One Fish, Two Fish, Three Fish… Bees – The Weird Hobbies of Rock Stars.

The life of mega-famous rock stars has got to get tedious after a while. Drug-fueled backstage orgies with supermodels undoubtedly begin to grate on a person’s nerves after a few years, and it makes sense that some famous musicians long to escape the fast-paced life of rock stardom.

A lot of famous musicians use their wealth in predictable ways, spending it on fancy cars, and buying castles and slaves. However, many have opened non-music related businesses on the side, just in case 1950’s critics were right, and that “rock and roll thing” turns out to be a fad, or if their second giant money room needs filling.

A few of those rockers have turned to ventures involving the natural world, and the animals that interest them.

That’s why…

Dalt

Dalt2

Six Joints!

Ween 2

And fishin…

ween3_1

Rockin…

Ween3

Ween6

Ian Anderson practices calling the salmon using flute magic.

steve-vai-5

Bees… Bee like the Bees…

1. Roger Daltrey Owns a Trout Farm


When not singing as the frontman of “The Who” and filling stadiums, Roger Daltrey is an avid fisherman. That’s why decades ago the rock legend designed and created a trout farm in Dorset, England, which he owned for almost 30 years.

Daltrey has been quoted as saying that “When I go fishing, I come away feeling like I’ve smoked half a dozen joints,” which in the language of rock stars means that he enjoys fishing a LOT. Despite selling millions of records and being voted by Rolling Stone magazine as one of the top 100 rock vocalists of all time, Roger Daltrey considers his four lake, twenty acre trout fishery to be the “proudest achievement of his life”, making one wonder if The Who was always just a day job he used to fund his passion for trout farming.

If Roger Daltrey had written most of “Tommy” instead of Pete Townsend, the rock opera about a deaf, dumb, and blind kid that plays pinball might have had the main character casting a fishing rod instead. Come to think of it, Daltrey’s iconic fringed leather vest from his Woodstock performance kind of looks like some fishing lures. Coincidence? No, probably not.

It should be noted that any Who completists would also have to hunt down a copy of “The Underwater World of Trout Vol. 1” which has the rock superstar dispensing wisdom on fishing for the creatures he so obviously loves.

2. Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull is a salmon farmer.

It turns out that besides being one of the few stars to bring the “Rock Flute” into heavy use, Ian Anderson also long ago invested in salmon farming as a way to fund the upkeep on a summer house. His timing was perfect, as the industry was just beginning, and after twenty years, the venture has become the UK’s biggest independent smoked salmon firm, employing more than 400 people.

Anderson claims that salmon farming is similar to rock and roll since both involve “a bit of theatricality”, but unless that means he dresses his salmon in little stage costumes, I’m going to assume that Mr. Anderson is hitting the same six joint regimens that Roger Daltry recommends for fishing.

No one could argue that Jethro Tull was an unsuccessful band, but with their heyday long passed, it’s likely that Anderson makes more money from salmon farming these days, than he does from touring behind “Aqualung.”

And these two Brits don’t have a stranglehold on fish-related side gigs.

3. Dean Ween of Ween is a fishing Guide.

I’ve been a big fan of Ween for over 20 years. They’re one of those bands that are big enough to be legitimately famous, but not so much so that they’re a household name. They’ve managed to put out an enormous catalogue of stylistically diverse music, and enjoy a huge cult following.

Mickey Melchiondo AKA “Dean Ween” or “Deaner” is the pot-fueled duo’s main guitar player. While probably not at quite the level of success as Roger Daltry or Ian Anderson, Dean has been a successful recording and touring artist for decades, and it’s presumable that he gets by OK without a day job.

But he has a day job.

He’s a fishing guide for his business “Archangel Sportfishing”, which operates offshore in New Jersey, as well as in the Delaware River. Judging from his websites and interviews on the subject, Deaner considers his fishing business a personal passion that he takes at least as seriously as his career in Ween.

He even cautions his potential customers that since they may be fans of Ween, that while he’s fine with talking about the music questions they may have, that they should spend more time trying to catch fish. Yup.

A few years back, the band released an album of nautical themed songs called “The Mollusk”, and at the time that seemed like a strange direction to take. It all makes sense now.


4. Steve Vai is an avid Beekeeper.

Pyrotechnic guitar slinger Stave Vai stumbled across his insect based passion after a swarm of bees attacked his wife’s garden one day. Attacking the problem in the same way that he attacks exotic guitar scales, Vai dove straight in and now maintains five colonies of honey bees. While not exactly a commercial venture, the hobby is a serious one, and Mr. Vai harvests the honey himself and auctions it off, donating the proceeds to charity.

Whether or not Steve Vai plays the bees blazing guitar solos is unknown, but let’s face it…he probably does.

I’m not sure why it’s surprising to me that these rockers all seem to have deep passionate interests involving the natural world, but it is. They’re just human beings after all, they don’t exist solely on stage.

But I don’t know too many regular people that are as interested in fishing or beekeeping. It’s pretty weird. 

Oh well, Avril Lavigne is a hunter and Iggy Pop likes to garden, so I guess we really can’t draw many conclusions about a person based on their musical careers.

That Song Is Gay! Homosexual Rock Stars And Songs That Slipped By Without Much Notice.

It’s pretty obvious that gay people are everywhere, and I
truly feel sorry for the straight folks that are still
seriously icked out by what other consenting adults choose
to do with their genitals. While I feel sorry for those
heterosexuals that harbor bad feelings towards gays, I don’t
feel inclined to tolerate their intolerance.

There is a strange disconnect that many straight people who
aren’t particularly supportive of gay rights seem to have in
regards to certain entertainers, and this goes way back. How
else do we explain the popularity of guys like Liberace or
Paul Lynde among straight audiences, from the 50’s onward?

Did straight people just think “Huh, those guys are
flamboyant…they’re entertainers!”, and accept the obvious
gayness of those entertainers and others like them without
making the obvious conclusion that yes, Liberace probably
fucked men on glittery sequined sheets when no one was
looking.

It just seems weird that during time periods where being a
gay person might quite literally get you killed in certain
places, our grandparents were happily watching old
queens like Paul Lynde or Charles Nelson Reilly ham it up on
The Hollywood Squares.

And that mental disconnect seems to have extended to rock
and pop musicians too, which is strange to me when you
account for the sometimes homophobic nature of many rock
fans. I still remember being in a junior high when Culture
Club hit the scene, and having everyone from the school’s
jock lunkheads population to a few of the teachers express
shock at how a “faggot like Boy George could be popular.”
That’s an actual quote from a teacher I had back then, by
the way.

So, in no particular order, here are a few of the pretty
obviously gay music stars and the songs about gay sex that
somehow were embraced by straight audiences without much
comment.

Queen – “Don’t Stop Me Now”

As strange as it seems in retrospect, Queen seems to have
had it both ways. They definitely cultivated an image that
toyed with gay themes early on, but they were also embraced
by mainstream rock fans, a lot of which were guys that
probably weren’t particularly nice to gay people. It also
seems ludicrous, but no one seemed to really make the
connection that Freddie Mercury was gay until pretty late in
the band’s career.

In actuality, he seems to have been bisexual. Mercury had a long
term girlfriend, despite apparently living more fully as a
gay man as time went on. He was pretty secretive with his
personal life, and a lot of folks just seemed to miss the
obvious.

Anyway, the lyrics to this song seem to reference sex with
men and women. Something pretty kinky is definitely going on
here:

“Tonight I’m gonna have myself a real good time
I feel ali-i-i-ive and the world it’s turning inside out
Yeah
I’m floatin’ around in ecstasy so,
Don’t stop me now,
Don’t stop me
Cuz I’m havin’ a good time, havin’ a good time

I’m a shooting star leaping through the skies
Like a tiger defying the laws of gravity
I’m a racing car passing by like Lady Godiva
I’m gonna go go go
There’s no stopping me

I’m burnin’ through the skies yeah
Two hundred degrees
That’s why they call me Mister Fahrenheit
I’m trav’ling at the speed of light
I wanna make a supersonic man out of you
Don’t stop me now
I’m havin’ such a good time, I’m havin’ a ball
Don’t stop me now
If you wanna have a good time, just gimme a call
Don’t stop me now, cuz I’m havin’ a good time
Don’t stop me now, yes I’m havin’ a good time I don’t wanna
stop at all
Yeah

I’m a rocket ship on my way to Mars
On a collision course
I am a satellite I’m out of control
I am a sex machine ready to reload
Like an atom bomb about to
Oh oh oh oh oh explode!

I’m burning through the sky Yeah!
Two hundred degrees
That’s why they call me Mister Fahrenheit
I’m trav’ling at the speed of light
I wanna make a supersonic woman of you

Don’t stop me
Don’t stop me
Don’t stop me
(Hey hey hey)
Don’t stop me
Don’t stop me
Ooh ooh ooh
(I like it)
Don’t stop me
Don’t stop me
(Havin’ good time, good time)
Don’t stop me don’t stop me
Woooooooh (alright)

***guitar solo***

Ooh I’m burning through the sky yeah!
Two hundred degrees
That’s why they call me Mister Fahrenheit
I’m trav’ling at the speed of light
I wanna make a supersonic man out of you

Don’t stop me now
I’m havin’ such a good time
I’m havin’ a ball
Don’t stop me now
If you wanna have a good time (alright) just gimme a call
Don’t stop me now (havin’ a good time)
Don’t stop me now (yes)
Havin’ such a good time, I don’t wanna stop at all!
La da da da da daa, la da dada la dada da da da,
La dada da da da da da………”

All that “I’m a sex machine ready to reload” and “I wanna
make a supersonic man out of you.” Yeah, I’m going to make a leap and
assume that’s about sex with guys.

2. Lou Reed – Walk on the Wild Side

A great song, and one that got, and still gets, a fair
amount of radio airplay. Probably the one legitimate big
hit Lou Reed had with mainstream rock audiences. And the
lyrics are all about the gays that Lou knew from Andy
Warhol’s Factory scene. Besides the obvious “Shaved her legs
and then he was a she” tell, there’s that whole section
about Candy Darling and Joe Dallesandro:

“Holly came from Miami F.L.A.
Hitch-hiked her way across the U.S.A.
Plucked her eyebrows on the way
Shaved her legs and then he was a she
She said, hey babe, take a walk on the wild side,
Said, hey honey, take a walk on the wild side.

Candy came from out on the island,
In the backroom she was everybody’s darling,
But she never lost her head
Even when she was giving head
She says, hey baby, take a walk on the wild side
Said, hey babe, take a walk on the wild side
And the colored girls go,

Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo
Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo
Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo
Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo
Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo
Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo
Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo

Little Joe never once gave it away
Everybody had to pay and pay
A hustle here and a hustle there
New York City is the place where they said:
Hey babe, take a walk on the wild side
I said hey Joe, take a walk on the wild side

Sugar Plum Fairy came and hit the streets
Lookin’ for soul food and a place to eat
Went to the Apollo
You should have seen him go, go, go
They said, hey Sugar, take a walk on the wild side
I said, hey babe, take a walk on the wild side, alright,
huh

Jackie is just speeding away
Thought she was James Dean for a day
Then I guess she had to crash
Valium would have helped that bash
She said, hey babe, take a walk on the wild side
I said, hey honey, take a walk on the wild side
And the colored girls say

Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo
Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo
Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo
Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo
Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo
Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo
Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo”

3. Pete Townshend – “Rough Boys”

Pete Townshend has left a few hints that he enjoys the touch
of another man, but the lyrics to this song make that pretty
clear.

