The rant: The Herbaliser’s Jake and Ollie on “the industry”

 Jake Wherry and Ollie Teeba are the men behind the The Herbaliser, a rappy, jazzy type ensemble that burst forth sometime in the early ’90s. Having been “on the scene” for about two decades now, they’ve got quite a lot of bones to pick about the music industry – as we found out during a chat just before their fourth Dour gig. “That was a nice rant,” Ollie concluded at the end of the interview, adding: “I really needed to get that out.” Get ready for a tirade. 

Music is too freely available. It has lost its worth.

The music business has changed a lot since we started. And not necessarily in the best way. Music has become more disposable, especially for younger people. For us as teenagers music was really important; for teenagers in the ’70s and ’80s music was one of the most important things in life. Now the youngsters want to buy ringtones, DVDs and video games. Music is too freely available. It has lost its worth. What’s interesting is that people will pay quite a lot for the devices, but they don’t want to pay for the content. You can get a cup of coffee for the same price as an album. Now the coffee costs 20 cents to make and the coffee companies are obviously exploiting the workers and farmers that make it. It takes us 18 months to two years to make an album.

The solution? A format that you can’t download straight onto a phone. Oh yeah, wait, it’s called vinyl!

Google could take the illegal downloading websites off their search machine. But the best solution is a format that you can’t download straight onto a phone. Oh yeah, wait, it’s called vinyl! And it’s been around since the beginning of recorded music history! That’s why we make records. But of course also CDs. If you steal a BMW from a shop, you go to jail. So if you steal music on the internet, it’s still stealing. But the problem is that the corporations sometimes go after one individual as a warning. Once they decided to pick on this one woman who literally downloaded just a handful of CDs, she was just a a housewife and they wanted to ruin her, and that’s not fair when everybody’s doing it. What you have to do is cut it off at the source. But they don’t want to mess with Google or whoever is the most powerful corporation in the universe today. The important thing is that people’s attitudes need to change. Music needs to be valued again. When you can just have everything for free, you don’t care about it as much.

We’re literally just about hanging in there

If I asked you to come and fix my toilet, I would have to pay for that service. If I go and see a movie, I should pay to see that movie. And if I go see a concert, I have to pay to see that concert. And so I should also have to pay for having the music at home. People say it’s making the live scene much stronger and that more money can be made live, but this is true for only a small amount of people who can make these big shows where they can sell 50,000 or 100,000 tickets at £100 each! We’re selling to a capacity of 500 at €20 or something. And of course the venue takes a big cut out of it. It’s very difficult. We’re literally just about hanging in there. At some point a lot of the guys in this band get families – Jake here has four children! Four children cost a lot of money. If you’re looking at music to provide for four children in 2013 and you’re not Jay-Z who can actually afford to have a diamond-crusted rocking horse for his child, you have a problem.

The illuminati of popular music decide what’s going to be popular 

The situation is that you have a small amount of people deciding what can and will sell. And that’s so tightly controlled that you have an audience out there that is only aware of the stuff that these people decide they should be aware of. Most kids only know Jay-Z and Kanye and whatever. These people basically sit around a table and decide who’s going to be big in 2014 or 2015. Labels, media, … there’s this inner circle and they’re all working together. It used to be scandalous that radio stations would pay to play songs; in the ’70s there was a big scandal about it. But this is what’s always gone on. And in 2013 it’s even more the case. People say that everyone can make their own music and put it on the internet, but how visible is that music? It’s the same fucking artists everywhere. When you go on Youtube you have big adverts for this artist and that artist…the Illuminati of popular music decide what’s going to be popular and if you’re not one of these artists, you’re screwed.

Don’t wait for TV, magazines or radio to tell you what’s worth your time

What you should do to discover music is to go to a record shop, or on the internet, which is also technically a record shop… I used to go to a record shop and say, right, can I hear this, this, this and this and if I liked it I’d buy it. That’s how I’d discover music. And I’d decide for myself whether it’s good, rather than waiting for a magazine or the radio or the TV to tell me what’s worth my time. Because they don’t know what’s worth my time, I only like what I like. We’re not all the same. And that’s the problem: you listen to the radio and it all sounds the fucking same. It all sounds like robots.