THE MUSIC INDUSTRY IS OFTEN A CRUEL ONE

While it has its moments, this blog has never been the best for delivering new or breaking news….it’s far too retro in style and scope for the most part. One of the consequences is that you’ll rarely find reviews of freshly released albums but another is that, all too often, something of significance will have occurred and I’ll have fail miserably in providing the sort of coverage the event deserves.

It was Mike over at Manic Pop Thrills who carried this snippet of news back on 14 November 2018:-

“Talk about burying bad news on a busy news day.

As half the country was fixating on Brexit and how many resignations might happen as a consequence, around 5 pm this evening Falkirk based musician/film maker Adam Stafford was announcing a different type of resignation on Twitter:

Thanks folks, that’s it. I’m finished with releasing and performing music. There was a bunch of Y’all is Fantasy Island reunion and solo shows booked for the new year, but I’m cancelling them this afternoon…

it’s been a weird year but it’s all getting mentally draining now and there is only so long you can throw everything into something and get so little back, only so long you can play to half empty rooms to muted applause…

only so long you can slavishly obsess over an LP that no one particularly wants or needs. So thanks to everyone who has been kind over the years, especially to @gerryloves & @SongbyToad & @CreativeScots . So long for now xo”

Mike went on to pay a very fine tribute to Adam….which can be read in full here….and I can’t better these particular words that he used:-

“Even if Adam was only playing to half a dozen people, he still put in a mesmeric performance as he was never less than fully committed to the moment on stage.

On record, with the assistance of long term collaborator, Robbie Lesiuk, he always strived for the imaginative, often meshing what on the face it would appear to be contradictory styles into something wonderful and cohesive. Over a trilogy of albums for Song, By Toad he veered at will from abstract soundscapes to accessible pop gems, yet all the time sounding only like himself.

And that’s not to mention the ‘Reverse Drift’ soundtrack to his book of photos on Gerry Loves Records or even the ‘Torments Through Supernatural Flogging’ EP only available through his own Bandcamp.

His final album, this year’s astonishing ‘Fire Behind The Curtain‘, is a remarkable, all-instrumental double album, arguably his defining statement. It’s incomprehensible that this record won’t be in every Top 10 list for 2018 – other than for the fact that most people simply won’t have heard of him.”

I never got round to reviewing Fire Behind The Curtain, partly on the basis of rarely reviewing new LPs (which itself is based on not wanting to post mp3s of new material), but also for the fact that I know my love for Adam’s music isn’t widely shared among regular readers. Although it comes nowhere near as close to Adam’s frustration about playing to empty rooms and making music that nobody wants to hear, it is frustrating to put together a lovingly crafted blog post and find it achieves no feedback and very few hits and so there ‘why bother’ conclusion is reached.

Adam’s final album was an astonishing and deep piece of work but had an ambition that was unlikely to bring him many new fans who were previously unaware of his genius, a description I’ve often applied to him in the past and will continue to do so in perpetuity. The album, if it does indeed prove to be his last, is a tremendous swansong not just for the artist but also the label Song, By Toad which wound down last year after ten incredible and innovate years.

mp3 : Adam Stafford – Sails Cutting Through An Autumn Night

The news of his quitting the music business was difficult to absorb and even now, some two months on, I’m still quite bitter about it – not at Adam, but for the fact that so many who are lauded daily have less talent in their entire body than Mr Stafford has in his pinky-nail. But then again, that’s the cruel and unjust nature of the music industry.

The signs that he was nearing the end of his tether can be gleaned from some of the media interviews he gave in May 2018 to accompany the release of the new material. He admitted that the second half of the album was written during ‘a horrendous bout of bad mental health – and the music reflects that.’ He also added:-

“I’ve created all of my output suffering from depression; it’s just now I’m having more guts to discuss it openly. I hope in some small way I can help reduce the stigma because I have friends who really struggle with it too but are too proud to talk about it.”

It is alarming to realise that those words appeared in The Scotsman just 24 hours before the discovery of the body of Scott Hutchison, someone who was well known to Adam given that his own first band, Y’All Is Fantasy Island, were often on the same bills as Frightened Rabbit back in the days when the latter were setting out. Adam’s interview would have been given before Scott’s initial disappearance and there’s no question that the grim outcome would have shaken him to the core.

