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Topic ClosedMartin Orford August 2009

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Direct Link To This Post Topic: Martin Orford August 2009
    Posted: September 22 2009 at 11:25
Following a fair few delays from both sides, I've now attached below my recent e-mail interview with Martin Orford.

In addition to an overview of his career highs (and lows) + a snapshot of his personal interests, he gives a full and very frank critique of illegal downloading & the internet in general from his own perspective. As agreed with Martin, I've transcribed the interview in full and unedited.

I'd like to sincerely thank Martin Orford for taking the time to answer these questions fully, frankly and in detail and I'd also like to thenk the following for putting forward their own questions:

Debrewguy
The Doctor
Windhawk


++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

From me:

Looking back over the last 25/30 years, what would you say was the high point of your career, a time when you thought ĎYes Ė this is why I do what I doí?

There were a few times that I thought that, mostly at the really big gigs. Iíve never been one for playing in the corner of a bar, so those mega shows were always a thrill for me. The three ďOut In The GreenĒ gigs that IQ played in the 80s (with Jethro Tull, Foreigner, Jefferson Starship, TíPau, Ron Wood and Bo Diddley and others were fantastic, as was the ParkPop Festival in Holland that I played with John Wetton. An estimated 250,000 people were on site that day, but they werenít all watching us!

Did you ever consider taking a band out to tour ĎThe Old Roadí as a farewell to live work for you and your fans?

No, it would have been far too expensive. The last time I took a band out I ended up financing it to the tune of about £600 a gig from my own pocket and I really canít afford to do that again.

At what point did you feel you could not continue as a full time musician?

I think it was probably the third or fourth death threat that did it. I get pretty angry when I see people with blog sites not only reviewing my work but also giving it away free via a Rapidshare link as well. Naturally I do my best to report those sites and close them down, and I have received quite a lot of abuse and threats for doing so. I conclude from this that musicians like me and the new breed of Internet music fans are now bitter enemies, and I have better things to do with my life than to waste the next three or four years making free music for a bunch of people I donít like.

What does the future hold Ė are we to see any further collaborations or solo releases, or is this it for Martin Orford the musician? Youíve been a pretty prolific writer in the past Ė surely you cannot just turn off the museÖ?

Actually I donít really need music in my life at all, and I havenít touched a keyboard for months. I very rarely listen to music, but then again I never did much anyway. Music is just one of the things that I can do which I happened to be good at, and if youíre good at something itís natural to try to earn a living doing it. When that becomes impossible itís time to move on and do something else Ė we all have to work to get by after all. And I can do, and like doing lots of other things.

I wouldnít rule out the odd session here and there as a favour to friends, but I certainly wonít be making any more albums. Itís very simple really; if I ask my partner if I can take £8k out of our household budget to record a new album, sheís bound to ask ďwill we ever get it back?Ē . I would then have to answer ďno, because as soon as some idiot proclaiming ďall music should be free!Ē uploads it onto the Internet, thatís the end of that in terms of salesĒ. So Iím not going to do it. Would you?


Given your obvious love of the sound of old keyboards, such as the Hammond and Mellotron, have you ever used these in the studio & just taken their digital modern day counterparts on the road, or is this an area in which you succumbed to the digital age?

Iím not particularly an enthusiast of old keyboards, though I think they have some useful sounds which still have a place in modern music. I have used real Hammonds and Mellotrons in the studio and live, but itís the sounds Iím interested in, not the means of delivering them. If those sounds can be delivered by other (and less back-breaking) means, then thatís fine with me. The Korg CX-3 is great for Hammond sounds, and the Sampletank Mellozone plug-in for Mac sounds way better and more authentic than my old Mellotron 400 ever did.

In a recent interview, Peter Nichols implied your leaving IQ was down to being unhappy with the writing process and that you wanted to take more of a lead role in that area Ė is this fair comment?

Itís perfectly true to say that whilst I was never happy with the collective writing process in IQ, in recent years it had become a source of constant annoyance to me. The problem was that although I was perfectly capable of writing and constructing complete songs on my own, no-one else in the band appeared to have the capability or the inclination to do likewise. So instead they continually deconstructed my songs, sometimes adding bits of their own, but often leaving them unfinished, or sounding far less convincing than my original versions. Donít get me wrong, IQ are fine musicians and Peter is a clever lyricist, but towards the end I did find them all a bit of a dead weight when it came to writing, and the process was about as pleasant as pulling teeth.

