June 20, 2013

A Different Drum Update - 6/20/2013 - History Part 2

Filed under: Uncategorized — Todd @ 12:55 pm

This is Todd at A Different Drum.  It is time for another update, and another installment of the history of A Different Drum.  Quite fitting to the “historical” side of the spectrum, I also have some pre-orders of upcoming ANYTHING BOX re-releases for you!  Yes, some of the first independent synthpop releases I stocked in my little store were by Anything Box, and their song, “Rise” was included on A Different Drum’s first label release, “Rise! America’s Synthpop Underground”.   So, it’s fun to see these classic synthpop songs being re-released on CD once again as imports.

First, the new arrivals:

Huminoida “Mystic Summer” (10-inch vinyl + CD) $20 — This is a limited edition, with only 200 numbered units in the world.  It includes a 10-inch, transparent vinyl record, plus a CD so that you can enjoy the EP even if you don’t have a record player.  This is a band project with Kimmo who used to be the vocalist in Neuroactive.  We still have the first album available too, if you missed it.  You can order this limited edition here :
http://www.adifferentdrum.com/buy/5OUTR10/Huminoida-Mystic-Summer

Lastrax “Shape Your Destiny” $15 — Imported from Argentina, this is a hard-hitting electro / synthpop act with a follow-up album to their debut which came out a few years ago.  This new album is loaded with more uptempo, edgy tracks for your enjoyment.   You can order the new CD here :
http://www.adifferentdrum.com/buy/TWI111/Lastrax-Shape-Your-Destiny

ANYTHING BOX PRE-ORDERS:

The following CD’s can be pre-ordered through A Different Drum now, but will not ship until they are received from the label in about a month.  These are all limited edition re-issues in digipack packaging (cardboard) and give us a wonderful opportunity to collect some old favorites.

Anything Box “Volumen One” $16
Anything Box “Hope” $16
Anything Box “Worth” $16
Anything Box “Recovered” $16

Pre-Order all of these here :

http://www.adifferentdrum.com/buy/TWI117/Anything-Box-Volumen-One

OK, it is time for the next installment in my history series.  I’ve included even more links to songs this time, since I received comments from a few people saying that they actually enjoyed hearing the funny tunes that represent my past.  Well, you asked for it, so cover your ears while you read!  This will be the last of the historical installments for a while to contain such links, as I gave up recording and moved into the business side of the scene.

HISTORY OF A DIFFERENT DRUM - PART 2 - TRADING CHILDHOOD FOR A CAREER

The title of this installment of the history series is somewhat ironic, because even as I tried to move my love of music into a career that could support a family, the choice to pursue such an endeavor as I did was probably childish.  By that, I mean, I dove in just as a child dives into crazy ideas, with reckless abandon, and often without the kind of better judgement that would have had me step back, take a better look, and make better plans.

When I graduated from high school, my family moved to Taiwan for a year with my father, a Chinese language professor.  That is, everybody in my family except me.  I stayed behind and started my freshman year in college, attending Brigham Young University.  While in that first year, I enjoyed the changes that come with leaving home and making my way in the world.  I still spent more money on buying vinyl records than I did on food, eating mostly cold cereal, potatoes, and frozen burritos, along with occasional left-over chicken patties that my roommate smuggled from work whenever he completed a closing shift at a local fast food restaurant.   I also made frequent drives from Provo to Salt Lake City (45 minutes away) to go to my favorite dance club once or twice per week.  I met up with friends there and eventually got to know a couple of guys who were planning to set up their own club.  They found out that I had a large collection of records with the best dance music of the time, and they let me know that I could be their club DJ once everything was set up.  I loved the idea, as I’d often imagined how much fun it would be to take charge of the playlist at a dance club.  Sure enough, they moved ahead with their plans, leasing an old church building, putting in a dance floor and lighting, etc.  The arrangements took several months, but I knew my DJ moment would come.

