A blorg about brewing beer and writing songs

21 Sep. 2010

On Rights

I recently had a discussion with a friend of mine, an up and coming film maker, on the subject of copyrights. I've discussed this before but I've been thinking about it some more.

He asked me a question which I really had to think about. It was "don't you think that artists deserve to be paid for their work". I had to really think about this and I surprised myself with the answer, which was no, I don't.

I came to the conclusion that actually no one "deserves" to be paid as such and that whatever money you make comes from you doing something that people want to pay you for. This is generalising, but from my point of view you do what you can to make a living, and then you do what you want to do. Sometimes those are the same two things but no one deserves for them to be. Perhaps I'm just bitter as I find my job in corporate IT uninspiring compared to song-writing or performing (though in some ways, much easier). But I've never felt like I deserve to be paid for doing what I really want to do. I've certainly never felt that I need a system of law enforcement to prevent people from behaving like people (i.e. sharing, mimicking and altering the things they love)

The refrain we hear repeated over and over is that copyright protects the income of creators and allows them to keep on creating but the system itself actually benefits publishers the most. And if we look at the history of copyright law, it is all bundled up with printing presses and the rise to dominance of the publisher over the scribe.

A scribe is a kind of artist, creating unique products, works of serious labour. Publishing is not art and published output may be a copy of art, but there is nothing unique to it. It is one of many identical physical units. This is the business model that led to copyright. It was never about the artist, it was about the publisher asserting their right to be the sole source of these units, something an artist does not have to do.

If copyright existed to help artists, it should really protect the artist from those seeking to financially benefit from their work (i.e. the publishers). And this is really evident in the music industry where labels will front up cash for a new act as a loan, the band having to then tour and tour to make back the money they owe. If this is what a band has to do to get noticed, why do they need a record label to own them for this period? If record labels suddenly went away, would musicians stop making music and playing gigs? If musicians were guaranteed to never make money for their music would that be the end of music?

The music recording industry, as it is now, is an entity that did not exist before the 20th century. It had a run of about 50 years where it was able to produce a physical medium for transporting and listening to recorded music that consumers could not easily produce for themselves. Now that time is over and we're in a transition period. Artists need to make money, yes, and legal protection from sharks and poachers is nice to have but a system created by publishers for publishers is never going to support artists in the way that they want it to. And artists will still be artists no matter what, culture will keep growing and changing as it did before copyright, before CD sales and before MTV.

The archetype of the struggling artist didn't go away due to the existence of copyright law but the archetype of pop star is a pure 20th century concept. If we have to chose one or the other, it's worth considering which we'd prefer.

7 Sep. 2010

Beard and Brau: Golden Paw Review

I recently reviewed Beard and Brau Golden Paw for the Kino Sydney Zine (a small zine available only at Kino Sydney screenings). It was written for a non-beer-nerd, but possibly inebriated audience. Here is the review I speak of:

This beer has sprung forth from a small microbrewery in South Australia, that land of fermented plenty, and found it's way to the lips of Kino Sydney participants. At an age when new beers are creeping up on us from every angle, I have decided to try to provide some direction to my fellow beerish travellers and kinoites.

Golden Paw is a beer brewed in the style of an American Pale Ale. This is a fairly modern style of beer that is generally known for big flavours. Beers that let you know they are being drunk. In fact, it could be said that an American Pale Ale is all up in your grill. This particular variety, however is brewed with lager yeast. Lager being the style of most well-known beers, it has subtler flavours and a drier taste. Golden paw then combines the thick sweetness of strong malts with the crisp finish of a lager yeast. The hops flavours are typical of North American hops: astringent and citrusy, and used in quantity.

All of this, however, one could glean from a few google searches. To really do this beer justice, I felt it was important to procure a sample and write these words with the cloudy, golden ale on my tongue, that the authenticity of my review be felt. Of course the sample I obtained was warm, so I placed it in the freezer to cool and immediately forgot about it. I awoke to a freezer full of beer slushie and am now sitting with what icy chunks of brew I could worry from the bottle slowly melting in a glass next to me.

As such I can inform you that Beard and Brau Golden Paw is a remarkably cold beverage, somewhat crunchy and entirely flat. It does not wish to leave the bottle that it comes in, but when it does, it tends to sit sluggishly, foaming in anger. Despite this, a full flavoured beer can be detected between the icicles. And I am just enough of a beer lover to have enjoyed this regardless.

