So, was it all worth it…?

13 09 2012

The last time I posted on here it was to question people’s thoughts on crowdfunding artistic projects. Here

This question was prompted by two of my favorite artists who were simultaneously crowdfunding their new albums, Amanda Palmer and Ben Folds Five.  Amanda used Kickstarter, Ben Folds Five used Pledge Music.

One of the points I made in my previous post was that you are essentially buying a product sight unseen (and actually at the funding stage, product non-existant…) – so its a gamble, but possibly not too much of a gamble when you consider the strong back catalog that both Amanda Palmer and Ben Folds Five have.

Well, this week both the albums dropped, so I thought I’d do a review of them to answer the question as to whether it was worth it – do I feel I got my money’s worth in the end?

Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra – Theatre is Evil

Amanda hasn’t released a polished, new material album since 2008’s “Who Killed Amanda Palmer” – her first solo album away from the Dresden Dolls. The main difference between WKAP and Theatre is Evil is the musical direction that Amanda is taking.  While WKAP still had quite a Dresden Dolls sound, Theatre Is Evil is much more of a departure from this.  I think the main reason for this step change is that this time Amanda has recorded with a band rather than session musicians – clearly the bouncing of ideas and contributions from the other members of the Grand Theft Orchestra has helped yield wildly different and exciting ideas in the studio.  The 80’s New Wave influences are strong with lots of Depeche Mode, Cars and The Cure sounds in the musical stylings – especially in the upbeat numbers like ‘Do It With a Rockstar‘ , ‘The Killing Type‘ and ‘Want It Back‘ – its instant 80’s dance hits! As always Amanda’s strongest skill for me is her uncanny ability to capture imagery and imagination with her beautifully crafted lyrics – ‘The Bed Song’ is a sweet, sad tear-jerker as is ‘Trout Heart Replica’ . As with every one of my favourite albums there are songs that I’m not crazy about just yet – but based on my previous experiences these albums I know that usually such songs tend to unravel in front of me and take a hold before becoming songs I love, so a few more listens and I know I’ll be completely won over.

If you are interested in getting the album click the linked album name above, Amanda has released this on a ‘pay what you feel’ basis, so if you want your music free you can do that (but really, don’t be an asshole –  throw a busker a few dollars to say thanks for the art!).

Also, keep an eye out for tour dates – Amanda on recording is good, but when she’s live she’s in a whole other stratosphere – one of the best nights out you can have.

Ben Folds Five – The Sound Of The Life Of The Mind

Ben Folds Five haven’t had a new album in 13 years. It’s been a LONG wait. Ben Folds did a lot of solo recording in between (including the University A Cappella! which was great), and producing albums for other artists including ‘Who Killed Amanda Palmer’. The other guys presumably did things too – I didn’t keep up with their activities so much…!

So, that being said – its exciting to hold a new Ben Folds Five album in my hands (metaphorically speaking of course – everything bits and bytes these days). And its good. Like finding an old loved comfy jumper in the back of your wardrobe – you put it on and its that same old familiar fit and feeling. The album is not so different to the albums from the late 90s/early 2000’s.  The production is slicker, there are more lush strings than previous offerings, but fundamentally it’s all about Ben’s sweet vocals, impressive piano skills, some heavily distorted bass-lines and nice harmonies.  I’m not sure there is anything on there that hits the highs of ‘Army’ or ‘Underground’ or “One Angry Dwarf…’ for me, although the Pledge Music teaser track from the album ‘Do It Anyway‘ is pretty good with its faux-western feel. I like the 10CC sound of ‘Sky High’ and I’m still not convinced that ‘On Being Frank’ is not a cover of another song – its so familiar sounding. I guess that’s the mark of a well written song huh?

Overall its a good album – this and reading in a sunny spot with a coffee in hand would make for a pretty spectacular Sunday afternoon. Its not ground-breaking, its not huge musical evolutions, but its familiar, well made and sweet – and sometimes that’s all you want.


So was it all worth it? Sending chunks of money off to random artists in the faith of new good material to come?

Yes. Absolutely. These artists have given me two new albums worth of high-quality work. Better still, they didn’t have to jump through record company hoops, they didn’t lose a chunk of money to some dude who just makes life hard for them. They were able to do what they do best and still make a living. This is exactly the desired outcome and yes, it was all worth it.

Plus, in addition to these new digital albums, I get to look forward to 2 CD’s, a t-shirt and an art book arriving in the post over the next couple of weeks. Which is also pretty sweet. Getting parcels in the post is awesome.




Questions for the artists out there…

13 05 2012

I love Amanda Palmer.

