Ask Van Hammersmith. Part 60

author: Van Hammersmith date: 09/28/2011 category: junkyard

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I feel like I'm now hammered enough to answer your questions. This week was written entirely to Lou Reed live records. Bite it, Metallica. You better hold up your end.
Dear Van Hammersmith, My band has a concert lined up in about a month with 110 ppl attending (according to facebook LOL) as of right now. It's the biggest show I've ever played in my life, and I'm really stoked to play it. The only problems are that my band doesn't seem to realize the importance of regular band practise, so most of our practices someone is missing and we have to bring ourselves back down to their level when they come back next time. And another thing is that the other guitarist in my band (other than me) NEVER comes to practise. In the past four weeks he's jammed with us a total of ONCE, where he came two hours late and then left after playing the setlist once to go get drunk. So when I tell him to go fuck himself, he bitches at me and makes excuses. It's all I hear from him. Also he's moving away, yet he insists on still saying he's in the band and bitching about how he always has other more important shit to do. I wanna kick him out, but I have no one to replace him with, which sucks cuz I really wanna get rid of his stupid ass. Is there any way I can give like a ridiculous motivating speech to snap him out of his retartedness, or is he a lost cause??? We're a bit fucked for the concert. I'm not gunna lie. But theres already 110 ppl attending so we can't back down now. What should I do??? PS you rock Jesus Schwarzenegger.
You have a legitimate concern, but no skill at all in choosing internet handles. I know Schwarzenegger could handle this situation (assuming we're talking about '80s action kill-festy Arnie, not politician, or worse yet, picking-staff-to-sleep-with Arnie). '80s murder-machine Arnie would simply rip off your ass-headed guitar player's pick hand and beat him to death with the bloody end. And Jesus would have come up with a fancy metaphor or symbol to explain the mysteries of how a band member is both an individual and a part of a group, and while the individual is important, the band is important too, and he should stop being a douche. Jesus said that a lot. "Thou should stop being such a cunt-washing douche, Jebediah." Look it up or something. Anything's possible, right? But yeah, Captain Cock-Plank is totally already fired. And the great thing is that you don't even need to have that serious heartbreaking talk with him. If he only shows up to one practice a month, just stop telling him about practices. Chop his name out of band group e-mails, and stop calling. Maybe (MAYBE!) he'll call up sooner or later and say WTF, MF? And you can say wtf with you, MF? Tell him, you don't show up anyway, so we stopped calling you. And if he says "But I'm in the band," or some variation on this, reply with the awesome and very useful information that if he was actually in the band, he would be interested in playing music with the other members. Which he isn't. And as for this whole "I can't fire this total band-cancer until I find a suitable replacement" concept, I think Jesus would tell you to "pull yon head out of thine poop-cannister." That's right, Jesus referred to assholes as poop-cannisters. Look it up. If someone is not showing up, not practicing, just bitchin', just whinin', then ditch his sorry poop-cannister, and replace him when you find someone. Cut out the cancer, and figure out how to replace it afterwards. Look at The Rolling Stones. When Brian Jones stopped showing up, stopped playing guitar, and stopped being an unstoppable rock and roll machine, they dumped him. You can do it too. And if he drowns in a pool a month later, just shrug and say "Hell, he's not in my band. He quit long before we fired him."