“Tough boys running the streets
Come a little closer rough toys
Under the sheets nobody knows her

Rough boys don’t walk away
I very nearly missed you
Tough boys come over here
I wanna bite and kiss you

I wanna see what I can find
Tough kids take a bottle of wine
When your deal is broken
Ten quid she’s so easy to find
Not a word is spoken

Rough boys don’t walk away
I’m still pretty blissed here
Tough boy I’m gonna carry you home
You got pretty pissed dear

Gonna get inside you
Gonna get inside your bitter mind

Rough boys don’t walk away
I wanna buy you leather
Make noise try and talk me away
We can’t be seen together

Tough kids what can I do?
I’m so pale and weedy
Rough fits in my hush puppy shoes
But I’m still pleading

Tough boys running the streets
Come a little closer
Rough toys under the sheets
Nobody knows her

Rough boys don’t walk away
I very nearly missed you
Tough boys come over here
I wanna bite and kiss you
I wanna see what I can find”

Yeah, there are a couple of mentions of a “her,” but
everything else sounds like an anthem to fabulous gay
leather sex to me. I just wonder how this song was
originally accepted by The Who’s male fans.

4. Mott The Hoople – “All The Young Dudes”

The song was written in the early 70’s by David Bowie who
was busy pissing off homophobes with his Ziggy Stardust
persona, so maybe it’s not surprising that this classic rock
radio staple has gay references in it. It’s a great song,
but again I wonder if rock fans back then just mentally
scanned over the line about “Lucy, (a “He”)dressing like a
queen.”

“Well Billy rapped all night about his suicide
How he kick it in the head when he was twenty-five
Speed jive don’t want to stay alive
When you’re twenty-five
And Wendy’s stealing clothes from marks and sparks
And Freddy’s got spots from ripping off the stars from his
face
Funky little boat race
Television man is crazy saying we’re juvenile deliquent
wrecks
Oh man I need TV when I got T-Rex
Oh brother you guessed
I’m a dude dad
All the young dudes (hey dudes)
Carry the news (where are ya)
Boogaloo dudes (stand up come on)
Carry the news
All the young dudes (I want to hear you)
Carry the news (I want to see you)
Boogaloo dudes (and I want to talk to you all of you)
Carry the news

Now Lucy looks sweet cause he dresses like a queen
But he can kick like a mule it’s a real mean team
But we can love oh yes we can love
And my brother’s back at home with his Beatles and his
Stones
We never got it off on that revolution stuff
What a drag too many snags
Now I’ve drunk a lot of wine and I’m feeling fine
Got to race some cat to bed
Oh is there concrete all around
Or is it in my head
Yeah
I’m a dude dad
All the young dudes (hey dudes)
Carry the news (where are ya)
Boogaloo dudes (stand up)
Carry the news
All the young dudes (I want to hear ya)
Carry the news (I want to see you)
Boogaloo dudes (and I want to relate to you)
Carry the news
All the young dudes (what dudes)

Carry the news (let’s hear the news come on)
Boogaloo dudes (I want to kick you)
Carry the news
All the young dudes (hey you there with the glasses)
Carry the news (I want you)
Boogaloo dudes (I want you at the front)
Carry the news (now you all his friends)
All the young dudes (now you bring him down cause I want
him)
Carry the news
Boogaloo dudes (I want him right here bring him come on)
Carry the news (bring him here you go)
All the young dudes (I’ve wanted to do this for years)
Carry the news (there you go)
Boogaloo dudes (how do you feel)
Carry the news”

5. Judas Priest – Take your pick, really

Ok, Judas Priest is a favorite band of mine, and has been
for at least thirty years. I discovered them in their
heyday when I was a young teen in the early 80’s. I’ve been
around the metal scene for that long, and while it seems so
obvious now, metal fans didn’t seem to realize that Rob
Halford was very clearly a gay man. I almost feel like he
was being playful and seeing how far he could take his
leather daddy image without the band’s fans figuring it all
out. And that’s without the obvious lyrical content of many
of their songs. Let’s see…we have:

“Eat Me Alive”

Wrapped tight around me
Like a second flesh hot skin
Cling to my body
As the ecstasy begins
Your wild vibrations
Got me shooting from the hip
Crazed and insatiable let rip
Eat me alive
Sounds like an animal
Panting to the beat
Groan in the pleasure zone
Gasping from the heat
Gut-wrenching frenzy
That deranges every joint
I’m gonna force you at gun point
To eat me alive
Bound to deliver as
You give and I collect
Squealing impassioned as
The rod of steel injects
Lunge to the maximum
Spread-eagled to the wall
You’re well equipped to take it all
So eat me alive”

Ok, so I “guess” this could be some S&M tune involving
heterosexuals, but I’m going to take a wild guess that it’s
about guys getting it on based on everything else I know
about Rob Halford.

The song kicks ass by the way.

Then there’s

“Hot Rockin'”

“I’ve done my share of workin’ out
I wanna go some place where I can scream and shout
Show me the lights, where I can find
The only thing I need to give me peace of mind

I wanna go
I wanna go
I wanna go
Hot rockin’

I wanna go
I wanna go
I wanna go
Hot rockin’

Where is the spark that kicks the air?
Where is the energy that charges everywhere?
I see the crowd, I hear the roar
I feel my body start to leave the ground and soar

I wanna go
I wanna go
I wanna go
Hot rockin’

I wanna go
I wanna go
I wanna go
Hot rockin’

I’m goin’ out in search of the bright lights
Somehow I feel that tonight is the right night
I’m almost there I’ve got the vibration
It’s coming strong from this generation

My blood is hot, from now on I’m set free
My pulse is hot, so don’t try to stop me
‘Cause this is it and I’m hot rockin’

Don’t let it stop, don’t let it end
Please let it carry on and on and on again
I get so high knocked off my feet yeah
This is the only way I want, I want, I want, I want

I wanna go
I wanna go
I wanna go
Hot rockin’

I wanna go
I wanna go
I wanna go
Hot rockin’

It’s all I want
It’s all I crave
I just want to go
Hot rockin'”

To be fair, there’s nothing particularly “gay” about the
lyrics to this song…until you see the video that goes
with it. Then you get footage of the band working out,
lifting weights shirtless, then hanging out in a sauna
together, before moving into footage of them playing on
stage where they are “flaming”. Literally, stuff is on
fire.

And it’s another great song.

Then one of their biggest hits.

“Living After Midnight”

“Livin’ after midnight, rockin’ to the dawn
Lovin’ till the mornin’, then I’m gone, I’m gone

I took the city ’bout one a.m.
Loaded, loaded
I’m all geared up to score again
Loaded, loaded

I come alive in the neon light
That’s when I make my moves right

Livin’ after midnight, rockin’ to the dawn
Lovin’ till the mornin’, then I’m gone, I’m gone

Got gleaming chrome, reflecting steel
Loaded, loaded
Ready to take on every deal
Loaded, loaded

My pulse is racing, I’m hot to take
But this motor’s revved up, fit to break

Livin’ after midnight, rockin’ to the dawn
Lovin’ till the mornin’, then I’m gone, I’m gone

I’m aiming for ya
I’m gonna floor ya
My body’s comin’
All night long

The air’s electric, sparkin’ power
Loaded, loaded
I’m getting hotter by the hour
Loaded, loaded

I set my sights and then home in
The joint starts flying when I begin

Livin’ after midnight, rockin’ to the dawn
Lovin’ till the mornin’, then I’m gone, I’m gone

Livin’ after midnight, rockin’ to the dawn
Lovin’ till the mornin’, then I’m gone, I’m gone
Livin’ after midnight, rockin’ to the dawn”

Sure a lot of talk about being “loaded”, and…it just
sounds like it’s about gay leather sex.

I’ll take a moment to step on a small soap box in regards to
Judas Priest. Heavy metal fans are often accused of being
degenerate scumbags, and being so macho and intolerant that
gays are mistreated within the subculture. While there are
certainly homophobic metal fans out there, I’ve found that
by and large the fans don’t care, and in the case of high
profile gays like Rob Halford, they are incredibly
supportive.

Anyone that could like heavy metal and disrespect or
mistreat a guy like Rob Halford is scum with no sense of
what that man has done for this form of music. Metal simply
would not have been the same without him, and his
contributions to metal music and culture cannot be
diminished.

Fortunately, most metal heads seem to “get” that.

For my final example, I’ll move on to one of rock and roll’s
original stars.

6. Little Richard – Tutti Frutti

Yep,it’s pretty obvious to modern folks that Little Richard
is some sort of gay or bisexual alien, and that his
contribution to early Rock and Roll can’t be trivialized.
His banshee howls are such a part of the music that maybe
only Chuck Berry really offered any competition way back
then.

I don’t know if mainstream audiences back in the 1950’s knew
Little Richard was gay, but I’m guessing not. More likely
the squares just thought he was another dangerous and crazy
Rock and Roll-playing black man that was going to corrupt
young white kids, and I bet the kids just ate the music up
without really noticing or caring that Little Richard dug
dudes.

But the lyrics to “Tutti Frutti” made his homosexuality as
clear as glass, since some of the original lyrics, the
ones he’d been using while performing in what passed for gay
clubs way back then, included these:

“A wop bop a loo mop, a good goddamn!
Tutti frutti, loose booty
If it don’t fit, don’t force it
You can grease it, make it easy.”

So that line got changed when he recorded the song, although
the teens that were the major audience for early rock and
roll might have benefitted from the original version. I can
see lots of scary conversations after the sock hop:

“Golly gee Peggy Sue, you can still technically say you’re a
virgin if we just stick to anal. Little Richard
approves!”

How Little Richard survived in the South as a black gay man
in the 1950’s I’ll never know, but I’m glad he did. I assume that,
like the other musicians on this list, he benefitted from a
form of mass delusion, where normally intolerant people just
somehow collectively decided that the rock stars they loved
couldn’t possibly be gay or be singing about getting it on
with other dudes, because…they just couldn’t be.

So it’s been going on since the very beginning. The next
time you hear some Neanderthal rock fan call gay people
something nasty, remind him or her that the very music they
love the most has been shaped by gays since its invention.

20140314-092914.jpg

Nope. Not gay at all.

 

20140314-092922.jpg

20140314-092932.jpg

I’m sensing a trend…

 

20140314-092939.jpg

20140314-092945.jpg

Obviously gay in the 1950’s South. If that’s not a rock and roll rebel, nothing is.

 

The Kids Aren’t Alright – Why Older Generations Hate Modern Music.

Over the last few years I’ve spent a significant amount of time on online guitar forums. I play guitar, have been in bands, and it’s something I enjoy talking about. I’ve made a few good friends on those forums, but I’ve also become sadly aware of a mindset that’s incredibly common among musicians.

The attitude that any music outside of what they personally enjoy sucks.

There is often a generational dynamic at work here. It’s sad, but a lot of people, particularly older ones, seem to think that music is at some all-time low as far as quality goes. That music just sucks now, and that the kids (it always seems to be the assumption that young people have caused this) have terrible taste these days, and have in some way caused a degenerative effect on music.

I have a few things to say about this. I’m currently in my early 40’s, and am a member of “Generation X”. I distinctly remember growing up and coming of age under the shadow of my parents’ generation. Many of the Baby Boomers I grew up around seemed to possess the attitude that they had experienced the best period for youth culture and music to ever come along, and that nothing else would ever happen to rival it.

I’m not saying that every person over the age of 35 was a boorish asshole when I was a teen, but I certainly did hear a LOT of criticism over the music that was popular with people my age, and was told that in some cases it was worthless or even “dangerous.” It’s an interesting thing to be lectured on the morals presented in modern (at the time) rock music by people that had lived through a youth culture that seemed centered on sex, drugs and rock and roll.

