Not An Authority

Admittedly, I am not an authority — on anything at all for the matter. I don’t claim to be an expert on any subject. That said, there have been a number of people that have asked me to share my perspective and/or the knowledge that I do have; as limited as that may be. In a time when knowledge is power, many of us have access to knowledge but are treated like mushrooms (kept in the dark, and fed a load of crap). So in keeping with the spirit of each one — teach one, I share with you all.

Anything that I have shared is an attempt to help others and maybe a point of reflection. If I can share a little of my experience to benefit you and your creative endeavors, then I feel I have accomplished something. If not, then at the very least, this has been cathartic for me.  Some things that I share are simply just so that I can laugh at them — if you laugh too then that is a bonus.

I am currently in the process of writing several posts at the same time. I’ve had several ideas for a few different topics; so why not?* ** I don’t have any rule that states: “if I start a post then I must finish it before I begin another”. Plus, starting them prevents me from forgetting about them completely and never writing them at all.

I might release a post here and there as I finish them. I could also very well drop a several posts at the same time.  Who knows?* ** It is a brand new year, full of possibilities.

I am going to share a lot of tips, suggestions, and a few stories with you all this year in addition to the podcasts.  So stay tuned/up, posted, …errr …ummm, check back or something.

Anyways, take what you want from my ramblings — and leave the rest. Just don’t take everything I say seriously.  My words aren’t gospel.  The entirety of it isn’t meant to be taken as such. You have to figure it out for yourself and make it your own. It is how we keep tradition while evolving the craft.  In the words of the great warrior poet, Jayo felony — “I can give it to you but whatcha gon do wit it?”

Best wishes to you all for 2017.


*Rhetorical Question.  Not meant to be answered.
**Note: I am compelled to inform people now of rhetorical questions.  I made an attempt at humor recently on social media, and someone got bent out of shape because they couldn’t understand the intent. Instead, they kept insisting on pursuing their perspective / literal interpretation.  In doing so, they completely missed the intended value, or wit.

Initially, I chose to ignore their attempt at stating the obvious. But when another person didn’t get it either and stated it as well, I explained that it wasn’t meant to be taken seriously and was only a “quip” (just an offhand attempt at a witty remark). The first person wouldn’t let it go, even after the other person understood my intent and moved on. Maybe they were just committed in refusal to understand the intended humor. No one, including me, was contending their assertion. Literally, they were right and I was in agreement. I stated so multiple times. Although, I should point out that in my agreement with them that I was adamant about a basic facet of the issue that was fairly axiomatic. Plenty of other people understood the intended meaning right away. It wasn’t an abstract concept.

Again, I explained repeatedly that I completely understood their assertion. I even removed the post and made it private because they beat it into the ground. The nail in the coffin was when I stated they were just awkwardly beating a dead-horse.  As a result, they are no longer speaking to me.

If you must know, the remark made was about an intended misinterpretation of the Netflix content rating system. I literally posted, “Netflix is what happens when you let everyone who grew up receiving participation trophies review online — almost everything ends up with 4 stars.” Some people are ride or die about Netflix apparently.

It is an unfortunate turn of events and I hope they enjoy being right.

Hence, the note/disclaimer.  Feel free not to understand my humor and repeatedly assert how correct you are. I honestly don’t care and it doesn’t stop things from being funny. From now on, I am only going to agree with people once and then I will move on with my life.

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The Podcast and The EP


Apologies

First, I want to apologize for it having been so long since my last blog post; for this I am truly sorry. Let’s skip the excuses and move on to the good news — which is that I have been working towards expanding the blog to include the addition of a video/audio podcast.

The podcast will be available on the Z3R0K3W1 YouTube Channel in the Podcast Playlist. The first episode is available now and features Denver artist/turntablist, Dunroq, as our special guest. In addition to the website, the audio version of Z3R0K3W1 Podcast will be available soon on iTunes, Spotify, and Google Play to download / stream.  You can stream the first episode below.

I have secured a comfortable space to record the podcast and I am really excited to share this with all of you. I will be featuring local Colorado DJs, producers, musicians and artists, comedians, budtenders, and many more. In addition, there are many visiting guests scheduled to appear as well. Keep checking back for more information — like sneak previews or some behind the scenes action. *nudge, nudge* *wink, wink*

dunroq-promoZ3R0K3W1 Podcast  2016 ©

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Z3R0K3W1 Podcast  2016 ©


The Nitty-Gritty

Today, I wanted to speak to the musicians, songwriters, etc about a little strategy. I know some have mentioned my tendency to ramble in my blog posts. So I’ll endeavor to maintain some semblance of brevity.  Already, I digress…

By this point if you are creating music of some sort then you are probably familiar with the EP. EP is an acronym, or short for ‘extended play’ album. An EP album contains more music than just a single but is unqualified to be a LP, or full studio album. LP is an acronym, or short for ‘long play’ album. LP is a term used for CDs and/or digital downloads but originally, and more commonly, is used in reference to the 12 inch vinyl record format. A full studio album may contain 8 or more songs. The average EP often contains only 4 songs.

