Interview With DIY Artist, Brad Sucks
As I mentioned yesterday, Brad (of Brad Sucks) is a successful one-man-band that writes, records, mixes, masters, and sells his own music. He's managed to build up a huge fan base by encouraging fans to "steal" his music and musicians to remix it. I got a chance to chat with him the other day; without further ado, let's get into the interview:
GARAGESPIN: You've created quite a following since moving your music online in 2001. What was the first song you ever posted? What was the first song you ever recorded?
BRAD: The first song I posted was "Gangsta Love" which was some goofy rock thing I did back when I was trying to figure out my recording setup. The first song I ever recorded though, that's a tough one as I've been doing music since I was around 15 with trackers on the PC. I'd have to dig around through some CD-Rs and then I'd just wind up embarrassed.
GARAGESPIN: A lot of your fans compare your style to Beck. How would you describe your jams?
BRAD: Depends on the song. There are tracks like Making Me Nervous that are dancey sorta deals and then Dirtbag which is more of a rock thing and Overreacting which I guess is a ballad. I don't know what one term you use to summarize all that. Magnatune calls my stuff "ironic electro-pop," but I don't even know what that means.
GARAGESPIN: What do you think of as some of your biggest "break-through" moments that helped get your music heard? Any not-so-successful promo attempts you wish you could do over?
BRAD: I don't feel there have been many "break-through moments" really, it feels like it's been a slow and steady gainer. I've had some things like the Outside the Inbox project and giving away the source to my songs that have attracted attention, but despite the occasional peaks it's a slow process of small gains.
The one thing I've noticed though is that print media and radio are basically worthless to me. A lot more will come out of a link from Penny Arcade than will come from being mentioned in The Economist.
GARAGESPIN: Giving away the source to your songs is huge. I'm always amazed to see all the remixes that grow out of your work. Discussion on the BradSucks Forums seems to revolve around both what you create and what your fans create. What an awesome community, it's like a karma/Zen/altruistic thing, something revolutionary representing a larger movement taking place. Trent Reznor did something similar... Do you ever feel like an explorer/conqueror?
BRAD: Only when I put my safari outfit on. I do feel like I've been a very early adopter in a lot of things for musicians. Blogging, P2P, giving the source away, not caring so much about copyright, using the Internet for promotion. Certainly the explorer part applies as I love the internet and am constantly looking for interesting music angles.
Conquerer, eh, not so much. Maybe if I make some decent money somewhere down the road I'll consider it.
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GARAGESPIN: Do you know roughly how many times your songs have been downloaded to date? Remixed? Podcasted? Rotated on radio?
BRAD: I used to try to keep track of that stuff but it got out of hand and I don't know anymore. I think there are a couple hundred remixes out there. Other than that, I have no idea.
GARAGESPIN: Do you have any favorite remixes of your music?
BRAD: I packaged up a lot of my favorites and put it on the I Don't Know What I'm Doing Remixed compilation. It's a free download and has a lot of great stuff on it. Though it's a small sampling, there are lots of other great mixes.
GARAGESPIN: I noticed that at least one label has signed you on a non-exclusive basis. Can you tell us how that happened? Have other labels approached you?
BRAD: That'd be Magnatune you're talking about. I saw John Buckman (the owner) on TV a while back and he had an FTP site to upload your music to. I did and they got in contact with me and signed me up.
I've been approached by a bunch of different labels but nothing has worked out. They tend to seem kind of confused by my give-it-away attitude. Which is cool, but they don't really have any other great ideas either. So I figure I'm better off doing my own thing for now.
GARAGESPIN: If a Song BMG or Universal approached you tomorrow, would you consider a record deal?
BRAD: Oh sure. But "consider" is different than "blindly accept". I'd like an arrangement that helps me make a relatively stable living off of music and maybe gives me some more resources to work with for distribution and marketing. But I don't see the point in five year deals with million dollar advances that'll have me paying back therecord company for the next ten years.
GARAGESPIN: Do you have a "day gig/job"? How do you make time for jamming/recording/blogging?
BRAD: I do contract web stuff so I just try to squeeze the music and blogging in there. That's probably a big part of why it's going to be3-4 years between albums for me.
GARAGESPIN: Your About page describes your hardware/software setup. What are your favorite gear pieces? (I.e. if you were on a desert island, and had to choose three items...ignoring the fact that there's no power on thatisland...)
BRAD: I try to hate all my gear equally at all times to keep the balance of power in my favor. Once gear detects weakness such as having favorites, it'll break down and quit working right away.
That being said, I guess I'd bring a laptop, my Edirol UA-1EX sound card, Presonus Bluetube, a mic or two and an acoustic guitar. I'd make do with recording demos until I make it back to land.
GARAGESPIN: What portion of your first album, "I Don't Know What I'm Doing," was written/recorded/produced at home, and what portion was handledprofessionally?
BRAD: It was all done at home. Written, recorded, produced and self-mastered. I even burnt and mailed the CDs from home for the first year or two. I eventually went and got a "real cd" manufactured with cover art and a lyric sheet and stuff, but all the audio is still the same.
GARAGESPIN: That's incredible. How did you learn to master and mix -- through sheer trial and error?
BRAD: Trial and error, a lot of book reading and banging my head against the wall. I mix as I record, so that's more or less the same process. Mastering to me was just doing overall tweaks in keeping the volume level consistent, compressing things, checking the songs on lots of systems and adjusting sounds that stood out.
Certainly the right professional could have done a far better job, but I have friends who have been boned by handing their mixed stuff over to crappy mastering guys and wound up paying a lot of money to get their music screwed up. Also I'm cheap.
GARAGESPIN: Are there plans for a second album? If yes, how will you produce and/or promote this album differently than the first?
BRAD: I'm slowly working on a second album, I'm hoping it'll be done by the end of this year but you never can tell. For production I'm toying around with the idea of working with some other people for mixing and mastering at the end of the process. These days I have more access to
people who know what they're doing whereas when I did the first album I really knew nobody.
For promotion I'm not sure yet, that always catches me by surprise and I'll have to think something up quick when I release the album and nobody buys any. I'm hoping there'll be some built-in promotion due to there being some expectation for it, but that's hard to estimate.
GARAGESPIN: What new promo ideas do you plan to experiment with in the near future?
BRAD: I've had a lot of ideas for fan club stuff and so on. Buy an overpriced shirt, gain access to such and such. Something that can include people who may just want to download my album and not buy a token CD. But that fan club stuff requires a lot of setup and maintenance. I don't want to do it unless I can offer people somethinginteresting and rewarding, so I'm carefully approaching the idea.
GARAGESPIN: Anything else you'd like to share with GarageSpin readers?
BRAD: Buying my album will give you magical powers!
GARAGESPIN: Thanks, Brad! Best of luck with the next album.