I have made no secret of this over the years. She is one of my favorite lyricists, a ‘music is for everyone’ approach performer and I have to admit – a pretty foxy liberated lady (I have a mega-girl crush on her!)

See what a cute couple we’d make??

From Bordeaux, January 2010

Ok – maybe not.

But discussing celebrity girl crushes is not what this post is about.

Amanda left her record label a few years back and now operates her business as a professional musican and performer through crowd-sourced funds, mainly using a website which deals purely in crowd-funding Kickstarter. She reaches out to the consumers who want her product (her fans) and asks them to pay in advance for the goods.

Her current ‘pitch’ is seen here in a Bob Dylan inspired video:

If you haven’t got time/patience for the video the summary is that  by pledging here you commit to pay money towards funding the recording, manufacture and distribution of Amanda Palmer’s new record. If you are a fan who just wants the new music as a digital download you can do it with as little as a$1 pledge. Although, if you think the artists’ work is worth more you can contribute more. In order to incentivise ( <– is that a real word? Sounds like management wank-speak) larger pledges, Amanda offers special bonuses depending on the amount commited.

Of course for the fans there is a risk associated with buying something sight unseen (or in this case, unheard) but she has a good back-catalogue, a proven history so therefore I suppose the potential risk for the backers is minimal. After all, people will line up for days to buy the latest Apple product without waiting to see what the reviews are as they have faith that the product will be good based on previous experience and general one-eyed fandom.

Amanda’s current campaign has garnered much internet attention and discussion. So far  it has passed her original campaign target of $100,000 six times over, with another two weeks still remaining in the funding period. It has broken all previous Kickstarter records.  For the most part, the online discussion is positive and even at times slightly awed. Some discussions are even already on the “she did it, and you can too…” wagon (including Forbes telling big businesses what they can learn from Amanda Palmer ). But interestingly, there has been quite a bit of pushback from some commentators, etc.  Such as this:

“the Internet has allowed artists and fans to have a more direct relationship, but it has also given artists a more direct way to shake their fans upside down for pocket change.”

Is that what is going on?

As a fan, and one who has contributed to this and previous kickstarter campaigns, I dont think I’m being “shaken upside down for pocket change” – becuase really it means I can give whatever I can afford to support an artist I admire and want to see more work from. In general, I try to send my dollar to the location where the creator will benefit most wherever possible (i.e purchase from gigs or bands own websites rather than the big machines like Amazon and the rest) – this seems a natural progression from that philosophy.

But I guess, in some way the answer to the quote above is “yes”. The internet has allowed better connection with fans and artists, and yes, it has also allowed a way for the artists to ask their fans for money (“shake them upside down for pocket change” is maybe a little strong).  But I suppose the question is – is that a bad thing? Is it even unusual? Is it all that different to buying a theatre package subscription with a theatre company at the start of a season – pre-paying future productions in good faith based on previous seasons? Or even different to buying sports season tickets – prepaying for attendance at all matches because you support that team based on history, even if you dont know how many of the games to come will be won. Is the offence caused by Amanda asking for money caused because she is a one-person operation or is it because the request is so blunt and blatant and not hidden behind more tasteful terms such as selling a ‘season pass’ or the like? (if anything, doesn’t the fact that an individual artist has no government funding or corporate sponsorship make it MORE ok for her to go out asking for financial support?)

The next question is – can this work for all people in creative industries? Is this, as Amanda promises, ‘The Future of Music’?

Before I go on, I should note that there are some marked differences in the way Amanda operates as an artist.  First off, she comes from a background of street performing where holding out your hat to the punters to unashamedly ask for them to pay for what they have just experienced is par for the course. Her description of this is discussed much more eloquently than my description in Amanda’s presentation to a Harvard crowd here:

However this asking the punters directly for money may not come as easy or as comfortably for some artists.

Secondly, Amanda is a tireless social networker – she blogs, she tweets, she facebooks – she stages ‘ninja gigs’, she hangs out after shows to mingle with the crowd. She has developed a legion of fans who feel they know her warts-and-all and have around the clock access to her. She has come to be viewed as a virtual friend to many and this I think is one of the keys to the bottomless support (financial and otherwise) of her fans – she has become everyone’s slightly kooky, but very talented, mate that you want to see really make it. This works for her, but obviously not for a more reserved, less-outspoken private artist who isn’t interested in being ‘All Access’ . Without that existing fan devotion, the model could potentially start to fall apart.