Many dream of releasing their first full studio album, but how many considered first the EP?

The EP for the listener

Limiting the amount of songs for an EP can be useful for reaching listeners unfamiliar with your work. Why overwhelm an audience that may not be looking to give your work the attention you think it deserves? Consider showcasing specific selections and let the listener sample your work. Peak an interest in the listener without beating them over the head with your music. This benefits you as an artist by converting the listener into a fan. You’re a dealer, and music is your drug — give them a taste, get them hooked, and get them coming back for more product. Use the EP as a gauge to tell if a full album would do well, or if you need more time to refine your sound.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAn EP gives the listener just enough of what they want. Like a single, the listener can acquire just the music they want without spending too much money on the music they don’t. Let’s face it — it is not often that every song on a full studio album is a hit. In a world of streaming, it is better to have a fan buying some of your music (single or EP) than none of your music.  Sales always pay better than streaming royalties.

Keep in mind that putting an EP to market costs money. So you only want to use the EP to showcase, or highlight, specific work to put front of an audience. The idea is return on investment; unless you don’t mind spending money just to put music out that only your mom buys. She’s a nice lady — go give her a hug!

EP for the artist/creator

For new artists, an EP can be used to demonstrate your sound. EPs can be great when experimenting with new sounds/styles/genres as well. Making them a great tool to minimize cost and easily obtain fan feedback.

EPs can also be used as a tool to obtain new opportunities like performances and/or collaborations. Think of it as your business card. You pass it along, as your credentials, to others in the industry. Do they listen to it? Doesn’t matter. It is about as arbitrary was them looking at your business card. The hope is that at least a percentage of them will.

In showcasing new music for new listeners, again the artist has an opportunity to convert new listeners into new fans that are eager for that next release. Word of mouth is always the best advert. An EP can help build an audience that is familiar with your work and is more likely to support your future endeavors.

EPs make great merch for sale at concerts. Or even just to hand out at concerts. One such artist, that I am personal a fan of, walked up to me at a show and slipped me an mixtape. Kosha Dillz is that artist. I remember bumping into him at multiple shows in Colorado and Oregon. He was always on his hustle and would slip me stickers or CDs before quickly disappearing into the crowd like he was a figment of my imagination.

There are many people that won’t consider listening to your EP and will drop it in the first trash bin they see, or just drop it on the ground as soon as you walk away. Despite those people, there are some that will pocket it and give a listen on a whim — because they are actively looking for new music instead of waiting for it to come to them.

The best advice I can give you is to put your music into the hands of people you don’t know. I know from experience strangers are far more likely to support you than those closest to you in most cases. It is a harsh reality I have heard many complain about — but in my experience, strangers are the best word of mouth promotion. Advertising/marketing collateral is something people can respond to, touch/feel, accept without the pressure of a sales pitch. Something they can review later at their discretion/leisure.

“But CDs are dead!”, you’re saying. I hear you loud and clear. You are preaching to the choir. Most would be hard pressed to find something in their house to play a CD with. Even still, many are noticing an upswing in vinyl record sales. Let me stop here for a moment… because I agree that nobody wants a CD as marketing collateral and vinyl is far too expensive. Only hipsters are taking those from you on the fly anyways.

So what is the play here? Digital download cards are handy and easy to distribute. They are easy to pocket and have a less chance of being immediately ditched. Music from digital downloads can be quickly added to an existing music libraries or even point the listener to your other resources — like your website or online storefront. The downside is motivating people to dig the D/L card out of their pocket, go to their computer or device, and browse a website / app to find your music.

How about USB drives?  Low capacity drives (perfect for EPs / LPs / singles) can be purchased in bulk from online wholesalers for very low cost like alibaba.com. The downside to this is loading each drive. I would definitely recommend implementing the use of a USB hub here. This is something you would do in limited batch quantities; but may be very successful in promoting your EP / music. USB drives are small, can be easily pocketed, and are less likely to be ditched. If anything someone will erase your music and use it for storage. At least you tried. Plus, if they are motivated enough to put in the work to erase the drive, then there is the small chance they will be motivated enough to listen to it first.