On a completely non-music related subject, when did you acquire your love of steam & how long have you been a qualified fireman on the Mid Hants railway?

I suppose the interest in railways grew out of a lifelong interest in local history, and even at the tender age of 13, I was busy writing a book (never to be finished or published!) on the railways of Hampshire. My speciality subject was always the lines and stations themselves rather than the trains which ran on them, and until a couple of years ago I never had the slightest inclination to want to operate steam locomotives. But picking up a leaflet on the West Somerset Railway advertising an appealing-looking footplate experience course changed all that, and after attending several courses down there, I ended up joining the loco department at my local preserved line, the Mid Hants. Although Iím not yet a fully qualified fireman (which requires a good deal more knowledge and experience of a difficult art than I possess at present), I do get to fire all the classic engines on the line very regularly.


Youíve made no secret of your dislike of the MP3 downloading culture (understandably, given the effect illegal downloading has on musicians), but would you accept the idea that legal downloading from the musiciansí websites is a cheaper an easier method of acquiring music?

I donít have the slightest problem with LEGAL downloads, and whilst this medium doesnít particularly appeal to me, I can see how the convenience of it suits some people. But like the collapsing CD market, I think that ultimately legal download providers donít really stand a chance either against the rising tide of illegal sources of music. We used to have an excellent legal downloading service provided by the big UK distributors Pinnacle, who got all of our catalogue in to all the main providers (I-Tunes/Apple/7Digital/Napster etc). There was even a GEP Records Download Shop at one point. But even this total embracing of the new market and business model wasnít enough to save Pinnacle, which went out of business in December last year leaving over 350 Independent record labels in financial ruin . Sure, the credit crunch had a part to play, but the trend that saw people helping themselves to music rather than buying it is impossible to ignore. Since then distribution companies have been disappearing on a regular basis, with the most recent casualty being the European giant SPV. Since the vast majority of progressive rock acts in the world were distributed (and therefore funded) by SPV, together with their subsidiary Inside Out, the long-term damage caused to this type of music is incalculable. Unsurprisingly, the loss of SPV, despite being probably the single biggest catastrophe to happen to progressive rock in history, barely warranted a mention on most progressive rock forums.

I 100% blame the music fans themselves for this utter carnage, and I do not in any way accept their argument that this is somehow just revenge on the Music Business for having the temerity to charge £10+ for a CD (even though no-one seems to have the slightest problem with paying the same price or more for a book, apparently). The commonly heard line that ďThe Music Business only has itself to blame for not embracing the new technology and business modelĒ seems to me a bit like blaming someone whoís had their house burgled for not having a moat full of crocodiles.


Now, some questions from members of Progarchives.Com:


From member Debrewguy:

How does Martin feel about bands offering downloads from their own site, for free, for a certain fee, or even pay what you want (i.e. donation) ? Examples - Marillion. The new Maudlin of the Well album . I.E. direct financial fan support for the making of music by our idols. No need to ship a physical product halfway around the world at a higher charge when all I want is the music

If bands are stupid enough to want to give their music away free then thatís up to them. The donations thing was fine as a one-off gimmick when Radiohead did it, but itís really not newsworthy if anyone else does it now. Itís also an utterly ridiculous business model. There are possibly a few sales to be had from offering official (paid) download from band websites, but since Internet users are so used to getting things for free now, I would expect those sales to be pretty negligible.

Itís easy to get carried away by the number of hits a band website gets, but in the cold light of day, most of those hits are from a hardcore of often less than 30 people. IQ tried to sell the excellent ďArchive Collection Vol. 1Ē CD via the website alone, and it struggled to do 1,000 copies compared with about 5,000+ that would have normally been achieved for a live album through distributors and shops.


From member The Doctor:

I'd like to know more about his very early music career, prior to the Lens and IQ. What bands, what songs did he write (perhaps that were never released).

I was in a band at school called Triangular Heel, but apart from one performance on local TV in the 1970s and a few local gigs, nothing much came of it Ė hardly surprising as we werenít very good! After that I was in a band called Hood for a while when I was at college, but soon after that I joined The Lens. Much of my early material found its way into The Lens, and though there are some things I never released, thereís not a huge amount of stuff that didnít make it.

The song ďIt All Stops HereĒ actually dates back to Hood, and I believe that IQ still play it as an encore even now.


Why are you retiring? I know it's about the illegal downloading, but what about your fans who don't download illegally? We want to hear more. The Old Road is great, and we would like to hear more from you. Do you feel you are punishing your paying fans, because some people are stealing your music?

