Due to overwhelming demand, I'll start mentioning lesbians in this column.
|Dear Van Hammersmith,|
I'm starting to get seriously pissed (Aren't you glad I'm starting out this way??!) I'm stuck living in a small town. I won't bother with the reasons, I just am. I've always been motivated to get places with my music, though. After being sharked in my last band by a con-artist (can't say I'll ever trust my band over my gut again), I'm now bandless. It's been two years now, and I'm ready to start my next move, and the music I'm writing is killer, and I know who I want to recruit for my band, but HERE's the big issue: the other guitarist I know DOESN'T want a band. I KNOW, I know, find a different guy. But every other player I've met is either seriously lacking in skill/creativity or plays only country covers (I probably know every musician around here - it's THAT little of an area).
The guy I have found is by far the best player I could ever ask for; HE COMPLETES ME. How do I convince this guitar player that a band IS worth it? He knows I'm worth it; knows he's worth it, just doesn't want a band, and without a phone he's damn near impossible to reach, which is only salt in the wound. Advice??? (I think I'm f--ked),
Yeah, you're right, you're... um... that word. Dude, do you know who you are? You're the guy that's fallen in love with a lesbian. She's beautiful and perfect and you guys connect in every single way, and everything is so great, but for some reason this lesbian just doesn't want to be your girlfriend! How? How can you convince her?
Don't waste your life, bro. If your lesbian buddy wants to jam occasionally that's great, but don't keep pestering him if he's already said he's doesn't want to form a band. Keep looking for other players. You must have a good reason to be stuck out there in small town nowhere, so suck it up and keep looking. But please, please, stop falling in love with lesbians.
Oh, and make sure you tell your friend that I called him your lesbian.
|Dear Van Hammersmith,
My question is simple. I'm a decent guitarist, but I have a huge problem with trying to sing while playing any rhythm other than simple sixteenth notes or bashing on barre chords, punk style. I know you said that you can't sing yourself, but can you give me any tips on how to better my vocal independence from my guitar playing?
"Independence" is the perfect word for it, Sean. Here's what a buddy of mine used to suggest: try to read while you play. As in, set a magazine, newspaper, whatever, out in front of you and try to play your way through a song while reading.
How does this help you? It doesn't! I just think you should read more.
Kidding. But having to read or recite things that are not attached to the simple rhythm of what you're playing will work the brain muscles you're trying to develop. I suggest trying to commit T.S. Eliot's "The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock" to memory while playing, and then trying to recite it back from memory, while still playing. This should take you several months.
If you can do it, make sure you make a video and put it online because it is going to be awesome.
But really, the only way is to practice. Reading while playing is one way to practice. There are others. They also involve playing while singing or speaking. Be creative. Have fun. But really, practice. Everybody gets better at this in time. Even that idiot Hames Jetfield.
|What is your take on playing gigs while either high or drunk? My band plays original music similar sounding of Phish, Grateful Dead, Hendrix, Cream, and Neil Young. We have played shows while we were either high or drunk. Sometimes for me being high, it either ruined the set or made it a great show. Is it a good idea to eat special brownies before playing an acoustic set?
Here's what I believe: practice the way you are going to perform. That means if you guys drink beers while you're jamming and rehearsing, then it's probably okay to have a few before you go on. If you do all the wacky crazy stuff when you practice, then have at it.
Keep this in mind, everyone: you need to rehearse in such a way that you can say, "This is what we want to sound like on stage in front of an audience." If you can get that sound when you're high, then go ahead and try to recreate it in the same condition live. Goodness knows a lot of famous people have performed while wasted.
Just remember that if you look and sound wasted, you've probably screwed up your gig. You don't want people to look at you and say, man, he's wasted. You don't want the people booking you to think that either.
|Dear Van Hammersmith,
I'm 19 and I've played bass for a while now and I just started a band with guys that are really focused. And while everything was going great my drummer started acting all crazy. We've been friends for about a year now but all of a sudden he started being really weird, messing with my personal life and really being an ass! I mean, I'm the bassist, I'm the one who's allowed to act crazy! Also at rehearsals he is really a chore. He never stops when we try to take a time out to discuss what went wrong with a song (and i can do the nick nick Megadeth song only so many times before snapping!) and he tries to impress the others by doing all these fills that ruin the groove!
I'm scared that sooner or later his crazy behavior is gonna scare all the other dudes away (I'm the one who brought him in)! Should I kick him or should I just let him drive others insane and hopefully make it a group decision??|
Have you tried yelling at him? Seriously, have you tried just screaming your head off at him? Something along the lines of: "Hey, stop playing dammit! Can't you see we're trying to... Hey! Stop playing! Hey! STOP!"
"Hey! Stop messing around with my personal life, man! You've got no business messing with my business!"
"Hey! Maybe you think those fills sound great, but they're ruining the groove! Cut it out!"
