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Business End

MPG Reader Demo Assessments
By Various

Business End enables you to have your demo reviewed by a panel of producers, songwriters, musicians and managers from the MPG (Music Producer's Guild). 

Jazz Dentist

Jona Lewie (JL): "This wasn't very forceful and didn't have much personality. It was quite an introverted, private style, but quite broad because the second track's sound was very different from the first.

"He seems to be following a template where one minute 30 seconds into every song there's a change. The first track changed from a long intro into the next movement although the intro theme returned afterwards. Drums and bass featured in the second track and about one minute 30 seconds in some scratching appeared which caught my interest, but he didn't capitalise on it. The third track had a nice mood but it also had a change at exactly one minute 30.

"He might have trouble getting major label involvement although it might appeal to an experimental label."

Business End

Matt Fernand (MF): "I thought the tracks lacked personality, too, although there is an awful lot that he could develop. Maybe he should try some co-writing to break out of the little thing that he's into. These sounded like library tracks with the GM brass and dated sounds, which didn't really do him any favours.

"It sounded like he had found the scratch and vocal sample, bunged it on, and lost sight of the fact that this is supposed to be mood music, so things jumped around too much. I don't think he knew what to do with the nice tabla loop and ultimately he didn't take the production far enough for anything to become more than loops."

Penny Ganz (PG): "I wanted to be drawn into the first track and it began to sound a bit interesting with the tabla, but it wasn't really developing and wasn't completely chilled either.

"The second track went in a different direction which was really confusing. It seemed to be a mixture of stuff thown together, which is fine in some contexts but I'm not quite sure what it was doing here. The big building synth chords in the second track were a nice idea but the sound was a bit dated.

"He should be more focused because, at present, it would be difficult for an arranger or producer to run with this project."

Matt Verovkins (MV): "The sounds in the first track were quite entertaining but the ideas tended to go on a bit. When he introduced the tabla and vocal loop they didn't really fit together. I didn't think the first track suited the name Jazz Dentist but the second track was quite jazzy. I liked the introduction of scratching but I was disappointed that later the track returned to the original idea instead of building. It wouldn't suit a major label although it might suit a commercial chill-out label."

Pig

PG: "This wasn't unpleasant but it was such a pastiche that it was hard to take seriously. The third track was more of a steady, serious, focused song, and I believe there is a market for that type of songwriting so I think they should concentrate more on the songwriting."

Business EndMV: "The intro of the first track was funny and I quite liked that, but when it got going it sounded like a cheesy Manga theme. The second track was very poor and cheesy. The third was an improvement but they were still holding on to the past. The vocals were too flat to stand out from the rest of the music.

"They are trying to create something that people will like, rather than creating their own style."

MF: "I think they should get a dedicated singer because this music is supposed to be theatrical and his voice was very flat. Also the lyrics were appalling: they need to rewrite those completely because they have horrible clangy rhymes all the way through and that was partly why it was tricky to take it seriously.

"This music is never going to get a contract but Pig could market it themselves for the prog rock scene. There used to be a European scene run by fanzines and web sites like goth is at the moment. They might have some luck in the USA but first of all they need to work on the vocals."

JL: "In the '60s or '70s this type of conceptual rock project could have done well in the US. The problem is that it is outmoded. Having said that, I thought that in the first track the sounds, the intro and the spoken-word section was quite nice. I also like the bass sound and the way that the keyboards came in after that. It was very broad but it was a bit of a list of cliches and there are a lot of chord progressions ripped from famous rock bands. The second track was also very derivative and the vocal didn't cut it in the third.

"They might be secretly chuckling at what they are doing, but if they're pushing 50 then perhaps they're synthesizing their influences sincerely. They seem to have put a lot of work into the production. It is not innovative music and it has an old-fashioned feel to it, but you never know if a retro movement is coming back."

Alex Moody

JL: "This offers a lot of potential areas for development but I wasn't really moved by the songs — there was no X-factor. His musical arrangements varied: the first was quite poor but he did pick up in the second song by taking things out and put them back in to create dynamics. He changed the instrumentation in the third, which was encouraging, but there was a flatness there.

Business End"He needs to keep working on his art. He could try being more unplugged and have his voice and instrument up front, which might give us a chance to see how good he really is."

MV: "The first track was short and sweet and I quite liked his musical ideas, but they lacked that extra 'oomph' to fully grab me. The second track didn't seem to have a particular direction, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it seemed to switch tempos and styles. The vocals in the third track sounded a bit twee, especially with lyrics like 'Devil In My Dreams'. Overall I think I'd prefer the music without his vocals. Nevertheless, he's worth keeping an eye on for the future because his musical talent is there."

PG: "This guy is 22, yet this music harks back a good 20 years or so. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with that but it gives him a bigger hill to climb. The vocal in the first track is covered in effects which makes me think he's worrying about his voice. The second song was rhythmically driven which I liked. The third was a bit wishy-washy and I was losing interest in a major way. I think the basic songwriting building blocks are in place, but he's used lots of songwriting cliches so it just needs some more imagination."