Now, I’m not here to take potshots at Baby Boomers specifically, or at the music and youth culture of the 1960’s and early 1970’s. It’s pretty clear that the time period WAS a high point for rock and roll, but I think some of these older folks forget that what they’re really celebrating is their own youth. Something long gone now, that is just a song away in their memory.

That’s what music does, one of its functions. It’s a way to reconnect to one’s past. So of a person was 17 in 1972 or so, it makes perfect sense that to them, that era is the “best music ever made.” For them, that’s the case.

The music that we listen to when we are young will always be precious to us. If, the first time you got laid, a song by “Moby Grape” happened to be on the radio, you’ll always have a soft spot in your heart for “The Grape,” but try to explain the appeal to a teenager today. Good luck with that. Of course there are a handful of bands that are just generally accepted as being “classic,” and will often appeal to young people today as much as they did 40 years ago, but those are the exceptions. There has always been a lot of shitty music being made, and the ratio of throwaway garbage to gold hasn’t changed that much.

Back to MY youth. When I was coming of age in the 1980’s, adults often dismissed the music my generation listened to as garbage.

In my case, I basically turned my back on mainstream music and gravitated towards underground music of various types. I am thankful for that, because it opened my eyes to a world of possibility that I might not have known existed had I continued to listen to the music my parents grew up on.

But the music that me and my friends listened to was as precious to us as the music my parent’s generation had embraced in their youth. Most people will always think that the music they loved between the ages of 15 and 25 is the best ever made.

And young people NEED their own identity, and music of rebellion. Those needs aren’t going to be filled by listening to the same rock bands their grandparents listened to. How could they be?

So now I come to a sad realization about some people my own age. We DID live through another true golden age for rock music, perhaps the last generation to really grow up to a soundtrack consisting largely of music that could be accurately called “rock.”

And while rock music probably will never truly die, it doesn’t own the market share for today’s youth that it held for the previous several decades. How could it? There’s nothing awesome about jamming to the same songs your grandpa and grandma had sex to. Young people today want their own experiences and that requires a soundtrack of their own too. So popular music will continue to warp and mutate as time goes on. Sure, there will be a few bands that try to ape the sounds and look of the past, and that’s cool. But it’s a put on.

So when anyone over the age of 35 is lamenting the state of “music today,” remember that what they’re really belly-aching over is their own aging process. There has always been great music, and likely always will be. Just because a format one person specifically likes is not as popular on the radio as it once was does not mean that it has disappeared or been destroyed by “rap” (a commonly criticized form of music that seems to particularly anger old fogies), it means that you might just have to look for it a little bit harder.

In fact, I would say that today great music is more common and varied than ever. There’s just not one genre that dominates the airwaves. That’s a good thing really.

It disturbs me when I see people my age criticize the music of today’s young people. Does a lot of it suck? Yes, absolutely. But that’s always been the case. And always will be.

Remember what it was like to have old people call the music you and your friends listened to “garbage”? Don’t be that old person today.

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This “might” be Led Zeppelin. There were really cool.

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But there’s still a lot of cool music being made. Also, nice neck wear.

The one good thing is that being told their music and experiences are worthless will inspire a small number of those young people to pick up instruments and make some noise. Some of it may even be great some day. And that’s a beautiful thing.

8 Rock Songs That Have Started To Creep Me Out.

There have been popular songs with creepy or spooky lyrics since the beginning of rock music. Sure, there are entire genres of rock music that are intentionally dark and scary, but when you filter out songs by shock rockers, heavy metal bands, and gothic groups, there are still plenty of songs that seem a little “Off” in disturbing ways.

Here are a few of those I thought of off the top of my head, and I will probably add more as time goes on:

Wildfire – Michael Martin Murphey (1975)

This gentle sounding 70’s soft rock tune is a weird one for sure. The lyrics:

“She comes down from Yellow Mountain
On a dark, flat land she rides
On a pony she named Wildfire
With a whirlwind by her side
On a cold Nebraska night

Oh, they say she died one winter
When there came a killing frost
And the pony she named Wildfire
Busted down it’s stall
In a blizzard he was lost

She ran calling Wildfire [x3]
By the dark of the moon I planted
But there came an early snow
There’s been a hoot-owl howling by my window now
For six nights in a row
She’s coming for me, I know
And on Wildfire we’re both gonna go

We’ll be riding Wildfire [x3]

On Wildfire we’re gonna ride
Gonna leave sodbustin’ behind
Get these hard times right on out of our minds
Riding Wildfire”

If I read this right, the song is about some spooky ass ghost and her ghost pony, coming down off of a mountain in Nebraska somewhere, to claim the soul of a hard working farmer, who seems to long for the sweet embrace of death. That’s some heavy shit right there. Great song to listen to right before bed.

2. D.O.A. – Bloodrock. (1971)

Ok, this is one example of a song that was written by a band that was probably trying to be spooky. I include it here because as far as I know, it was Bloodrock’s only truly scary song, and the band itself is still a relatively obscure one that scored a hit with this creepy oddity. Being a Texas band, a lot of radio stations will play this tune around Halloween in my neck of the woods.

The Lyrics:

“I remember, we were flying low,
And hit something in the air

Laying here, looking at the ceiling,
Someone lays a sheet across my chest.
Something warm is flowing down my fingers
Pain is flowing all through my back.

I try to move my arm and there’s no feeling
And when I look, I see there’s nothing there.
A face beside me stopped the totally bleeding
The girl I knew has such a distant stare.

I remember, we were flying a-low,
And hit something in the air.

Then I look straight at the attendant,
His face was pale as it could be
He bends and whispers something softly,
He said “there’s no chance for me”.

I remember, we were flying a-low,
And hit something in the air.

Life is flowing out my body,
Pain is flowing out with my blood.
The sheets are red and moist where I’m lying
God in Heaven, teach me how to die.

I remember, we were flying a-low,
And hit something in the air.”

Yeah… I’ll remember that stuff about flying low and hitting something in the air the next time I board a plane. Thanks Bloodrock!

3. Obsession – Siouxie and the Banshees (1982)

This is another case where some people might cry foul and complain that Siouxie and the Banshees was a gothic band, so it makes sense that their songs are creepy, but the band carved out their own identity and was never really a cookie cutter goth band. They don’t have a lot of songs specifically about death or vampires, or any of the cornier themes that many gothic bands seemed to gravitate towards.

No, what makes this song creepy, is that it describes a person obsessed with another. Anyone that used to date within their local gothic scene would probably find a lot to relate to and to be creeped out by.

The lyrics:

“Do you hear this, breath it’s an obsessive breath
Can you feel this beat? It’s an obsessive heart beat
Waiting to be joined with its obsession

I close my eyes but I can’t sleep
The thin membrane can’t veil
The branded picture of you

The signs and signals show, the traffic lights say, go
Again you baffle me, pretending not to see, oh, me

I broke into your room, I broke down in my room
Touched your belongings there and left a lock of my hair
Another sign for you

You screamed into my face, get the hell out of my place
Another sign for me, can you forgive me?
For not understanding your ways

You know sometimes you take it all too far
Then I remember it’s a game between you and me
A divine test for us two

It’s all in my imagination
Yes they even say that our mission
Is only my obsession

Do you hear this breath? It’s an oppressive breath
Suffocating in the poison of your obsession
Can you feel this beat? It’s a possessive beat
Your pulse stops in the claws of your obsession

The signs and signals show, the traffic lights say, go
Again you baffle me pretending not to see, oh, me”

Yeah… shiver.

4. I Can’t Stand Losing You – The Police (1978)

The Police started out as a relatively edgy band, but there’s something incongruent about the mostly non threatening and happy image the band had, and this dark song about some guy about to kill himself to guilt trip his recent ex.

The Lyrics:

“I’ve called you so many times today
And I guess it’s all true what your girl-friends say
That you don’t ever want to see me again
And your brother’s gonna kill me and he’s six feet ten

I guess you’d call it cowardice
But I’m not prepared to go on like this

I can’t, I can’t, I can’t stand losing
I can’t, I can’t, I can’t stand losing
I can’t, I can’t, I can’t, I can’t stand losing you

I can’t stand losing you
I can’t stand losing you
I can’t stand losing you

I see you sent my letters back
And my L.P. records and they’re all scratched
I can’t see the point in another day
When nobody listens to a word I say

You can call it lack of confidence
But to carry on living doesn’t make no sense

I can’t, I can’t, I can’t stand losing
I can’t, I can’t, I can’t stand losing
I can’t, I can’t, I can’t stand losing

I can’t, I can’t, I can’t stand losing
I can’t, I can’t, I can’t stand losing
I can’t, I can’t, I can’t stand losing

I guess this is our last goodbye
And you don’t care, so I won’t cry
And you’ll be sorry when I’m dead
And all this guilt will be on your head

I guess you’d call it suicide
But I’m too full to swallow my pride

I can’t, I can’t, I can’t stand losing
I can’t, I can’t, I can’t stand losing
I can’t, I can’t, I can’t stand losing

I can’t, I can’t, I can’t stand losing
I can’t, I can’t, I can’t stand losing
I can’t, I can’t, I can’t stand losing

I can’t, I can’t, I can’t stand losing
I can’t, I can’t, I can’t stand losing
I can’t, I can’t, I can’t stand losing

I can’t, I can’t, I can’t stand losing
I can’t, I can’t, I can’t stand losing
I can’t, I can’t, I can’t stand losing

I can’t, I can’t, I can’t stand
Can’t stand losing you”

Yep… That’s some pretty dark subject matter there lost in that mountain of “Can’t” , and it’s particularly dark all wrapped up in the context of a catchy pop song.

5. I Don’t Like Mondays – The Boomtown Rats (1979)

Here’s another innocent sounding song, after all who DOES like Mondays?

The Lyrics:

“The silicon chip inside her head
Gets switched to overload.
And nobody’s gonna go to school today,
She’s going to make them stay at home.
And daddy doesn’t understand it,
He always said she was as good as gold.
And he can see no reason
‘Cause there are no reasons
What reason do you need to be shown?

Tell me why?
I don’t like Mondays.
Tell me why?
I don’t like Mondays.
Tell me why?
I don’t like Mondays.
I want to shoot
The whole day down.

The telex machine is kept so clean
As it types to a waiting world.
And mother feels so shocked,
Father’s world is rocked,
And their thoughts turn to
Their own little girl.
Sweet 16 ain’t so peachy keen,
No, it ain’t so neat to admit defeat.
They can see no reasons
‘Cause there are no reasons
What reason do you need to be shown?

Tell me why?
I don’t like Mondays.
Tell me why?
I don’t like Mondays.
Tell me why?
I don’t like Mondays.
I want to shoot
The whole day down.

All the playing’s stopped in the playground now
She wants to play with her toys a while.
And school’s out early and soon we’ll be learning
And the lesson today is how to die.
And then the bullhorn crackles,
And the captain crackles,
With the problems and the how’s and why’s.
And he can see no reasons
‘Cause there are no reasons
What reason do you need to die?

Tell me why?
I don’t like Mondays.
Tell me why?
I don’t like Mondays.
Tell me why?
I don’t like Mondays.
I want to shoot
The whole day down.”
Hmmm… A few weird lyrics about killing and shooting in this pop tune. What’s up with that?

The song is about the 1979 school shooting committed by a teenager named Brenda Anne Spencer in San Diego. She managed to kill two men and wound eight students and Alice officer before being stopped.

When asked what her murderous motivation had been Spencer replied:

“I don’t like. Mondays. This livens up the day.”

