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Steve Ison
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IAC Prime Member


Steve Ison

4/9/2013 2:11:22 PM

Searching For Sugarman
Searching For Sugarman
is a wonderful heart-warming documentary about late 60s/early 70s singer/songwriter Sixto Rodriguez from Detroit, who released a couple of albums that absoloutly bombed..

He got dumped by his record company, gave up on the music buisness and started doing manual labour for a living..

A few years later tho - and totally unbeknownst to him, in (then ) apartheid South Africa a few albums had made their way into the hands of liberal Africaaners -and something about the liberating,subversive spirit n message in his music totally connected with them in the oppressive regime everyone there lived under -and spread from person to person - till -unbelivably he'd sold hundreds of 1000s of copies there -
I mean he'd become a bona-fida superstar- altho no one there had heard him play live - seen him or anything -Or much less even knew how to contact him..

He was like a ghost - with a rumour that spread most believed that he'd commited suicide live on stage a few years back..

Its like a modern day fairy tale that would seem to far fetched to even make up...


I'd never heard of him -or any of his music till i saw this documentary -but from the opening bars -i knew it was good.. Beautiful music - There's such a quiet authority n obvious quality to it, seems incredible that it had totally bombed the way it had when first released (like Nick Drakes similarly did too -released roughly the same time )

Vivid,free-spirited beat poetry,mixed with songs with instant grace n prescence-alot of soul heart n vitality..
All delivered with this wonderful natural voice..
Musically like a strange hybrid of Dylan,Bacharach and Arthur Lee's Love..
Kinda Folk Rock easy listening with genuine soul,sharp intelligence and a cutting edge..

There's something about the SOUND of those late 60s /early 70s records too -thats instantly soooooo warm and appealing..Atmospheric n spacious to the max- and awash with tasteful orchestration with REAL strings..All put together from the writing,thru the performances to the engineering n production with so much attention to detail n love..

I gotta admit i'm jealous..Whatever quality of song musically i could write i could never get them to sound like THAT,i know..

There's something so life affirming for me about Rodriguez strange tale and his music, that for all the advantages of the instant gratification modern computer age we all take for granted- shows some things the western soul's lost imho

A sense of mystery,vivid imagination n intrigue..A devotional worship of the spirit in the music. An undefinable quality thats timeless and worthy of being mythologised in such a way..

Anyways -I totally recommend this documentary..Its a fabulous journey - a magical ride and i promise you won't be disappointed.. :)

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Hop On Pop

4/10/2013 6:24:12 AM

I have not seen the movie. But it is on my list.
And, I have owned a copy of Cold Fact for a couple of years now and have loved it for as long.
Nice call, Steve.

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Steve Ison

4/11/2013 1:55:50 PM

Great track Todd..So atmospheric
Been checking out tracks from that album on youtube
Really good
Let me know what you think of the film when you see it :)

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Shoe City Sound

4/13/2013 8:57:58 AM

I was mad that I missed seeing this when it was playing around Boston. Especially after I saw a cable TV show all about Rodriguez and his story and the making of the film. What a crazy (in a very good way) story .... just goes to show, you ABSOLUTELY have no idea what will ever happen.

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Steve Ison

4/15/2013 1:32:29 PM

Totally Dolores..

If we keep on keepin' on and writing cool music it could be one of us in 10 -20 years time lol

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Vincenzo Pandolfi

4/15/2013 7:29:31 PM

What an amazing story. To think that Rodriguez wrote these albums that just did not sell, and yet his music had such an impact in South Africa. This is what real songs are about. Making a difference, impacting somebody's life. In his case...a nation.

Thank you Steve for bringing it to our attention.


