Editorials

TRAP THEM’S RYAN MCKENNEY RESPONDS TO SACHA DUNABLE’S METALSUCKS COLUMN

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Last week, as part of his recurring MetalSucks column, Blogronaut, Intronaut’s Sacha Dunable asked the question: “Are corporate-sponsored metal shows killing the live concert market?” The blog garnered a large and impassioned response, not just from our readers who left comments, but from industry insiders who e-mailed us their thoughts directly. One of those people was Trap Them vocalist Ryan McKenney, who, with no prompting whatsoever from us, wrote the below. And since we like to think of MetalSucks as a place where all kinds of points of view can be weighed and considered, we’re running it! We hope you enjoy…

Long time reader, first time caller… that’s how they say it, isn’t it? I’ve gone through great efforts to not invest too much time into internet blogs and messageboards regarding extreme music of any genre. I’m more of what they call a troll, I believe. Except, I never say anything at all, while many will at least chime in once in a while to give an opinion that is consequently ripped apart.

I’d like to at least make an attempt at responding to Sacha Dunable’s write up about corporate fests and whether they are ruining the live concert market. I consider it an important issue on many fronts. The truth is, ask a hundred people their opinion on this, and you’ll probably get a hundred different answers. Unless, of course, you ask the question to people in groups of five or more… if you do that, the odds are only one or two people will give their honest view and then the rest will just say, “Yeah… what he/she said.” I’d like to put my two cents in on the subject. Some may understand what I’m saying, and some may consider me an asshole, which I’m okay with. It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve heard it lately (or even today).

I think Sacha makes a lot of good points. Considering the many differents levels of extreme music that are related to these fests and shows, it’s a lot of ground to cover. Being in a band that has played (and is about to play) these events, I’ve been able to form my own opinion from both sides of the fence. As I write this, I wonder what the “me” of ten to fifteen to twenty years ago would think as I was being opened up daily to new music and new genres, trying to make sense of punk ethics, and which once I believed in and which ones I realized right away were/are a bunch of bullshit.

When Sacha said he’d “…take a fat check from freakin’ Nike,” he actually hit the nail on the head, whether he doubted himself in the next sentence or not. That’s what it has come down to for a lot of us. Being a smaller band that is willing to tour relentlessly is both extremely difficult and, truthfully, a pretty stupid idea, but some of us don’t know any better, or have no other route in life to take. This is what they call being “a glutton for punishment.” The average age of my band is 32 years old. None of us have degrees or trades to fall back on when touring finally hits a brick wall. None of us can look more than six months into the futur… and we accept that. Most of us have been touring since the 90’s with various failure of endeavors. You would think we would have smartened up by now, but it’s not that simple. This feels right.

To expand on what I’m saying: We played roughly 180 shows in 2009, and if we hadn’t taken this certain corporation’s generous offer, we would have eaten more shit than we had already choked down. We opened a tour for one of the most legendary grind bands of all time (THE best, in my opinion) and were payed a pretty small amount. We were first on a five band package… there was never a doubt we’d make peanuts. It didn’t matter… we were on the road for six weeks watching the band play songs I used to listen to while delivering newspapers in seventh grade. But, with the amount of 10+ hour drives in our beautiful fartbox of a van (lovingly referred to as “Big Ben”) that that tour entailed, it was almost monetarily impossible for us to come close to breaking even, let alone make money that would take care of a home life.

We NEEDED this tour. Luckily, this corporation stepped in and made us a small offer. We did something small for them and, in turn, they made the tour attainable for us. What they asked us to do did not, for one second, make me feel like I am compromising any of my integrity. In fact, they told us to go out of our way to not advertise, or even SAY their name.

The same company offered for us to play a free show last summer which, again, helped us immensely in the middle of a tour we were struggling on. Again, they wanted us to not even acknowledge they existed, instead just allowing us to do what we want to do… which is just play a show.

Even with all of this “corporate funding,” we ended the year (after spending half of it going back and forth from coast to coast, over and over and over…) around $5,000 in debt to various areas. The only way being $5,000 in debt is not that big of a deal is if mommy and daddy pay your rent and bills while you’re on vacation (oops… I mean tour). The rest of us come home to roll burritos, work at record stores, flip burgers and walk dogs for “a living”… the rest of us eat shit at home as well as on tour.

You know what makes that shit taste a little better? Someone you don’t know, giving you money to help you do what you want to do. If this makes me a bastard, then give me that fucking crown and put a spotlight on me… I’ll take it all day, week, month, year, decade and century. As long as no one is telling me how to write lyrics and songs and present myself or my band in a live setting, I simply do not care who helps me continue to do this. ( But, since this is the internet, home of the dipshit, some idiot will probably say something along the lines of, “What about the KKK? Or Ann Coulter?” Well, of course, the answer is no to certain pathetics… There. I clarified. Happy?).

