Ryan Adams & The Cardinals – Blue Sky Blues

Ryan Adams is one of the most underrated, prolific, talented, and versatile musical artists that has come along in the last 20 years. He is typically given the alt-country label but he has dabbled in many different genres over the years from country, to rock, to folk, and even heavy metal.  Unfortunately, he retired from recording and left NYC for Los Angeles. He currently lives in fancy West Hollywood.  Ryan is now a music producer and has his own recording studio. If you haven’t heard his music before I urge you to take a listen. It will be well worth the effort.

The Art of Music Production: Let’s Start with Music Arrangement

booksThe Art of Music Production is the first book to comprehensively analyze and describe the role of the music producer in creating successful music recordings. Now in its fourth edition, it is the definitive guide to the art and business of music production. Author and producer Richard James Burgess distills this complex field by defining the distinct roles of a music producer.The first part of the book outlines the underlying theory of the art of music production. The second focuses on the job’s practical aspects, including training, getting into the business, and–most importantly–the musical, financial, and interpersonal relationships producers have with artists and their labels. The book is packed with insights from successful music producers, ranging from the beginnings of recorded sound to today’s chart-toppers and across genre lines. It features many revealing anecdotes, encompassing both the daily and overarching career-related challenges that a producer faces. Burgess addresses the changes in the nature of music production brought about by technology and, in particular, the millennial shift that has occurred with digital recording and distribution. His lifelong experience in the recording industry as a studio musician, artist, composer, producer, manager, and marketer, combined with his extensive academic research in the field, brings a unique breadth and depth of understanding to the topic.

But before we start discussing music production, over the next couple of months we’ll be looking into the most scant-regarded and often-ignored element of music: arrangement. It’s a massive subject which has umpteen rules, all of which can be bent, broken and rewritten. For the purpose of this series of articles we will not be looking into how a guitar/bass/drum group get their live set together (for a detailed look at those aspects of arrangement and general musical preparation. So just how do you go about arranging a tune? The answer to that question has as many connotations as the age-old conundrum: how long is a piece of string? On the assumption that the string is two metres in length and seven strands thick, I intend to look at the long and short of arrangement for any sound that calls itself modern popular music.

* This is the first article in a three-part series. We hope you enjoy, and if you want to participate with ideas and/or opinions do not hesitate to contact us.

WHAT IT’S NOT

Let’s start by looking at what arrangement isn’t:

• It’s not finding a chord sequence for a song (although it often is changing the pattern of a chord sequence to make a more sympathetic harmonic bed).

• It’s not writing the lyrics to a song (although it can be working out exactly what the backing singers will be doing with themselves).

• It’s not deciding what the rhythm to a track is (although, in truth, it sometimes is).

Actually, the line between composing or producing a tune and arranging it is a very thin one. If you’re either the producer or the composer, arrangement goes with the territory, whereas if you’re being brought in by a composer or producer specifically as an arranger, it’s usually to arrange the strings or the horns or the backing vocals (we’ll examine those particular aspects and what the job pays later in the series). For now, we’ll look at the basics of how to get the best out of a song you’ve written.

The first thing you must do is make sure that there’s a reason for every part to be there — that goes for any piece of music you write. The amount of times people include four bars of nothing between sections (because it’s always been there) is equal to the amount of songs that never have a hope of getting anywhere. If you’re writing a piece of art that you hope will turn on millions of people, make sure that every part has a reason and nothing is missing. That’s the art of writing, arranging and producing hits. Everyone knows what ingredients can be used — it’s all down to the stirring, I guess. Aprons on: let’s cook!

THE INGREDIENTS

THE VERSE: We all know that a verse is the part of the song which tells the story. Most songs have no more than four verses, which would include repeating the first verse at the end. Bob Dylan has written songs with dozens of verses, but none of those ever became hits. Of course, you can get away with only one verse repeated over and over again, if you want. The Red Hot Chilli Peppers, with ‘Roller Coaster of Love’, and Nirvana, with ‘Something in the Way’, are two that did.

THE CHORUS: The chorus is the part of the song which you want people to be singing along with by the end of the song — the first time they hear it. One easy, effective and sure-fire killer way of making a chorus lift to maximum hit-ability is to find the highest root note string sound you can and have it simply playing all the way through. It sounds corny, but just try it. It could be one of the elements that makes your track a worldwide smash hit. Ask the Pet Shop Boys what they think of this idea.