Finally, while Amanda started independently funding the first ‘Dresden Dolls’ album before getting signed, and while she works independently now – there was still a period of record company funded recording, touring, PR with Roadrunner records. While Amanda has certainly done the majority of the ground work building her brand through tireless interaction with fans and her strong artistic ethos, would she still be in the same position without having had that period of a corporate boost (even if it they did a pretty pathetic job of representing her as Amanda describes it)? I don’t know. But it does make me wonder if you can achieve the same heights from scratch with no industry backing at all. In this age of facebook, twitter and youtube and with break-out programs such as JJJ’s unearthed and places to showcase music such as SoundCloud, I like to think so.

I guess what  I wanted to ask my friends in creative industries; be it music, theatre, film-making, writing, etc. your thoughts on funding your work in this fashion. So, some questions to prompt you:

  • Is this ‘patronage’ model the future of the creative industry?
  • Do you think the consumers are ready for this ‘pay before we create’ model?
  • Can this crowd-sourced approach work from ‘nothing’ or do you always need a machine behind to get you started?
  • Have you or your fellow artists tried to use crowdsourced funding before? What was the experience?
  • Do you feel this method of fundraising a positive step for artists or is it a step in the wrong direction?

And to everyone –

  • Would you be willing to financially contribute to an artists future work sight unseen, based on the strength of their previous offerings, or do you prefer to wait until the new work is complete and make a call as to whether or buy or not then?
  • Have you ever contributed to a kickstarter, or similar, campaign before? Can you imagine yourself doing so in the future? What would be need to be on offer to make you spend your money in this way?

Old Hollywood in downtown Singapore

20 03 2012

Im turning 30 this year. It’s scary

Actually, Im turning 30 in two days. It’s scarier!

And after a mini-crisis at approaching 25 (oh, how i wish to be approaching 25 again) I wasnt sure how I’d handle the big Three-Oh. Still, instead of running and hiding I decided to grab it by the horns and step up to not only face, but embrace it.

Fact of the matter is that at 30 you have a much better grip on who you are and what you want. I have surrounded myself with people I choose to surround myself with , I have bought a little flat, I have lived across three continents, I am more confident in my work and feel comfortable in my (admittedly stretched, but slowly recovering!) skin. It is a better mentality than the confused early- and mid-twenties so it feels like a good beginning to a new decade.

also – I totally went to a psychic and it sounds like even better things are just around the corner – so I’m sure part of the serenity comes from that!

Part of my ‘grabbing 30 by the horns’ is making sure I usher it in with the important people in my life – and this means Celebrations of INTERNATIONAL PROPORTIONS!!  Beginning with an ‘Old Hollywood’ themed party in Singapore…

The venue was the very beautiful Divine Wine Bar in Singapore.  Its an incredibly art-deco themed triple height space which is so decadent and beautiful. It sits within Parkview Square – or what most people know as the ‘Gotham Building’ because it looks just like a set from the Tim Burton Batman films. Funny how many of my guests remarked that they had never been inside considering how iconic the building itself is.

Bizarrely despite being one of the most beautiful spaces in Singapore it is near empty on a Saturday night – last time I was there we counted about 12 people (including us) and on the night of my party there were maybe 15 people other than my group of friends. What a waste. I am assured that weeknights are busier with the local office crowd and a band that plays. Having said that, the customer service is not of the highest standard – even if they do ‘fly’ angels up to retrive wine from the 3 storey wine cellar – alike so:

Flying up to retrieve wine from the 3 storey wine cellar

The management are difficult to deal with too – telling me to “just order from the menu” when I asked if we could do a better price on some bottles of champagne  and food platters despite tripling their clientele for the night.  (although when I looked at the menu two-thirds were not in stock despite knowing they were expecting a large booking who wanted food…!? so fried chicken bits and somosas all round…!)

Anyway, for a casual drink in Singapore its a pretty sweet spot and I recommend dropping in some time.

Aside from earlier frustrations with management – the night was so lovely and I so appreciated everyone’s effort. I was so pleased that my friends who joined me bought into the ‘Old Hollywood’ theme. The costumes were great and completely in keeping with the surroundings – I couldn’t have been more pleased. My friend Hannah baked and decorated a themed cake too! Yum! The easiest way to summarise the night would be just to share a whole load of photos taken by my friend Xin – apologies to anyone not captured in this photo set, send me your pics so I can add them too!

Enjoy the glamour!

…and Melbourne? You’re next.

Merry Christmas!

26 12 2011

Hope you all had a happy, safe and enjoyable Christmas, filled with good food, good wine and good company.


I had four days of too much to eat and drink and some really good times. Special thanks to Alma, Kate, Owen, Mardi, Key, Ben, Suan Wee, Alyssa and Patrick for their company and hospitality – you all made Christmas very special.

