Thursday, February 05, 2015

The proposition for the RPM Challenge seemed simple enough: for the month of February, you are to write and record ten songs and/or 35 minutes of music. In other words, your album. The creators likened the challenge to a kind of musical NaNoWriMo, where participants are required to write a 50,000+ word novel in the space of 30 days. In both scenarios, the idea is daunting but doable. Even if you failed to accomplish the task at hand, you would still hopefully emerge with some creative work that you wouldn't have attempted otherwise. This positive reasoning does little to beat the ongoing sense of resistance and confusion as to why they had to choose the shortest month of the year to do this.

I'm no stranger to the idea of establishing creative parameters. Paul Weller discussed it himself during his episode of The Mastertapes, locking himself up in an office, attempting to churn out tracks for the 1982 Jam album, The Gift. Perhaps the idea of working to a deadline diminishes from the romance of the creative process, but it's intriguing how quickly the mind can generate ideas with such firmly set limitations. It needn't be time restrictions either, you might only need a single word that resonates with you and if you allow yourself to take a few moments to explore the concept, something will invariably emerge. Using the methodology of Julia Cameron and Natalie Goldberg, it's necessary to write fast, write without thinking and block out the voice that says you cannot do this.

Both these challenges draw upon this compounded appeal of not only being creative, but also being prolific. It carries this implicit hope that you've managed to sort out your doubts, motivations and work in an almost mechanised fashion. It's entirely possible, you need only to listen to the impressive claim of Severo Lombardoni, the producer of the iconic Italo Disco label, Discomagic: "My setup allowed me to produce 50-60 albums a month. I even did 5-6 albums a day!" We're talking about pop music that was manufactured on the largest scale imaginable, but the sheer breadth of its catalogue does little to detract from its creative merit. It's much like an archaeological dig, where people are still searching and uncovering this music, they're making mixes and dance tracks. Their love of it is ultimately inspiring a new musical culture.

I'm drawn to analysing the nature of creativity, but I know for some that understanding creativity spoils the magic somehow. I'm often reminded of Joe Strummer's remark to Melody Maker's Caroline Coon: "If I told you how I write, when I next do it, my words will haunt me and destroy me completely..." There was a process, there must have been, yet the artist's reluctance to discuss it makes the music-making process even more mystical than it probably should be. I'm also wary of the fact that a lengthy dissection of the music-making process can be an act of procrastination. After all, it is much easier to get fired up by a TED Talk than to go through the grief of picking up a guitar and actually working out a new song.

If anyone else were to ask me whether they should take part in the RPM Challenge, I would say "Do it, create, because it's the most important thing." I'd be sure to add the words of a fellow singer who recently said to me, "Your work only exists because of you." I'm yet to fully appreciate why those words reassured me as they did, but it somehow goes to the heart of what it means to honour your ideas and will them to existence. Sure, there may be some vain component in the whole creative process, there may exist some hope that someone else will connect with your work, free of obligation or personal association. Yet, I maintain that it's the most important thing because you can never truly appreciate the breadth of your influence. Create, because you will ultimately inspire others to create.

Behind the scenes of Ratcat's That Ain't Band videoclip (via)

Cassettes & Chocolate Milk: Mod Podcast #62
Au Pairs - You
Screaming Tribesmen - Ice
Ratcat - Skin
Spivs - Boys of Desillusion
Rotjoch - Too Many Weirdos
Ricky and the Teendreams - Alison, Please
Mood Six - Memories
Uncanny X-Men - I Wanna Be Your Baby
Gyllene Tider - Tuff Tuff Tuff (Som Ett Lokomotiv)
Various Artists - She's a Machine

Download (51.6 MB)


Lightning Raider said...

Where on earth did you find that obscure track by Mood Six? It is not on any official release that I can locate. I thought I had everything by them, but now you've thrown me. Excellent track and podcast as usual.

Eleanor said...

Hey LR! It's featured on the Great British Beat compilation:

You can buy yourself a copy from Col from the Direct Hits: