Business End enables you to have your demo reviewed by a panel of producers, songwriters, musicians and managers.
Liz McCudden (LM): "So is he a one-man outfit? I can't make out if it's real musicians."
Joff Gladwell (JG): "I think this is all right but I think it's more of a vibe thing than a song thing. The second track, 'Who's That Girl', has got quite a hooky chorus though."
KP: "It's got quite a trashy sound hasn't it?"
JG: "Yeah. I really like the recording on the second one — it's kind of like a lost psychedelic record from the '60s or something. The third one's got a similar feel to it as well, I like that.
"I do think it's probably better for the vibe than for the songs but I do like the vibe."
Joe Vanags Fleming (JF): "I think I feel the same. I found the arrangements really strange though, you just feel like it's a bit random and you don't know what's going to happen."
JG: "The first one, particularly, had a weird arrangement."
LM: "I wouldn't have put that one first, not on a demo. The rest of it's so different from the first track and you might not get past that to hear it."
KP: "The first track seems to suggest a certain style but then he never comes back to it. You know — it's quite electronic and quite dark but then it goes all rocky and even a bit psychedelic. His musical direction was... Well I don't quite know what it was."
LM: "I think if you can't hit high notes you shouldn't try. I think it's the third song which is worse for that. You need to stick to your range."
KP: "The recording's pretty good though, it sounds quite good — nice use of effects in places. I think maybe on the fifth track the vocals are a bit quiet but that's quite a minor thing really."
JF: "It all seems a bit simple to me, like he was trying different ideas for different tracks but then he didn't really take them very far, like he didn't really let them develop. It's a bit like each song is a different idea."
LM: "I think he's showing his age with his influences. It really makes me think of the Stone Roses or the Charlatans, you know, that baggy sort sound. Actually, he says in his letter that he's been making music for 17 years and I think that shows a bit."
KP: "I reckon he just needs to work on his songwriting a bit. The songs sound a bit like they're jams at the moment, he just needs to work on the structures because there's some good stuff in here — the chorus on the second track especially. Maybe he should get together with someone else, it can be hard writing stuff on your own. Actually he mentions that he's been swapping ideas with someone, maybe they should get together and make it more of a band."
LM: "I thought some of the lyrics were a bit mundane. It's like 'mowing the lawn, la la la', you don't need to hear about that — you should put music on to think about things other than everyday life I think."
KP: "You get the impression that he knows what he's doing but he's not quite sure what he wants to do. It doesn't really take you anywhere because the style of music keeps jumping around. It's definitely a good effort though, he just needs a bit more direction and a bit more focus."
JF: "Yeah, that's right, he basically needs to hone his ideas and work out exactly what he wants to create."
JG: "And don't put 10 tracks on a demo, just put three good tracks on it — people can always ask you for more if they want to hear some more. We get about 20 demos every day and it would be impossible to listen to 10 tracks on every one. And always put your best track on first. If this guy had put the second one on first you'd be intrigued to hear more — it's pretty poppy and accessible, it's got a hooky chorus and the production's quite interesting as well."
LM: "You can't afford to make people wait for the good tracks when you're sending a demo, just put on your three best ones."
KP: "Seventeen tracks."
JF: "Seventeen? And after what we've just been saying about 10 being too many!"
KP: "This sounds like the sort of thing that was being done in the late-'80s, early-'90s. It sounds a bit like early Future Sound of London or something like that. I think the name 'Fluid' suggests that sort of Black Dog-style techno and that's exactly what it is.
"What do you think you're supposed to do to this sort of music? I mean are you you supposed to go mental and rave to it or are you supposed to get really stoned and chill out? I mean it's not really dancing music."
JF: "No, it's too stop-start for that."
LM: "Armchair disco."
JF: "It's definitely getting better as the CD goes on. It's a shame this is number 15, we easily could have missed it."
JG: "He could have put the CD in reverse order."
JF: "Or just put the second half on it."
JG: "I just think this sounds like it's from a different time really. It sounds pretty old and I think the sounds he's using seem quite dated. It's kind of like a weird cut-up, it never really gets into a groove."
JF: "Yeah, it's quite disjointed."
JG: "Yeah, but it's not disjointed in an interesting way, it's disjointed in a kind of arbitrary, lazy way."
LM: "It's not very fluid."
JF: "Despite the name."
KP: "He says in his letter that he's been making music for a year and that shows a bit I think. The stuff towards the end is a lot better though. A lot more listenable."
JF: "They're a lot more polished, aren't they?"
KP: "There are better people doing the sort of thing he's doing out there though."
JF: "There were better people 10 years ago."
KP: "There's some pretty tough competition with this kind of music. You really need an original take on it to give you an edge. His ideas are only half there and with electronic music you do need to be a bit more creative and inventive.
"The drum programming was a lot better towards the end, a bit simple maybe but it was actually cohesive and it made some sense. I think it's the 'Amen Brother' breakbeat on track 15 — that's a classic breakbeat and the track was pretty interesting. The mix on number 16 was actually pretty decent, especially compared to the earlier tracks where you couldn't really hear the synths because the drums were too loud."
