Hello friends of A Different Drum! It’s time for another little update and the next installment in my series of Historical pieces. I hope these bits of A Different Drum’s history are interesting to you. If they are, remember that you can read them all by going to adifferentdrum.com and clicking on the blog link.
I haven’t received anything new in the store for a couple of weeks. There are a couple of new things coming soon, one of which you are welcome to pre-order immediately. I will be receiving the CD’s soon and will ship to the pre-orders as soon as they arrive:
BLUME “Autumn Ruins” $15 — The impressive, 2nd album from Blume is now available for pre-order! Their first album made quite a splash in the scene with their powerful sound. Pre-order their new album here and it will be shipped very soon:
Also, as most of you know, A Different Drum’s label focuses entirely on limited edition releases of 300 CD’s each, released one per month through the VIP Subscriber program. Those CD’s do not become available in A Different Drum’s online store because they are essentially sold-out upon release, with only a handful of copies making it out to other, online outlets. The easiest way to get them is of course to subscribe.
I happen to have a few extra copies of two recent compilation releases, so I’m going to make a limited time offer to those of you who would like to order them on A Different Drum’s website. These are available only in limited quantities, so order quickly if you want one…or two…or whatever.
Various Artists “What We’ve Done Lately” $12 — This compilation features new songs and remixes from bands who have been a part of A Different Drum’s label through the years, including Faith Assembly, Provision, Neuroactive, Wave In Head, B! Machine, and more! Definitely worth collecting! Order it here:
Various Artists “A Different Mix Volume 8″ $12 — This is a collection of remixes produced by Syrian for other bands. There are Syrian remixes for tracks by Real Life, TOY, Intuition, Cosmicity, and more! Order this limited edition CD here:
Now, for the next installment in A Different Drum’s history…
A DIFFERENT DRUM HISTORY - PART 7 – LET’S HAVE A PARTY
I still have not scanned the old photos that my wife found, so those will still come at a future time. For now, I thought I’d focus for a moment a couple attempts I made with A Different Drum to create more of a festival or convention atmosphere for our little scene.
My first venture into an event of a larger scale was with a show I called Synthstock. As I’ve already mentioned in a previous installment, I’d worked with my friend, Gary, to put on a couple of small, club shows. Those had gone relatively well, and though not profitable, had proven to be a great way to create good relationships within the scene and to win the attention of new fans and customers. The more active A Different Drum was in building an audience, the better. The concept behind Synthstock was to create a bigger, multi-band event (playfully named after Woodstock, but for synth bands), with the intention of appealing not only to local fans, but also tempting people from outside of the area to travel to the event. Looking back, there are things I would have done differently, and which could have helped with the success of the event, but at the time, I had only done a couple of small shows and thus had very limited experience. So, I approached the idea from a concert standpoint. Basically, I’d book a couple of cool, headliner bands (I went with Anything Box and Seven Red Seven, since I’d worked with them before), then I’d invite a bunch of newer acts to join in. I’d pay for most of the expenses so that the bands didn’t feel like it was too costly to participate. The headliners had all expenses covered, while the lesser known bands would have meals and hotel rooms, etc. covered, but would have to get to Salt Lake City on their own.
In putting together the concept for the show, I was approached by a couple of members of a new band that was based in Utah, and they decided to help to organize and finance the event. We’d put up the money for the venue (a building on the Utah State Fairgrounds which was large, yet affordable), plus we’d pay for a bunch of hotel rooms for bands, plus a larger, commons room where we could all meet up for meals and hang out, etc. Plus we had to pay for a sound system and other related expenses. The costs added up quickly. Excitement started to mount, and I heard from several fans who planned to drive or fly to Salt Lake City for the event, including Jeri Beck of the Control-Alt-Delete network. Jeri was considered a sort of mother figure of synthpop at the time, so her presence would only add to the atmosphere. My hopes were high, but once we reached the big day, it was apparent that we were not going to get much more than about three-hundred attendees. Yes, we were going to lose a lot of money. This wasn’t going to be one of those $750 losses like before, but would instead reach into the thousands. I kept a smile on my face and enjoyed the moment, feeling excited to once again hang out with people who shared my interests and interact with bands that had come from around the country. I had to think of it as a large, promotional cost that would help to build the credibility of A Different Drum for the long term. The bands put on great performances and sold quite a few CD’s and t-shirts to the people who were supportive enough to come, and I didn’t get the feeling that anybody considered it a waste of time.
