This week's column contains my personal philosophy summed up in one sentence, and my secret identity, but not really. Flame on!
|Hello, Van Hammersmith!|
My band's vocalist sucks. He really does. He can't hit any notes at all (almost, at least). And he is metrosexual (like, from that South Park episode). All my other band members have agreed to kick him out of the band, and me taking over as the new vocalist. Though, I don't want to be the ass to kick him out. I guess I could force another band-member to do it, but I don't think any of them wants to do it either. What is the best way to kick him out, or to make him quit?
Sincerely, The Contriver.
Ha ha! You're evil! Although I'm not sure if you want to be The Contriver (to plan, to make) or The Conniver (to cooperate secretly). I guess they both kind of work.
The best way to kick a guy out is by text message at four in the morning, and then never answer calls from the guy again and run away if you see him. Just kidding.
If you're going to fire a guy, pick one guy and make sure he can stand firm. Don't pick the guy who has broken up and gotten back together with his girlfriend ten times. Make sure he can make it clear that the relationship is over. The worst thing that can happen is your "killer" comes back and says "Good news guys! Dale isn't our drummer anymore... he's now our lead accordion player!" Ugh. Worst band ever.
If you really, really don't want to do it, try to find a fair way to pick who will do it: draw cards, roll dice, shortest straw, whatever.
Some people say a group is a good way to go, but not in my experience. If the whole band tries to fire a guy, someone will inevitably mention a reason, it will become a discussion, everybody will vent, and pretty soon he's still in the band and you are all apologizing to each other and doing group hugs and stuff. Pick a killer, make sure his will is strong, and send him on his mission. Kill, kill!
If you need a starting line, one that I've been told several times is: "Look, the rest of the band feels it's just not working out. It's not personal. We like you. We think you're a good guy. But it's just not the right fit. I think you've felt it too."
That way, you're reasons are suitably vague, and you give the guy the option to say, "Yeah, you're right. You guys aren't right for me." That allows him to save face. If he presses for real concrete reasons, don't bite. Evade. Things get real petty when you talk about reasons. Just be clear that the decision is final.
Then go get really, really hammered. Because you deserve it. You've done a hard job, killer.
I'm in three bands, and I am keeping up fine. The problem is, since I joined the third one, I have been having problems with songwriting. I play lead guitar, and wrote a number of songs for my first band, and the second band is a cover band. But ever since I joined the third band, it seems like every riff I write is either bad, or after I finish playing/writing it, I always say, "Shit. That sounds like (Insert awesome song by awesome band)." Are there any tips you can give me to overcome that? It's not like I lack songwriting partners, and I usually am the improver, as in the singer shows me the song and I make suggestions and improvements. How do I get over this writers block and start writing something good?
Thanks so much for taking the time to read this, and hopefully, answer it.
That's a problem, Crob. You are now one cow being milked by three different farmers.
Why are you in three bands? That's ridiculous. You can't possibly be serious about all three. And if you are, you're going to run into some serious problems. My guess? One or two of them will shrivel and fade. If that's the case, then your problem will be solved.
I've said it before here that I'm not a huge songwriter. Like you, I've worked with good writers, but I'm mostly just a player. But from observation, I would say that artistic creativity does get used up in the short term. You can push too hard and hit the bottom of the barrel. That's when you need to take a step back and let it build back up. If you try to write a new song every day, they will suck.
Slow down and let the juices regenerate. You ever try to whack off ten times in one day? It's gets more and more difficult. Same with writing songs. Let the juices build up, friend.
|Hello The Awesome And Amazing Van Hammersmith!!
What Kinda Music Ya Like? I Figured Out Ya Don't Care For Rush And Van Halen. Think It Was Van Halen. Mighta Been Stones Or Zeppelin I Dunno. I Like Em All. Not Much A Fan For Music Made In My Lifetime.
What Is The Best Guitar You've Ever Owned/Played? In Your Opinion. Not The Opinion Of The Guitar Critics Of UG. And Don't Go Complainin Bout Him If He Says Some Beat Up Old Squire That Was Sitting In His Grandma's Basement For 30 Years Or The Jonas Brothers Guitar Gibson Made. I Like This Guy. He's Cool.
-Nate The Great Japanese Guitar Playing Kid With An Afro.
This was awesome. It feels like a cartoon on happy-crack wrote this letter. I didn't edit it, because shit, look at it. Ridiculous. Most of you guys don't capitalize at all. Nate Capitalizes Everything.
As for your ridiculous questions, I like Van Halen (but I'm sick of "Jump." Drives me crazy.) but I don't care much for Rush. Just not my cup of tea. Great players. Just not my cup of tea. And yeah, I'm pretty over Zeppelin. Okay, yeah, great band, great songs. But it's like the old joke: with all of the hottest chicks in the world, there has always been a time when some dude has just been sick of her shit, and tired of nailing her. That's how I feel about Zep. Okay, they're great. Just... enough. Please. Shut. Up.