6. Brown Sugar – The Rolling Stones (1971)

My mom used to dance her ass off to this song when I was growing up, and it’s a pretty good tune. I could never understand the lyrics, and I’m sure my mom couldn’t either, because if she had, she might have chosen a different song to dance to.

The Lyrics:

“Gold coast slave ship bound for cotton fields
Sold in a market down in New Orleans
Scarred old slaver knows he’s doing alright
Hear him with the women just around midnight

Brown sugar
How come you taste so good?
Brown sugar
Just like a young girl should

Drums beating, cold English blood runs hot
Lady of the house wonderin’ where it’s gonna stop
House boy knows that he’s doing alright
You shoulda heard him just around midnight

Brown sugar
How come you taste so good, now?
Brown sugar
Just like a young girl should, now

Get along, brown sugar
How come you taste so good, baby?
Got me feelin’ now, brown sugar
Just like a black girl should

I bet your mama was a tent show queen
Had all the boyfriends at sweet sixteen
I’m no schoolboy but I know what I like
You shoulda heard me just around midnight

Brown sugar
How come you taste so good, baby?
Brown sugar
Just like a young girl should, yeah

I said, “Yeah, yeah, yeah
How come you, how come you taste so good?
Yeah, yeah, yeah
Just like a, just like a black girl should
Yeah, yeah, yeah”

Ah, the realization that for most of your life you’ve been jamming to a song that seems to be about a scary old slave owner raping his female slaves. Priceless.

That’s a nice Segway into my next creepy picks, which are of a similar theme.

7. You’re Sixteen, You’re Beautiful, and You’re Mine – Johnny Burnette (1960)

Ok, I’ll admit that this one is more of contextual creepiness based on the passage of time. I hear this song on the radio at work about once a day, and it’s happy sounding delivery is not the problem. It hails from an era where most of the people listening to rock and roll were teenagers, and in 1960, it was still relatively common for girls to get married at that age. The song gains extra creep points from the Ringo Starr cover version.

The Lyrics:

you come on like a dream, peaches and cream
lips like strawberry wine
you’re sixteen, you’re beautiful and you’re mine

you’re all ribbons and curls, ooh what a girl
eyes that sparkle and shine
you’re sixteen, you’re beautiful and you’re mine

you’re my baby, you’re my pet
we fell in love on the night we met
you touched my hand, my heart went pop
ooh, when we kissed i could not stop

you walked out of my dreams and into my arms
now you’re my angel divine
you’re sixteen, you’re beautiful and you’re mine

you’re my baby, you’re my pet
we fell in love on the night we met
you touched my hand, my heart went pop
ooh, when we kissed i could not stop

you walked out of my dreams, and into my car
now you’re my angel divine
you’re sixteen, you’re beautiful, and you’re mine”

Seems pretty innocent, and I guess it was. But Johnny Burnette sounds like an older guy to me, and there’s something distasteful when I hear this song with modern ears and sensibilities. It’s like I almost hear an additional line in there:

You’re sixteen, you’re beautiful, and you’re mine. Now get in the van and take off your dress.”

8. Going Blind – KISS (1974)

I like a few of KISS’s older songs. They’re not high art or anything, but a few are catchy rock tunes, and sometimes that’s enough.

But that doesn’t change the fact that KISS is now comprised of elderly men that dress like clowns and sing about sex with teenagers, making “Going Blind” hit a little close to the mark than is pleasant.

The Lyrics:

“And I know how it should be
There is nothing more for you and I
Some are young and some are free
But I think I’m goin’ blind

‘Cause I think I’m goin’ blind
And I know how it should be, yeah

Little lady, if only [Incomprehensible]
You’re so young and so much different than I
And I know how it’s to be
Can’t you see I’m goin’ blind?

‘Cause I think I’m goin’ blind
And I know how it should be, yeah

‘Cause I think I’m goin’ blind
And I know how it should be, yeah

Little lady, can’t you see?
You’re so young and so much different than I
I’m ninety-three, you’re sixteen
Can’t you see I’m goin’ blind?

‘Cause I think I’m goin’ blind
And I know how it should be, yeah”

The 1970’s were a… “Unique” decade, and rock stars in their 20’s and 30’s writing songs about sex with teenaged girls was commonplace. Jimmy Page was knowingly fucking a 13 year old at one point, and I’m sure that kind of thing was commonplace.

Still, “Going Blind” is just a creepy song of many creepy ones by KISS. It’s made creepier still since they still perform it live now that they are all hitting their golden years.

And I guess that is a fitting note to end on – Old men wearing clown paint, singing about molesting teenaged girls.

Four Unexpected Things I Learned When My Band Opened For Famous Musicians

Your band has been playing shows for awhile, and seems to be getting popular. Perhaps you’re still just rising stars on the hometown circuit, or you’ve hit the road a few times and tried your luck at touring.

Eventually, the day comes when you get a dream gig opening up for a big national act – a band with a certain amount of fame and success that you’ve always looked up to, or at least respected.

Does this gig mean Death Hippie has finally made it, and superstardom is around the corner? Can you and your bass player finally quit your jobs cleaning up “accidents” at the porno theater you both work at? Will you at least make industry connections and become friends with your rock and roll heroes after your band opens for them?

Like most things involving the music biz, you’ll probably learn some lessons along the way. I certainly did.

1. Just Because You Got The Gig Doesn’t Mean Your Band Has Made It.

Think about it, how many times have you gone to see a semi-famous band, only to sit through one or two local bands that were opening for them? It’s a pretty common set up, some local promoter needed to pad out the show’s lineup, and they called up Death Hippie and XCiter to open the show. Sometimes you get lucky and discover a great band you hadn’t known about, other times? You just want them to finish up so you can see the band you paid to see.

That decision might have been made for any number of reasons – local popularity, or they play a style of music similar to the headlining act, or maybe they were just the first band to answer the phone. Who knows? Sometimes, if the headlining act is famous, a local radio station might hold a contest to decide which local band gets to play with them.

My point is, there are lots of reasons you might get offered the gig that don’t necessarily mean your band is rocketing to the top. Yes, it’s probably a good thing to get to support larger acts, but think of how many long-forgotten bands you’ve sat through while waiting to see the headlining band. It puts things in perspective when you realize that you never heard anything from those opening bands ever again. Either they didn’t rise to fame, or Krokus has a policy of murdering everyone that ever opened a show for them. They DID have an album called “Head Hunter,” it’s not that unlikely.

A high-profile spot opening for a national act can create momentum for a less famous act, but it might also end up just being another show for them. Next week Death Hippie might go right back to opening for that scary hobo that juggles dogs down at the local community center.

2. You May Never Really Meet The Band You’re Opening For.

This was one of the weirder things I learned, although it makes perfect sense. Your band might never interact with the famous band you’re opening for. You might never meet the people in that band. I know a guy whose group toured with several others opening for a relatively famous heavy metal singer. My pal was a huge fan, on top of the world at getting the gig, and figured that he would become best buds with his hero. He was only in the same room with the guy a handful of times, and very briefly. After a month long tour, he finally managed to get a photo of the two of them together, and that was the extent of their new “friendship.”

Everyone is different, but many rock stars tend to be insulated from a lot of the things that make their concerts possible, and that includes the opening bands. A lot of times the guys in a famous band are either sitting somewhere in a private area backstage, or they don’t even show up at the venue until right before they go on. Afterwards, they’re immediately whisked away to wherever the oiled midgets and swimming pools full of cocaine are located.

They’re not generally going to be interested in having a few after show beers with the local bands that opened their concert, especially bands they’ve probably never heard of before.

Years ago, my friend Doug’s band opened up for KISS at a beach concert. The closest he got to any members of KISS was in a huge tent set aside for the bands, and the sex-obsessed senior citizen clowns in KISS were in a separate area that was roped off. My friend got just close enough to hear Paul Stanley make a derisive remark about him (that he looked like Nikki Sixx, but without the money). Burned by Paul Stanley! Oh the humanity!

So yeah, even bands that play multiple shows on the same tour with a famous act might never really spend much time with them. They might be traveling independently of one another, staying at different hotels, and only be in the same general place when they’re at the venue for the show.

3. Famous Musicians Are Often Nothing Like Your Image of Them.

Rock music of all types is dependent on a certain amount of illusion. As hard as it may be to believe the guys in Slayer probably aren’t really Satanists, David Bowie probably isn’t really a space alien, the women in Poison don’t wear Revlon on their days off, and GWAR aren’t actually monsters with giant cocks. Beyond the images they’ve carefully crafted (and ALL famous musicians have some kind of image they’ve carefully created) the reality of what they’re actually like is often completely different.

If you do manage to spend any time with the rock stars your band opens up for, particularly if they’ve been around for a few years, you may discover that despite the image of non-stop partying, a lot of those people are surprisingly sedate and boring off stage.

I once had a singer for a famous industrial band ask me a question since I was local and knew my way around town. What was the question? Where could he score heroin? Did I know which of the local groupies to avoid?

No, he asked me if I knew a good vegetarian restaurant near the club we were playing at.

Sigh. Illusions crushed.

4. My Idea of What a Rock Star Is has Changed.

After opening for a lot of bands that I had grown up listening to and idolizing, most of my preconceptions about stardom slowly faded away like Ozzy’s memory and speech skills.

Many of the bands I opened for played large clubs by that point in their careers. They’d been around for awhile and were still hitting the road, but they weren’t playing stadiums anymore, if they ever had. Nothing wrong with that, but it was interesting to learn that many of them had some form of day job or another income stream apart from their music.

I had a lot of situations where I’d meet some guy I’d thought of as a rock star in my youth, and find out he was a nice person that worked at a record store when he wasn’t touring. I began to think of rock musicians differently. There are the people and bands with what I call “Perma-Fame” – they’ve been been around long enough and gotten famous enough that just about anyone would recognize them or know them by name. People like Mick Jagger or Keith Richards would fit that category, guys like Taime Downe would probably not. Basically if my parents have never heard of a person, then they don’t have Perma-Fame.

However, that doesn’t mean that the people lacking Perma-Fame aren’t famous on some level, or that their music sucks. In a lot of cases, I would take the music of those less-known rockers over more famous ones any day. Aerosmith may be enormously popular, but that doesn’t change the fact that Steven Tyler is a prune faced goblin that needs a constant supply of baby blood to survive. Worse still, when was the last decent Aerosmith album released? Thirty five years ago? More? Never?

Would the world have been any worse off if The Rolling Stones had called it quits after “Tattoo You”? Would we have lost out on anything good? Doubtful, but they’re still putting out albums decades later, releasing records that millions buy but no one actually seems to listen to. Here’s a test: try to name a good Rolling Stones song from the last twenty five years.

Can’t do it? Neither can Keith Richards.

So my hats off to the musicians that are still playing shows and making good music despite the fact that their level of fame may have peaked or diminished, or they’re only considered rock stars by a small segment of the population.

In the end, anyone that manages to make an even meager living for themselves playing music without self destructing or becoming a bad joke is worthy of my respect.

Now get in the van! Those Death Hippie shows aren’t going to play themselves, and we’re opening for Blackie Lawless tonight. He fucks like a beast, apparently…

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6 Ways to Find Members For Your New Band

So you’ve decided to start a new band. Perhaps you’ve never been in one, and it’s your first go at it.  Maybe you’ve been playing in bands that were already established before you joined, and have decided to form one of your own. Unless you’re planning on calling on friends of yours to form your new supergroup, you will likely have to locate some people to fill out the lineup. So, how do you go about finding them? Yes, there’s that bass player that lives under the bridge and exposes himself to passing women, but he’s probably not the best choice even if he can rock a mean groove.

