In This Episode: I learn Darth Vader is my father and he cuts off my hand before offering me a job.
|Dear Van Hammersmith,
I'm currently a guitarist who just formed a band with my lifelong friends. The lead guitarist and I are very close, and we critique each other's playing often. I always listen to advice, and fix my playing accordingly. The other guitarist will listen, fix it temporarily, then proceed to blow you off in a passive manner the next run through the song. The main problems with him are:
1. He can never keep tempo, even if we play with a backing track. He thinks faster=better.
2. In his mind, the more distortion/and or gain the better. All his pedals/ amps are cranked to 10 distortion.
3. Louder=better. If he can hear you playing, he's not loud enough.
Although we are good friends and talk a lot, I've run out of different ways to bring these problems about. We've even recorded, but he doesn't understand that too much distortion is bad, louder doesn't necessarily mean better, and so on.
So basically, how do I let him know about these problems, when even recording doesn't work?
Has your friend heard Guitar Wolf? Man, he's got to listen to Guitar Wolf. Japanese Sonic Destructo-Punk, man. All volume, all distortion, all gain. This is the only band where I played listened to a song and ACTUALLY CHECKED TO SEE IF MY EARS WERE BLEEDING. And then I saw that the volume was on like, six-point-five. Not even seven! I turned it up to seven for a song and got a head-ache. I listened to a song on ten, and I started to puke out of my nose. The resulting damage to my nervous system is a lot like post-concussion syndrome. I can't drive a car now because of the risk of seizures.
So what I'm saying is, yes, Guitar Wolf is the greatest band of all time. However, I wouldn't listen to them for pleasure with the volume turned above five, I wouldn't attend one of their gigs with anything less than a diving helmet for ear protection, and I would never, ever, ever want to be in a band with someone who had that same "all volume, all distortion" mentality.
So your dude can't deal with subtleties and nuance, is that it? He can't slow down and let a riff grow to fill a room, and instead he chases it like a cartoon pirate on crack after booty. Sweet Motown booty.
You might just have to gradually wait for him to get old and soft. Wait for him to sell out and record some monster ballads. But if you don't want to wait, or if you think he's insane enough to NEVER SLOW DOWN, you might just have to try to slip in some subliminal messages.
Tell him you want to cover "Wish You Were Here" by Pink Floyd. Make him listen to it over and over again, on giant headphones if possible, maybe in the dark or with some weird colored lights. Make him feel at ease. Relaxed. Burn some smell-sticks, roll him a bone. Make him live "Wish You Were Here." Get him talking about his dead sister. Try and get him to cry.
Then get him to play the song. Get him to breathe it in and out, try to get him to live that song again, this time through his own guitar instead of David Gilmour's. And see if he can appreciate the power of this masterpiece without manic speed, destructive distortion, and organ-vibrating volume.
If he blasts "WYWH" to shrapnel, then you'll have the answer to your own question, whatever it was you asked. Something about some guy. One thing I remember: the line "If he can hear you playing, he's not loud enough," may be the most rock and roll thing I've ever heard.
|Dear Van Hamburglar,
I am a guitarist in a pretty much musically bankrupt city (minus a select few who don't play an instrument). Everyone listens to new metal, screamo, pop or rap, so finding people to play with is hard. I am open minded and play with the other players, but it never goes over well. Either I leave because I don't like the direction the band is going in and they won't listen to what I say, or I'm kicked out because the other guitarist feels threatened by my playing. Which I don't understand; I'm good but not that good you know?
BUT. I have hope. My aunt and uncle in Minneapolis have offered for me to come up there for the summer and get into the music scene, and it sounds rad I wanna do it but my problem is. I have a horrible stuttering problem, and I am afraid if I go to approach other players I wont be able to speak to them without them just walking away. So what should I do? Stay in my city trying to play with people who play music I hate, or risk getting nowhere in the big city?
Love, one of your loyal readers.|
(Van Hammersmith says: "the summer." Ha ha ha! Late again! Bone!)
Hmmm. Interesting. Nice twist at the end there. I fell asleep a few times trying to read all the way through your first paragraph, what with the whole "I live in a town where everyone listens to shit, what do I dooooo?" thing going on, but you totally saved this thing by throwing in the stuttering complication. Gives me some meat to chew on, you know?
Because I'm a highly enlightened professional, I decided to research your affliction by going on youtube and watching the video for "Stutter Rap" by Morris Minor and the Majors. It's funny, because back the '80s I was going out with this chick, and her brother gave me a rap mix tape for a my birthday. I don't know if he was so completely ignorant of my musical tastes or if he was just stupid or what, but "Stutter Rap" was on the tape. I listened to it a bunch of times because it was so funny, but I never saw the video or really know anything about it. Only because of your letter do I realize that the song was a spoof of the Beastie Boys. I guess it's fairly obvious in retrospect. I suppose I thought all rap groups sounded the same back then.