Itís not about punishing loyal fans, itís about not being able to afford to do this anymore. To hear some prog rock fans talk, youíd think we all live in castles and drive Lambourghinis. In fact, I live in a small terraced house and I am currently just about surviving on welfare benefits which run out in a couple of months time. After that, If any money at all comes in at all, Iíll use it to feed my family and keep the house up together; writing and recording music isnít anywhere on my radar.

Although I am grateful to the people who have bought and still do buy music, I canít help but think they have been far too slow to condemn not only the illegal downloaders, but also the ISPs which provide the means and encouragement to foster this kind of exploitation and abuse . I suspect that the decent fans might be concerned about being labelled as Luddites for having the temerity to question the New Religion that is the Internet.

But everyone in all walks of life seems to be scared stiff of criticizing the 'Net'; the world is so utterly seduced and enchanted by it that even formerly staid and sensible businesses are doing crazy things; newspapers giving all their content away on their websites so you donít need to buy their papers, and even the dear old BBC generously providing us with an I-player so we never have any need to buy a TV license to help them fund the making of new programmes. Of course all this lunacy canít, and inevitably wonít last, and the world is bound to come to its senses sooner or later, and realize that this has all been a horrendously bad idea.

A free Internet cannot be sustainable in the long-term, and I expect to see it crash and burn spectacularly in the next few years, leaving behind only the major players like Amazon and Ebay which do have realistic and workable business models.

When that does finally happen, I would like to see music piracy eventually become as socially unacceptable as (for instance) drink driving, but unless the good guys start condemning the bad guys that just wonít happen. How many more musicians will have given up before it does?


You wrote some early lyrics for IQ, "It All Stops Here" comes to mind. What stopped you from writing more with IQ lyrically?

ďStopsĒ was written years before Peter (Nicholls) joined the band, and once he had taken over the mantle of lyricist, there was really no need for me to have any further involvement in that side of things. I think heís done an excellent job over the years.

What do you think of Frequency?

I think itís very unusual for one of the principal music writers of an album not to be credited on it anywhere. Any other thoughts I may have on the subject are really not printable.

From member Windhawk:

Would Mr. Orford allow Progarchives to add one track from his latest album to the non-downloadable stream we have?

If I could press a magic button and completely obliterate every last trace of my music from the Internet, I would gladly do so. So no thanks!

2. Does Martin have anything positive to say about the internet?

I like e-mail, but thatís about it. Iíve tried the Internet for several years now and Iím still seriously unimpressed with the whole thing.

3. Many artists active in the 60's and early 70's that were obscure even back then see an interest in their music these days that they barely even had when they were active. Is that a good or a bad thing in general, and what positives and negatives does this cause for artists today?

If that interest manifests itself in some genuine benefit for the artist (and yes, I do mean financial!), then of course thatís great. But if it means that some misguided fan has just decided unilaterally and without consultation, to make that artistís catalogue available as a free download (thereby completely scuppering any plans the artist may have had to re-release their catalogue themselves) then it is no better or worse than any other form of piracy. By now, anyone reading this interview probably thinks Iím obsessed with money, and in particular with artists getting paid for their work, and theyíd be right; Iíve spent the last 16 years running a label and making darned sure that everyone who ever released anything on it gets paid what theyíre due even down to the last fraction of a penny. Thatís why I, probably more than anyone, find the ďfree musicĒ culture so utterly offensive..

4. Today record labels big and small saturate the market with albums. For the last few years, close to 30.000 new albums have been released each year officially, and in addition lots of artists self-release albums without a label connection. For prog alone, we're talking close to 1000 new albums each year (depending on how broad you define the genre). Has there ever been made as much new music as it is today, to Martin's knowledge?

Probably not, but then again most of it seems to be pretty awful. This is truly the age of the enthusiastic but ultimately talentless amateur. Thatís why I liked the old system where record companies acted as something of a filter to prevent the truly dreadful people from ever making albums. Ultimately the cream always used to rise to the surface eventually, but any old crap can get heard these days.

5. TV and video games have taken over more and more of people's spare time use, to some extent replacing music as a past time interest, and people consume music in other ways than back in the 70's. More and more people use music as background noise rather than listening intent on a record. Even music enthusiasts will often just listen to an album a handful of times before moving on to the next album. Has old fashioned music appreciation become out of fashion for good, or does martin think that listening to music as more people did a few decades ago will return - that people spends time listening only to the music, and playing an album 10,15, 20 tiumes, will that phenomenon ever return on a grand scale?

