Press Release: Album 5 Is Coming This October!

First, dear known and unknown people of the Internet, thank you for supporting the Album 5 Kickstarter. Since you guys responded so quickly that we reached funding goal within 4 days, I was able to send out the manufacturing order to the factory early, and the beautiful new CDs (here’s an art preview for Backers) will arrive at my place shortly before October. In addition, I ordered about 66% more units made than I originally planned to order, because of how great the response was. Thank you again, from the bottom of my heart.

This latest album, “Romance of the Counter-Elite”, features a cover of “Annabel Lee” by Edgar Allan Poe. Un-mastered demo versions of the other 4 tracks of the album can be found on my soundcloud. Besides the cover of Edgar Allan Poe’s poem, the remaining songs of the new album cover dark and multi-layered themes, especially focusing on dystopian storylines:

Monarchy” describes a cycle of oppression perpetrated by successive demagogues who each promise to liberate the poor from misery, if only they will help overthrow the current monarch.
Nine Lives” describes a country where all citizens are born with nine distinct personalities, and must choose only one to survive into adulthood, destroying the remaining eight on the Battleground of Dreams Forsaken.
Dance for Me” is an exploration of how the counter-elite are seduced by the elite to join in a corrupt power structure that they may never find the courage to overthrow.
Lady Perilous” is a song sung by a Siren who delights in luring sailors to their deaths.

Short bio of the band for newcomers: Psyche Corporation is a fairytale cyber/steampunk band fronted by a former Ladies of Steampunk model and programmer who combines dance with a powerhouse vocal range. The band is named after a dream manufacture group from a future where neural implants allow people to download dreams from the Internet. Songs deal in dystopian themes as well as more lighthearted filk works, such as “Perl-Operated Boy”. The musical style spans genres of trip-hop, electro-rock, and world music.

You can still pre-order on the Kickstarter here:
http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1097332101/romance-of-the-counter-elite-psyche-corp

Psyche Corp. has upcoming shows at RuffleCon in Stamford, CT on Friday October 2nd, opening for Rasputina. I’m also performing in NYC at DROM on Oct 4th as part of the Anachronism Steampunk events series. In November, I’ll be headlining the Time Traveler’s Ball in Cincinnati, produced by the Pandora Society.  More info on upcoming shows here: https://www.facebook.com/PsycheCorp/events

stuff I took away from reading a Reddit IAmA (ask me anything type thing) hosted by a former model

Physical beauty is subjective. Some clients will love the way you look, some will think you’re flat-out ugly. The world is full of different people, cultures, attitudes, and they have different ideas of what they want; even varying from what projects they are doing.

The point is that if you’ve managed to get modeling jobs in the past at all, chances are someone out there in the world of billions of people will think you look beautiful, even if a lot of other people (perhaps including yourself) don’t agree.

I’ve felt the same about music actually. No matter what you make, even if it doesn’t sound like mainstream stuff, the chances are that if you’ve worked hard at it and keep improving, someone out there will like what you made/are making. That person might not be a label executive at Island Records, and if your primary goal is to make what specific label executives like, you might be in for quite a struggle and perhaps a lot of self-doubt (I mean, if your own opinion matters much less to you than some total stranger’s; you’re probably guaranteed some tough times).

But chances are that someone will like it. And probably some other people will think it’s terrible. It’s subjective. And maybe it’s better to not take it personally. Some people aren’t going to like the way you look, or the way your music sounds. Try not to let it stop you.

Some things should stop you, of course. If what you’re doing is illegal and hurting other people, you should probably think about stopping. If you’re exploiting completely defenseless people needlessly, you should think about stopping. But if someone just doesn’t like you; thinks you’re ugly/untalented/undeserving?

That’s just, like, their opinion, man.

On collaborations and professionalism

Over the years, I’ve done a lot of collaborations with other individuals and groups as part of the Psyche Corporation project, or as offshoots thereof. These include, but are not limited to:

-contributing vocals for someone else’s music project
-working with photographers to make lovely images for publication in magazines
-working with fashion designers as a fit model or fashion ‘engineering’ consultant
-working with events/conventions on programming development
-working with artists on designing/building art installations
-working with dancers on choreography
-curating tech/robotics art made by other people as contributions to special interactive theater-esque editions of Psyche Corp. shows (One of the contributors to an early Psyche Corp. show went on to co-found MakerBot Industries.)
-composing musicals for librettists

In all these working/collaboration relationships, I have endeavored to be polite and professional. Overall, it has been a delight to work with the people I’ve worked with over the years, and I think fondly of them. Part of this hugely positive work experience arises from my commitment toward honorable behavior in myself and others. If someone is grossly inappropriate and unprofessional toward me, I simply do not work with them. It’s not worth the drama. I get involved in art/music and related projects because it’s something I like to do, and I assume the people I work with have similarly pure-minded goals. If your primary goal in collaboration with me is not to make a great event/piece of art/music/product, I confess I have no idea why you would suggest a collaboration in the first place. It just doesn’t make sense, if you think about it.

