In modern life, only three things are certain: birth, death, and the demise of rock music being declared. Every year, a music critic writes an essay happily claiming the genre is done, that there’s only room for electronic and hip hop music now.
The truth, of course, is much different. Late last year, Dave Grohl said that he believed the dial was turning back to guitar-based music, a comment that was widely dissected in the following weeks. In an interview with Tone Deaf just weeks later, Adam Granduciel of The War on Drugs, one of the continuing proponents of exciting rock music, had an interesting view: “I feel like for 10 years, everyone’s been saying, ‘there’s no more guitar music.’ But the whole time everyone’s playing the fucking guitar! There’s always been other things in music but there’s so many people playing guitar and making great records.”
Both Grohl and Granduciel are right, and many others agree with them. “The vision of a guitar around the scrawny neck of a 17 year old kid epitomises the notion that rock & roll is not deceased. Quite the opposite,” says Michael Des Barres. “The sensuality & carefree chords will ring out again. Of that there is no doubt. Simply put, a guitar is sexier than a computer.”
Des Barres knows what he’s talking about. The effervescent English singer fronted Silverhead, a notable band in the burgeoning 1970s glam rock scene, who released several albums on Led Zeppelin’s label; at the iconic 1985 Live Aid concert, he led the rock & roll supergroup The Power Station, replacing none other than Robert Palmer. Still going strong in 2022, for people like Des Barres, rock & roll is a way of life that never dies, and that’s why he’s working on a special project with Golden Robot Records.
For rock music to fully kick on, it needs other people with knowledge and influence to buy into its revival. People like Golden Robot Records founder Mark Alexander-Erber, in other words. The 54-year-old is a rock & roll entrepreneur, the sort that brazenly declares “AC/DC got me through my parent’s divorce in 1980” and names his offspring “Jagger” after a Rolling Stones member. As founder of Golden Robot Global Entertainment Group, the entrepreneur wants to ensure that in five decades’ time, there will be people just like him espousing the glories of rock & roll to the next generation.
Golden Robot Global Entertainment Group currently boasts 12 record labels, including their main label Golden Robot Records, with just under 500 bands spread across the globe. They’re signing the likes of rock & roll legends Faster Pussycat, Riley’s L.A. Guns, Stephen Pearcy (RATT), Filter, The Badloves, Jefferson Starship, Vanilla Fudge, The Answer, members of Guns N’ Roses for solo projects, as well as a slew of rising U.K., Australian, European, and North American bands.
Of these up-and-coming bands, Alexander-Erber fervently believes that something crucial makes them stand out: they’re not simply carbon copies of Led Zeppelin or Black Sabbath, an accusation that’s plagued some notable burgeoning rock bands in recent years. Rather, they possess commitment to the historical rock & roll lifestyle and genuine rock authenticity that marked the best rockers of the 70s and 90s, the type that gets listeners through the hard times and also helps them celebrate the good times. For the new rock bands that Golden Robot Records is happy to support, rock & roll is a 24/7 pursuit.
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Just one of these bands is Canada’s Deadwolff, with the vivacious three-piece part of the country’s new wave of rock & roll. Where much of guitar music has been enveloped in post-punk aesthetics over the past few years, Deadwolff strips rock back to its beautifully unvarnished basics: electric energy, cocky lyrics, and battering instruments.
“I think the rock & roll spirit has been defined over time throughout the decades. Chuck Berry, The Who, The Ramones were extremely influential in defining what we view as rock today, the band says. As for rock music’s supposed decline, they know why it’ll never arrive. “It’s the energy of it all,” they insist. “The drive that people have to keep it alive in their own unique way. It could be a kid wearing a band shirt to the electrician that comes home and plays Van Halen. It never dies.”
A band like Dangereens, another stellar Canadian outfit on Golden Robot Records’ roster, are also keenly aware of the vital history of rock & roll. “The story about GG Allin stealing Huey Lewis’ personal jet plane in Miami, only to fly it cross-country and sling his own faeces all over the Minneapolis town house, is definitely a classic,” they laugh.
They might not have wiped excrement on any walls just yet, but Dangereens have many of their own wild tales of touring life. “While on tour in the Canadian Maritimes we somehow ended up in a car with a local dealer who held our singer at gunpoint for a few seconds out of nervousness,” they ‘fondly’ recall. “Another time our car was searched for drugs at the borders by two agents whose surnames were Stone and Frost. We thought that was pretty funny.”
Alexander-Erber and his group of backers, including Australian businessman Rodney Adler, have literally put millions into Golden Robot Records but, with the way the tide is turning back to rock music in 2022, it’s money very well-spent. “We’re watching Gene Simmons do an arena-sized world tour at the age of 73 with his classic KISS makeup on, kicking ass and taking names,” Alexander-Erber points out, although it’s not just the golden oldies still making it happen. “Rock & Roll is coming back in full swing, but maybe not as we once knew it,” he adds.
