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Ike Turner Plays Punk: One Band Redefines Success on Their Own Terms

By Monica Friedman July 10, 2011

The Drummer from Minutes Talks Concert Tickets, Social Networks, and Music

His first week of college in the big city (Grand Forks, North Dakota), rural kid Isaac “Ike” Turner attended his first punk show, “and the game was totally over. Honestly,” he says, “it changed my life.” A year later he was officially a drummer in his first band, and fifteen years and a few bands later, he’s still on the scene. Today, the thirty-something musician plays guitar and drums in a “straightforward, economical punk rock” band called Minutes, “the most satisfying music-related experience” of his life.

Minutes formed in 2008, counting Wire, Mission of Burma, Fugazi, and Neil Young among their influences. Turner counts his band mates, all experienced musicians, as his best friends and counts his blessings as a musician. Starting with no expectations, including never really expecting to play a single gig, the band has toured across the Midwest and produced an eponymous seven-inch EP (distributed byDischord Records), which, to their great surprise, sold out, and has since been made available as a high-quality free download on the website Bandcamp. Currently, they’re working on a full-length album, as well as collaborating with Seattle indie-rock group The Bismarck on another album.

In regard to giving away free music, Turner is “actually very proud,” about being able to share the EP. “Totally free,” he says. “You can put it on your iPod or burn a hundred copies and give them away. I’m really in support of that type of porous border in music.” Using Bandcamp provided a surprising metric of success for the group, allowing it to reach “a lot of folks that it wouldn’t have otherwise.” Although it’s possible to sell music through the site, as well as merchandise, Minutes has not taken this route.

Does giving away free music help sell concert tickets? Turner is skeptical. “At our level, which is very small in comparison to, say, Beach House or Weezer or Danzig, it doesn’t really make much of a dent at all in how many people show up to see us play.”Minutes isn’t working on creating a buzz. Rather, the guys in the band are “hard-hat and lunch box dudes, and have always been very workman-like…lots of touring, lots of recording, no financial success or accolades on any grand scale at all.” They’re making music for their own enjoyment, and they’re happy if their work provides others with the same enjoyment.

If giving away free albums doesn’t get fans to your gig, then, what does? According to Turner, it’s Facebook updates. The post that takes thirty seconds to write is “like a neat little reminder for your entire social group, and sometimes that makes a difference in the folks that come out.” The members of the band make an effort to update their fan page on Facebook a couple of times a month. They also maintain a MySpace profile, which, admittedly, has not been updated in some time, although they do try to respond to all comments left by the five hundred or so fans they have on that site.

For now, leaving messages in online forums for those prepared to seek out their messages works for the band. Turner wouldn’t change their methods: “I don’t think we’re too annoying with our current approach. I certainly do not want to be invading anyone’s inbox.” It’s enough for him “to provide a venue for our information to be available (we’re not recluses, after all, although we like Pynchon and Salinger a lot). I like the balance we’ve struck so far.”

In the real world, Minutes relies on flyers, screen-printed by two members of the band, to announce upcoming shows. What else does a punk rocker need to know about marketing? Not much, according to Turner, who believes “the most important aspect of being in a successful band is to never, ever think about selling yourself at all.” For Minutes, it truly is all about the music: “We happen to make music that we love, and we are lucky to play shows.” They don’t need outside help, and are pleased the band can function “without any intermediaries at all—not one person outside of our band makes decisions for us. Not one. We have no managers or screwballs or anything like that. So, as far as marketing, we really, honestly, can let the music speak for itself.”

True to their punk roots, Minutes keep their expectations low. Asked about his goals for the band, he says, “I hope we can keep practicing once a week or so, write songs, record songs, play shows, ad infinitum.” He’d love to tour again, for a week or two, “not necessarily a marathon one like we used to do” but mostly he’s happy playing great shows with great musicians and creating great experiences. He “would say having no goals is a great goal for us, because then we feel absolutely zero pressure whatsoever.” After a moment’s consideration, he adds, “Wait, let me take that back.  I want to finish our album before May. There. That’s my goal.”