« Musicians. A Rant. »

I hate to say it, but this time, I'm not gonna even pretend to be happy about the news. The news is this:

Musicians are F***ed up. Maybe you have heard. While that isn't meant to be elitist (because I'm sure I've met someone's criteria for the same things), it just happens to be something I run up against now and then. It must be in the blood. Maybe this isn't news to some of you.

Anyhow, there is this dude who I have had musical dealings with for about three years. We play, we make music that really stuns and delights me. But it's all transient. It's never recorded beyond some scratch work. It's never finished to a degree that we can perform it for people and claim that it's our work and that we're proud of it. In three years of playing, we have not completed one friggin' piece of music from start to finish. We have done casual work and play as a bass and guitar duo, drum and guitar duo, guitar and guitar duo, and some other permutations—rock trio, quartet, and the like. He had a chance to be on my CD as it got recorded but never really went for it, nor did he ever really seem cut out for recording in general. When I met him, he had some really bad playing habits. Over the course of time, we had friction and would break up for months. Later, upon reconvening and trying out some new ideas, invariably, he would recite back to me all the things that I had said that led us to the hiatus. He absorbed all the stuff I said, and at some later date was able to recite it all back as if it was his idea, no matter how bad it seemed as it was first being argued out. In November of 2000, we had a quartet that lasted for three weeks before it collapsed. It took a year to get that back together in any form. Then that collapsed a month or two after we decided to give it another go. And, after that second band crashed and burned, it was many months before we tried again. This time, he came over and told me as if it was his idea, that we needed to really buckle down as a duo, write some stuff, stop jamming and get serious. Since it seemed like something that I had told him two years before, I thought that maybe he had taken it to heart and really meant to do that. I knew as well as he what had happened, but since this was his idea, I took a far more hands off approach than usual.

Ordinarily, I am driven to record. But the focus here was to write stuff and prepare it to be recorded. So it was really meant to be a performance ready thing. And it was going that way. But because I wasn't the boss on this, things went to shit. I let this dude determine who would show up and be the drummer for the evening. Or not. I let him decide when we would play. Or not. I let him decide what I would record. Or not. I let him influence what we would work on. Or not. It was an experiment. What really happened was that, true to his previous form, he would come in and play like mad for an hour. Or not. He would come in at 7 pm. Or not. He would come in at his convenience. Or not. He would tell me that he would be later than planned. Or... do I even need to say it? In short, he pulled all the usual stunts that indicate no level of teamwork, and the kind of shit that breaks bands up. He had buddies come over to "rehearsal" and would do the booze thing, or it would turn into a rampant jam with no focus, and entirely off topic from the reason for gathering.

So why did I put up with this bullshit? The Music. It was the musical equivalent to sex. The stuff we could do kept getting better as I developed as a bass player, and musician in general. He even got a lot better than the earlier days when we played. His playing grew a lot more tasteful in this time. We could jam over anything. It wasn't always good, but thats like saying that a big ice cream dish covered in toppings is only enjoyable when its delivered by the proper and conventional medium: the spoon. Nonsense. Slop and chance was part of the charm. Playing in the various ensembles that we played in was a string of lessons how to listen, how to play, how to speak in a foreign language. I am not fluent, but ideas were getting passed around like mad when we played. We did stuff in an impromptu jam that we wouldn't sit and write intentionally. And it was like that most days. That's why I put up with all the bullshit that went along.

After years of not trying to be in a band (the years I spent doing my solo recording almost exclusively), I finished the CD, and felt that it was time to step up to a plate and become a performing musician. I wanted to play bass. The first quartet in late 2000 was comprised of myself on bass, Todd Larowe on guitar, Mr. Flakeyfuck on guitar and his buddy Ryan on drums. Three weeks is all that lasted. Ryan later turned up for occasional jams, and I also dabbled in playing with Dom and Whit to some small degree of success. Well, for two years now, I have been really down on music. If I wasn't playing bass in a band, I wanted almost nothing to do with it. Solo recording was boring and redundant to me. So I wanted to put my faith in some band situation after years of dodging it. And since me and Mr. Flakeyfuck had been getting musically acquainted over some time, it seemed natural to develop that. But it keeps failing. And dammit, it's not because of me. I refuse to think that now. Why? He has an utter lack of regard for this thing we were doing, or even me. For him to say multiple times he'll show up and then not means he's a liar. For him to pretend to take the project into his hands and then do next to nothing to nurture it means that he is insincere. For him to do a no-call, no-show when me and Paul horn are waiting for him is downright rude. For him to tell me in front of his (uninvited to the rehearsal) guest and Paul that my ideas are not musically "correct" is preposterous!

It was that last one that really wound me up and sent me off the handle. I was mad as hell that he would talk that shit all of a sudden, a week or less after he utterly failed to show up to one rehearsal, while Paul and I were here watching the clock tick by. He finally showed up at 10:20 or so—a full 20 minutes after I stop rehearsals at my place, and about 3:20 after we usually would start if it was something I would be responsible for. Then he had the gall to tell me my ideas were "not right" in some fashion. Sorry, d00de. Membership has its privileges, and for you to not even show up...

All I could think of was that old tale I heard as a kid about the hen who wanted to have her friends help make a cake so that they could all enjoy it later, and no one helped her. So she made it herself. Then everyone wanted a piece of the cake. But she told them to piss off because they weren't there to be a part in the making of it. Kids, let this be a lesson to you. It's this kind of BS that made me want to do my own thing in the first place. I have not but myself to credit or blame. I am going to keep trying some band possibilities, but if that fails, I can and will run back to the studio, and lock the door behind me. Sometimes, it's the only thing that lets me feel like a human being, even if it's hell getting there. I think I am formulating some sort of new year's resolution or something.

Have a happy holiday. I am planning on doing at least that much. I can't let this crap rain on my parade any more than it already has.

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