Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Sorry I Didn’t Catch Your Band:

When I was a youngster and on the rare occasions we’d land a show with a national act, I had this notion in my mind that maybe the headliner would see us, really dig our band and help us out in some way. When this didn’t happen or if one of the members came in the room for a few songs and then left, I used to get pissed off. I thought they were being rockstars or they sold out and didn’t care about the local scene. Regardless, with the benefit of hindsight, whatever I was thinking was probably wrong in most situations. 100 + shows a year later, I have a different perspective on things and I have a different answer for the guy that pulled me aside and said, “I noticed you didn’t watch much of our band’s set, why?” 
[Redd is beat tired after loading out at 3 AM]

Well, what I’m going to say may not make me the most popular person but like I’ve always said, I’m an acquired taste like Wild Turkey... So here goes. Truth is, “discovering” a new live band is very low on my priority list when I’m out on the road. With that said, I am super stoked when I do catch a new band that’s on the bill with us that truly blows my mind or inspires me. Talking to some of my touring musicians friends and so forth and thought it’s often only said behind closed doors, this rarely happens. A buddy of mine from a big band you’ve probably heard of said to me one time, “Joad, it’s like this, 99% of the local bands you’ll play with suck.” I think he may be a little extreme but definitely at least 95% of them are uninspiring or pretty middle of the road. 

Now there will be some folks that will say, “Who the fuck do you think you are... your band sucks anyway.”  OK, I accept that, but there’s a few things to consider before you write me off as a tool bag. First, we’re good at what we do, we’re always pro and we’re out there in the trenches doing it. If you’re annoyed by this conversation already you probably aren’t really out there in the trenches. It’s like this, playing paint ball on the weekends, no matter how good you are, it doesn’t mean that you know jack shit about being in the infantry front lines in a real war. There’s some similarities, but it’s two different things. Apples and oranges. I don’t like to just leave a bold statement like 95% of the bands we are playing with are uninspiring without explaining a bit so stay with me here. 

I’m sure if you’re on a national bill the show is a big deal to you and if its not , it should be because it’s a big opportunity a lot of really good bands don’t get easily. Still, you are probably more excited about it than anyone else is. Bring the enthusiasm into your show and into your promotion though. If you play it awesome they will come doesn’t really happen so get that notion out of your head. If you’re a local band and you only bring 5 people out to see you, stop wasting people’s time. You either A) aren’t ready to be on that stage or B) too lazy to promote or C) the last time people came to your show it sucked. In either of these scenarios, neither the national, booker or anyone else involved in the show process will be very happy with you regardless of how good you are. 

Some people have said, “It’s a style thing, you just don’t like our style or you don’t get it.” Yeah, that’s probably not true either. In our touring rig, the driver picks the music and depending on who’s in the captains chair, you will hear an eclectic mix of new bands, classics and live stuff. What I want to hear is something that’s good and pro. You should be good at your style. People should say, you know, that’s not my thing but I had a good time and you guys are good at what you’re doing. In most cases, what you’re doing I’ve probably seen done better and with more originality. My friend calls it the “Smokestack Lightning” quoting Howling Wolf. He calls the smokestack that intangible quality that goes beyond talent and just somehow captivates people. It doesn’t have to be one person, it can be a song or it can be the synergy between band members. Even if you come across pro and are competent at playing, it doesn’t mean I’ll see the smokestack. Two songs in I may say, yeah that’s a solid street punk band and leave the room. I may hear one song and realize that if I don’t escape I will be subject to incomprehensible cookie monster rantings by a singer in flood pants who’s double kick drummer will likely beat us over the head with blast beats for the next hour playing the same song with breaks in between every 5 minutes.
[I'm trying to get some sleep an hour before we go on]