You’re probably going to have to get creative to find band members.  There are several strategies that can be used, like:

1. Networking Within Your Music Scene.

This is an option for any musician that’s already been kicking around their local scene for a few years. If you were the guitar player for beloved local band Death Hippie then you’ve probably made lots of friends and acquaintances among the local music community. Unless of course, you’re some locally famous asshole that has alienated everyone in your scene.

If that’s the case, perhaps moving away and starting over in Germany is your best bet. If not, networking locally may help find you some new bandmates. Chances are, other musicians have recently left the bands they were in and are looking for a new gig. Networking could quickly put you in touch with the people you need to get your band going.

2.  Put an Ad Out in The Local Papers.

This is probably one of the most common strategies for people looking for band members. It’s appealing because it’s a simple one. Rather than scrabbling around the local scene trying to meet the right musicians, you simply pay a few bucks and place an ad in whatever passes for the local music paper and wait. Now, the downside is that you never know who might respond to an ad, and you might miss out on some good players simply because they never saw you were looking for “A rock guitarist willing to wear clown makeup who sounds like a cross between George Lynch and Jerry Garcia.” If anyone does answer your ad, you’re dealing with a complete stranger, and you have almost as much chance of a serial killer showing up as the perfect match for your new project.

3.  Hang Out in Music Stores.

Makes sense right? Go where other musicians go, and the advantage is you might actually hear them play a little before approaching them. There’s nothing worse than having some person respond to an ad and having them end up being a weird creepo that’s casing the joint, or some well-meaning time waster that can hardly play.

But I’ve known several bands that found a member by hanging out at a guitar shop and listening to people come in and play. Anyone that’s sat around a Guitar Center on a Saturday knows this might not be a fun experience, as most people that seem inclined to test drive gear tend to do so loudly and often badly, but every once in a while, you’ll hear someone really good. This method also gives you a chance to see what people look like. Image might be important to you and your plan for the band, and some dude that’s 20 years older than the rest of you or who looks like Frankenstein’s Monster in drag might not work for your project. Or maybe that’s the perfect image. Who am I to judge?

Even if you fail to find the perfect new band mate at the music store, you’re already there, so you might as well…

4. Put an Ad Up On Bulletin Boards.

I’ve never been to a music shop that didn’t have some sort of bulletin board for people to put up notices looking for people to play with. I’ve joined a couple of bands by responding to ads on a music store bulletin board, and this might just be your ticket to finding the right bass player for your new Gothic Space Jazz Metal band.

The downside to this approach is the same as placing an ad in a music paper. You may have to field calls from people that will be bad matches for your band, or who might be a murderous psycho looking for the perfect head to complete his human jigsaw puzzle.

There’s also a supply-and-demand issue that the music store bulletin board brings into sharp focus. There are a LOT of guitar players and singers out there, fewer bass players, and a whole lot less drummers in most music scenes. I don’t know why this seems to be the case. I’m guessing that more people grow up with dreams of being a lead singer or guitar player, but whatever the reason, the music store bulletin board will make this imbalance clear.

You’ll see a hundred “Guitar player and singer looking for a bassist and drummer” flyers for every “drummer and bassist looking for a metal (or whatever) band” ad. Anytime you DO see a flyer for a drummer looking for a new band, it’s likely that all the little tabs with the persons phone number on it are already ripped off.

Contrast that to those flyers for people looking for a drummer. Most of them look unmolested and lonely by comparison. It’s worth a shot, but if you’re a guitar player or singer looking for a drummer or bassist to hook up with, you may be waiting for a long time for that call to come in.

On the other hand, if you’re a drummer or bass player, you’re in good shape. Sure, you may live in a beat up minivan down by the park, and you have to eat at the dumpster buffet to get by, but you’ll be in high demand for playing with people. Chances are you’re probably in ten bands already.

5. Hire Members to Play.

This is not as common since it involves a significant financial investment, but for the right kind of project it can work. Can’t find people to play the type of music you want to play? Or maybe you’re a huge asshole, but have a pile of cash to spend, and an ego that demands you call all the shots.

Just hire yourself a bunch of musicians to play the material you want them to! You can get the best players you can afford, and if they want to get paid they’ll check their egos at the door. If you’re lucky, your new band will catch on in popularity, and eventually you can network your way into having players that want to join and aren’t expecting a payday from you.

The downside is that, unless your music is truly amazing, people will eventually start to question why you had to pay to get people to play with you. If your ego is at a proper “David Lee Roth” level of inflation, these criticisms won’t matter, so maybe it’s a moot point.

6. Poach Them From Another Band.

This is a surprisingly common approach to getting new members. Go to see other bands play, and when you see someone that you want, just try to poach them from their band. I’ve had this strategy tried on me several times over the years, and seen it done many times. I guess it just depends on how comfortable you are with being completely cutthroat, and whether or not making enemies in the local music scene is important to you.

I also always figured that in most cases, any bandmate that left their previous band to join yours without a good reason, is probably mercenary enough to do the same to your band. Like most things in life, there are cooler ways of poaching a band mate than others. It’s hard to fault someone for extending the offer if that member has become a friend, and is already unhappy in the band they’re in. But walking up to someone you don’t know yet, right after they leave the stage, and asking them to jump ship for the awesome Clown Sex Metal band you’re forming might not come off very nicely.

It’s the difference between getting to know someone of the opposite sex, and then asking them out on a date, and yelling at a stranger across the street that you want to stick your cock up their ass. It might not be received as well as you hope.

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If this guy shows up to audition… Run!

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But if this guy does, keep him no matter what you have to do.

If any of these strategies pan out, your newly minted band will undoubtably be able to move up the rock ladder in no time, and that drummer might even be able to trade in his minivan home for sweeter lodgings in the storage closet of your band’s practice room. Just be careful. That guy sometimes pisses himself when he’s too drunk, and the carpet in there already smells pretty horrible.

5 Things Many Guitar Players Argue About.

I’ve played guitar for over thirty years now. While my motivations for playing have changed over time, I can’t imagine ever putting them down for long. Since it’s a passion of mine, I tend to hang out around other musicians, particularly other guitar players, both in person and online.

Besides collectively selling our souls to Satan to achieve fretboard mastery, most of my pals are very opinionated about various aspects of guitar playing and guitars themselves.

One thing has become clear over the years, not all of us agree about some fairly basic things when it comes to the electric guitar. We all agree that Satan makes us play better, but other than that, a lot of us disagree on many things. For instance, some of us believe that:

1. A Huge Factor Affecting the Sound of a Guitar is the Wood It’s Made Of.

Yeah, that’s a common belief, and it seems to make sense on the surface, after all the majority of electric guitars are made from wood, and the biggest portion of their mass is the wooden body and neck. That stuff must all vibrate or something right? Makes sense that different wood types would have different vibratory characteristics, doesn’t it?

Well, not really. It turns out that when it comes to electric guitars, all of that wood really just holds the various parts together. Unless a guitar is very poorly constructed, the vibrations of the wood pieces just don’t affect the guitar’s sound that much.

What DOES affect the sound of any electric guitar are the kind of pickups and electronic components used, as well as certain factors like the type of bridge a specific guitar has (the bridge is the metal part that anchors to the guitar’s body, and where the strings are attached).

The pickups “pick up” string vibration and turn it into a signal that will become the sound the guitar makes when plugged in. But the wood? The wood is mostly there to look nice.

Ask yourself this. When you go see a rock band perform, do you think the sound of the guitars is coming from the wood they’re made of? Is the sound of Black Sabbath or Slayer due to the kinds of wood their guitars are constructed of? Does that seem silly to you?

But lots of guitar people believe that wood is responsible for the sound of an electric guitar. People have done tests to prove or disprove these theories, and it turns out pretty much no one can consistently pick out guitars by just listening for clues to the type of wood used. People have also made electric guitars out of weird things like concrete, and they still pretty much sound like electric guitars. Go figure.

Even weirder…

2. Lots of a Guitar Players Think The Paint Used to Finish a Guitar Affects Its Sound.

Yep, they sure do. Decades ago, almost all guitar manufacturers used nitrocellulose lacquer to finish their guitars. It’s an older style of paint that shows wear easily, and has certain characteristics affected by temperature and age. More recently, a lot of manufacturers switched over to polyurethane finishes. They last almost indefinitely and do not show wear easily. They are also much better for the environment than the older nitro based finishes were.

Well, lots of players think that the sound a guitar makes is greatly affected by the type of finish it has. The standard line of thought is that the olde-style nitro finishes are thinner and “breathe” more than poly finishes, and thus result in a livelier sound.

Again, this might be possible if we were talking about acoustic instruments. But I own guitars with both types of finishes, and both sound good – pretty much the same – to my ears. As with the type of wood controversy, I can’t hear much of a difference. I don’t know anyone else that can either.

I always wonder what kind of music some of these cats are playing, where the sound of their guitars is so greatly affected by the wood and type of finish on them. The second an electric guitar is plugged into an amp, there are many, and much bigger effects on its sound taking place. Things like the amp itself, which brings me to…

3. Only Tube Amps Can Sound Great.

OK, so you’ve learned to play, you’ve signed over your soul to the Devil, you’ve managed to get a guitar made from magical tone woods and picked a nitro finish over a tone-destroying polyurethane. You’re good to go, right? Rock stardom is right around the bend.

No, it turns out you can critically screw up Lucifer’s rock and roll plans for you if you plug that magic guitar into the wrong type of amplifier. In the really old days, all amplifiers had vacuum tubes in them, and those tubes not only made the amps work, but they added certain pleasing characteristics to the sound that those amps made. It was all a happy accident to a degree, but almost all guitar players like the way tube amps can sound.

A few years later, tubeless “solid state” amps came on the market, and for the most part, they were not considered as pleasing as the older tube amps. They were often derided as being harsh or sterile sounding, especially compared to a tube amp. To a certain degree this was probably a fair criticism early on, but as time and technology marched forward, better solid state amps were developed, and even more recently, newer technology has allowed for the development of “modeling amps.” Basically, these amps use simulations of various amplifier types and sounds to reproduce them. So one of those can offer a ton of “modeled” amp types all in the same amplifier. And they’ve gotten good, and are getting better.

Still, the naysayers claim they suck, and that only tube amps have the goods to produce pleasing sound. To listen to some of those people, you’d think that anyone using anything but a tube amp was a tone-killing hobgoblin waging war on good music.

I will go so far as to say that I think the amp a person plays and the electronics of their guitars make the biggest contribution to their overall sound, but then again, I’m a tone killing hobgoblin waging war on good music.

As such, other notable things guitar players argue about come into play, such as:

4. Pick guards, Effects Pedals, and Other Tone Suckers.

Yes, there are players that believe that a pick guard affects their sound. The pick guard is the thin sheet of plastic attached to the guitar body, that’s usually right around the pickups and control knobs. I’ve heard various arguments over the years about how those pick guards deleteriously affect the sound of a guitar, and how they should be removed to let said guitar “breathe” more. Again, I’ve yet to be able to hear this pick guard effect, and it strikes me as being similar to thinking that painting a car a certain color makes it faster.

Then there are the people that deride the use of effects. A lot of guitar players use various kinds of effects to shape their sound, and a lot of purists seem to think that most effects suck the tone right out of your sound.

Tellingly, many of these same purists make exceptions for effects that their heroes used. Certain fuzz boxes that Hendrix liked, and the Tube Screamer overdrives that Stevie Ray Vaughn employed, are almost universally respected, but show up at the local Blues Jam with a Boss “Metal Zone” pedal, and you’re likely to be killed by a pack of older men wearing fedoras and vests.