Now – who else is on the healthy eating and exercise again with me tomorrow?? x

Love in lorong 42

19 12 2011

Let me tell you about our favorite Singaporean aunty.

She works at the Vietnamese shop near our condo. And she looks after me and alma and the daily operating hours of 4pm-4am works with our hours of consciousness.

When I broke my wrist I had to eat something before I took one of the prescribed pain killers. Megan and I stopped in on the way back from hospital and of course I ordered the easiest meal to eat single handed – beef noodle soup. Aunty brought it over and proceeded to stir in the sauces and other ingredients for me, telling me about how it is good for my bone healing as the broth is made with bones and marrow stock.

I’ve never asked her name, and she doesn’t know our names either. But she knows were both coke zeros, I’m a Pho Bo and Alma is a stewed beef vermicelli. We know that she is worried about business now that the government aren’t renewing the leases on the Girly bars in the area and the police are doing raids – her Vietnamese working girls and their customers aren’t getting late nights suppers anymore.

She’s great. She’s sporting the same haircut as Alma at the moment so was only too happy to pose for a photo.


The closest I could find to a twin was one of the Vietnamese waitresses – although her colour is closer to my first attempt at going blonde in Singapore.


Anyway, it’s a great restaurant, the food us fabulous and cheap. The staff are lovely and it’s one if geylang’s hidden treasures. I hope it survives.

We had sone food and a catch up there tonight. Started with phil and i, then alma joined us aching from yoga

Martjin came down and bernie arrived for a quick coconut juice too.

Theres only one night til martjin leaves us fie Europe for good – will be sad without him here. I didnt see him very often, but wen i did he always had a story to tell and his company always made for a good night.


To-do list for Xmas

18 12 2011

We’re just week out from Christmas now and things are ramping up for travel home to family, big Xmas day celebrations, present buying and giving, etc. The kid next door is even practicing “we wish you a merry Christmas” on his piano while I lie here typing this (repeatedly, and the same bung note each time…)

Yes, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

Well, it is everywhere but here at singapore’s casa del Bañuelos e davis. I’m not feeling christmassy at all. I think the main thing is that this year I dropped home to have a week with my family earlier in December, so as to fit in to the annual leave schedule (left booking time off too late and there were too many people away – the office here doesn’t shut down for the Xmas week, so we need people here). This isn’t so bad, it was great to see everyone, do an early gift exchange, and eat, drink and be generally merry ahead of time. It does make me feel like I’ve “done” Christmas now though.

The other factor may be weather. Of course in Singapore it is reliably 34 degrees with 70-80% humidity like every other day of the year. I know I’m
Australian and used to hot christmasses, but I think now I’ve experienced two uk christmasses I realize whats meant by “it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas”. I never realized how stupid and nonsensical it was to eat a full meal of roast turkey and ham, with veggies and gravy followed by a generous serving of steaming hot plum pudding swimming in a bowl of freshly microwaved custard IN FORTY DEGREE HEAT! that meal makes soo much more sense in the northern hemisphere winters, with snow and german Christmas markets and the smell of mulled wine in the air. Again, not that I’m complaining, it’s just that my view on southern hemisphere Xmas has adjusted in the last few years.

The other thing that is possibly adding to my non-christmas feeling is I’m not actually doing anything – previously if I wasnt home I was setting off on some exotic adventure, to Egypt or around europe, so Christmas excitement was replaced with pre-holiday excitement which equates roughly to the same thing. I guess even planning to host/contribute to a christmas lunch or dinner would bring that excitement with it. All the feelings you get – excitement, stress, last minute buying, packing, wrapping, getting to that stage where you think “this is too hard, I can’t even be bothered doing this anymore”, and then getting to the day and enjoying it all.

When I say I’m not doing anything, please don’t break out the violins – I am doing something with sone friends – we are heading off to the ritz for lunch with free-flow champagne!! But going somewhere takes away that anticipation and preparedness and stress and excitement. That’s more the point I was trying to make!


There are a couple of long weekends over the holiday season with christmas and new years day. Also, with people away I have the feeling that both work and upcoming social life is going to be quiet for a week or two. So, what’s my solution to filling my ‘need for human contact void’? HOBBIES!!! Who needs love when theres southern comfort and who needs mankind when you have hobbies??