Sometimes I know if I’ll watch your band just from our first meeting. When I see your band come in, I do make judgements. I look at the members, how they act, their equipment, their merch, how they soundcheck and everything and I learn a lot. Sometimes I’m dead wrong and I probably shouldn’t do this, but I”m usually right. For example, if I ask the kid in a perfect hot topic outfit what kind of music he plays and he says, “Well, it’s really hard to say, you can’t classify what we’re doing, it’s completely original so make sure you catch us” I’ll know he’s in a shitty metal band that probably has a keyboard player. If a band member comes in the room, starts taking charge and telling me how the backline is going to work as he takes his Yngwie road case out with 3 heads and enough “do dads” to control a satellite, I’ll know his band will probably be very boring and tasteless but technical. If you tell me “Just wait and see, we are going to melt your face with giant choruses and high energy,” I’ll know you have an overinflated view of what you’re doing and your band will probably be a jambalaya of shit that should never be put together. 

On those rare occasions when someone does blow you away, it’s magic. Remember, I’m always a music fan first and a performer second. It happens a few times every tour. A person I’m a fan of who we had the honor of opening for once said to me, “You know, I’ve been out for 3 months and you’re the second band that impressed me we’ve played with.” So anyway, even if I’m the only one publishing shit about it and spouting off at the mouth, it’s not just me thinking this. To mention a few bright spots I can think of off hand, MF Ruckus, Red Stone Souls, Beelezebubba and Pete Berwick really got us excited when we played with them. They were bands we knew nothing about going in and then bam!, for very different reasons we got really excited and inspired by their own “Smokestack Lightning.” Obviously there’s more and some bands we already know before we get to a show so we know what to expect. 

It’s like this and I’ll be honest and realistic, it’s possible I was downstairs on the phone or sleeping in the van and I missed your band and you are primed to be the next Led Zeppelin and shame on me. Yup, it could happen, I could also get struck by lightening, eaten by a shark or win the lottery. A lot of times I get to a venue and I”m just tired. I haven’t seen my family in a long time, I haven’t been in my bed for weeks, I”m hungry and I”m just worn out from the road. For most people, everyday in their life isn’t a concert and if it was, it changes your perspective and enthusiasm for it a bit. When I get to a show, I have one priority, that’s to get ready to put on the best show possible for 6 or 6,000 people. I”m there to honor my contract, represent myself, my family, those who came before me and my craft the best I can. I owe this to everyone that paid their money to get in the room. If I miss your band because I was focused on that, I don’t care, my priorities were in the right place and like the SH song says, IF THAT DON’T MAKE SENSE TO YOU THEN YOU ARE NEVER GONNA UNDERSTAND ME. 

It Ain’t Just a Guitar

“This is my rifle, there are many like it but this one is mine.” Every time I hear that in Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket I can’t help but look across the room at my beat to hell old Gibson, SG. It doesn’t look like much, It has burn marks on it, beer caps for knobs, huge chucks taken out of it, finish worn off the neck and a spent 9mm shell now acts as the pickup selector. It’s had different stickers on it over the years, the only one that never comes off is a logo design of the mono Lisa from old punk days a good friend long passed originally designed. 

This guitar has been on stage with me at CBGB before it closed. It was in my hand the first time we played SXSX in Austin and secured our first real endorsement. It appears on basically every SH demo and I’ve written the bulk of our riffs on it jamming away in whatever bunker I call home at the moment. If you’ve seen an outdoor or festival Scattered Hamlet show you’ve probably seen Adam Newell light off the Ace Frehley style hillbilly pyrotechnics off it when he launches into the lead break in Skeleton Dixie. 

It’s not one of the main instruments in the studio. Most of those duties are done by the other 6 string bandits in the band using Les Pauls, as they have better chops than me even on my best day. It does appear on the “Skeleton Dixie” album once on part of the lead break I did with Randy Cooper on “Falling Off the Wagon.” It’s too new to be vintage and it’s too beat for anyone else to want it. It sounds and plays better than new SG’s out of the box... I don’t know why, it just does. I replaced the bridge pick up with an old Dimarzio Super Distortion; that’s the original 70’s style after market upgrade. It growls mean and takes on a life of it’s own when it comes through a Marshall. It’s pure made in the USA badassary. 