Ready to start playing gigs and selling product at your merch table?  You’ve got shirts, hats, and several boxes of your full album waiting to unload — but nobody know who you are? This is a perfect time to sell your EP, and give people a taste of of your music without forking over bucks for a full album they know nothing about. My last suggestion be to setup QR codes on your table a product tags to redirect potential fans to your music (EP) / website. Build that fan base, and maybe you’ll see them at your next show — where they’ll be eager to grab that full studio album.

I guess that is about it for now.  For more information on EPs, consider Google or Bing. Don’t forget to check out the Podcast (S01E01 – Dunroq) and click subscribe.

Peace!

-Z

Nothing Grows In The Comfort Zone

Hello Again

A few of you may know me from YouTube as the guy that cleans records with wood glue.  A few more may know me as a local Colorado DJ/producer.  Still a few more may know me as one of the organizers for the Denver Scratch Sessions (the others being Chris Funktion Robisch-Espinoza (Dunroq), Aaron Amuse Mendelsberg, and Dia Absolute Beshara).  I’d like to think of myself as an anti-social creator that uses collaboration as a tool to help build a diverse social community for the free exchange of ideas to further art and people.

Information And The (D)Evolution Of The DJ

Open exchange of ideas, techniques, and methodology in turntablism and electronic music production seems to be a fairly new concept — at least to me it does.  I recognize that newer generations have been raised in an age where information is at their fingertips; with internet and assets like search engines (YouTube, Google…) or social media (Facebook, Twitter…).  Today finding information or sharing information can be done in a blink of an eye.  The challenge is finding relevant information in a sea of overly shared inadequate information.  For previous generations, much of this information was often guarded as a trade secrets.  Apprenticeships were not uncommon to acquire access to these trade secrets and for guidance to hone skills.  As technology advanced, apprenticeships faded into obscurity and the age of the bedroom DJ/producer dawned.  Today, there are many DJ schools (online and in various cities) to fill a demand for access to these trade secrets/skills.

“The Comfort Zone Is A Nice Place But Nothing Grows There”

I often felt that as a DJ, I personally benefited the most from engaging with a live crowd or other DJs.  Being an naturally anti-social individual, it was tempting to be a bedroom DJ and avoid interaction with others.  Even with having access to online tutorials and videos to study at home, isolated practice was never met with the same results as engaging with other DJs/people.  I was compelled to seek out other turntablists.

An Awkward Journey

I first became interested in turntables in the early 90’s.  Before the days of AOL and in the days of early peer-to peer dial-up, there was BBS (bulletin board systems).  I spent many hours programming my own BBS to share .wav audio files and host chat forums about electronic music.  I could only run my BBS late at night, because running the BBS meant tying up the phone line.  My personal BBS was called Max 2.0 — I don’t know why it was 2.0, there wasn’t a 1.0 or any previous version before it.  I hosted with a local company at the Plaza of The Rockies that ran a similar BBS called “Kicks (or maybe it was KIX)”.  Various members of the forums and hackers would meet downtown at a Denny’s to drink crappy coffee and talk about turntables, electronic music production, and computers.

To shorten the timeline a bit, AOL came and dial-up improved if only mildly.  I remember sharing sound files and music through AOL messenger, then MSN messenger, and Yahoo messenger.  At one point I spent a lot of time in Yahoo chat rooms taking turns sharing the room with other DJs.  I used adapters to run the RCA cables from the mixer to the 1/8 inch mic input on my PC — back then I just had the SoundBlaster audiocard.  DJs would use 3rd party software to lock the mic to the on position, and crudely sample live mixes for listeners in the chat room.  It was in a Yahoo chat rooms that I met DJ Dojah, with whom I shared various live mixes.

It wasn’t all chat-rooms for me in the beginning.  I had a lot of “techno” DJ friends.  I use the term techno as a broad term for electronic music; relative to how the term EDM is loosely applied today.  None of my friends were turntablists — I never heard the term turntablism even used by any of the DJs in my community.  My friends were into trance, DNB, House, and various other electronic genres.  I had plenty of opportunity to hear all about the importance of mixing, or blending, and avoiding trainwrecks.  I was well versed in discussions about BPM, counting a beat, and lining up the snare/claps.  The one constant was that these DJs weren’t interested skratching or in the free exchange of information regarding turntablism.  DJs were very much an elite group of individuals in my community and were very isolated.  Sure, we came together to rock a party (lots of underground raves at that time) but we didn’t come together much as DJs other than that.

