Originally published August 20th 2014:
I’m sure most people who have had a serious relationship with music will have realised some time ago that certain places are music places. There’s no denying how important London was to the development of punk, Birmingham was to metal, or Manchester was to britpop. These are heavily populated centres where large audiences could be drawn in to listen to new music with relative ease.
However, a lot of the most influential artists haven’t originally come from these places. For example, look at Nirvana – one of the biggest names to have come out of the early 1990s grunge movement, centred in Seattle. Yet, they were actually from Aberdeen, Washington – a harbour town with barely more than a quarter of the population of Perth, Scotland – over 100 miles from Seattle itself. Incidentally, this is little further than the distance between Perth and Aberdeen in Britain, which can at times be worlds apart in musical terms.
The geographical birth place of great and influential music isn’t always within the city hubs you might expect, but moving to these places has traditionally been the point at which bands and artists have taken the first step into the big leagues; Axl Rose from Lafayette, Indiana, Muddy Waters from Rolling Fork, Mississippi, and Ian Anderson from Dunfermline, Fife, all developed fantastic careers which began with venturing into more music-centric territories.
Once again, however, the internet age rears its head to complicate the issue, with its ability to bring together artists from all corners of the globe. The UK has recently proven to be favourable ground for emerging foreign acts such as India’s Demonic Resurrection and Egyptians Scarab, facilitated in no small part by the enthusiasm of online communities. These bands are not of huge international standing, but are big names in their home territory. As such, they haven’t had to up sticks and follow the masses to those rumoured streets paved with gold.
Closer to the UK, Gojira have also defied the logic of relocation, remaining in the place where they formed, (Ondres, France, a small village near Bayonne), while still breaking through as a respected name in modern metal. There seems to be an shift occurring in the intangible plates which hold the music world together, but nothing appears cast in stone, if it ever was. The assumption that you have to be somewhere specific to get ahead may not be sat on such a solid base anymore.
Does location, or re-location more specifically, really affect the opportunities open to the modern underground musician in Britain, or has the playing field been well and truly leveled by new media?
Let’s go find out! Hopefully the bus fare won’t be too steep…