DALLAS COYLE ON GETTING TO “THE NEXT LEVEL” AS A BAND
Election day is only a couple of days away and it’s excruciating. For that reason alone, I’m not going to talk about politics at all until this election is done with. It seems things are so contentious right now that having an objective point of view about things causes arguments that aren’t even intended, so for now: FUCK POLITICS!
Let’s talk about metal music. Every single record we put out seems to get better and better for us musically. Our last record did slightly better than our last worldwide and the record before that did three times better than the last one. So we always seem to step up to the “Next Level” so to speak.
I have a problem with this term “The Next Level.” When bands say, “This album is our best yet! It’s going to get us to the next level,” it makes me wonder. Are bands and musicians playing the music game like it’s Super Mario Brothers? Do we beat final bosses or get power ups on the way? In a way we do. One of the power ups we get when we’re on the road hustling to push a record is fame. Our band over the last five years has become a lot more known so when I go places people recognize me. I get clothes for free because we have endorsements. Our guitar company (ESP) treats us well as does our amp company (Randall). We get to the special level where we don’t to spend as much money on gear, clothes and beer!
Another level is the record sales goal. When we first started all I wanted to do was make a great metal album, which we’ve done, and sell fifty thousand records, which we’ve also done. When you look at this it’s good and it’s bad. We’ve set goals for ourselves that we hit and we got to a certain level, but now that’s not good enough! Now, it’s make a great metal record and sell one hundred thousand records to get to the next level.
We haven’t sold one hundred thousand records in the States. Worldwide, yes, but in the States we haven’t. This hypothetical status symbol of stepping up to the next level can hurt a band and their thinking. When a band starts they usually think about getting to the level of getting signed, touring and selling records. After they hit that level, they want to make money touring, get in magazine ads, get free clothes, equipment and get hotter women than they did before.
This is a dangerous game. I think this mentality can break up bands. What is the solid level after all of that? What is the bar bands hold themselves to when they decide it’s not worth doing it anymore? This term the next “level” in reality doesn’t mean a fucking thing. Bands don’t have levels when it comes to their specific success.
Yes, Metallica has hit the level of unlimited lives, absolute wealth and worldwide fame. Is that a level any band in our time can realistically hit? Is it healthy to always strive for that level and then always fail to get there? Levels are purely subjective and they are the first step in band members arguing with each other and blaming each other for not reaching the supposed “Next Level”.
Having a report card for a band based on levels for band succession is bullshit and should be checked at the door. It’s the first step in having your head in the clouds. It’s the best way to argue with your band mates about your band’s success. It’s like this argument: you say, “We need to go out on our own and headline our own tours!” The person in your band says, “we can’t do that, we’re not Slayer, we’re not at that level!”
The other side of the argument is this, of course: you’re not Slayer! How many of you know factually what it took for Slayer to get where they are now? When you associate levels to your band, you really suppress the creativity and ideas you have within yourself to push your band and get yourself to a higher point than what you yourself have achieved previously. Your success doesn’t relate to Trivium, Slayer or God-like Metallica success. Your success relates to your own past success.
Hold yourself to your own standards and make them realistic. Get rid of your idea of the next level and kick more ass than you did before. It isn’t a competition as much as people think. The next level is a farce. It’s just like the class breakdown. Poor, Middle-Class and The Rich. If you become rich with your band, good job! If you’re Middle-Class, good job! If you’re poor, stay out there and sustain yourselves! Fuck the next level. Go with the next step!