THE BRIDGE OR TAG: This is a section that links the verse and the chorus together. That music shop favourite ‘Wonderwall’, by the mighty Oasis, has a perfect example of a bridge, if a little long and unadventurously used (“And all the roads we have to walk are winding…”). The song also has the ‘two verses at the beginning’ trick (see next section).

THE MIDDLE EIGHT (or, as James Brown would shout, “Take it to the bridge”) is a third melodic part, usually placed after the second chorus to break up the song pattern. It’s called a middle eight because it’s usually eight bars long, but there’s no law saying it has to be that length or even there in the first place — whatever feels good and fits the bill. No-one has ever done a study on this but I would hazard a guess that 50% of records have a middle eight, and of those, 50% are eight bars long. Michael Jackson used this device for effect in ‘Billie Jean’ (“People always told me, be careful what you do…” — which, by the way, is eight bars long).

A KEY CHANGE: Why? Because it can lift a song at that difficult ‘two-thirds of the way through’ stage, where the listener’s interest is beginning to waver. The usual key change is to move up a tone (from A to B, for example). It’s advised, for maximum effect, to build into this with a huge drum break or a dramatic pause. Key changes down are seldom, if ever, used, because they give the opposite effect of uplift. And note that more than one key change per song can be more annoying than exciting. There’s a classic example of a key change in the Whitney Houston hit ‘I Will Always Love You’.

THE CODA is a cool way of ending a track. It’s either the chorus hook repeated continuously, or a new section used to tail off a track. One of the most exciting codas used in popular music is the end of Elvis Costello’s ‘Accidents Will Happen’ — the bit that repeats the words “I Know”, ad infinitum.

Of course, ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ doesn’t fit the patterns explained here, but all but a handful of the tens of thousands of top ten hit records before and since have.

PIECING IT TOGETHER

Let’s assume that your song has the following conventional structure:

Verse 1

Chorus

Verse 2

Chorus

Verse 3

Chorus

Verse 4

Double chorus

End

How do you make it more interesting?

• The first thing to add is an intro. It could simply be a vamp of the opening couple of bars of the verse or the final four or eight bars of the chorus. Then again, four bars of drums at the beginning of a song never goes down badly either.

• Try getting rid of the first chorus by sticking verse 1 and verse 2 together.

• Then, after verse three, double up the chorus, drop the last verse down a gear and make it a middle eight. Halving the rhythm track or changing the fourth chord to a minor second chord is a good way of going about this.

• A middle eight section is a great way to set up the final chorus onslaught (see ‘The Nashville Number System’ box).
TEMPO

Beats per minute (BPM) first became a science in the mid ’70s, when various producers using early sequencers to make dance music worked out that 137bpm was the optimum speed to excite the human heart rate whilst dancing (137 — the disco heaven). Since then sequencers have become an awful lot more sophisticated, as has the BPM awareness of the music makers. These days there are more pigeonholes in which to place music than ever before: house and garage tracks tend to fall betwen 130-145bpm, jungle in the 165-170bpm bracket, and happy hardcore between 170 and 175bpm, but all bpms are subject to change on the whim of a single track, which could be yours. There are some styles of modern dance music which have very eclectic tempo constraints: techno can go from an industrially moody 80bpm to a brain-smashingly bizarre 500bpm. If you’re thinking about trying something in a new style for you, do some homework first. Dance music is an exact business, and close scrutiny of the current market leaders is essential to understanding the form and arrangement. A visit to your friendly local specialist record shop with £20 in your pocket will give you the best overview of what is the current norm. And in dance music, being current is everything.

Even if you’re not a dance music expert and have no intention of dipping your toe in that particular beat pool, tempo is still an issue. A couple of tricks that are seldom used these days, but were common practice up until the Linn drum came onto the scene, involved speeding up the track, both gradually and as a whole.

Tracks would speed up naturally during the recording of the backing track, which is something that doesn’t happen these days. If you use a sequencer but don’t use loops, try notching up the BPM of your track every verse and chorus. Starting at 120bpm and ending the track at 125bpm can give a sense of urgency without the listener having the faintest clue what’s going on.