Guitars? They come and go, and unlike a lot of obsessive freaks I used to be friends with, I don't get insanely attached to them.
But I like this old Takemine acoustic that I have. I never use it for performance or anything like that. It's my living room guitar. I found it at a garage sale, and bought it for five bucks. It was stringless and had been painted like a primary school kid's art project, but I cleaned it up and replaced some parts, and it sounds great. Just a good living room guitar. You need a guitar in your living room. Didn't you know?
|I'm 20 and for the last 12 years I've grown up on a farm in quite Canada spawning some crazy guitar skills that I wish to share with the world. Trouble is I'm at university and despite what you hear, I haven't met a single person who either likes the kind of/range of music I like or is anywhere close to the level I have taught myself because let's face it, it was that or riding horses. I never had intentions on forming a band or really writing music, but playing by myself is not fun any more and I could really use someone on harmony for those Dragonforce solos. What should I do?
I know how you feel, man. I'm between bands again. The drummer in my Journey-Boston-Foreigner-Etc. cover band had a stroke, man. Sucks. He should recover, but we're on long term hiatus, which means I'm looking for gigs. But what else is new, right?
Feel better soon, Jeff. The band needs you. Don't let that stroke push you around.
But that's what happens when you get older, right? You start playing with older guys, and some of them start showing the miles of wear and tear. It's a tough life, rock and roll.
What's that? Answer the question?
Sorry Jason. I got distracted.
SAME OLD ANSWERS: You might have to compromise on what kind of music you play just to get a spot in a band. You should go to local metal shows and try to meet other metalheads. Try finding people online. Put up posters. Wear a t-shirt that says "I PLAY METAL GUITAR. DO YOU?" (copyright Van Hammersmith 2011, but you can use it.)
Say, do you like '70s arena rock? Can you play drums? Willing to relocate? I might have a spot in a band for you.
|Hey hey Van Hammersmith got a few questions for ya.
I wish to call upon your vast experience playing gigs. I'm sure you've been offered just about every drug there is to be offered on the road. While I'm sure you partook in quite a few of them, I'm sure you didn't try all of them (or maybe you did). How did you turn down the few people who just won't say no until you take/try whatever they have without coming off as a huge f--king prick?
On a related note, what do you do when a crucial member of the band is heavily under the influence of (insert drug of choice here) on stage and you notice just after your set has started?
On another semi-related note, when playing a gig where you weren't given the chance to sound check, are there any tricks to still getting an overall decent sound?
Thanks in advance,
Good questions, all of them. For the sound check, after your second song, ask the sound guy "How are the levels?" If you're playing without a sound guy, ask the audience. "Too much bass? Should we turn down the bass? Jerry, turn down. You suck."
As for turning down the guy who won't take no for an answer without "coming off as a huge f--king prick," just remember this simple fact: a guy offering you drugs who won't take no for an answer IS BEING A HUGE F--KING PRICK. It's as simple as that. If you don't want it and he is legitimately hassling you, look him in the eye and tell him "F--k off already. I'm not here for that."
Don't worry about being an asshole to someone who is already being an asshole.
As for the guy in your band who is completely off his head during the set, just try to get through the show as best you can. After the show get the rest of the band together and as a team, give him a warning. If he does it a second time, fire him.
No excuses. Anybody can be fired. Pink Floyd fired Syd Barrett. Metallica fired Dave Mustaine. Don't tell me you can't fire Billy Bassplayer.
|Hello Mr. Van Hammersmith,
I read your column every week and it's no secret that you know your way around the industry and the finer points of playing music with people. I understand and respect your anonymity on this forum, but I have always wanted to hear you play. Is there anywhere online where your devoted fans can get a snippet of audio gold featuring you? If not, that's cool. Much respect for what you do.
Well, there's good news and bad news, Justin. The good news is that there is a ton of videos of me and my various bands playing live on the internet, usually in the form of grainy cell phone videos shot in dark bars and pubs across this big happy country, where everybody always gets along and we always work together (right, Congress?).
The bad news is that I'm not going to tell you the names of these bands, or provide you with links. Why? Because I don't want to be made fun of by other musicians for writing a column, and I don't want to be made fun of by you guys when you see that I'm an old, fat, ugly geezer with bad teeth and thinning hair, with skinny arms and a pot-gut, playing shitty, empty bars with a band that sucks, playing music everybody hates, surrounded by other delusional degenerates that haven't heard the '80s are over.
I'm sure I sound pretty fierce when you hear my voice in your head, and you imagine me looking like a tough, leathery mother in a leather jacket, drinking black coffee all morning and beers all afternoon. I'm happy to leave you to your own harmless delusions. Good enough?
Good enough for me.