theuglytruthrevealedart Have you ever believed hard in something and then it turns out it wasn't true? It can be quite painful. Until recently, I believed that founders and managers of small dark roots record labels were driven by three things: the love of music, DIY attitude and altruistic motives. In short: they are good people. The profiteers were employed by big multinational record companies like Universal, Sony, EMI and Warner. In short: they are bad people. However, the facts tells another story. Some of the bad people seems to have been self-employed. It's hard to take in. Take Devil's Ruin Records and Farmageddon Records as two examples. As always, there are two sides. It's fascinating to read the initial positive (but limited) media impression with the final verdict from artists. The very reputable but, sadly, now discontinued site Sepiachord published this article (opens in a new window) about DRR. Music journalist James G. Carlson made this interview (opens in a new window) for the site No Depression on May 31, 2011. The love of music is a common denominater. Joshua Warfel (Devil's Ruin Records) had grandiose plans for the artists: tours and albums. It all came to a sudden stop when he vanished from the face of the earth and left customers, creditors and - last but not least - artists very angry. Darren Dorlarqueue (Farmageddon Records) got extremely angry when Slackeye Slim contacted him to ask why he claimed that his album "El Santo Grial: La Pistola Piadosa" was out-of print (it was for sale on Ebay for a high price). The question was not uncalled for since you can buy a copy of the cd according to the "name your price"-principle directly from Slackeye Slim's Bandcamp page. Slackeye Slim posted the aggravated conversation on Facebook with a preface, which triggered a "metoo-response" from artists on the defunct Farmageddon label who hadn't got paid or reimbursed. It seems like Darren Dorlarqueue left many very angry people behind. And the psychological explanation? Dorlarqueue and Warfel seems, first and foremost, to be entrepreneurs. Not exactly like Jeff Bezos of Amazon, but in their own sector and with their own moral principles. Some entrepreneurs are like sharks with an instrumental and brutal disposition. But if sharks stop swimming they will sink and die. Being a narcissistic entrepreneur with a low risk aversion means that you are not too concerned if you crash and burn or if you make people upset, angry or sad. You will just swim on to the next project.                 

bwb cover13Lo and behold. The masterpiece "Built with Bones" has been remastered and re-released. The album comes with a new subheading "13th Anniversary Deluxe Edition". Digital only. The album a.k.a. the Holy Grail of all Gothic Country albums is listed number one on my most prestigious list (opens in a new window). This event was highly unexpected, to say the least. I contacted Christian Williams and asked about the background. In an e-mail he kindly replied: "To be honest, I had planned on releasing a 10-year anniversary edition in 2017, but I just never found the time that year to focus on it so I set the idea aside. Still, I recognized that of the several albums I’ve released, Built with Bones was by far the most popular among listeners on the streaming music sites like Spotify and iTunes. I thought there might be interest among those listeners for a “new-and-improved” version of the album that addressed some of the sound quality issues that bugged me as well an unfortunate typo that was introduced to one of the song titles during the upload process to the streaming sites 10 years ago (“When Its Roar Woke Me Up” was incorrectly titled “When It’s Roar Woke Me Up”). As a writer, that mistake (the apostrophe) has always bothered me, but I tried to forget about it because there was nothing I could do to fix it except delete the album from the streaming services. Finally, just a couple months ago, I received an email from someone (also a fellow writer) who said they love that song, but the incorrect apostrophe was driving them crazy every time they saw it and they were wondering if I could fix it. I wrote back and told them I couldn’t, but that email gave me the idea again to re-release Built with Bones so that I could fix not only the typo but some other things that distract me when I listen to the album. When I realized it would be the 13th anniversary if I made it happen in 2020, I knew I had to do it this year. The number 13 has always held a special significance for me for a couple reasons. First is the fact that so many people find the number scary or evil without really thinking about why they feel that way. Considering the darker tone of my music, I thought it would be appropriate to have 13 songs on the album just to make it a little more unsettling for those who don’t like the number. Second, my music has always been centered on the idea that our universe is a constant balancing act between good and evil, and that they both need each other for either to exist. From a symbolic perspective, the number 7 has traditionally been associated with God and the number 6 has been associated with Satan. Add those two numbers together (good + evil) and you get 13, hence my appreciation for the number." 