The other way of speeding up a track which used to be used on a very regular basis was to slow down the mastering tape machine by a factor of 8.5% at the final mix stage. When played back at normal speed, the finished master would be slightly over a semitone higher in pitch. The reason for this was that it made the playing sound a bit tighter, particularly the drums, and gave the overall sound a bit of a toppy edge. On the downside, it made working out songs from the record difficult, because they were often slightly out of tune.
CODA

It may seem that some of the aspects we’ve covered have strayed into production or composing, but as I mentioned at the beginning, the line is a fine one. Next month we’ll look at instrumental arranging, including adding horn and string parts, both sampled and real, basslines, rhythm structures, and fancy arrangement tips.

ANATOMY OF A HIT: THE BEACH BOYS’ ‘GOOD VIBRATIONS’

Each month, I’ll take a look at the arrangement of a well-known record to see what makes it tick. To start with, let’s consider ‘Good Vibrations’, recently voted the greatest single of all time by the readers of Mojo magazine.

This record is more than a mere classic, it’s the Holy Grail of pop. Recording commenced mid-February 1966 at Gold Star Studios in Hollywood, towards the tail-end of sessions for The Beach Boys’ most influential album Pet Sounds (although ultimately, it was not included on that album). After a shaky and uncertain start, it took six weeks of recording time, spaced out over several months, to complete the track. Moving the session between five different studios, bouncing from a 4-track machine to a stereo mix on one of the early 8-track machines, and slicing multitrack tape as he went, Brian Wilson, the Beach Boys’ founder, producer and principal composer, gave ‘Good Vibrations’ a godlike sound.

On the finished record, ‘Good Vibrations’ is in the key of G flat major (six flats) and starts with the verse descending from the relative minor: E flat minor. It was probably played in the key of F (one flat) with the verse starting on the chord of D minor and sped up at the mixdown stage. Typical pop songs of that era (or indeed any era) usually have a basic groove running throughout the track which doesn’t change a great deal from start to finish. Not so ‘Good Vibrations’; this is, in Brian Wilson’s words, a ‘pocket symphony’. It lasts just over three and half minutes but has as many dramatic changes in mood as a piece of serious classical music lasting more than half an hour, moving from the delicate opening verse (bass, vocals, and organ only) to the soaring vocal harmony sections on the chorus and bridge, and then, in the middle of the track, dropping right down to the simplicity of a church organ pad accompanied solely by a tambourine. Of course, much of the atypical structure is due to the way the track was recorded in completely different-sounding sections, and then edited together later.

As well as the unconventional structure, the instrumentation used is, to say the least, dangerously exotic. This was a period when pop records were either guitar, bass and drum combos or traditional orchestrated arrangements for vocalists. For one thing, ‘Good Vibrations’ doesn’t use a guitar; instead it uses a solo cello and a theremin to build the rhythm section for one section, and in another section doubles a honky-tonk piano with a jaw’s harp. The instrumentation changes radically from section to section; the bass plays in some parts but not in others, drums and vocals drop in and out, and the voices sometimes accompany fully developed backing tracks (such as in the chorus) and are in parts almost a cappella.

The beat, although the standard four-in-the bar, has a triplet feel (1 2 3 / 2 2 3 / 3 2 3 / 4 2 3) — some people call it ‘threes over fours’, others ‘a shuffle beat’. This is the same feel as Tears For Fears’ ‘Everybody Wants To Rule The World’ and Billy Ocean’s ‘When The Going Gets Tough’ and many other lesser number one records. For the casual listener, the most prominent triplet figure is the part played by the cello, which saws away on the root note of the chord during the chorus.

The very first thing you hear is the angelic voice of Carl Wilson, Brian’s brother, singing the word ‘I’ a triplet quaver before the downbeat. The first eight bars of the verse feature a heavily phased organ passed through a Leslie rotary speaker (for more on this, see the Hammond feature starting on page 40 this month). The organ plays the chords on the beat, accompanied solely by the tight bass guitar sound of Motown and Country music session giant Carole Kaye playing super-cool triplet figures. The second eight bars have a broken but rigid drum pattern played by session drummer extraordinaire Hal Blaine (alleged to have played on more hit records than any other musician ever) in tandem with a tambourine splash and a counterpoint descending French horn laid beautifully in the distance.

The 16-bar chorus was edited into the multitrack master tape at some point during the construction of the track. Like all the other edits that made up the finished record, this one is partially masked by vast reverb decays added at the mixing and sub-mixing stages. Rhythmically, the chorus is stable, but instrumentally it’s wild; the throbbing cello is stretched over a straight bass and drum framework accompanied by a back-beat tambourine, and the whole arrangement is topped off by a gentleman called Paul Tanner playing a theremin — most unusual for pop music of the time.