I guess what I'm trying to say is that this appears to be a communication issue. He's not crazy. He's just acting like a dick because no one is reining him in. It's like parents that don't discipline their kids; the kid starts acting like a complete wad.
Seriously, you've got to let this guy know what you guys are thinking. "Hey! Hey! Stop it!"
|Hey, how's it going?
My lead guitarist showed me your articles last night and I really love your honesty, your habits, and that you give people a reality check. Well, I have a question. I am the lead singer and rhythm guitarist and I write all of our songs, but we can't really think of a band that we can compare our sound to. People say they really dig our sound (girls mostly) but sometimes it's hard to tell if it's a friend just being nice. They bother me to get some of the songs on their ipods, so that seems like a good sign to me. I guess my real question is, how do we get our music out for more people to listen and maybe for a record label to take a gander at us?
Dear Van Hammersmith,
Blah blah blah gratuitous praise, blah blah heaping self-love followed by insecurity, blah blah false modesty, blah blah actual question "HOW CAN WE GET REALLY FAMOUS?"
Made-up wrestling name.
Okay, for real, thanks for writing TJ Thunder. Okay, now think about when you were writing exams in school, and you got to a long difficult question. Did you ever find yourself reading the question over and over again, hoping the the answer was somehow hidden there in the question itself? Hmm? Did you ever do that?
Yo, Tijuana Dudley: The answer to your question is contained within the question itself.
If girls are asking you for music to put on their little music-things, get them some music. Get it to them, turn them loose on facebook and the other social media stuff, and let those girls pimp your music for you. Chicks can passionate fans, man, and passionate fans are your most valuable marketing tools. They'll go all out to push you. Mobilize your lady-fans.
The 'net can build your career, dude. 10,000 views on youtube.com means something to people in the biz. Get your stuff out there, and let the ladies carry you to that promised land.
|Hey Van Hammersmith,
What's the craic?? (It's Northern-Irish don't worry if you don't understand what the hell I'm saying).
So here's my problem, I used to be lead guitarist in a band with a couple of mates from school, nothing special, just some light 'indie' music. We'd played a few gigs and all was well, we were even planning on recording after a few more gigs. So about a month ago, after five months of no practice due to lack of practice space, our bassist says he's gonna quit. To play guitar for a jazz band (THE HORROR!!!). Soon after that the singer says he's quitting because he's "Not enjoying being in a band anymore." We had a gig lined up which he decided to play ACOUSTICALLY by himself!!
I recently joined another band as singer but my vocals are kinda shaky. Good, but shaky. I was wondering if I should quit and get lessons before I decide to go anywhere professionally???
Also, the drummer from my old band wants to start up something new where I can play guitar again and vocals. He also has a friend to take over bass duty. Long story short, this guy is a pretty mediocre drummer (he's known to drop his drumsticks) but he can play some simple stuff. I want to be in my own band with more freedom and my friend but I don't want his amateurism to drag me down. WHAT SHOULD I DO?????? Should I tell him to get lessons or what?
Much appreciated, Ben.|
Well, I have good news for you Ben. If you're stressing about whether or not you should "quit" your current "band," let me clue you in: your band no longer exists!
There is some debate about the exact time limit. Some guys say it's four months, some guys say three months, some impatient types say it's way less, but it's pretty much a sure thing in your case. If you go five months without practicing you are NOT A BAND ANYMORE. Or maybe you are, but in name only. You're more like a club, or a gang, or a group of buddies.
You can plan gigs, or talk about songs that you're working on, or talk about how you'd like to promote yourselves in the future, but if you're never actually playing, you are NOT A BAND.
So when your bass player said "I'm quitting the band," what he was ACTUALLY saying was "I'm going to quit pretending that I'm in a band with you guys, and go really be in a band with these jazz guys."
And when your singer says he's "not enjoying being in a band anymore," what he really means is that "he's not in a band anymore." And if you guys had a gig lined up and you hadn't practiced in five months, he was probably right to play it acoustically instead of playing with a band that sucks because it hasn't practiced. Imagine all the hipsters standing along the wall adjusting their Buddy Holly glasses and lip piercings saying "Man, these guys sound like they haven't practiced in five months." People can tell, man.
So quit fooling yourself. Cut the cord.
As for your new singing career, sure get some lessons if you want. But be wary of using words like "career." Just because you just started singing in a band, doesn't mean you should consider a singing career. Remember that TV show where all the people line up outside of football stadiums around the country just to have people tell them they can't sing? And these poor dopes argue and say "But I've been singing in a band for years. I'm ready for this. I am the next Ameri--"
And then the security guards carry you out and you cry in front of a cameraman.
Listen up, Ben: You do not have a singing career. Just have fun with your band.
As for your drummer buddy, hell, play with him too. So what if he's not the best? Just play. Have fun. Rock hard. Any other questions? Okay then.