Monday, October 3, 2011

Kickstart the Week: Love and Robots - A Rock Opera Double LP by Jimmy Magoo

For week two of our new feature Kickstart the Week, we have Jimmy Magoo's rock opera double album, Love and Robots.

Click below to visit and pledge to help Love and Robots on Kickstarter!!

Love and Robots is a 90 minute, double vinyl rock opera about love and robots that is going to be recorded and Released by Jimmy Magoo and his full band. It's inspired by writers such as Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Arthur Clarke, Philip K. Dick and Ursula Le Guin, as well as The Beatles, Led Zepplin, Pink Floyd, Queen, Rush and The Who.

The songs have been written and performed live as part of a 2010 stage show, but a full quality recording has never been completed. With the help of Kickstarter, this is now a possibility.

Jimmy also recorded an exclusive song to go along with this article. It was recorded quickly by himself in Garageband on his iPad (awesome!) to give everyone a sample of the music style and feel of the project.

Clcik to stream. Right click to download
(click through the jump for more info, photos, and a full interview with creator Jimmy Magoo)

Backers will receive a digital download of the album for $15.00, and a full double vinyl for $25.00, which is an amazing price for the format. The higher pledges offer custom art work, t-shirts, colored vinyl, custom toys, and if you're in the Chapel Hill, NC area, a full band concert just for you!

The goal is $18,000, and it's currently at $5,526. The costs will cover the analog recording, and the pressing of the vinyl. It's about a third of the way there with only 6 days to go, so now is the time to support this project. Spread the word to help Jimmy Magoo's dream come true!

I got a chance to ask Jimmy some questions over the weekend. I wanted to know more about the project, the band, and his thoughts on Kickstarter in general.

Thanks for doing this interview. It's our second edition of our Kickstart The Week feature, and also the start of Rocktober here at Fruitless Pursuits. I spent some time searching Kickstarter for the best "rock"  related project, and I came across Love and Robots. To me this one was by far the most interesting (a rock opera double LP!) and the video is very heartfelt. Before we get started, what can tell us about Love and Robots that we don't already know from the Kickstarter listing? How did the concept come about?

Love and Robots was greatly inspired by my love of both science fiction and rock and roll, as I mention on the site.  I appreciate the large scope, drama and power of both.

I am particularly drawn to the concepts of the usefulness of religion and myth in a technological age, what it means to be "alive" and the apparent duality of science and spirituality.  I tried to capture some of that in the narrative and song cycles of Love and Robots.  The protagonist may be mechanical, but the tale is about the very human feelings of love, loss, rejection, persecution, spirituality, sacrifice, redemption and release.  I'm also a huge fan of author and mythologist Joseph Campbell, and I used his works on myth and the hero's journey as a sort of template for the story.  What Campbell says, and I agree, is that all the best stories are the same story, MY story, YOUR story, OUR story, told over and over again, and we never grow tired of hearing them.

Sonically, I was reaching for a very 70s rock sound - solid 1-4-5 progressions, saturated guitars, epic drums, soaring vocals and harmonies.  While each song can be considered an homage of sorts to particular bands, albums and eras, I was also striving to make something that reflected my own unique musical voice, and also had a cohesive sound across the entire  album.  I think, and so far those who have heard the music agree, the band and I have made some really awesome original rock.

Tell us about the live band.

The live band is made up of Johnny Waken (guitar, piano, mandolin, vocals), Paul Ford (bass, cello, synthesizer), Austen McCall (drums, percussion, banjo), Jonathan Henderson (synthesizer, guitar, percussion, theremin), Claudia Lopez (vocals, percussion) and me (guitar, synthesizer, vocoder, vocals).  All of us have other musical projects we are involved in, but we have played together for several years as the "house band" for a local performance company, Paperhand Puppet Intervention, composing and performing music for huge puppet, mask and stilt extravaganzas.  Everyone in the band plays several instruments, and we enjoy doing a bit of the "round-robin", switching up instruments to keep what we play fresh for us and the audience.  I'm very lucky to be surrounded by such talent - they really make the difference between "good" and "great!"

What are your next plans for Love and Robots if you reach the funding goal? 

Well, we get in the studio and start cutting tracks in November - if we reach the goal, of course.  An old friend, John Plymale, is a lead engineer at Overdub Lane in nearby Raleigh, and is excited about helping with the project.  He's a master with both analog recording and Pro Tools, which is what this music really needs to sound the way it should, kinda old school meets new school.

What are your next plans for Love and Robots if you don't reach the funding goal?

That's a tough one, because I believe in visualizing success, and keeping a positive attitude.  At this point, though, with a week to go and so much money to raise, I have to start thinking of contingencies.  The money I'm attempting to raise would pay for everything - studio, engineer, production costs, musician's compensation, and reproduction of the album.  In fact, even if I make the goal, I will personally make no money - I've run the numbers many times, and after Kickstarter and Amazon get theirs, we're tapped out.  Maybe I'll try again for a smaller chunk, to get the band in the studio and cover basic recording costs, no more, and go from there.

