Chris Moyles thinks that unsigned bands are crap – according
to the media, who have reported a storm of outrage. Many in the music industry
are choosing to react publicly by accusing Chris Moyles of seeking publicity
through controversy, although those music industry figures are obviously above
seeking publicity. Probably.
We should always be suspicious of a media outrage. Especially if it’s about what Chris Moyles thinks, or if it’s being reported that Chris Moyles thinks at all. Is he just firing out random bullshit in a bid to retain some hint of notoriety? Probably. Does anyone care what he thinks? Probably just enough to pen a few clickbait articles (ahem).
Shall we attempt nuance? Risky, but let’s dive in. Okay
class, today we’ll be discussing to what extent is Chris Moyles’ “attack” on
the music industry correct, does it matter and, if so, what should we do?
We should start by asking if he’s right. Home recording technology has made it cheaper and easier than ever to make music of an audio quality comparable to studio recordings of yesteryear. One might say it’s been democratised. Unsigned acts can put their music on Spotify, YouTube and the rest relatively easily, without anyone really quality assessing the music. So what’s a crap band? There are plenty of artists publishing music who can’t play an instrument well, or even sing without electronic pitch assistance. The thing is, that goes for signed bands too. There are plenty of artists releasing music that’s so derivative, unoriginal and unambitious that it slides out of the brain, leaving not the tiniest impression, like moral qualms off a Tory politician. That’s equally true of signed artists, too, though. There are plenty of unsigned acts that are rough around the edges, need to spend a little more time on the subtleties of their craft, need some good production advice. That’s where the pool of signed artists comes from. “Crap music”, of course, can be a very subjective term. If you’re not simply referring to technical execution, yes, there are some unsigned bands releasing music that lacks polish, lacks musical ambition, or that just ain’t your kind of thing, so you’d be tempted to write it off as crap. Others wouldn’t, though, and it’s more or less impossible to define “good music” or work out what percentage of signed and unsigned bands are making it. So, predictably, Moyles is partly right, in a very specialised way, mostly wrong, entirely devoid of nuance and still irritating. Honestly, with modern media as it is, who’d have thunk it?
Does it matter?
Well, grassroots music is under attack like never before. Moyles may be a dinosaur, lumbering Godzilla-like towards a crudely rendered model Tokyo, as relevant to the future of music as Kaiju movies are to the 2023 Oscars, but there are a lot of straws being piled on this increasingly strained hump. Unsigned bands, especially those not pandering to popular taste by banging out drunken singalong favourites, are facing a catastrophic loss of venues, incredible difficulty in arranging tours in the EU since Brexit, increased costs meaning that it’s harder and harder to fill a venue, a lack of support from government (over all of the above issues), a general decline in gig-going as well as the ever shorter attention span of audiences and a general unwillingness on the part of purported “music lovers” to actually pay for music. So for someone with a public platform like Moyles to use it for a clumsy, pointless swipe at unsigned bands is really unhelpful, especially when we can be pretty sure that the MSM won’t be using the story as an attempt to shine a light on some of the real issues facing grassroots music. The UK music industry was estimated to be worth over £4 billion in 2021 – way more than the figure reported for the fishing industry, which apparently was such a vastly important figure for Brexit. But it’s grassroots venues that are taking it hardest after the pandemic and recent energy surges, and little is being done to protect them. At the same time, grassroots artists get way less from streaming platforms than the big players.
Here’s a question for civil engineering students who’ve snuck into the class. What happens to a structure if you allow its foundations to crumble? Think of the best British bands of the last fifty years. The ones that took risks, redefined sounds, the ones that inspired another generation of kids to want to learn to play an instrument. Look into their backstories – they all cut their teeth on their local, live circuits, then started playing venues further afield that would put on unknown bands because they could afford to. We’re all standing on the shoulders of the bands that schlepped around the live circuits before us. Without grassroots bands and venues, eventually, the whole, creaking monolith will come crashing down.
