Ask Van Hammersmith: Band of Equals

I started a band with a close drummer friend, and another friend (who's the only bassist I even know)...

Ultimate Guitar

We meet again, my Ultimate-Guitar cronies! Some of you may remember me from my time here at UG as the resident advice columnist. I took a few years to get my problems under control, but now I'm back hanging around the bars again, getting my hands dirty playing dirty, dirty rock and roll. I've also dug up a few of your unanswered questions. It's years too late for this to possibly be relevant to this dude, but maybe some of you find yourselves in similar circumstances: * * * I started a band with a close drummer friend, and another friend (who's the only bassist I even know). And yet another "old friend" joined who plays lead guitar. I've only been playing guitar for like 6-7 months, and my so-called band mates have had discussions right in front of me if they should just boot me out and get another rhythm guitarist. And my old "friend" is starting to pick up that "you do nothing right" kinda attitude but they have held on to me for now. I was just wanting to know if I should just quit? * * * Okay, nameless stranger, there are two hammers that you have to start swinging in this situation. The first one you need to swing is the confidence hammer. You have to make sure you are sticking up for yourself in these situations. If these guys replace you, then they replace you, but you absolutely can not allow them to make you feel like a second-class citizen in your own band. That's bullying sh-t, man, and the only social label you should be wearing in a band situation is "equal." Not target, or victim, or b-tch. Think about those c-ck-rock a-sholes, Metallica. They were absolutely notorious for how badly they treated Jason Hammett, relentlessly hazing him for years as the "rookie" of the band. It was plain abusive. James Barrett acknowledged that they were basically acting out on their anger over the death of Cliff Mustaine, their previous bass player. You can't let yourself slip into a situation where you're allowing the other members make you feel like you need to prove yourself, or feel like you're not quite on the same level as the other players. You have to maintain the same status as everyone else, be it Kirk Ulrich, or Lars Trujillo. By the way, I screwed up all their names on purpose, because I don't care about the names of the guys in Metallica. But what it means, nameless stranger, is that you have to have the confidence to stand up for yourself. You say the lead guitarist is pulling "you can't do anything right" attitude on you? Well, don't just stand there and turn red and take it. Tell him, "Hey man, help me out with it or shut the f--k up. Don't just stand there being an a-shole and making things harder." But the other hammer you gotta swing is the practice hammer, baby. I remember early on I worked a summer in a goddamn logging camp and didn't touch a guitar for months. When I moved back to the city in the fall, I got a spot playing bass in a band (there was a bass shortage that year). They wanted me to play a bunch of their original songs, and they gave me everything I needed. They wrote down all the bass lines they wanted me to play, and gave me a tape of the songs so I could practice. But I didn't have a tape player at the time and I was stalling on buying one because I had access to a record player. People still played records back then man, shut up. Anyway, I didn't listen to the tape, and barely practiced the songs. So I would show up every week with my shitty pawn shop bass, and I wouldn't know the songs any better than I did the week before. They didn't give me attitude or anything, but they did fire me. I wasn't performing at the same level of the other members of the band. Don't let that be you, buddy. I know you say you've only been playing a little while, but you've got to practice in your free hours, man. You don't have to become a sudden wizard or anything, but whatever you guys are playing, you've got to practice that shit like crazy, so you can play it tight when the time comes. If they fire you, they fire you. Just don't let them push you around, and don't get fired because you didn't try hard enough. That goes for all of you a-sholes who want to be in bands! Never, ever let yourself get fired because you didn't try hard enough. Don't waste people's time, man. If you don't want to succeed, get the f--k out of the way and make room for others who love it and want to chase it, baby. Wow, that was passionate. I give advice like I make love, baby: completely stoned. I'm taking new questions again for a current column at Blogspot. Drop by and see what's happening. Also, send new questions to vanhammersmith "at" Do it. -VH. @vanhammersmith

36 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Holy f*ck, I had completely forgotten about this guy. Still rocks though!
    Ha! I was just thinking about how great it would be if you came back like two days ago. It's a Christmas miracle!
    So was I! I was at work and I randomly thought "Wouldn't it be cool if Van Hammersmith came back?" This rocks!
    Welcome back Van...I am glad to se you back...We lost Dear Abby and when you left I thought I would never see anymore good advice forever...look forward to reading more so keep them coming...Merry Christmas!
    Extremely glad to see you back, man! Now what the hell happened to Zach Pino?
    I hope he doesn't misinterpret that somehow and bring two actual hammers to practice!
    THE HAMMER HAS RETURNED!!! Wayne's World reference incoming: "WE'RE NOT WORTHY, WE'RE NOT WORTHY" lol
    I never thought I'd see the day... Welcome back, you drunk, dirty, disgusting waste of talent! We missed you!
    I just read the rest of the letter. My fault for a quick response and correction and although you don't care about Metallica (nor do I) but they did make their mark and are legends in their own time. You cannot take that away from them and the first three albums were great and classic but I lost interest after that. All the bassists are great players but Burton, I feel outshined them all and held his own and although the other players held others back and Newstead did his thing with Flotsom and Jetsom where he wrote most of the material along with fronting and forming that band, but he left his project and bandmates to get bigger things with Metallica but karma comes back to haunt you and he was bitten by it and ousted. I played just basic in bands and had rejections too in my earlier days but I did my homework and had become a better player in time where I am now a first call player as a freelance and hired gun and I now front my bands along with writing my own music and lyrics, being promoter, manager and often told by others I am the best player in the band and I would never ask or think that way although somehow it is often said by people and that too is karma. So my advice to that writer is practice, do your homework, learn that song inside and out! No cheat sheets, memorize eveything and listen to the drummer, and know all your parts so you ask noone about what you need to do. Also go to shows or watch footage and watch the bassist first. See what he does right and learn from them. Keep your comments to yourself and when others don't, now you can replace them whenever you like because when you are good, you control the setting. Do not argue and do not let others do that. It only ruins a band. In time, it only gets worse. Runs ads for new players as needed and you should forget that project you are currently in. Take a break and practice by yourself. Invest in a metronome, then a drum machine, and when you are tight and play it right, you are ready for a drummer who plays the pocket. That means he is tight and keeps good time. Forget the solos and showoffs, and don't bother with anyone that puts solos before rhythmn. It becomes a waste of time and money in the sudio and reemember that studio is to get the band tight. You practice your parts at home and when you go into the studio, you should be ready and know that song. Your parts should already be in your head and you should not be listening to the drummer. My bands play between 30-40 songs per night and that usually depends not on how long the solos are but how the singer interacts with the crowd. A good singer not only needs to stay in tune and time but talks with the crowd in between songs. This eats a bit of time, gives the players a rest (as long as the vocalist is not boring or babling), and gives players a chance to tune up or retune depending on the next song. You will get there if you really want it and though it wont happen overnight, the more you practice the sooner it will come. Good luck and be your own boss!
    Dude no one is reading your "essay." If they do it's a one-two skim then forget. Keep it either short and simple or at least insightful, a lil bit of cleverness helps.
    In response to a letter - His name is Cliff BURTON. Mustaine is Dave, The first lead guitarist who was later replaced by Kirk Hammet and so Mustaine went on to form Megadeath
    Wow, thank you for your insightful and relevant information that everyone on here was completely unaware of before you, the bringer of knowledge, chose to enlighten us.
    "By the way, I screwed up all their names on purpose, because I don't care about the names of the guys in Metallica." learn to read before you make stupid comments.