Everything But a Luddite ['99 interview by Rolling Stone]

Indieman 发表于 2006-3-13 14:27:37 | 显示全部楼层 |阅读模式
Everything But a Luddite
- Everything But the Girl's Ben Watt talks about his Web savvy

Ben Watt and Tracey Thorn -- the dynamic duo behind Everything But the Girl -- have always been ahead of the curve, experimenting with jazz, dance music and acoustic music before many of their peers. That sense of experimentation led Watt to explore the Internet before other bands, too; he's been single-handedly managing the band's official Web site (www.ebtg.com) since its launch back in 1995. In conversation, he's equally adept speaking about the band's new CD, Temperamental, and MP3 files. We caught up with Watt at the Mercer Hotel in New York City hours before his DJ gig at the nightclub Vinyl.

When did you first go online?

Probably about '94, I'd seen an article in a newspaper about the World Wide Web, and the page they showed looked like a magazine and I thought "Wow, it's like a fanzine or something." And I happened to be at the graphic design company that was doing our album sleeve at the time and they had a browser up. I asked if I could have a look around and I was hooked. My immediate thought was that you could create your own magazine.

When did your site launch?

We started designing it in '94 and it must have been online late '94 or early '95. I thought of it as new medium that needed learning, like in the same way you pick up a guitar or PC or some other manual. If you want to make it work for you, you have to learn the rules. The first thing I did was design some basic page ideas in a graphics program like Quark on a Mac. I remember spending nights looking at code and kind of working it out for myself. Then I bought a book.

What attracted you to the Web?

The thing that really [got me excited] about the Internet was the speed of information. I wanted to create a fanzine for the band and I thought this is all I really need to do...I had no idea how big our potential fanbase was at this point. It came about at an interesting point for us. We lost our record deal with WEA (Warner/Elektra/Atlantic), after ten years with them, in the beginning of the '90s. And I felt, for a moment, in limbo. We hadn't found a new deal, I had a terrible thought that perhaps this might be the end. We might be a dinosaur band. And I felt like the least we could do is have a Web site and maybe an independent deal, and begin again on a more modest level. I saw the Web site as very much a part of this cottage industry we could hold on to. And of course, within six months, we signed to Virgin and things were upwards again.

How often do you contribute to your site?

I look at the site every day. I have a laptop with remote access so I can update it at any point. I spend most of my time on the news pages because they need the most refreshing, and once a month I scan through the whole site because you'd be surprised how much of the language that was appropriate six months ago suddenly seems dated. You use a phrase like "the album from last year" and it actually becomes "the album from two years ago." I hate it when sites haven't been updated for like nine months.

Any newsworthy recent additions?

Early last year we set up a really good thing where we put up a page for something called a chart vote. And we basically had a pop-up menu with every single recording we ever made. About 120 recordings. And you can select your favorite song. And it's automatically added to a CGI bin and updated to a chart before your eyes. And you can influence your favorite recording. Every time a fan votes, it's registered within a matter of seconds. Then you can click and see the updated chart, see what people on the Internet have voted for as the top twenty Everything But the Girl songs. We've only had it up and running six months.

What sites do you enjoy?

I regularly look at the BBC site for news and sport coverage. I have a few pet sites that I do use quite a bit like Hard to Find Records (htfr.co.uk). It's a really good site, especially for anyone in the dance community. It's basically a big warehouse in Birmingham, England, and they have a pretty comprehensive online search engine, you can order online, and they just introduced secure encryption. I used to just see it online and then order by phone because I didn't fancy giving my credit card details. But now it's got secure encryption and I don't mind at all...I buy books through Amazon; I'm amazed at how quickly it works. It's incredible. There's a really good graphics book that just came out called Sampler, which is like the history of album designs on CD.

Why haven't you posted any MP3 files?

I haven't gotten there yet to be honest. I am very aware of the industry's nervousness about MP3. It might be interesting to use it for things like live tracks or promos. But I'm also aware that I'm kind of under contract with both Virgin and Atlantic, and I can't just be casual about my music. In a wonderful anarchic world, in a boundary-free world of the ultimate Internet experience, I would love to cut a track in my studio, put it up in MP3, and let people do what they want with it, just for the crack. But I am a signed artist and I have to be careful about how we use it. I think that's a difficult issue for established artists. I can see how it's an absolute Godsend to unsigned groups. Having said that, when the world really catches on to MP3, who is really going to wade through it all? That's what I wanna know. At record stores, those are records that A&R departments have deemed worthy of release; we're talking about any old guy can put up some terrible track.

Does piracy scare you?

Piracy on a small scale is flattering. I mean just now there's been a bit of hoo-ha because a bootleg of "Five Fathoms" has been appearing in dance stores on the East Coast for $11, and it's six days ahead of the real promo release. Everyone up at the dance department at Atlantic is going mad about it. They're going, "How do they do this? It's $11 and it's a crap pressing. These guys just kill me." And I'm thinking, really this is quite flattering that we're deemed a group worthy of bootlegging a week in front of a promo let alone in front of a commercial release. But I think wide-scale piracy is just unfair. There was a scam going on for years in Southeast Asia. Artists used to wonder why they didn't sell very many records in places like the Philippines and stuff. And it was largely because here was a huge bootleg market. The bootleg cassette market was just out of control. Yeah great, you have lots of fans, but you don't get any reward for the work you've put in. It's just a thorny issue.

Will you ever sell downloadable music?

It's not an impossibility but I hope it's not the complete future. I mean maybe the next thing will be that you have to hook up your printer as well. Go to another site and download the artwork and assemble it yourself.

Does computer literacy affect your music?

At all levels, whether it's the microwave or doing your tax returns, it's just so much faster with a little chip to work with. That's true for home PC use, word processing, residence association newsletters, and right through to artists and musicians. Working with sequencers and computers means you can work incrementally through a piece of music in minute detail very fast. It's just an aid to the imagination.

(October 1, 1999)

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