There are people, even famous players, that swear they can hear the different sound that a dying battery makes with certain effects. Frankly, if you can really hear that kind of thing, then you’re probably being slowly driven insane by the sound of insects crying or leaves falling to the ground.

But these controversies are gear related. Even while writing this, I can hear my guitar playing brethren saying, “You’re a tone-deaf imbecile Chris, you don’t know what you’re talking about this time.” And that’s me paraphrasing things in a nice, non-vulgar manner.

But these and many more gear related arguments get people bent out of shape. Trust me, you’ve never known rage until some paunchy, pony tailed (but balding) middle aged guitar “connoisseur” tells you your guitar is basically a painted dog turd with strings attached because it wasn’t built in America before 1968. I’ll forgive you if you take a fast shot to his knees, just watch out as some of those older “Rockers” and “Bluesmen” are also litigious lawyers. No witnesses.

In any case, things get really ugly when the conversation turns from musical gear to actual playing. Which brings us to:

5. Playing “Tastefully” Verses “Shredding”.

Sometime in the late 1970’s things changed for rock guitar. One of the biggest changes came about when Eddie Van Halen and a few other guys hit the scene, and redefined what people thought was possible with rock guitar playing. There were always guys that could play fast, but EVH definitely changed things, and he opened the floodgates for a new breed of technically proficient players that pushed the envelope with their playing. The 1980’s rock and metal scenes were dominated by players that played fast and technically challenging material that took guitar playing to a different place than it had been before.

Predictably, not everyone liked that “place,” possibly on account of an allergy to spandex and Aquanet, I’m not sure. But almost from the get-go, there was resistance from some players and fans that had really liked the blues rock that dominated the 1970’s.

At this point in the game, there are a LOT of players that will dismiss any technical-sounding fast playing as “shredding,” supposedly lacking “feel” and being soulless, too many notes, instead of a few well chosen ones.

From the other side came the criticism that the players that played more sparingly did so simply because they were too sloppy or not technically proficient enough to play more challenging material.

Of course, all of this makes Satan laugh, as he plans on getting all of those shredders AND Bluesmen in the end. They’ll all end up living in neighboring subdivisions in Hell eventually, and the joke’s on all of them – the omnipresent sound track in Hell is ABBA.

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11 Things You’ll Learn When Your Band Goes On Tour

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Artist’s rendition of what you’ll be hallucinating from sleep deprivation after two weeks on the road

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It may have a waterbed and a bitchin 8 Track Stereo, but a 40 year old van might not make the best tour vehicle.

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Also probably not the most practical tour vehicle choice.

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The “Rocker Stare” is important to cultivate. It stuns groupies, fans, and promoters trying to bleed you dry.

Your band Death Hippie has been paying its dues locally for awhile, and the time seems right to take the act on the road. Almost any musician that’s ever played live has wondered what it’s like to go on tour. It seems like the next logical step toward world domination for any band bold enough to head out on the highways in search of fame.

Like many things involving playing in a band, there are lessons to be learned about planning and executing your own tour, and some of them are tough lessons.

1. Your Tour Vehicle is Very Important. Choose Wisely (You Probably Won’t).

Whether you’re just playing a week’s worth of cities in your own state, or going across country for three months at a time, any touring band will be depending on their vehicle. In rock music lore, there’s the legendary “Tour Bus,” but no one starting out is going to have one of those rolling clubhouses sitting in their garage. Tour buses and the professional drivers that shuttle larger bands around are very expensive.

Most bands end up touring in some form of van or a similar vehicle. It’s a good idea to buy a dependable one, and renting might be a better option.

That thirty year old Chevy van that’s for sale down the street might seem like a great deal at $2,000 with its wizard mural and waterbed, but it will quickly lose its appeal when Death Hippie finds itself broken down in a mountain pass 700 miles from home, drawing straws to see who gets to eat the others to survive.

It’s also important to try to find a vehicle that’s not uncomfortable to ride over long distances. Four or five (or more) people forced to be around each other for long periods of time are going to get on each other’s nerves anyway, so any features that make those journeys less pleasant will quickly lead to the singer stabbing the drummer with a salad fork (all bands travel with a full set of dueling silverware, it’s a requirement of the “rock code”).

2. Your Band is On Its Own.

This may seem obvious, but any band members hitting the road for a tour are leaving behind most of their individual safety nets. We may be more connected than ever – I’m sure a band that’s sitting by the side of a country road watching their surrounded van get closed in on by cannibalistic mutants will have time to post a status update on Facebook or Twitter before merciful death finally takes them, but the only people you’re going to be able to count on to help in an immediate crisis are the people you’re with, i.e. your bandmates (and that includes the bass player who eats his own snot when he thinks no one is looking).

It’s true most of us will have people that we can call back home if there’s a problem, but short of sending money, there’s not much they’re going to be able to do fast in a pinch. By the time any of them can come to the rescue, those cannibals will already be wearing pants made out of your beautifully tattooed skin.

No matter how well a band plans their tour, there will be problems that crop up unexpectedly, and sometimes those problems are serious ones. Any band that can’t come together as a solid unit to solve those problems needs to safely stay in their home town.

3. Any Bad Habits or Issues Your Band Members Have Will Be Amplified.

Let’s say that Death Hippie’s rhythm guitar player likes to get drunk after every show, and occasionally makes an ass of himself sloppily hitting on women. Sure, that can be irritating when your band is playing local clubs, but imagine him doing that repeatedly on a tour when everyone in the band is accountable for everyone else’s behavior.

All it takes is for that rhythm guitarist to drunkenly put his hand on the wrong woman’s butt, and the rest of you end up tied naked to metal chairs in some psychotic guy’s basement, wondering why the drummer’s screaming stopped in the other room, and who will be next.

Even if no one’s personality quirks or problems get the band in trouble, they’re still likely to cause trouble among the members themselves. Members of the band will be spending a lot of time together in close quarters, and any irritating behavior is going to get a lot more annoying than it might back home. At least there, you can always get away from your bandmates if you want to. Try getting away from someone when they’re two seats down from you, and there is still 400 miles to go before you get to the next venue.

4. Touring is Physically Grueling.

Unless you’re already famous, or happen to be independently wealthy, no one is likely to hire you any helpers for your tour. Rock and roll is full of legendary lore about “roadies,” but you won’t have any. YOU are your roadie.

That means that the members of your band will be unloading all of the gear for the show themselves, and also breaking it down later that night, and packing it back up. This is a huge task, and a lot is on the line. If you forgot some important piece of equipment at the last gig 500 miles back that’s a problem. Under the best of circumstances, most bands will be carrying a lot of heavy equipment around on a daily basis. If a club is up or down any stairs, that chore becomes much more difficult. Your awesome steel “Death Throne” prop that looks great on stage will become a lot less appealing after you’ve had to carry it up or down three flights of stairs twenty days in a row.

A busy tour schedule will also ensure that you’re not getting very much sleep. Unless you’re good at napping in a moving van, and are not the person driving it, you will probably go for days without getting a real night of sleep. The hectic pace of touring just doesn’t allow everyone to settle into a nice comfy bed for eight hours at a time. Not to mention, most bands starting out aren’t going to have the money to consistently stay in a nice motel room anyway.

Whenever my old band went out on the road, I felt like a zombie after a week. You learn to adapt. You learn to live off of caffeine. You learn to hate clowns, because the lack of sleep will have you hallucinating those white faced bastards in no time.

5. “Hurry Up and Wait”

So finally your band arrives at the venue they’ll be playing later that night, and no one has killed anyone yet. That’s good, that’s very good.

But now it’s time to face the tedium of waiting for the show. Any small band that tours will be familiar with this routine. The band has to rush to get to the club and meet whoever is opening the doors for them. This usually happens in the afternoon or early evening before the place opens. If there’s a long distance between destinations, there can be a frantic scramble to get there on time, just to be met by some unenthusiastic club manager, and then after the band loads in, hopefully a sound check.

Then the wait.

Nothing is more boring than an empty club or bar in the daytime. It’s no wonder that some people in bands develop drug or alcohol habits, hours of waiting around bored in a bar will drive people to drink (or worse) just to have something to do.

If you’re lucky, the club is in an area of town that has a few interesting things to do and see to kill time. Otherwise, it’s a lot of hanging around a dressing room (if there is one) until show time. If you’re unlucky, and that is more likely, the venue will be in some awful “warehouse district” or equally dismal area of town, and you’ll have to amuse yourself for several hours by naming and racing cockroaches with the hobos living in the alley.

6. You Will Rarely be Comfortable For Long.

This is related to the “grueling” aspect of touring in a unsigned (poor) band, but is it’s own challenge. It is likely that such a band won’t be rolling in dough early on, and might actually be losing money while on tour, spending more than they take in. At the very least, money will probably be tight, particularly if the tour goes on for several weeks or longer. So the fantasy of staying in awesome hotel rooms while beautiful groupies lavish attention upon your groin area are probably going to stay in the realm of fantasy.

What’s more likely to happen, is a lot of crashing with shady promoters or fans, sleeping on couches or floors, or even in the van. Maybe you’ll get lucky and get to stay in a motel room once a week, but that gets expensive, so you might be sharing a bed with your bass player, “Farting Charlie.”
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Wherever you’re staying, things like showers or having the bathroom to yourself for more than a few minutes will become complicated maneuvers, where you try to get in line before all of the hot water is gone, or the singer’s back hair has clogged the drain. Routine things like washing your clothes can become rare treats, and you’ll have to adapt. Did you know you can make dirty clothing wearable by spraying them with Febreze? That’s a pro tip. Enjoy.

7. You Will Have to Deal With a Lot of Weird People.

Sure, fans can be weird. Goes with the territory, right?

Yes they can, and yes it does, but you’ll be getting constant exposure to some weird folks. You will be hanging around and sometimes depending on lots of people you don’t know and have just met. Any touring band will have to rely on numerous strangers at every town they play in. Besides the people that run the venue, they’re also likely to have a local promoter or two at each stop, and others. I can’t count how many floors and couches I slept on, offered at the last minute by a fan or friend of the promoter.

What happens is that a small-time band ends up depending on the goodwill and treatment of a lot of people they just met. This will give you a feeling of vulnerability at times. As you wonder if your new “friends” are going to treat you nicely, or are serial killers that want your heads for a special art project they’re working on. You end up in the strange cycle of meeting new people, rapidly forming some sort of bond or at least mutual goal, and then the band leaves town, and you might never see those people again. Repeat. It’s a weird way to interact with folks.

More importantly, you will learn just how much your band depends on the promoter and other people they barely know. If your band is booking their own tours, chances are you’re relying on some stranger, maybe someone you have emailed a few times, to help promote your show. It’s not like a band driving across the country can really do much to promote a gig hundreds or thousands of miles away. That’s where the promoter comes in, and promoters tend to be a weird bunch of people. They come in two basic models – people that promote for a living, and people that do it for fun. Of course, there is usually some grey area between these two extremes, but generally they trend one way or the other.

Either scenario can turn out good or bad, but it’s definitely not a good sign to discover huge piles of flyers that you sent the promoter laying on his desk, never having been distributed, or discovering that he’s a local drug lord.

8. You Will Probably be Broke.

The sad truth is even if you start out a lengthy tour with a decent amount of money, you will probably soon be nearly broke. It costs a lot to travel around the country, and unless your band is making serious coin at each show, the members will quickly burn through any funds they brought along. It’s not uncommon to be barely scraping by, limiting yourselves to a $10 a day budget or something equally spare, and hoping that Death Hippie sells enough t-shirts that night to fund truck stop sandwiches for everyone (except the drummer, he seems to live off of cigarettes and hatred).

