“The main problem is that people are just not as inquisitive as they were about music in the 70’s.”
You may not know JY by name, but you may have seen him play the keyboard with John Wetton or Bonnie Tyler. An accomplished musician and great songwriter, JY has played with some of the best.
This week, another look into the independent market with John Young.
Questionnaire 1: Songwriting
Guitar Noise: How long have you been writing songs?
John Young: I’ve been writing songs since my late teens…
GN: What is (are) your main inspiration?
JY: My main inspiration keyboard wise was Patrick Moraz …songwriting wise John Wetton.
GN: When recording an album, do you use songs that were specifically written for the album or do you use songs that have been written at other times, perhaps years earlier?
JY: I tend to write for my own records at the time so to speak. I don’t like dragging up old stuff.
GN: What problems occur when you write songs?
JY: That requires a very large piece of paper! So I’ll be concise, Generally the main problem in the early years especially was finishing something John Wetton really helped here.
You have to stick at it to finish something, the first rush of inspiration usually only gives you a verse or a chorus…the rest takes a little longer!
GN: You work with progressive bands, yet you’ve also worked with the likes of Bonnie Tyler. Do you write specifically progressive songs or does it matter to you?
JY: No I’m not a big fan of the progressive word.. I write in my own style if sometimes it’s a little proggy then so be it. I use a Quality Control check …if it makes the hair stand up on the back of my arms ..it’s in!
GN: Does improvisation play an important role in your songwriting techniques?
JY: Completely, improvisation is everything to me.
GN: Do you look for different methods of writing your songs?
JY: No, I always start by improvising and they just arrive they gradually take form then they turn into a video (in my head) then the lyrics come too. It seems to work so I don’t argue with it…I never hum a tune and write it down.
GN: A common question among the visitors to Guitar Noise: How do you resolve the issue of lack of inspiration?
JY: So far touch wood inspiration has not been a problem…getting a record deal ..now that’s another question.
GN: Do you ever see yourself, at some time in the future, not writing songs?
JY: Not at present
GN: You have written for other people. What are your thoughts on the subject?
JY: When I write for other people I try to write to their strengths, it’s not difficult with John Wetton because I think we understand each other so well. The only problem is I did a solo show the other day and this guy came up to me afterwards told me it was a great show…and did I do any of my own material?!!!
GN: What are your thoughts on co-writing?
JY: I enjoy co”‘writing for other peoples projects. I prefer writing on my own for my own stuff.
GN: Are there any techniques, methods, etc, that help you that you would like to share with the visitors to Guitarnoise?
JY: Only try and be yourself.. in this day and age with so many pop and rock schools it’s too easy to sound similar to your compatriots.
Questionnaire 2: The Independent Artists
GN: What was your original reason for going independent?
JY: I rang a record company and the first question they asked me was how old are you? I’ve studied music since I was 5 if that doesn’t mean anything to a record company ..then why bother. If you want to be a doctor and you apply to your local hospital I doubt that their main concern would be your age!
GN: You have recently been working with Qango (with John Wetton, David Kilminster, Carl Palmer). Since the band has members that have sold millions of records through the years, why is it that no label is interested in picking-up such a project?
JY: I think in England especially there is little regard for pedigree. I spoke to a guy from a major the other day their target market is 12″‘14 years old I guess that says everything.
GN: Writing songs, recording albums, the live shows, promoting, must be a full-time job. How do you cope with all this?
GN: Would you be willing to sacrifice the absolute control you now have over your material in exchange for a lucrative contract with a major label?
JY: I like the sound of the word lucrative it rarely appears in my world!
GN: Do the pressures you face ever make you feel like just stopping?
JY: My music teacher from the Cathedral Choir School in Liverpool told me most great composers only achieve true fame once they’ve shed this mortal coil.
I’ll keep plodding on for the time being. I just missed the 70’s musically just like Dave Kilminster, Tom Lang and other great musicians of this time we have to play a supporting role to the musicians of that time and hope that one day rather than just being employed by this business someone somewhere will actually want to listen to our product…still hope springs eternal.
GN: What would be your advice to someone who wants to embark on the independent adventure?
JY: If you believe in musical integrity it’s probably the only option you have.
GN: Is there a measure of respect and support among independent artists?
JY: Not to any great extent, the musical styles are too diverse and the jungle telegraph is only in it’s infancy.
GN: What problems do you face when dealing with distributors?
JY: I do my own distribution at present.
GN: Booking agents you approach may not know of you due to the fact that you are independent. Has this ever caused problems with booking?
JY: If you mean in terms of gigs..yes it can ..if you want to get a useful support show then the record company involved with the main artist will usually dictate who else is on the bill.
GN: The fans respond positively to your music. Does this make the adventure worthwhile?
JY: Yes, some of the responses I get are wonderful it really makes it worthwhile when your music can become a part of someone’s life.
GN: Do you personally feel that there is really a chance for the independents to make a significant mark on the whole recording industry and perhaps change it?
JY: Yes as the net grows perceptions should change. The main problem is that people are just not as inquisitive as they were about music in the 70’s. In those days you’d check out all and sundry just to see where people were at musically.
Nowadays mainly due to media over exposure most people go along with the force feeding applied by the major pop stations it’s sad but this situation has to change…one day.