Since the beginning of time, there have been heroes.
This doesn't necessarily mean that there will always be a hero in place, or that the meaning of the word won't change. Heroes, as they were in medieval times, had to be born of regal or noble blood, rich beyond words, and have their own armies with kill counts beyond reckoning. Heroes at the time of the Han Dynasty were warriors, recognised for the lesser heroes at their disposal, the width and breadth of their territories, and how many people managed to escape them unscathed. Nowadays, heroes are of a different creed, though the money still seems to be set.
With the constant war of the times aside, and the recognised civilised age' making way for the more carefully marketed information age', our heroes have the potential to appear in many different forms. Personal heroes can be anybody from a single mother to a teacher, and everything in between, including Italian plumbers in dungarees who jump colossal distances. The more widely known heroes though, tend to be those of the celebrity ilk.
Now, unless the life of porn is your preferred style, I personally can not see why Paris Hilton would ever be your heroine, but supposedly she has fans in their hundreds of thousands who follow her in every magazine that they possibly can. The heroes of the information age are also the musicians. Jimmy Page, Steve Vai, Matt Bellamy, even the recently deposed Wagner of X Factor fame has a fan club numbering the thousands. Covering many different facets - Bill and Ted are surely heroes for some.
With our personal heroes, we offer them love and affection in the hope of becoming a person worthy of the same in return. For the celebrity ilk, they don't know who we are. We watch them perform through a screen, or from hundreds of seats back in a stadium. We hope to catch the winning ball, or be there to shout at a blatantly idiotic referee or umpire. To be a part of something bigger is the dream of the masses, and heroes are a way to do that.
Of course, the internet opens up new routes for exposure. You can now listen to your musical heroes without paying for their music, or watch the Miracle of Istanbul simply with a decent processor and a search engine. More and more heroes are collected as though they are the newest status symbol.
Some heroes, while known to many, bear the mantle heavily.
Nick Avers walked onto the arena stage, guitar in hand, to 50,000 roaring fans. This was what he had dreamed of as an adolescent hearing the crowd chant his bands' name, and then to appear and have everyone nearly asphyxiate themselves by screaming when he walked on stage - but now all he wanted to do was be anywhere else. The stage lights flashed a bright white light down, nearly blinding him. He could feel the warmth of the lights on his hair, and a wave of humidity rose from the crowd in front of him. Sweat dripped from the faces of the people in the front row, grimacing as the crowd surged forward and their bodies were smashed into steel railings. Hopeful eyes looked up, wonderstruck, as their heroes walked the sacred ground of the stage in front of them. Wes, the bands' drummer, rolled on his cymbals, slowly building in volume. He started hitting the rest of his kit. The crowds screaming got louder, but not loud enough to drown out the thumping beats of Wes's kit. DUB-DUB-DUB DUB-DUB-DUB DUB. There was a brief pause, then Nick slammed an open A. Wes was hitting his drums again. Andy, the bassist, was near the front of his side of the stage, beckoning towards the crowd. Taylor, the singer-guitarist, walked past Nick and up to his microphone in the centre of the stage, in front of the drums. Let's go! he shouted. Wes did a four count on his hi-hat and they launched into their first song. It was the first single off their latest album, You'll Be Mine and Breaking Dawn respectively, and the crowd shouted along. They played through the song. Intro, Verse, Chorus, Verse, Chorus, Bridge, Chorus, Chorus, Outro. The crowd shouted along the whole time, a wall of sound not quite matching the volume of Jimmy's vocals but making a concerted effort nonetheless. At the end of the song, the lights in front of Nick finally flashed off. There was a pause, and the crowds screaming welled up again. Four quiet taps on the snares rim by Wes, and Nick started the opening riff of their next song. The lights in front of Nick didn't flash on this time, and he got his first good look at the crowd since being on stage. The open area lay out in front of him, almost the size of a football field. The seated areas stretched up above him, like a tidal wave in suspended animation. He counted three big tiers, with a smaller tier between the first and second big seated areas that he guessed were the private boxes. The dreams of his younger self didn't compare to this his imagination had never taken into account the sheer size that superstardom brought with it. And despite the