My favorite aspect of punk rock – when done well – is how it completely strips away anything that isn’t absolutely necessary to the song. Punk emerged in the time of overproduced disco and bands that toured with full orchestras as backing musicians, took a look at all of that, promptly did the opposite. The nine-minute progressive rock voyage was gone, replaced by the ninety-second missive that said what it needed to say, then vamoosed. The huge stage production was replaced by a handful of people sweating over instruments and microphones. Big studios and major labels were replaced by “prosumer” recording equipment and DIY album releases.
The bands were supposed to have been limited by their budgets, their lack of equipment, and sometimes even their lack of musicianship. If anything, their limitations made them more creative, and their achievements more impressive. Some of the best punk albums happened because the bands didn’t let anything stop them. So whatever you’re creating, and however you’re creating, don’t let it stop you.
I don’t purport to have been part of the punk scene at large. But I’m still absolutely enamored with creating small, no-frills projects with limited means. Straying from that meat-and-potatoes creative method is something that has ruined several of my creative projects – most of which ended up being canceled or “indefinitely postponed” (which is a nice way of saying “canceled”).
When I started to work on Downtown Uproar in earnest, I tried to stay true to my punk rock roots. Rather than recording on a four-track recorder, I’m using an open-source word processor. Instead of creating songs that barely reach two minutes, I’m staying under 40 pages. And I’m doing this all as cheaply as possible, without demographic research, marketing analytics or focus groups. This is a passion project. And while I’m not allergic to money, it was never the driving goal behind creation.
Just as when I wrote about open source software, I’m not saying my methods will work for anyone. If you’ve got the time, resources and creativity to make an epic, sprawling project, do it. Do it, don’t apologize for doing it, and show it off to the world. Personally, I’m going the DIY punk route. And if you’ve been having problems getting your ideas out of your head and onto the page, maybe you should give it a try.
“We’re going to keep doing what we do whether or not a single record is sold.”
– Tomas Kalnoky