It’s a tough way to travel, but the plus side is you’ll soon be able to squeeze into those old leather pants that you’d gotten too fat for. Bonus!

9. Speaking of Truck Stops…

You’ll probably come to look forward to them. They are Meccas of convenience for weary travelers. That’s a weird thing about touring, you learn to go where the truckers go. If you see a stop with no big rigs outside, keep on going. They probably use dog meat in the burritos or something. What you want to see are the big, modern truck stop centers. Huge places with comfortable bathrooms and a restaurant inside, preferably some kind of inexpensive buffet. The people that work in those places are used to seeing all sorts of freaky stuff roll through, and that probably includes other bands. If you’re still in your stage clothes from the night before, covered in the fake blood that Death Hippie famously bathe in on stage, the people at a big truck stop probably won’t bat an eye. Whatever you’re likely to need can usually be found at such a place.

10. The Fans.

Yes, the people you’re (hopefully) enthralling with your nightly performances. You’ll be interacting with a bunch of people that come to see you play, and it can be a lot of work. Unless your band is already somewhat famous, it’s not like you’re going to be insulated from the people that come to watch you perform. Huge bands never have to personally meet and mingle closely with their fans unless they want to. They’re shuttled to and from the venue, whisked backstage while an army of minions attend to their needs, and then play the show, and are whisked away again. Unless they actually want to meet their fans, they never really have to.

Your band, on the other hand, is likely not in that position, and will instead be hanging around the same club with your audience members until your show begins. Yes, most places will have some rudimentary backstage area where the bands can hole up before the show, but some don’t. So unless you want to stay in the van until show time, you’re going to end up mingling with people that came to see you play, or maybe just showed up to see anyone play, and don’t care about your band at all.

Some musicians I’ve known love hanging out with the folks that come to their shows, and others do not. Obviously, these people will cover all sorts of personality types, and some will be easy to deal with while others won’t be, but you’re going to have to take the good with the bad. Becoming famous as a stuck-up prick isn’t going to be doing your band any favors. So when the ugly guy that’s been following your band around the Midwest shows up AGAIN, and wants the members of Death Hippie to sign his pimply ass AGAIN, keep that in mind.

11. You Will Not Be ABle to Escape The People in Your Band

Traveling across the country in a rolling metal box with four or five (or more) other people doesn’t allow a person much personal space or private time. My old band would go on three month national tours, and in that whole time, I might have a few minutes each week where I felt like I was alone.

Since a tour is a group effort, your group will be around you constantly. It’s not really conducive to band business for members to disappear for hours at a time, and it can be really disruptive if that member goes off on his own and then runs into some kind of trouble in an unfamiliar town. If you’re lucky, you might get a few minutes of alone time when you take a shower or use the bathroom, but even then, the rest of the band is probably right outside the bathroom door, possibly plotting to throw you out of the band for using up all the hot water.

These are but a sampling of the scenarios that a small-time band will likely become familiar with when hitting the road seeking fame and fortune. There are many more lessons anyone with that ambition will soon discover, but I’ll save them for another day. Just remember, you may be the main talent in the band, but you’ll need your bass player. He can drive for hours without a break, and he doesn’t smell too bad after five days without a bath. He also looks like a fitting sacrifice to the cannibals if such hard choices should become necessary

9 Lessons You’ll Learn Playing in a Rock and Roll Band

Most people have entertained the fantasy of becoming a wealthy rock star, and a lot of them buy an instrument to fiddle around with. Most folks eventually just throw that instrument into a closet after they move to another hobby, while a few become proficient players but never leave their bedrooms. This leaves a small number that actually form bands and take a stab at playing live to real audiences.

So what are some of the lessons that these aspiring rock stars are likely to learn or encounter on their way up (or down) the ladder of live music success? It’s not all mountains of cocaine and groupie gang bangs on the tour bus water bed, is it?

Let’s explore this further.

1. Almost No One Will Care About Your Band For Quite A While.

That’s the hard truth. You might be great, your band mates equally adept at playing, but unless you’ve already been around your local scene for a few years and attracted some fans that might care about what your new band is doing, you will have to work your way up to that point. And it’s hard. Lots of playing shows at shitty venues, to a handful of personal friends and significant others that will come out to see “Death Hippie” play at noon on a Wednesday (if you’re lucky).

I’ve known people that were so desperate to play that they’d gig just about anywhere, over-saturating themselves at shows almost no one would care to go to. Gothic band playing a taqueria? Great idea! How could that fail to shuttle a band to instant fame and success? At least the tacos are there to soak up your tears after playing to a homeless guy, your girlfriend, and a stray dog that walked in.

It takes a lot of work and luck to build a fan base, even a small local one. If after a year or two of steady gigging that success hasn’t happened, it’s time to reevaluate the “plan,” or the viability of “Death Hippie” itself.

2. Many Venues and Club Owners Are Assholes To New Bands.

It would seem like club owners and the bands that play at their venues would have a close working relationship, maybe even a level of friendly cooperation since they both, in theory, want the same thing – to pack the club with a huge crowd of people. Makes sense right?

Well sadly, it turns out that’s not always the case. Maybe not even usually the case, because bands and club owners want the same thing for different reasons.

Club owners want a crowd, that is true, but they want a crowd of people willing to pay a cover and drink the shit out of some overpriced bar drinks. They don’t care how they get to that outcome, and would gladly book a band of howling baboons instead of your band if they thought that would fill their club. In some places, they’ll grant a newer band the “privilege” of playing their dive bar, but only if the band manages to presell a certain amount of tickets. If they don’t, then they’ll have to pay for any unsold ones themselves – the dreaded “Pay to Play” scenario.

There are reasons that certain famous venues seemed to be at the center of musical revolutions. Besides being at the right time and right place, they usually had a club owner that was willing to allow young unproven bands a chance to play and develop a scene. If Hilly Kristal had stuck to his original plan to feature country and bluegrass music at his Bowery bar, people might never have experienced The Ramones, and CBGBs would likely be a long forgotten dive. Most of those club owners are in their business purely for the money, and will book whoever can make them the most cash with the least amount of effort on their part. They simply don’t care that Death Hippie could revolutionize the world of Jazzy Space Metal.

3. Not All Venues are Created Equal.

I’ve seen so many bands booked to clubs that were bad matches for them, and it’s a common mistake . It’s probably more normal to find in places with fewer music venues, but I’ve seen weird band to club matches in cities with great places to play. I already mentioned the Gothic band playing at a taqueria (which is a real scenario I witnessed), but I’ve also seen hard rock bands booked into restaurants that cater to sedate yuppies, and I’ve seen metal bands trying to work their magic at wine bars. If your style of music is likely to repel people and drive them from the type of venue you’re playing at, it might be time to look for a different place to play.

4. The Sound Man is Your Friend (Or Worst Enemy)

This should be obvious, but I’m always surprised at how it somehow isn’t. Assuming that you’re playing a venue that regularly features live bands and is equipped with some form of in-house sound reinforcement, you’re probably going to encounter a sound man or two. These range from completely unskilled imbeciles (a friendly/angry hobo that the bar owner has let in, for instance) to trained professionals (people that actually took classes to learn the trade).

These people can save or ruin your show. Be forewarned.

Being an asshole, ridiculing the dude’s hideous blonde Afro or beak-like nose, is not a good idea. Being dismissive or really demanding is also a dumb move. You don’t want to kiss these guy’s asses, but being somewhat friendly and positive when dealing with them is a good idea. Because if you’re not, they can fuck your sound up royally.

Being up on stage in front of a crowd is a uniquely vulnerable position to be in. It doesn’t make things any easier to discover that the blond Afro and beak-nosed sound man you pissed off earlier has enacted his vengeance during the climax of your rock opera about kittens. Suddenly realizing that you can’t actually hear the other players in your band, because your new enemy dropped all of it from your monitor is not a comfortable feeling.

It’s best to not argue with these guys, unless you’re paying them yourself. Also, developing a good relationship with them pays off if you plan on playing that venue again. Tipping or buying the guy a beer after the show are not bad ideas either.

5. Being in a Band is Like Being in a Relationship (and it can be a dysfunctional and abusive one where the police are called and the neighbors hate you).

I think most people start out forming bands with friends. It’s likely that people in the same circle of friends will share similar taste in music, and also less likely that they’ll tell you how much your playing sucks.

The problem is that being in any band is tough, and involves a lot of hard work under the best of circumstances. Just showing up to practices consistently and on time can be too much for some folks, and there’s a lot of loading in and setting up of heavy equipment. If you have a lazy slacker “friend” in your band, resentment will build quickly.

After a certain point, it is likely that an ambitious musician may find himself joining a band consisting of people he doesn’t know, or doesn’t know well. Yeah, probably everyone gets along alright, but they’re not close friends. It’s more like business partners in a very strange and difficult business.

A person in this situation will get to see the best and worst of the people he’s collaborating with. If the band plays shows out of town, it’s likely that the members will be cooped up in a van together, smelling the bass player’s curiously fruity farts, and hearing the singer talk about how he once auditioned for “Whitesnake” back in the day “when they were trying to dump Coverdale” for the two hundredth time. You’d better be up for seeing the ugly and selfish side of your stinky bandmates, or this will slowly drive you crazy. If anyone in the band has a drug problem or is a drunk, you’ll experience the fallout from that sooner or later; if they’re thirty five years old and like sex with teenaged groupies, you’ll deal with that too.

6. Bandmates Can Have Different Agendas.

When I was in my first really serious band, I DID feel like we were a family. I felt an intense loyalty to them, and passed up some pretty good opportunities for myself as a result. If I’d treated being in that band less like being a member of a family or gang, and was more mercenary, I might still be touring in some outfit. Who knows, I kind of sucked back then, but it might have happened.

The thing is, not every person in a band is always on the same page, or feels the same amount of loyalty to the band. Some treat it as a side project to what they’d really like to be doing, others want to secretly (or not so secretly) find a slightly more popular band to jump to. The point is, a lot of people base their band affiliation on what’s in their own best interest. This is understandable, but it takes a concentrated effort by everyone to make anything happen, and having a bass player that wants to leave “Death Hippie” the minute “Ass Assassinator” asks him to join can be disruptive and demoralizing.

7. It’s Like You’re Also in a Relationship With The Other Members’ Significant Others.

Make no mistake about this. When you join a band, not only are you entering a weird relationship with the other members, your entering a relationship with their significant others.

It’s likely one or more members of any band will already be in some kind of romantic relationship, and will have a girlfriend or boyfriend, or husband or wife lurking in the background. Even if they don’t, being in a band automatically triples anyone’s ability to attract a mate, and you will soon have at least one or two bandmates with a romantic partner. Totally normal right? That’s certainly not a big deal is it?

Yes, yes it is.

Even if that significant other is a more or less cool person, they will likely tire of their boyfriend or girlfriend always being at a band function without them, and they will start to come to every one of those functions. I’ve been in bands that had a “no girlfriends at practice” rule, and they still showed up.

The problem is that many of the basic things it takes to be a member of a popular band are not things that are good for a romantic relationship. There are reasons that this is a cliche. A bandmate with a significant other will have added pressure placed on him to choose the best interests of that person over what is good for the band. You finally got a dream show opening for a huge band? Oh wait. It’s Charlie the cowbell player’s girlfriend’s birthday that night. He won’t be able to make it

Or the member in a relationship will have a built in “number one fan” that will usually eagerly point out how he’s the most talented member in “Death Hippie” and the rest of the band needs him more than he needs them.

Or maybe the significant other will just hate someone in the band for some reason, or have some strange problem with the direction the band is going in.

