The soundtrack for today's column will be a really chunky, funky, distortion-heavy riff. Wait until you can hear it in your head before you start reading.
I've been playing guitar for a while and I have been desperately looking for a band to play in. The only problem is I don't know people who can drive. I am too young myself and everyone within walking distance either doesn't want to or doesn't play anything. What should I do?|
Get on the bus, my friend! I have no idea how you might go about it, but find someone who is willing to play with you in your metropolitan area. If they can't drive either but you still want to jam, one of you will just have to wrap his precious guitar in garbage bags so freaks on the bus don't try to steal your equipment, and start the crosstown crawl. It might be a good idea to dress up really poor too, so you don't get robbed or beaten for your money. Try to stink, so potential hooligans will think you're a crazy homeless person and not worth kicking to death. Make sure you have nothing worth stealing visible.
Then have a nice jam with this new person and determine whether it's "going to work." As in "Yeah, let's start playing together every week and start writing songs together too. I think this is going to work." And if it is "going to work," then leave your guitar there. You'll have to secure a second guitar so you have one to practice with at home.
Get a second amplifier too, and make sure that it's something small enough that you can wrap it in garbage bags and hobo-carry it on the bus over to your new partner's loft apartment in the city.
And then every week, take the bus over there and jam and work on stuff until you guys are ready to find a drummer. After that you'll take the bus somewhere else, like the drummer's house, or to a real rehearsal space. And congratulations, friend! You're the guy that takes the bus when nobody can pick him up!
|Dear Van Hammersmith,
Why do people listen to shitty music?
Every Metalhead Ever|
People listen to shitty music because that's all there is. All music is shitty, according to someone. Take me for example. My music is shitty according to every band-mate or musical collaborator I've ever had. But to really drunk chicks who are back at my apartment late at night, those songs are really popular. And that includes live performances or any of the many home demos I've recorded.
So it's all about taste, I guess. 'There's nothing good or bad but thinking makes it so. Hamlet said that, I think. I'm not going to look it up. I just don't care.
And so, my metalhead-mocking friend, I can only tell you this. Fashion and taste change continually. But sometimes what doesn't change is the permanent fixation some boys have for what they thought was cool when they were fourteen. So yeah, times are tough, and the music sucks. But dude, it's never going to be the way it was when you were fourteen ever again. Never.
Move on, dude.
|Dear Van Hammersmith,
I'm in two different bands: a worship band that plays at my church's youth group every Sunday (oddly enough, it's rather fun), and a two piece rock group. I'm not having trouble with either one, but neither of these bands are as motivated to try new things as I am. I have a lot of pull in both of them, and a lot of times I decide what gets done. But I want to push my band mates to be more adventurous in their music, without becoming a tyrant.
Also, I've been asked to join my friend's punk band since their lead guitarist moved away. But I would be wasting my time if I said yes. How do I say no without causing tension in the future? I know it's pretty important not to have to compete with other local bands.
Okay, Tots. Just let me ask you which band you're worried is going to have to compete with the punk band: the worship band, or the two piece rock duo or group? Because neither of those seem like real natural competitors to a punk band, you know? The kind of have different audiences. You compete within your own genre. Rappers shoot other rappers, punks stab other punks. Worship bands make a nice potato salad for other worship bands.
But I can understand if you don't want to offend a friend, or create Future: Tension. But, you might just remind your punk friend that you are already in two bands, and it might not be the best thing for you to take on further projects at the moment. Especially since you are having these creative dilemmas in each group.
And as for your creative dilemmas, it's clear to me that you are doing most of the work, and you are the only one contributing on a creative level. And if these other players are not willing to push themselves musically, then you'll have to be the one to push them.
And push them you will.
Don't be afraid of being a tyrant. These pigs should be thanking you for pulling them up by the bootstraps. And you need to understand that as the leader and creative focal point of the band, it is also your responsibility to inspire your band mates to push their own limits. Grow your hair long and perm it. Start wearing a cape whenever you play. But you can't just talk the talk. You've got to walk the walk, and that means you're going to have to believe your own bullshit, too.
And when you find yourself in a tree in the backyard of your mother's house, tripping wigglies insane on homemade acid, clawing at your diamond eye makeup and tearing off your bell bottoms and hipster glasses, you can scream: I wanted to push my band mates to be more adventurous in their music
And the doctors in the hospital where the police take you will nod and write cryptic jargon on their clipboard charts.
|Well, I'm in a couple of bands and in all of them we can get really pissed off at one another at times (you know how it is) but a lot of the time it's because someone (mainly one of the the instrumentalists, I'm one of the guitarists by the way) is messing around. Whether it be mindless shredding or trying to figure out that cool riff we hear in our heads. So my question to you is how much is too much and how to deal with it properly.