I remember hanging out in the commons room at the Little America hotel where we’d booked rooms for everybody. There were a lot of people moving in and out of the room before and after the festival–many laughing, many sharing thoughts on the music scene, and everybody generally having a wonderful time. There was a representative from another start-up label hanging out, talking business and getting a foot in the door with a couple of the bands that were there, which was fine, though I didn’t really know why this guy was suddenly everywhere, talking about huge contracts and sending out strange vibes. Maybe I was supposed to be a little bit threatened by the presence of somebody else on the scene—somebody who apparently had plenty of money to lose? Oh well…I just reminded myself that these kinds of things didn’t happen often, so might as well make the most of it and not let the odd hubbub in the background deter too much from the overall picture.
There was a guy who came up to me after the end of the show, while still at the venue on the fairgrounds, speaking in Spanish and explaining that he had come all the way from Peru for the festival. I was impressed! He cradled an armful of treasures—band t-shirts and autographed CD’s. Anything Box was his favorite band in the world, so he’d crossed international borders to see them at Synthstock. He’d spend all of his money on the airline tickets and on the merchandise he now possessed, but hadn’t considered where he was going to stay for the next night and day, or how he was going to get to the airport to catch his flight home. He was apparently stranded in a foreign country, unable to speak much English, and out of money. I told him that he could hang out after the show in the commons room for a little while, which I think he loved because he was basically “backstage” watching a bunch of bands talking and laughing, though I’m sure he didn’t understand what anybody was saying. He sat there with a smile plastered on his face, and whenever somebody asked who he was, I simply told them that he’d come from Peru for the show and was going to hang out for a while. Eventually, as the wee hours of the night faded into the morning, people had filed back to their own rooms to rest before catching flights home, and only our Peruvian friend was left. I had to drive back to Provo, and the rooms had to be vacated before 11AM, so I told him I could drop him off somewhere—maybe at the airport—and he’d have to kill time until his flight several hours later. I hadn’t slept for a long time, so I was very tired, and I felt sorry for leaving the guy, but I couldn’t exactly take him home for the day, only to drive him back to the airport later. I dropped him off in the city and waved goodbye. That man showed a kind of dedication that I later discovered was every bit as strong in many synthpop fans from around the world. It was hard for me to believe that my little, financially disastrous attempt at a festival would give a guy from thousands of miles away a chance to meet his favorite band in person. Later, as I participated in other events, I found other people like him—not always from as far away, but just as driven in their passion for the music.
Through these attempts to build the scene, I met friends who became regular attendees at festivals and shows all over the country, coming from all over to participate. There was a wonderful woman named Barbara Bowen who came to an event in Los Angeles called Synthcon, and there met Jan-Erik from Sweden. This wonderful couple entered into a long relationship that stretched across the ocean, bringing them together whenever there was a big synthpop or electronic music event. They showed up everywhere, and we had wonderful times together as friends. We ate a dinner of Chinese take-out at three in the morning, in a park in Toronto after the Synthpop Goes the World Festival. We argued politics at a Dunkin Donuts in Connecticut at another festival. We met up several times in Salt Lake City during A Different Drum’s final festivals, spending time at the Red Lion Hotel talking about music until very late every night. There is a man named Steve Ramage who showed up regularly at shows, and one year in Salt Lake City went with me to help load up some cheap rental lights into my van. While at the lighting company, he felt like he wanted to pitch in some cash for a couple extra effects, so he spent his own money to add a strobe and a spinning light fixture for the small stage. This same wonderful man sent my fourth child an incredible baby gift including some money that she still has in a savings account nine years later, just because he felt like he was supporting his own little family. There is Ken DeWit from Canada who drove down with his wife, Sanda, to attend an event in Salt Lake City where Alphaville played their first show in the USA. We’d known each other for a long time through the phone and the internet, but here he was, in person at a show, hanging out with Myra and I and staying in the same, cheap Econolodge. He even brought us an entire bucket of real honey from his father’s honey bee farm! There’s Sal Amato (I’ve mentioned him before) who let me stay at his house a couple of times when I went to New York for different events. He’d drive me into the city to show me around, including taking me to a cool Japanese music store where he had discovered some great, import CD’s. There was this Russian gentleman named Vladimir who lives in Canada, and he seemed to show up pretty much anywhere A Different Drum travelled, always spending more money on CD’s than anybody else. I remember one late night in Stamford, Connecticut when Vladimir asked me to put his name on a few CD’s that he would pick up the next night of the festival. It was late, and I had spent many hours interacting with a lot of people, so I tried to remember his name, and for a few seconds, I couldn’t.
