I have been playing music professionally since 2018, casually for 25 years before that, and listening to it all my life. Both my parents are musicians, in addition to various uncles, aunts, cousins etc. A proper musical family, but not as cool or commercially successful as the Jackson 5 or The Beach Boys. Anyway, to say that I have been immersed in music my entire life would not be an understatement, indeed it is the truth of the matter. From a young age, reluctantly I might add, I have been completely bathed in music.
To say this bathing was diverse, would be stretching the truth a little, being as it was heavily centred round classical music. From my philistine’s point of view, under the term ‘classical‘ I lump together the following: early music, baroque, surrealism, Benjamin Britten (whatever that is), opera, John Cage and that, shitey musicals from the 1930s, chamber music, and all associated offshoots. Basically, that is to say, all music that lasted longer than three minutes and sometimes had no words. Oh what tonic to the ears and attention span of a millennial adolescent!
Anyway, this isn’t meant as a virulent diatribe against classical music, some of which I have learned to like in the latter, more reasoned, years of my existence. What I mean to say, is that music has always been very prominent in my life. Period. Now with all theses varied influences that were available to me, from Vivaldi to Gilbert and Sullivan, Beethoven to Stravinsky, I have continued to surprise those who know me by the influences on my own music. Sure, I get it wrong sometimes, and Bizzy D from SUM 41 probably isn’t the totemic generation-definer that I thought back in 2002, but in general I think I think my influences reflect the music I make; Michael Marra, Hamish Imlach, Alex Harvey, Capercaillie, The Skids, The Rezillos, The Proclaimers.
It is not just the music of the above artists that draws me towards emulation, but rather the messages that they can get across through music, the stories they tell, the images they conjure up; anyone can ‘wanna hold your hand’ but few can put Frida Kahlo in a Tayside boozer and get away with it.
So from Richard Jobson’s cricket jumper to Alex Harvey’s proto-punk, ironic Hitler-youth impressions, through to the Reid brother’s singing about #Indyref BEFORE it was cool, all of these folk had a statement to make. A two-fingered salute to the oppressive hand of the status quo, this is what guided my music. I always revert to Nina Simone’s quote when thinking of artists’ reactions to the general shiteness of the moment.
So it came as some surprise to me during a week in which musical ties with the Europe as a result of our Vera Lynn-loving overlords took a big body blow, that the most visionary artist of the week, the voice of rebellion and reason, solidarity-showing and militantly-making a fucking point was none other than that pillar of anti-establishment thought: Ronan Keating.
“There’s no money in record sales, the way that they (bands) make money is actually touring. So, to slap this on them, it’s just going to be devastating for the live industry… We won’t be able to go touring.”Ronan Keating
Now I have heard rhetoric like this before from global megastars, indeed if you want to have a deek at my Twitter spat with indie-rockers Garbage, you can do just that here. I appreciate that the situation is tough for all musicians, but those who already exist on the astral plain of international success at least have a safety cushion. Radiohead’s Colin Greenwood, was very forthcoming about recognising his own privilege while at the same time highlighting the utter injustice of Brexit’s effect on small-scale musical operations. But Radiohead are not Boyzone.
We’re talking about grassroots, upcoming artists…It’s not so much about larger artists who already have back catalogues and careers.Ronan Keating
Right on Ronan! You say it best, when you say… something. From a face that adorned the lunch-boxes of girls in my primary school, through to an establishment voice that decries the absolute bungling, isolationist wreck that a red, white, and blue Brexit has made of the music industry, Mr Keating’s words chimed, not just for their highlighting of the endemic issues facing travelling musicians, but also for his understanding of the importance of grass-roots music.
Keating’s voice is all the more important because of the fact that artists like himself represent the mainstream of music, the highest echelons of success, audience, record sales, endorsements etc. In the joyous world of western consumer capitalism, in which few have, and most have not while seeking futilely to have, Keating’s voice carries with it real power. As we have seen, it is easy for the bosses to ignore the masses, but harder to brush half a million twitter followers under the rug. I think we have Marcus Rashford to thank for this egalitarian holding to account of the powers that be (a sentence I never though I’d write).
Though I am not a fan of his music, I appreciate Ronan’s understanding of how his position of privilege is supported directly from the complicated, symbiotic structure of the music industry, and I am totally behind him. Though I agree that a world in which we must look to Ronan Keating to shed light on the blatant plight caused by xenophobic political machinations is somewhat of a dystopia, desperate times calls for desperate measures.
EU, or no EU, the movement of musicians across the continent has been crucial for musical expression and creativity from George Fridiric Handel to David Bowie, and this is a heritage and a genuinely organic form of the sharing of cultures that the UK Government, in it’s splendid isolation, seeks to sever in a fit of wilful ignorance. It’s time for change. It’s time for the rise of the musical masses. It’s time to storm the proverbial Bastille.
It’s time for Ronan Keating.
I also write about people’s songs in an irreverent, non-musical-blog way. If you want me to do this for you, then you can get in touch with me here.