Ask Van Hammersmith: Band of Equals

artist: Misc date: 12/24/2013 category: features
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Ask Van Hammersmith: Band of Equals
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
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