Archive | Music

Farewell to David Bowie

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Farewell to David Bowie

Posted on 11 January 2016 by D' MacKinnon

bowie-ronson

A long time ago I was in a band and we had this photo hanging in our practice space. Like innumerable other musicians, David Bowie had a huge influence on my life. My writing partner and I wanted to BE Bowie and Ronson. My father first introduced me to David Bowie when I was a youth. Of course we all heard his hits on the radio during the 80s but the first album I listened to start to finish by him was Diamond Dogs. It was probably the first concept album I had heard and it just so happened to be about one of my favorite books. To this day it’s still my favorite album by Bowie. It’s no coincidence that my favorite Iggy Pop and Lou Reed records were produced by David Bowie.

I always respected that he was never satisfied with repeating past successes. He refused to churn out the same album again and again, he was the constant chameleon but musically and visually. He wasn’t looking to follow his peers but to create something new that others would follow.

Mr. Bowie still had many more stories to share with us, I’m saddened that we’ll never get to hear them. The world was changed because of him and is less full of wonder with him gone. Thank you for the music, David.

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Dr. Dre’s grand finale, ‘Compton’

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Dr. Dre’s grand finale, ‘Compton’

Posted on 17 August 2015 by D' MacKinnon

Dr. Dre's Compton

Compton, Dr. Dre’s grand finale.


Before we begin, a little backstory. For those who don’t know, years before I was in a goth/industrial band in the early 2000’s I was a teen growing up in the 90’s. Alternative music was a varied and diverse landscape back then. You could go see acts like Alice in Chains, Ice Cube, Cypress Hill, Henry Rollins and Nine Inch Nails all performing at the same festival.

Ice Cube with Ministry, Lush, The Jesus and Mary Chain

Ice Cube with Al Jourgenson from Ministry, Miki Berenyi from Lush, and Jim Reid from The Jesus and Mary Chain at Lollapalooza in 1992.

The early 90’s was an incredible shifting point for hip hop. NWA totally changed the game the way that grunge changed rock music. Suddenly the music that was popular a few years before seemed totally ridiculous. For a teen growing up in the suburbs what Ice Cube referred to as “reality rap” was my first exposure to the world of the violence, crime and racism that the members of NWA experienced. This music blew my mind and I was hooked immediately.

For years he has teased his follow up to his second album, 2001. But between producing albums for other artists, growing a successful business and maybe just self-doubt, years go by with no new album. Over the years we hear parts of these tracks as songs under other artists like 50 Cent, The Game and frustrating half-finished leaks on the Internet. It only continues to fuel the mystique and legend behind the album that was then known as Detox. After the sale of Beats Audio to Apple my friends and I all thought that it had sealed the fate on Dre’s third album and that it would never end up getting released.

Then news starts picking up on the new NWA biopic film. People are getting excited about his music again. Flash forward to 2015, without warning Dr. Dre announces the release of Compton.

It sounds fresh, modern. It has the signature Dr. Dre touches but it doesn’t sound like a continuation of his last album. Just like how 2001 sounded nothing like The Chronic, Compton> sounds nothing like what we have heard of before from Dre. A big reason why Detox was never released was a feeling of boredom by Dr. Dre. He didn’t want to simply repeat a formula he had previously perfected, he wanted to release something that sounded new. So he ended up scrapping the body of work that had accumulated over the years and started fresh in 2014 during the filming of Straight Outta Compton.

The New York Times posted a well written review on the album and they make a point that a lot of people fail to grasp:

“His true peers aren’t other hip-hop producers, not even tenured greats like Kanye West or Pharrell Williams of the Neptunes or even DJ Premier, the New York formalist who produces one song here, “Animals,” in a sort of fantasy-league, best-of-both-coasts arrangement. All of them, even the ambitious Mr. West, focus primarily on how small parts of songs interact to create the whole. You can hear the gears at work.
Dr. Dre, by contrast, is more concerned with atmosphere, mood and texture. He has a production credit on about half of the songs on this album — and he uses samples elegantly, a dying skill — but he was involved with mixing all of them, and that’s a more important detail. Ever since “The Chronic,” it’s been clear that Dr. Dre’s real peers are film-score composers — say, John Williams or James Horner — who communicate emotional direction with broad, legible strokes that set the tone for the details to be sprinkled atop them.”

