Babyshambles' drummer speaks about his beloved genre...
Adam Ficek
13:07 2nd June 2009

In the first of his monthly blogs for Gigwise, Babyshambles drummer and Roses Kings Castles man Adam Ficek gives his take on indie music.

My beloved Indie.

The good old days, ya da ya da,  before MGMT, before The Libertines, before the Strokes, before Blurasis, before The Stone Roses, before the La's, there existed a very oddball, sixth-form, shadow-lurking music called 'Indie'. This strange animal was rarely seen during the dayllght hours of the mainstream pop charts, it would creep around in the common rooms, universities and the late night radio shows of a few brave presenters, only showing it's face to those willing to chase and discover. Today's 'Indie' is an altogether different beast, a strong, confident marketable genre-brand that proudly struts it's musical might around the jungles of Topman and H&M.

So where did it all wrong, or right? How did it transcend into the mass market?

Well, I blame 'Baggy' culture. Don't get me wrong, I love The Happy Mondays, The Charlatans, The Stone Roses and I even had a mild crush on the Inspirals, but it was these bands that first bridged the dangerous gulf between Indie and the mainstream. Basically they started to chart - and get exposure on a much higher level than before. So, Manchester was where 'it' was at, and the labels hit the north to sign up all the flare wearing indie kids. From what I remember (being a young indie kid from a suburb) it was down to the fact that dance music, which had itself crept into the charting arenas, and indie guitar music suddenly became two sides of the same ecstatic coin, creating a universally accepted, easily accessible, stylish movement for the mixed classes of Great Britain.

A prime example of this melting pot are the albums 'Screamadelica' by Primal Scream and The Happy Mondays' 'Pills 'n' Thrills and Bellyaches', which were both produced by big movers in the house scene of the early nineties. Thus, Indie guitar bands were no longer restricted to the uniform of baggy cardigans (The Smiths) and academia. Suddenly the average working class punter was buzzing to both The Stone Roses and Sasha – it was all one big stew of hip new music.

From the hedonistic dancing days of the early nineties, indie then evolved even further into the realms of pop with it's second evolutionary phase: the arrival of 'Britpop'.

The Britpop explosion changed Indie for good, there was no going back. The total media saturation of the once alternative band scene meant that any sense of underground was lost forever. Guitar bands were gods, groups were everywhere, the obvious kings of the time 'Oasis' and 'Blur' were making prime time news with their ongoing battles for the upper tiers of the pop charts. It was now the norm for indie bands to continually hover around the top 10 pop charts.  Record companies were racing to sign anyone with a guitar and a Beatles haircut. Indie was more lucrative than ever.

The Britpop scene came and went, but the Indie superbrand stayed with us and resulted in even more mainstream groups such as Coldplay and Travis completing and contributing to the next stage – or even the final stage of the indie journey, of Which I am/ was lucky enough to be a part of.  

This, perhaps, final stage of the indie/pop merger is what we are just coming out of now. Bands such as the Strokes, The Libs, Razorlight and Bloc Party were all bands that existed just as comfortably in the pop charts as they did/do in the underground 'Indie' scene. Just like the Britpop era, the scramble to sign up as many indie bands as possible has now resulted in Indie band saturation. As the recent arrival of fresh Female fronted Electro' Indie has shown, the kids have got bored with blokes with guitars!

So here we are.

What next? Don't get me wrong, being a Babyshambler I would love to have a number one single, so perhaps the last scribblings are irrelevant. The point I'm trying to get across is how an underground genre of music has changed and evolved into a mainstream brand going from something secret and special into a much bigger thing. That doesn't mean it's a good or bad thing - just a thing!

Ficek's final word:

I do smell a real leaning towards old school indie happenings, away from the charts, similar to that introverted animal that first attracted me to the genre.

It's now more important than ever to take the whole DIY approach. Now that's exciting! Music doesn't have to go through the vetting process of being a marketable source of revenue to be released, it's as easy as whacking up a demo on MySpace. This, as I said, is what excites me.