Winging It: The Icarus Line’s Joe Cardamone is the hardest working man in no business.
Joe Cardamone, leader of the LA-based rock band The Icarus Line, has been working in music for over a decade now. Fiercely independent and original, The Icarus Line has made a career churning out incendiary performances around the globe, dropping brilliant albums and offending record label executives. Currently Joe is doing a mix for Jesus and Mary Chain and producing bands The Shining Twins and Stab City at his studio Valley Recording in Los Angeles. With 12 years, four albums (two for major labels), over a dozen world tours and more than 20 tours through the UK under their belt, The Icarus Line has pretty much seen it all and apparently it isn’t getting any easier. Western Civ sits down with Joe and talks about the financial state of independent creative life.
WC: Joe, your band is about to go on a six week major european tour playing for thousands and you are planning on losing money. Sleeping on floors. This is not normal. Where has all the money gone? Is the internet gutting independent music?
JC: The money was never really that great, but there was always gonna be more of it. You know? Now that’s all gone. Now that I am making records for other people to make a living too, I see the industry from a whole different angle. Any creative content that can be stolen is stolen and put on the internet, and somebody besides the creator is making money off of it. So it is getting harder and harder to survive when you are the one making the original. People are saying “You need to adjust and find a new way” and we’re doing that. We’re still here. But the new way is actually putting people into dangerous situations with their families and their futures. So if there has been a new business model developed that doesn’t include stealing, somebody should let us know about it. Spoitfy? That’s not the answer. Stream my records, fine, but if you want to listen to it in your car later you should probably buy it. If you work on something and you own it you should get paid for people using it. If people were looting in stores they would be arrested, but for creative content there is no line of defense.
Touch and Go went out of business last year. They had a solid back catalog, at least enough to sustain a company, but they just evaporated. You just can’t make money as a record label anymore. People are like, “Oh well boo-hoo put out your own stuff”, but maybe people who make music aren’t supposed to be PR people and salesmen and bookkeepers and designers. We aren’t putting together tables that just sell themselves, it’s a process. The things that the public expects independent artists to do to make a living are just insane. They want them to do it all, all the jobs. For me thats cool, I’ve been doing it all myself for a decade but for people like Annie (Joe’s best friend Annie Hardy of Giant Drag), all she knows how to do is write songs. Especially people who have had a career before, and now their industry has disappeared, what will they do now? A lot of them will just give up on life and, oh well, we won’t hear music from those people anymore.
WC: Then are we hearing fewer bands?
JC: No, we are hearing a lot more bands but way less decent music. There used to be a process of weeding out. When there was money involved you had to do something to inspire someone make an investment in you. These days the internet has leveled the playing field-which is supposed to be great for the everyman, like, “Your voice will be heard!”. But the everyman isn’t David Bowie, so now there’s a whole forest of Rebecca Blacks to wade through. There will always be great artists, but the tools for them to create their vision will be less and less. No one will ever be able to make Dark Side of the Moon again. Is that a tragedy? I don’t know, but it’s happening.
WC: That sounds like a nightmare. So, why are you still doing this?
JC: I don’t know how to do anything else. I’m a high school drop out. It’s over. Haha. No. I don’t know. Most people would have given up by now. But why should I stop? Because there’s no money? That would be the only reason. I have invested so much of my life into this, it’s hard to stop. Especially when it’s still so fun, when I believe I still bring something original to the table and make some people happy, it makes me keep going. I’m gonna keep going.
~ Story and Photos by Ward Robinson
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Jackson Browne headed a hootenanny at Mollusk Surf Shop in Venice Beach Sunday night. Among the participants were Charlie Sexton (Bob Dylan), Billy Gibbons (ZZ Top) and Benton Trench (Tom Petty). Much of the Venice surf community was there enjoying the tunes. Westernv Civ spotted Jon Rose and Mike Piscitelli in the crowd among many others.
