Tales from the Engine Room No.10: Albums are heading closer to extinction so I hear…It’s been a very long time but here is the next installment of Tales from the Engine Room, life sometimes distracts us from our intended path but if your heart is true you will find your way again.

I love the album format, because like so many I was reared on the album format, vinyl albums in particular. I vividly remember the much awaited crusade on a Saturday from the depths of the country on one of the few daily buses that passed down my road en-route to my nearest town, Eastbourne. Max records was my destination, hours flicking through racks of records, listening on headphones at the listening post before finally deciding on my purchase and heading round the corner to the Grosvenor Cafe to meet up and discuss my purchase and life happenings with all my local punk friends. This was a time when albums ruled the world. Max Records no longer exists, neither does the Grosvenor Cafe and the countryside I lived in is now buried under a bypass with my local village now a town, proving life is all about change. But not everything has to change, its good to keep the best bits.

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All songs have their own context but I generally have always written mine as part of an album and each song is one element of a larger expression. It’s a journey, this is even more the case with my 4th album which is shaping up to be a fantastic release and journey for the listener on many levels, but also for the time being it will be my last album release for quite sometime. This is not because I am following the current trend for releasing EPs or single tracks and spurning the album format I so much love but simply because I wish to free some of my ‘life’ time up. As I do 90% of all the work involved in each release from the writing, recording, producing and mixing right through to the artwork, promotion, type-setting and where and how it is released I am left with so little time for other things in life, it is in effect a full time job. Each album takes up nearly two years of my life and before I’m finished I have already started writing and recording the next. I have still to finish my third album ‘Slave Love’ as illness and real life got in the way but its nearly there, a couple of vocals and a final mix away plus the creative urge and feeling to do so.

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The albums format allows me as an artist to share a collection of songs that complement each other, live together and in turn showcase my creative vision and message through music. I feel as an artist I would like the listener to understand and appreciate my music as a whole and explore far beyond a single streamed track because I understand from the way I engage with music and artists that appreciation creates loyalty, and in turn loyalty is vital to a long ‘career’. With this current trend for non-album formats and streaming a long musical ‘career’ or life is far less likely for the modern artist and performer. I don’t see myself being a world wide smash, I realise and recognise I’m an underground artist but as I know from experience you don’t have to be mainstream to make a modest living from something your good at and that brings you genuine heart-felt joy and a real sense of achievement. There are endless underground artists who make a living, achieve cult status and manage to make an impact on the wider more mainstream music scene.

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It is impossible to deny the massive decline in album sales in the last few years, although vinyl sales have been on the increase. The album is attracting less attention than previously, and buyers prefer to invest selectively and purchase individual tracks by different artists via such mediums as iTunes or not even buy them and just stream them via various streaming websites and apps. The fact is, there are fewer record labels who are prepared to risk making physical copies of an album, or willing to fund studio time in advance for an artist, hence I spend every spare penny of self pressing and releasing my music. This is actual no different from what the underground (punk) bands did (and still do) when I was discovering music and part of the scene, the difference is what most people seem to want, which is not the physical release you create and put out into the world.

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If you believe what the digital music distributors are saying, it seems that digital singles and EPs will only become more established, tightening their stranglehold on the album. I have adapted to this by creating limited edition versions of the albums that embrace their physical form and that extend far beyond the music and include a wider and greater creative vision and package. I like the physical, the smell, the touch and the whole experience of having a piece of something I connect with but it appears I’m a dying kind of music listener. This concept of something more than just the album/music will be fully embraced and expanded upon with my fourth and last album release. After that I will release EPs only, not as I have said because I no longer believe in the album format but simply because I want more time to explore what life has to offer me…

Check the links as usual they lead you to some interesting videos, documentary’s and articles.

Until the next time…

with love and faith

Ruben x

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