bwb2007The 2007 release is a masterpiece in terms of musical quality, but has minor technical flaws. In my opinion, the output volume is too low. Actually, I had to normalize the recording level before I imported the album files to my Ipod. The Deluxe Edition features digitally remastered versions of the 13 original tracks plus seven previously unreleased tracks of alternate versions and live performances. There are several nuggets in the extra material. For example, the alternate version of "Shake the Dust" is stunning. But also a live performance of "Red" on KAOS Radio in Austin, Texas, and "Alone" a previously unreleased recording of Edgar Allan Poe's poem by the same name set to music by Christian Williams. I asked Christian Williams about the "digital remastering" process and his thoughts about the 2007 version. In the aforementioned e-mail he explained: "Built with Bones was just my second album and I was still very inexperienced when it came to DIY recording. My girlfriend and I lived in a very nice, but poorly designed apartment for recording music, so I was constantly battling extra noises and weird frequencies that would bleed into the recordings. Basically, I was recording in the middle of a large bedroom with walls that echoed and noisy neighbors that would stomp around on the floor or bump into the walls. I did my best to hide all of that in the original mastering, but there are a few tracks toward the beginning of the album (most notably “When Its Roar Woke Me Up”) where I can hear a high-pitched frequency that was likely caused by a grounding issue I had no idea was happening until I’d already recorded all of the tracks. Aside from that, I’ve also thought the overall volume on the album could have been louder. The problem was when I tried to boost the volume, it also made the high-pitch noises louder, too, which made everything worse. Long story short, my inexperience made the recording process a lot more difficult than it probably should have been. Knowing what I know now about recording, I’m amazed I actually had anything worth working with from that session. I’m also pleasantly surprised by how some of the ideas I had worked out. Fast-forward several years and I discovered the open-source recording software called Audacity. In that software, there’s a very handy EQ tool that I figured out how to use and it allowed me to zero in on those high-pitched tones and eliminate them from the recording without negatively affecting the rest of the song. I used that tool on all of the songs on Built with Bones and found that I was then able to boost the volume, the bass, and the treble where I wanted to. The end result is an album that sounds warmer to me, that sounds more ominous where it should (like the bass drum on “Red”), and overall, is a much more enjoyable listening experience for me.

bwb20072020linjerThe album cover made by Paul Rhyne is listed number one on my "most spectacular" album cover list (opens in a new window). The two versions differ. The colours are inverted. The original 2007 version is white, while the 2020 version is black. Congenial. In the e-mail I asked Christian Williams what "Built with Bones", 13 years after its original release, meant to him personally. In the e-mail he replied: "I realize now that the process of making this album was a burst of creative inspiration the likes of which I haven’t experienced since. From start to finish, I wrote and recorded every song on that album in about four months. I remember the moments of inspiration and the circumstances of writing and recording pretty much every song, so I have a lot of good memories about where I was at in the point in my life. As I said, we lived in a very nice high-rise apartment in downtown Milwaukee, WI, with a view of the city skyline. I remember sitting in the dark just staring out the window at the city, brainstorming lyrics. I remember late-night viewings of HBO’s gothic series Carnivale and being inspired to write “Shake the Dust.” I remember a friend lending me the bass drum from his 6-year-old daughter’s First Act drum kit so that I could add the ominous booms in “Red.” I remember the frustration of my decision to hand-make the album sleeves and burn the CDs myself. All of it, though, was an album made on my terms with no compromises or short cuts. That alone made it a very special creative experience for me, and it’s an added bonus that so many other people still seem to appreciate the end result.

"Built with Bones" is an indispensible part of the gothic country genre. You can buy your copy here (opens in a new window) and enjoy it exactly in the way the artist intended. Better late, than never. The price is set according to the "name your price"-principle. I trust you will do the right thing.     