I have been fortunate enough to get to know Adam Stafford a little bit over the past few years, stemming back to him accepting an offer to support Butcher Boy at a gig that I promoted back in 2011. I’ve seen him live on numerous occasions at all sorts of venues. He cared passionately about his art and on every single occasion, whether there were just a handful of paying punters or the venue was packed and hot, he never failed to give it his all, ending every show drenched in sweat and on the verge of seemingly physical exhaustion.

I’ve learned over those years that he is a very modest and unassuming individual, someone who is genuinely grateful when anyone comes up to him to offer thanks and/or congratulations. I think I can just about get away with calling him a friend, and my hope is that over the coming weeks or months, however long it takes, I’ll hook up with him for a sit down and a gab. I’ve made the offer and said that I’d be happy to keep music off the agenda – so with a bit of luck he can educate me on aspects of his other passion, movies and film-making.

I’m going to end this with another opportunity to enjoy a criminally neglected 45 from the Y’All Is Fantasy Island era, one which would have sounded superb blasting out of the transistor radio during the daytime and as part of chart rundowns. It formed part of my set at the last Simply Thrilled Night and I’ve every intention of airing it again next time around:-

mp3 : Y’All Is Fantasy Island – With Handclaps

One day, I’ll find time to pull together an ICA.

JC

7 thoughts on “THE MUSIC INDUSTRY IS OFTEN A CRUEL ONE

  1. “Why do you come here?” As someone once warbled. Writing such as this is why I come here.

    This is a splendid, sensitive article that speaks to the pragmatism and stoicism of both Adam, in regard to his decision, and also to JC in his reporting of it.

    To have the insight and strength to walk away from music – even if it turns out to be of a temporary nature – is a bold step and one that I applaud. Depression is unfortunately the poor-cousin of illnesses. We all know it’s there but few want to talk about it or indeed support it. Unlike other illnesses chronic depression cannot be cured it can only be managed. A lifetime of management for those afflicted.

    I hope that by making his decision Adam’s intention is to put himself and his health first.

    He could so easily have decided not make any more music and say nothing of his situation. His actions are a testament to him.

  2. Think Anonymous skewers the important point – Adam needs to put himself (and family) first. That’ll do for me. If he finds his way back to music on his own terms then that would be great, but it’s not the important thing.

    The great thing about Adam’s records is that they’ve always pushed me beyond my comfort zone and this was especially true of ‘Fire’. Low have received lots of well deserved plaudits for ‘Double Negative’, but for me ‘Fire’ is as brave a record. If Adam had come from Fulham rather than Falkirk, he’d have acquired a much higher profile.

  3. To Adam, JC, and all in a similarly disheartened position,

    It breaks my heart to hear of creative folk becoming so disillusioned by the lack of positive and encouraging feedback for the blood, sweat and tears involved in the effort that goes into your output.
    People are listening. People are reading.
    Not every admirer whoops and cheers at a gig.
    Not every reader feels they have anything worthy to add in a comment.

    By all means take breaks when necessary.
    For as long as is necessary.
    For your own well-being.
    But you need to know there are people out there who are in awe of the creative process displayed – on record, on stage, in reviews, in blogs such as this glorious one.
    Please remember this.

    Even when there are only a handful of people in the audience it is my belief that there is always someone there that loves what you are doing, and they will eventually convince others to listen to your output and turn up to gigs.
    And I’ve been reading this blogs for years.
    Never felt I had anything of interest to add.
    Soz.

    Guys. Please do not abandon your creative craft completely.

    Love.
    The not-so-creative silent admiring ones.

  4. This resonates “there is only so long you can throw everything into something and get so little back, only so long you can play to half empty rooms to muted applause”.

    I know from my own experience and that of friends that few of us attend live gigs any longer. Small or larger gigs have annoyingly become the go-to-place for the social media hungry. I’ve attended fairly well attended gigs were the vast majority of attendees were enraptured by their phones for the duration taking photos/videos or standing facing away from the stage in order to get a photo of themselves with the band.

    I think this plays a large part in the apathy that bands/artist experience.

    I’d like to see bands and venues ban phones from gigs knowing that it’ll never happen.

    The bands and other attendees deserve better than peple so self obsessed that they cannot put their phone away for 30 minutes let alone a couple of hours. I haven’t been to a gig now for 4 years. I miss it.

    I walked out of my last gig furious that I could neither see (for a sea of phones) or hear (people shouting conversations) the band.

    I share Adam’s frustration for different reasons.

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