The music industry is a big, cynical place that pushes out inane pap like American Idol and Paris Jessica Hilton Simpson with depressing regularity so it is refreshing to talk to somebody involved in the biz who is genuinely passionate about music in general and rock and roll in particular.
David Bash is just such a passionate music fan. The creator and prime mover behind the ever increasing stable of International Pop Overthrow festivals, David took the time to talk to me during what has to be unofficially referred to as “IPO month” where no fewer than 4 IPO festivals are taking place around North America this August.
The Rock and Roll Report: You have written for a number of publications including Discoveries, Amplifier, Bucketful of Brains, Entertainment Today, Sticks & Stones. What motivates you to write about music?
David Bash: The fact that I truly love music. Also, I will rarely, if ever, write about a CD I don’t like. I believe in the old adage that if you have nothing nice to say about something or someone, then don’t say anything at all. Of course, I will never lie or deceive a reader, which of course is not an issue when writing about a CD that I like. Another thing that motivates me to write about music is that it gives me a creative outlet. I’m not a musician and I will never experience the joy and satisfaction a musician certainly feels when he or she creates, but writing a review is an expression of my thoughts and emotions, and is often cathartic.
RRR: You crossed over from music journalist to music promoter when you created the International Pop Overthrow. How did this change come about?
DB: The two are actually connected in that it was by virtue of writing reviews that I developed e-mail relationships with several bands whose CDs I’d written about, who had expressed the desire to play live in Los Angeles, where I was based. After hearing from many bands who expressed this desire, it was a natural progression towards doing the festival.
RRR: IPO was created to promote pop music, yet that term is probably associated more these days with the over-produced pap of a Britney Spears or (God help us!) Paris Hilton than the music of a band like The Power Cords or Sparkle*Jets UK. What is your definition of Pop?
DB: Hook filled music which evokes the spirit of the way radio used to be, but without necessarily sounding like it came from that time period. In the ’60s and ’70s, there was a lot more emphasis on traditional songwriting, with verses and choruses, and hooks that never left your head. This is what most of the bands who play IPO strive to achieve.
RRR: You are in an elevator and one of the passengers turns to you and asks “What is IPO?” and you have 1 floor to explain. What would you answer?
DB: IPO is a pop music festival which features bands from all over the world who play the kind of music that you used to hear on the radio, and that I’m sure you would love. You can read about us at www.internationalpopoverthrow.com
RRR: What is the significance of the name International Pop Overthrow?
DB: It actually has two significances: one is that it is the name of the debut album of the beloved Chicago-based pop band, Material Issue. Their lead singer/songwriter, Jim Ellison, had tragically taken his own life a few months before I decided to start doing the festival, so I wanted to pay tribute to him and the band. The other significance is that the aim of International Pop Overthrow is to “overthrow” today’s conventional radio programming and get our kind of pop music into the hearts and minds of the mainstream listener.
RRR: In the days of My Space, music blogs, podcasts, etc. do you think that this new technology ultimately benefits the type of music that you are so passionate about or will it bring about its ruination?
DB: There is certainly both good and bad that has come from the proliferation of so much new technology, but I truly believe the good outweighs the bad. Myspace, Pro-Tools, etc…has allowed many artists who otherwise wouldn’t have have neither the budget nor the avenues for promotion, to record and sell their music. Along with that comes a massive growth in the number of artists who have recorded output available, and of course this means more good music and more bad music. I truly believe that the cream will rise to the top, and ultimately this will benefit the public because there will be more good music for them to choose from.
RRR: You purposely use the term “International” in IPO because you have always invited a wide variety of bands from around the world to IPO ever since its inception. You have expanded overseas to Liverpool and this year you will be in Vancouver for the first time. How do you determine where you will hold an IPO and do you have any plans to expand further into Europe, Australia or perhaps Japan?
DB: In general the primary determination for choosing a city is that they must have a strong local pop scene, in order for the draw to be sufficient to keep the festival going and to ensure that the local venues will have us back the following year. The one exception to this rule has been Liverpool; while Liverpool does have a pretty healthy local scene, the major factor in choosing Liverpool was that we were able to hold the festival at The Cavern Club, the spiritual home of The Beatles, and this alone has provided a lure for bands from all over the world to come to the festival. Plus, the format in Liverpool, where every band plays twice and all the shows have no admission charge, ensures that we’ll have sufficient crowds, and in fact we’ve had great crowds there!
I have been thinking about taking IPO to Tokyo, Stockholm, Madrid, and one or more cities in Australia, all of which have strong local pop scenes. Plus, Tokyo in particular loves pop music!
RRR: You have a single-minded desire to promote pop music to as wide an audience as possible. How do you see pop music as you define it and as you showcase it at an IPO accepted by the music-listening public beyond the somewhat “niche” crowd that the mainstream press might lump you and me in?
DB: It’s always a challenge to get this music beyond that niche crowd. Both the industry and today’s radio still feel that, with very few exceptions, only young, good looking artists are viable, as they feel that teenagers and young adults should be their major target market. I don’t believe that this must necessarily be the case, as if an effective campaign is marketed towards the 25-45 age group, music such as that which IPO showcases can result in sufficient sales. Having said that, this year I have made a concerted effort to feature more young bands than ever before, particularly in Los Angeles, as I am trying to be mindful of the current trends in the marketplace. At any rate, it’s a constant challenge for me to expand IPOs marketplace, particularly on a limited budget.
RRR: In this day of the iPod it is nice to see somebody still actively promoting live music. Do you think that pop is best experienced live?
DB: I will always be one who feels that the best way to experience music is in the recorded medium, as it allows for bands to present their work in the most technically proficient light. Having said that, there are several aspects to seeing a band play which could never be captured on record, such as the physical and spiritual interaction a fan can have with the band, along with the interaction that the people in the crowd can have with each other. Plus, there are some bands whose energy level can only be captured in a live setting.
RRR: What are some of the bands you are currently excited about?
DB: Way too many to mention!
RRR: This is probably an unfair question but what IPO sticks out in your mind as being somewhat special or that stands out above the rest?
DB: The first one we did in Liverpool, at The Cavern Club. Just walking down those stairs for the first time was, to say the least, a surreal experience. I was in Liverpool, at The Cavern Club, for God’s sakes, and I was actually holding a festival there! Paul McCartney had just done a show there…and…it was the home of The Beatles!!!! I don’t think there will be any IPO experience cooler than that. I still get a buzz everytime I walk down those steps!
RRR: Thank you so much for taking the time out to talk to The Rock and Roll Report. Keep up the great work!
DB: Thank you, Mark!
You can check out the IPO website at http://www.internationalpopoverthrow.com/ for more info on the various IPOs taking place around the world. Another great idea is to head over to Not Lame Records and pick up one of the IPO compilations. They are currently at Volume 9 whcih has just come out. The music played at any IPO is guaranteed to make your rock and roll ears smile!