Dispelling the Dream

For those of you watching X-Factor and aspiring to “live the dream”, let me say this: the dream does not exist. Inside that alluring vision of excitement lurks a banal reality, from methodical and sometimes tedious work to concerns over what to cook for dinner. As I see it, we musicians (and this is also applicable to all artists) range from the amateur rehearsing band/bedroom producer to the highly paid superstars across the industry, but they all share the commonality of being humans with banal thoughts and considerations.

Let me explain where I fit into this range; I am somewhere right down the middle. A semi-pro: earning cash money from music, but not enough to solely survive on; having releases and touring but without any real success or breakthrough. It’s not such a bad place to be actually.

I am friends with and have met many (far) more successful than I. Some of these people may even be considered “famous”. And yet fame itself is a destructive burden to place upon anyone, but especially on artists who come packaged with all manner of insecurities and self-doubts. Fame is restrictive and downright cumbersome. It encourages fear and mistrust. It serves only the ego: that selfish, jealous, aggressive part of your soul that, throughout human history, has lead to war and other bad things.

I prefer to live in a more conscious realm, considered and welcoming. I like to talk about what I am having for dinner, or what the best way of recording an acoustic guitar might be. Fame, “The Dream”, I understand, is negative and destructive and filled with peril. One only needs to look at the drug abuse, untimely deaths, depression and plastic surgery among celebrity circles to understand that it is not a happy place.

Moreover, placed in our fragile minds is the constant bombardment of this malevolent equation: Fame = Dream = Happiness. It is the fundamental cornerstone of X Factor in particular. It draws thousands of would-be happy people to auditions and millions more to their TV screens. And at this point, everything else becomes easy. You will buy anything, listen to anything, love anything. So long as you are told to. It’s quite simple…

And this is what I want to write about here. I believe that “The Dream” is a myth, designed for consumers by advertisers. It pervades the arts, destroying all creativity within it. It is cynical and base. It is the essence of our destructive selves. But all we need to do is think about it for a moment, and it all becomes clear. Don’t worry, you needn’t be afraid. Just remain alert and remember: the people “living the dream” are just people, much like you and I.


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Welcome Back!

Of course, I am speaking aloud, to myself. Happiness Machines seems like the perfect place for me to sound off about the world in which I live. I am a musician – sometimes aspiring, sometimes living – but my cynicism only leads me towards depressing notions of where I am.

I hear the phrase, “living the dream” a lot. I hear it on X Factor a lot. And as such, I use it a lot. I mean it in its most sarcastic form, since “the dream” is really a smoke and mirrors illusion. And where better to discuss “the dream” than in the realm of Happiness Machines?

I hope you enjoy…

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A shivering personification of loathe

Well, let’s cut straight to the apology: I’m sorry. I haven’t written in a while. Like all forms of creativity, writing seems to come in fits and starts. I have spent some of the past week attempting to analyse what has changed to make me so uninspired. (For the record, I have started blogs only for their immediate dismissal to take place in my critical brain). Perhaps its been the no-smoking two weeks of depression that was lifted by the alternate depression of smoking itself. Perhaps I have been overly tired. Perhaps I am seriously ill, whose mysterious symptoms include depression, tiredness and an inability to think creatively.

Most likely, I didn’t really have anything to talk about.

So, all these thoughts of my creativity has led to this actual post that’s here and you are reading. My creative life is a common tale of insecurities and doubts and downright failure. I think I have long desired a lifestyle that encourages creativity of some sort, though it took a long time to acknowledge I could actually do that centrally to my existence. But where to focus? That is something I am only recently discovering after many years of confusion. I flittered and floundered between music and radio and community work for so long, that it all missed the energetic years of my life : my early 20s. But now, I feel released and empowered by the confidence of actually making good music, and actually enjoying it thoroughly. All I need now is to actually make some money doing all this creative bollocks.

Unfortunately, I seem to be swimming against a tide of crapturd. The industrious music industry seems to be challenging me every single painful step in the correct direction. Tonight was an interesting example of this: during our cleaning of the restaurant at which I earn money, someone had the temerity of tuning the radio to XFM. (This in itself showed me the fallibility of existence, or something). Then the DJ spoke (following the Product-Sell-Sell evilness), and the entire world and its shared consciousness turned to a bland shade of mildew. The banality of Rock-N-Roll-Lifestyle-meets-Music-Industry-Backscratch based shit was sickening to say the least. And then the music…

What does it say about us when Starsailor are “Album of the Week” on XFM? Firstly, the song they played was such a blatant rip-off of Oasis/Don’t Look Back In Anger, it actually defied belief. Secondly, it was such a shonk of middle of the road bland mildew, all nearby flora actually wilted in sympathy. And thirdly, does anyone still give a shit about a band who were terrible in the first place? Not me, no no no.

Next up on XFM: The Killers. “Are we human, or are we dancer?” I was so absolutely outraged by the pretension of the question, I was reduced to a shivering personification of loathe. A t’internet search revealed the extent of the problem.

“We’ve had this argument with so many people, and we always stand up for Brandon — that his use of “dancer” is fuckin’ rad.” (Thanks, Rolling Stone).

A little more research, however, it appears I am not alone in casting aspersion upon Brandon Flowers’ blatantly terrible lyrics:

“The rhyme “answer/dancer” focuses attention on the question – is he on his knees for a proposal of marriage, surrender, or a blowjob? – but there’s not much connective tissue.” (Thank God for The Guardian).

Perhaps, if I was truly being journalistic, I would find more quotes to highlight the raging lyrical debate currently thriving across the interweb. But really, this investigation is going nowhere, except proving the sheer tripe that The Killers produce. Let’s not forget, the song itself is an absolute disgrace; nothing more than a fart in a wind machine.

Finally (before ABORT button was utilised): The Prodigy‘s new single. Its a shame: The Prodigy’s first two albums were timeless brilliance. Completely of their time of course, but the quality was on a higher plane. They still sound relevant and creative and exciting today. Timeless indeed. However, Liam obviously had some issues in maintaining that energy. Music evolved, and Liam simply couldn’t keep up. Music-geek-heaven, Sound On Sound, illustrated the point (buried within their sterile writing):

“”My studio is crammed with equipment, but I ended up feeling I was being overcome by it all — it was just too much,” he says. “I used to go to bed every night thinking ‘Tomorrow, I’m going to write the tune, tomorrow is going to be the day,’ but nothing ever happened.”

That pretty much says it all to me, and the result is what we hear today: a cynical, nostalgic reversion to earlier glory. The single is basically nothing more than a Prodigy cover band re-recording an old Prodigy tune and sticking The Prodigy brand all over it. It must have been tough, living incredible days only for the world around you to change and leave you behind. They might have sold thousands, millions of records even. But nothing else really counted. Dance was dead, and there was nothing Liam could have done to stop it. Now, a solution has appeared: con the public into thinking that nostalgia for the 90s is cool. Why not? It worked for the 80s.

And so, within the space of three terrible songs, span across a void of XFM emptiness, I was left with only one question: why is their creativity worth so much more than mine?

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