LM: "Maybe he's been a DJ for years."
KP: "What, and gone deaf? No, I'm joking, if he's only been doing this for a year and the stuff at the end is the new stuff then he's not doing badly at all."
LM: "There's just nothing about this which is different from other music like it."
JG: "I think he needs to listen to more music, especially more modern music. Maybe we should send him some Mute compilations."
JF: "If this CD is actually everything he's ever done in chronological order then he's definitely improved as he's gone along."
KP: "It seems like the early tracks are a big learning curve, at least with the later ones you get the feeling he's got a better idea about what he's trying to make."
KP: "After just one minute this is the most interesting thing we've heard so far. I always quite like this style of music anyway. I'm always quite interested to know how people make this sort of music. You know, just the mind-set you have to be in to make it. I'm quite curious about it, we get to hear quite a lot of it at Mute.
"The mix is quite good, it's a bit lo-fi but that doesn't really matter with abstract stuff like this. I reckon he could get someone to put this out actually."
JF: "How far are we in?"
KP: "9:50 out of 10:30, we've listened to the whole thing, — that's the first one."
JG: "This guy certainly doesn't need any Mute compilations."
KP: "I think it's quite cool just putting one 10-minute track on a CD and sticking it a brown envelope with a web site address and a phone number on it. With this sort of thing that's all you need really. It's quite curious music anyway — you just go and check out the web site."
LM: "The thing I don't like about this sort of music is that there's never anything to look at at gigs. It's just a man behind a laptop."
JF: "Sometimes they have lights or video projections, I think that can work quite well."
JG: "I think it's good. We get a lot of this sort of thing at Mute though, we've got a big bag of them downstairs. I do think it's good but I don't know how special it is compared to other stuff. It's inventive though, he's got some good sounds going on — there's one bit where it sounds like a music box going through a photocopier or something. It's got a really pretty sound but it's really mechanical as well — I like that. I'm sure there's loads of labels out there who would be happy to put this out and sell a few hundred copies."
KP: "I don't think he'd have any problems getting someone to put this out as it is. This sort of thing's quite relevant at the moment and lots of people are doing it, labels like Mille Plateau for example."
JG: "I think with the other demos we've heard so far the people were a bit unsure about what they were trying to do, but you get the impression that this guy to know exactly what he's doing and what he wants. He's pulled it off really well."
JF: "It's hard to distinguish between songs like this. It's difficult to say what makes the difference between something being released and not being. I don't really know enough about the field to say how good it is compared to other things but I quite like it."
LM: "It doesn't sound like a demo really."
KP: "It sounds like a record."
LM: "If someone stuck that on in a set I wouldn't know that it was a demo."
JF: "You could probably get this on an advert — surreal, abstract music always does quite well. It's not going to get on Capital Radio or anything but there's definitely a market for this sort of thing."
LM: "As long as when he's playing live he doesn't scare people with that interference noise at the start. At first I though 'oh no, it's one of them' — try and drive everyone out of the room and then feel really smug when it's empty. But he wasn't like that, he just has to be careful playing live."
KP: "The fact we managed to listen to all of it tells you it must be pretty decent. I like the brown-envelope style packaging. Minimal record — minimal packaging."
JF: "It gives it a certain aura of mystique. Well, assuming he's not just a lazy bastard."
KP: "I'll definitely go and check out the web site."
Kevin Paul began his career in audio engineering as a tea-boy at Ray Davies' Konk Studios. He joined the Instrument at Mute in '94 and became Head Engineer there in '97. Over the course of his career he has worked with David Bowie, the KLF and, of course, a host of Mute artists, including Goldfrapp and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds,
Recently Kevin has been concentrating on 5.1 mixing and is about to release the debut album by his band AGK (www.agkmusic.com).
Joff Gladwell is an A&R scout for Mute Records. His daily rountine involves listening to demos, going to gigs and talking to people about bands — which is very nice work if you can get it.
He's probably earned it though: Joff started his own record label, Bad Jazz, when he was 16 and spent the next seven years releasing diverse and eclectic music by acts like My Morning Jacket, Lone Pigeon and James Yorkston. He joined Mute in his current position in 2002.
Joe Vanags Fleming is Assistant Publisher at Mute Song, Mute Records' publishing division. After graduating from university Joe worked for the Performing Rights Society (PRS) before going on to join Mute.
His job as Assistant Publisher involves liasing with Mute's international sub-publishers, processing royalties and occaisional A&R work with urban and dance music.
Joe is also a DJ and has recently began producing his own music.
Liz McCudden is Product manager at Mute Records, a job which involves organising the scheduling, production and promotion for the many different acts on the label.
Liz's career in music began in the live industry where she worked as Stage Manager at Shepherd's Bush Empire and in some of London's other larger live venues.
After a spell working for record label City Slang she went on to join Mute in 2003.
Many thanks to MJ and The Instrument at Mute Records (www.the-instrument.com) for organising and hosting the session.