For me at that time, the best resource for learning and improving was the internet and live play.  Before YouTube there were sites that shared videos, like Toadstyle.  My first introduction to turntablism, Thud Rumble, the DMC, Wavetwisters, and Turntable TV was because of battle sites like Toadstyle.  I immediately joined forums that were unfamiliar to me like Qbert’s skratch forum.  A whole new wave of information about styles and skills was available to me.  The other best resource, live play, was huge to me.  Getting out there and just party rocking was essential to knowing the crowd and what works.  Being able to read a crowd, how they react, and adjusting to the crowd is necessary to being a great performer.  It’s hard to find a crowd in a bedroom.  That and getting out in public, and simply meeting people, is a big part of networking — I will cover more about networking in a later post.

Eventually the Qbert Skratch University opened online and a whole new online experience for DJs emerged.  The learning curve for turntablism changed dramatically.  Having access to the legend, DJ Qbert, to personally review, analyze, and critique submitted videos by students was a game changer.  The addition of a skratch encyclopedia of tutorials made the search for information a one-stop shop.  I was very impressed with the Qbert Skratch University overall; it was exactly what I was waiting for.

The main benefit of the QSU was the social interaction.  In addition to the direct interaction with Qbert, there was also a large group of students enrolled that were more than eager to review videos and encourage/support one another.  The wave of new ideas and resources that flowed in the chat boards was nothing less than phenomenal.  There were DJs like Hex that shared his custom Teflon accessories to hold records snug against the platter spindle, Gold Voltron and his endless collection of beats to skratch to, and many loopers and other tools that became available through QSU.  My main takeaways were the access to information and networking.  The ability to meet people, even if online, and build relationships centered around a common interests is a huge thing to me.  However QSU also allowed you to find and identify with turntablists in your area.  I finally found myself immersed in a turntable community.

There were many DJs that I stumbled across randomly in various areas that I resided in, and many of them enjoyed turntablism but weren’t practicing it themselves.  I met DJs in Chicago, Fort Collins, Eugene, and various other places but it was when I returned to Denver that I discovered a large local community of turntablists.

The Denver Skratch Sessions

The concept for the Denver Skratch Sessions came out of a discussion that Chris Robisch-Espinoza and I had shortly before the initial launch.  I met Dia Beshara online and then in person at Redline Studios.  Dia hosted the event/gathering that I met Chris at, where the discussion for building the turntablist community and the Denver Skratch Sessions occurred. Dia later offered to host the Skratch Sessions at a central Denver location, Absolute Studios, in 5 Points and later Aaron stepped in to help move the events to Community Service — respect due to Ricky Langdon (CommServ) for facilitating this.  Dia has since moved to NY and is still helping DJs and musicians succeed in his area.

A video about Dia and Absolute Studios when the original Denver Scratch Sessions were held:

The Denver Scratch Sessions were very successful.  Every event had a numerous attendees and grew with each occasion.  Some of the events were sponsored by Qbert SKratch University (QSU)ShureAerial 7, Innofader, and Pro X Fade.  Attendees included Chris Karns (2011 DMC World DJ Champion, 2002 WSTC World Champion, 6x DMC Regional Champion, and Redbull Thre3style Champion), members of Radio Bums, members of Bassmentalism, members of the Denver Hip-Hop Congress, members of Colorado Cut Committee, and many more.  It became necessary to move the event when we did.

Video of the a Denver Skratch Session (Courtesy of K-Bo Cutz, of Legally Manic Kidz):

The Denver Westord wrote an article about the Denver Skratch Sessions, and the Culture of Scratch, after an interview with Chris.

I believe these skratch sessions were so successful because it brought DJs together to talk shop.  It allowed these turntablists to network, share information, better understand other styles/skills, and walk away with even more love for turntables — if that was even possible.

Today’s Squad Goals.

More recently I have been thinking about how much I love turntablism and how much I enjoyed the Denver Skratch Sessions.  It is my wish to organize another event, or more, before summers end in Denver.  I will be looking to coordinate with past organizers and attendees to make this happen.  With any luck, we may even get Dia out for a visit.  Mile High turntablists can come out of the bedroom/comfort zones and cut together again. I sincerely hope this happens and look forward to seeing some familiar faces if it does.

Peace and be well,

-Z

Feeling Trapped – I Can Relate

Lately, I have been thinking a lot about what my blog posts would even be about.  I thought that maybe it should be relevant to music, the industry, and maybe what I am doing in it.  The more I thought about confining the subject matter, the more I began to worry about creating content for those specific topics.  I wondered if I would even have enough to write about.

