Anil Prasad: Inner Views, Borderless Perspectives

Joe Lang By

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AAJ: Another thing that is very interesting to me that we've talked about is your philosophy that despite so much doom and gloom saying about the music industry, there is more good music being released now than ever before. If artists are having a harder time making it these days and going forward, where do you see the future of music that takes years and years to attain a technical facility to execute? What will become of virtuosic music if artists can't dedicate a majority of time to honing their craft?

AP: If we're going by this pile of 50 or so different jazz and fusion new release CDs that I have on my desk right now, mostly on independent labels, mostly from artists that are not household names, the future seems pretty bright to me. I think real musicians have to make music independent of their economic circumstances and independent of their perception of how they're going to make a living at it. Real writers write, real musicians make music. Whether fame or fortune awaits them, they're going to play music, they're going to have a home recording studio, they're going to put stuff out, they're going to gig wherever they can gig, and the stuff's going to get out there. And there's always going to be a percentage of people willing to pay for the privilege to access this material.

I think the era of a Return to Forever or a Weather Report playing to 20,000 people like a big rock band are permanently over. Those days are gone. What you're describing is definitely niche-oriented music. I'm not trying to downplay the fact that it's a challenge. I think you're going to see even more musicians who have day jobs. I have a day job. If I want to do Innerviews the way I want to do it, have it look like it does, be at the level that hopefully it's at, I have to have another source of income to make that happen. One of the most prestigious independent jazz labels out there today is run by two guys who have day jobs. So, even some of the guys who run the labels have to do other stuff to make a living.

Maybe we're going to this part-time model. I know a lot of major jazz guys, even progressive rock guys that have day jobs just to keep hand to mouth. It's a compromise on one side where they have to bring in this other source of income. But on the other side it means they can make whatever music they want without having to worry about that music propping them up economically. Whether that's a good thing or a bad thing is in the eye of the beholder. You've seen the bumper sticker that says, "Real musicians have day jobs." That just might be the way it is going forward. If you're lucky and you get a real break and you catch fire, maybe you can transcend that and turn into an artist who can do it full time. That would be the greatest of all circumstances. But I think the reality of it is that people have to come up with a hybrid model that works for them given the economic climate.

AAJ: There's a divided philosophy among serious music fans about separating the artist from their art. As someone who has interacted with hundreds of some of the most revered musicians in the world, can you talk about your philosophy on that?

AP: I've become much better at it. The interesting thing about being a music journalist is that you are there to connect the artist to the art, not separate them from it [laughter]. And yet you still want to be impartial. You want to come at it from a distance so that you don't get too emotionally involved in what they're saying. Having said that, on the few occasions where the artist was a total prick with me—and it has happened—it's sometimes hard to divorce yourself from the art. You, as the music journalist, go back and listen to this music you once loved negotiating the fact that a horrendous jerk, who really treated you badly at one point, was behind it. So you adopt a philosophy that you are going to keep a kind of artistic distance.

I think one of the dangers, especially for younger music journalists, is to think that just because you spent two or three nice hours with this person that you may admire that you are friends with them. Wrong. You're not. Occasionally it'll evolve into a friendship, but very rarely. It's usually a one-off relationship that's there for a purpose. The artist wants media coverage and you want a story. And it ends right there. I think if you can draw those lines in your mind, it'll benefit you a lot as a music journalist. I think in the earlier days, too, it was really easy for me to get star struck, especially if I got to interview someone very famous. The bottom line is to try not to get too emotionally involved. I think that will serve you really well.

AAJ: You're a huge audiophile and collector. Can you talk about how you take in media these days—your gear, if you will?

AP: I hate to admit it but I listen to virtually all my music on iTunes these days, in a variety of formats including MP3 and high resolution formats, like FLAC when I can get 24 bit audiophile downloads. It's just too compelling to have thousands of albums on your hard drive ready to go at your fingertips at any given moment. I love high resolution formats like SACD or DVD-Audio but I listen to so much music these days I just can't be surrounded by thousands of CDs or I'd have no room to move. I've got a full blown surround sound system when I want to use it. Most of my music is listened to in my office. There's a stereo setup I have in there that runs through the computer. I have a THX system running through a Mac, so I'm trying to make the computer-based listening experience as high quality as it can be.

I still buy CDs and prefer to get review materials as physical objects, but once I've digitized them and looked at the liner notes, I'll put them away. Ongoing that stuff exists in iTunes for me. But I have not by any means given up on physical media. I still love what they do in Japan, especially with these mini-LP vinyl replica CDs they put out over there. A lot of very novel things are coming out via physical media these days, and some absurd things, like Tori Amos packaging a CD with a film camera for $200. I love the wonderfully-packaged Beatles reissues. The Miles Davis Bitches Brew (Sony Legacy, 2010) deluxe set was a nice package too. There's a really great Who Live at Leeds (Universal, 2010) super-deluxe set that just came out which is superb. So I'm still a physical media fetishist.

AAJ: Can you talk about where you see the future of music journalism as a whole?

AP: The action has definitely shifted online. As far as extended length online interviews go, check out Tokafi, run by Tobias Fischer or The Quietus, both of which are doing excellent work. All About Jazz is another beacon for deep content. I think it's great that there is that level of detail out there and that there are so many people doing it. I think it's just like music. I think probably the best music journalism is being created by people who don't do this full-time for a living. It's really about the journalist promoting the music that they believe in. Ultimately that is the best music journalism, in my opinion: when the writer is writing about something they care about that they feel is worth letting the world know exists. There's definitely value in the critical side of the house too. It's fun when writers trash albums by bloated, self-important rock stars, rappers, or those reality show entertainers. But that's not going to be lasting. You're unlikely to go back to that stuff years later. It's pretty ephemeral. I think there's a lot of really high quality writing with lasting value available these days. You have to know where to go find it. If you know where to look, you will be richly rewarded.

Photo Credits
All Photos: Courtesy of Anil Prasad/Innerviews

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