So these are my two holiday projects:


A mad men style retro dress which butterick classify as ‘easy’ in pale yellow and baby blues with a skull pattern. Cost me $95 in materials and I am aware that for $95 I could probably have bought quite a nice summer dress without all the effort of making one, but I think that would be missing the point. Plus about $45 of that expense was buying proper scissors, dressmaking pins, pattern etc. It’s like when you bake a cake in your new place for the first time – you go the the shops to buy the ingredients and walk away having spent $50 because you had to buy things like vanilla essence and cake tins and cooling racks and wooden spoons, etc. The cakes after will be cheaper, hopefully so too will the dresses.

I am a little worried about the idea of me learning to sew though. Everyone who knows me knows I have a very strong inner drag queen and this is kept under control mainly by me only being able to buy what is available in shops which means someone has already deemed it alright for day to day use. If I’m in control of fabric selections, cut choices, trim, sequins, feathers and bedazzling then things could take a turn for the FABULOUS (it’s Lacroix sweetie…) although possible a large step away from the corporate chic I should be striving for.

The other project is working on a classical piece of music on piano – specifically beethovens piano sonata in c minor, second movement, adagio cantabile. I’m going to try and do it on my own to improve my reading, plus there are a few keyboard view renditions of this on YouTube that I can use for fingering ideas (minds out of the gutter, all of you) and to listen to in order to hear the dynamics, tempo, etc. This guy does a beautiful version of it, but his facial expressions are so bad and distracting that I kept wiring for the joke like it was a skit from the fast show.

I first fell in live with this piece when dad and I were preparing music for my grandpa’s funeral, which sounds very morbid. But aside from the very simple but beautiful melody I guess it accompanied all that period of pulling together photos of our family on dads side.

We were always close to all of our family, but see mums side more as they tend to travel in packs and be a lot more outgoing and social! If we were heading to the shopping centre or the beach or the cinema it was likely that nan and pa and/or an aunty, uncle, cousin would also be meeting us there. It’s always great fun to catch up with them, but I guess it tended to be something that happened more often.

Dads side were always a bit more reserved, a bit more for the special occasions – Christmas, their birthdays, our birthdays. Dads parents were older than mums, but aside from the age difference there was definitely also a personality difference. While they were quieter and more easily overwhelmed when the Davis tribe arrived, they were still always genuinely interested in what we were doing, would be happy to see us, proud of us. Shannons toilet roll pirate stayed on display in the living room, michaels paintings/drawings were still on the walls, aunty gils paintings and leadlights were right through the house. They held on to the toys we loved like the old yogurt containers with pegs and those itchy wigs – all of them probably untouched for a good 12 years, but were there just in case. They used to put up with our love of their musical doorbell too, me insisting that we had to press the button until the “happy birthday” tune played if we were visiting for such an occasion. My favorite bit was grandpa’s back room – his haven of serenity. ABC classic fm would always be on quietly, his books were all arranged on the bookshelf in height order, a 3 volume series which made up a picture of a silhouette of a sneaking mam was my favorite. He had a keyboard down there with all the different voices and rhythms and backing tracks and I used to go down and bash out some songs on it and even drag grandpa down to listen to my ‘performance’. He was always very encouraging despite my lack of training or more importantly talent. I remember trying to play along with a cassette on his stereo and informing him that his tape deck was running too fast because the song is playing back a semitone higher than it should be, he investigated and I was right, but there was no way to change the speed setting – I don’t think he listened to tapes again through that stereo.

Anyway, I guess listening to that piece of music now is bittersweet because it was used on a sad day, but also it was the background music to reflecting on happy memories and a special person. I find myself missing grandpa a lot these days, probably more because I’ve found myself interested in many things that he was passionate about – photography, musical theatre, piano. Would have been great to mine his wealth of knowledge and share these things with him as I discover them. Of course I miss grandma too, but it’s grandpa I think of most often.

Ok, personal reflections over, it’s a nice piece of music and sounds pretty easy for the most part. Although I suspect that it may be deceptive and actually quite difficult, it’s a grade 3 piano piece apparently – and considering I havent done any formal formal piano training I might be biting off more than I can chew. It’s worth a shot though, right…?

One thing I might struggle with is not humming along with my playing – Beethoven hates that, DON’T HUM!

Fashionably late arrival

12 10 2011

Ladies and gentleman,

Please allow me to introduce to you all the beautiful Ms. Ava Margaret Tobias


Daughter to the dashing Jacob and of course one of my oldest friends, gabriella. Amazing to think my grade 3 buddy is now someones mum! Talk about reality check.

I’m so pleased that little Ava is healthy and happy, and even more pleased she chose not to make headlines by arriving in the stadium seating at the AFL grand final. I was sure that was going to happen!

Congratulations Gabby and Jacob on your new arrival, she is gorgeous and well worth the wait. I can’t wait to meet her.