31 Aug. 2010

Find inspiration where you can.

Sometimes you run out of words and life is simple (or complex) experience. It takes a little something extra to bring the words back again. In this case my inspiration is an image which perfectly sums up my reasons for creating this blog.

accordion dancer

Used with permission from unexpectedtales

18 May 2010

I am ready

Black swine

My entry for tonight's brewshare is bottled, rested, labelled and ready for guzzling.

17 May 2010

Bacon beer, me hearties. Arrrr.

Wherein I talk like a salty sea-dog for no reason at all.

I'm on a quest to make a beer with a flavour that says "bacon". This, as a homebrewer, is my personal holy grail. When I close my eyes and adjust my tongue in just the right way I can sense it's flavour, like a siren call coming over the waves of amber liquid that are so often flowing towards and into my mouth.

I'm not quite there yet, but I've been getting closer. With the brewshare night at the local taphouse looming on the liquid horizon like a shimmering mermaid, I decided to see how close I could get in time to present a brew. The theme of the night is a stout or a porter, so I thought I'd bend my will creating a smokey porter for the evening.

I used a good amount of pale malt, along with some chocolate and crystal malt. But the main flavour I was hoping to capture came from kilo of smoked malt that I added to the mash. I think next time I will use even more smoked malt because the competition with crystal and chocolate was a little too strong.

I went very easy on the hops, with only 30 grams of amarillo hops, added right at the end of the boil, for minimum bitterness. This turned out to be a perfect balance, in my opinion, as the herby flavours of the hops sat just beneath the smokey, caramelised malts. In effect the hops simply supported the main flavours, propping them up list a mast holds a sail.

My new first mate, white labs Australian Ale yeast, proved itself a trusted ally as the cultures I'd made have just kept on churning out good brews. This was no exception and I have to say that the whole experience went smoothly.

It wasn't the bacon galley I had dreamed of sailing, but it was a damn fine brew. The test was the tasting and I opened up the keg just in time for a visit from an old friend who braved the voyage from the Americas out here to the Antipodes. A group of seven worthy drinkers finished off all but a pint or two, so I consider that they were well pleased with it.

Tomorrow night I'll take the bottles I saved aside to the Darlo brewshare and we'll see if it stages a successful mutiny or is made to walk the plank.

30 Mar. 2010

Low down disco

I know you've all been on the edges of your pant-seats*, waiting for a new Meat Pig song. The wait is over and the song is here. Near. Dear. Beer. Mmm, beer. You can listen to it online or you can keep it for your very own by downloading this mp3.

Back-story

A few weeks ago my brother and musical co-adventurer, El Cucurucho, expressed an interest in making a disco song. It seemed like everything we had done up to that point was clearly pointing to the genre. I remember feeling surprised that we had not already sunk our canines into some disco flesh while a relentless strobe light made our feral blood sport appear artistic.

In preparation for the song, I listened to Diana Ross's Love Hangover repeatedly over weeks. This is a song that took a fine lady of soul and transported her into the majestic disco matriarch that we all remember her being. We followed the basic vibe of this song; slow to fast with an excited squeal at the transition. The Wooo, in my opinion, is an important aspect in a transition of any kind.

Despite my love of Wooos, we added a third, woo-less transition. This marks the dark change to the theme of the track as we descend into a kind of tonal chaos of despair.

Song Form and Stylings

I've been lusting over the idea of a through-composed song for a long time now. I'll basically talk to anyone about it, and I have. If you've been around me while I've been beered up you probably got an earful of through-composition and how much I wanted to try it. Anyway, this seemed the perfect opportunity. The song is in 3 acts, the first being the kind of generic slow-funk that any whitey can pull out of their trousers. It's just a teaser, but it establishes the setting: a local food court, tilled and echoing, a range of international cuisines on offer united by their general lack of nutritive value.

The second stanza simply kicks the first up a notch. Here is where our disco balls start spinning as we begin to sample the local wares. The bassline jumps down an octave, symbolising that we are descending to new lows as we dine in this underground eatery. The keyboards tighten up to keep the rhythm on the dance-floor smooth and consistent. Hand claps find their way in to enhance the authenticity.

In the final stanza we break it down Sun-Ra style. Proper free jazz with space effects and atonal chords. There may be a bit of walking bass in here. This is where the true horror of our dining experience is revealed as the constant vibration of consumption shatters our illusions and we can no longer hide the raw human ugliness that surrounds this cursed meal. This part is the hardest to dance to, but the most rearding if you can pull it off.