transition from dream to reality, Nick loathed it. He began to drift off, wondering about the man he had talked to earlier, barely pausing to give a thought to how his younger self would have more willingly driven a nail through his temple than have his concentration waiver during an arena show. He'd scoffed when he read Bon Jovi said he'd think about what was on tv later during a show. Now Nick's full concentration and excitement had become reserved for special gigs, like headlining at Woodstock or Glastonbury. He had found playing to a packed arena became routine after a while. But drift off he did, to a room he was sitting in a few hours earlier. Nick had been in his practice room backstage when a knock came at the door. He had never put a great deal of thought about what it would be like backstage at an arena perhaps lots of thick cables lying around with big metal constructs reaching up towards the roof but this was much different than he'd anticipated. This room was brightly lit, with a light blue carpet and white walls. There was a practice amp in the corner, a plastic box of leads next to it, a few seats in the centre and a dresser with a big mirror on the adjacent wall. There were a few minor alterations from venue to venue, maybe a table instead of a dresser and a pile of fresh towels, but he found it underwhelming. Nick reached the door and opened it. Hi, i'm Pat. I'm from ultimate-guitar. We had an interview scheduled? He was wearing a shirt with Faith No More emblazoned above the artwork and a pair of denim jeans. Sure, come in man, make yourself at home, Nick said. Pat walked in, but stopped just inside the door. Nick turned and walked towards two chairs in the centre of the room and sat down on one. Pat followed, pulling a notepad and pen from his back pocket before sitting down opposite Nick. You find the room alright? Nick asked. Yeah, although I had to ask for directions twice, Pat laughed. Two kids who don't know the place any better than I do, considering how long it took. Nick laughed too. He opened his mouth to tell Pat about how one of them had almost visibly pissed themselves at the sight of the band walking through the corridors, but Pat spoke up first.
You mind if we begin the interview? Nick paused. No, let's get into it. Breaking Dawn is your second studio album that's been released and it's also the second that's reached number one on the billboard 100 charts. You've got to feel good about that? Yeah, I guess so. It's a bit different this time around, y'know? The first time it was like wow, I can't believe this many people dig us, but this time it's different. It's more relief I guess, I mean it would be kind of disappointing if we didn't do as well as last time, so it's sort of more relaxing to know that we didn't do that bad. Critics have criticised you for being repetitive and a cheap pop-rock band, among other things. What's your reaction to that? f--k critics. There are people who listen to music, and then there are critics. I don't care if they think that all music should be complex and have every song be a profound examination of the human spirit or any of that shit, because it's rubbish. Our music is intended to be simple, it's intended to have catchy lyrics. It's not intended for some twisted asshole to have their ego fellated. So you don't take critics opinions that seriously? No. Our music was always intended to be light-hearted and fun. If some people can't come to terms with the fact that not all music will reflect their f--ked up mentality that's their problem. Was that your mentality when you formed the band? Was what? The light-heartedness and fun? Oh, yeah. When I joined Animal Planet that's what we were called before we changed the name to The Renegades it was just a bit of fun. At least, that's how I saw it, I don't know about the others. But I was playing around in local metal bands for years before. In fact, I was part of a black metal band when I joined Animal Planet. I thought it would be a bit of extra money on the side; that we'd be playing originals and covers and nothing would ever come of it. Then we changed the name to The Renegades and- Nick broke out of his semi-concentrated state. They were on their fourth song of the set, about halfway through into the second verse. A crowd surfer had come over and the security hadn't grabbed him properly. He pushed out of the fat man's grasp and began to climb into the stage. He was halfway up when another of the security grabbed him. He got a heel to the nose for his efforts. Two more staff appeared and pulled the audience member down. They grabbed the collar of his shirt and pushed him roughly along the small walkway. Several photographers were bumped, and they stared angrily after the small entourage. Two or three people followed the group and headed for the exits. This was something else nobody ever told you, Nick thought. The photographers never stayed the whole show. They