I embarrassingly mumbled, “OK, what’s your name?”
“You know my name,” he said, shaking his head in wonder.
“Um, I do…but I don’t…right now.”
He didn’t say his name, but simply chuckled and faded into the crowded club. “Vladimir!” I remembered, wrote it on a piece of paper, and stuck it in his box of CD’s. I swear, that guy’s purchases probably paid for my hotel room every time I travelled to a festival. Thanks Vladimir!
I’ll share more stories and details about these individual events later, but I just wanted to say that each of these parties, festivals, conventions, etc. became an opportunity to meet more people and feel like I was part of a much larger mesh of real-life individuals with their own personalities and stories to weave into the fabric of the scene. It was no longer just about meeting bands and watching them play concerts on small stages, but was much more about who else I would see while I was there. I remember during one of those final festivals that A Different Drum sponsored in Salt Lake City, I was talking with Barbara, Jan-Erik, Marcus of Rename, Gary, and others who have all become close friends through the years. We were wondering when we’d see each other again and came to realize that it probably would not be at another synthpop festival, because they were becoming increasingly difficult to organize. I was no longer in a position to write off any losses as I had my family’s best interests in mind. All of us agreed that it didn’t matter if there was even a show. If we were to just pick a location where we could all come together for a few days, we would be content just to talk, listen to music, and laugh about the good old days. The festival would be one of friendship more than one of music, and that would be just fine. Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened, and it has been years since I’ve seen many of these people. Maybe one day we’ll have our little friendship festival in some hotel, kicking back in the hot tub with And One pounding on stereo system, and a pizza box sitting on a nearby table. Then I’ll remember what was really wonderful about my job, and why A Different Drum has always been so hard to give up.
Synthstock was the first larger event I tried, and after that I had to forego promoting such events for a while, though my heart would pull me back into such attempts a few years later. There was a second Synthstock event in Salt Lake City a year or two after the first, but I wasn’t really involved. It was promoted by one of the co-sponsors of the first show, apparently eager to give it another try, out of his own love for the music. I sold tickets through my website at first, but stopped selling those tickets once the original band lineup, event date, and venue was changed, causing quite a bit of confusion and complaints from those who had purchased tickets through my website and who had made travel plans. Though I supported the idea of the show, I didn’t want to get caught in the middle of the ensuing confusion about the event and the requests for ticket refunds, since all ticket money had been delivered to the promoter. So, I backed away. My attempt to disconnect my business from the event resulted in some bad feelings on the part of the promoter, which was regrettable and ended up being one of the very few times that I felt like there was negativity coming into our very small scene. I never meant to hurt anybody by withdrawing my online support, only acting in the interest of my customers. I hoped that the promoter would succeed in putting together the new lineup, but I continued to receive anonymous hate mails for a while claiming that I was trying to destroy synthpop…or something like that. Yikes! As it turned out, I didn’t attend that second Synthstock. Another band I was working with came to Salt Lake City (I think it was Faith Assembly) and played a show in a small club, so I was there instead. In the end, everything was fine, though the tension involved meant that Synthstock was over. Other events would follow—some organized by A Different Drum, and some organized by other dedicated people. There was the traveling Summer Synthpop Festival 2000, there was Synthcon (numbers one and two), there was the amazing Synthpop Goes the World, and other shows in places like Detroit, San Antonio, Minneapolis, New York, etc. finally ending with A Different Drum’s label festivals back in Salt Lake City. Basically, these parties went full-circle for me, starting at home in Utah, then taking me on the road to places I’d never been before, and eventually leading right back home again before giving them up entirely. The next few (not sure how many) historical pieces will focus on the road trips, as A Different Drum spread its wings.
PART 8 – HITTING THE ROAD