\m/Keep it Metal\m/
Okay, Chase. At least they're interested in playing, I guess. But you've got to show these varmints your pimp hand, or they'll be shittin' all over your farmyard. You've got to tell them, really cool and stoney-like, that weekly band rehearsal is for practicing the songs that the band wants to play. If you've got a song or a song part, bring it to practice and we'll hear it. But don't stand in the corner noodling around
when we're trying to get something done."
Then hit him with the clincher: "Try to stay on the same page as the rest of us." Then give them a firm nod, as though you are dismissing them. If they don't recognize that they've been dismissed, you should leave.
After that, they should understand what's required of them. But if they continue to impede progress, just hit them with a sharp "Stay on the same page!" said in a striking tone, as though you are trying to wake them up. Encourage the other members to shout the same phrase when necessary. Perhaps you should shake you head and comment, "Man, we've got to get that guy to stay on the same page as the rest of us."
He'll either get with the program, or he'll quit. Or the band will fire you. Or he'll just physically attack you. It's hard to see what will happen next.
Difficult to see is the future.
|Dear Van Hammersmith,
I'm playing a song in my school's talent show. I'm really pumped about it and I practice the damn song every waking hour. But there are two problems. One, I'm going on stage with a second guitarist who plays the rhythm. We're having problems when we rehearse, like him thinking I can't pull it off, and the fact that he gives the impression he has never even heard the song before. Two, I feel like I'm overdoing it a little and that I should cut down on the rehearsing a bit.
So you both think the other player sucks. And you both probably kinda do. And that's okay. You just need to get used to each other. You're bristling like a couple of wild animals, and it's only gonna hurt the band and the performance.
You guys need a trust building exercise. If there is time before your show (or the next one if this reply should happen to be three or four months late), I suggest you guys spend at least twenty-four consecutive hours handcuffed together. Just be sure to pay attention to which hand you're handcuffing, because you guys are going to have to spend at least six of those hours practicing together and jamming on new material.
But the real high-comedy times will be the intimate moments when you two really get to know each other. The behind closed doors moments. You'll probably want to have a few beers, just to relax. Just don't have so many that you accidentally grope each other when you're sleeping.
Or you could just stay awake. It is only twenty-four hours, after all.
Anyway, after that you guys should know each other well enough that maybe you'll be a little more supportive of each other's talents. That's what I hope will happen. I acknowledge the possibility that you guys might just end up stabbing each other.
|Dear Van Hammersmith,
I'm not in a band, nor is hard rock my sole musical interest, so that separates me from the rest of your readers right off the bat. However, I do write my own music as a hobby, despite not knowing any instruments (I do have rudimentary knowledge of music theory, however).
I don't start off a song thinking "I want this to be a [genre here] song, I just write words and think of melodies and rhythms and let the song decide what it wants to be. By doing this, I have about ten distinct songs, all of which I'm rather fond of. They range from punk to ballads to rap rock to pop, because I don't discriminate.
I'm afraid that despite the variety of genres, I'll eventually run out of ideas. I'm also a singer, but I'm afraid that I won't grow as one unless I develop just one sound. Should I buckle down and pick one genre, and if I do, how do I make sure that I'm not rewriting the same song over and over again?
By the way, consider that I might want to try doing this for a living someday*, because if this was just a personal artistic statement, I'd just do what made me happy.
*Doing it for a living means becoming mainstream, not selling out. There's a difference.
Okay, I'm not going to bend my head around whether making a living doing something means becoming mainstream, or whether or not that is selling out. As someone who's been doing this for money for the last couple decades, the term "selling out" does not mean a hell of a lot.
If you're planning on being a professional songwriter, but not a performer or recording artist, then absolutely try to learn many different styles. Learn to write in several genres. You'll need the flexibility if you want to stay employed.
If however, you wish to be a performer or recording artist, then figure out where your strength lies and work as hard as you can at that.
And learn to play an instrument. Guitar, keyboards, whatever. You'll need to sooner or later if you seriously want to be a songwriter. Until you can teach someone how to play a song, you are just a lyricist.
Ya dirty lyricist.