The chorus vocals are split into four 4-bar sections. The first section is the ‘I’m picking up Good Vibrations’ hook line, the second section adds an ‘oo bop bop’ figure (years before those Hanson boys were a twinkle in their parents eyes), the third section adds a gorgeous high harmony to the ‘oo bop bop’ part and the fourth section adds an even higher harmony. The structure of these vocal parts and their harmonic framework may not be the kind taught in the Royal Academy of Music, but the excitement they generate in the listener is equal to anything scratched on a piece of parchment by a long-dead composer.

A common way to develop a song arrangement is to add something to the second verse. Again, ‘Good Vibrations’ deviates from the norm; the second verse and chorus adhere to exactly the same patterns of instrumentation and harmony as the first time through, and the verse section is never repeated again in the song. Furthermore, the song then moves into a section that is completely out of left field; a honky-tonk piano plays with half-time feel accompanied by an on-beat bass drone, a different tambourine (shaken, not hit), a jaws harp, and more theremin low in the mix. After eight bars, there’s a four-bar vocal crescendo (‘aaaah’); the third and fourth bars vocally counterpointed with an angelic ‘Oo my my my’, which takes us into the middle eight.

Musically, the middle eight changes from the relative minor to an E flat major and instrumentally adds a sleigh bell. The vocal arrangement (‘I don’t know where but she sends me there…’) has four separate parts which interweave so divinely the Spice Girls or Boyzone couldn’t even dream them properly.

From a half-time middle eight, most people would go straight into a big splash hook-line section. Brian Wilson decided to slow the track even further, moving into a 23-bar section of church organ and tambourine by means of the most savage edit in the track. Most arrangers would steer clear of this kind of drop in pace, on the grounds that it would be chart suicide, but not Brian. This section is split into six sections of four bars (my maths is fine, just give me time to explain). The first section is vocal-less. The second section adds the line ‘gotta keep those loving Good Vibrations happening with her’ and at the end Carole Kaye’s fat, round bass strikes up, leading into the third section which has blissful vocal harmonies and a bass line. The fourth section adds a harmonica and over the course of these four bars all the vocals fade out (again, an unconventional move). The next section is vocal-less, with just the church organ, tambourine, bass root and harmonica, as is the first two bars of the sixth and last section. On the third bar there’s a crescendo vocal ‘aaaah’ which stops with everything else on the down beat of the last bar, decaying with delicious, distorted, ultra-analogue spring reverb to near-silence, before the next surprise: an eight-bar coda of ‘Good good good, good Vibrations’. This time, there’s no ‘Oo bop bop’ vocal accompaniment, just straight root-third and fifth block harmony, but once again, all these vocals fade out in time for the final two bars of the section, leaving the cello and bass prominent before the final piece of singing on the track: eight bars of rapturous barber shop-type vocal harmonies. There are no words, just ‘dos’, ‘bas’ and ‘oos’. As if this wasn’t unexpected enough, the final playout is then heralded by two bars of just cello and very prominent theremin before the drums and bass kick in for the final two-bar fade-out with full instrumentation. The exotic instruments, the complex vocal arrangements, and the many dynamic crescendos and decrescendos all combine to set this record apart from most pop music. In short, if there’s an instruction manual for writing and arranging pop songs, this one breaks every rule.

MANIPULATING YER DIGITS

I’m working on the assumption that you’re not a classically trained pianist or a gifted jazz ivory-tickler, and that you input your musical information through that new-fangled MIDI thing, by means of a keyboard. Here’s a handy chord-playing tip. In short, instead of having one chord shape that moves up and down the keyboard, never changing, try using different inversions. If the chords you play are (C) (F) (G), rather than playing the notes in the order C E G / F A C / G B D, where the fifth note of the chord stays in the same position, try playing C E G / C F A / B D G.

To create a mere interesting bassline, use notes from within the chord other than the root. You’ll be playing like Liberace before you know it. (For chords with more than three notes, see ‘Posh Chords’ box).

THE NASHVILLE NUMBER SYSTEM

In the last decade of the 18th Century, the centre of the music world was Salzburg, Austria. Two hundred years later there is no more productive music city on the planet than Nashville, Tennessee. Whether you like country music or think it’s a pile of twanging nonsense, the fact remains that there are more studios, producers, arrangers, composers and musicians making music every day in a square mile there than anywhere else on earth.

