For the newcomers: You give me questions, I give you smart-ass replies. Deal? Deal.
|Dear Van Hammersmith,|
I have a serious question for once, unlike 95 percent of the other questions I'm sure you get. I'm in a band and in college and plan on getting a job in a power plant making good money when I graduate. I love playing. The dudes in the band are cool as fuck and I really have no problems, more of a hypothetical dilemma. My bands will be playing some gigs in Pittsburgh, and I know its unlikely, but if we were to get a shot at big time should I take it or just continue playing small local places rather than losing a really good job and possible good life?
Good news, Trevor! Usually, a "shot at the big time" means nothing. It might mean a little bit of short term money. To get good, serious money, you need huge continuous shots at the big time, over and over, every year, for like, your entire career.
But the real good news is that you are going to play some good shows, have fun, and your future is taken care of with a real actual career that will allow you to buy a home (which is a great place to party!) and maybe even get married (she'll have sex with you!) and maybe even have kids (you'll get to play with toy robots and dinosaurs again!).
Seriously, do you think there are a whole bunch of '80s style record executives hanging around Pittsburgh looking for talent to sign to seven-figure deals? Get real. Play Pittsburgh, have a great time, go back to your home city, continue playing shows, graduate, continue playing shows, get your Homer Simpson power plant job, continue playing shows, have a good life, continue playing shows, get married, and continue playing shows until your wife eventually strangles your spirit and makes you give up on your dreams. Don't blame her. It's her way of helping you grow up. But if you find the time, continue playing shows.
I think that the arrival of Guitar Hero a couple years ago has inspired way too many 'guitarists' in my town... every guy at my school thinks that in order to be 'cool' they have to play guitar (keep in mind I'm only in 7th grade).
I am a guitarist that happens to be a girl. And I'm starting to feel like I don't get the recognition from other people as the other guitar players do, just because I'm a girl.
I auditioned for the school's talent show and played this classical piece which took me months to learn... and I didn't make it in. The "greatest guitar player in school" made it in by playing a song from Cage The Elephant.
How do you think that I could get myself out there as a guitar player? Because (I'm trying to stay humble), but I am more skilled than the other guitar players at my school from what I've heard.
Thanks for your letter, Megan! Good to see the next generation of lady shredders represent.
As for how to get recognition? There's only one thing a guitarist can do, and it begins with a B and ends with, um, and.
Yeah, I mean, form a band. People in middle school will probably not think a piece of classical guitar is cool. If you want to appeal to the unwashed, ignorant masses, you need to play the music that kids today listen to. And of course I'm talking about Cage The Elephant. (Just kidding. I had to look them up. But they seem fine. "Shake Me Down" and so on. That's... that's fine I guess.)
The simple fact is that not many people will get excited by classical guitar. If you want to "get out there," then form a band, write some simple rock songs, and leave minute long sections in your songs where you get to solo like mad on classical-based rock solos. It works. Several of rock's demi-gods learned their chops (or as I call them, "yops") playing classical.
Tell some of your dorky friends to get themselves some instruments (like bass, drums and tambourine) teach them to play, and OWN THE LIVING HECK out of the next "talent show."
You have your assignment. Now get to work.
|Dear Van Hammersmith
I'm in a tech/prog metal band that is in a location where the metal community is close to non-existent. For every 100 trance or club music lover you may find ONE trance/club music lover who might be willing to actually listen to anything that has distorted guitars, let alone metal.
The band I'm in has been going strong for about a year now, we're all really talented musicians and we have progressed at a very fast pace in the time we've been together, but the problem lies not in our music but rather the ego of a few of our members.
When the band started out everything was supposed to be democratic, but as time went by my rhythm guitarist started to take reign of most of the choices the band should be making. When it comes to writing songs it's usually me, the rhythm guitarist, and the bassist who come up with the songs after hours of throwing riffs around and arguing. Unfortunately as of late it's been me being vetoed out by the other two because all my stuff according to them sounds...well...crap. Now this really wouldn't bug me...however :
M : Hey.....why don't we add *riff 1* here?
Rhythm: STFU man... that sounds like SHIT... I can't even figure out the notes.
Bass: I swear dude... what the fuck are you trying to accomplish here?
*couple of days later*
Rhythm: HEY! I got an idea (plays slightly modified version of riff 1).
Bassist: Dude that is fucking SICK!
Me : WTF man! That sounds like the riff I've written.
Rhythm and Bassist : STFU man!
I'm not saying that they're bad guys, they've helped me out a lot when I really needed it, but the ridicule is getting to a point where I want to bash my head against a wall. There is only so much I can laugh away. It's even worse when a girl enters the band room because then everyone's "Oh I gotta look cool" drive is through the roof, and I'm subject to more humiliation. Yeah I'm the short guy in the group, but I don't think that automatically gives you the position of court jester.
Is it worth staying in the band? Or should I just quit and form another one (which is really hard seeing as I live in technotown).