Do you have any plans to revisit Love and Robots in both an audio & visual medium? Or any other formats? The stage production looks wonderful. 

Thanks, doing a full theatrical release was fun, but not very practical for sustained performances, which is what I'd really like to do.   I'm working on a new staged production of the show, and live performances across the Southeast - something not as large or unwieldy as last spring's full-on puppet show, more portable but just as powerful, focused on the band and the music, perhaps using shadow puppets and projections to add a visual element to the musical performance.  Of course, just watching the musicians is a feast for the eyes - many people returned after seeing the theater production in order to just watch the band!

I've been approached by a couple of local filmmakers about making a movie or several music videos, but I haven't thought a lot about that (yet).  There is also a comic book artist who is interested in making a comic of the story.  I love that idea, I can totally see it as a great companion piece to the music.

So, yes, I actually have a lot of ideas for more.  I'm just trying to get this music recorded and out there first.

Did you have any history with Kickstarter prior to launching your project?

I'm mostly just a fan of the site.  I love the grassroots aspect of funding big projects, how people are coming together to support ideas they like, people that may have otherwise never met.  Like you and me!  I think that Kickstarter, and the Internet in general, help empower an entrepreneurial spirit in individuals that is largely absent in our increasingly corporatized society.

How has the Kickstarter journey been so far? It's an unbelievable amount of work to run and maintain a Kickstarter campaign, especially with a higher funding goal. It's very rare that a project just takes off on it's own.

No kidding.  Just getting the video done and on the site was a lot for me to handle - until very recently I was taking all my pictures with actual film, and was still making posters the old school way at Kinkos!  I also got a page for the band and the music up on Reverbnation, the first time I've really had anything like a web presence.  It's not that I don't embrace technology, I've just never used it much from a production standpoint outside of email.  I've never had to reach out very far, as the local community here in North Carolina is very supportive of the arts in a more traditional way, through great local press and word of mouth.  I have thousands of fans who come see my live performances every year.  Getting that to translate into pledges on Kickstarter has been surprisingly difficult.

With my own Kickstarter projects, as well as others I've been involved with, I've found it hard to get out to the masses and beyond my friends and family. Have you had a similar experience?

Like I said, it has been challenging to get my longtime fans to visit the site.  It's even been hard to get my friends involved.  Everyone I know is deep into their own projects, and both time and money feel tight.  Of course people like my mom and sister pledged right away, but even my dad took his sweet old time kicking in.  And networking beyond that, into other people's circles, is almost nil.  So far, I've barely reached beyond the first degree of separation.  I try not to get too frustrated, but it can be disheartening.  Im trying to walk a fine line between aggressively getting folks to pledge, and not losing friends or fans in the process.

By the way, you reaching out to me raised my spirits quite a bit.  Whether it makes a difference in funding or not, your support means a whole lot to me!

Kickstarter as a platform is wonderful, but it's easy to get lost in the shuffle there. I primarily make board games and thought about making a "board games on Kickstarter" website, featuring games prior to their launch, during the campaign, and also afterwards for people to get ahold of a successful and if possible, even non-successful projects/creators. Do you have any ideas on how to improve Kickstarter, or how to expand on it?

Wow, that sounds great.  I agree, I feel a bit like a needle in a haystack there, but haven't thought a lot about how the site may be improved.  The failings so far feel like my own, not Kickstarter's.  I do wonder what kind of communication I'll be able to have with people who backed the project if it's not successful, since my contact with them right now is funneled through the site.  Does everything just go away if it fails to reach the goal?  That's my largest concern - staying in touch with people who already believe in my work, and are willing to pledge money toward my artistic success.  Maybe something that links people with creators of past projects would be a good start.

If we could get 1250 people to give $10 each, or even 12,500 people giving $1 each, you would hit your funding goal. Those dollar amounts are nothing in the grand scheme of things, but it's a lot of people. How can we make that happen?

That is the BIG QUESTION.  I think your website, and others like it, run by people of passion who are willing to reach out and try to make a difference for others could go a long way.

Right now I'm offering an incentive to everyone who pledges any amount, REGARDLESS OF THE PROJECT'S SUCCESS.  I'll be  sending all backers mp3s of music I'm recording myself at home, songs from Love and Robots and other musical ventures, to both thank the believers and to encourage others to pledge.  I'd be willing to sweeten the pot, maybe something special for those who pledge because of your involvement, as well.  Beyond that, I'll keep reaching out to those I know, and asking them to reach out in turn.

After your experience so far with Kickstarter, would you use the service again?

Yes, I'm sure I'll try, try again.  I'm a firm believer in learning how to be successful, especially when something fails.  Maybe I started too big, asked for too much, allotted too little time, didn't do enough PR pre-launch, made a crappy video, etc.   These are all things I can change the next time around, for this or other endeavors.  If this project falls through, I'll attempt to learn why, and how I can be successful in the future.  The only time you really fail is if you stop trying, right?

Thanks and good luck in your last week!!! We're really pulling for you.

..and just a quick update on our previously featured Kickstart the Week projects.

The celebrity card game, Famous Missions is 5% funded, with 22 days to go to reach it's $5500 goal.

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