This is a good question actually. I think that with the advent of so-many multi-tasking gadgets (like the I-phone for instance), something as comparatively one-dimensional as music will inevitably seem less attractive to many. I think this can be best summed up by a friend of mine who is involved in CD manufacturing and once allegedly heard the comment ďthereís something wrong with this CD Ė I canít phone my Mum on itĒ. Since I fully expect that the only people left making music in 5 years time will be the big mainstream pop acts and the enthusiastic amateurs, I would expect interest in music to wane still further as all the interesting small record labels and specialist acts disappear.

6. Surveys show that on average, people who download music and movies also spend more money on these aspects of culture than those who don't. Despite a number of freeloaders who never buy, the ones that do buy do so to such a great extent that they more than cover for the ones who don't. While those who don't download - legally or illegally - on average seems to spend less money on buying music and movies in an ever increasing negative spiral. How great an impact does it have for music sales that the casual buyers (aka the average Joe) seemingly spends less and less money on music?

Surveys are, from my experience generally commissioned by people pushing a particular agenda, and they will therefore only ask people who are likely to give them the answer they want. I have seen stacks of these surveys in recent years (generally justifying Internet theft), but on no occasion have I, or any of my friends and colleagues who run (or used to run) independent labels ever been asked for our opinions on the subject. In that time I have seen back catalogue sales slump to about 20% of what they consistently were pre-Internet. If this revolution is so great, whereís all the money gone?

I simply donít believe that people who download stuff for free buy more music than those who donít, any more than I believe that shoplifters go on to buy more from a supermarket than they would have if they hadnít stolen the products to try them out first. If you think Iím saying thereís no difference at all between the music fan who downloads illegally and a common thief then youíre right, and I donít care who I offend by saying it.



7. Will we ever get back to the time when music was regarded as a form of art rather than one of many consumable products?

Probably not, but then again Iím no fan of ďart for artís sakeĒ anyway. I think that music needs to justify itself as an entertainment in order to survive, which much of it did very well until the endemic Internet robbery started.


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Direct Link To This Post Posted: September 22 2009 at 12:06
Good work Jim and all involved!

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Direct Link To This Post Posted: September 22 2009 at 12:30
Wow, what a truly sobering interview.  Someone, please tag this interview as exhibit A for those folks who think there is nothing wrong about sneaking some music illegally rather than buying it.  And those folks who argue that trading files actually benefits the artist by "getting them more fans."  Otherwise known as "justifying" illegality to make one's self feel better. 

There are other threads to discuss that of course, but hats off to Martin for being honest about this.  And great work to all the Interviewers!! Clap


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Direct Link To This Post Posted: September 22 2009 at 12:53
This was actually a really sad interview to read.  I know that I've done my part to support IQ by either purchasing IQ CD's or at least purchasing legal downloads from IQ and Martin Orford's solo CD.  It is too bad that my part really doesn't make a difference.  Unfortunately, as an accountant, I fully understand his position in this situation and I wish him the best in his future endeavors and in putting food on his family's table.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: September 22 2009 at 12:54
Superb Jim. Well done to all involved.  It just shows that interesting and informed questions are rewarded by interesting and informed answers.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: September 22 2009 at 13:55

Excellent interview !

I myself ran a record label and I gave up many years before Martin Orford gave up because I saw the writing on the wall when these fibre optical cables, who some years later became broadband, became available.†

I would not invest a single penny in music production due to this illegal downloading stuff. Everybody is taking, but who is providing ? Frankly, I do not know where this is ending. I think the world has gone full circle where again only the book writers are earning money again as it was back in 1884. I have knowledge about music production which is totally obsolete. It took me five years to retrain and change career. Yes, I strongly sympathise with Martin Orford. He too have to uproot his life and being.†



Edited by toroddfuglesteg - September 22 2009 at 13:57
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: September 22 2009 at 14:12
Great interview Jim.  Clap
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: September 22 2009 at 14:23
Great interview, JimClap! Thank you for the sterling job. I only knew Martin Orford by name before I was sent his album to review, and - even if at first I thought it would not be my cup of tea - I was absolutely impressed by the quality of the music contained in The Old Road. Sorry for tooting my own horn, but if any of you are interested in reading my impressions, here it is:

http://www.progressor.net/review/martin_orford_2008.html
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: September 22 2009 at 15:45
Many thanks for the kind comments - MO did not think his views would go down well on an online community, but the few views expressed so far (happily) prove him wrong.

