Interview with Canadian Punk Rock Legend Murray Acton (Dayglo Abortions) part 2

By Mick Michaels

COSMICK VIEW: Hello, Murray! Welcome to The Cosmick View. Thank you for taking some time out of your day to chat with me, it's greatly appreciated.
Murray Acton: No worries, thanks for having me.

CV: Do you feel that it's still possible for an unknown band today to be plucked out of obscurity and make it to stardom?
MA: Well that’s a rare thing anyway. There will be one band that comes out of nowhere with something new going on. A genre starting event happens, which gets them set up, and that’s where the industry gets to work. The industry doesn’t give a shit about music. They are into very high return but high risk investments. It just happens to be music that they use. Their approach once a new market opens up because of the new band, is to get bands they have signed to start sounding as much like the new guys as they can to skim away some of the sales for themselves. They give musicians jobs I guess but it’s not what I’m looking for from playing music.

CV: Can a dedicated core of fans sharing their music make that possible or has the internet and social media changed the game?
MA: The game has definitely changed but not really in a bad way. Apart from our current situation, a young band will start out playing gigs in their home turf and slowly get out on the road farther and farther from home, and if they don’t suck, they will acquire fans along the way. Once they have been out a few times they will start to have some dedicated fans that they can count on to buy merch and show support at the shows. Eventually their tours will become like ours are now. We just travel from town to town to visit all of our friends that we have made over the years. In every bar I play, I know a big chunk of the crowd personally. That’s one of the things I really like about my life. When I walk into the venue each night, everyone there is really happy that I’m there, and I have their undivided attention. We usually stay at someone’s house in each town, get home cooked meals…they become extended family. With the new tools available to us, on the internet, as well as personal recording equipment etc., it is now possible to bypass the labels and the expensive recording process. Making your own product, keeping your artistic freedom, sell your stuff off the stage or online directly to your fans and keep the 90% or so of the profit that the industry used to take.

CV: Do you feel that given the accessibility and social awareness of modern times that a music underground still even exists today as it once did?
MA: There will always be something like that out in the fringes of society. That’s where the dissent, and the innovation, the radical critics of authority, and the people who are just trying to have fun making and watching music for their own enrichment instead of being force fed the propaganda loaded pabulum that the straight world gets. Those two worlds will never intersect. The shows out there are way too scary and filled with freaks for the straight world, and the shows in the straight world are too boring and lifeless for the freaks.

CV: What do you see as the biggest difference in music and how it is perceived from back say 35 years ago compared to music today? Has both the music and the artist evolved from your point of view?
MA: Yah, there has been an evolution for sure. First, the skill level of young musicians is mind blowing for an old fart like me. The kids have access to so much information, they can learn more in a couple of years than you used to get in your whole career. At the same time though, the controlling interests in the industry have refined modern commercial music to the point where it has become just a commercial for the material life. The ability of bands to be self-made from the ground up I think gives more people access and more competition for those few seconds in the lights. The bands are lean, mean, and talented.

CV: Do you believe bands and artists who have the biggest impact on fans and other artists are aware that they are or is there more of a tunnel vision sort of process for them keeping them somewhat in the dark?
MA: I think that depends on the individual to a degree. How connected are they to their fans. Personally, I hang out with the fans before I play. Watch the backup bands, and chat with people at the merch booth. The fans want to let you know what you mean to them, how your songs have helped them or entertained them or inspired them to make their own music. It really makes their day if you give them some respect and show your appreciation for the support they give you. And it feels really good to be popular and loved. Standing on stage and looking at all those faces smiling back at you, all totally stoked that you have come to play for them is an incredible thing that you won’t find in many places, so embrace it and respect it, and it will keep coming.

CV: Can influential artists see past their own work to be aware of the ripples they make?
MA: That again depends on the individual. It’s no secret that there are some overinflated and highly fragile egos in the world of musicians, and they can become very elitist, and start thinking that they are somehow of a better breed than their fans, and the younger bands. These people are dicks and divas, and are generally in the way of needing to be pampered. They also don’t have anything concrete to contribute to the world, and generally just grab their loot right away then scurry back to their hotel rooms so they can roll around in their money, or whatever they get up to behind their closed doors.

CV: Does music need to be influential to be considered worth listening to in your opinion? Or can music simply be just an enjoyable auditory experience devoid of substance?
MA: There’s plenty of room for both in my collection. There is so much you can get from music. Instrumentals with complex melodies, that give the imagination wings…songs of protest that get your heart beating and make you want to save the world…tragic love songs that take you back to moments in your past…songs that are just plain fun and make you happy.

CV: The world has been rocked by the COVID pandemic.  The economy has been sent into a tailspin in its wake, unfortunately.  Bands worldwide have been restricted from performing live and some, it seems, restricted from earning a living. How has the pandemic affected your band? Are you hopeful that 2021 will see many of the restrictions lifted?
MA: Yah, it’s been a hard year. We were on tour when this started. We were hearing it unfold each day. The crowds were thinning out, and then all of a sudden we were in lockdown.  I actually went and got a job for the first time in 20 years just to fill in the day and keep busy. After a bit though, I decided to use the time to build. I’ve written and am in the process of recording 3 albums: a solo album, a Dayglo Abortions album, and one for my other band, Stinkhorn. I’m building up my merch machine, getting a bit of press…putting myself in a position to quick out of the blocks when the starting gun goes…if it ever does.

CV: What do you feel artists and bands can do right now to stay relevant, especially in an environment, such as the present, where performing in front of a live audience is being restricted? What immediate options do you see available?
MA: Live streaming is as close to a show as you’ll get right now. So you might as well do some…might do some busking in the summer. I have an artist friend who is getting me to try different mediums to do art in. I’ve started recording and mixing bands.  But mostly I’m writing lots. There is no shortage of topics, but you need to be careful. People are in a highly defensive state, and are ready to fight anyone they have been told are a threat. There were some powerful movements starting up that looked like they would initiate badly needed changes, but they appear to have been derailed by various special interest groups and need to regain their focus.

CV: As an artist, what have you learned from the events of 2020? Are those lessons learned different for you as a person than as an artist or are they one in the same in your opinion?
MA: Being an artist of sorts doesn’t make me non-human. I suffer from much the same things as anyone.  I’m not the only one to get shutdown. I was angry and depressed and all that in the beginning, but I soon realized that my problems were trivial compared to the world’s problems. I’m just getting by and trying to not add to the world’s problems.

CV: What's next? What can fans expect to see coming in 2021?
MA: I will be getting some new albums out, and I’ll play live at the first opportunity, but that might not happen for a while. I’ll be stirring the pot on social media. I am basically going to be loud and noisy, and highly visible.

CV: Thank you again Murray for spending some time talking and sharing with our readers. It was such a pleasure. I wish you all the best.
MA: Thank you, you had some very relevant questions here that got me thinking about somethings I haven’t really thought about much yet. Cheers!
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My name is Mick Michaels...I'm an artist, music fan, songwriter, producer, show host, dreamer and guitarist for the traditional Heavy Metal band Corners of Sanctuary. Writing has always been a creative outlet for me; what I couldn't say in speech, I was able to do with the written word.  Writing has given me a voice and a way for me to create on a multitude of platforms including music and song, articles, independent screenplays, books and now, artist interviews. The Cosmick View is an opportunity to raise the bar and showcase artists in a positive and inspirational light. For me, it's another out-of-this-world adventure.

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