Today I was sitting passenger in a car and was asked about my opinions about transgender use of public bathrooms.  Let me stop and apologize now; I am sorry because clearly this is not a subject about the topics previously mentioned.  This subject doesn’t even run parallel to those topics or to music in general.  So decidedly this blog won’t be confined to those topics and will branch out much further than I may have initially intended.  Again, I apologize if you were expecting this post to be about something much different but I digress…

The person I was having this conversation with is a staunch religious conservative.  I myself would say that I am a non-religious/unaffiliated liberal.  I knew immediately this conversation would be combative and I wasn’t wrong in my assumption.  I often feel that I am hijacked into these types of conversation or held hostage in these situations.  That these individuals prey on their opposition and wait patiently for a situation that isn’t easy to escape before maneuvering into these discussions.  They repeatedly thrust their opinions on their victims denying opposing views while searching for validation or acceptance.  I would guess when your views are questionable, it is understandable to seek validation to feel at ease with those opinions (yeah, that statement might have been a jab — but conservatives have thick skins …right?).

The other party’s view was that the transgender should use the bathroom that matches their gender assigned at birth (or whatever gender their birth-certificate states is the corresponding bathroom they should use).  I countered with my belief that I, and others, are in the restroom to use the facilities for its intended purpose, and that gender is irrelevant.  My opposition maintained that anyone should be comfortable using the restroom of the gender that they were assigned at birth.  I challenged that much of the issue is that transgender people don’t feel comfortable with the body/gender they were assigned at birth, why would the restroom be any different?  I clarified that as I understood it, many trans-gender choose the gender they feel they identify the most with, not the gender that birth identified them as.  I don’t see this as sexual act, but as a choice of identity — like choosing to take a person’s surname when married.  Using the respective restroom that they identify with is simply making a choice to accept that identity and there is nothing sexual about that decision.  I asked the other party if they, or any one they knew, was using what they felt was the correct gender specific bathroom out of a sexual need or if they were doing so out of a need to identify?  Immediately they denied any sexual need or agenda.

The other party regurgitated the widely repeated concern about a man being in the same restroom with women; or specifically that a sex crime may occur if we allowed a male to occupy a restroom with women.  I countered that the greater concern is the person(s) entering a restroom fixated on the sexual organs of others and there is no concern for the people attempting to use the facilities for its intended purpose.  I asked my opposition to describe a situation in which they, or anyone else they met, ever felt sexually threatened or were assaulted by a transgender person.  They could not describe any such situation.  I pointed out that their concerns have no history to merit this cause for concern.

I asked, “Where do you think transgender people have been going to the restroom up until now?”  They shook shrugged unknowingly.  I added, “The transgender community is not asking for new bathroom privileges.  There isn’t a conspiracy for these individuals to use facilities they aren’t already accustomed to using — and to my knowledge, there isn’t any clear history of a credible cause for concern.”

The other party turned quickly shifted gears and asked, “What if we build separate bathrooms for transgender people?”

To which I asked, “Are you going to make separate bathrooms for priests, Speakers of the House, college football coaches, former Subway restaurant spokesmen, and all the pedophiles of the nation?  If you remember, a moment ago you weren’t able to recall one instance of any transgender person committing an act of sexual aggression, or sex crime, in any public restroom.  So you really want them to build all these new restrooms?”

They muttered, “I guess not.”

The conversation quickly ended after stating my objections.  The other party didn’t have anything further to add.  There was no validation to be had.

Again, I feel strongly that most people are using restroom facilities for their intended purposes and that is all anyone is really thinking about while they are in there — or at most random thoughts from their daily lives.  Concern about being targeted by a minority in a restroom is about as arbitrary as trying to imagine the same assault occurring at a landfill — it just isn’t a place people are thinking about that.  I think the real concern is with the people that are worried about the gender and sexual organs of other people in public facilities.  Truly that is a real disturbance and they are the real potential predators.  If we are going to fix bathroom problems then let us fix credible problems — like finding a clean public bathroom in an inner city.  I don’t support an affront to civil rights under the guise of public safety in a poor effort to mask religious moral objections and bigotry.  Furthermore, don’t trap me in a negative discussion in an effort to get my approval.  I rarely validate poor opinions or parking.

My First Blog – “Welcome”

Welcome to z3r0k3w1.com and the first entry in what is to be my blog.  I am in the process of wiping the slate clean and building a new site to which I will share my projects, ideas, and events.

I am always open to any thoughts that might make this site more enjoyable for you and me.  So please feel free to reach out to me by email at: zerokewl@z3r0k3w1.com or use the contact tab at the top of the page.

Also, please explore the social tabs at the bottom of any page on the site, and connect with me on your favorite social platforms.

Peace,
-Z