Technical Musical Elements

The entire song is in the key of G and contains uses of the dorian mode while mostly leaning heavily on a minor pentatonic scale. This is not really so different from most of our songs.

Concluding Thoughts

I'm really happy with my brother's work on both the keyboards and the drums. I think his drumming ties the whole song together in what might have been (although you may consider it still to be) a disjointed mess.

Recording
El Cucurucho rocks the Ardour

This was one of the smoother experiences thanks to El Cucurucho's increased aptitude for the equipment we were using. I really got to see the Ardour audio software shine. I'm increasingly amazed at the times we live in, where this kind of technology both exists and is available as free software for anyone to use. Powerful times call for powerful music, so we do our best to deliver.

I actually really expected this song to have been a failed venture since I came to the session completely without inspiration or direction. My brother provided most of these energies. My main contribution was to somehow come up with a concept and then actual lyrics while he was experimenting with audio effects and timing. I wrote all of it in about 15 minutes from concept to stepping up to the mic. For this gift, I'd like to thank Frank Zappa. I've been listening to Overnight Sensation a lot lately and the following lines (from Camarillo Brillo) form the prototype for this song's entire lyrical dimension:

She stripped away her rancid poncho
And laid out naked by the door.
We did it till we were unconcho
And it was useless anymore.
* Pant-seats are a pair of pants with fold-out seat legs that you can use as a seat whenever and wherever you want. They don't actually have an edge as such but I trust that you, dear reader, will indulge me in this exercise of creative license.

9 Mar. 2010

Where's all the song?

Looking over my recent entries, I see there's a whole lot of drinking and very little singing. My family's move to the suburbs has put a big wedge of space between the two members of Meat Pig and we all continue to be poor in time. So little music has been produced, however I've been getting a lot of input into my music-brain.

Last night was a great example of nodes forming in the chaotic mess of Sydney's music scene. My wife and I attended Kino Sydney #34, a local independent film-makers event known for its ability to connect with all manner of creative forces in the city. This particular night was themed to help launch a new album of remixes by MA, an upcoming Sydney electro outfit (and might I add personal friends of Meat Pig ... yes, I might)

victoria
Victoria White from MA

What we got out of the night was a live performance by MA, and a great set of films made by kino participants, set to remixes of song's from MA's first album. I also got a chance to chat to some of the DJs and in particular members of Neon Hearts who have an eclectic mix of influences and are involved in various venues and radio shows as well.

I'm a bit of hermit when it comes to music, and not really well versed on what the kids are all up to these days. I tend to look backward for inspiration, but every now and then I think it's healthy to get a dose of what's happening out there in the world. To feel out where people's heads are floating. Basically I'm always in need of inspiration, and sometimes I need more than just listening to howlin' wolf over and over.

So if you're like me and interested in something you might have heard of yet, I'd encourage you to check out all the above-mentioned acts. And if you live in Sydney, I urge you strongly to get involved in kino, cause that's where it's at.

5 Mar. 2010

brewshare at the local

When you invite people into your home and ply them with alcohol, it's very unlikely they're going to say anything negative, or even particularly critical, about the experience. So I was scared but also drawn to the brewshare night at the local taphouse in darlinghurst like a fat blowfly bouncing into the deadly blue light of a mozzie zapper. I was daunted, walking into a room full of 30 or more strangers to have my beer tasted and dissected by a group of people who mostly know more than I do about beer. The daunt was literally flaking off my arms leaving a mess all over the floor (it smelled like gruyere)

Brewsharing

It turned out I was among friends. What unfolded was a night of civilised drinking, tipsy conversation and all-round good cheer. I tasted a lot of beer and still had a hoppy flavour in my mouth a day later. There was some stand-out entries, including a mango beer, some kind of crazy belgian raspberry beer and some american pale ale that was so strongly hopped it made my eyes water, with beer tears, which is more pleasant than it sounds.

The next brewshare is on the 18th of may, and it's worth going to even just for the experience of not having to share the local with after-work-suited-wankers. I love the vibe and the thing of the place and getting to hang out with beer nerds drinking bubbly grain alcohol in there is one of those experiences ... do you know the kind I mean? When you're right at the point of drunkeness that you mostly have bodily control but a pleasant layer of cheer and goodwill has settled on your brain. You're losing the ability to speak but you don't need to cause everything mostly makes sense, people are smilling at you and you have a comfy couch under you, keeping you stable. That's the moment that I love and being in a pub like the local, with it's dark wood and tarnished furniture, it's uncountable rows of condensationed taps*, I can just sink, comfortably, into it and let the conversations flow right through me.