Hello Mister Van Hammersmith, how are you today? I was in one of those teenage Punk bands with my best friend and whoever we could get to play bass. Unfortunately, the bassist we found was a total, erm, nitwit. But he had a bass. Although we had a bit of a following, played some shows, and had some fun, we were ready to kill bass kid. He constantly showed up late, often rejected new musical directions we were heading towards, and even broke down in the middle of practice and started crying. So, we slowly faded out of his life and continued to play in my drummer's basement as a duo. Here's the fun part. My drummer and I continued to jam and came up with about an hour to an hour and half's worth of material, and we feel that it is very solid. Unfortunately, there are not a lot of opportunities to show off this material, as we aren't quite twenty-one yet, and we're not exactly coffee shop material, which seems to be the popular spot for most local kids acts to play (Granted, they're doing that acoustic thing that seems to pick up all of the chicks.) Enough of this crap. We have a setlist we'd love to show off to anyone willing to listen, but it seems that all the opportunities we had as one of those typical teenage Punk bands are gone. The typical venues for kids to play, such as coffee shops, schools, and community centers don't suit us for a variety of reasons. The coffee shops issue was explained above, me and my drummer both attend different schools (About forty miles away from each other, so talent shows, battle of the bands, and the like would be difficult to attend), and the community center we played at stopped letting bands play there due to a run-in they had with two girls at one of our shows a year ago... My only other idea was house parties/garages, but not very many people are receptive to that idea, and there aren't a lot of parties thrown around this neck of the woods. I feel awkward asking someone if we can use their garage or basement, but it feels as if getting on this subject is the only way we'll ever get to play a show at this point. So, Mister Van Hammersmith, any ideas? - Thurston
Common problems, Thirsty, and you've come up with some common solutions. Luckily, it sounds like you just want to play, and you're not concerned about getting paid. That's good. Pay doesn't matter until your following is much bigger anyway. But where to play, right? Yeah, that's a problem, especially with winter coming on. Garages get cold sometimes, you know? Not everyone has a heated garage, and yes, I have been in some of those low-rent band rehearsing with coats on in a frigid, unheated garage. I remember one band, this is back in the late seventies when I was living in my drummer's mom's unfinished basement, practicing guitar all day when she working at Sears Roebuck. We had a lineup with this German singer named Uwe (Oo-vay), and an "avant-garde" kid from Ohio who thought playing blenders and vacuums and stuff made him a musician (ironically, he became the most successful musician of the group, but you still haven't heard of him). He ended up playing in people's backyards and stuff too, even asking permission to play in parking lots of businesses after hours. It failed, but hell, we had a laugh. The thing is, you can pick just about anything as a venue. All that matters is having the band at the same place as the audience at the same time. And if the location is not really legal, just make it a short set and get the hell out of there quick. Come on, Thirsty, ball up. Start having listening parties at your own home. And remember, anywhere there is an outlet that you can plug an amp into, there is a potential venue. Just be ready to run when security shows up.
Dear Van Hammersmith, I always wanted to play in a band, but I don't have money for a big amp to be heard and don't know any people who would like to play with me. I suck at life. Why? Thanks, Laimonel.
Short answer to why you suck at life: fifty percent your parents, fifty percent that haircut. Just kidding. Or am I? I'm not. Cut that shit. You look like an idiot. God-freakin'-damn I hate that haircut. Seriously. I want to beat the shit out of you just looking at you. Seriously, having a big amp isn't the most important thing. Playing well is. Playing well on a hundred dollar practice amp is better than muddling up the neighborhood with a big blaster Marshall stack. As for why you suck at life, I would say self-confidence is an issue. Do you really suck? Or have you just been told that you suck so often that you've started to believe it? Let me give you a piece of advice: stop hanging around with people that don't make you feel good about yourself. If this means you have to start being alone, then so be it. It's better to be alone than be with people who make you feel bad about yourself. And the people who make you feel nothing are just wasting your time. Go home and work on your skills. Focus on being awesome. Spending some time getting good at something makes you feel better when you're around other people. At the very least when someone else is dismissive, you can think to yourself, "Who gives a flying flop what you think? I'm awesome at something. I don't need you." Oh, and you should also try to think of a different name. "Laimonel" is a little weird. Try something like "Indestructo." That should tell people you mean business. Oh yeah, and remember these general rules: don't be an asshole, don't be afraid to talk to chicks, and don't be afraid to ask people if they want to jam. Best three rules ever. Boom.
