Q&A with Paul Josephs and MetroSonics

Live in Philly-1

Paul Josephs on stage.

– What are some of the challenges facing independent musicians today as they try to get their music out there?

There’s an over saturation of media in general making any artist one in an ever increasing pool of data, image and sound.  Back in the day, according to an older cousin of mine who is of the flower-child generation, you could only get music that was produced in the past year or so in a record store.  So what was available for purchase was only the most current music of the time.  We’re talking 1960’s and you couldn’t get a Benny Goodman record from the 1930’s.  Now as new artists we have the entire history of recorded music to compete with, most of which the average 5 year old can get for free on YouTube.  So that’s a basic challenge.

Connected to this is the fact that live music culture has decreased with the predominance of computers of various sorts involved in the making of music.  A DJ or even an i-pod, phone or laptop shrinks the market for people with actual instruments in their hands.  You can lament it, and I do, but you can’t deny it.  Don’t get me wrong; some of my best friends are DJ’s!  People still love the real thing but I wonder how far we are from seeing a hologram tour of a classic Bob Marley or James Brown concert re-cast in new 3D and playing at the Apollo.  That’s not a joke.

Final issue: on a grass roots level the clubs in the US are not giving up-and-coming artists the chance to earn a steady stream of income.  I read an article with David Byrne (The Talking Heads, multi-media artists and activist extraordinaire) in which he talked about being able to pay his rent playing twice a week at CBGB’s in the NY’s LES. This was Byrne playing original music as a relatively unknown artist at the time.  This is unheard of in NY today.

Now at the same time there are people that respect live music and artists a great deal and are willing to support it.  I’ve got a bunch of gigs in Europe lined up for the spring and it’s all paid work.  I’m grateful to be able to do what I do and make my way.

– How do you feel about music piracy?  Is it helping or hurting the industry?

Selling recorded music in the traditional sense is basically over as a way of making income for the average musician. How do I feel about it? It would be great, for me if recorded music still had value because I spend a lot of time, effort and money on making the best recordings I can. In regards to the industry, I don’t even know what that means.  There are only individual cases for the independent artist. Unless you’re an artist on the mass commercial level like Justin Timberlake or Lady Gaga there is no music industry. It’s the Wild West out here.  You get what you can however you can.

– How would you describe your personal relationship with technology?

I make music first.  Technology is a tool for music making.  I try not to put the cart before the horse.

– On your website you say that the City (NYC) and Nature is your ‘alchemy for universal communication’. Can you say more about this and from where you draw your inspiration?

Well I was born in NYC so the city and its rhythms are a part of me.  Nature, or one’s nature is something that no one can take away.  You can look all over the world in slums and ghettos with horrible architecture and ugly, man-made structures but within those unfortunate scenes a tree, a bird, a cloud, or a beautiful person is just as beautiful as in the wealthiest gated communities or in the most untouched places in nature.  You can’t take away from nature or add to it, it just is.  When you make music from a genuine place, not trying to construct but allowing music to flow through you it will always be unique and soulful.  The city is the ultimate man made construction and in its intensity and density a natural rhythm appears- the busiest kind you can imagine, the extreme of yang.  Then there’s a silence of the land like the sound of grass growing.  That environment has a sound and a language in the same way the city does, but a lot more yin.  It’s the in between of those two types of spaces where I sometimes find my songs.

– What are the band’s plans for this year?

Well, the band will be doing some east coast spot dates this spring.  Then I personally am off to Europe for a run of solo concerts.  I’ll be headed to England, Holland, Germany, France and maybe Russia. Then back to NY for more east coast touring with the band and as a solo act, in the summer.

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