Heavy Blog would like to welcome Mr. Ed Newman to its ranks! You may know him as the bassist of rock/metal band Cyclamen, who will be embarking on the Heavy Blog-sponsored Tech Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself UK tour next month!
You’re On Ten – Where Can You Go From There? Where?!
As this is my first post, I’d first just like to say a thank you to my worshipful leaders for having me on board to trail my rambling thoughts all over their blog. Most considerate of them, I’m sure you’ll concur. I’m not sure if I have any particular themes that I’m going to stick to, but needless to say all ramblings will be music related!
I’ll admit it; when it comes to both a music taste of any real coherence (and quality) and a love of live music, I was a pretty late bloomer. System Of A Down’s Toxicity turned me onto the world of heavy music when I was 17, and I went to my first gig when I was 18 – Sikth at the Birmingham Academy 2, sometime in 2003. In an unintentional twist, it’s when the LXD Tour passed through the very same venue this year that I was prompted to write this (the Academy has since moved to a new premises, meaning that in all but its name it’s now entirely different, but you know, ship of Theseus and all that. Let’s just slide with the fact that it’s still the same venue for the sake of upholding this nice little coincidence, yeah?).
Attending the aforementioned gig prompted me to ask myself, why do we feel the need to experience live music at such earth-shatteringly loud volumes? A number of years ago a certain fictional guitarist exonerated the ability of his amp to turn up to eleven. That was back in 1984, however, and it seems we’ve now gone way past eleven to reside somewhere up in the late teens/early twenties. Yes okay, okay, shower me with old man insults, call me boring, and declare me not up to the metulz or whatever. Yes, heavy music sounds good when it’s loud, but there’s such a thing as too much of a good thing.
The main issue I have with live music being so incredibly loud is not particularly one to do with my hearing being damaged as I always, without exception, wear earplugs (The crazy fact that we even have to wear earplugs to see the bands we love in a live setting is probably fodder for another entire piece of writing). Of course I worry for those that don’t use plugs, as they’re setting themselves up for hearing problems for the rest of their days – from tinnitus to full on deafness. Surely not something anyone who loves music wants to suffer with right? No, what I want to suggest here is that by listening to music so goddamn loud, we sacrifice the quality of the live sound in favour of sheer quantity. Even the best mixed, most superbly fine-tuned live setup can be ruined by the PA being shown off to its full potential – the fact that it can go as loud as a jumbo jet taking off doesn’t mean that it should. If it’s too loud, the good work done at the mixing desk can be so easily lost as the venue struggles to cope with the level of noise emanating from the stage. The sound waves that had such potential to roll around so beautifully turn into stormy breakers crashing all over the place. What we’re left with is a disastrous noisy mess that’s no good to anyone. There’s also the fact that a less accomplished sound engineer may simply jack up the volume to cover up a poor mix. In which case we end up with an even worse situation, whereby shipwrecks on the frothy, messy waves of sound are common and deeply catastrophic for all those aboard the good ship live music.
So, I guess the point of this is that maybe it’s time to give up on the idea that more loud = more good; that equation doesn’t add up when we reach a certain level. Nigel Tufnel’s extra digit seems quiet these days, so can we at least make a start by turning it down to eleven?