When I was around 18, maybe 19, I signed a three-song contract with a producer in NYC. We were going to make three songs and shop them to labels, and see if I could make it in the mainstream music industry. Spoiler: I don’t think he actually shopped anything to labels–he was kind of a shady figure, and I was glad to stop working with him after our contract was done. But anyway, early on, he asked me to think about what kind of music I wanted to make, what kind of brand I thought I wanted to be, that kind of thing.
And I considered the idea of being ‘marketable’ back then, about picking a style on the basis of what seemed likely to become popular with the biggest music crowd. But I decided I didn’t want that. Because if I ever became famous for music someday, I’d want to be famous for making the kind of music that *I* loved, even if it wasn’t like other people’s music. If I had the choice between world-wide fame for music I couldn’t be proud of, or making good music (according to my own personal aesthetics), I’d rather make good music.
I still feel like that. Anyone can be famous for something, as long as you don’t care too much what it is you get famous for, and you’re willing to do anything. If people are listening to my music, I want it to be because they actually enjoy it, because it’s good, and not because I set something on fire for publicity and became a worldwide curiosity who also happens to make music.
Although I am potentially willing to set some things (safely) on fire, for publicity, for fire performance reasons. (Because I do spin fire, and might someday want to incorporate that into a performance.) ..But I doubt it would turn me into a worldwide curiosity, or ever overshadow my music, because frankly I’m not that impressive at firespinning.
Back to the point though, lately I’ve thought further about the desire to make good music, promote it, and promote it in ways that still make it about the music and the stories told by the music. I’ve wrestled with the moral/aesthetic implications of my alternative modeling hobby insofar as it impacts the message of my music, when I use these nifty images of myself to promote my music. On one hand, there’s a lot of crossover between the aesthetics of my modeling projects and the music I do. On the other hand, I am aware that the images themselves* hold a lot of artistic value in themselves, and there are some who first get drawn into Psyche Corp. by the story created by these images and the snippets of backstory they’ve seen written on the Internet–before they’ve ever heard any of the music.
I have to ask myself, Am I okay with that? How will I interpret this? Is it really a world and story that I am creating, as an artist, and simply manifesting in different forms–music and visual? Or is it that the integration of my ‘visual work’ in promotion of my music needs to be done more carefully, in order to avoid taking attention away from the music? What is more important for Psyche Corp.: the story, or the music? If, hypothetically speaking, Psyche Corp. ever became disgustingly famous, would I rather it be for the story, or for the music?
I guess that’s a tough question for me, because I’ve enjoyed and invested artistically in both those things.
After some thinking tonight..I think at the heart of it for me, there’s always a story I want to imagine inside the structure of one of my songs, to make them come alive, but I’ve also wanted people to be able to spin their own stories out of those songs, even if it isn’t the story I imagined when I wrote the song. Maybe the puzzle of connecting the imagery with music and backstory is helpful there. It’s a collection of things that come from the same world but don’t follow any linear narrative, and might not be from the same timeline. There’s a lot of room there for someone to slip their own story in.
..but, on a more practical side, Psyche Corp. is technically a band/music project, insofar as bookings are handled. I’m not sure that this necessarily matters for artistic vision purposes, except that the division of resources should probably go predominantly toward making music-type art for the Psyche Corp. ‘story’, since that is the business end of how Psyche Corp. sustains itself. Visuals used for promotion are also practical, I suppose. But I don’t think the practical perspective is the one I should use for deciding the moral/aesthetic implications of mixing visuals from alt modeling and music.
That said, I have to conclude, after overthinking this far too long, that what I do in my alt modeling hobby is completely not the same as stapling a penis to a crucifix and setting it on fire as a publicity stunt. I’m glad I settled that.
*which are often the product of collaborations with incredibly talented fashion designers, makeup artists, and photographers, all of whom have as much role as myself–if not more–in crafting the final image.