I give you my Jonny Cragg OnMilwaukee Playlist.
I give you my Jonny Cragg OnMilwaukee Playlist.

A custom playlist, just for you

So I guess now that U2 is giving away their record on iTunes, we have an officially sanctioned "why buy it when you can get it for free?" attitude, and not just from an impossibly wealthy rock band or some young Internet savvy Torrentheads.

But within the last shoal of middle-aged record buyers. The same people that remember going into their local record store, standing by a listening post, headphones on, listening to the hot band on college radio that month, or someone they'd read about in Creem or Melody Maker.

Whilst touring with the Pierces in Britain, I heard the record company talk about ORM's (Older Restless Males). To put it into more legible vernacular, they were a sizable section of the audience who fancied the girls but simultaneously were conditioned to act out some kind of brand loyalty, usually through CD sales or digital downloads.

I can understand where U2 is coming from, but I can't help thinking they're a step behind what would have been the cool move. To me it seems a bit cynical, like offering a free 8 track to anyone walking past your van parked in the alleyway behind the market. Now that cloud-based technologies have taken over, is there really any point to giving up space on one’s hard drive for an mp3?

Streaming websites like Spotify look like they are on the right track, at least: after a rocky start navigating a profitable business model that effectively remunerates the artist, they now seem to be enlisting the same artists to promote the service.

Within this fledgling medium, there must surely be some scope to recreate "the experience" us old farts speak of so fondly. I keep hearing people tell me that vinyl is back … but really? It's not back, is it? The spike in sales merely demonstrates that people do need "the experience" even if they've never experienced "the experience."

The playlist mentality on streaming websites personalizes the act of listening to music sanctioned by a human being who's personal taste might actually mea…

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With The Pierces Royal Albert Hall, London, 2011.
With The Pierces Royal Albert Hall, London, 2011.
I swear to God I wasn't jealous, on the shoot of the O-Town video in NYC 2001.
I swear to God I wasn't jealous, on the shoot of the O-Town video in NYC 2001.

Drummin' in the moonlight

SEATTLE  From time to time there’s sufficient pause in my schedule recording and touring to contemplate some related fields and how they might put food on the table. And then there’s a bit of good old-fashioned moonlighting.

Let's start with related fields, shall we? Adapt or die they say. Well, any artist worth their salt has done their time in the jail of someone’s bar or restaurant – just ask Woody Harrelson. In fact, I was slingin' drinks with Ellen Pompeo from "Grey’s Anatomy" in Soho when Spacehog was playing to three winos and a dog at Nightingales on the Lower East Side in the mid ‘90s.

Once Spacehog was up and running I scaled the ladder of public service to DJing. On the corporate scene, I couldn't believe how much people were prepared to pay to have you play other people’s music, pull the occasional crucifixion pose and check your email. It made a mockery of the struggle many of the bands went through to get those records out in the first place.

Having said that, and money aside, I think I preferred bartending. In a lot of people’s minds, it’s perfectly OK to abuse a DJ in the booth if his idea of what you should be playing doesn't coincide exactly with yours. I've had some laughable situations, playing a medley of Michael Jackson, Prince and Madonna only to be asked to play something that the "expert" in the polo shirt knows. Or if I can play someone's demo at midnight on Saturday night in a packed club full of revelers.

Another one that springs to mind is the party I spun in Harlem with a "no hip-hop" policy: I don't think Dave Chapelle could have scripted it any better.

As for moonlighting, it takes many forms and the rules are that there are no rules. In fact, no one is really telling you when your main gig starts, pauses, resumes or finishes. So you have to take a series of calculated risks.

In what I anticipated to be a break in our schedule after "As It Is On Earth" was recorded, I agreed to be the touring drummer with T…

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Rockin' the roof of the Hugo Boss HQ (Ziggy Stardust is just out of shot).
Rockin' the roof of the Hugo Boss HQ (Ziggy Stardust is just out of shot).
A duet with my brother at his Yorkshire wedding.
A duet with my brother at his Yorkshire wedding.
Keepin' it real (si thi tha noz) in Yorkshire.
Keepin' it real (si thi tha noz) in Yorkshire.

The duality of fame

I've been off the road with Spacehog now for about a month.

I'm staring at a jobs list at the new cooperative preschool where I enrolled my 2-year-old here in Seattle. The American education system is a maze-like structure, one that I've tried to avoid dealing with for the 21 years that I've lived here. But now I'm having to learn fast!

My 16-year-old, Laila, was educated in England where it's a whole different ball game of streaming, examinations, assessment and terminology.

We just moved here from Brooklyn. While there I would work at the Park Slope Food Coop in daycare; rubbing shoulders with Adrian Grenier in food processing and Maggie Gyllenhaal at the checkout: Funny little microcosm of New York City diversity it was. But a good symbol for the extremes that an artist in the public eye must take on, in the eye of the metropolis.

Personally, I'm not so enamored with all this celebrity BS. I've never understood why one would be so willing to put people in the public eye on a pedestal, just because they play a guitar or act in a movie.

There are notable exceptions, of course: I think I was more than a little timid when Stephen Dorf introduced me to Madonna. And it was a trip telling Bono about a church we were recording in, only for him to respond dryly: "Take the pews out, Jonny, but leave God in."

David Bowie was another legend that proved to be a bit too much to handle. He was at a show I played in New York on the roof of the Hugo Boss HQ in Chelsea, and he proved to be more talkative than I anticipated. Unfortunately my "moment" with Ziggy was ruined by the fact that both my ears were full of water from an afternoon swimming. I seem to remember sauntering off muttering something along the lines of; "Sorry Dave, mate, but I can't hear a thing you're sayin' and I've got to get up and play now." What a prat! And he was super nice to my daughter, too!

I think playing the drums was a conscious decision for me to avoid a lot of the trappings of fame, which fo…

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