Though this is more to do with songwriting than arranging, there’s a most remarkable thing about the way that music is made there, which can be of great benefit to musicians of all tastes: instead of musical notation and chord progressions, they use something known as the number system. Numbering the notes of the scale from one to eight (the latter being an octave higher) and applying those numbers to chords means that a song is seen as a numbered pattern of chord changes, regardless of what key the song is in. It may seem an odd way of looking at music, but don’t knock it until you’ve tried it — whatever flavour of music you deal in. It makes learning new songs easier, changing the key to a song a doddle, and understanding what makes other great songs flow so well more straightforward. It would be completely out of order of me to suggest that looking at a number of great songs by other artists as a set of chord numbers, and picking the bits you want to use as a blueprint for your own song in your own comfortable key is a good way to start a new song. If only because this article is about arranging and not songwriting.

Anyway, every musical key is numbered in the table below. A number on its own signifies a major chord; in the key of C, a 1 is read as C major. Other “flavours” of chord are created by a simple shorthand; for example, if you want a Bb minor in the key of C, a minor chord based on the flattened seventh degree of the scale, if would be written as b7-. Nashville convention implies a particular kind of chord for each step of the scale, although this is always fully notated to avoid ambiguity:

1 = major

2 = minor 7th (2-7)

3 = minor 7th (3-7)

4 = major

5 = major

6 = minor (6-)

7 = 7th (7/7th)

So while the 6 chord would normally be minor (notated as 6-), you might want it to be a major or major 7th (6 or 6/7th). And remember, changing a chord from major to minor and vice-versa could make the difference between a massive hit and just another song.

Incidentally, the 6- chord is the relative minor of the key. (In the key of C it would be A minor.) Which means that the same notes are used in the relative minor key of A minor as are used in the major key of C. This may not seem that interesting, but if you use it in the correct way it can make you as rich as Eric Clapton. (Eric Clapton has based his entire guitar-playing style on exclusively using relative minor scales, and he’s not the only one, by a long shot.)

1 C C# D E F F# G G# A Bb B
2 D D# E F# G G# A A# B C C#
3 E F F# G# A A# B C C# D D#
4 F F# G A Bb B C C# D Eb E
5 G G# A B C C# D D# E F F#
6 A A# B C# D D# E F F# G G#
7 B C C# D# E F F# G G# A A#
8 C C# D E F F# G G# A Bb B

POSH CHORDS

Here’s a list of every chord used in music, ever. They’re only in the key of C. To find out what they are in other musical keys, either use your musical transposing skills, or the transpose button on your keyboard or sequencer. Try them out — you’ll sound like a musical genius.

– = MINOR

&Mac198; = MAJOR 7th

+ = AUGMENTED

o = DIMINISHED

C6 = C E G A

C6/9 = C E G D A

C+9 = C E G D

C&Mac198; = C E G B

C&Mac198;(13) = C E G B A

Cmj9 = C E G B D

Cmj13 = C E G B D A

C7 = C E G Bb

C9 = C E G Bb D

C13 = C E G Bb D A

C-6 = C Eb G A

C-6/9 = C Eb G A D

C-+9 = C Eb G D

C-7 = C Eb G Bb

C-7+11 = C Eb G Bb F

C-7+13 = C Eb G Bb A

C-9 = C Eb G Bb D

C-11 = C Eb G Bb D F

C-13 = C Eb G Bb D F A

C-&Mac198; = C Eb G B

C-9&Mac198; = C Eb G B D

C-7b5 = C Eb F# Bb

C-9b5 = C Eb F# Bb D

C-11b5 =C Eb F# Bb D F

Co = C Eb F#

Co7 = C Eb F# A

Co7+&Mac198; = C Eb F# A B

C+ = C E G#

Csus = C F G

C7sus = C F G Bb

C9sus = C F G Bb D

C13sus = C F G Bb D A

C&Mac198;b5 = C E F# B

C&Mac198;5 = C E G# B

C&Mac198;11 = C E G B F#

Cmj9#11 = C E G B D F#

Cmj13#11 = C E G B D F# A

C7b5 = C E F# Bb

C9b5 = C E F# Bb D

C7#5 = C E G# Bb

C9#5 = C E G# Bb D

C7b9 = C E G Bb C#

C7#9 = C E G Bb Eb

C7b5b9 = C E F# Bb C#

C7#5#9 = C E Ab Bb Eb

C7#5b9 = C E G# Bb C#

C7#11 = C E G Bb F#

C9#11 = C E G Bb D F#

C7b9#11 = C E G Bb C# F#

C7#9#11 = C E G Bb Eb F#

C13b5 = C E F# Bb D A

C13b9 = C E G Bb C# A

C13#11= C E G Bb D F# A

C7susb9 = C F G Bb C#

C13susb9 = C F G Bb C# A

Csusb5 = C F F# B

This is the first article in a three-part series.

