Ask Van Hammersmith. Part 43

author: Van Hammersmith date: 06/01/2011 category: junkyard
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Here are the rules of Rock and Roll. Rule number one: protect your balls. There is no rule number two.

Dear Van Hammersmith,

Surprisingly I'm not writing to ask you another "how do I find a band question."

At the moment I am currently in a band that consists of myself as the bassist, our guitarist/singer and a drummer. We're all good friends too. Anyway, we had a problem a while back where the singer/guitarist was complaining of too much responsibility in the band, claiming it was too hard for him to play lead and sing as well. So we roped in another friend who plays guitar to be lead, and I took over half the vocal duties. Everything was all good, we were settling in with a few covers and the band was running fluidly. But here's the problem: the lead guitarists can't write solos for peanuts, even though he's fine with playing them from a tab. Our singer/guitarist could, but nothing fast/technical like we wanted. So I approached yet another friend who I had heard some really good material from, asking if he wanted to play. His reply was "I can't play live."

So my question is, would a small time band work with separate live and studio guitarists? Or should I boot my friend and look for a creative lead guitarist who has the balls to play live?

Sincerely, P.

See, I decided not to cut the first line of this chode's letter to show how everybody likes to rip on everybody else's letters. Oh, Van, the letters you get are so boring, but mine is so different, wank, wank, wank... Anyway, about P. Douchie's question. It reminds me of a guy who's got three fine Chrysler automobiles. One is missing the engine, one has no tranny (that's transmission, not transsexual, for all you guys that never leave the house and spend all your time surfing the porn), and the last one has no axles. He takes the bus everywhere until he realizes that all he has to do is chop the three cars up and make them into one complete, functioning American road master. You've got one guy that can't sing and play, one guy that can play but can't write, and one guy who can write but not perform. The answer? Cut 'em up and sew together a Frankenmonster with three heads, six arms, three dicks and six balls. Give the freak three guitars, assign roles, and get the hell up on stage. You'll do fine, kiddo. Except for one little thing, Poindexter, and that's the fact that guitarists ain't cars; they're people, and they have feelings. So what's your plan, have a little platoon of guitarists and tell them when and where they're allowed to play? Won't work, Holmes. What you've got to do is, you've got to treat your guitarist like a lady. And what would you do if you had three ladies all willing to date you? None of them are perfect, but they all have something you like. One has big breasts but bad breath, another is very smart but has a lazy eye, and number three is funny and beautiful but likes to dress up as Charlie Chaplin complete with mustache for sex. Do you date them all and try to use them each in different situations? No! You pick one, treat her right, try to make the best of the situation, and try to help her improve herself. How? I don't know. I'm usually drunk and trying to deflect her attempts to improve me. But I'm lost in my metaphor. Pick one of these dudes and work with him. If a guy isn't a great writer, you can work with him. Writing doesn't come right away. It takes time, and not everyone gets great at it. If you pick the other guy who says he can't play live, help him ease into it. But trying to double them up probably won't work. You're playing with fire there.
Hi dude, I'm going straight to the point: I'm a bassist and I used to play with a couple friends, we actually had some good shit, but the guitar guy was a little lazy and the drummer is going through some issues quitting weed... Now some guys invited me to play with them, but they are not so good and I really want to start performing local shows you know? Should I put my old band together? Should I stick to the newbies?? Should I look somewhere else?? Should I shoot myself in the head??!
Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha hahahahahahahahhahahahahhahaaahhhhaaaaahhhaaa, OMG, OMG, did this guys actually, did he just, did he just, ha ha hahahahahahhahaha, he really said it? He did? Ha hah hahahahahaha... (Van Hammersmith continues laughing until he pukes blood, shits his pants, and breaks his elbows. He returns hours later wearing new pants and homemade casts to finish writing the column.) Sorry about that. It's just that when I read your letter it seemed to me that your buddy was having so much trouble quitting weed that it was tearing his life apart, like he's going through huge withdrawal, puking, punching through walls, stealing from his parents, letting old men blow him in bus station bathrooms for five bucks, just to get that next joint, just one little burn, just one fix, just one fix... It struck me as funny, because, you know withdrawal from weed is usually being grumpy and sitting around saying, man, I wish we had some weed. This sucks. I wish I was still smoking weed. But probably you meant that the guy kept saying he was going to stop smoking but he never did, and this was somehow preventing him from performing his duties as a drummer. And even that strikes me as odd, since I've know a lot of pothead drummers. Never seemed to get in the way much. I can't say that it helped, but it didn't seem to get in the way. So it sounds like you've got to choose between lazy guys who can play and eager players who suck. It might not be worth much, but in the same situation I would probably go with the players who are actually willing to play. It doesn't matter how talented your other buddies are. You'll never play a gig if the guys aren't willing to work. You stand a better chance with a couple guys with (ahem) "developing skills" who are willing to show up and practice twice a week, bust their asses and go for the shit. And don't worry about getting local gigs. If you have guys who are willing to work, you should be able to find gigs. And if your bands sucks? Well, you can still get gigs. You just might not get second gigs.
Dear Van Hammersmith, I've been playing guitar for about 15 months and I am currently a high school sophomore. I aspire to eventually be in a touring band to make my living. I play metal, so I still have a long way to go until I consider myself satisfied with my playing skill. I'm wondering whether I should concentrate on my technique for the rest of my high school career and then concentrate on writing with a band in college, or if I should try to start a band now while simultaneously working on my technique. Which would you think would give me the best chance to succeed? If you any suggestions I would be extremely thankful. Sincerely, Just some ambitious kid.
Easiest answer ever, J'Sad. Work one your technique like a madman mo'fo in your personal time, but if you can get a band together, do it. You need to learn how to play with other people, and you need to learn how to be in a band. Think about the "down the road" time when you're trying to score a spot in the lineup of a real band. Do you want to show up and tell them that you've never played in a band, but that you've practiced a lot. It would be kind of like showing up at college, or even at an adult workplace, and expecting to get laid A LOT, but having no idea what to say or do because you didn't date in high school. But you say "Sure, maybe I never dated or actually had sex, but I did whack off for two hours every single night for the last eight years." It doesn't work. Get in a band and find out what it's like to work with real humans.
Dear Mr. Hammersmith, First of all, I never played an instrument before but I recently started to play this old acoustic guitar. I'm not very good at it yet and I know I won't be, since I'm already in my 20's and I don't have all that time to practice regularly. But that's okay, I'm fine with it. I guess, I'm just not that "Hell yeah, I'm going on stage right now working the hell outta mah guitar and making theez bitches want to scream, muzzafacka" type of girl. Nevertheless, I'm learning. Unfortunately, the songs I'd like to play seem to be rather difficult to me, so my question would be: Do you know some songs that are easy to learn? Don't get me wrong, I don't mind practicing days, weeks or months until I'm able to play a song I like. But I need some feeling of achievement once in a while, something I can rely on when I need a break from these more difficult things. I'd like to have a song I can play and sing along with, cause I want to have fun with my guitar. Hope you know some. Thanks and keep it up. You rock! Lynn.
Thanks, Lynn. I will indeed "keep it up." Yeah. Anyway, sure I know some good starter tunes. Bob Dylan is always an easy place to start. Try "All Along The Watchtower." It's three chords, over and over, with some cool lyrics. Stay away from the Jimi version, since it will make your head explode. Try some White Stripes songs. "Seven Nation Army" is a common starter rock song. If you're just going to play the chords, there are lots of things to try. Try "Wonderwall." Try "You Can't Always Get What You Want." There lots of things. Go to a local jam night. Ignore the awesome players, and check out what the mid-range people are playing. Try "I Don't Want To Grow Up" by Tom Waits. Try "Karma Police" by Radiohead. Look up songs you know and like right here at U-G and see if they're difficult. The possibilities are endless! Learn to listen for chords and changes when you're listening to music you like. If you can pick out three or four changes, and you can recognize the pattern, look up the tab or chords on the 'net and try to learn it. Go, Lynn! Keep it up!
