Interview by: Mike Farley
here for Mike's review of Mission:
You, the latest album from The Rosenbergs. Also, be sure to check out
"A 'year' in the life," an article
by David Fagin on the struggles unsigned up-and-coming bands deal with on a
daily basis. Finally, if you'd like to catch David and The Rosenbergs live,
they'll be playing Saturday, April 27 at the Center City Fest in Charlotte, NC,
with the Stone Temple Pilots and No Doubt!
They turned down Farmclub.com, were signed by Robert Fripp's DGM label and sent on a
Napster-sponsored tour, and now after all that's happened to them in the past two years
they're trying to get back to just making music. The Rosenbergs (whose detailed story can be
found on our site as well) are currently recording and rehearsing some brand new material, and plan to keep
plugging away on a label or on their own.
I got to talk to David Fagin, lead singer and songwriter of the Rosenbergs, and here is what he had to say about it all:
Mike Farley: Where are you guys from?
David Fagin: New York. Originally I'm from New Jersey, our bass player was born in Chicago but lived in Queens most of his life. Everyone's from New York or New Jersey at this point.
MF: You guys have been through a lot in the past year obviously, so with all of the Napster Tour b.s. behind you, what's the plan for the immediate future.
DF: Record another record and find somebody stupid enough to release it.
MF: Are you guys not with DGM anymore?
DF: No, we just ran out of cash with them a little while ago, so we parted ways. We're kind of like talking to other people about representation…trying to go up against the major label system is just not exactly a thing for one little band to take on.
MF: I'm in a band too and I don't even care anymore about getting a deal. I just want to play and have a good time.
DF: Exactly, it's an awful scene…I just read an article where record label executives are not rewarded if their bands sell 100,000 records. They're rewarded per quarter, so that doesn't really lend itself to longevity -- your bonus comes every three months if you do well, so it's like "this one's not going well, I'll try that one." They basically did it to themselves (how awful the industry is as far as sales).
MF: I was working with a producer a couple weeks ago, and he told me that major labels don't recognize great songs anymore.
DF: I was talking to our booker in the UK the other day, and he told me the perfect A & R (record label scouts are called Artist and Repertoire) scenario in clubs is that two A & R guys are standing in the back and the band's on stage. One guy looks at the other and says, "this is really good," and the other guy says "yeah." The first guy says, "but..." and the second guy says, "yeah…."
MF: How did the tour go as far as CD sales and making new fans overall?
DF: It went great as far as that goes. That's the only reason we're still doing it. People are really digging it when we play…there's no other reason to do it if that doesn't go well.
MF: I totally agree. You've said that you'd prefer the "standard million dollar major label deal." Were you guys approached by a lot of majors after your Farmclub fame and how about now?
DF: Yeah, we were approached. Even Farmclub tried to sign us, which was hilarious because their first thing was they were gonna sue us and when they realized that would be a bad move they said "okay, let's sign 'em." We had a couple labels floating around, but it was nothing we thought was worthwhile. So we decided to basically try it ourselves and were fortunate enough to meet the whole Fripp camp (DGM) and all that.
MF: And how about now?
DF: Right now, no, because we haven't had any new songs demoed yet. We're basically back in the studio writing and recording and still playing out.
MF: Are the labels asking you for anything?
DF: Yeah, we've got some labels interested in us…we'll see what happens. To me, if they give us enough money to live we'll make the tradeoff. Because the bottom line is you've got to hope that your balls don't get squeezed in the vice and odds are, they will. But it's definitely the only way to go at this point, especially since the collapse of the Internet.
MF: Has it been rewarding to get the word out about what's happened and do you think it will help a lot of up-and-coming artists?
DF: At this point, yeah. Thomas Dolby has e-mailed me. Lots of people in the industry were reading it. Most people understood it's not about us -- there's a much bigger picture going "look out, this could happen to you." It was definitely a good thing…Starpolish.com wants me to write another article because they put it up on their site
(the article Bullz-eye.com ran as well) because they got more e-mails than they ever received on any other article. We met some cool people through it…it is what it is…something to warn you all out there…if artists don't get their act together, this is the way it's gonna go. But my favorite thing right now is going to the schools and talking to the up and coming musicians and law students, even kids who are in their final year of law school have no idea what's going on in the industry because their heads are buried in books.
MF: Contrary to your article, our audience is more likely to be non-musicians, the people who buy music instead of making music. What kind of message would you like to convey to them?
DF: My message to the music-buying public would be to stop buying Creed CDs. Stop it right now! Stop watching MTV. Basically stop buying crap.
MF: What do you listen to for pleasure?
DF: I watch movies (laughs)…. I like Supergrass, I like Travis, the Posies, 80s stuff I live for. It's amazing, I can listen to something now that I thought sucked in the 80s. I can listen to Culture Club now because it has melody. I didn't listen to Boy George or Duran Duran back then.
It's almost like a time-warp version of your parents -- they listened to Glenn Miller and still do.
Now I'm listening to stuff from the year 2000 and going "that's not music!"
MF: Who are you guys compared to the most?
DF: A lot of times we're compared to the Shoes or…. They just compared us to the Raspberries or Big Star or something like that. Oh, I love Neil Finn (of Crowded House fame), if that matters.
MF: I hear a little bit of Foo Fighters.
DF: Yeah, sometimes we sound like that and sometimes we don't.
MF: I'm gonna play word association now…. Clearchannel.
MF: Our site is very sports related. Are you guys into sports at all and what kind of teams do you like?
DF: Yeah, big time. I'm a huge Yankees fan. I used to be a Giants fan before they sucked, but I can't watch them anymore with Kerry Collins back there. I love racquetball. I'm a Devils fan and I like hockey a lot. The thing I can't watch is basketball…you can turn it on in the last two minutes and not have missed a thing.
MF: What are some similarities between the sports business and the music business?
DF: I think that a lot of businesses have similarities. There's a lot of politics involved, like the best person for the job doesn't necessarily get the job. It pretty much comes down to connections in any field, especially in those two fields. I just find it funny how athletes become musicians, like it's their birthright.
MF: Do you have any funny stories from the road?
DF: Yeah, our funniest story was in Utah when we did "Good Morning Salt Lake" or something like that. We were supposed to lip sync and five minutes before we were supposed to go on they asked us to play live…they basically agreed then to have us lip sync at the last minute, and the weatherman was on interviewing us, and as he was introducing us and walking off the stage, they started the song. And we weren't even playing. The drums started the song but our drummer's just sitting back there, and we're all looking at each other. We didn't start playing until at least four seconds into the song in front of like 400,000 people on television. The other thing is we were so pissed off at them for making us play live in the first place, that we decided to switch instruments.
MF: When is the new album going to be out?
DF: Right now we are halfway through demoing and rehearsing, so probably not until the fall.
We're going to try and do it sooner than that, depending on the recording and all that stuff.
MF: So you're planning on releasing it on your own label?
DF: We don't know yet. We're gonna play live on XM Radio in a couple of weeks. We're going down to Eric Bazilian's (the Hooters, and also wrote "One of Us" by Joan Osborne and "Time after Time" by Cyndi Lauper) place in a couple weeks, write some stuff with him and see what comes out of it.
MF: Good luck to you.
DF: Yeah, you too!
Check them out including tour dates at www.therosenbergs.com.