In the meantime, I continued recording songs in my basement apartment when I wasn’t in class or studying.  Sometimes I’d invite a friend to accompany me, like I did with this song called “Emotion Dance”.  Or sometimes, if I was in a pensive mood or feeling lonely, I’d try to write something more meaningful or even brooding.  This song called “Oh Please” was later re-recorded by my friend Marcus of Rename (many years later), which of course sounds much improved over my 1988 recording.  Or check out this silly slice of melancholy called “Alone on His Throne” which I wrote as a tongue-in-cheek view of my life in the basement, wishing I were doing bigger, better things (lyrics included below as a PS).   With all my recording and expectations of being a DJ, I still knew that I’d made a decision to leave school and any other interests to serve as a missionary for a couple of years, and that time was approaching as summer drew near.

Soon enough, I was spinning records in a new club called THE SAINT, and I loved it.  I enjoyed beat-mixing songs together in transitions, and the people who came to the club always commented on how great the music selection was.  I was playing Camouflage, Pet Shop Boys, CCCP, Depeche Mode, New Order, and so many more of my favorites, and watching people dance and have fun to the music that I loved.  It was certainly a dream come true, and I felt blessed to have a shot at doing something that I’d always wanted to do.  But after a few months, the summer arrived, and despite how hard it felt to say “goodbye” to such an experience, I knew that there was something more important that I had to do.  I visited my family in Taiwan first, spending a few weeks there in the summer.  Of course, I found a great dance club on top of a skyscraper called “Buffalo Town” where the DJ’s loved me because (though they spoke no English) I could request any song and they had it!  They’d pull out the record with a big smile, happy that the American was requesting the music that they really wanted to play. After those few weeks in Taiwan, I gave up everything to serve a higher purpose, and I left on a volunteer mission to Sao Paulo, Brazil.

I was privileged to meet wonderful people, experience a new culture, and devote myself to God for two years.  I can’t describe in this article all of the wonderful experiences I had, and the kind of growth that I experienced during that time.  I can only say that it was the most meaningful thing I’d ever done, and sacrificing my job as a DJ or the time with my keyboards was indeed nothing in comparison with what I gained.  I think it is enough to say that I left the confusing teenage times behind and became a man during those two years.  I still found myself sitting at the piano in a church building from time to time, writing songs in Portuguese, often of a spiritual nature.  Upon my arrival back in the USA, I recorded some of those songs.  Here is a song I wrote which was critical of some of the people (particularly men) that lived in the most impoverished neighborhoods I visited, where often the women and children were left to fend for themselves while the men spent every dime on drinking, if they stuck around at all.  I had a hard time understanding why a person could abandon somebody they claimed to “love” so passionately, rather than make commitments and take responsibility for such a love.  The song is called “Honravel Rapaz” (Honorable Boy).  Here is another more uptempo song called “Escravo da Moda” (Slave of Fashion).

When I returned from Brazil, I continued with school.  I pulled out my old equipment and wrote more songs, and re-recorded a couple old ones.  It wasn’t long before I met a wonderful woman who connected with my odd personality.  Myra still jokes about our first “date” when I invited her to “see my record collection”.   Yep, I guess that was a very geeky thing to do, but it got her to hang out with me for a while and she also loved music (though she wasn’t as stuck on dance music as I, and preferred more of a rock sound).  I wrote songs for Myra, which probably caused her to cringe when she listened to them, since the music I made was not something she particularly enjoyed.  She liked that I did it, but didn’t necessarily like the sound.  Here is one I wrote with her in mind, so it’s no wonder she just kind of thought…”he’s weird, but he means well.”  It’s called “Could This Be the One?”  Here is another song called “My Wandering Mind” which I recorded about the same time in 1991, which has since been recorded by my friend, Michael of Wave in Head (Michael’s is much better than my original).