Q & A: Dikers on Music, Their new album, The music industry, And having fun.

L to R: Sergio Izquierdo, Ubaldo Puente and Iker Piedrafita

Interview – April 2012

Dikers’ roots lie in Iker Piedrafita’s years of writing songs and playing the guitar at a very young age. Born into a musical family – his father is a guitarist and a member of the rock band Barricada – it was apparent that he had musical talent and ability. He sang, wrote songs, played guitar and later studied piano. By the time Piedrafita formed Dikers, he was already writing music. Iker has recorded, mixed and produced Dikers’records since the band’s third album Dale Gas (Speed-up, released in 2002) in his own studio known as El Sotano (The Basement). He also mastered Dikers’ latest record Casi nunca llueve (Almost never rains), released March 6. Nowadays besides being the band’s frontman, he is on his way to establishing himself also a well-respected music producer and singer-songwriter and composer. Dikers have vowed audiences with their dedicated work ethic including six albums, four singles, live shows in their homeland, a concert in London, the band 2010 German tour, performances at festivals, and intense music tours throughout Spain — add to all this a collection of solid, feel good tunes that defy categorization. Dikers played and introduced the new lineup at the 2011 live Getafe Festival, making their first appearance after the band’s hiatus.

What inspired your passion for music and who has been there supporting you from the beginning?
Well, among our influences are Green Day, Foo Fighters, Daughtry, Nickelback and many others… but we listen to all kinds of music. Iker likes very much the soundtracks, Ubaldo is very open to genres from flamenco to thrash metal, and Sergio likes many Indie groups such as Supersubmarina or Iván Ferreiro.

People who have supported the group from the beginning? Juncal and Alfredo (Iker’s parents) and Kutxi Romero (Marea band).

How would you describe Dikers’ music?
Although we maintain a punk-rock line from the beginning, we are quite open to playing different genres – in the last album you have a rap, a waltz, two festive songs, two ballads… We like to have fun playing, and enjoy the variety but keeping Dikers’ own punk-rock touch.

How close do your songs ever get to your own true feelings and experiences?
You talk about what happens to you, but also about what you see, about what a friend, a neighbor or the baker tells you. When it’s time to write the song, what you feel always pulls you more but many times you feel inspired by what you have seen or have been told, and you give your own version of the story.

Your new album was released recently. Tell us about the record and the creative process.
Well, as we have said before, this is Dikers’ most varied album, and certainly a new twist to the sound, of which we are extremely proud, as we believe to be closer to the sound of international groups, and the recording was done in Iker’s studio and with a much smaller budget. The creative process is almost entirely the work of Iker. He writes all the music and 70 percent of the lyrics. He also recorded, mixed and mastered the album in his studio, and he also produced it – Iker cooks it and eats it. The songs that Iker has no time to write, he shares them with other well known artists that have collaborated with Dikers before, like Kutxi Romero (he’s been collaborating since Dikers’ second album) and he also wrote lyrics for this record; and other artists like KB, Fredi (Iker’s cousin) and Sergio (Dikers’ drummer) have collaborated in this record. This is a very pampered album, one that was obviously very well-cared for in every phase of its creation – compositions, recording and production. And we are very proud of the results.

What do you think of the music industry today, and how do you see their future?
Uff, it is very complicated because of the piracy crisis which caused a decline in sales of recorded music. Also, the economic crisis is being noticed in less concert attendance and recruitment of bands. This is possibly the toughest time that the music industry have experienced, like all other industries or companies they are holding on the best they can, and if and when the current situation changes, they will have to reinvent themselves, because the formats of music reproduction and acquisition have changed substantially. As we always like to bring it up, the piracy war should also be directed to the phone companies which are the ones that benefit more from this situation, and that not all the anger should be directed to the music industry or the artists.

