July 13, 2022

Adrian Belew: the Innerviews interview

Innerviews has an in-depth interview with guitarist Adrian Belew, who played with Frank Zappa, David Bowie, Ryuichi Sakamoto, King Crimson and Talking Heads, developed apps to create generative music, and created an impressive discography as a solo artist. Anil Prasad spoke with him quite a couple times between 2019 and 2022. This piece uses parts from all of those.

On recording his new album Elevator:

It’s my 25th solo album and I really wanted to celebrate that milestone. Elevator was mostly written during the COVID-19 period and also while other factors were affecting in the world. During the last few years, there have been riots and a lot of anger and hate. People were turning against each other. And I really felt it was important to make a record that would be uplifting and give them a break from that. That’s why I called it Elevator. I was thinking about how music elevates people. So, I set about trying to make a record that would do that. I thought, "These are the best things I can offer to the world at this point, coming out of such big, giant disasters as we've all been through.

I played, sang, and did everything on the album—even the artwork and the package design. It includes five main digital paintings, which is something I also learned to do during the COVID-19 years. I taught myself how to paint digitally with an iPad and Apple pencil. It has just been so great. I love it so much. All of a sudden, I can paint without having to clean up. It's exactly like learning guitar was for me. I just keep doing it different ways and find all kinds of new things to do. The package also includes smaller versions of 32 other paintings.

On streaming and the music industry:

The music business screwed every one of us artists by the way they let our music be given away for free. They didn't fight it when the streaming companies started driving things. They didn't even try. It is about as unfair as it gets. I know listeners love Spotify, because they get all this music for free. That’s great for them, but remember, you’re cheating me and every other musician on there. I’ve barely got a penny from them, but the streaming companies are making billions of dollars. They’re never going to share that money with the artists, who enable them to exist.

Let's be clear here. To legally say you're paying someone, there is a figure that you have to legally give them and that’s what they do. It's the lowest figure you could possibly give us, as artists—something like .0006 of a penny per stream. That’s what they decided our music is worth. So, they give us .0006 of a penny, which is really nothing. It would take something like 9 million streams to make $50,000. I spend that every time I make a record.

So, I have to do things my own way. What choice do I have? The music business is a total disaster for everyone, except the huge artists who make money playing giant concerts and generate billions of streams. Some of my music is on streaming, including Elevator, because it’s the reality we live in, but I make money by going out and playing concerts, and selling CDs.

I make my CDs myself. Beyond my own time, the costs involved are the engineer, artwork, and printing the CDs. In that way, I can make more money selling directly than when I worked with a record label. But I’m in this situation, not because I wanted it that way, but because the industry made it that way. I don’t want to be my own record label. I’d rather be writing new songs, but the business forced this path on me. The business really let everybody down and it’s a real shame.

Live dates:
  • 07/13 St. Paul, MN @ Turf Club
  • 07/14 Milwaukee, WI @ Shank Hall
  • 07/15 St. Charles, IL @ Arcada Theatre
  • 07/16 Indianapolis, IN @ Hi-Fi Annex
  • 07/18 Chicago, IL @ City Winery
  • 07/19 Chicago, IL @ City Winery
  • 07/21 Cincinnati, OH @ The Ludlow Garage
  • 07/22 Cleveland, OH @ Rock & Roll Hall of Fame
  • 07/23 Ferndale, MI @ Magic Bag
  • 07/24 Oakmont, PA @ The Oaks Theater
  • 07/26 Nashville, TN @ City Winery
  • 07/27 Atlanta, GA @ City Winery
  • 07/29 Asheville, NC @ The Grey Eagle
  • 07/30 Washington, DC @ City Winery
  • 07/31 Annapolis, MD @ Rams Head
  • 08/01 Ashland, VA @ Ashland Theatre
  • 08/03 S. Burlington, VT @ Higher Ground
  • 08/04 Plymouth, NH @ The Flying Monkey
  • 08/05 Boston, MA @ City Winery
  • 08/06 Newton, NJ @ The Newton Theatre
  • 08/12 Woodstock, NY @ Bearsville Theater (w/Tony Levin, Pat Mastelotto & Friends)
  • 08/14 Homer, NY @ Center for the Arts of Homer
  • 08/16 Philadelphia, PA @ City Winery
  • 08/18 New York, NY @ City Winery
  • 08/19 Albany, NY @ The Egg
  • 08/20 Ridgefield, CT @ Ridgefield Playhouse

» adrianbelew.net

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