UK music needs protecting – not just from the hideous,
slobbering apparition that is Chris Moyles. The foundations need shoring up. Support
your local scene; go and see a live band when you can. If you like them, then
buy something. A CD, a tee shirt. Follow them and interact, send them a kind
word. Get involved with the Music Venue
And ignore Chris Moyles.
of course, is named for Democritus, who also postulated the first atomic theory,
by suggesting that everything is made of tiny, irreducible particles, thereby
suggesting a sort of lowest common denominator for matter. And if lowest common
denominator doesn’t describe a lot of modern chart music, I don’t know what
a brave reader that clicks that link… for so many reasons.
followers of The Layers blog may tire of having their sanity, choice of reading
material or indeed, their very existence questioned but then, let’s face it, if
there’s one thing we love here at Layers HQ, it’s an easy target.
You should see the size our dartboard.
if any readers have been holding their breath in suspense since reading our
last blog, then for God’s sake, breathe! That was May. It occurs to use that we
perhaps should have broken this news sooner… we have managed to add to our
ranks with a new drummer. We are delighted to introduce Alan Bryant.
background of classical vocals at The Guildhall School of Music and Drama and
jazz and world percussion tuition from The Royal Academy of Music/City
University of London he has singlehandedly increased the level of actual musical
knowledge in the band by about 200%.
varied band history includes drumming and backing vocals for Waylayers and The
Mayors, so his progression to The Layers was a natural move. Other highlights
include The Supreme Collective and Velvet Diamond.
Alan also brings an influence from Latin America
with his samba experience playing professionally for Rimos Da Cidade (Rhythms
of the City) on caixa, repinique & surdu, making him, if nothing else, a
formidable Scrabble opponent.
We were delighted
to find that Alan’s charming, urbane exterior hides an inappropriate sense of
humour that makes him a natural fit for the frothing depravity that is a Layers
drumming style and vocals are already making their mark on The Layers sound. He
played his first gig with the band this month in a fun evening
at The Thunderbolt. Although we didn’t win the battle of the bands, it was a
great performance, attracting praise from friends and strangers alike. A big
shout out to Tiago, who filled in for Caleb, who was filling
in for John J Macreedy at the time.
new songs in the pipeline so as soon as we’ve found out how to insert the
batteries for Caleb’s bionic arm and finished teaching Nathalie the varied colloquial
uses of English obscenities, we’ll cobble a gig together and invite you all
down. Until then, long live the revolution.
Not you, dear reader, we would never imply that you were anything less than a paragon.
But then, we’re terrible at geometry, so what do we know?
Whilst potentially intimidating, it’s nice for Neil that there’s someone to
share the blame for confusing everyone.
Has it been almost two years since a Layers blog was published? Thought you’d escaped it forever? Tough luck, suckers: like shingles, Priti Patel or corduroy, some things insist on coming back whether you like them or not. Remember when we were all locked in our houses because of Covid, instead of because we couldn’t afford to go out any more or out of the fear of imminent thermonuclear war? Who’d have thought that we’d be looking back so fondly on 2020 so soon? Well, if the last few years have left you with a nagging sense of déjà-vu, spare a thought for the stalwart crew of the good-ship Layers, who, rowing against the tide at the best of times, find themselves peering from the crow’s nest in search of a drummer once again.
Yes, as at the beginning of lockdown, we are once again bereft of someone to keep the beat, as the lovely Adam has been offered his dream job which, nightmarishly, is on the other side of the country.
Wait a minute, we hear you ask, who the (expletive
Adam signed on for a stint about a year ago, after
a series of auditions that strained everyone’s patience and eardrums. With no
disrespect to the other drummers who auditioned at that time, he was the first
choice by a country mile and so we were as delighted when he agreed to join as
we are despondent now to lose him.
Adam’s played a handful of gigs with us, including an unforgettable headline set at The Thunderbolt one evening that really got the whole crowd up and moving. He’s helped us to move along musically and come up with drum parts for a couple of brand-new songs. We managed to capture these parts just before he left and hope to be completing those recordings and sharing the results before too long. More than that, he fit right in and went from being a stranger to one of the family in next to no time. His good-nature, work ethic (he learned the set so quickly) and talent mean that he’s left some big shoes to fill.
So join us in wishing Adam au revoir, bis denne and in
bocco a lupo and, if you happen to know any good drummers, do point them
Big love from The Layers.