Photo’s and Text by: Ward Robinson ( WesternCiv Magazine )
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Bill Strobeck: Directorial Fundamentals
You wouldn’t have seen Bill Strobeck in a skate video, because he would have been the one behind the camera. But the chances are, if you’ve seen edits with Mark Gonzales, you’ve probably already seen his work and just not known it. There is a certain poetic warmth and emotion in the rawness of his work, without ever coming off as contrived or unauthentic. This is mostly due in part to his innate ability to remain remarkably true to the whimsical characters and subjects he portrays. We were recently given a chance to pick the brain of this uniquely authentic filmmaker who has made his name photographing his friends, and staying true to the distinct ‘feel’ and flow of his Super 8 lens.
Maybe a little too predictable, but with all the time you spend shooting skaters, do you still find time to get out and skate yourself? Do you have a favorite spot?
Well, I’m just going to be honest — I don’t skateboard really at all anymore. I use a skateboard to film but that’s about it. Sometimes I use it for transportation, maybe to move furniture or big objects, but yeah my skateboarding days are pretty much over.
Your work has an extremely distinctive aesthetic to it – do you use specific exposure methods or filters?
No I don’t do anything other than use settings that I feel look the best. I don’t color correct or use filters at all — if it looks right to me I’ll leave it.
What is your favorite subject to shoot? And where do you do your editing?
I’ve worked with skateboarders for years. I think working with my friends and especially women these days are really fun to work with. That’s something that was lacking in skateboarding, being on tour with sweaty kids. It was fun, but I wanna go into a new chapter in my life. It’s funny you should ask where I edit — I don’t sit at a desk, usually I lay in my bed and edit. That’s where I feel is a comfortable place to be creative.
So do you typically find more inspiration for your work through imagery or in music?
I get inspiration from older movies I’d say. People were creative in the way I liked, when they didn’t have much to work with. Like for instance, any old Joe Blow can get on iMovie or use an iPhone and make a video and put it online within seconds. The hard work of making a film in the late ’70s and ’80s really shows to me visually when I watch it. As we all know there is too much to see these days with everything going online. I personally can’t tell if I’m used to it yet or not. Guess I’m just going with the flow. I do get inspired by music actually more than anything else. Certain music causes emotion and that emotion allows me to be creative.
Do your prospective projects find you, or do you typically seek out your subject matter?
I usually ask my friends to be in my projects. If anything at all, I want to look back when I’m older and see all the people I was close with in my work. Also what’s better than looking back at an old photo of someone you know? So that’s the vibe for me. I’ll get to look back on everything I did, in the future.
You’ve worked with Jason Schwartzman’s band Coconut Records before – what other bands have you worked with?
Yes, I did work with Jason, he’s a sweet guy. Anyways Mark Gonzales and I are the ones that made the “Any Fun” video. Jason only had a couple of hours the day we filmed him but it was real fun. Mark and I also did a couple of low key videos for this DJ in Paris named Pepe Bradock. You can find them somewhere.
You do a lot of traveling, but if you could only skate, and shoot one city for the rest of your life, where would it be?
I quit skating right this second, during this interview. But if I could be anywhere I ever went for work, it would be San Sebastion, Spain. That place is the “easy life.” My personal paradise.
Do you approach a project with a distinct structure and timeline in mind, or do you let things just evolve from your lens, and edit accordingly?
I think I usually pick people with big personalities to work with. I need that to feel titillated and feel like it’s worth it to put the energy in. I mean I hardly even have to direct anyone most of the time. Even visually, I’m into all these people. How much better does it get than to travel around and work with your friends all the time? I think I point the camera, they do their magic and then I go home and make something out of it. A full collaboration between us.
You’re heading out the door to link up with Chloe Sevigny to shoot the video for “Any Fun” – what’s in your backpack?
What was in my bag was a poncho – the one that she was wearing in the video. That was Mark’s by the way. Also was two Super 8 cameras and 3 rolls for each of them. Maybe a bottle of water. Had to keep her hydrated from doing all the skating as it was actually very hot out that day.
Did you make any New Year’s resolutions this year?
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I actually didn’t. Can you make one up at anytime of the year? If so I’ll do it this week.