But Is It Art

Written by Rikard.

And onwards they go, towards that very specific jar of jelly beans, taking one, two, tree handfuls of sugar-coated stardom to skim down that particular, sore throat.

Art? Really? Is that stupid nut-head of a band blogger planning to go THERE?

Yes he is. But don't worry, it will perhaps be a tad smoother that one could expect.

One of the slightly sadder use of art is that of a tool which smarter people may use to elevate themselves over the masses. This boils down to the general assumption that art is 'nice'. It's packed with cultural validation down to the very syllable.

Now, the idea for this blog post comes from two very interesting persons giving their respective perspective upon the matter. Firstly, Steven (Wilson, Porcupine Tree mastermind and notorious nostalgic) said that the difference between an artist and an entertainer is that an artist is selfish: that making music, paintings, writing a book, whatever, is something that the artist does for himself (or herself, but I'm sticking to patriarchal norm here because I'm lazy) and himself only - the creative process is the ultimate goal here, not sales, not praise, not recognition, nothing. Whilst an entertainer makes it's 'art' - that you may or may not label 'products' - with the audience in mind. Will they like it? Here, the sales, the praise, the recognition is much more key value.


Most musicians know this, and (while sober) might pinpoint the artistic white line between a song born in Universal's songwriting camp, where you'd gone to only after been giving a 2-hour-lecture on 'what sells?', and a song born in a cellular cold blown bedroom, between the sheets of a hammer smashed relationship. We're simply streamlined this way - make songs you like = art, songs that others like = entertainment, and we keep make long laugh-a-thons as the follow up to another still-on-MySpace-if-that-still-existed band posting a soundcloud link saying: "We wrote a new riff! What do you guys think?!"


Now, countering that, is a person with arguably a much greater impact on our cultural world as Steven: Shigeru-san, "Shiggy" maker of the Super Mario and Zelda games, among many other, and called the 'father of video games' for several good reasons. His games are by many considered art in the form of a videogame, stunningly crafted, beautiful games that challenges reflex and intellect alike.

But is it art? Or, more importantly, is Shiggy an artist? No, not at all, at least not if you ask him. For him, his fans and audience is always priority one. He looks at what other people like, their reactions, he evaluates opinion researches and if Steven would blame him for lacking artistic integrity, he'd sprint a laugh-a-thon himself.

And yet his games are nothing like the soulless, mass-produced songs (or games, for that matter) we've come to shrug at as 'elevator music' or 'entertainment' - they're just as filled with heart, identity and passion as anything anyone making music, games or paintings 'for himself' makes out.

And as usual with our blog, we have to find our own place in the midst of this question. Do we consider Deathember 'art'? The answer is a flat no. We entertain, we give people a good night they will remember and some noisy rock'n'roll to do their dishes to. But our approach to music stays just as intricate as the most in-bred Italian sculptor. We do it for us. Not for you, not for your dog. We do what we see fit, no matter if it's stop with palm-muting, toss a trilogy suite into the stir, or stop playing 'Define Hate'. 



Maybe the whole debate is flawed by the deeply rooted convention that art is 'nice'. It's rich of status, and that very status is sometimes, or often, falsely used as a quality barometer. Good enough = art, like people pasing their 10-page essays that Super Mario is art because it's 'fucking great!!'. 

But if it's something that Shiggy can learn us, and maybe Steven too, by making things that makes us soaringly happy, and yet squabble it all away in the follow-up interview by shrugging that it's all for the fans, it's for sales, it's all that. That there's nothing wrong in being an entertainer, and that what you simply do is create art for the purpose of entertaining (much like, in one way, Hollywood does) 

And that is something we can draw knowledge, and even pride, from: that we're entertainers, and that's something just as high up any imaginary 'quality barometer' as art, just as important. Because just as we need to confront our inner demons by reading '1984' or unravel our deepest thoughts in front of Picasso, we're in no lesser need of just having a good time and enjoy ourselves, whether it be by the company of Super Mario, roller-coasters, Justin Bieber, the Hangover trilogy or Going Postal. Depth, as art graces us with, is trivial to existence. But so is fun. 

So yes, we're stubborn, we don't allow our fans to ultimately dictate where we take our music, we don't care about sales. But we don't have any agendas, no political standpoints, no deep message. We just want you all to have a good time, both at home and in front of the stage. Deathember is many things. But art? Perhaps not.

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