got their pictures in the first half hour and then left. Nick suspected that the critics didn't stay either. There were lots of people with notepads down the front aisle, but he couldn't tell if they were just journalists or if they were critics. The first time this had happened Nick had been livid with rage. The Renegades were receiving poor reviews, and he thought that many of those critics had written their judgements without having watched the whole thing. The security resettled and the performance went on. It was these unexpected events, the things that weren't supposed to happen, that brought Nick back to focus. That's when he thought he really needed to step his professionalism up a notch, the times where his ability as a performer were put to the test. He was on edge again, but the band went through the next two songs of their set without another hitch. The band started their seventh song. Multi-coloured stage lights turned his guitar neck blue, then red, then blue again. People in the front row were doggedly hanging on to the rails that formed a barrier between the stage and the floor, mouthing along to the lyrics and occasionally grimacing as the crowd surged forward. A young girl in the front row, wearing a Renegades shirt that looked like it would hang loose around her body, hit her face on the railing as a crowd surfer landed on her head. Nick's guitar neck turned to its natural cream colour as it was bathed in white light. You've recently been contracted by a small guitar-manufacturing company Catorce? Pat asked. Ka-Tor-Say, yes. What led you to sign with them rather than one of the big companies? Well, i've never really been a true fan of any of the big companies' guitars. I mean, I love them and I love to play them, but i've never felt that i've found my perfect guitar. There's always something, like the shape of the body, or the thickness of the neck, or something like that, that just stops me using that guitar constantly. And so when I was getting approached by all these big companies, I was just like woah, step back a minute, are you really going to let me design a guitar I want or are you just going to produce some cheap piece of shit and slap my name on it?, and I don't think they ever saw me as someone that would be worth producing a higher-end guitar for. So I started fishing around, and there was this luthier i'd med a few times in my home town. I decided to give him a ring, and after 15 minutes I felt I was set. Like, I still went in to have a look at the shop and talk to him in person and work in a really hands on way, but I sort of knew after I hung up that this was it, Catorce was going to be my brand. Another part of my decision was that I really wanted to break this paradigm that i'm just some crap pop-rock guitarist that's come off the production line. So instead of having some marketable cheap piece of shit for sale i've got a real guitarists guitar. That's an interesting point you raise, about how you're viewed as just another guitarist. Although you said earlier that critics don't really bother you. Yeah. Does criticism of your playing bother you? Well... I dunno, I guess so. I put in hours of practice as a kid, man, five or six hour of practice a day since I was a teenager, and then I played in a whole heap of bands for ten years on top of that. It's just frustrating to get slated as another shit, untalented musician when I worked so hard and my break just happened to come with a band i'd never taken seriously. Some days i'd play for so long my fingers would blister and my hands would cramp up if I even moved them. And the hardest part is that next to nobody takes me seriously. I try and explain myself to someone and they'll just stand there with a smirk on their face, as though they know me better than myself. People have already made up their mind about me and our band and just refuse to change their opinions, even though it seems like most of them are just jumping on the bandwagon. Right. Tell you what? How about I do this thing with ultimate-guitar? I'll do an interview with your users or fans or whoever else uses your website, something interactive. Like in real time. Is that ok? Well, it'll depend on some other things, and someone else will have to contact you about it... but it should be ok. Ok, that's great. Thanks man. The interview had been much longer than that - unless there was a tight schedule all of the interviews Nick did for articles lasted between one and two hours. The one with Pat had lasted a little over two hours. Nick wondered how much would be left on the cutting room floor. Everything that would make the interview look rough would be removed, of course, but it wasn't uncommon for some editors to cut parts of his answers or entire discussions from what would be published. Nick felt a sudden burst of energy. He was back on the stage and ran up to the front, beckoning to the crowd, moving close enough that