John Lennon was an idiot.
Not only did he claim that “all you need is love” (what about spoons, eh? John? Need them. You try eating a sainsbury’s family sized trifle without one. Or elbows, we need elbows John. Ringo would be even worse without elbows) but he preached the message of “Power to the People”. Granted, when he said it in 1970 it was in a slightly different context to now but LOOK WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU GIVE PEOPLE POWER, JOHN.
My last blog post was back in June 2016 and I don’t really need to apologise or explain why I haven’t been able to get out of bed and drag myself to my computer since then do I? We all know what a massive clown-car-fuck-show the second half of 2016 turned out to be. I really, honestly thought that everything was going to be ok and then democracy showed up.
We choose politicians to make the decisions for us. That’s what they’re for. They’re supposed to be educated and intelligent enough to judge how the country is run whilst we get on with our lives and eat all the cake. That’s what we’re for. So, why, in the name of Donald’s comb-over, did they fob us off with the task of deciding whether or not we wanted to be the most hated country in Europe? If a heart surgeon stopped during an operation to phone Greg Thompson (47) a Chartered Accountant from Littlehampton, to ask him what he thought he should do next, everyone would die.
Anyway, I’m not going to rant on about everything that’s happened. It’s too late now and I’m completely ranted out, as are you, most probably. When I started this blog I promised myself it wasn’t going to be simply a place for me to moan about the shitty problems of day-to-day life in London but rather a guide or documentation of the lives of musicians and bands struggling to make that leap from unknown to stardom. So I’m going to draw a line under it all and write off the past 6 months as a terrible dream brought on by a combination of ibuprofen, undercooked fish cakes and warm milk before bed.
Let me fill you in with the news on the important stuff…
Being in a band is tricky.
It’s a complicated ecosystem where all internal and external parameters have to be just right, the moon has to be aligned with the seven gods of rock and every member has to give the same amount of sweat as every other member. Otherwise it’s a boring, soul destroying avenue into depression.
Obviously, I’m not talking about covers bands or wedding bands because they’re piss-pot easy to be in (just know what you’re playing, wear the correct tie and try to consume as much of the buffet as you can before the bride’s father scowls at you).
Being in an ambitious band is tricky.
Since my last post we have lost our old bassist (not dead, just quit and moved to Uxbridge – so probably dead) and gained a shiny new younger bassist that smells of dog.
When our previous bass player told us that he was leaving it felt like a major crossroads in the life of the band. He was one of the founding members and we had been a constant in each others lives for the best part of 5 years. At least 10 hours every week spent together rehearsing, writing, drinking, laughing and fighting all pushing the band as far forward as we could in order to make ourselves a better group. He felt like a friend, colleague and brother that was always going to be there, like that mole under your armpit.
That can only go on for so long though and this is just one of the major hurdles that every band will have to either jump over or crash into. People change and people move on with their lives. They get old and tired. They get married and have babies and move to Bristol to open an owl sanctuary. Or, they just realise that they’ve given all they can to the band and feel like their time has come to and end. This can be a positive or negative thing for the remaining members, it depends on how you choose to use it.
So, we played our last gig together in August 2016 at a small club in Soho, London and the next day we woke up bassist-less. Our management team were a little worried with the situation, we were a little worried with the situation and we needed to make some very big decisions very quickly about what we were going to do.
We could either:
- Act like it never happened and try to limp on without a bassist in a live rock band(?!).
- Get a new bassist as fast as possible, like-for-like.
- Spend some time auditioning, interviewing and testing replacements in order to find a new member who was not only better musically but could also bring another dimension to the group.
- Set fire to the studio and run around in our pants crying uncontrollably.
It may shock you to discover that we went for the penultimate option. After a 30 second meeting with the remaining members of the band over a pint and assuring each other that no-one else wanted to leave, no-one else felt like the band wasn’t important anymore and yes, we all wanted to crack on to achieve great things, we decided to start advertising for a new bass player.
A lot of old shite is invented when you read about how a band met. Great time is spent by people coming up with a band bio (or EPK) and writing something interesting about how “the spark of the band was ignited when the nephew of the keyboard player from Spandau Ballet was at a Scandinavian Metal Festival and took part in a midnight jam session with an african-dutch guitarist.” – It’s all crap. Most of the bands that I’ve ever been in or met on the circuit have got together either as friends or over the internet. And that is how we all met. Forums online for new band members where you can see pictures, hear demo samples and read about who these people are and what they want out of a band. It’s like Tinder but without the disappointment of meeting them and they’re fat.
So, auditions done. We chose our new bassist within 3 weeks and began the long, tiresome task of integrating him into the band and teaching him the songs. Except, it wasn’t long or tiresome. Quite the opposite.
Sometimes (most times) doing things you have to do turns out to be annoying and tedious. Going to work. Cleaning the bathroom. Shaving the cat, etc.. But we got really lucky with finding our new bass player – as any band in the world will tell you, finding a bassist that is musically good, has great on-stage presence and is also a committed nice guy is like finding Dodo flavoured unicorn sperm.
Now, over the past 3 months, we have grown again as a group and we are a different beast than we were. New material is pouring out of us like musical gravy, gigs are more intense and animated and there seems to be a more business-like approach to the control of the band.
Since he left, our previous bassist has recently attended a gig we performed at The Camden Assembly (formerly Barfly) and it was certainly weird, but also reassuring. After we played I spoke to him and said that seeing him in the crowd was like making love to a beautiful woman, while being watched from behind the curtains by your ex-wife. I asked him if he was stood there judging me while I played and noticing every little mistake that I made, he laughed and said that he didn’t notice any mistakes and that we were really good. Lying bastard!
I am confident now that we came to the best solution for everyone. Like those odd people who can still be friends with their ex-partners(?), everyone seems to be happy (for now) in a situation that could and should have spelled disaster. It is a very small percentage of bands that can lose a member, find an even better replacement and everyone concerned is still very much friends.
But then again, we are not like most bands.