What's up Van Hammersmith, Hope you're doing well. I've been playing guitar for 10 years or so, and I've recently joined a band as a lead guitarist. They're fairly well established in the area, playing weekly shows in bars with a 50/50 mix of covers and originals - mostly semi hard rock (Imagine us playing Mary Jane's Last Dance with too much distortion and way too loud drums). Realistically, the band isn't going anywhere. I'm looking at it as a fun side-project while I take summer classes, but I want to try and gain some influence in terms of what we play and the overall sound of the band. Mostly so my ears stop bleeding. I've done a solid job leading by example - basically just by sounding better than these guys - but overall, I'm trying not to step on anyone's toes as I'm 5 years younger than most the members and I just joined a few weeks ago. So, the question is: as a pretty seasoned musician, how would you handle the situation? I love playing live, but we're just not playing with any "class" or "touch" right now. How can I help the band find that finesse that bridges the gap between muddy distorted crap and tasteful rock and roll? Thanks my man, Chris
Pretty good question, Chris, but as a more experienced musician, I would have asked it much better. I would had included more nuance and subtlety, with clever word play in the opening, leading to emotional depth that would have swept everyone away toward the end. Even though it means little to me, I would have asked the same question with literary power worthy of Joseph Conrad or Don Delillo (get thee to wikipedia). I hope you get the joke. It's easy to see someone doing the best they can and tell them that you could do it better. If you're playing with these guys, the best way to influence these guys is to be awesome, as you're doing (if you're telling the truth). If you stay with them long-term, and you're as good as you say, you'll gradually take a leadership role and start to influence the sound. If it really is just a "fun side-project," then you shouldn't bother to try and screw with their sound, because you are not going to focus your full attention on the group. What will you do? Change their vibe and then leave? Not cool, man. Short term, drop hints. Say things like maybe we could back off of this and make it a bit smoother. Say ease up and it will sound better. Say some songs are meant to be played slowly. If they disregard your advice, so what? It's your side-project. And if it's really your major project, and you're really as good as you say, your influence will shine through. Just don't be afraid to speak up. Remember, a band is supposed to be a meritocracy. That means ability is more important than age. Speak your mind, young axe-weilder.
Dear VH, I'm a bassist in a band. Everyone in the band sucks, except for me and the lead guitarist. Me and the guitarist will be joining a new band (with better musicians) and we are having a hard time to say to the old band that they suck and we are leaving. We still want to stay friends so we can't say it directly. - Aaron from Ph
You're having a hard time saying "You suck and we're leaving"? Man, I wish more people had a harder time saying that to me... sob, sob... everybody leaves me... sob, whine... why doesn't anybody love me? I... I... Whaaaaaaaaa!!!!!!! I may have covered this before, but first and foremost, let me say that you are a coward and a pussy (and I mean pussy as in the little cats that hide under parked cars when I walk down the street, nothing mysogynist or against women, because I luvz the bitches, yo). Just tell them you're going to jam with some other guys once in a while. Then, if this new group actually takes off, let your old guys gradually get the hint. Or if you're sure that the old band is DEAD and the new band will WORK, then rip the bandaid off quick and just tell them the truth. Do it. Don't hide under a car. Tell them the three truths: you've found another band, you still want to be buddies, and you're dying of a rare disease that no one has ever heard of, and your friends shouldn't be mad, they should just support you in following your dreams in what little time you have left. You know. Tell them the truth.
More Van Hammersmith columns:
+ Ask Van Hammersmith: Legacy Songs Artists' Discussions 01/09/2014
+ Ask Van Hammersmith: How to Dump a Band Fiction 01/06/2014
+ Ask Van Hammersmith: Band of Equals Fiction 12/24/2013
+ Ask Van Hammersmith. Part 62 (Final) Junkyard 10/12/2011
+ Ask Van Hammersmith. Part 61 Junkyard 10/05/2011
+ Ask Van Hammersmith. Part 59 Junkyard 09/21/2011
+ view all
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