have a full time job running the label but do not make a living from it. Stone Premonitions is a non-profit making, self-sufficient ideology. Our role is also one of protection of that ideal. We are all in it for the artistic rewards and do not consider financial gain a consideration.
AI: When recording equipment started to become affordable in the late Nineties, and when the Internet became some kind of a mass medium at about the same time there was a widespread hope that from then on musicians would no longer need the services of the music industry to get records done and distributed. Most of them had to learn quite soon that it didnít work that easy. But Stone Premonitions is still successful in this respect. So, what makes the difference?
TJ: Faith in the music and our loyal listening audience! It involves a hell of a lot of hard work too. We have to perform all of the promotional tasks ourselves. There is no corporate entity pushing everything along. Unfortunately, distribution is always a problem as the major corporate record companies still hold most of the cards as regards the distribution of music on a large scale. We do however have a lot of support from independent music distributors such as Zeitgeist: www.the-rocker.co.uk The Freak Emporium: www.freakemporium.com CD Services: www.cd-services.com Hi-note Music: www.himotemusic.com and Aural Innovations: Aural-Innovations.com Aural Innovations is especially important as Jerry Kranitz also very kindly maintains the official Stone Premonitions website at Aural-Innovations.com/stonepremonitions.
AI: Could you give a brief description of general philosophy of your independent label project and of the so called "indie ethics" that is associated with your concept?
TJ: At Stone Premonitions, we work collectively in order to achieve artistic freedom of expression in the form of music. In a world where authorities seek to dominate the individual for corporate profit and greed, we seek to dispel the myth that this is the only mode of behaviour. Individuals can work together for the benefit of the whole artistic community without having to forfeit their individuality.
AI: If you have a detailed look at the Stone Premonitions artist roster, its release policy and the general promotional activities you soon become aware that itís a bit like "oscillating" between the "real" underground and "high" culture - airplay and interviews at independent internet and pirate radio stations as well as with the BBC, "home made" CD-Rs as well as lavish CD albums on other labels, bands that start with Stone Premonitions and later move to other labels as Mr. Quimbyís Beard. How does the label get along with being "part of two worlds"?
TJ: So far it has worked out really well. We have had excellent relations with both Hi-Note Music and Demi-Monde Records being two examples of labels that have released Stone Premonitions material in the past. CD-Rs are a part of the revolution in independent music but it is still nice to occasionally have manufactured releases out there. There is definitely more access to the listening audience through manufactured releases. Very few record shops will stock CD-Rs unfortunately and record shops like bar codes on things for ease of sale. However, with manufactured releases there is the "boxes of CDs filling bedrooms" syndrome as in general to get a decent deal you have to purchase more copies than you actually need from a manufacturer whereas with CD-Rs, you can make them as you need them. This is of course very time consuming as if you want to produce quality items, then you have to put the time into the design work and general overall appearance. Then you have to do all of the printing/copying in house. Itís a bit like a cottage industry. Thereís something else that I would like to say here which I think is relevant. If you ask an A&R guy from a major record company about how their set-up works, he is going to tell you that he is running a business, not a charity. He canít afford to take risks in his corporate world that runs on profit to cover his overheads. At Stone Premonitions it is not the object to make a profit. If people want to buy our releases, fine, if they donít, fine. Stone Premonitions can only afford what it can afford within its limits if you see what I mean. There is no shortage of ideas and long-term goals artistically. As far as we are concerned, we have no problem with bigger record labels releasing our material as long as they do not seek to "dumb down" what we are trying to express musically/lyrically. We are not about fashion and trends and never will be. We enjoy doing radio interviews with any station that will entertain us! As regards Mr. Quimbyís Beard, they actually left Stone Premonitions to form their own label called Freaky Fungi.
AI: Itís now almost exactly 50 years ago that Rock music was invented (the recording date of Bill Haleyís "Rock Around The Clock"), and youíre in the music business now for 30 years, thatís to say that youíve been an active member of the British and international music scene, ten years of it as a member of the independent scene and outside the music industry. In your opinion, what will be the perspective Rock related music? Will it persist as we know it now or will there be dramatic changes?
TJ: It is in effect changing dramatically by the month as new forms of technology provide wider scope to seek out and find the music that you like to listen to. As you say, the Internet and especially broadband access has changed everything. At one point, people could not believe or accept that vinyl would virtually disappear as it was the format through which everyone listened to music. Nevertheless, it did disappear and I see the same thing happening with CDs. Who knows what mediums will appear in the future. One thing is for sure, I see formats getting smaller and smaller through micro technology. My only regret is that we lose so much as regards artistic images to go with the music i.e. record/CD sleeves. Then again, you can just download images to go with the music from the Internet I suppose.
AI: Thereís a current renaissance of psychedelic, progressive and free form music, in its tendency a bit like in the late Sixties and the early Seventies where new forms of music were invented and exercised. In your opinion, is this rather a "flash in the pan", a nostalgic fashion, or do you see something new coming out of this?
