Ask Van Hammersmith. Part 45

author: Van Hammersmith date: 06/15/2011 category: junkyard
I like this
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voted: 12
Don't worry, the death/groove/pop/alt/punk scene is totally represented this week. Onward!
I was in a band and just really informal and not give a fuck a lot about stuff for like the longest time. And then I turned down soccer scholarships and the band fell apart and decided I really didn't wanna go to college cause I was distracted enough in HIGH school (see what I did there). So I was like fuck it and joined the navy. I've been in for like a year and a half and there's some real music talent. But no one wants to pull a Jimi Hendrix and play for real cause it's frowned on as "unprofessional" and "risky business." Like I understand I work for the man so how do I stick it to him and make him realize being in a rock band that plays bars isn't a bad thing? Honestly, as long has it doesn't interfere with my duty why should they give a fuck and judge me and shit? Sincerely, Super Seamen... lol
Okay, I admit I'm not really clear about some of the details of your situation. You're in the navy. Got it. There are some good musicians around. Got that too. But who is giving you a hard time about forming a band just to play some local bars? Is it your fellows sailors? Is it your officers or NCOs? It's not coming from the top, is it? It's not the Pentagon, is it? Great jumping hell, does the Pentagon hate rock and roll? The thing you've got to make people understand is that, for many of us, forming a band to play some gigs at the local bar is a HOBBY. It's something to do for fun. Maybe you can have a few beers while you're doing it, maybe chat up some of the lady-types, and maybe even make thirty or forty dollars. But like every other hobby out there, it is indeed unprofessional. Ask your frowning buddies what they do for fun. I bet it will be a lot of video games and smokin' the reefer, am I right? That's not exactly professional either, is it? Playing in a band is no worse than that. No different from softball on Sundays. Just another good, clean, wholesome activity to make your momma proud. And is it "risky business"? Maybe, but the stakes are pretty low. You take a risk of looking like an ass in front of a roomful of strangers. It's not like you're going to lose your life over this shit. I mean, it's only rock and roll. So tell your buddies to go back to their video games and stop judging others. And you, sailor! Quit swabbing the decks and start practicing your Jimi-jams. Getch'yer mojo working.
Dear Van Hammersmith, Me and my band are a close group of like-minded individuals. We all like the genre we're playing (punk/alt/pop), with the occasional metal song thrown in. We've had the occasional disagreement, but we all know we can always get past something petty like that. We have gigs lined up, and hope to maybe even tour in a summer or two. Now, the obvious doubt is if we can stay together. Well, let's throw that out the window for now, as this question could even help me down the road, regardless of what happens. Basically, this is what a general plan would be: Start in Pittsburgh (where we are), go to Chicago/my hometown (In Indiana, not too far from Chi), head back to Pitt, and basically go down the eastern seaboard to Miami, and then we hightail it back. We have ideas as to rides, etc. The one thing we have no clue about is how much it would cost. We all have jobs, and are planning on saving 10-15% of our income over this summer and next school year to save up for the possibility of a tour. I've heard ranges of $2000 all the way to $5000 on these forums, and we're just not sure. Would we have paying gigs? Maybe. Who knows? But how much do you think it would cost for the entire trip? (Note: possible transportation: Pickup, trailer, car). Thank you for answering, so many months in the future. -Jake-
Bring your credit cards, Jakester, because this sounds like a money pit. Assuming you guys are relatively unknown, and since you're asking me for advice it's safe to assume that you are, it's unlikely you're going to make much money at any of your gigs. Maybe a few bucks. Maybe just a hard punch in the teeth. You never know, especially down south. Here's the thingy: a lot of "name" acts these days are backing off of touring because it doesn't pay for itself anymore. Transportation costs are insanier than ever because of dreaded fuel prices, and it's hard to make a buck at the gigs because the economy is poor and people have less disposable income. Plus, people are spending the extra cash they have at more modern pursuits like online gambling. And if they do decide to spend money "going to a show," it's more likely going to be mixed martial arts. I hate to say it: punk/alt/pop just doesn't pay like it used to. If you do this on the cheap (sleep in your vehicle, eat from a common bag of flour, don't waste money on soap or wash your clothes, etc) you could still be looking at a few grand in fuel costs. And you'll have a horrible, miserable trip because you'll be so broke all the time. To make that trip even a little bit feasible, you would have to play an absolute crapload of gigs, stopping at every city on the way. That's hard to book. More likely you'll have a gig in Pitt, one in Chi, one in some random city like Norfolk, one in Miami, and then a two day drive home. That's not a tour. That's just driving. What you're thinking of isn't a tour, it's a vacation with gigs. If that's what you want, fine, but yeah, your out-of-pocket losses will be huge. Have credit cards on hand. But if you just want to tour, then book several shows in smaller centers that are close by so the fuel costs don't cripple you. Good luck, hombres.
Dear Van Hammersmith, I play in a death/groove metal band, and we are looking for gigs. But there are no gigs for a metal band in my area (possibly because there are only two metal bands, including mine), and everybody only wants to hear Conway Twitty covers, not originals. We would like to play more shows, but it seems the only option is to travel a good distance just to get a small show. Should we find shows in a bigger city or rent out venues and charge extremely high entry fees to break even? P.S. The only groupies we can get are ugly fat chicks. Any help?
