Talking Music With Alan Cross

AmongMen talks music with Alan Cross
AmongMen talks music with Alan Cross

Alan Cross, self-proclaimed music geek and host of The Secret History of Rock radio show, was sitting in his home office in Oakville, with his dog The Schmooze in the barcalounger beside him, when AmongMen got a hold to ask a few questions.

First, we talked about Squish, Astral Media’s new online modern-rock station. All programmed by Alan, it’s a no-commerical online stream of both new and old music, with a mandate to seek out and continually present unheard of, innovative movements in rock. It also has no host, and it’s a project Alan seems really excited about.

Talking about Squish we got on to the state of current radio and the music industry. Cross mixes his insider’s perspective with his empathy for a real music lover, and gives the truth about Radio’s repetitive hit-parade. It’s based on demographics and business safety, tried and true songs over innovative ones, based on a language we all understand. “It’s hard to hear for a lot of hardcore music lovers.” But the dissemination model is changing.

Since rock’s beginning’s in the fifties there’s been a pretty clear developmental chart. It’s a development that happens with the privileging of rock over pop song elements, then vice-versa, and it turns over, Alan says, about every 12 or 13 years. In 1977 punk hit the scene, and added new sounds, and a little more diversity, another strand to weave in. Current bands— Alan cites the White Stripes— are simply revamps of older styles based on that graph. For the White Stripes it’s blues (the bud of rock) and garage. It sounds new, but it’s not in reality original. And that’s the postmodern model. It’s a pretty patterned trajectory that technology is just now altering.

“Music has always been a commodity” says Cross. Changes in music will be driven by changes in the technologies of dissemination and consumption. The changing technology now is of course the digital, internet age, which brings us back to Squish. The question of what new music will be successful today is not its sound, but its evaluation, its ability to be consumed. It also means there’s no indefatigable model any longer: Lady Gaga may be Madonna mixed with Bowie, but doing the same isn’t a surefire track. The scene’s become endlessly stratified, unpredictable. It why there’s no correlatives he sees in his five favourite albums, which you can check out here.

Welcome to the cross-section. 

Alan Cross will be at The Gentlemen’s Expo on Saturday November 23 at the Metro Convention Centre talking about music, Squish, and the ongoing history of Rock n’ Roll.

Zach Buck

Zach Buck

Zach Buck is a writer and editor currently living in South Korea. He serves as the official editor of Spatial Studies magazine HEADREST. In 2016 he released experimental digital archive game house.xct_ with Other Families, and it can be read about on otherfamilies.ca.

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