Words by Infinite Tiger.
British situationist pop group The KLF released a book in 1988 called The Manual (How To Have A Number One The Easy Way) which provided a step by step guide for a band with no money or talent to get a number one single.
Following The Manual proved successful for groups including Edelweiss, The Pipettes, and The Klaxons, you can even thank The Manual for the aberration that is Chumbawamba’s Tubthumping.
Infinite Tiger read The Manual while creating our debut album L’Exposer and cherry-picked a few handy hints from it, like:
“…if in a band, quit. Get out. Now. That said, it can be very helpful to have a partner, someone who you can bounce ideas off and vice versa. Any more than two of you and factions develop and you may as well be in politics.”
The rest of The Manual, however, is largely redundant, which the authors themselves recognised at the time of writing and given that it’s 2020, which is very much not 1988, Infinite Tiger thought it would be handy to prepare an errata chapter to bring it up to speed with modern times, using L’Exposer as a case study.
You can read The Manual for free here.
In 1988, The KLF released a manual on how to successfully release a number one single. Today, that manual is very out of date… so Infinite Tiger have made some revisions.
All of the following advice must be read with the understanding that we are definitely not authorities on success in the music industry. If we were, we wouldn’t have made an album like L’Exposer and if we did know some shortcuts on how to make an income from making experimental music in the 21st century we probably wouldn’t share them with you anyway.
2. Who Wants A Number One Hit In 2020 Anyway?
Having a number one hit once carried with it some cultural cache, now the equation ‘charting artist = credible artist’ is debatable (if you were Kanye would you be proud of the fact that you are Kanye?).
Therefore, Infinite Tiger pursued the novel idea of creating a record filled with songs that we would actually want to listen to and turned a blind eye to whether the record itself was objectively ‘commercially viable’.
The KLF were bang on when they predicted the future of home recording. Any noob with a laptop can assemble sounds into a DAW and call it a song but to be completely honest, you can still tell the difference between a home recording and a professionally recorded album.
Fortunately one of our band members actually owns a recording studio. Ross Ferraro (drums/production) was the co-owner of REC Studios so access was easy (and FREE) while recording L’Exposer. REC Studios also meant we could rope in other ‘real’ musicians with actual talent that were hanging around the studio like Jarrol Renaud who played bass on the album.
A lot of people still wonder what the role of a producer actually is. The Manual says “the traditional producer casts his spells without being hindered by the traditional musicians’ paranoid presence” which doesn’t actually answer the question.
Infinite Tiger were blessed to have Darren Seltmann produce L’Exposer. In addition to being one of the most genuinely beautiful souls we know, his talents are obvious (he made Since I Left You ffs) and he not only stamped out artistic paranoia, he brought various other things to the creative process like the ability to make the recordings sound ‘less shit’; a perfectionist’s ear; the suggestion to cut entire songs without hurting our feelings; and a spare surfboard on occasions where we needed a break from the studio.
So if that sounds useful to you, get a producer for your album, especially if it’s Darren Seltmann.
A fair chunk of The Manual is devoted to getting your record into stores and onto the desks of DJ’s at the BBC which is now redundant with digital music platforms.
You can hire a promo team at an additional cost and no guaranteed results, so basically the best chance you now have to storm the ivory tower of tastemakers is to make a record that sounds like whatever it is the tastemakers are pushing at the time.
Infinite Tiger, instead are testing a strategy unbound from the limitations of commercial viability (see 2 above) which takes all the bits of various types of music we like and jumbles them together (so post-modern) the result will be:
A) a landmark critical success from left field (we are still holding our breath on this one);
B) some elements of the album will connect with reviewers and the audience; or
C) we end up with a surplus of vinyl copies of L’Exposer which will be Christmas presents for family and friends for years to come.
Either way, we win, provided that you are prepared to be elastic with your definition of ‘winning’.
The Manual recommends “[t]he lyrics for the chorus must never deal with anything but the most basic of human emotions.” L’Exposer is lyrically a work that explores the finding of meaning and overcoming depression by accepting that all existence is meaningless (e.g. “there is no self/ so no self to loathe”).
Is there a more basic human emotion than the search for understanding the premise of human existence? No, we didn’t think so.
Another prescient piece of advice from the KLF is that you don’t need talent to have a hit. In 2020, this piece of advice seems to have been adopted by most popular artists – unless someone can explain to us the popularity of Drake then this statement is irrefutably true.
Therefore, the advice in The Manual now needs to be inverted. The only way to truly stand out in 2020 is to have talent. Check out the drum work on Yr Listening Too?, the bass lines on Hi Me or the duelling guitar solos on So It Goes from L’Exposer if you don’t believe us.
The Manual explains The KLF’s way around copyright was to make a knock off so bad that it can’t be considered an infringement.
L’Exposer uses lots of samples and these days intellectual property has become so litigious that Pharrell Williams was sued for borrowing ‘the groove’ of a song. Now the only guaranteed way to avoid a copyright lawsuit is to avoid becoming a successful recording artist worth suing.
Infinite Tiger are well and truly on the path to achieving this aim at least.
The parting advice from The Manual is to embrace the confusion and chaos “[y]ou must hold the reigns tighter than you have ever held them before but let the chariot head over the cliff top.”
Even if Infinite Tiger failed to heed most of the advice in The Manual while making L’Exposer, this last tip was pretty much our mantra. Anything goes, if it seems like a fun idea, give it a go without worrying about the boundaries of genre.
If we all accept that a majority of bands will come to the end of their careers with an empty bank account and the body of their work to stand as their testament, wouldn’t it be better if your sonic tombstone is something unmarred by the whims of what was deemed ‘hip’ or ‘relevant’ at a certain time, but simply the sound of a bunch of friends making something authentic? If you’re not convinced, go back to point 1.
L’Exposer is out now. Listen above.