The other day I saw the below video where Maynard James Keenan explains his perspective on the relationship between an artists personality and the art itself. The gist of it all, to me at least, is that progressing and maturing as a person is part of his process; and to be honest, seeing the above video in contrast to this one, I think there’s plenty of evidence of change.
Another facet of the discussion is the extent to which artists are ‘allowed’ to change the formula that laid the foundation of their stardom or success. Plenty of artists have been critizised for messing with that specific formula, but in truth, the artist and the actual music are only part an equation that has many variables that are not static over time.
Some of these variables are the actual state of popular music culture at the time (I don’t imagine Slipknot being popular in the fifties for example), whether or not you are in a band, how your bandmates see things (would Tool ever be able to create Puscifer?).
Sometimes the genre of music that the artist performs in will change as well (Metallica is still around but plays rather differently than e.g. Meshuggah or ISIS). In other words, for the artist, the artistic process or the art that is the output of it, to change, is in many cases something that will happen, just like the reception in musical culture of that product, might change.
Not too long ago, Chris Cornell put out a collaboration with Timbaland which caused many fans to scream (pun intended) that he was either a sellout or that he’d gone crazy (or both). In my opinion, some of the songs simply were not as strong as his previous efforts and I saw it as pretty experimental, in a crossover zone between dance and rock which I’m really not that fond of.
In this interview Chris Cornell talks about the relationship between the artist and the fan (in light of the negative criticism he received for the album):
“I certainly would not ever want a band that I’m a fan of to be worried about what I think when they create what they do. The whole point is that they create what they do, and then I go into that environment if I want.”
And to be honest, his Scream environment was not one I wanted to go into. But that does not take away his right, as an artist to produce the product he wants to. It might not be what tuned you on to the artist in the first place, but arguing that an artist is not allowed to change or experiment, is ludicrous.
As a sidenote, I saw Chris Cornell in Copenhagen this summer, on his accoustic tour. One of the songs, Scream, was actually fantastic in that setting (performed much like he does here ). The guy is not a static robot, churning out albums like Badmotorfinger or Euphoria Morning for the rest of his life, you as a fan, just have to either step into the world of Scream or not.
To me, another example is Corey Taylor from Slipknot. When I became a fan of Slipknot it was because of their Vol. 3: The Subliminal Verses album (in my opinion their best). Now, whatever one might think of Corey Taylor, he is another person who’s been close to the edge. Take a listen to (sic) from the Slipknot album and then put on Snuff from All Hope Is Gone.
This exact difference has also caused a bit of a fuss and made fans label Slipknot as a band that’s already started it’s decline. And what about Corey Taylor and his personal health? I may not appreciate Snuff as much as (sic) when I look at it from my personal perspective. But as a fan of Corey Taylor and what he has created, I’m pretty happy for the guy. I don’t feel a need to see artists that I’m a fan of, end up like the poor Kurt Cobain, to keep me pleased.
Of course, I’m not 18 anymore either (and haven’t been for some time cough), so I don’t expect young fans of artists to necessarily get what I’m saying; but hopefully they, as well as the artists they’re fans of, are not static either. So, have an open mind, but do not hessitate to turn down music you think is crap; just don’t berate the artist for trying something different or new.