It’s not often that corduroy comes top of a list of things you’d prefer to have
wrapped around your groin, but…
Today’s do-it-yourself joke challenge: “bunch of oars”, “load of rowlocks” and “poop
deck”. Have fun.
Eagle-eyed viewers of our latest video probably keep having to turn their heads from side to side and chew mice whilst watching. Which must be weird. Those viewers with regular human eyes and an observant streak may have noticed an unfamiliar face behind the drums.
That would be our old friend Duke and, in case you
didn’t know, there’s a little story.
Way back in the noughties, when anyone wearing a
face mask on the street was just a mugger and a barrel of oil cost more than minus
37 dollars, The Layers were touring Europe and having a quite splendid time of
it. All was going well until Roo, our first drummer, picked up a heavy set of
drum hardware and, with a rending of vertebrae audible on Mars, did something
nasty to his back. Without European health insurance, it was either fly Roo
home or allow a back-alley Viennese surgeon to rip out his spine and turn it
into a coat rack and two sets of chessmen. Unfortunately, the surgeon was
unavailable at short notice so we stuck the drummer in a jumbo sized Jiffy bag
and took him to the airport in Bratislava where, to save money, he was faxed
back to the UK.
This looked like also being the end of our tour,
no one else in the band at the time being able to count to four. Just as
despair beckoned, one of the other musicians on the tour with us, a solo
troubadour with a blistering voice, said: “Hey, I play drums.”
That man was one Duke Bryan McDonald. This was a
wonderful and generous offer from someone who hadn’t picked up a drumstick in
years and barely knew us or, for that matter, our songs. So with a set of
recordings and a little bit of tour bus tutorial, Duke learned the whole set in
about a day and a half and played brilliantly for us a night later in front of
a fantastic Czech audience. Many drummers have, for various, Spinal Tap-esque
reasons over the years, taken a turn at keeping the wayward musicians of The
Layers in time and, as any of them would no doubt attest, our songs are rarely
straightforward. Duke did a great job and earned our enduring friendship which
is, let’s face it, something of a booby prize at best. Such is life.
Duke now lives in Finland and makes his living as
a musician. Very good at it he is too – check him out ((https://www.facebook.com/dukemcdonald/))
and we hope that we’ll be able to work with him again.
In the meantime, we’re hoping to get more
collaborations done with musicians who’ve inexplicably failed to give us fake
contact details over the years. Keep an eye on our splendid new(ish) YouTube channel
for more videos and, if you’re a musician (at least by the loose standards of
The Layers) and would like to record with us like this, please get in touch via
We hope that you enjoy these recordings and that,
if you’ve been finding lockdowns and social distancing a chore, this music
brightens your day a little.
Thanks for listening. Unlimited love from The
As Christmas Day gets closer and the pressure to spend gets greater, building like a sprout-laden fart during the Queen’s Speech, remember that life goes on after Christmas too and there may be a few things that you’d like to lay a tenner aside for in January.
A new Layers album perhaps?
Yes, it will surprise no one who knows the five people who have done for modern music what Davros did to improve the image of people with disabilities that their heroic effort to get the new album out in time for Christmas has crashed and burned.
Still, every cloud and all that. By way of an apology, for anyone who’s read this far, we offer you a free download of our Christmas single:
We hope you like it. Recording wise, we’re at the preliminary mixing stage so we very much hope to have the record out by the end of January and we have a tentative launch gig date of the 29th February. Yes, there is one next year, so stick it in your diary and hopefully we’ll see you then.
For now, from Sarah, Caleb, Dan, Neil and Paul, the Happiest of Christmases and a splendid start to 2020.
“Regular” readers of The Layers’ blog might well be forgiven for thinking they’ve Rip Van Winkled their way through an entire calendar year, given that entries are appearing at a rate not seen since Neil was a teacher and had marking to avoid. Fear not, like one of those serial killers from a grim movie, the blog will almost undoubtedly soon go dormant for a long period before popping up again in a blaze of tortured puns.