“I see respect for the older generation of rock and I see a lot of kids trying to revive that, but mostly I see kids taking it and making it into something new and current, which is what we’ve always done. Music will never be the same forever and it never has been, it’d be pretty boring if it was.”
There’s simply nothing stopping rock music being as strong in 2024 as it was in 1971. Take a look below at four big reasons a rock music revival is on the way. Rock is not dead, long live rock & roll.
The Return of the Rock Look
If you’ve seen the latest season of Stranger Things, you’ll immediately know what this means. Edward “Eddie” Munson, memorably played by Joseph Quinn, became an immensely popular breakout character in season four. He was the leader of the Hellfire Club; he shredded on electric guitar in his band Corroded Coffin; his hair was huge and his love for Metallica even bigger.
Away from the inescapable Kate Bush revival, Stranger Things season four also prominently featured Eddie thrashing along to Metallica’s anthem ‘Master of Puppets’, leading to intrigue in the band from Gen Z.
Nor is Stranger Things the only current series to be bringing back rock & roll looks. Chicago-set The Bear has led to numerous thinkpieces insisting the ‘bad boy’ personality is back. Saturday Night Live comedian Pete Davidson has found himself as one of the most sought-after men worldwide. Looking torn and dishevelled, as if you’ve just returned home after a week-long bender, is cool again; the clean-cut look is passe.
Just walk down Sydney Road on any given day and count the amount of tattoos you see, not to mention the uniform black outfits, even on the sunniest days. “Fashion in rock & roll is as big as the music itself,” as Dangereens put it.
What the Data Says
Here are just some of the artists who have reached the number one spot on the ARIA Albums Chart in 2022: Midnight Oil (Resist), Gang of Youths (angel in realtime.), Red Hot Chili Peppers (Unlimited Love), Northlane (Obsidian), Daniel Johns (FutureNever), Jimmy Barnes (Soul Deep 30), and Muse (Will of the People). Earlier this month, YUNGBLUD joined that list when he debuted atop the ARIA Albums Chart with his self-titled third album.
Looking at those names, what you notice is just how potent a mix of artists it contains. There are legacy rockers like the Chili Peppers and Jimmy Barnes, still as strong as ever, while modern carriers of rock and guitar music like Gang of Youths and YUNGBLUD are continuing the tradition. Again: rock’s death has been completely overstated.
It’s a diversity represented in Golden Robot Records’ roster, too. Iconic old outfits like Rose Tattoo, Faster Pussycat, and L.A. Guns rub shoulders with the new generation, rock & roll eras wonderfully solidifying together.
Did you worship, say, Eminem, as a teenager and dismay at his literal aping around in the metaverse today? You’re definitely not alone. One of the major reasons rock’s death was touted in the 21st century was the rise of the digital age; there was the particularly galling moment in 2012 when professional buffoon Skrillex sampled The Doors’ Jim Morrison proposing that electronic music was the future.
Morrison certainly wasn’t wrong but the future he predicted hasn’t turned out rosy. As things like NFTs have consumed the music landscape more and more, pushback was inevitable. There’s been a nostalgic rebellion of sorts, a return to vinyl and cassettes, tangible musical mementos that can be properly treasured. “We had to google what NFTs were before answering this question. Guess that pretty much sums it up,” Dangereens cheekily says.
Just imagine getting to the merchandise table at The Croxton only to find a QR Code to receive a digital download; “cool” is the last word that comes to mind in that scenario. As for other Golden Robot Records bands, you won’t find many computers in sight during recording. “You can’t shred a laptop the same way you can shred a rippin’ solo!” Deadwolff note.
According to Dangereens, one of the reasons rock & roll is on the comeback is because there’s a “rise in interest for rawer production.” “We feel like rock & roll in its purest form is about to shine again,” they claim. It’s a backs-to-basic approach that’s paying off handsomely.
Alexander-Erber agrees. “While digital technology is awesome, with endless possibilities and potential, there’s nothing quite like physically playing an instrument. “It’s raw, it’s real, and it gives you a physical and emotional connection to the music. You can’t beat that.”
If you weren’t making sourdough bread or watching Tiger King during lockdown, chances are you were picking up a new instrument to learn. “Shredding the Pandemic: The COVID Fender Boom,” Forbes hailed earlier this year, with the guitar maker experiencing an astounding increase in sales in the last couple of years.
Most of the great rock bands of yesteryear were born out of people being bored and disillusioned, which is exactly what happened en masse during COVID-19 lockdowns. As the music industry slowly returns to normality, new bands are popping up everywhere.
And established rockers have been relishing getting back to touring over the past year, with festivals and venues struggling to keep up with the amount of bands wishing to make up for lost time and cancelled tours.