All of this leads to my view on how these corporate events affect/effect (grammar nerds… I consider both words to be valid in this sentence… correct me if need be) regular shows and regular tours. This is one of the only parts of Sacha’s entry I disagree with. I don’t think any of these events will ever sway everyday live shows/tours in any way negatively or positively. Yes, we’ve accepted that 90% of the people who’ve heard all of our (by “our,” I mean every band… not just mine) records didn’t pay for them… possibly 95%. Bitter? Maybe. Realistic? Absolutely. To me, I witness live shows being comparable to record sales… times have changed, but most people are still stubborn in seeing the truth of the matter. Everyone still wants something for nothing, regardless of free, corporate sponsored events. They want everything fast, cheap and easy. You can’t have all three.

Fact: American extreme music enthusiasts are spoiled. You know what? Fuck this… Fact: WORLDWIDE extereme music enthusiasts are spoiled. The complaints about prices of shows is, to be blunt, goddamn ridiculous. Punks don’t want to do the math. Hardcore kids are too busy being a caricature of themselves. Metal fans are hiding in their homes, searching the internet for the next kvlt epiphany before dismissing them within months for selling out and recording at a real studio… and they probably go to six shows a year because they get wasted and black out before they get out of the bar to go next door and see the band they want to see “so bad.”.Generalizing, aren’t I? Well, yeah… but if the shoe fits, motherfucker, put it on and shut up.

We’re spoiled. Period. And our rationalizations are shit.

Guys and gals, I’m not trying to be a dick. I’m trying to put this in a way that actually exists.

Tell me if I’m delusional here… I’m sure many of you will.

A five band show. In Europe, this is called a fest. In America, we call this a nightly occurance. I’m sort of joking… sort of not. Anyways, a five band show: two bands on tour, three locals. The two bands drove seven hours to get there. After the show, they have another seven hour drive to the next city/town/whatever. Fourteen hours of driving in any of our sardine buckets on wheels equals to about $300 or more. Just think about that number… also think about TWO bands on tour together. That’s $600 in gas alone for two bands to play a show on tour.

A five band show, and I’d bet my next paycheck (sorry so little… I don’t have much to work with) that you’d hear endless whining if that show was anything over $12. This goes for any show of any genre. The bitching and moaning doesn’t stop… it never, ever will.

Guess what? You want the bottome line? Depending on the show, anything less than $25 is a deal. And ask my wife… my sense of humor sucks, so I’m being quite honest here and there’s not one bit of humor in what I’m saying. I mean this, even though capitalism still somehow fucks me in the mouth each and every day.

Yeah. $25.

And to all of you (okay, again to clarify… not ALL of you) lovers of distortion that are part of the problem, no matter what genre gives you the wet dreams, I really mean this: Fuck you. Fuck your narrow-minded, black-and-white, simpleton opinions.

To expand on this as well: Really, really think about it. Fifteen dollars for a show is unacceptable, yet you’ll drop $18 to sit in an IMAX theatre and jerk off to Avatar or something else along those lines. You’ll get a large popcorn and stuff your fat face and wash it down with a 128 ounce big gulp of Mountain Dew. You’ll drop $30 dollars to see a two or three hour film (and probably buy it for $20 on DVD later), yet spending $15-$25 on admission and, maybe, a shirt or record at a show… an experience that is different every night… spending that $25 is too expensive? It’s compromising your values? Seriously, I can’t say “Fuck you” loud enough right now.

Local punk or hardcore or metal shows with bands on tour are too expensive, but you’ll drop $150 for two tickets in the balcony of a Lady Gaga show because your girlfriend wants to go… you’ll drop $300 for tickets for Opening Day because your boyfriend has gone every year. Comedians charge $75-$150 to have you sit down and laugh for an hour with absolutely no crowd participation. You’ll go to see a flavor-of-the-week hip-hop artist with nothing to say that has gone multi-platinum, pay $40 for admission, and consider this awesome in some sort of fucked up ironic way because it gives you something to tell your friends so that they think you’re crazy or funny.

But $15-$25 extreme music bills are ludicrous. But bands are too greedy.

Somehow, despite all of this, underground music is trying to be forced to stay the same as it was thirty years ago… trying to be forced to stick with the same values. Change is no good, right? We’re not supposed to update ourselves to the reality of modern living, right?

You know who else says expressions like this? Conservatives. Just sayin’.