That’s why he doesn’t come out with an album every year and why he truly doesn’t have any peers in the hip hop community.

DJ Premier, who has long been regarded as the East Coast equivalent of Dr. Dre makes his first collaboration with Dre on Compton. When asked what the difference between a “producer” and a “beat maker” was, Premier had this to say:

“For me, it’s like film: You can shoot all the footage you want, but it’s all about the edit, the final outcome, when the world gets it. That’s what makes you a producer. That’s what Dre does.”

When Dr. Dre releases an album it’s an even that changes the sound of hip hop. That expectation is also probably why he was so hesitant to release his third album. Dre could have released a classic old school West Coast hip hop album 10 times over by now but instead forges ahead with something new and modern sounding.

I’m glad Dr. Dre was able to ditch the Detox baggage and finally put something out. If you are expecting another Chronic you’re about two decades too late. Rapping and guns and weed in the present tense would have been a cop-out. If you pick up Compton set aside some time and listen to it from start to finish as an album experience.

Favorite track “Talking to My Diary”

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A Critique Of Adele’s 21 Album

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A Critique Of Adele’s 21 Album

Posted on 31 July 2014 by D' MacKinnon


I’m a huge fan of Adele’s 21 album. The production on it is immaculate. Every song is genuinely well constructed and the melodies are a joy to listen to. However, the auto-tune processing on the vocals drives me up the wall! She doesn’t need it! They excessively corrected the vocal tracks. When you hear Adele perform the same songs live she hits her notes but there’s a soul to the performance that has been stripped out of the studio album in favor of perfection. A voice is an organic entity, when it drifts a few cents flat on a note you don’t need to fix that.

Also, the mastering on the album. I don’t care for it. I understand the commercial-driven purpose of haven’t it processed that way but there’s no breathing room in the dynamics on that song. Which is a same because the composition is so great. Instead of being an obviously modern interpretation of 60’s soul they could have taken it a step further to get the sound closer to vintage. Instead we have a overly-processed, safe and uninteresting gloss over what could be a classic record for the ages. Adele has the vocal chops to pull these songs off, she doesn’t need the extra digital manipulation. I prefer a performance with feeling and flaws over an unnatural perfect sounding recording.

Here’s Adele singing live on KCRW

As you can see a great performance, unlike most pop singers she doesn’t need help.

I hope her next album which is due to be released soon doesn’t play it as safe.

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Bristol Jungle Documentary

Posted on 16 March 2012 by D' MacKinnon

My friend DJ Mad Wax over at City of Bass shared this amazing documentary on the early Jungle/Drum and Bass scene that emerged in Bristol during the 1990s. This documentary takes you through the scene as it was in 1996. Some great interviews and some classic tracks.

Untitled from Eduardo Sanchez on Vimeo.

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Upcoming CD Release and Music Video Premiere for Royal Dead

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Upcoming CD Release and Music Video Premiere for Royal Dead

Posted on 16 March 2012 by D' MacKinnon

Royal Dead have been hard at work in studio over the past year and next week you get to see some of that hard work come to fruition. Here is a taste of the music video for “Death Cycle”. You can see the full video next week exclusively at the CD release show for Go Bat Go! March 24th at 3 Kings Tavern.

Go Bat Go! was recorded at KGM Audio, which is the studio I co-own. I handled the mixing and production.

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Why You Are Not On Commercial Radio

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Why You Are Not On Commercial Radio

Posted on 11 October 2011 by D' MacKinnon

It’s kills me to see how little most struggling musicians understand about the music business and the practices that transpire. Even all these years there is still this mystical veil that seems to shroud the inner workings of the industry machine. It’s not all rainbows and fairy tales kids.

