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Revolution on Canvas, Volume 2:
By Andy Argyrakis
Authors include members of Deftones, Fall Out Boy,
Motion City Soundtrack and more
Oct. 6, 2007
Though the first version was released under the radar to hipster acclaim, Revolution on Canvas, Volume 2: Poetry from the Indie Music Scene (Warner Books/Ad Astra Books) is likely to swoop up some serious mainstream attention. Not only has project editor Rich Balling (of Rx Bandits and the Sounds of Animals Fighting fame) been much more discreet in pursuit of alternative music's most prominent names, but he's also landed an impressive contributors list. The book includes members of Deftones, Fall Out Boy, Firescape, Motion City Soundtrack (amongst several dozen more).
"The whole idea initially came from me working at Hot Topic where they had all these different band T-shirts, buttons, patches, bags, and music, but never a book," explains Balling via phone. "Here and there throughout time, books have been written by musicians, but there haven't been that many on the indie level. The first one started from me talking to bands I already knew from touring, but this time out it was a lot easier to send out an email to a long list of managers since the first one had already proven itself."
And as planned, the past year saw e-mail responses pouring in from bands of all associations- emo, indie rock, punk, hardcore, plus combinations of them all. Like the first go around, the guidelines were simple, asking artists to provide a personal, emotional or entertaining poem in any format as long as it had the potential to connect with readers and fans of their band. "Some stuff in the book is a little basic or grandiloquent, but other works really take you by surprise," explains Firescape singer-guitarist Josh Partington (also of Something Corporate fame). "[Writing poems and songs] are similar, but you have a bit more freedom in a poem because you are not as tied down by meter, though a poem can't hide behind clever musical hooks like songs can."
In the case of both volumes, the experience has afforded both artists and their appreciators the chance to see different creative juices at work. Chiodos front man Craig Owens found his entry particularly enjoyable, if only because it got him out of the regular songwriting, recording and touring routine. "I believe that it's a fun and eye opening experience for musicians and fans alike," he says. "It's a way to see musicians out of their normal spotlight atmosphere and really get into the head of the music makers."
Aside from the sheer entertainment and allowing listeners to observe artists out of their element, the project is also meant to promote reading, a dying practice these days in the endless Internet surfing mentality and a lightening fast pop culture in general. Besides his band and book life, the twenty-nine-year-old Balling is also a junior high teacher who's trying to make the concept cool for his pre-teens through twenty-somethings, (a concept also shared by the contributors).
"I love the idea of promoting reading," says the City Drive's singer/guitarist/piano player Danny Smith. "Hopefully, kids will be inspired to read more and maybe even research some of the other bands included in the book. They may wind up discovering their new favorite band!"
However, it's impossible not to look at the cross-genre line-up and wonder what purists from each faction will think of other artists. It's no secret hardcore fans generally aren't into emo, nor are punk rock rebels interested in the style's pop/punk successors, though those potential divisions don't worry Balling a bit. "If I could empathize with scenesters at all, I'd say that they are pretty die-hard fans who are usually completists," he says. "Let's say you're a die hard Murder By Death fan and they're the only band you like in the book, you're still going to buy it. The protest you may make is not reading anyone else's shit, but at least you own the poem you want."
Another element to consider revolves around poetry purists, who could quite possibly scoff at the idea of part-timers creeping into their profession. However, Balling again points out that this concept falls under a completely different category than traditional poetry as a specialty project that's clearly labeled on the cover. If anything, he and the artists turned authors believe the Revolution On Canvas series could introduce the world of poetry to the previously uninformed.
"It also gives people who aren't really interested in poetry or even reading in general the motivation to pick up the book because it's written by some of their favorite artists," summarizes the Secret Handshake figurehead Luis Dubuc. "They are given an introduction to poetry that wasn't written 300 years ago and it's poetry they feel like they can relate to."
This article was previously published in the May issue of Hear/Say Magazine.