There is a point to this story, it’s for would be music equipment thieves. First fuck you. Don’t mess with a person’s livelihood and as far as I’m concerned, if you steal a working musicians instrument, you should be hung at high noon while the rest of us throw rank feces at you. Yeah my insurance would probably cover more than it would cost me to buy a new SG from Guitar Center....but you know what, that wouldn’t be the same. This tool is a part of me and it’s like a old friend. You can’t put a price on that and if you think that’s worth the few hundred bucks they’d give you at a pawn shop so you can buy some meth, then you have no soul. 

People have said, “you must not like it much, you beat the hell out of it.” Well, it’s not a show piece son, it’s a tool. I buy my tools to use and they don’t have to look pretty. Really, if you are thinking about running off with a guitar or piece of someone’s music gear, think about it - the roots go deeper than it just being a piece some wood and metal strapped together. Oh yeah, and if I catch you with mine, expect to be another part of it’s history when I beat the shit out of you with it. 

Kickstart my Heart

[Give me your hard earned money]
I’m anti-kickstarter for bands. There I said it. With that out of the way, I have to admit there are many bands I both like and respect who use it or have used it and I’ve even donated to a few. It’s not for me though. When I listen to music it’s about escape, it’s not about worrying about how much the band or the singer is making or not making. There’s a mystique about music and the show that surrounds it and I think part of the rock and roll attraction is that mystique. When you start doing things like Kickstarter you’re opening up Oz’s curtain and letting everyone see in. 

It’s sort of like this, you’re at the nudie bar and this really hot stripper has been paying attention to you and grinding you all night. While you know better, you believe in your mind this sex machine has eyes only for you and that she is spell bound by masculine mojo you’ve been excreting all night. Just as you’re about to hand over another dollar she says, you know my kids are the most important thing in my life and I’m just trying to get through school. Their baby daddy is a deadbeat and I’m only doing this to get by....AND down goes the wiener. Just like that, she pulled back Oz’s curtain, you saw behind it and reality sucks. There goes the escape/entertainment, if you wanted to be depressed about bills and real life, you would have stayed home. 

[The kind of Kickstarter I like]
Music is the same thing as far as I’m concerned. It’s part of the entertainment industry just like stripping is adult entertainment. Yes, much of the time non civilian musicians are struggling, sleeping in our van and doing shit we don’t want to do to get by. That’s our choice and you help us by coming to shows, buying our merch and paying for music instead of stealing it online. BUT, to go that extra step and ask you for more with the promise of same lame “special” doo-dad is a little douchey as far as I’m concerned. It really pisses me off when a fellow musician asks another struggling musician to donate to their kickstarter. Fuck you, for real, we’re all out their trying to make this happen, don’t beg from me. It also pisses me off when musicians with many breaks hit up their fans for more comfort. Hey, donate to our kickstarter so we can have a tour bus instead of an RV.... Fuck you. So let’s recap their logic, buy our merch, buy our music, come to our shows, call radio stations and request us and then donate money to us so we can be more comfortable since you already haven’t done enough....

Kickstarter is part of that “me generation” instant gratification American Idol bullshit paradigm. It falls under the bridge of perceived “self importance” and that the “world owes you something.” Before I ask a fan to give me money for no reason, I’d rather struggle behind the scenes and turn those ups and downs into good songs. That’s how the outlaws did it; if there ain’t no pain there ain’t no music that touches people. Life is a struggle, we are all struggling in our own way. We said it in “It Only Hurts,” I never beg but I sometimes borrow. Yup, I’ve borrowed much and I’m always trying to pay back that generosity with mixed results. I have no interest in going on line and begging... That’s just my two cents, which you can’t have for your lame kickstarter campaign, 98 more and I”ll have a McDouble, tour meal of champions... Suck it.