By now, it should be evident that for Amanda and I, the notion of “connectivity” in fandom is rather important. In some ways, connectivity has become somewhat of a thesis statement – our Mode of Operation – our reason for existing.(Well, not OUR reason, but the reason for the blog!)
Connections do not just occur between a band member and his/her fans, yet on the surface, the possibility or opportunity for those connections may very well be the attraction for participating in a specific fandom.For many, the music is what draws one in, but the relationship that ensues is why one stays. It is delightfully refreshing to see that other artists agree. The relationship between a musician and his/her fans does not NEED to be solely transactional…although very few musicians are genuinely comfortable allowing fans “in”…for very obvious and understandable reasons.
Michael Des Barres, however, is one of those upper-echelon musicians. Most Duran Duran fans should recognize the name, he was the touring singer for one of the fantastic Duran side projects – Power Station – back in the 1980’s.In addition to being a fantastic front man onstage, Michael is a very accomplished actor, guest-starring in TV shows beginning in the 1960’s in the UK. He is one of the most recognizable and versatile actors on television today, having accumulated a full resume of US shows such as Rockford Files, WKRP in Cincinnati in the 1970’s, Miami Vice and MacGyver in the 1980’s to very recent appearances on NCIS, Bones, and The Finder.Luckily for MDB fans, he is not a difficult man to find!Fans are people that Michael seems to treasure, as has alluded as much on a fan-developed and managed website www.desbarres.com:
“The message that I have to say to fans and friends, and I don’t think of them as fans, I think of them as friends – and they are friends. We should all be friends, and really my belief is in connection and engagement and letting people into your life… and I say it in the briefest possible way – LOVE EVERYONE NOW!”
Michael Des Barres & John Taylor
Michael doesn’t just say the words, they are put into action.His interactions on Twitter are not just one-way, he genuinely responds to fans on a continual basis.He takes the time to not only read what they are saying, but to engage with them on a personal level. Michael took time to sit down for an interview with Kitty Amsbry to discuss his theories on social media, connecting with fans, and the direction he took with his new album, Carnaby Street. Kitty Amsbry should be no stranger to any Duran fan out there. She is recognized as the brilliance behind Gimme a Wristband (www.gimmeawristband.com) and the mastermind behind Michael’s new website, www.mdbimmedia.com, and now she has a brand new title: Chief Media Strategist of MDBimmedia.
Michael describes his initial tentative steps into social media, “… I started to realize if somebody said “I like what you’re doing” I would respond to that. You know, I think that the mistake that people make is that they don’t interact, they put out – they postulate this theory – or this whatever it is, but they don’t respond to the response…”
This is key, and other bands could maybe take note here. As Kitty says herself, “There is no effort to grow”. Good point.There is only so much consumption that one person can do without any sort of response, recognition or interest from the other party.This is why so many Twitterfolk appreciate a RT every now and then – and why it’s become such a huge issue amongst fans. To be clear, I’m not solely referring to Duran Duran fans.The consumptive culture of Twitter can be found pretty well-pronounced across the board. Rather than using the vehicle for an honest conversation, many times it has become a sort of carrot dangled: look at us, you can talk at us, but we will never, ever respond…unless you’re the most interesting or something spurs us to speak.So what could have been a true movement towards a real connection between people is now a big dog and pony show in many cases – bring out your best, try to show up anyone else, and maybe then you’ll be the winner of a coveted response. Fine for a fourteen-year old, but a forty-year old?I guess I’m not convinced.
“Give and take. It wasn’t somebody preaching and just wanting his flock to do his bidding. It’s never been that way. Never, never, never…. ‘The Electric Church’ is for everybody…it’s the music really, essentially, and then you build on that, and you get to know each another, and then you build on that, and it’s exactly what happened to me, to have so many people interested, and why the records sold so fast! That’s exactly what I want to happen… is “connection”. I’m saying “Let’s get connected” and I was saying that before I was even realizing what I was saying, and how it could be done you know, I meant emotionally, and then suddenly I realized that that’s what the Internet is, it’s not babbling on with some wacky theory, it’s a place which you use, it doesn’t use you…”
It is difficult to argue with such logic. We’ve said many, many times here on the blog that the music has become the backdrop or the soundtrack to our lives. The fan community has become a very large, somewhat dysfunctional family – but a family all the same.But how did Michael stumble across such an opportunity to connect with fans?