I suppose you've considered playing death/groove covers of Conway Twitty and rejected the idea. What you're up against is one of the basic laws of the free market: supply and demand. You've got a supply of death/groove originals in a market with insufficient or negligible demand. You can either move to a market where there is greater demand, try to exploit the limited local demand, or try to build up the market to create more demand. You've clearly thought about the first and second options (gigs in bigger cities, or overcharging the local fans). The third alternative, slowly building greater demand, requires patience and networking. Team up with that other local death/groove band and start playing shows out of someone's garage. Host parties. Encourage the ugly fat chicks to bring their friends. There are always weird alternative places to play. Find some local bar that has one night of the week when they are absolutely dead, and offer to play. Then make sure as hell some people show up. Anyway, there are a thousand articles on this site on how to build a scene. Read them, and get to work. That was all you wanted, right? A pep talk? A death/groove metal-head in need of a pep talk. Get out there and destroy something. P.S. There's nothing wrong with getting head from ugly fat chicks, as long as the lights are out..
Hello, I've got a question, I was in a band, and we all recently decided to take our focus off of it and start our own bands, as we all had different views of where it should go. But now I want to reclaim the name and logo, which I came up with myself, for my new band. Is there a way I can do this without the rhythm guitarist (the only other original member, who seems to think he had a part in all my contributions) getting butt-hurt? Thanks a lot, ~Snakeskin Jim Loder.
Tricky question, SJL. And I don't want to come across as some kind of weirdo, but have you tried talking it over with him? This seems like a situation that could best be solved over a bottle of mescal tequila. But since you're worried about him getting "butt-hurt," which I assume means heart-broken or something, I guess he must be the sensitive type. I'm sorry to say there's no easy way around it. Tell him you want to use the logo and name. If he objects, tell him that you're sorry, but you came up with them and you're entitled to use them. If he still object, tell him you're going to use them anyway, but that you hope he can understand where you're coming from, and that you guys can still be friends. If he still objects, smash him over the head with the empty tequila bottle, bleed him, and bury him at dawn.
Hey Van Hammersmith, You may remember a while back my band had troubles with our lead guitarist leaving the band. Your advice worked, but since then we've kicked out two vocalists within eight months, and I have become completely excluded from almost every decision making process. The band is made up of me, my brother, and two of my friends, but as well as the problem above, any of sort of friendship I used to have with my brother, or with one of the two friends, is completely gone. The genre of music that the band plays has also become pop rock due to the fact that I don't have any input anymore; I wanted to play things like Ozzy's solo career. I'm seriously considering just quitting the band, but there's no other bands in the area. Please work your magic on this one, Thanks, Sean
Magic? Dude-man, know when to walk away from a smoking train wreck. If you're being excluded from the decision-making process and people aren't acting like your friends any more, that probably means they've grown tired of arguing with you. There ain't no magic, brutha. But you've got three options. Swallow your pride. You can accept that the band is going in a new direction, even though it's not music you love. Start working with them, and stop disagreeing with them. Stand in the background and go with the flow for a while. Your friends will become your friends again, and maybe your band will continue to play together. Gracefully step aside. Explain that you have artistic differences with the band's new direction, and you recognize that it's putting strain on your friendships with the other members. Tell them you value your friendship too much to carry on this way, and leave the band. Try to form a new band with the woodland creatures dwelling outside of town. Continue fighting. Go to war with these hardheaded mothers until they start seeing things your way, even though it will definitely destroy the band and your friendships. But hey, sometimes being right is the most important thing of all, do ya hear me? Magic this, buddy boy.
Dear Van Hammersmith, I always feel sorta embarrassed whenever I play because of my guitar's brand name. I'm a decent when it comes to actual skill but I wonder if people look past what's written on your headstock? Thanks, Ryan.
It's nothing you have to worry about, and I'll tell you why. There are three types of people that are going to see you play a gig: There will be people who couldn't give a crap what brand your guitar is, and probably wouldn't be impressed if you had an ax that Brian May hand-crafted for you. They just want to see a show, and you'd better rock. There are serious music freaks who might be guitar players who will think you're cool if you play well, no matter what brand your guitar is. In fact, they might give you bonus cool points for getting great sound out of a crap guitar, but they're not going to hate on someone for having an "affordable" rig. And there are the loser music freaks who will show up at a show and bag on everybody. If you're awesome they'll say you've got a shit guitar. If you've got a great guitar they'll say you suck and you're trying to hide behind equipment. Don't worry about these pricks, Ryan. Worry about sounding good and looking cool for the ladies, who usually don't care about brand names (on guitars, anyway). You can never please an asshole, but thankfully they are in the minority at a good rock venue. We can hope, anyway..
Hey, man. Just wanted to communicate 2 things: 1. I sent a question for your column a while back, about possibly becoming the house band for a bar. If it comes up in your rotation, just ignore it, no need to answer. (The bar closed.) But no worries! All is well in my small world. 2. You're doing right with the column. I know that you get tons of complaints on the questions you choose to field, but think about syndicated advice columnists: how do they choose which of 1,023,904 letters to print? Just... keep doing like you do. We're all enjoying the column. Peace, bro. May we meet on the stage some fine evening. -Jack
Thanks Jack. I wish I could compare myself to the other advice columnists, except I don't read them. Why would I? I've got my shit together, right? As for your question about the bar gig, yeah, I vaguely remember answering it. I don't remember what I said. Something good, I hope. And I know I'm way behind on the answers, but the way I look at it, even if I'm not in time to help you, chances are I'll be just in time to help someone else. And hell, this may be situational advice, but it's also LIFE ADVICE. So that's going to help sooner or later anyway, right guys? Guys? Anybody still listening?
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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