*ok, someone's probably counted them

2 Feb. 2010

feral

I had the good fortune to drink and dine at the local in darlinghurst on my birthday. My wife and I shared the banquet, a series of 5 generous courses with matched beers. It's unusual to feel full after the first course in a degustation-style meal, but that's where the big plate of meatballs took us. In the end I had to be rolled out, as I emitted happy little beer burps.

This blog isn't about food, though, so let me get right down to it and say that I had a truly happy beer experience when I got to taste some of Feral Brewery's Razorback barleywine. This was so rich and malty with a sweetness that hid the hefty 11% alcoholic content. This was definitely a brew for sipping and savouring. I've never seen Feral beer for sale anywhere other than the local, but if you see it, grab it and then drink it. Don't forget that last part. You'll thank me, I know you will.

28 Jan. 2010

40 litres of happy

two tubs

So everything I said about being too scared to brew turned out to be wrong. In the end my desire for beer overcame my fears and I am whole again.

That's a stout on the left and an ale on the right.

27 Jan. 2010

Too hot to brew

Our new home is a heat-sink in this filthy-hot weather. I'm scared to put on any new brews right now for fear that another 40 degree day will wipe them out. The move and the heat have also led to extreme laziness when it comes to writing new music. In the spirit of not doing it ourselves right now, the wife and I opened up a six pack of coopers mild ale and drove down the south coast listening to They Might Be Giants.

Both of these go down easy, the mild ale is particularly good for a low-alcohol beer. Not something I'd usually get into but considering driving plus children plus an un-patrolled beach it was probably for the best.

Listening to They Might Be Giants is always a rewarding experience. Their way of blending standard rock and pop progressions with something that I can only describe as experimental maths rock is something that I aspire to. They are certainly the masters of breaking a melody down into fundamental numbers and building it back up into a complex and disarming array of digital and analogue pulses that is somehow recognisable as music but strangely new, and then suddenly slipping into a familiar blues riff.

It is the kind of thing I'd like to do if I had the time or patience. But my music is all about making it up on the spot as much as possible. That's my niche and I'm sitting in it, looking out at the rest of the world in wonder and appreciation.

4 Jan. 2010

A beer to remember us by

I grew up in the suburbs and it never really fit me. As soon as I could I fled to the beach and hid myself in Maroubra; at the time one of the grungier Sydney beach suburbs. As I got closer to my 30's I realised that my heart was in the inner west of Sydney and moved with my wife into the colourful urban village of Glebe where we have lived since. I swore I'd never go back over the bridge - back to the cursed north side with it's sprawling suburbia - a mono-cultural wasteland in my eyes. Well all things come to an end and age dulls passion.

As time has passed a child has arrived and years of living beyond our means have left us paying back for our past enjoyments. I've managed to land a decent 9-5 job on the hated north side. The pressure of traversing the harbour each day combined with the rising insanity of anything real-estate related in anywhere-fun-to-live in Sydney has led me to suck it up and head north to (hopefully) greener pastures.

Moving house is hardly a joyful experience, but to add a bit of a bonus to the venture I've started up a house-moving brew. It will be the last beer I brew in Glebe in the near future and it will be a gift for anyone who is inclined to help us out. Come over, help us pack and drink a keg of goodbye ale: that's the deal. Let's leave our quaint little terrace house in our rejuvinated inner city slum with a bubbly, burpy smile.

Being time poor in preparation for this special occasion I took advantage of the Coopers company's generous offer and bought a homebrew kit. I couldn't resist using up the last of my fuggles hops and adding it, post boil, to the fermenter. I also added a very bracing 2kg of dextrose to the 19 litre brew to ensure a powerfully alcoholic tonic will be served. I'm betting on a strong, spicy and pleasantly bitter end to a day of manual labour and cardboard grazings (you know the kind, when you rub your lilly-white, never-done-an-honest-days-work-soft skin against cardboard till it's raw).

I couldn't help drinking a little bit of the wort and savouring the ridiculous sweetness. I love to imagine all those little sugars being gobbled up by yeast and pooped out as alcohol. The yeast is truly a god among microbes.