Apples and oranges
Zac Diebels incorporates a new method of teaching music
Hi. I’m old. And I guess I don’t understand rock ‘n’ roll anymore. Linkin Park? In theory, yes … I mean, they sing soft, then they sing loud, then they rap. In essence, I get it, but at the end of the day, I kind of don’t get it. And it pains me to know that somewhere on Earth, a gelatinous soccer mom is applying the term “fo shizzle” to something. It really does. I don’t get it.
I’m old. Help me.
As soon as something illuminates with even the slightest glow of hipness, its soft iridescence is snatched up by a corporation, polished into a blinding sheen, then mass produced for a large target demographic until we’re all blind. It’s the American way, I guess.
Under the music industry’s buffing machine, even the most bullet-riddled of hard-core rappers becomes an immaculately coifed VitaminWater salesman in a matter of months. And while we’re slowly getting used to the suckification of music, television, film and culture in general, there are still some of us who protest. Old people, that is. Hello.
As I write this, a rapper from Berlin who calls herself Aziza is giving my computer an aneurysm with her ghettofabulous MySpace page and hip-hop that sucks enough to be on the U.S. Billboard Top 100. MySpace Music has provided a platform for mediocre artists worldwide to fail miserably at their craft and be applauded for it. Thanks to the Internet, everyone deserves to be a star.
“That sounds like an old person,” says Zac Diebels, guitarist for the now-defunct Simon Says and founder of Rock Inc., a new Sacramento school whose aim is to teach the ways of rock ’n’ roll to whoever wants to learn. “[Kids] grew up with the Internet, and this is the way it is. The world has changed.”
Diebels is right: I’m old. And the world is not the same place it was even 10 years ago. It reminds me of the stories about Elvis Presley’s first televised appearances, when he shook his ass out on the stage and the elderly sat slack-jawed in their living rooms, clutching their Bibles, waiting impatiently for Jesus or Gene Autry to return.
So I’m starting to get it. To my credit, though, when I first heard the term “Rock Inc.,” I pictured Angus Young in a power suit, and my first instinct was to wretch.
It’s not like that, says Diebels. “There’s a lot of vultures and snakes in the grass, and music is such a predatory and fickle business and why don’t we … take all that out of it, and let the kids just play?”
Despite the foreboding sweatshop connotation in the name, Rock Inc. is really not a rock-star factory. It’s actually the opposite of that. The 3,100-foot space is a dedicated place for kids to learn an instrument, play in a band, hang out with professional musicians and talk music.
“If you’re an aspiring musician and you go to a retailer to buy an instrument, there’s no brand name in-between that you can go to learn [how to play] it,” says Diebels, who hopes Rock Inc. can be that trusted brand name.
The difference between Rock Inc. and, say, an American Idol, is one of pure substance. While any asshole can audition to be ridiculed on television, that same asshole can go to Rock Inc., actually learn to play an instrument (bass, drums, guitar, vocals, piano, brass, audio engineering, production, turntables), then see what it’s like to be in a band while hanging out with like-minded people.
“It’s just really fun,” Diebels says.
And that’s that. It’s fun. So maybe Rock Inc. is just old-fashioned music lessons in a new package. Sure, it’s glossy, but there’s actually something behind the sheen. Diebels is taking whatever package he can and making music fun for cheap and for everybody. And it’s hard to argue with that.
“It’s apples and oranges,” Diebels says of the music world of yesterday compared to today. “It’s just not the same anymore.”
OK, shh. The Price is Right is on.