It’s early in California and Peter DiStefano is about to jump on a plane to Argentina to perform at Lollapalooza, continuing his tradition of performing at every one since the festival’s inception. It’s not a terribly surprising record – DiStefano is an internationally known guitarist, songwriter, producer and composer. In 1993, as a guitarist he joined Jane’s Addiction vocalist (and Lollapalooza co-founder) Perry Farrell drummer Stephen Perkins, and bassist Martyn LeNoble to form the alternative-rock band, Porno for Pyros.
His life, as he will generously tell you, only got more interesting from there: In 1997, Perry and Stephen became involved with a Jane’s Addiction reunion tour, putting Porno for Pyros on hold. Meanwhile, Pete conquered drug and alcohol addictions and beat life threatening cancer. During these challenging personal times, he continued to play guitar and produce music with Rambient, Hellride, Venice Underground, and toured with Bauhaus singer Peter Murphy.
In the years since, DiStefano has continued touring with numerous bands, including his own Lance Herbstrong, as well as starting a music studio in Santa Monica, CA, composing film scores, and producing other artists.
In other words, he’s a busy guy. And now he’s bringing his music – and industry experience – to Muzooka.
How did you come to be hooked up with Muzooka?
I was introduced to it by a friend who said “You have to meet these guys”, so we met up in Hollywood and got a vibe for each other. It seemed to me that unlike the racket that is SoundCloud, Muzooka reminded me of something like Bandcamp but with a whole social thing. So I felt like it’s a cool place to do my sonic art. I’m really trying to push the boundaries with creative music, and Muzooka seems like the best place to do that.
Why is that?
Because everyone else – iTunes, etc. – doesn’t care about the artist and Muzooka does.
You’ve been in the industry for so long, and have worked on a lot of different sides of it – give us a brief layout of what you have in the works right now.
Just finished doing a song for [upcoming film] The Equalizer. My band Lance Herbstrong is getting really big, so that’s really exciting. And my solo album will be out this summer. I’m producing a lot of artists these days – which is another reason I was so drawn to Muzooka. I want to get all the artists I’m producing on there.
What are things that have changed in the industry over the course of your career?
When I started out, you had to either know someone who owned a recording studio and had people who knew how to run the tape machine and big boards and everything – you had to have a lot of money to even get it. And it was a close, tight thing. And now it’s wide open. It’s better to be a musician now than it was then.
Why do you think that is?
You’ve got a better chance at being heard and sharing your music. In those days, it was about impressing a record label and getting signed. Now, you can keep trying over and over. Back then, you had one chance. And you couldn’t do anything yourself. You had to have a cassette, you had to mail it to people. It was so much harder to get your music in front of anyone.
But on the other side, as easy as it is to share your music online, it’s even harder to actually get heard because there’s just such an overwhelming amount of content being pushed through the same channels. Is that what keeps record labels viable? Just having that added weight to promote music?
The actual record business of selling plastic…you’re shooting for Target and Wal-Mart. That’s to get a spot on the shelf, and traditional radio airplay, and to get on shows. Like Warner Brothers might own channel 5 and if The Voice is on channel 5, then Warner Brothers might put their artists on there. Or American Idol is on ABC, and ABC is owned by Disney, and Disney owns certain record labels, so those artists might get on there. It’s stuff like that.
But that’s obviously not the path that all (or even most) artists are taking.
No, definitely not. And the record deal isn’t enough anymore. Labels get these people on a bus, opening up for someone else. They need merchandise, and shows, and way more than an actual record. They call them “360 deals” now because everyone is downloading their music now. No one is selling plastic. So the labels are doing a lot more.
Do you think the internet has distracted artists from the importance of actually getting out and playing as many shows as possible?
Now there’s radio, internet, TV, movies, video games – it’s just getting it out there. But the traditional practice of getting up in front of a crowd is everything. If they hear something amazing, they’ll think “That’s what I saw.” Mike Watts says “records are just a flier for the gig.” What’s real, what’s alive, is your gig. The record is so people can listen to music when you’re not around.