(Van Hammersmith Says: This letter was too long, but my answer is ridiculously long so I'm not cutting it down.)|
Hey SWG. Let me ask you something: have you ever gone "across the room" at someone? Because I've got to tell you, my tolerence for being told to STFU is low enough that I would go across the room at my mom if she told me to STFU.
Here's the thing about STFU: the only time you should be told to STFU is if you are being such complete donkeys that you KNOW you are being a donkey.
So, the next time someone tells you to STFU, quickly stop and ask yourself if you are being a donkey (this should take about a second). If you are not being a donkey and this person was telling you to STFU to make themselves look big, or make you look small (not a short joke), then you need to go "across the room."
I would think the meaning of going "across the room" at someone would be clear, but in case any of you donkeys can't figure it out, yeah, I'm talking about beating the shit out of someone. I'm talking about launching yourself like a human missile "across the room" at the pretend-friend and breaking a bunch of their teeth.
Because here's the thing: yeah, there's always a pecking order in any social situation, but in a band, guys are supposed to have each other's backs. Everybody will always bust balls and talk tough, but the last thing anybody needs during a SONGWRITING SESSION is morons telling contributing band members to STFU.
You ask if it's worth staying with the band. Well, I ask you: what is the price of your self-worth? Are you willing to be treated like shit, and be told to STFU without action or recourse? Are you going to laugh and meekly take it? Or are you going to stand up for yourself? Are you willing, when the time comes, to "go across the room?"
And are you willing to look at your friends and say "I do not have to take the bad with the good. They've been good friends and helped me out in the past, but they also make me feel bad about myself. Am I willing to put up with that?"
Give them a chance. Tell them what you think. Shit, tell them what you told me. Let them think it over. They'll probably bitch and deny. That's what fake tough guys do. Then wait and see if they learn anything.
If things don't change and they still make you want to bash your head, you'll have to tell them: "Guys, I'm sorry, but you've been acting like a couple of donkeys for far too long. See how many new riffs Rhythm Donkey can come up with on his own. Oh, and guys... STFU."
Because it as simple as this raging shizzle on a stick: a band is only worth being in if you are either having a good time or making a lot of money. You can put up with a lot of crap for good money, but there's no reason you should put up with shit for nothing.
Now, let me be really clear about this whole "ADVICE COLUMN" thing. I get a lot of kids saying they don't have a band and they want help finding players. Fine. Cool. I also get a whole lot of letters (in case you haven't noticed) from guys in functioning bands who are asking if they should quit or not.
I am not some bitter, crazy old fuck who wants guys to quit their bands. I do not like seeing bands break up, and I don't like seeing friendships end. But you have to be real, you know? You have to look at a situation and say "Yep, I'm being done wrong by these fellers, and it's time to ride this horse to the next town."
Often, when someone is being treated like raw shit (like our little buddy SWG), that person will have two options. You can quit, get out, break up the band, leave it all in fragments to shore against your ruins...
...or you can STAND UP FOR YOURSELF.
This is why I occassionaly recommend "going across the room" at someone. And remember, going across the room can be taken literally or metaphorically. It is possible to verbally go across the room and tell a slimy, piece of shit bass player that he isn't helping the band or himself by treating other band members badly. But dude, you have got to stand up for yourself. Tell them you don't like the way they act. If they don't adjust, then they are donkeys and they will go nowhere anyway. Quit.
And let me say this: I don't like it when people quit. That may surprise longtime readers (Wowee! I have longtime readers! [probably people waiting for their damn question to be answered]). I actually think it's worth while to stick with something you're interested in, even if it's difficult. I like "sticktoitiveness." That's a real word. Even my spellcheck knows it. Although for some reason, my spellcheck is also okay with "assgabbler." So maybe this particular spellcheck is not the arbiter of right and wrong.
Interesting. "Assgabbler" does not appear in Google. I guess that means it's a "neologism," which according to Google means it's a newly coined word. I guess that makes me the "coiner," and as such, I get to invent its meaning. An "assgabbler" is a person who continually gets pushed around by his bandmates, gets used and abused, lets others take credit for his songwriting, gets teased in front of hotties, and continues to take it because "everyone else in town only likes techno."
SWG, you gotta stop being such as assgabbler and get it together.
As I've read in several of these "Ask Van Hammerstein" columns (that guy really knows his stuff), I've learned a few things about how to look at ther world, and I have to think: "What would I do if this band was my lady?"
Dude, if your lady is treating you like silly shit, you gotta dump her or else everyone (especially YOU) will see you for what you really are: a desperate little assgabbler, willing to get shat on by donkeys for their own humor.
You know what you have to do, SWG. Not one more STFU. Stand up. Speak up. If necessary, go across the room. And if necessary, walk right out.
Now that we've dealt with that, I want to see if you guys can get "assgabbler" trending on twitter. I'm not on twitter, so tell me how it works out.
And I bet at least half a dozen of you have already Googled "Ask Van Hammerstein."
Go forth, my little assgabblers, and destroy!