However, the flurry of recent activity is because we Layers have been remarkably busy of late. The imminence of our new album, “Fistful of Change”, has goaded us into action on a number of fronts, one being a long overdue review of our digital marketing strategy. Whilst flicking through the slides in a presentation entitled “Why showing PowerPoint slides to The Layers is likely to result in a violent assault from a bassist” that we found on a USB drive surprisingly deep in our marketing consultant’s colon, we realised that it was well past time that we started allowing the public to buy our music directly from the site, like modern people, instead of meeting with one of our representatives in a deserted car park to exchange an envelope full of used bills for a flash drive, which is more exciting but has resulted in a few misunderstandings and fans inadvertently buying CCTV footage of prominent public figures engaged in lewd acts. We should probably use different coloured envelopes.
Anyway, to streamline the process of buying for fans and to avoid paying NCP’s frankly outrageous commission on sordid car-park exchanges, we’ve taken a lump hammer and a roll of gaffer tape to the website and made a few upgrades. Pop over there at your earliest convenience and you’ll see that not only can you now purchase our previous recordings in a variety of formats but, excitingly, there’s now a selection of Layers merchandise available. From sportswear to mugs, baby clothing to owl cosies, there’s something for everyone. Except owls, because I made up the bit about owl-cosies. Please have a browse and perhaps buy the music lover in your life something to keep them warm while they wait for us to finish the album? As an added incentive, you’ll get a 15% discount until the 2nd December.
We really hope that you like what we’ve designed and if there are items that you’d like to see in future, let us know, we’ll see what we can do. Until then, happy shopping from The Layers!
…Caleb’s frankly magnificent calf muscles. But
you can’t have those for Christmas, you weirdo, you’ll have to get a Layers CD
instead. Yes, our third studio album, “Fistful of Change” is taking shape in
the studio and we’re optimistic that it should be ready to be piled onto
reindeer-driven sleds covering for striking Royal Mail operatives in time for
It’s been a brilliant week to be a Layer – firstly
our crowdfunding campaign, powered by the wonderful people at Fundsurfer,
exceeded our cautious expectations and raised almost £1800 along with some
amazing offers of practical support.
Secondly, we’ve been recording all weekend. Time
in the studio is always great fun but this weekend has been extra special as
some of the tracks near completion and we can start to hear how they’re going
to sound when finished. In addition, this weekend saw DB studios deluged with
visitors coming to sing on a very special project – more on this very soon.
It’s been humbling to receive such generous
support in terms of funding, expertise and time and we’d like to take this
opportunity to everyone who put in time and effort this weekend to come and
make a musical contribution. It was great fun having you all in the studio and
we hope that you’re as thrilled as we are with the results when you hear them.
There’s an incredible amount of work to be done
over the next month or so but we very much hope that in just a few short weeks,
we’ll be packaging up CDs, t-shirts and VIP passes for our backers. All we can
offer for now is a bottomless reserve of gratitude and a request to hang on in
there for a little while.
News of a pre-release bonus track soon – watch this
So while you’ve been doing trivial stuff like
supporting your family, curing rare diseases, cracking nuclear fusion and
bathing in the relaxing torrent of Brexit bulletins, we’ve been beavering away
over a hot mixing desk. What we’ve achieved so far is a set of what we think
are our best songs to date: more ambitious, more accomplished and as gloriously
eclectic as ever.
We’re at the solos, backing vocals and preliminary
mixing stage but there are still lots of opportunities to get involved, so if
you’d like to sing or play on the album, get in touch right away via email@example.com
Otherwise, please, please support us via our
friends at Fundsurfer if you possibly can. A Layers album makes an ideal
Christmas gift and we have a whole host of other great rewards.
In other news, after Christmas and the album
launch we’ll be expanding our digital empire with some additions to the website
and hopefully playing a few gigs near you!
…of course, while you wait, a lot of other stuff
might come your way too, like a Layers blog post but, hey, you’ve got to take
the rough with the smooth, right? The news for those of you eagerly awaiting a
new Layers album though, is rather splendidly upbeat.