the front row could almost have touched him if only their arms were an extra inch or two longer. He could see Andy and Taylor looking at him from the corner of his eye. They were playing the tenth song of the night, and it was the first one that had a proper solo. About half of The Renegades songs had four or eight bars of single notes that were played sequentially, but Nick thought that calling those solo's was like calling a hooker a call girl. As the band reached the solo Nick walked backwards, stopping halfway between the front of the stage and the line of speakers. He began the solo as normal, but after four bars he began playing something else. He performed a long, shredding lick that ended on the 24th fret of his high E, bending it up as far as he felt he could without snapping the string. He began tapping his way back down the fret board. The solo was coming close to where it would normally end, but Nick kept playing. Down he went, along the neck of his guitar, and he passed the point where the solo should have ended and yet he still played. Instead of going to the four bar pre-chorus Wes, Andy and Taylor repeated the rhythm section underlying the solo. Nick looked up. Taylor had turned his back to the audience and was looking at Nick. He mouthed what the f--k, and Nick walked back to the front of the stage. The band had to repeat the rhythm section twice more before Nick finished. He turned to the rest and counted one two three four, and the band entered the pre-chorus. Taylor turned to his microphone. He was smiling, but his eyes were like cold chips of blue ice. Ladies and Gentlemen, Nick Avers! The crowd roared, and Nick felt that the sound would hit him like a cyclone, that it would pick him up and throw him around like a ragdoll. He felt that the stadium that soared up in front of him would suddenly surge forward like a massive groundswell and it would crash down on him, crushing him and trapping him so that nobody would ever find him. He looked at the faces in the crowd and suddenly they were jeering instead of cheering, screaming insults and trying to grab hold of his ankles and drag him down into the pit they were reaching out from. Then they returned to normal and were roaring along to the lyrics, reaching out as though if they touched him all would be good in the world. Nick had never wished that a show would end sooner.
Remember that kid who played acoustic for the school talent show when he was like fourteen, but half way through he broke a string and it whipped across his face and left a big cut across his face, so he started crying on stage and shouting about how god obviously hates him because he couldn't even get with that ugly chick who was younger than him?
Takes bad news much better than you. Congratulations; you have to get a job. Get over it - the world keeps spinning.
Hugh narrowed his eyes at Jimmy, but this did not bring about the reaction he was looking for. Jimmy just continued to smoke his cigarette down to the filter before throwing the butt into the bushes that bordered their school field.
It's in no way the end of the world, continued Jimmy. I work every other Sunday cleaning cars at my dad's auto place. You earn money you can do stuff with. What's wrong with that?
You're not in a band! Hugh told him. That takes up a lot of free time.
Oh yeah, that kid was a way better guitarist than you too, Jimmy taunted, laughing at the disapproving reaction that crossed Hugh's features.
I knew it would be stupid telling you about this, said Hugh. You just don't get the scope of the problem. If I don't spend lots of my time sat at home on my arse all day every day, how are the wonderful people of Ultimate-Guitar going to get their daily laughs? People are counting on me to make them smile, to give them their morning cheer and to make sure they don't go into work bitter and angry so they lose their jobs. Honestly, so many people follow me on that website. They should pay me to keep the world running.
Don't be an arse, Hugh, Jimmy responded, it's not like you've got a girlfriend or anything. You don't have anything else to do with your time. You might even start to like it, you know?
They started the long walk back towards the school building, now well after their dinner break was over. Smoking at this time just meant that the teachers were less likely to do something about it. They didn't speak as they walked, preparing to both carefully not think about the fact that they might actually have to do some work in the next lessons, or just be friends with George again, since he always happened to be there.
Oh, and just so you know, Jimmy began, shortly before they reached the school itself, I've decided I'm going to break up Heather and Dave. You know: so I can bone her.
Hugh frowned at his ginger friend. You want to break up my band just on the chance you'll get some pussy?
What can I say? I'm an adolescent male: I'll do anything for a good lay.