Dear Van Hammersmith, I've recently started to read your column and I like your no-bullshit approach. My question is simple: in your experience, what is the best way to score a regular, acoustic-style solo gig in a small bar/pub/coffee house/whatever? Do I record a demo? Do I simply show up with my guitar and play a few songs for the manager? No situation requiring cock sucking will be tolerated. Thanks, Henri.
Oh, Henri, I am ready to nuke you right off the planet. I'm not going to waste much time on your completely chickenshit request for advice on how to score the easiest, lamest gig on the planet. (Answer: walk into a pub/coffee shop and ask if they have performers. Then ask how they select performers. Work from there.) Instead I'm going to focus on your completely unnecessary and ridiculous homophobia and hatred. Why are you bringing the hate, Henri? It just don't make no sense. I know that sometimes weak, insecure people will try to talk tough to make themselves feel big. This makes perfect sense for a complete cream puff like Henri, who plans on pursuing acoustic gigs in local coffee houses. This type of gig, to the readership of a website largely patrolled by rock and metal thugs and hoodlums, could be perceived as "not tough." Or maybe even "sissy." Or even kind of "fairy." So Henri makes a gay joke so that we all know he's straight. And a big tough guy. But I want to say right now that homophobic comments or slurs have no place on this site, and more generally speaking, no place in rock and roll. Fags have been at the very center of rock and roll since its birth, and they'll continue to be everywhere in rock and roll, forever. In fact, have you ever heard of Elton John, David Bowie, Little Richard, Freddie Mercury, Michael Stipe, Rob Halford, Melissa Ethridge, or Joan Jett? And there are many others performing in many other genres of popular music. Yes, there are gay musicians all around us, all the time. And maybe some of them are afraid to admit their sexuality or participate in the rock scene because they are afraid of homophobic jerks like Henri here. So lighten up, Henri! There's nothing wrong with fags, and if you stop making stupid, unfunny gay jokes, that doesn't mean that you are gay. It just means that you've woken up and realized we live in an inclusive society.
Hey, Van Hammersmith! Got a couple questions for ya, First off, I'm the bass player in a thrash band, and I'm singing lead when we play live, but it's a temporary setup. We've already started trying out singers, which I fully endorse. My question is, since I'm soon to be demoted to the least-paid-attention-to person in a band, how does a humble bassist avoid just being 'that guy' nobody recognizes? Secondly, I am, by a considerable margin, the youngest person in the band. I'm 19, the next youngest is late 20s, and our drummer is old enough to be my dad. I'm well trained enough that I wouldn't have any problems getting into another band if I auditioned, but the band I'm in right now is driven and actually out playing shows. Plus, my current band will punt me the instant they hear about me looking elsewhere. What'd you think? Any help would be appreciated, -- Scott
Okay, Scott, here's what you do. Stay with the band. They're motivated and working. That's the best thing for a musician. You're asking how to stand out, and also worried that you're so much younger than the other players. I would say that you will stand out simply by being the young guy. I would play up to this by getting in really great shape, wearing sleeveless T-shirts, and focus on being the young, hip one in the band. What this can do for you: chicks who dig the band will dig the members closest to their own age. If you guys rock the hell out of a joint, any chicks around the twenty-year mark will be looking at you. Unless you're ugly, and even that won't matter if the band is good enough. Do you doubt me? Okay, I'll back it up. I know I get flamed for using too many Ramones stories (they were a good bunch), but this one applies. The band plays a show. There are some young celebrities in the crowd. After the show, the old guys, Johnny, Joey and Marky fade away. Young new-guy bass player CJ sticks around and pulls... Julia Roberts! True story. Ask him. She might deny it. Work it, dude. Work that angle. Leave the cougars to the rest of the band. Pull the hotties.
More Van Hammersmith columns:
+ Ask Van Hammersmith: Legacy Songs Artists' Discussions 01/09/2014
+ Ask Van Hammersmith: How to Dump a Band Fiction 01/06/2014
+ Ask Van Hammersmith: Band of Equals Fiction 12/24/2013
+ Ask Van Hammersmith. Part 62 (Final) Junkyard 10/12/2011
+ Ask Van Hammersmith. Part 61 Junkyard 10/05/2011
+ Ask Van Hammersmith. Part 60 Junkyard 09/28/2011
+ view all
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