The weekend has been spent, once again, in the
retro-technical Aladdin’s cave that is DB Studios and we’re excited to announce
that the first phase of recording is now complete. Allow the thermostat of your
excitement to rise just above “frozen mammoth corpse” before cautiously opening
the coolant valve as we qualify that by saying that we’ve got drums and bass
guitar recorded for every track but there’s still a lot of work to do. While
Dan and Paul are now free to put their feet up and mentally prepare themselves
for the horror that is recording backing vocals, the burden of work falls on
the broad, medium and petite shoulders, respectively,
of Caleb, Neil and Sarah.
There’s always something slightly scary about the
first iteration of studio recordings. Ideas that seem to work in rehearsal,
then sound a little bit ropey recorded on a digital recorder in the practice
room are given their first real test – will they really work or were we drunk
on hope, delusion and Sarah’s bizarrely potent homemade cider?
Well again, without wishing to let optimism get
out of hand and fill a frankly terrifying world with the balm of false hope, we’re
tickled pink to report that, a few early modifications made, all of the songs
that we’ve embarked upon have passed the early test.
So: delays, excuses and nob-gags aside, what can
you expect? Well, we’ve rewritten and re-recorded a couple of old favourites
and turned them from turgid to toe-tapping. We’ve got new compositions that are
making bold forays into funk territory and we’ve somehow managed to be
simultaneously more experimental and more commercial.
It’s great fun being in the studio; lots of
laughter mixed in with the creativity and the hard work. We’re hoping that will
all come across in the recording.
We’re also hoping that some of our fans and
followers will get involved in the recording this time around. Details to
follow but we’re going to be recruiting backing singers galore, percussion
shakers and soloists so if you’ve always wanted to be on an album recording,
watch this space or, if you’re super-eager, drop us a line.
Expect a gentle increase in blog frequency as we
keep you in touch with developments as they happen. For now, Layers out.
A quote, although most remembered from Hannibal Lecter, originally attributed
to Violet Fane, nom de plume of Lady Mary Montgomerie Currie. Readers falling
into the narrow Venn diagram overlap that contains fans of The Layers and
Countdown may be tickled upon realising that Ms Currie’s pseudonym is an
anagram of “i.e a TV felon” therefore enabling them to share the quote. Is this
mere coincidence? Yes.
Approximately five regular-sized shoulders, but that seemed a weird way,
although admittedly more concise, of explaining it.
…is it our Lord and saviour, Jesus H[i]
Christ, riding a bicycle with a flying pig following along on one of those
extendible dog leashes? It’s none of those things; it’s the even rarer sight of
a new Layers album taking shape in the studio! Regular readers of the Layers
blog (or at least, those people paid to read the blog to Layers fans in an
attempt to coax them out of whatever vegetative state, psychotic rampage or
they are currently stuck in) may have formed the impression that the next album
would be concurrent with one of those future astronomical events that Brian Cox
is always banging on about and that the band were too busy doing rock star
stuff like choking on their own vomit and throwing TVs through hotel windows.
But no. As it turns out, modern TVs are both too large to fit through the
average hotel window and so light that they just bounce off the glass and land
on your toe.
So having checked out of the Chelsea Hotel and got off the crutches, the
band have wasted little time[iii]
in constructing a marvellous set of ditties[iv]
and trundling down to our old friend Andy Butler at DB studios. As ever, it
would be rash at this stage to start making predictions about release dates
although we are prepared to go out on a limb and say that it will be “in
the future”, unless time travel is invented[v]
before then in which case it will be available on vinyl for a shilling and
we’ll be supporting the Big Bopper in a frankly baffling piece of promotional
What we can say is that we’ve got some new songs, the same old wildly
eclectic mix of styles, a couple of old favourites reworked and upgraded and
we’re hoping that it’s going to be our best work yet. We’re also going to be
announcing a crowdfunding bid in the relatively near future with chances to get
involved in the recording process and all manner of other goodies. So, stay
alert, watch the skies, keep your nose to the grindstone, your finger on the
pulse, your ear to the ground and consider a better yoga teacher. We’re going
back to the studio and we’ll have our people call your people soon.
Big love, Layers out
fact, the H is for Hydrogen. God is a huge chemistry nerd.
if you’ve managed all three simultaneously, congratulations, this month’s star
prize is on its way.