Louder Than War Logo

Louder Than War LogoAs Mick Jagger once never quite sang…

‘What can a poor boy (girl) do in these chaotic and filthy times but be a street cleaning, non plastic, pretty sober, eco conscious man…’

We are living in the middle of climate meltdown and its gone far past the point when multi millionaire rock stars wagged expensive fingers about the climate to salve their consciousnesses. The world is going to hell in a handcart or a diesel spewing splitter van and musicians are as much part of the problem and, potentially, the solution as anyone else. Are we trapped by the trappings that attract us to the form whilst destroying the planet whilst also feeling that we should be doing something?

Can we change our grubby high decibel planetary footprints or is waste and filth inherent in pop culture?

Is there a way of still bringing the noise without being pious and dull? Can we not fuck up the planet but still fuck up ourselves? Can we bring the noise without poisoning the air that we breathe?

Can music make any kind of contribution to the post polluted planet?

Most musicians are conscious types and understand the trap that they are in…what can we do?

Travel broadens the mind…fucks up the world

For many musicians this is the biggest conundrum.

Travel is an integral part of music culture. Is there any way round the whole culture of cheap flight economy that has kept many a touring band on the road? Is there a smarter way of touring without using a van? Can we get from A to B without poisoning C? 

It’s not so easy to cycle to the gigs (they are hundreds of miles away and that Ampeg bass amp doesn’t quite fit in the basket at the front!). Maybe it’s time to get venues to provide backlines? After all, in the sixties bands used to lug whole PAs around before the venues built them into their rooms. Carrying less gear around would be small change but would mean less fuel and smaller more economic vans.

Maybe the more drastic solution is that the 21st century musician will not be a long haul player. The future musician will have to deal with the local and not the continental and play gigs in a ten mile radius of where they live. Not highly aspirational really and spreading culture around the world has many positive aspects – sonic ambassadors! What happens if your audience is international and not in the local Dog and Duck? Is the world now so fucked that the only way to deal with this is digitally? Send in the holograms? Will future bands only be online and out of sight man?

Some have suggested getting the train instead of flying is one solution but who has that kind of time on their hands? And money? It’s not impossible to tour by train. I’ve done it myself but it takes planning and also gear being provided by venues.

Or is it time for scientists to speed up tech to make future aeroplanes less filthy for the environment? Is there a future travel that is practical and cheap enough for everyone to use and not just rich eco worriers? Can less messy planes be created? Is there a hold up in their creation?

Those chips don’t come cheap

Then there is digital technology… many keyboard warriors like to score a few points from the comfort of their own laptops and phones. ‘What if..’ they start typing, before taking the band down down for eco crimes. In the mean time they happily forget their own small piece of planetary destruction couched in their palms. Digital technology is messy for the environment … those chips don’t come cheap! Ugly open cast mines in Africa are another scar on the planet.

Plastic, Oh no, bands!

The whole kernel of music culture was always about waste. An embrace of plastic! The wonder stuff of a long lost future.

The sixties were a celebration of waste. Plastic culture and consumerism were the heart and soul off pop culture from Warhol to the Beatles and the Stones. It was a celebration of here today and gone tomorrow landfill zeitgeist.

The seventies was the apex of this with Bowie and glam rock. Plastic was the then future. When I was grappling with being teenager the future was this plastic stuff. Everything was going to made out of it and when you got bored you threw it away without a thought. Tupperware cups, plastic cups and saucers, plastic shoes, plastic futures, plastic pop culture and the ubiquitous plastic bags. 

Oh my! Plastic bags were the currency of the times. Everywhere you looked there were plastic bags – they were as modern as it got!

And as for CD and vinyl – precious artefacts or more earth destroying items?

Getting out of this mindset is going to take a sea change of of culture shifting. And that’s a sea that has a large plastic island in it. To get the grand old rock n roll ship to reccaliberate and onto a new course is going to take an army of Greta Thunbergs but, to be honest, Greta on her own is doing a damn fine job. This is a change that is not even righteous anymore but vital. Can the attraction of the throwaway reckless party culture at the heart of the form be remoulded? Can you still embrace the Keef Richards pirate lifestyle without making a mess? 

The party is over?

Already a whole chunk of under 25s are swerving the trad model of stoned immaculate. Bars in colleges are switching from booze to coffee and young bands are actually into it for the music and not the free drink. This is an alien concept to their parent’s generation but an interesting switch in attitude. For years the amount of waste at gigs from the bottom up has been phenonomal. Dressing rooms full of mountains of untouched and half eaten food, half drunk booze, waste, waste, waste…everywhere you look. Can this still be justified in the modern climate (change)?


And there is more…from what musical equipment is made out of, to ticket stubs, to lights and PAs and electricity surging through the room – everything that makes our culture so enticing, seductive, powerful and addictive is also so wasteful. Is there a way round this? Do we wait for scientists to create solutions or do we do it ourselves? Musicians have often been at the forefront of thinking and culture – many still are…the question is, as the Small Faces actually did sing once, – Watcha Gonna Do About It?

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Award winning journalist and boss of Louder Than War. In a 30 year music writing career, John was the first to write about bands such as Stone Roses and Nirvana and has several best selling music books to his name. He constantly tours the world with Goldblade and the Membranes playing gigs or doing spoken word and speaking at music conferences.


  1. Good article!
    Venues providing backlines would BA a big step.
    The move to downloads is a big move for those of us who love physical releases. Why do labels not include PDFs with releases? These could include essays, photographs and lyrics giving listeners something to connect them to the download. Size would be unlimited with no printing cost. I miss reading the booklet or looking at the sleeve when I buy a download.


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