I’ve come to know Andrew Prieto through our mutual work writing about music and trying to bring artists you may not have heard of to the forefront. He’s taken the task on much more straight ahead than I have, displayed by his work with Dingus On Music as well as The Snake and Meme Movement. These projects are shining a light on the DIY music scene, while most sites and writers are allowing it to dwell in the shadows. If you’re asking how this relates to Chicago and why we’re doing this interview, the answer is simple: The work being done by The Snake is important around the globe, as it allows artists to reach people they never would have otherwise. Chicago has seen two bands release music on the label already (The Canoes and Republic of Lights), with another coming up very soon. So it’s thinking globally and acting locally-musically speaking.
MD: Andrew, you’ve been heavily involved in the DIY music scene for a while now. What was the catalyst for your involvement with the scene, and specifically projects like Dingus and The Snake?
AP: I believe that music, as an art form, is being thrust through a series of cultural changes brought on by the increasing accessibility of the Internet. My assertion is that, when corporations brought audio out of the sphere of fine art, and began selling it as a mass produced commodity (something that was necessary before the digital era), they, first, devalued their product, and then, when switching over to digital formats that could be pirated, lost complete control of a market that was never meant to be controlled in the first place. In the end, they created a culture that has very little respect for audio in analog format (comparable to oil on canvas), as long as they can steal the MP3 (comparable to a Jpeg).
The Meme Movement (mememovement.com), Dingus (dingusonmusic.com) and The Snake (thesnake.mememovement.com) are mere extensions of these theories. There are many other organizations actively working within the same sphere, whether they are aware of it, or not.
MD: The Snake has, in a very short time, proved your theory of putting the power back in the hands of the artist. I think it stands at 24 releases in the past 6 months and growing exponentially month to month. Why do you think bands and artists are responding to the way The Snake works?
AP: Well, I think that the artists creating within the global DIY music scene understand what I’m talking about. But, that scene is so vast that the small audience it gets is spread so thin. The thought that music should exist as a form of fine art, limited in physical release to retain value, and free in digital release because of governing internet principles, is something that the public has not warmed up to as a whole, and will not, probably, for some time. It’s also something that the corporate entities actively fight. In this way, they can continue to sell a worthless digital product for a common price.
MD: Speaking of the global DIY scene, The Snake has people in a bunch of different countries. For people in the US, music generally begins and ends with American music with some UK bands thrown in. How important is it to capitalize on the DIY scenes in places like Sweden and Israel?
AP: American nationalism, and ultimately, American ignorance, extends far beyond our political dealings into the business world, and because we see music as a market rather than a cultural vessel, it suffers from this syndrome. The fine art scene, is one of the few scenes where Americans embrace other cultural viewpoints, particularity because these people have a deeper understanding of what drives global progress. Poetically, visually and on an auditory level, art affects thinking. Cultural upbringing, clearly, affects perspective, and it’s this diversity of perspective that allow us to problem solve as one global human organism. This is why it’s disadvantageous to exclude other cultures, in any affair, artistic, political or economic. I’m sure Benjamin (our manager) get’s very different recommendations from our representatives in Paris or Australia, than he does from me in New York.
MD: In addition to bringing music from around the world to the forefront, The Snake and Dingus also work with Meme Movement to put on free live shows that celebrate these DIY bands. So far they have taken place in New York. Are there plans to spread the shows out to other cities? Is part of the importance of these shows a sense of building the community?
AP: The shows have only taken place in New York City out of necessity. Right now all these groups run on a volunteer basis and are relatively new. If someone wanted to host a Meme show in Paris, I would be delighted to help them set it up, but let’s be honest, most people are either focused on their own dreams, or striving to make as much money as possible. A little home-made music project is not normally the kind of thing to grab attention. That being said, what the Snake, Meme and DIngus all do, on a philosophical level, is extremely pervasive on an international level. Our goals, our dreams, are monumental, and given the proper outlet, our theories about the global music network have massive implications for the entire world.
As I said, we are a young group and there are many “next steps”. One of them is opening a Kickstarter project, to see if the world responds to our ideas in the way we’d hope. And the other is writing grant programs, to see if academia deems us worthy.
MD: Recently The Snake started putting out cassette tapes of EP’s and LP’s. Was there a discussion about the sustainability of physical media, or was there a need to allow people to have tangible products that they could hold on to?
AP: The idea came about within the context of music as fine art. We believe that there should be some physical testament to the work, something that could theoretically be buried when civilization collapses, for the next intelligent beings to find and decipher. More immediately, the physical copy provides a benchmark to say “here, this is the art in its true, real world form”. Having a set number of releases helps the art retain value. The valueless commodity, the digital copy, is a gift to the world, for all to enjoy. But, can you imagine if the next Radiohead album was only printed on 100 limited edition vinyls? It would be like owning a Damien Hirst original (**laughs), it would be as highly valued too. This is how musicians can steal back, from the corporate sphere, their artform; limited pressings.
MD: I know that, as of now, these projects focus solely on DIY music. Are there any plans to broaden the spectrum into other arts? Doing ebook publishing or hosting gallery shows for artists who wouldn’t be able to otherwise showcase their work?
AP: Dingus has a history of breaking away from DIY music and occasionally interviewing a DIY artist, performer or thinker. I think that its important to understand that art, regardless of medium, is art. Meme Movement’s first show, No More Love, featured 4 visual artists, but we have no been able to do that since. We’d like to, its merely a matter of where my personal connections lie, the visual art world is far more estranged to me (and far more confusing to me, as well).
MD: What are the plans for the future? Have you mapped out a plan for what you’d like to do, or do you just take it as it comes?
AP: Financial backing. As much as these projects are not about money, it’s hard to get the word out further than our immediate surroundings without having some sort of funding for advertisement/promotion. We’d like to go international, we’d like to own our own warehouse space and we’d like to be able to commit ourselves 100% to the cause, but unfortunately, there are bills to pay.
So for all you millionaires out there, reading this interview: I invite you to impact your world, your global art vessel. I invite you to help revive music, to take it back from the grave of capitalism. You know where to find us.
If you find yourself in New York City on one of the following dates, be sure to check out one of the shows being put on by Meme Movement:
March 30th at The Other Side
April 14th at The Other Side
May 18th at Free Candy (featuring Chicago’s The Canoes)