Where do you see Dikers in five years?
No idea. We know that for now we have live shows in August, after that, if we are still alive, we’ll see. In any case we hope to continue playing and recording more albums, of course.

Do you think singer/songwriters are the best interpreters of their own work or do you believe some cover versions can be better than the original?
I think that the one who can best defend a song is the one who wrote it, as long as (s)he has a minimum of technical and interpretive qualities. Anyway, there are no dogmas, sometimes I like a cover more than the original, but it’s not usually the case.

Who would you like to collaborate with and why?
Well, we’ve been very lucky to be able to collaborate with great artists like Kutxi, Gorka (Berri Txarrak) Brigi (Koma), Afredo (Barricada), Pirate (the gas) in six albums and for many years. If asked, we would like to collaborate with Dave Ghrol (Foo fighters) or BillyJoe (Green Day). Why? because apart from their musical talent, we like the honesty and integrity of their careers, at least from the outside we see it that way.

As you pursue your career in the music industry, what steps do you plan on taking to reach your goal?
Look, we do not live thinking about reaching goals or a given number on the sales list, we do what we know, and what we do is done with honesty and love, from gig to gig, album to album, whatever have to come, will come. Living the present moment and enjoying the band and the tours. Steps? We will continue practicing and performing with the same desire and hope – and above all, to keep having fun doing it.

Have you found that as you go on with your career in music there’re aspects that have taken you completely by surprise? If so, what are they?
We’ve not been caught by surprise, the three of us have been playing in other groups and we are aware. Eventually, the industry is that, an industry, and they sell records like others sell fridges, and they are neither better nor worse than any other company or industry, and they’re all managed the same. We have had the luck to be with Warner [Music] but with a specific person: Miguel, and ultimately, it does not matter if you are with this or any other label, but who works with you in that label.

What is the greatest thing about working in the music industry? And what would you change if you had the opportunity?
The best thing is playing live, all you do (recording, testing, promotion etc …) is aimed at those two hours you’ll be on stage, and that gives meaning to all the work. What would we change? Uff, too many brokers and little transparency. Sometimes dealing with the sponsors is unkind, having to fight for the agreed conditions and all that, but I do not think it can be changed.

Iker, your father is a well-known musician in Spain. Did you ask your father for advice when you were starting out? If so, what did you ask? And what would be your answer now?
Alfredo has always advised the band when we asked him. It is a joy to have the opinion of someone who has 30 years of experience making music, and for more complex matters he’s the first to be contacted. As advice from father to son, always wear clean underwear, he says.

[laughs] Excellent advice! But if worse come to worst there’s an alternative: turn the inside out and go!

How many years have taken you to get to where you are today, and what was that time in your life like?
The three of us have been playing in local bands since our adolescence, so we have been playing for about 20 years. Iker studied piano but has played the guitar since he was 14. You look back and you smile, I don’t know… you have hopes, and above all, it’s a lot of fun – you have a group, you travel a bit, meet people, it’s real fun.

From your experience so far, what have you found to be most challenging, and how are you dealing with it?
The hardest thing is all that is foreign to music like contracts, accounts, banking, merchandising, office, everything that has to do with money, that part is always a pain. We manage that the best we can, dividing the work and responsibilities, each has a piece of it, but what a drag!!!

Which has been your proudest moment in your music career so far?
We wouldn’t know one – six-albums, lots of concerts, festivals, toured Germany, played in London, there have been lots of especial moments and we work to live many others.

You have loyal fans. What should your fans expect from you?
At a concert they will see a total dedication from our part, three guys defending their songs, sweating shirts and having fun. I do not think anyone can say who should go, if you dig what we do, come see us live and share with us that musical link, we will do all we can to give the best. If you don’t like what we do, nothing happens, sure there are other groups we and you like and we can talk about them. We hate music sectarianism, being that because you like a band you can’t like another, or you have to even get along poorly with someone. It’s absurd.

Before we end this interview, I’d like you to say something you haven’t said through my questions.

Thank you, Ainhoa, ​and we hope to see you at one of our upcoming concerts. You’re invited. A kiss.

Thanks for your time, and best of luck to you all.

Photo – L to R: Fernando Coronado (former drummer) and members of the Barricada band: Boni, Alfredo Piedrafita (Iker’s father) and El Drogas, with Iker Piedrafita holding a guitar. 1985