 

sisyph2The workload of a person or organization is the amount of work that has to be done by them. Running this site is associated with some workload. I cannot compare myself with Sisyphus. He was punished for his self-aggrandizing craftiness and deceitfulness by being forced to roll an immense boulder up a hill only for it to roll down when it nears the top, repeating this action for eternity. At least, I can see the fruits of my labour in content growth and rising number of website visitors. I launched the website on March 1 2014. The first blog entry I posted had the dramatic title "So it begins...". Since then I have posted an anniversary blog post this time every year. The second blog post (2015) had the expectantly title "So it continues...". Here, I discussed the past, present and future for the site. The third blog post (2016) had the prosaic title "And so it goes on and on and on and on and on...". Here, I did some merciless following up on ambitions and promises. The fourth blog post (2017) had the patronizing title "The necessity of content gardening". Here, I stated that a website, with proper content gardening, could live forever. The fifth blog post (2018) had the technical title "Ratchet effect through organic growth”. Here, I speculated how web indexing and algorithms drove traffic to unprecedented levels. The sixth blog post (2019) had the glorifying title "5 years and 100 000 hits". Here, I rattled off statistics lengthwise and crosswise. Today, it's time again for a new blog post. The visitor counter indicates 124 031.      

Assessment

The last year was mediocre in the same sense as its original meaning (the earliest known evidence of the word): "Mediocre, a meane betwixt high and low, vehement and slender, too much and too little as we saye." No highs or lows. Muddling through. My day job takes a lot of my focus and energy. More and more, the website has become an outlet from work. I have to be careful. "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy". But, I'm not typing the same sentence over and over again. At least not yet.      

Visitor statistics

From zero to 100 000 visitors in 1 814 days, which is equal to five years. From zero to 10 000 took 264 days. But, after 50 000 something happened. The web indexing and Google algorithms seems to have begin to kick in. The step from 50 000 to 60 000 visitors took only 131 days. The average number of days for another 10 000 visitors has since then been around 130-140.
 

     
Hits Date  Days Total
10 000 2014-11-20 264 264
20 000 2015-07-05 227 491
30 000 2016-03-05 244 735
40 000 2016-10-21 230  965
50 000 2017-04-09 170  1 135
60 000 2017-08-18 131 1 266
70 000 2018-01-09 144 1 410
80 000 2018-05-19 130  1 540 
90 000 2018-10-06 140 1 680 
100 000 2019-02-17 134  1 814 
110 000 2019-07-16 149 1 963
120 000 2020-01-03 171 2 134
     

     

     

     

     

     

     


Department statistics

Business has been slow at the embassy. I wrote only one new article last year, listed three more artists in the table, made zero new lists and wrote 29 blog entries. But, it will have to suffice.
 

     
Department 2020-03-01 2019-03-01 2018-03-01 2017-03-01
Articles 66 65 62  62
Artists  141  138 135 128 
Lists 42 42 32 27 
Miscellaneous 9 9 9
Blog 158 129 99 84
     

     

     

     

Most visited pages

The last four years the five web pages below has been the most visited. Naturally, the start page is the most visited page. However, the order of the other pages has shifted over time.

No Page 2020-03-01 2019-03-01 2018-03-01 2017-03-01
1 Home 124 031 100 813 73 857 46 277
2 10 essential gothic country albums 19 722 14 372 7 540 3 946
3 Artists 16 228 13 312 9 983 5 513
4 Sons of Perdition 11 814 9 616 7 753 4 137
 5 Articles 11 051 9 340 7 155 3 518
     

     

     

     

     

     




Flaws

The website has been up and running twenty-four seven. No referral spam, no unsolicted registration of users and no incidents. SEGC has a digital certificate to enable HTTPS (SSL/TLS) for websites. Until May 19th 2019 SEGC was a "not secure" site (the symbol circle with an i). The warning symbol refers to the lack of security for the connection to that page. Information sent and received with that page is unprotected and it could potentially be stolen, read, or modified by attackers, hackers, and entities with access to internet infrastructure. Maybe one or two pontential site vistors were scared away. My friend Mikael (self-taught website builder and professional web analysts) made the site https-secure. However, one side effect was that every single "like" that had been clicked over the years disappeared. I had to start over again, just like Sisyphus. The gothic country legacy is crumbling. If you stumble over any obsolete or incorrect information or any dead links don't hesitate to contact me and I will fix it.  

Reflections

I haven't received a single e-mail from market or web solutions companies where they claim earnings from the site. Maybe they are giving up on me. The site is non-profit and free of advertisment. This is the way it has been and will always be.

Future

During the last year I started to consider whether I should be doing this much longer. Depletion of stocks, zero regrowth and reaching a saturation point are three explanatory factors. Maybe I would be forgiven for calling it quits? Then I snapped out of these depressing thoughts. The responsibilities that I have towards society are too important to be abandoned. And besides, no-one will take up the fallen mantle. The show must go on. I will go on untiringly within the limits of family, work and other duties. 