Anyway, "Stutter Rap" contains a lot of brutal truths about the life of the stuttering rapper, like when your twelve inch mix goes on for a week. The press doesn't want to talk to you, your rap gigs go wrong, and your records don't chart because your vocals are such a mess.
But you've got an advantage over stuttering rappers, my vocally-challenged amigo. You see, as a guitarist, it doesn't matter if you have a stutter, because nobody gives a shit if you're eloquently elegant with your enunciation when you're stroking up a fierce solo on your woodcock on the stage. As I always say, the boys will want to be in a band with you, and the girls will want to be in a bed with you.
So what you need to do is get your ass to a jam night and get your speech-impedimented ass up on stage.
You know what jam nights are, right? They are singles nights for musicians. Get out there and meet somebody.
If you can get up on stage and play some sweet, sweet jams, that will be the first impression people will have of you. If they meet you later they will not be so bothered by your stammering, because they will already know you can play. And you'll be more at ease, knowing that they've already seen you absolutely rule "Stairway To Heaven," or whatever it is kids listen to in Minnesota. I'm not actually a licensed speech therapist, but I've heard being nervous makes you more prone to stuttering, and I imagine you would feel a lot more calm and confident after owning the stage.
Or, you could watch "The King's Speech" and copy that to cure your stammer. That was a pretty good movie. Good use of Beethoven's Seventh Symphony in the big final scene.
How about that? Van Hammersmith knows Beethoven!
|I have a band where we are playing things similar to Slayer and Megadeth. The thing is, there are not many bassists around our area and we found one but he hasn't been playing a year yet. I've written some stuff close to the tracks on Seasons In The Abyss and the bass player isn't experienced enough to do it. What should I do?
-Confused in Skeetown|
Dumb it down for him, I guess. Let him play at half tempo until he builds up the chops to go full-bore. I mean, position musicians can be scarcities in different places at different times. Sometimes bass players are everywhere. Sometimes they dry up. Sometimes you can never find a good drummer. It goes around like that. It's supply and demand. If there are too many bass players in a town, novices won't bother to become bass players, because it's too common. Later, as bass players settle down and give up playing, there will be a smaller pool of bass players. It's all cyclical, like nature and shit.
So if there really are no other bass players around, then you might as well hold on to the one you've got, and work on developing his abilities to the greatest necessary extent. Make his parts as simple as possible, making sure he's being pressed, but is able to perform the songs without just falling apart. In time, as he builds his chops, you can add to parts, or write more intricate parts for him and he'll be able to pull it off.
It's like "use what you've got," or "love the one you're with," or some crap like that.
|I'm making a solo acoustic setlist for coffee shops and restaurants and what not. It's gonna be all 60's and 70's stuff so the vibe should be the same throughout, but what % of the set do you suppose should be recognizable tunes vs tunes that i might be the only one that's heard em? Any other tips to make this type of gig go as well as possible would be helpful too.
Off hand, I guess I would say three-to-one. And remember, if you're the only one who knows the song, it might as well be your song instead of a cover. Just make sure it fits in. And if things go really well, gradually move towards two-to-one covers and your own songs. And then one-to-one. Next thing you know you're Kid Rock doing duets with Sheryl Crowe, the hottest woman ever to live. We're practically the same age and I look like her dad. Why doesn't she ever get older?
So I can sing pretty well and I can play guitar pretty well. The problem is, I can't do them together. It's like trying to make circles with your left hand and patting yourself on your head with your right....or something...you know what I mean.
Now I absolutely, totally want this ability, because I want to be like Jimi Hendrix. Lead guitar and vocals. On a side note, it really helps when you're trying to impress chicks, so it's a talent I would love to have.
Forever Yours Faithfully,
Little Known Indian Guy.
P.S there's this band here that's called Hammersmith, they're pretty good.|
Tell them that they owe me money for the use of my name. Also tell the city of Hammersmith that I'm going to get my lawyer after them, after I get one.
As for your horrible inability to do the only thing you need to do to get laid, I'm afraid there's no trick except practice. Singing while you play is just something that develops as you work at it. It's something that lots and lots of people can do, and every one of them had to put in a certain level of work to make it happen. Practice simple songs that you know very well, and practice until it sounds good. Then keep learning new songs. Work at it.
I'm serious, if you can play guitar and sing to a girl, it doesn't even matter if you're ugly and a terrible singer, she'll sleep with you. You just have to ask. And that is an extremely dangerous piece of information. It has been both a source of my greatest joys (easy awesome sex), and my greatest sorrows (easy insane girlfriends). Use this information wisely.