KEEPING THE ARTS ALIVE
The Newfoundland Herald, Sept. 29 - Oct. 5, 2013
LOCAL MUSIC & MORE
STORY BY DILLON COLLINS
Newfoundland musician Jim Fidler seeks to resurrect the album
Jim Fidler is no stranger to Newfoundland's flourishing music scene. In fact, he has been a pivotal contributor to it for decades.
From forming Newfoundland's first reggae group, Pressure Drop, in the late 80's to producing a slew of successful solo albums, Fidler has hung his hat in many areas of the music industry.
THE DEATH OF THE ALBUM
This time around, in support of his new album, Fidler has launched an Indiegogo campaign designed to raise money for manufacturing and producing the final artwork for the CD, which is being titled RPM. The campaign is much more than just an effort to scrape together money for production, it serves as a stance against a growing epidemic in the music world: the death of the album.
"An album isn't an LP, but a group of songs that can fit together to tell a story and take people on a journey," said Fidler. "People got the idea that they could use the album to present something more akin to an art exhibit, where they could tell a connected story."
Sadly, the album as an art form is currently on life support, if not dead already. "With the coming of the mp3 and now iTunes, if the album was already dead then there became a feeding frenzy of driving nails in the coffin," he said. Fidler insists the death of the album has more to do with the narrowing of the acceptable idea of what a hit is, a rebranding that can be attributed to big wig executives buying up the competition. "It has a lot to do with the music industry in general and the amalgamation and buying out of the small and medium size record labels," he said. "With only a few big companies left you get this kind of homogeny where everything was very cookie cutter."
The idea of creating a balanced and artistic album was replaced with an obsessive need to launch the next big hit. Money making became more important than producing coherent and story rich recordings. "Everyone's main focus was on making hits and with less people in charge you got less of an idea of what could be a hit, so the range of artist was squeezed much smaller and the field has been narrowed," he said.
AGAINST THE GRAIN
Fidler lamented that the days where people took pride in their music may be drawing to an end, as the digital age of music has focussed on efficiency and convenience. "When I grew up everyone took pride in how good their music sounded," he said. "It was all about having the biggest speakers. All that is gone now with the little ear buds and iPods."
Fidler suggested that by making an album that draws inspiration from its golden age in the 70's, he is doing the opposite of what would be suggested by executives and 'big wigs' in the industry. "In making this album I'm kind of shooting myself in the foot, doing the last thing a record label would want you to do," he said. "Well sorry I made an album. It doesn't matter who or what age you are, you sit someone down and play them a Beatles or Pink Floyd album and they'll say it's awesome. The coolest cats in high school now are the ones with the Iron Maiden or Supertramp t-shirts. I'd love to know where all these labels are saying the album and rock 'n' roll is dead get their information from."
Fidler believes that the generation that bought records in droves, who are now grown and out in the workforce, have been largely ignored, replaced by a newer generation eating up the manufactured hits. "When I sit back and think about it, the age of people that bought the records in the 70's and 80's, they are a huge demographic and they are totally being ignored today," he said. "That past generation proved that they would buy millions worth of records. It's staggering to me today that they are being forgotten."
"STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS"
It took Jim Fidler eight months to finish RPM, and now that it's all said and done, he believes it is one of the best records of his career and certainly one that he had the most fun making. "The album is like that undefinable genre of the 70's where we all listen to the same radio station," he said. "I've always made conscious music, but this one is a whole heap of fun. It's made to be played on big speakers."
Fidler spoke about how the album brought him back to the 70's, the era that he began to cut his teeth in the industry, and how that served as a huge inspiration in his work today. "I wasn't thinking about reggae, Celtic, or jazz, I was just thinking about music," he said. "It harkened my mind back to a time I haven't forgotten and in that mind frame I had a huge pallet to work with."
Ever insightful, he went on to add that the music flowed through him effortlessly, in a very organic and natural process. "All the lyrics on this record are what they call stream of consciousness," he said. "I didn't sit down with a pen and paper and write them down, they just came to me. It wasn't an intellectual endeavour, it didn't come to my head in that clever place, it just passed through me. I know that sounds strange, but such are the arts."
LIFE'S MANY CHALLENGES
Fidler has been blind since the age of nine, yet it is something he takes in stride, just one of life's many challenges to rise to. "It's just one of those things," he said. It's like asking a straight person why they are straight, they just are. The world's not made easy for blind people, or left-handed people, but life is a challenge and if you go through your life without facing a challenge then you've learned nothing. Things happen and it either makes you better or makes you bitter. Every man thinks that his burden is the heaviest but he who feels it knows it."
After so many years in the music industry, with many ups and downs, Fidler has learned a thing or two and has some advice for budding artists in the province. "Be careful what you wish for and always remember that the biggest man you ever did see was once a baby in this life," he said. "Society is geared to what's out there, but really it's about what you have to give. Do everything you can to be as good at that as you possibly can. Give, and it will come back to you."
The Indiegogo campaign runs until September 30th, and I urge everyone to contribute to one of the only true renaissance men left in the music industry.