We posted some questions to Russ Haines and the lead singer, Steve Rubin:
Q: Is it true that the members of the Rolling Stones hate you?
Steve: No, they don't hate us.
Apparently Mick Jagger stated that "Severe Tire Damage highlighted the democracy
of the Internet when they injected themselves as a warm-up band to our performance".
Those who hate us (or maybe not) are the technicians who handled the Internet
broadcast of the Rolling Stones.
Since our Internet staff is much more knowledgeable and experienced than theirs,
the quality of our MBone broadcast was far superior.
(Editor's note: Severe Tire Damage was back by Digital Systems Research Center, while
Thinking Pictures and Sun Microsystems handled the Stones concert).
What do you think about the future of live music on the Net?
Steve: Live music on the net has a future only if people are willing
to pay for it.
After all, we're living in a capitalist society.
As things are now, there's no way of making money by playing on the MBone.
But music is not unique in that the Internet is a cash challenge.
Until commercial entities find a way of making money on the Internet, it'll stay a toy.
Russ: [A sentence in Swedish with three dependant clauses that
can't be found in the English interview.] It can't help but be a big thing.
Certainly bandwidth is one of the most important issues that is slowing
it down. And there's also the question of who will pay for all the bandwidth.
Anyone with access to the Net now can't imagine living without email and
the web for immediate information. In the next few years, live video and
audio will certainly become just as familiar -and invaluable. From live theatre
as entertainment, came "moving pictures" which quickly became
"talkies" which became television as technology progressed. Pony
Express became telegraph which became telephone. The Internet is still
just beginning to be explored by those who are just discovering it. Some
of the goodies that will be developed in the next few years haven't even
been thought of yet.
What brought you together - your interest in computers, in music
or your dream of becoming rock'n'roll stars?
Steve: Our interest in music. It is only a side-effect
that we all work with computers...that is how we knew each other in the
first place. We did not dream of being rock&roll stars, but how can
we deny that it crossed our minds. After all, in this world, the heroes
are the rock&roll stars and the astronauts.
Russ: Soon after I started work at Digital Equipment Corporation's
Systems Research Center, I discovered there was a really bad rock and roll
band that rehearsed in the basement at night. I found myself playing guitar
and we began practicing regularly, rather than just frantically getting
ready for the next concert the day beforehand. While the musicianship of
the band progressed, we began playing songs with more musical qualities.
Rather than playing just "John Wayne was a Nazi" and "Corporate
Deathburger" we tried to find songs that were both danceable and easy
enough to play. During all this, most of the band members were single and
had nothing better to do than spend money on useless things. Musical toys
are certainly some of the best useless things to buy. We love toys. Huge
speaker stacks, wireless transmitters, audio effects --nothing was too
absurd. As we began to acquire toys, other friends found STD a good place
to spend time and money. Brad, our lighting and network effects wizard,
built a wireless remote-controlled stage lighting system. We had flashing
lights, sirens, colored spotlights. Then we added a theatrical fog machine.
Our MBone wizard, Lance, couldn't stop playing with it. Meanwhile, Steve
the vocalist, not wanting to be outdone by the guitarist and bass player,
bought an Apple Powerbook to be used solely as a lyrics storage device.
Steve searched the Internet and found over thirty megabytes of lyrics.
He can find the words to any song we've ever tried to play.
What do you take the most serious, your work or your music?
Russ: You'd be hard-pressed to find anything that a member of
STD takes seriously. When Mark, the drummer, was recently promoted to Chief
Technologist and had to fly to the corporate headquarters of Xerox every
week, he would schedule an overnight flight and sleep under an unoccupied
desk until the board meeting, then fly back that afternoon to make it to
band rehearsal that night. Mark, the bass player, occasionally has made
it to band rehearsal straight from the airport after presenting a mathematics
paper in in Europe. Steve, the vocalist, perhaps said it best, "Now
I know why I got my PhD, to play in Severe Tire Damage." Everyone
in the band is a leader in their field (except me: I haven't worked in
years) and works hard to stay there. We know that STD sucks, but it sucks
in such new and interesting ways...
Steve: Although we all take our work seriously, we know that it is
important to take your fun seriously, too, in order to retain sanity. The
band is very important. Some of us may indeed take it more seriously than
our work. I, for example, would sooner quit my job than the band.
How large was the audience on the Internet concerts?
Steve: Our largest internet audience was the Rolling Stones
warmup gig. We estimate that a few thousand people were watching (because
there were a few hundred sites connected). Our first MBone performance
garnered only a few listeners, but some as far away as Australia. Although
we are certainly not an international success, it is true that we are very
well known in computer circles. In fact, nearly every computer programmer/engineer
that I meet these days has heard of our band.
Russ: [A sentence that seems to say:] We were just interviewed
by a Korean TV crew! [Sentence created and emphasized in Sweden.]
Do you think this is a realistic alternative for "unknown"
bands to get a larger audience?
Russ: It may be easiest to think of it as a college radio station:
a place where you hear a lot of weird stuff, some of which may have redeeming
value. There are already sites on the Net that are virtual radio stations,
playing some of the better independant music available worldwide. Just
as word processors didn't make everyone a great writer and desk-top publishing
didn't make graphic artists and editors out of people, the ability to distribute
music and performance via the internet won't make everyone a virtual Paganini
or Marcel Marceau.It does however, give almost everyone who thinks they
have something to say an outlet. There's plenty of room for everyone, however,
and we look forward to watching everyone else soon.
What are your plans for the future?
Steve: Our next live concert will be on January 8, broadcast
from Anaheim, California (home of DisneyLand). We will be playing a live
concert for the Usenix conference, and broadcasting it onto the MBone.
Beyond that, we haven't made many plans, but we will surely play many more
MBone shows (we have done nearly two dozen so far).
Facts on MBone
The Multicast Backbone, MBone, is a virtual network on the Internet.
It allows audio and video to be sent in realtime over the Net. It currently
takes a large computer and knowledge to make it work. The first test [or
discussion?] was done at Stanford University with BBN in 1988. The next
Internet Protocol (IPv6) comes with built in multicasting.
More information on the MBone is on the MBone Information Web: http://www.mbone.com
There is more on the IP Multicasting Initiative, IPMI, at: http://www.stardust.com/multi
"We'll never be sharing a stage with the Rolling
Stones --except on the Internet."
Russ Haines, guitarist of Severe Tire Damage
On Severe Tire Damage's website there is on the Internet Concerts
and their CD. There is lots of stuff there to play with [or something].