There is no doubt that the music industry has seen dramatic changes over the past decade. However, commercial radio, you know..the big FM channels; they still pretty much operate the same way they have for the past fifty years. Commercial radio is still firmly in the grasp of the major record labels. To understand why the majors still control radio while having lost considerable size everywhere else you need to first understand how new music gets added to the playlists of commercial radio.

The majority of the time the music is chosen not based on the talent and merits of the artist but by money paid from those with established relationships with the radio stations. The labels get around payola laws by paying third party “indie promoters” to work a song. In reality they are merely a pass-through for pay-to-play. The indie promoters pay the radio stations whose Program Directors then add the “promoted” songs to their playlists.

So you may ask yourself, “Well I have one million dollars. Why can’t I just pay the indie promoters to get radio play?” Sure, if you indeed had the funds you could pay the indie promoters. And you may get a few plays during the off-hours at like 4AM when no one is listening. I’ve seen many bottom feeder companies prey upon the hopes and dreams of naive musicians and do this exact thing. You’ll get a few spins on some station up in Minnesota once or twice. For an additional payment they’ll promise to keep working your song. You’ll never see consistent and repeated radio play though. That’s because the indie promoter’s primary clients are the majors. They are the ones who will repeatedly come back and pay them weekly where as an independent label or artist may only pay once or twice. Why would they prioritize your tracks over those of their big clients? They wouldn’t. Sure, once in awhile a song will go viral or break out and get radio play. But this is an extremely rare case nowadays.

Will things get better with commercial radio? Not anytime soon. However, if you are an DIY artist or signed to an independent label don’t fret. You don’t need commercial radio to be successful and for most it’s a waste of time to pursue. Focus your efforts on avenues where you can thrive.

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Face the Beat Volume 1

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Doom Generation song “Possessed” available now!

Posted on 04 July 2011 by D' MacKinnon


I am proud to present the debut track by my collaborative project, Doom Generation. I formed Doom Generation in 2010 with Eddie Suicide of Royal Dead and we have been working on material in the recording studio. Our song “Possessed” available now for a limited time as a free download as part of Side-Line Magazine’s “Face the Beat Volume 1” compilation. Get it here now.

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Rewind…

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Rewind…

Posted on 27 April 2011 by D' MacKinnon

For another trip down memory lane I present to you Ogre of Skinny Puppy fame and Trent Reznor (Nine Inch Nails) performing the song “Suck” together as part of Pigface during a tour back sometime around 1990/1991.

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The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste

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The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste

Posted on 27 April 2011 by D' MacKinnon


After all these years, Ministry’s “The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste” is still one of my favorite all-time albums. It never seems to get old to listen to. When this first came out nothing sounded quite like it. It was danceable yet thick with foreboding menace. I would argue that this was Ministry at their creative peak. Nothing anyone has since has sounded quite like this although there were a plethora of imitators in during the 1990’s.

I knew I was in for a treat when I first saw the cover. You have to take into consideration the time period when this album came out. MTV was spinning some pretty wretched hair metal, hip-hop was churning out sanitized suburb friendly pap like Kid N’ Play. “Mind” was a kick in the gut and a death knell for anything clad in spandex.

Songs like “Thieves” and “Burning Inside” were the perfect combination of heavy guitars and pneumatic drums. The droning bass on “Cannibal Song” mixed with moody samples and shrieking vocals evoked an audio landscape of gloom and despair.

If you haven’t heard this album before it’s a definite recommend. If you have listened to it lately, pop it in for a spin.

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New Keri Hilson video fails to impress

Posted on 29 November 2010 by D' MacKinnon

I just watched the new Keri Hilson video for her song “The Way You Love Me” and now I feel like I need to get checked for STDs. The music isn’t bad, the video production was alright but the lyrical content just doesn’t do it for me. I’m guessing she’s trying to go for shock value with all the “fuck me” and “pussy” talk but it just comes across as trying too hard. Yes, being an attractive woman helps to sell records but stooping to such gratuitously over the top lyrics is too obvious. It doesn’t come off as sexy to me, just nasty.

It might be a hit in the strip clubs.

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