MF: "His voice sounds exactly like Roy Harper, who is over 60, so I'm not sure if that is a good or bad thing! There were lots of very nice touches in the production and arrangements like a shaker and handclap that came and went in the third track. All the ideas hung together, and I didn't feel overwhelmed by them. Perhaps there was a deficiency in the vocal melody but I felt that the production was making up for it.

"He calls it folk-rock but I don't think there is a big market there. I think you could sell it but he'll have problem getting a label to pick up on it."

Qhixldekx

MV: "After seeing the cover image the music was totally unexpected and he needs to address that discrepancy. Track titles like 'Burn, Witch, Burn' and 'Every Time I Touch My Teeth The Gums Bleed Profusely' suggest death metal but you can hear that he's influenced by the '80s electro market.

cd cover "His production is basic and you can tell he's not been doing it for long, so overall he needs to improve on his production skills. I quite liked the second track where it switched to a bass-driven part. The third track made me laugh, although I don't know if that's what he intended."

PG: "I would have been happy to listen to these tracks all the way through. This reminded me of bands like New Order, Freur and Underworld. That's where you get the arty image from and the idea that the song titles can be completely disconnected from the music, because that is ironic in itself.

"The first track had a deadpan, theatrical style and I liked the way the third track cut back to the vocal before driving on. Generally I liked the drive and rhythm but I wanted the bigger sound picture, so I think he could try experimenting more with the sound textures."

MF: "I enjoyed the quirky production. It has that lo-fi, '80s, four-track feel and some bits obviously weren't sequenced. The riff on the third track contained a couple of fluffed notes where he'd obviously played the part by hand instead of sequencing it.

"The first track's melodies weren't strong enough: the guitar solo noodled and rambled and the vocal melody went nowhere. He was obviously trying to do angry, quirky stuff but his voice let it down because he wasn't flamboyant enough to get that across. He sounded like 'I'm just going to be a bit cross if you don't mind?', so he would benefit from working with a performing singer.

"Press shots of four self-conscious-looking blokes standing in a car park or building site holding a guitar and drumsticks is now just a cliche, but I was intrigued by this packaging; the photo looks quite cool, and I liked the cover picture, but the music was very different so I didn't really get that."

JL: "I enjoyed this more than any other demo this evening. The backing tracks had a freshness and there were plenty of good production ideas. The first track opened with a provocative lyric that made me wonder what was going on. Generally he's a bit frantic but he took more time in track two, which was a better-paced arrangement, and we had more of a chance to get into it.

"Ultimately he needs to improve his melodies but he has thought hard about the presentation and his image. There's the famous story of Gilbert O'Sullivan's demo, which ended up on the desk of Gordon Mills who ran MAM. Unusually, O'Sullivan was wearing shorts on the cover and that helped him get noticed."

MV: "A straightforward picture like SunShine State's [see April 2003 Business End] is boring, but his picture was different and that's a good way to get a demo listened to."

PG: "I find it more stunning to get just three track titles and the name. I am far less interested in something that has had a lot of money spent on it, and record company marketing people enjoy working on that bit anyway."

This Month's MPG Panel

Working as assistant engineer and technician for Hilton Sound and Dreamhire, Matt Fernand helped build studios for recording projects such as Radiohead's OK Computer. More recently he started work at Radio 1 editing and mixing show trails. He currently produces content for OneMusic, Radio 1's web site aimed at anyone wanting to get into the music industry. The content includes interview with artists and producers and a series of industry guides. Matt is also a home-studio musician and a drummer with a Brixton-based jazz collective.

Award-winning songwriter, musician and producer Jona Lewie began his career back in the late '60s, when he played with Arthur Cudup during the British blues boom. He has had numerous solo worldwide hits, most notably with 'You'll Always Find Me In The Kitchen At parties', 'Seaside Shuffle' and the perennial Christmas favourite, 'Stop the Cavalry', for which he won an Ivor Novello Award. Jona operates his own studio facility and is a member of the MPG and BACS.

Penny Ganz is a music lawyer and manager, coming from a music and engineering background. She now runs her own company, having earlier been with EMI Records for many years, and subsequently with West End music lawyers The Simkins Partnership. Current clients include record companies of all sizes, a variety of artists and many producers.

In 1998, Matt Verovkins set up the events management company Hyponik, specialising in breakbeat-orientated events such as Beak Party and Rebel Break. He also DJs at London nights: Critical Breaks, Eclectic Heist and the Sunday Break. Matt acts as label assistant and logistics director for Source Records, and together with Fin Greenall, he runs the independent label Tyke, for all types of electronic music. Matt is currently taking a BA(Hons) in Music Industry Management Marketing.

Published June 2003