I don’t expect most people to agree with me, but I’ve got an asshole and I’ve got an opinion, and sometimes they both need to get their shit out. Of course, there are a lot of variables to what I’m saying. Everyday struggle does hinder going to shows all the time, regardless of the cost to get in. And I am also in NO way whatsoever saying every show should be this much. Local bands all driving twenty minutes to play? Hell yeah, that’s an $8-$10 show. Three touring bands that are a draw? Hell NO, that’s not an $8-$10 show… I mean, come ON… is this seriously so far-fetched? But there’s also the spoiled brats that still complain, even though they’re in their twenties and are given a weekly allowance. Or, even worse, free-loading train hoppers that expect to be let into every show without paying a dime (Has my punx membership card been revoked yet? If that last statement didn’t do it, please let me know and I’ll set it on fire myself.) Or, even better… how about there’s less shows every summer? I know it’s a crazy idea, but how about you wait until your band has more than a demo before you head out on a two month, half-booked tour during you college downtime? You know… that way a band that has workhorsed their asses off all year won’t get paid $50 less at a show because you jumped on it last minute and “just need gas money”… that’s not shitty for me to say. It happens way too much… an end result of laziness over effort.

Long winded, huh? I know. It’s a fault of mine… or maybe a subject as important as this needs more than a few lines from me to feel as though I’m truly relaying the direction of my thought process. At least I’m not one of those dicks that would stand there on stage with a feeling of self-importance because I have a microphone and go on a rant about this for fifteen minutes while the rest of the band stares at the floor, hoping I finish soon. That’s what’s great about writing: don’t like what I’m saying? Stop reading. It’s a lot harder to stop listening.

Some of these corporate events keep the bands you love in existence. Truth. Some of these corporate events give us smaller bands a chance to keep going, instead of giving up, in hopes that at some point we may actually turn into a band you love.

To bring up bands such as From Ashes Rise, and what the punx will think of them… well, I don’t really know what to say to that other than: if they don’t like it, fuck ’em. From Ashes Rise has, in my heart, earned the right to do whatever the hell they want for however long they want to. I’ve been in other bands that have played with them at shitty church rooms in the middle of Bumfuck, Maine in the nineties. I’ve driven ridiculous hours to see them. I literally felt sick to my stomach when they broke up. They’re one of my favorite bands of all time. When they got back together in February, my wife and I bought tickets (without even checking the price) and drove from Seattle down to Portland and saw the reunion show, and that band played with the same intensity they did years ago. They were amazing. From Ashes Rise can play anything and everything they want. They are, and always have been, the real deal. Fuck what the punx think, considering they turn their backs on everything… the diehards are few and far between. I don’t believe in the “punks”… I just believe in punk itself.

No matter what way you look at it, free events, expensive multi-day festivals, etc. included, 99.9999% percent of us bands will never make good money. We have about as much hope as every 350 pound fat ass BlahBlahBlah University offensive linesman that thinks he’s going pro. It just doesn’t happen. It’s a life lottery, with no rhyme or reason as to who comes out on top and why.

So, Sacha is correct: Bands should continue to go on tour and ask for reasonable ticket prices. But, “reasonable” should be less cut and dry, and more blunt reality. There’s two sides: First, fans/enthusiasts need to put their money where their appreciation is. Second, all touring bands need to either accept that they will eat shit until the people that like them finally change their views on show costs, or they can stop touring, continue to write and create their records, and simply play shows whenever the time is right… less stress, less struggle. Either way, they’ll have my respect.

So, what do you want? Do you want to continue to worship at the altar of CGI, of mutli-millionaire cry-baby showboats that switch teams every two years for more money (yet their wives are considered the gold-diggers…), of… hell, everything but this? Just think about it… within the realm of entertainment, there is absolutely NOTHING that comes close to what extreme music encompasses. It is, without question, the most organic, intense and passionate artform that exists, especially when you consider that the average band consists of four or five individuals that somehow have to find common ground to create one fully realized piece of expression in the form of song. On top of that, the translation of song in a live atmosphere literally changes every set, every night.

Why are you trying to lowball something that assaults all five of your senses, something completely unique that will never happen the same way twice?

Do you want to pay the warranted price for passion or do you want to protest and waste your money on other forms of mediocrity?

I’m not going to fuck this up with misdirected values, ethics or priorities. I’m not going to speak for anyone. I’m no decider and I’m no educator or preacher. All I know is that if paying a littile bit more for every show keeps that sweet nectar of live distortion dripping, then sign me up forever.

-Ryan McKenney

Order Trap Them’s latest, Filth Rations, from Southern Lord.

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