Excerpts from the Shit-Fi Manifesto
I. The “guilty pleasures” of serious music critics and fans tend toward mindless pop, the formerly fashionable, the ironic—toward pseudo-good music. But some of us, in fact, harbor no secret love for disco, hair metal, or grunge. We love bad music that could not be pop, music whose very existence is the dirty secret. Our bad music does not speak in the economic terms record labels understand. Our music originates in basements and garages in non-English-speaking countries or at the margins of the US scene and is recorded with primitive equipment. Our music is the demo and live recordings of bands already deemed too bizarre or untalented “to make it.” Our music is not just lo-fi, it is SHIT-FI.
The music industry, understood as a nexus of corporations concerned with recording and mastering technology, manufacture of playback media and devices, musical instruments, and musical taste, has been steadily obliterating the conditions under which our bad music could be produced for 25 years. The industry has deemed both the ideas behind our music and the means of its creation obsolete. In this obsolescence, we see the refusal of capitalist relations of production and consumption as codified by the music industry. This refusal may amount only to pinpricks, but even tiny holes in the dark fabric of global capitalism provide nourishing light. This is our attempt to face, with sober senses, the continuing trickle-down bankruptcy of the music industry. This is Shit-Fi.
II. On the one hand we are excited by the proliferation of new technologies for the free dissemination of music: MP3 blogs, file-transfer hosts, video- and file-sharing sites, etc. To us, these sites represent the democratization the Internet at its best, enabling the democratization of media it promised. On the other hand, we are deeply skeptical of digital recording, engineering, and mastering programs and widespread availability of technology that once was only for professionals. Rather than encouraging the experimentation and uniqueness that characterized amateur musical production 20–30 years ago, the ease of these technologies encourages homogenization. Easy-to-use digital technology, which can fix flaws in tempo, pitch, etc, can mask a lack of talent, but it saps music of the intangible qualities that make it powerful and vibrant. There has been no increase in the talent or skills of musicians in the years since the punk explosion—if anything, due to education cuts and myriad distractions, young people have less training today then previously—instead, there have been strong trends in music to artificially increase the appearance of skill and talent.
Shit-Fi seeks the bands that have fallen through the cracks of these trends. Bands that choose to define talent and skill in new ways. Bands proud to be flawed. Bands that do not use gadgets to sanitize and commercialize their sound. Shit-Fi seeks the bands that have fallen through the cracks of these trends. Bands that choose to define talent and skill in new ways. Bands proud to be flawed. Bands that do not use gadgets to sanitize and commercialize their sound.
III. Shit-Fi proceeds from the axiom that professional production is not at all correlated with the power of music to affect one’s life. Whether we are dancers at a club or protesters chanting—or more likely, record collectors sitting home alone on a Friday night—it is the rhythm, the tune, the feeling that moves us. It is not production values. Would the Hells Angels not have murdered Meredith Hunter had Keith’s guitar been louder at Altamont? When Rock Against Racism inspired thousands to take a stand against discrimination, abuse, and violence, was anyone worried about the consistency of the beats-per-minute? Is one’s exuberance at stringing together three chords for the first time on a guitar diminished by the chords being slightly out of tune? The collective experience of music is certainly different from the private one, but we reject the implication that the enjoyment of music is proportional to the traditional talent displayed by its creators. The professionalization of rocknroll makes passive spectators out of fans. Participation today is not feeling, creating, or even thinking, it is telephoning in your vote for best cover version, and then buying.