Tom Player is an English musician living outside what used to be called the Star Making Machine. He hangs his hat in Budapest now that the the Brexit nightmare is walking around in broad daylight in the home counties.
He’s done something surprising. Something most of us didn’t think anyone was up to. He’s built a small world and a big one simultaneously. His site Try The Wine, name taken from a scene in the film version of Clockwork Orange, is a wager. Anybody can make a website and sell their gear. But to try to build a community out of thin air, that’s worth taking notice of. It’s nothing to the mean cats, the Big Friendlies who for years have told us how warm and caring they are, while they steamroll everything in their path.
We’re not talking about a knight in shining armor here but maybe a denizen of the forest who prefers the old, curving paths.
Mick Rock, preparing to auction off his photos of Iggy and David and Lou, a scene where he was the court painter, made an interesting observation. I don’t think he used the word incubator but that’s how he described what was going on in New York and Berlin at the time. He said a scene like that wouldn’t stand a chance these days because it would be all over Instagram after the first weekend. Maybe that isn’t the kind of exposure artists need.
trythewine.co.uk has been up since late last summer. Primarily for musicians, it features music and videos, interviews with the musicians and a visual arts section, with room for writing, too. At present a dozen plus musicians from different countries in Europe are there. Player has ears open, there’s no one stylistic bent to the site. It’s other people’s work alongside his, along with interviews. It’s an open door into a world, the way it’s supposed to be with artists. Alan Moore makes the point that artists arrive in clusters, so here’s one in the making.
(This is the moment when journalists are supposed to own up to conflicts of interest, so here goes : I knew Player back in the old days, in Paris, when he was playing guitar with one eye on that looming impossibility called Brexit. And then the world sped up and went for one of its mad spins, which it does every so often, just to make sure things don’t get too dull. Three years later, he’d become a sound engineer and the world was headed into the first mass confinement since World War I. Musicians had no money to pay for anything, least of all studio recordings. Try the Wine has a few short pieces of mine on its pages.)
“The idea came from not having anywhere bespoke to really exhibit work. Everyone and anyone can upload onto Facebook and Youtube but it just feels like you’re dropping your efforts into the ocean hoping someone will find it far away and tell the world about it with a giant megaphone. So the idea is to create a respected brand that people want to see and be seen on. It is hard to choose what should or shouldn’t be on it but if it’s authentic, not over-produced, and sounds/looks alright then it’ll always have a chance. We most admire artists who are bands if you catch me, all-rounders, a jack of all trades, with dirty little fingers in all the pies. DIY kids.
“The site has been up since 27th August 2020 my birthday of last year, when I turned 31, probably the day after as I’m often late as a standard inconvenience to myself including others.
“How do I feel about it now? Honestly with Youtube, Spotify and the likes around it’s a struggle to work out an attractive brand but it can be done and that’s what I’m working on. A place where you can go because you know what you’re gonna get. Some cool independent musicians, artists and writers who you might connect with. Covid has stopped us from putting on any shows or nights through the brand which we were looking forward to exploring. We have artists from London, Paris, and New York and had (still have) a view to get them together for a jolly good knees up in a quaint little venue in their respective cities, somewhere near you. Live music. Discounts on wine so the punters can Try The Wine and try their luck, for a buck.
“There are some quality artists on the site, but as the backroom staff consists of me myself and I up until now the machine is not working at its optimum, although we are getting things out roughly every week. The most important thing is to focus on is the vision, the brand… and the content, obviously. It’s easy to get side tracked and get involved with too many things. Keep it simple, son! Have to remind myself of that one every few seconds or so.
“I will be honest and tell you I have big plans locked in a small cupboard for now. We need to open up an online store for fans to purchase the art on show and other merchandise. I’m considering adding a podcast section to the site as I know of a few candidates who could do an amazing job interviewing and chit chatting. As I said before we’re trying to create a brand and see where we can take it; live music events/gallery exhibitions/readings and poetry events/festivals. Bob Dylan said something about wanting to headline the festival in Malibu but we can’t have that as it contradicts our ethos. We might let him open his own sandwich stall and he can help us selling our new TTW merch, luffahs…shoe horns, you know.
“I haven’t found anything else exactly like what we do. There are obviously countless music and art blogs, websites where you can read a million short stories, Soundcloud if you want music, Spotify …Instagram exists. Those are free for alls. The artists we showcase are selected and it’s more of a community thing. We’re slowly getting our thing down. At Try The Wine you can easily get through to the artists social pages if you want to get in contact with them. The artists manage themselves unless they get picked up by someone else with the silver and gold. We are a hub, a gathering whirlpool of lost chance takers who jumped ship for an adventure and are still kicking for a foot up onto shore, so we just hanging out together, you know?”
Some of the musicians and artists on the site : Saphira, Daniel Mist, Peter Deaves, Bloem, Alex, Mock The Moon, B-Astre, Comfort Cat, Adam Kautz, BeLoey, Maggie Mor. Don’t know them ? Dive in.
Player is trying to create a space for artists on no budget. If other musicians hear, that’s enough. Let the hordes troop in later.
Even if he tosses in a vogue term, Player is really involved in anti-branding, creating a kind of oasis, a garden on the ocean floor where artists can be themselves while the bright and shiny alphas strut their stuff on the surface, branding being one of those two-faced clichés employed when they mean get with the program, like the neon signs on the literary revues that urge you to submit, as if they didn’t know the meaning of the word.
One of the features on Wine is a short vid asking, Will we be remembered as the generation that killed music ? Musicians are anxious to play, people with their ears open are ready to stand six feet apart to hear it but it’s not happening. Governments have a different view of messy things like the arts : they tend to crush whatever they can’t control. Better you should watch it on streaming. Maybe I missed it, but I haven’t heard about the rich giving up their horsies.
Once again daring and curiosity — the act of showing ourselves in public and the thrill of seeing, hearing — are acts of cultural resistance to the almighty things-as-they-are. o1 / o3 /21
This is the first of the Stop Time / The High and Tight interviews. The aim is to give readers a sense of how life is being lived outside of our much-diminished commons.
Try The Wine may not be a unique effort and if there are others, whether sites or galleries or public happenings, bang on a can and let me know.
James Graham hereby asserts his right to be known as the only person crazy enough to write a novel called le Plouc de Paris, and to try to force American publishers to notice.
Originally published at https://continentalriffs.substack.com.