TJ: For me it is extremely important that we keep building on all of the originality that has gone before. As you say, rock music as a whole is a lot older now than it was in say my youth. I think that if we could just rid ourselves of our obsession to label things. Music is music as far as Iím concerned. I like any music that I think is good and I donít care what style of music that may be. It is all subjective, we all have our own personal tastes. I think that the most important thing is to have the luxury of being free to choose. We must progress and therefore I donít think that the current renaissance is just nostalgia. I hear many new artists creating music that is uniquely theirs and this gives me a lot of hope. I think that there will come a point where the mainstream as we know it will no longer exist as new and innovative ideas become more widespread.
AI: Iíd like to get a bit more in detail on this. When looking at the past there always were certain landmarks that led to "phases" of musical development where you could say that from then on nothing was like it was before. So, what do you think will be the next big thing after Hip Hop? Could you imagine that the ferment of psychedelic and progressive Rock might once again lead to a new musical "paradigm"?
TJ: First of all, I think that serious Hip Hop artists literally frighten the powers that be, especially in the USA where many of the more prominent ones are under surveillance by the security services. Itís as if the government are terrified at the mere suggestion of revolution. The street credibility of Hip Hop is something to be admired. It exists in the real world whereas many forms of music are pure escapism. As a musician, do you want to express reality or fantasy? Personally, I like a mixture of both but I donít seek to preach to people that my vision of utopia is any better than theirs. I think that we have to strive for originality by utilising new technology and not being ruled by it. Thereís a big difference. Things change, they do not stay the same. I recently heard Bob Geldof remark that the difference between say 1850 and 1950 could not have been truly imagined and just as the people back in 1850 would be amazed at the change, so will we be in the next hundred years. We donít need to fight back, we need to fight forward and enable a true and peaceful revolution in our thinking. New musical expression and originality will come out of this. As musicians, we need to express our uniqueness whilst assimilating the ideas that have gone before that really matter. Personally, I think that we are going to be astonished at what is to come.
AI: As for Stone Premonitions - what are your plans and perspectives in the near and middle range future?
TJ: Unfortunately, at present our so-called leaders of democracy think that destroying cultures different to our own is a creative pursuit. For example, they talk about extremists but who are the ones out there slaughtering women and children in the thousands? Is this not extremist behaviour? It is the ease with which the mainstream western newscasts switch in seconds from reporting genocide and mass murder to the state of celebritiesí marriages that gives us a good indication of how schizophrenic our culture has become, how flippant with regard to precious human life. I am sitting here answering questions about how rock music will evolve in the future whilst in all honesty not knowing whether there will be a future as we understand it. For me, rightly or wrongly, I cannot separate the political/ideological issues from the music I create. There is just so much lies, deceit and injustice, it is hard to bear! Hopefully, in the years to come Stone Premonitions will be able to continue to express its ideals in a world that is free of repression.
AI: This leads to two more questions. One is regarding the artistís responsibility concerning political and societal topics and developments in general. It was only 25 years ago that being a musician in a Rock band was almost "automatically" being a member of the peace movement, the anti nuke movement and the like. Do you see a current development into this direction again?
TJ: I hope so! An independent journalist in the USA that I greatly admire called Amy Goodman at Democracy Now: www.democracynow.org said in a recent lecture that if the major networks in the USA showed the pictures of civilian casualties in Iraq every night, the war would be over in a very short period of time due to the horror and reaction of the public. The major networks donít show the carnage, itís like the sanitised "Shock And Awe" fiasco. Itís no good western powers preaching democracy when presently we have US snipers on rooftops in Faluja shooting unarmed civilians. Some of these civilians have been discovered to still be clutching white flags on their arrival at a hospital. Double standards will only make the situation much worse. We cannot bomb people into democracy. These days, lots of people think that music is not the medium by which to carry the message but I disagree. I think that whatever outlet an individual has to voice their outrage over any injustice being perpetrated on the human race must be utilised and music will do just fine. I do not believe that war can bring about peace, it is a contradiction in terms and the rhetoric from our leaders at the moment sounds more and more like the terminology used in 1984 by George Orwell.
AI: The second question, of course, is about what we can expect music-wise. Are there any plans for new releases or new bands to be added to the Stone Premonitions artists roster?
TJ: We are currently planning a series of releases called ESP (Essential Stone Premonitions) which will cover all of the best as yet unreleased material on the label. There are loads of interesting tracks in the vaults that have not been heard before spanning the last 10 years by most of the artists on Stone Premonitions, interesting collaborations between artists etc. The ESP covers will have the same design but in different colours for each volume. They will build into a set of releases that will work as complete concepts unto themselves. Also Mark Dunn and Martin Holder are currently working on a new album under the band name of One Foot In The Groove. Meantime, Hi-Note Music are planning the release of a Census Of Hallucinations compilation. Also, Paddi at: www.musicnz.co.nz/prod.html is currently working on new tracks for what will be the ninth Census Of Hallucinations album on Stone Premonitions to be entitled Nine Lives. Another exciting project that weíre just in the stage of mastering is a beautiful set of live unplugged tracks by Krom Lek, recorded at the Stone Studio in 2003.