STOP BEING A CHILDISH A$$H*LE ABOUT YOUR MUSIC “CAREER”
I, and pretty much any of us mangy metal maggots, should consider ourselves fortunate to have opportunities at all in the music industry. In a world political climate full of uncertainty, violence, and suffering, it’s a bit of a self-indulgent thing to, from one way of looking at it, hide your head in the sand and stay immersed in your “art.” It’s a job almost anyone would want; and there simply aren’t that many of them to be had.
Earlier this year during the Language recording sessions, I was having a conversation with a close friend of the band, Billy. He does merch on tour with us and has worked with The Contortards much longer than me. To give you some background; Billy is the fucking king shit of fuck mountain band homie; shows up with all the party favors, has one of the deepest and broadest tastes in music I have ever encountered, and generally keeps our easily distracted musician brains from wandering off a cliff while staring at the sun. We’re buzz lightyear space cadets sometimes and need the help. He doesn’t play an instrument or anything, but has such a deep love for music that our conversations and listening sessions are better than some players I know who are in magazines. Hi five him at the merch booth if you come to a show; he’s the coolest guy you’ll meet all day.
We were kicking it in Winston-Salem in between sessions with the illustrious and mighty Jamie King, and he was telling me how rad everything was sounding; how sweet some of the new sounds were, etc. etc… And I was of course very appreciative, but I stopped him and started to make the same point as above. “You see, dude… Every fucking idiot who has grown up in the last 40 years wants to play guitar or be in a cool band or whatever.” It is what the “rock star” image is selling these days. But don’t ever forget that us ‘Lifers’ need people like YOU more than people like YOU need US. (By “lifers,” I mean the kind of musicians that live and breathe the stuff and just have no other choice but to spend their lives committed to music. We’re almost victim to it, in a sense.) As artists, one of the most elusive and valuable things to find is an audience, a group of supporters, benefactors kind enough to support those indulgent 0-1-5 beatdown riffs, sing along to the shitty song you wrote about a girl you knew for an hour when you were 16, and come to your 15th local show in 6 months. My point is that people and listeners like Billy are ESSENTIAL to our survival as artists. There’s always going to be some clown willing to play music for people, but to have the attention of an appreciative audience over some other “artist” is much more special.
Gene Simmons’ heavy handed article about rock being dead is interesting, but probably not in the way he intended it. He has a history of making inflammatory statements and baiting internet trolls has never been easier than in 2014. It works well for Gene; everyone on the internets is like “OMG HOW COULD HE SAY THAT.” My friend / producer / engineer Mark Lewis posted an apt response that rang entirely true for me: “Most of us in the biz now are working class people lucky to do what we love. Are sales down? Yes. But I work with tons of bands every year who make good to great livings playing music. Touring is still making money and so are some bands’ records. Just because you’ve been in a band and didn’t have the success you wanted or had to get a second job doesn’t mean ‘rock is dead.’” I’ve been fortunate enough to record (read: LEARN) with Mark on a couple different records (Levi/Werstler – Avalanche of Worms and the third Dååth CD). He is a very humble, diligent, and talented craftsman who has grinded his way up from nothing to where he is now; a charting, world-class metal producer. He goes on to make a point about irresponsible business practices, which truly is a huge reality for most bands, I’ve come to learn over the years: “I can’t tell you how many bands I’ve seen blow good record advances on bullshit, blow good show pay on unnecessary crew or bus expenses, when they could be teching themselves or riding in a bandwagon or van.”
So, in summary, don’t buy the bullshit. Disciplined focus and persistence, not whiney entitled-ness, are the traits that I see in my happiest, most successful musical peers. Rock might not be what it used to be in its glamorous excesses of the 20th century, and maybe thats more of what ol’ Gene is referring to, but for those of us that have enough luck to build an opportunity to make use of whatever array of limited talent we have (MAKE MUSIC), being immersed in our musical “world” is an end in itself. If you don’t love it that much, you should probably join the peace corps, become a politician or doctor, or cure cancer, because the world needs you much more than it does us.
Rock will never die. And if it does, fuck it because I’ll probably have already peaced out myself; who wants to live in a world like that?