Well, for some reason, Myra agreed to marry me despite my strange musical aspirations.  We began our new life as a couple.  We struggled through school together, and for some reason got much better grades once we tied the knot.  While still in school, Myra discovered how determined I was to make music into a career.  I changed my major to music with an emphasis on sound recording, allowing me to spend many hours in a very nice music studio on campus.  I was required to record several projects each semester. Using my new love for all things cultural, I tried some different projects where I blended the musical influences of my past with ethnic sounds and guest performers.  It was a blast to have access to a huge mixing board, special effects, and a 24-track real-to-real tape recorder.  That was top-of-the-line in those days, and I’d never had access to so many toys.  Here is a song I recorded with an Arab man that I met who was a local tailor.  He’d sing in Arabic the entire time he was working, so I invited him into the studio to sing with a dance-hall reggae beat I’d recorded, thus blending two cultures together.  Here is another track I wrote and recorded, soliciting the vocal talents of a couple other students.  I loved the music of Dead Can Dance, and this definitely followed that influence.   Aside from the studio work, I joined with a couple of other music majors that I’d met and we formed a band called THAT’S WHAT SHE SAID.  The band only lasted a few months, but in that time we managed to win a battle of the bands contest based on live performances (we went out of our way to make the life performance absolutely ridiculous, but fun).  We recorded a few songs with our prize money, and then quit.  Here is a song that I’d written years earlier as a teen, and the guys in the band liked it enough to record it together, called “Think Twice”.

At the same time, I began a small, mail-order music service for other students who had a hard time finding independent releases and import CD’s from other countries.  I didn’t know what I was doing, but I made flyers and placed them in dorms, offering to hunt down music from around the world.  Most of the requests I received were for Spanish language music, since the local population included a lot of Latinos and students who spoke Spanish.  I started to accumulate a nice selection of Latin music and would attend regular Latin dances where I set up a table and sold the CD’s.  Myra thought I was out of my mind as I ran up a crazy debt buying CD’s in hopes of selling them at dances.  My Portuguese language skills quickly transferred to Spanish, and I learned about all the bands and singers that were popular for that particular audience.  It eventually led me to open a small store with a focus on Latin and international music.  I don’t know how I managed to find the time to build a small business while still in school, but I did it, thanks to the patience of a loving wife.  When I finally graduated, walking with my wife at the ceremony as she also graduated, I gave up working for anybody else (I’d worked my way through those last few years of college as a custodian).  A Different Drum’s first physical location was inside a make-shift shopping center called “The Shopper’s Outlet” that didn’t last long, and then my business moved to its own location in a small building on Center Street in Provo, Utah, selling mostly ethnic and international music.

I spent most of every day in that little building, only hiring one employee to cover for me so I could have a day off every once in a while.  I would sometimes take my young son, Dylan, to work where he’d sit in a little swing or walker and I’d try to keep the baby content.  Myra worked elsewhere, actually paying the bills.  She once pointed out to me that with all the time I spent on my store, I was making less than fifty cents per hour.  I told her that I was paying the price to start a business that could same day pay the bills and to be patient with me.  She was endlessly patient.  I’m sure I caused her much grief as I was gone so much, and my credit card balances got higher and higher as I continued to dump money into inventory and cover rent to keep that place open for the few customers who felt it was the only source they had for the music that they loved.  I wanted more than anything to live my dream.  I gave up recording music.  I no longer had time to record, and since I never considered myself very “good” anyway, I felt I should focus all my energy on the business side of music if I were to have a career.  School was over, but I had a lot to learn.

Next time, PART 3:  REDISCOVERING SYNTHPOP

Thanks for reading!
Todd

PS.

Lyrics for “Alone On His Throne” by Todd Durrant, 1988

He sits all alone
Alone on his throne
Of nice future wishes

A young man sits alone
In his dungeon of sorts
Staring at the wall
And feeding his guppies

Everything I see here is mine!
He reports
His music, his writing
And a bowl of cold cereal

Oh, the places I’ve been
And the sites that I’ve seen
He reviews and he plans
A life fit for a king

So he goes to bed, wakes up
Cleans up his room.
This may not be an empire
But I’ll be out of here soon!

He’ll always be happy
Just as long as he’s free
To give his own sentence
Of the utmost degree.

He sits all alone,
Alone on his throne
Of nice future wishes.
He sits all alone,
The king on his own
To rule dirty dishes.
He sits all alone,
Alone on his throne
Of nice future wishes.