I got to thinking about this because of younger relatives who are interested in the entertainment industry, and the unfortunate truth that there are folks out there who do try to mix business/collaboration with coercion and drama. It really does not have to be like that. The person who tries to hold you hostage emotionally or financially and then tells you it is “normal” or “everyone does it” in the entertainment industry is missing the point. You don’t have to put up with this. Furthermore, you do not need them in order to succeed. In fact, they may hold you back from working with far better people. There are people out there who will treat you professionally, and with respect, and still (surprise!) be friendly and care about you as a person if we get to know you better and we happen to click. And I promise not one person I’ve worked with has tried to micromanage my personal life. If they did, I wouldn’t work with them.

Just keep practicing your craft, get better, talk to people, avoid drama, and don’t forget that we really do exist: professional-minded, talented people who care about art and want to collaborate with other professional-minded and talented people.

Ways in which I’d like to see people be more hardcore.

Hardcore suicide/homocide prevention.
Hardcore public education programs teaching practical quantitative skills.
Hardcore push for disruptive technology in academia and industry.

I was thinking how the things typically associated with being hardcore and edgy are things like getting tattoos and taking drugs. In the name of free will, do what you choose, but it’d be cool if some of you hardcore badasses also chose to do some of these other super hardcore things. They are certainly not for the easily intimidated.

Belated recap: On WIOX radio (In Goth We Trust) last week..

We talked about how the rise of autism diagnoses seem to track wealthy neighborhoods (e.g. Beverly Hills), at the same time that public support resources allotted for children with autism is rising as funding for other developmental conditions falls. We also discussed the history of blood transfusions, and blood product alternatives that are used in hospitals for Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Which brings me to a meta question: While I am able to talk informally about the intersection of social issues and medical/science issues, I could also be more traditional and only talk about music stuff while on the radio. There’s plenty of stuff going on in the music to talk about too. I get the impression you guys like sociological analyses of science/medicine for some reason though. Thoughts?

humans vs. space aliens

I’ve been thinking how it might be nice to be able to give some human, relatable quality to the band/music project.

There are two motivations that come to mind right now:
1) People are generally more comforted when they can see the human side of another person. The existence of a family, or intimate friendships, or other hints that the creature they are looking at is somehow like them, in a warm, fuzzy, mammalian way, is quite nice. We may say we don’t bring moral judgments into our aesthetic assessments of art, but it’s arguably unavoidable. In the absence of perceived “human”, relatable qualities, moral assessment may veer toward the kind reserved for space aliens. While I’m totally fine with you secretly pretending I’m a space alien for entertainment purposes, I don’t know that I want to encourage you truly believing I’m a space alien. Especially if it means you fall prey to genuine trepidation about my moral/amoral character.

2) A lot of the songs from Psyche Corp. are about a world run by a dystopian corporate entity that does insidiously evil things. This is fiction, and I adamantly do not endorse doing evil things. But I suppose if you never had an inkling of the human behind these songs, you might not know what I do and do not endorse.

The problem with being more revealing about who I am, as a person, is that there are some very good reasons why my life outside of this music project needs to be off the Internet right now. Someday, that may change, and I’ll be able to “come out”, but right now it is not really very safe for me to do that.

I guess what I can say about myself, the person behind Psyche Corp., is that at the age of seven, my dream was to grow up, go to college, and then live by myself in the woods for the rest of my life, without seeing another human being except on trips to the nearest town to visit libraries. I guess I didn’t think I was very good at social interactions.

I remember being maybe 13, waiting for my mom to pick me up after school. She was over an hour late, as usual, which didn’t bother me. I had two school library books to keep me company. But as I sat on the front steps of the school, I could see a little boy (about 7 or 8 years old?) sitting at the bottom step, with tears rolling down his face, and I knew that somebody should comfort him, but no one else was in sight. I didn’t know what words to say. I was not good at these things. I sat there for a few seconds thinking how I was absolutely the worst person for this job, but finally I said something to him about letting him borrow one of my two library books to read while he was waiting for his parent to pick him up. I gave him the sci fi one about space. He calmed down and cheered up after that, miraculously, and read quietly while we waited for our respective parents. This was a relief, because “making conversation” back then was something I didn’t really know how to do. His parent showed up eventually, and I got my book back.

I think this story matters because I don’t know if I would ever have gotten much better than that at comforting strangers if I hadn’t started performing as part of Psyche Corp. This project forced me to deal with social situations I never would have had the guts to deal with otherwise. I talked to so many incredibly diverse people I never would have met in my sheltered non-music life, and made myself go through with the kind of social interactions that I would normally vehemently avoid (but which wouldn’t faze normal people), because social stuff is hard for me.

I grew up so much because of this music project, and I’m still growing from it. I don’t know of any other force in my life that would have transformed me, from what I was back then, to someone who can now do so much more than lend a library book to people who are vulnerable and in need of support.* I am able to offer more to the high stress situations that arise in my non-music life, because of how I have been forced to grow into a more capable and socially-competent person. And my life dream is no longer to go live in the woods, away from all other humans. I didn’t have a community, back then, where I felt I belonged, and wanted to belong. Now I do.

*That’s about as much of a hint as to what I do outside of the music project as I am willing to give right now.

things I thought about fame when I was a teenager

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.