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Shoe City Sound

4/16/2013 6:47:47 PM

hmmm Steve - sensing a note of sarcasm - please! I'm assuming that even though I don't know it, Shoe City Sound has been iconic somewhere on the globe for the past 10-20 years. To my surprise, I'll find out any time now and they'll make a movie about me! :)

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Steve Ison

4/17/2013 1:22:11 AM ---- Updated 4/17/2013 2:33:38 AM

No,i wasn't being sarcastic - but not entirely serious either if that makes sense..; )

But you're right..We really DON'T know whats gonna happen

A big part of me still believes i'll be good enough to make a living from creating my own music some day..
Most people'd thinki thats impossible -but i still hold a flame
Its not gonna be CD sales or from touring tho
So what'll it be ?
I dunno..
One things f'sure tho ,it won't be forever that the beauty n ability to shift consciousness of 'the song' will be treated with such indifference..

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Hop On Pop

4/17/2013 6:01:12 AM

Personally, I have given up on making any sort of money from my music. Or even for being noticed much for it at all.
At this point I'm just making it for myself and putting it out there in case anyone else might maybe like it. I expect nothing from it and will most likely get what I expect. That's fine. As long as I have the ability to keep making it, I will.
Screw the world. This is my work, for me. I hope that you like it. But, if you don't, that's fine too. I did it, dammit.

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Shoe City Sound

4/17/2013 6:05:40 AM ---- Updated 4/17/2013 6:10:24 AM

Oh I knew you were kidding around - and believe me I was totally making a lame attempt at being funny in my last comment .....

Maybe this should go in the other blog of "how you got started" but the idea that future success in the music business may not depend on cd sales or even live performance makes me think of a few things.

I don't know much about the music business - just what I've observed as a listener and having had just a toe in the water professionally. I know that the business has not been that fair to the actual artists(even the iconic great ones) many times in it's history, in this country anyway, and certainly isn't now.

When we first started out it was all about getting a "deal". Boston had a really active scene in the early 80's. People that were playing the same clubs as us really did get record deals - The Cars, Aimee Mann (she was Til Tuesday back then), Mission of Burma (less well known) and other bands that were sort of shuttling a lot between NY and Boston like Blondie, and the Talking Heads in the very beginning. So that seemed sort of possible at the time.

We finally gave up on that though, (since we weren't getting signed haha) and put a home studio together just out of frustration to record and not pay outrageous money for studio hours. And then I realized I was relieved to not have to perform (I'm sort of shy and not that at ease as an entertainer) plus I never felt that the music could be expressed live without an expensive show (lights, good sound people etc) which of course was out of the question. I remember kidding around with someone at that point and saying how wouldn't it be great if you could just record and get the music heard and skip the club/exposure/record deal thing entirely. Well here we are online doing exactly that.

Our first CD back in 2000 actually did land us a "development" deal - I felt like a slave, I swear. Our manager wanted 3 cd's worth of music to shop around. We worked really hard and had to fight about compromising the sound to make his job easier, when no one was even making any money at that point. Thank God we got out of that. I got the feeling that maybe it would just get uglier and more dishonest if there was actually any good money being made.

So now here it is online and everyone really can get their tunes out there without a middle man and, really it's just the beginning of this phase for the world. The industry has, of course, fought it from the beginning. There are sooooooo very many musicians around the world putting out wonderful sounds and for now, very few are having a career in the traditional sense.

I think it's still transitional though. It's important for so much music to be available to everyone just to over power the negative place that business in general has brought us to. People everywhere really, literally need to hear good music and they want to. The big companies in every field, not just the arts, are not putting their money into changing anything. That's for sure. So the creative people in all industries, not just the arts are figuring out how to get new and beautiful things started on their own.

I always thought that a place where music could be successful for the artist was in sound tracks - although at the moment it's just as hard for the film makers as it is for the musicians to get their work out there. I'm not snobby when a good TV commercial has music by good artists. Why shouldn't any music anywhere be written by us instead of by marketing people. I love that lots of places to shop have independent music streaming and restaurants too. The fashion industry relies on good music as well. People that find their own personal favorite music online may be the ones working in these businesses and come looking for good music. It's not like background "elevator" music to me. It's about having a quality ambience in everyone's life no matter what they are doing. It changes the atmosphere and makes people behave differently.