If he doesn’t make his dinner
He just doesn’t eat
If his pair of shoes get ruined
He walks with bare feet

His free time he spends
With his tankful of friends
It’s his hopes for the future
On which his present life depends

He’ll always be happy
Just as long as he’s free
To give his own sentence
Of the utmost degree

He sits all alone,
Alone on his throne
Of nice future wishes.
He sits all alone,
Alone on his own
The king of his fishes.
He sits all alone,
Alone on his throne
Of nice future wishes.

June 11, 2013

A Different Drum Update - 6/11/2013 - History Part 1

Filed under: Uncategorized — Todd @ 12:07 am

Hello, this is Todd at A Different Drum.  It has been a while since I’ve written an update.  I haven’t had anything new come into the store lately, but I wanted to touch base with all my friends again.  As I mentioned before, the new arrivals will be fewer these days as I focus on the truly underground, independent, and some great values that come into the store.  I have to keep things small and simple these days.

I thought that I’d start a series of historical posts that may or may not be interesting to those of you who have followed A Different Drum’s business through the years. In this update I will post the first part in an ongoing series of thoughts and stories about where A Different Drum started and the road that the course that the business took through the years.

First of all, I’ve initiated a small sale for this week, with 20% off all releases on A Different Drum’s website, excluding the newest arrivals.  The 20% discount will be applied during checkout– so you’ll see the lower price once you go through the payment process.  Please note that certain items have limited quantities and won’t be restocked once they are sold out.  If you order anything that has just sold out, I’ll send a refund for that item unless it is coming back in stock right away.  Here is a link to the sale info :
http://www.adifferentdrum.com/sale.php

Also, I continue to have EBay auctions for CD lots, so you can pick up great deals from time to time, in bulk.  Sometimes there are mixes of new synthpop CD’s with mainstream used CD’s.  You can check here for the auctions :
http://myworld.ebay.com/adiffe

HISTORY OF A DIFFERENT DRUM - PART 1 - A KID ADDICTED TO MUSIC

Since A Different Drum has always been the business venture of one person, Todd Durrant (myself), it makes sense to begin this informal history by giving some of my own background which led to the creation of a small-scale music business.  I always had a love of music, much of it passed to me from my parents.  We always had music in our home, and I remember frequently pulling out my parent’s vinyl records, which my siblings and I played over and over again.  The Best of the Bee Gees (this one ), The Beatles (this one ), and The Carpenters (something like this ) were often heard in my home while I was in elementary school.

My mother signed me up for piano lessons while I was very young and I took to it quickly.  However, I started to struggle with piano because I had a tendency to memorize whatever classical music was assigned, and then play it back to my teacher from memory rather than reading the music, and eventually I preferred making my own tunes rather than playing what my teacher assigned.  So, despite my ability to impress my friends at school with my piano skills, I didn’t always make my teacher happy.  One day I took the opportunity while my parents were away on a trip to China, to quit my lessons.  Though my mother was not pleased when she returned, I promised that I’d keep playing, as long as I could do my own thing.  I had quickly become interested in the new sounds I’d been hearing on the radio by bands like Soft Cell, The Human League, Yazoo, etc. and I soon convinced my mother that my true interest was in playing an electric keyboard rather than an old-fashioned piano.  I was truly a lucky kid, because rather than shut me down, my mother went out and found a keyboard for me– a Korg EPS (Electric Piano and Strings).  I loved that instrument, and I played it constantly.

It was about that time, while jamming my own tunes on that Korg EPS, that I took an interest in recording the music that I played.  They were basically long jam-sessions, since most of my songs were created on the spot.  After a little while I wanted to add more tracks, but I didn’t have anything remotely resembling a studio, so I would record one track on a tape recorder, then play it back into another tape recorder while playing a 2nd track.  This resulted in some very fuzzy, horrible recordings, but I was very proud of my efforts and my interest in electronic music continued to grow from there. Here is an example of such a 2-track cassette recording from around 1984–a track I called SOUNDS.  I loved music by Depeche Mode, New Order, Howard Jones, Blancmange, and was hypnotized by the ultra-electronic grooves of Kraftwerk, and I eventually became a huge fan of Yello, who I thought was one of the most unique electronic acts in the world.  Many other bands became favorites.