The responses he gave to the other contributors and myself in this interview are (to me) an object lesson on how illegal free downloading seriously affects music production & I'd again express my thanks to Martin Orford for being so honest & open on the subject.

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Direct Link To This Post Posted: September 22 2009 at 16:41
interesting interview... have some thoughts on it... but I'll keep them to myself. 
I find your lack of Bassoon disturbing.....
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: September 23 2009 at 01:48
A great interview! And a sad interview as well.

Poor Martin, too bad such a great talent has to find other ways to support his family.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: September 23 2009 at 02:57
Good interview, even though I dom't agree with him.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: September 23 2009 at 07:42
Great interview!

Even in this thread his point is made, I think the state of the music industry is pretty much laid out there yet there are detractors. 

  The bottom line is that good musicians can no longer afford to make good music, or even better yet, Martin Orford can no longer afford to sustain his family financially through music.  There really isn't anything to disagree with there, it's kind of a fact. 

Mr. Orford, if you read this, I appreciate the music you've made over the years and truly wish you luck in reinventing yourself.  I think all of us can appreciate the dread at the thought of depending on welfare to support one's family, especially when compared to the career that you had.  I can appreciate the bitterness and wish the best of luck.
-------someone please tell him to delete this line, he looks like a noob-------

I don't have an unnatural obsession with Disney Princesses, I have a ten year old daughter and coping mechanisms.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: September 23 2009 at 08:20
Originally posted by Roland113 Roland113 wrote:

Great interview!

Even in this thread his point is made, I think the state of the music industry is pretty much laid out there yet there are detractors. 

  The bottom line is that good musicians can no longer afford to make good music, or even better yet, Martin Orford can no longer afford to sustain his family financially through music.  There really isn't anything to disagree with there, it's kind of a fact. 



I disagree.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: September 23 2009 at 09:27
What don't you agree with Snowie, or do you simply just disagree with Martin Orford? 

W x
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: September 23 2009 at 09:40
Originally posted by Wilcey Wilcey wrote:

What don't you agree with Snowie, or do you simply just disagree with Martin Orford? 

W x

I know you hate illegal downloading too, but illegal downloaders I know also buy a hell of a lot of marerial. Thats a fact. Of course there will always be those that don't too. I just don't believe that illegal downloading has affected his xcareer so much that he had to retire due to it. If there wer no downloads, how many albums would a band like IQ sell anyway?.

He isn't the only musician to only have a moderate income...look at Andy poartridge of XTC....had to sell his house..before downloading was even heard of.

I know most of you won't agree with my view.Thats absolutely fine. In these sort of arguments sides are formed and you are on one or the other.

I do sympathise with his situation though and its very sad for any musician to quit.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: September 23 2009 at 10:00
I don't think it comes down to "one side or the other".

 I think Martin has been frank about his experience and whatever your views on illegal downloading, Martin has been fairly open about  the fact that the practice has lead him to be unable to continue in his business. He  tells the story from his first hand experience based upon the facts he knows and that he saw.

It's hard to "disagree" that it's tough to pay your mortgage on a shrinking to nothing income.
 
I think it's a pretty fair fact that bands "like" IQ, (or indeed IQ themselves) sold far more albums before illegal downloading became possible.

I don't think that anyone would dispute that "some" people who illegally downlaod material go on to buy, but it can't be ignored that unfortunately those people seem to be in a minority, (and indeed the majority of downloaders use them as an excuse for their behaviour IMO)  If the MAJORITY of downloaders were going on to buy heaps of music then the business would be booming rather than shrinking. So, yes whilst some folk will download with a modicum of moral sense, they are a few good apples in a pretty bad barrell.

I personally think that these debates get upset and heated when people feel as though they are being treated unfairly in the words used, it's a tough one.  But when someone like Martin quits because of the difficulties he's faced I think it's time for everyone to stop and think. He's not being faced with mere words to give him cause for defensiveness, he's faced an unsurmountable difficulty in his business, and has had to make decisions based on the facts of what happened to him personally.

Smile  W x
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: September 23 2009 at 10:03
^^ Well said Wilcey, better than I would have been able to respond.
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: September 23 2009 at 10:35
Well put Rach

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Direct Link To This Post Posted: September 23 2009 at 11:16
Well, I stand by what I say.
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