IAC is so far the best experience we've had since starting to write back in the 1980's. And this hasn't existed for so very long in the scheme of things. The concept of who knows what will happen next is very real for me. I'm sort of encouraged by how "played out" the current pop music sounds. OK the musicians have been grossing out on this forever, but the rest of the population may finally catch on - there's definitely a "to be expected" time lapse there. Changes in popular music usually do come up from the independent scene. It just takes time.

I know that music is very important to mostly everyone I ever knew, or heard of, or read about etc etc. Popular demand is a mighty powerful thing and the music business can't keep a lid on creativity and beauty and meaning for much longer. I'm interested to see what comes next and I think what we're doing here at IAC is on the right side of the change that is coming.

Quite the rant for me .... hope it made sense :)


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Steve Ison

4/19/2013 3:28:39 PM ---- Updated 4/19/2013 3:43:24 PM

Todd..I hear ya and do sympathise..
The fact that 'you wrote this song' blows away any modern country song i've heard - means IDEALISTICALLY it deserves to be financially rewarded
Or what Bob n Tom have done with their band Dreamtown is creative,distinct n original -deserving of the same..
I really don't think its about 'the music' any more -At least as i understand it- tho..

Its like somethings shifted in peoples conciousness...

The gene that demanded creative harmonic shifts/beautiful melodic storytelling -presence n vitality from a songwriting pov has disappeared..
It dosn't seem to exist anymore

It must have , 'cos the artists the public vote to give them their musical fixes from Ed Sheeran to Adele don't have those skills..
They may be gifted in other ways -but definitely not in those..

I listened to Amanda Palmers music...Someone who's completely made a success of herself purely thru the internet n believing in herself (if you don't know her or her story)
A modern fairytale success story -With no influence at all from big record companies or anything..She's a peoples champion
She's frikkin' massive now - Selling out huge venues..
Tho i think its cool she's done what she's done - i played her music and was very disappointed.. It did nothing for me at all..To the point i genuinelly couldn't understand the success she'd got FROM A MUSICAL POV...

Because its not about the music now..

She's a very charismatic personality-with a great marketing nouse who's dreamed of very creative,cunning ways to promote herself -get publicity and she's got a way to make people feel good about themselves thru the strength of her pertsonality..

Its almost like her music seems secondary to having those great people skills..

So if you wanna be a success now -Have an original singing voice-be a charismatic stage personality-have an incredibly 'tight' band to play live with and learn how to 'work' an audience,make a very creative original video,think of a novel,charming way to promote yourself,create a dumb new dance people can copy..

All of the above will work better for you than writing a really cool song thats f'sure..

Dolores...Thanx for your story..Very interesting..
I don't understand why your manager would want 3 CDs worth of stuff at all,,,Seems insane..1 really strong CD would've surely worked loads better for you

Its funny with the whole advertising thing..
I totally understand why artists do it and i wouldn't be judgemental about it -but its definitely not for me..
My mate Harper Stephens and me had this running joke where he asked if i was offered £50,000 from a tampon manufacturer to use my song 'I Know A Good Thing' would i take it..?."I Know a good thing when it touches my skin......"

Of course it'd be great to have the money -but i'd still say 'no'...

I could never get respect from people or fellow artists ever again - and i'd always just be known as 'the tampon guy' whatever music i'd make in the future...

Its like the corporate world always wants to take something beautiful to give their dull product a shine by association..

Its sad that thats one of the few avenues left where artists can make any money now...

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Shoe City Sound

4/19/2013 4:30:03 PM ---- Updated 4/20/2013 5:52:39 AM

I wasn't thinking of tampon ads haha - or selling out to dull advertisers. Can't really explain it that well I guess :)

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Steve Ison

4/22/2013 8:27:25 AM

No i know you wern't lol
That was just my anecdote ;)

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Hop On Pop

7/19/2013 3:57:33 PM

Watched this last night.
Absolutely adored it. An incredible story that could not have been made up.
And the scenes at the end, where he was performing in front of the sold-out crowds in Capetown made every single hair on my body stand up on end.

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Steve Ison

7/24/2013 1:38:25 PM

Nice one Todd..Thought you'd really dig it..
Yeh it really affected me powerfully when i saw it too..

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