 

whysoserious3"Why so serious?" This famous and memorable quote is etched on my mind. How did the Joker get his scars and what de(formed) him? There are, at least, two alternative stories which are equally cruel and gruesome. The veracity of the stories are shrouded in mystery since they are both told by the notoriously elusive Joker. The main reason to why this quote is etched on my mind is that I really admire seriousity. Coupled with dedication it's adorable. However, seriousity and dedication is a very dangerous combination and can, wrongly balanced, get out of hand. I could compile a long list where things have gone really wrong. Seriousity is considered desirable and most people want to be treated in a serious way. I'm very serious about this website. However, I do hope I'm on the right side of the tipping point. I'm happy if someone finds my work interesting or amusing. Maybe even occasionally laugh. Then I've succeeded. What's so funny? Well, maybe nothing. "Why so serious? Let's put a smile on that face!"      

DRR diitdFor a dedicated collector of rare cds like myself there's nothing more frustrating than an infinite set. You will survive knowing that you probably never will complete a collection, but it's unbearable not knowing if an album has been released or not (and, in theory, are in circulation). Specifically, I have the Devil's Ruin Records (DRR) label in mind, read more here (opens in a new window). You may now ask the obvious question: how hard can it be to figure this out? Let me tell you about it. I've spent many hours searching, comparing, triangulating, double-checking, speculating and rejecting. It's an advantage to have a monomanic disposition and be disinclined to changes. If you put in the time, the results will come. That's what the management textbook says, anyway. Despite the huge effort, the facts and evidence are inconclusive. Further research is needed. But, this year I actually made a major breakthrough. Six months ago, a large part of the DRR catalogue came up for sale on Discogs. I quickly purchased five albums (see image). It cost me a lot of money (price, registered shipping, import tax and fees) and is by far the most expensive purchase ever for me, but it was worth every penny. Never seen the cds for sale before. The knowledgeable seller gave me information about the last remaining days of the label that could be used for narrowing the gap between an infinite and finite set. Let's start with the basics. Discogs (reputable website and crowdsourced database) has 37 DRR-albums listed. After the above-metioned purchase I have 34 of them. One of three missing albums is JB Nelson's "Animal Extracts". According to Discogs no one else has a copy either. With reference to unconfirmed information on internet I asked the seller about a few other "DRR-albums" not listed on Discogs. Among them, two JB Nelson albums "A Letter To My Enemies" and "Animal Index". The seller replied: "The last order I made with Devil's Ruin was those two JB Nelson CDs. The guy soon disappeared and never sent them to me. According to JB Nelson, he has a copy of each. But I don't think anyone else does. It's sad. JB later released them on DIY CDR." This part of the mystery is hereby solved. The empirical evidence supports this. The albums were re-released on Cheap Wine Records. I also asked the seller about Botanica “Who You Are”, reportedly releasead on Devil’s Ruin Records, May 25th 2010. The seller replied: "Botanica I think was a "Special release". If you paid a certain amount a year you would get an exclusive release each month. Those releases never came out as far as I know. Some others that were supposed to be exclusive were "Before You Die..." and "Death's Head Hearth". Since I lack all boundaries when it comes to hard-to-find cds I contacted all three bands in this matter. I got a reply from "Before You Die..." and "Death's Head Hearth" with the same message. They never saw a glimpse of any album. I assume this goes for Botanica as well. If that is the case then this solves the other part of the mystery. This means both clarification and relief. I can probably forget the three JB Nelson albums and conserve my resources to the other two missing albums. What makes DRR so fascinating? The label was active between 2008-2010 and released over 30 albums of which five were compilations. The high production rate has an explanation. A reliable source revealed the story behind. It's expensive to make professional cds. Reportedly, the owner had direct access to pressing equipment. Therefore, he managed to press both quickly and a whole bunch. The copies were cheap. On Discogs, all but three DRR-albums are listed as cds. According to my source they're all cdr. Devil's Ruin Records went belly up in 2010. The owner vanished from the face of the earth. Another obscure detail. When the pressing equipment wasn't used for making DRR-albums it was used for making pornography. Well, the Devil's in the details. 


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