“From the very beginning when social networks came online came you know, into my life, which I imagine was a little over 3 years ago, I started to realize that I had a lot to say. I said it, and what has happened to me is I had gone through a dreadful accident, and my wrists were like smashed and I couldn’t play guitar, and I couldn’t, you know, physically work out or do anything like that. So I was forced to really go inside into what the fuck is happening, yeah, and I started to write status updates and various things, in various ways, and I started to get a really human, loving response to what I was saying.”
What becomes glaringly obvious is that people SEARCH to connect to other people, no matter whether that person is a celebrity, a rock star or a suburban mom.The beauty happens when synapses can be formed between those connections and the music – because then we’re not all just talking about how great a riff is, but how it completely caught us in the heart. It becomes about something much greater than the sound, and yet – to be certain – the sound and message is exactly what it’s all about.
Michael says something that is interesting to me when referring to the fan community family, “The vehicle for all that communication was Duran Duran, but you know, like for me its Carnaby Street.” It is nice to read that somebody out there gets it.As a blogger, it is affirmation that I’m not all alone in this universe, speaking on an empty street-corner with only the sound of leaves blowing past along the pavement to accompany my voice. There may not be many out there that really understand what music really means to diehard fans like myself – but I believe Michael not only understands, but lives the message each day.
Kitty asks Michael if having that connection with fans creates pressure.Pressure to put one’s self out there, pressure to perform, pressure to be someone that he really is not.
“I can’t even spell the word “pressure”… I’m not interested… I’m not interested in pressure. Stress doesn’t interest me. What interests me is “love” and “Chuck Berry”. You know? I don’t give a fuck about any of that….I’ve been vilified and I’ve been glorified, and both of the routes are absurd. Absurd!! The only person that can give you a “thumbs up” is you. The only person who can really appreciate what you’re doing is you! And everybody else, you know, on a humanistic level you’re over there enjoying what you’re doing but it isn’t the ” be all, the end all”. You are in this to be loved. You’ve got to love yourself first. (If) you can open yourself to what is… and accept what is… your life will change immediately. It’s not as if you have to go through a course and become a Doctor in 12 years. You can say right here, right now, that I’m gonna to open to everything and I’m gonna accept… and I’m talking about the death of a child, I’m talking about, you know, a #1 record, whatever it is, acceptance is the key, there’s no question about it, and forgiveness, and that’s it… and you’ll be fine.”
Michael is way ahead of any of us at this point. Where we are all trying to catch up, learning to be open and accepting of what life may throw our way, Michael continues writing and sees the future albums making their way down the path. His latest effort, the album Carnaby Street, is a celebration of what life offers us.
Michael continues, explaining the consciousness of the album, “This album is a celebratory, and a redemptive album. It’s sticky and it’s hot. Yes it is that…. it’s only because… I mean it’s way too hot and sticky for me to actually live there but what it is… it’s just sensuality really… and I suppose the South, certain states represent that don’t they? I mean in an American sense of, you know, people mopping their brow and summer dresses… you know… swampy… it’s sticky. It’s sensual and it’s honest and they’re very authentic down there you know, there’s no pretense, the musicians in Austin and where I spent a lot of time creating this thing, you know, don’t wanna do a “reality show”… that is absolutely what I felt down there – I was just talking about this – about how Austin really, really changed me… in a way… it brought me back to what I loved in the very beginning of this rock and roll journey. When I was a teenager you know. But I used the thematics of London, and swinging London as kind of a template for the thing, hence the title, but mixed that with the musicfrom whence British Rock and Roll came, which was from America. And it’s still being playing authentically in places like Austin… Nashville… Atlanta.”
Carnaby Street is just that. It is a combination of all that is that good old Southern heat. It is sticky and sensual and it has a 70s blues swagger that is refreshing to hear after mind-numbing Top 40’s pop for so long. The album takes a good look back without stepping away from good old 2012 or 2013. Amanda and I will be reviewing the album tomorrow – so do yourself a favor, grab a copy and have a good listen so we can compare notes. Luckily for all of us, Michael has autographed copies of the CD available: http://michaeldesbarres.bandcamp.com/album/carnaby-street-encore-edition-bonus-track
The album is also available via iTunes, Amazon and CDbaby, so do yourself a favor and grab a copy so we can compare notes!