It’s not going to make things easy if the singer’s new girlfriend is a fundamentalist Christian and thinks the other members of “Death Hippie” worship Lucifer.

8. Image Is Important, Whether You Admit it or Not.

Ah, yes. A lot of bands get criticized for being image based. Usually that goes hand in hand with “They have no talent” and “Anyone could dress up in those monkey suits and dance around.”

To a lot of people “image” equals “not talented.” This of course is a really stupid thing to believe. I suppose David Bowie never made any music worth listening to, but “Poison” sure did.

My point? Image shapes people’s perception of a band, and gets their attention. But a LOT of musicians think that they can make it big without giving their image any thought at all. I can’t count how many local bands I’ve seen where it looks like every member walked in from a different band. Your band better be AMAZING, and I mean, transcendent in their ability to entertain in an engaging way, if you have a bass player that’s 40 years old and dresses like an accountant, a drummer that looks like he wants to be in W.A.S.P, a singer who thinks a Hawaiian shirt and flip flops are cool, and a guitar player that looks like he’s in Duran Duran.

Actually, that sounds kind of awesome, like a kitschy 80’s tribute band, but my point is that too many bands don’t give any thought at all to how they will look on stage, or they have an actual stance against having an image of any kind.

All this means is that they didn’t choose an image, but the audience will choose it for them. Unless they are the most amazingly brilliant band to ever come through town, the image that most audiences will assign such an outfit is “Suck” or “They looked stupid.” Well played, anti-image band guys!

No one is saying that a band has to dress up like Prince, but not wearing your clothes from the day job at Pizza Hut is a good rule of thumb.

9. Most Bands aren’t Democracies.

I think there’s some lingering “ideal” that most people have, and even some musicians have, that bands are run like democracies. The idea is that everyone contributes equally in the decision making processes, and every member has a hand in contributing to the songs.

The fact is, I’ve never seen a band that operated like that. I’ve been in a few that were closer to that ideal than others, but generally speaking, someone has to steer the ship, and usually one or two members make the lion’s share of the band decisions, or at least have the deciding vote. They’re usually the ones writing most of the songs too. That doesn’t mean that the other members don’t contribute anything creative to the mix. Usually they do. But hard feelings and jealousy will often arise when someone thinks they deserve to contribute more, and I understand that feeling. Musicians tend to have egos, and we all like to think that we have some classic songs locked up inside, and if Andy the goddamned singer would just let me write one fucking reggae song for “Death Hippie” then the world would see my genius.

Andy’s a dick though, and he owns the van.

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Struggling Musicians, and the War They Wage.

If you are a struggling musician, there is a constant war that you’re waging.

You may say, war? Are you crazy? I’m a sensitive artist, and my talents will soon be known.

Yeah, good luck with that. The thing is, every musician out there is fighting an uphill battle, whether or not they acknowledge it.

There are a few exceptions, like folks that view their musical pursuits as a hobby, and one that they have no interest in taking beyond their bedroom or home studios. They play for the sheer joy of it, and nothing else. However, even these pure hobbyists can become the enemy of aspiring “serious” musicians under the right circumstances. More on that scenario shortly.

However, the struggle is on many fronts. Most musician types seem to start out with an idealized view of what it’s like to be in a band. After all, we’ve all been fed the same fantasies about being instantly discovered and immediately famous and successful. Sadly, these are almost always fantasies, and one that millions of people have. One look at a “Guitar Center” catalog proves this point. Plenty of cheap entry-level instruments all marketed with “The perfect tool to help launch you to success!” copy.

Every single 13-year old kid whose parents buy one of those entry level guitar and amplifier combo packs thinks he or she is going to be a huge star. We all do at one point or another. Picking up a guitar and learning a few chords is all it takes to create a lifelong passion for playing in some people, and that’s a very special and cool thing.

The reality is that any serious move from playing alone and only for fun into the “joining a band” scenario introduces a player to the war.

First, just finding the right people to play with is enormously difficult. Most people who are in their first few bands are in them because a few friends decided to form one. There’s no real audition process, or networking. Your best friend Jim whose parents gave him a drum set for Christmas last year wants to “jam” with you, and he has a friend that he used to play soccer with, and that guy has a bass. You can all meet at Jim’s house to jam in the garage. Thus are born many first or second, or maybe even third bands. For the most part, they last a short time, until one or more of the members get bored with music or find another hobby. Maybe a few last through high school, or even manage to play a few “shows” in someone’s backyard or garage.

In these situations the war is a minor one. The enemies encountered are likely to be a neighbor that wants your band to turn everything down, or a parent that doesn’t want you to “waste” too much time chasing dreams of being a rock star. There will likely be mild scuffles, and occasional head-butting between your friends/band mates or from the aforementioned concerned parent, but nothing too dire. This is essentially the last time many people will seriously entertain any thoughts of trying to “make it.” Soon, the prospect of college or other pressure from impending adulthood will chase away any fantasy of becoming a successful (generally interpreted as “rich” and “famous”) rock star.

However, for those that continue to harbor dreams of success in a band, the next stage in their war is where things get more intense. This is where most of us are no longer living in the protected environment of a parent’s home. Some have moved on to college and have started a second stage similar to their high school years. They’ve discovered a few of their college buddies play instruments, and the natural next step is to form a band from these alliances. The perks are increased from the high school version, any person in a college band is more potentially fuckable than the same person would be if they weren’t in a band, and college is a strange environment where people are experiencing new things. The goofy Emo band that a guy loved in the 10th grade might start to seem stupid, and suddenly funk might be the edgy sound he longs to create. Most colleges also have venues that cater to students, and some of these will allow bands to play real gigs. Success seems right around the corner!

But there’s a war going on, right? So whose the enemy here? Well, usually it’s your band mates, and the fact that you’re all mostly there to earn a degree and then move on to “real life” where for most people, music is a hobby, not a serious pursuit.

For those that are still interested in that pursuit, but who didn’t go to college, things are perhaps clearer. The reason for that is that along with their musical aspirations, they must also make a living somehow.

I know guys that opted out of music scholarships at prestigious schools because they wanted to pursue their bands full time, basically a nightmare scenario for the concerned parent of a high school kid in a band. Either being young dumb asses or just not caring, they figured it would be a lot cooler to throw away that college experience for what they thought would be the more direct path to rock stardom.

These people often DO form bands, and also alliances with other people in other bands. Local “scenes” tend to develop, because everyone is chasing a similar goal. At their best, these sorts of scenes inspire a lot of creativity, and some truly good bands result. But they also usually create rivalries, which brings us to another aspect of the music war.

Yes, if you’re in an even slightly popular local band, some people will love you and support you. You might become a locally famous scenester, and have a certain amount of local cred. Often this will lead to a relatively comfy day job working at a trendy record shop or music venue. You may even become one with the enemy itself – the local music reviewer (we’ll get back to this).

But you’ll also probably make a few enemies, in some cases with people you have barely interacted with. Other people in shittier or less popular bands will be jealous haters if your band is doing well. Many musicians share a toxic personality trait – low self esteem mixed with a large ego. Any perceived slight is enough to create an imagined enemy. When I was in a semi-high profile local band, people I didn’t even know seemed to hate me because of the band I was in. It was stupid, but is often the norm.

Then there are the venues. More accurately, the people that own and run the venues you’re going to want to play in. The people that own any bar or club are really interested in one thing – making a lot of money, generally from bar sales or the cover they charge for entry. They don’t give a shit if you’re in an awesome new band called “Death Hippie” and the music is genius. If they think that the only people you’re going to bring to their club are your significant others and a handful of good friends, “Death Hippie” isn’t getting the gig, or will get wrangled into some abysmal “pay to play” deal, where the band has to pre-sell a certain number of tickets or ends up paying the club.

In a lot of cities, the only types of bands that clubs want to feature are cover bands, because they tend to bring in enough drunk idiots to make a lot of money. Understandable, but not ideal for any musician or band trying to push their own original songs.

Fortunately, larger cities usually have a handful of venues that will feature bands playing original material, and that will allow new bands the chance to play without too much hassle. These are the types of clubs struggling bands should try to find. Generally, the more of those type there are, the better a town’s live music scene.

In the long run, all bars and clubs are in the business of making money. If your band isn’t going to help them do that, then why should they let you play? It’s not a matter of artistic merit, it’s a matter of economics. It’s also why some bands end almost before they get a chance to play out. There aren’t enough venues with an owner adventurous enough to take a chance on something that might not pack the place.

Another enemy that can destroy a band’s chances at local success is the local music reviewer. Almost any city of a certain size will have a weekly local music and culture paper, or the Internet equivalent. As such, they will also have a number of reviewers going to local shows. All it takes to hurt a developing band is one or two shitastic reviews by one of those people. And bands take this stuff seriously. I used to know a band critic for “The Austin Chronicle” who got occasional death threats from bands she’d given bad reviews to. On the other hand, I’ve also seen cases where some local band that wasn’t great got rave reviews, probably because someone in the band was a pal of the reviewer.

So what’s the best tactic for besting this enemy? Have someone cute in your band fuck them, or better still, gut the reviewer like a fish. That would be my advice. If those aren’t options for you, then I would try to evade the creepy eye of the critic until your band is popular enough that their potential scorn can’t hurt you. But really, just murder those guys. No good music scene needs them.

After one has been pursuing their musical goals for a few years, one of two things usually happens. They may become almost ridiculously positive people. This is not a bad thing, but it’s really a survival strategy. Because if they let the negativity and rejection they’ve faced chasing their dream affect them, they’d probably never leave their bedrooms again.

The other extreme are the shell shocked, battle hardened music veterans. They’ve been in gigging bands for years, and have adopted an “us verses them” attitude. Understandably, it usually is a realistic attitude to have. They’ll generally have a very professional, but jaded way of dealing with everything. No longer caring if their band mates are friends with one another, everything is a business decision, even their haircuts. They’ll sometimes talk about all of the sacrifices they’ve made for their art, but it’s just as honest to say that they didn’t make “sacrifices” so much as decisions, and some of those decisions don’t guarantee success.

A lot of the time, these types of individuals and bands will uproot from whatever not-so-happening scene they currently live in, and flock to places like LA, or wherever the new hotspot for music is. The problem for them is that they soon discover that LOTS of similarly motivated musicians made the same decision, like thousands of cutthroat pirate businessmen following the same trends.

Another huge enemy to the aspiring musician is the acquisition of a significant other. Yes, some manage to score the golden ticket, and actually find a muse that doesn’t want to capture them and then force them to quit doing the things they were attracted to to begin with, but a lot of them don’t. It’s a cliche for a reason.

And it makes sense. Being the boyfriend or girlfriend, or husband or wife of an even slightly successful musician is tough. They’re going to be away from home for long periods of time, and there will be attractive men and women throwing themselves at them. For someone that’s young and still really motivated to chase fame and fortune as a musician, it’s probably best just to avoid serious relationships. Sounds harsh, but it’s true. I’ve seen more band drama caused by an angry significant other than any other cause over the years.

The “war” is a life-long one for many of us. Playing music and being in bands gets in your blood – Almost anyone that’s played a few live shows will know what I’m talking about. The idea of just permanently leaving that behind seems incomprehensible, but maintaining one’s sanity and relationships while trying to go further with musical goals is a tough road to follow.

But it’s the only one some of us CAN follow. Our goals may change, and the ways in which we pursue those goals may change too, but quitting entirely is just not an option.

I always try to remember that haters are going to hate, that fools and creeps will try to tear you down, but in the long run, at the end of your life, you can still say “fuck it, I did something here, and it was worth it.”

But first you have to start murdering all of those troublesome club owners, music critics, and rival bands.

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