I slowly built my little studio, adding an early drum machine called Dr Rhythm to my Korg EPS.  With the help of a simple mixer and microphone, I began recording actual songs with vocals.  Despite the fact that I had no vocal training and no real talent when it came to singing, I had no fear as a kid…after all, nobody was listening.  All the parts were played live, often while I was singing at the same time, trying to keep up with my drum machine, fumbling all the way. Here is an example of one of those early songs with the drum machine and live singing, etc.  It is from about 1985 and called MR. SEAGULL. Eventually I added a wonderful analog synthesizer called a Roland JX-8P and a Tascam 4-track cassette recorder to my little bedroom studio, and I could finally start adding layers. Here is a song called TENDER HEART ATTACK which featured my new synth and some of my first layered vocals (yep, tried to harmonize with myself).  I spent every free moment recording my own songs.  I think that I, my older sister, and my mother are the only people in the world who heard all my songs recorded as a teenager.  I wrote dozens and dozens of songs, compiling them into albums that also reached a couple dozen.

Collecting became a part of my life, as I felt the urge to own any music that I loved.  I remember begging to buy my first cassette tape, which I believe was Herbie Hancock (remember the song, “Rockit”?) .  My mother told me that it would be a waste of my money because it was just a passing fad and wasn’t timeless music, like Beethoven or Mozart.  I eventually won and bought my first tape.  I remember buying Yazoo, Alphaville, and others.  I owned probably three dozen cassettes when tragedy struck.  My sister had a teenage party while my parents were out of town, and a bunch of crazy friends came to our house.  When the party was over (I believe the police had something to do with the end of that party) my entire collection was gone.  Somebody had stolen all my tapes.  That’s when I stated buying vinyl records, which I continued to do for many years after that, amassing quite a large assortment of albums and 12-inch singles.  I was particularly fond of the 12-inch singles in the 80’s– if there was a long version of a favorite song, then I wanted it!  I started making my own extended versions of my silly songs, just because I wanted to be like my idols.  Before I finished high school, I had volunteered as a DJ for several local church dances, since I was the kid in the neighborhood with the biggest dance music collection.  I dreamed of finding a job in a dance club some day.  I spent countless hours either crashing school dances all over Salt Lake County or trying out all the local dance clubs several times per week.  Music and dancing was my life…and yes,  eventually starting college was in there too…but music and dancing was my real love.  I rarely dated…I just danced.

When I think back on my youth, I see that the roots of A Different Drum were already forming, both with my interest in the music itself, and in the business side of the industry.  When home PC’s were a relatively new thing, my father purchased a Kaypro 10 (I think that was the name).  It was back in the days of DOS, and a computer with a megabyte of memory was considered huge.  I learned to program C-Basic and wrote my own game.  If I remember correctly, there was about 40 pages of C-Basic code in my game once it was finished, and it was no surprise what my game was about.  In the game you signed bands to a record label, then set up tours in big US cities and sold records.  You had to manage things right to get your sales up.  Honestly, I think it was impossible to lose in that game, but it was a big achievement for a freshman in high school to put together such a thing.  Once the Kaypro computer died, so did my little game, but as I look back, I can see that I was already dreaming of what I wanted in my future– if not making music, then selling and marketing music.  It was a part of me that would never completely fade away, even as I moved into the adult world years later.

Coming next update:  Part 2 - Trading Childhood for a Career

PS.  Thanks for reading, if you made it this far.  I’ve always thought it would be fun to look back at the journey I’ve been through for what probably amounts to the first half of my lifetime (unless I die sooner than expected).  Sometimes you have to wonder what contributed to the person you are today, and for me, this current reflection also has a lot to do with the discover of what will become of me during the rest of my life.  I guess that all remains to be seen.

Oh, and I don’t expect anybody to be impressed with the musical links above– they are honest, musical snapshots of my childhood, and certainly not professional in any way, shape or form. They were never meant to be marketed…and only included here for fun.

-Todd