29 February, 2008

Rock N Roll Fantasy

There's nothing else in the world that I want more than to be a performing musician. Maybe I'm exaggerating, but I want to be a performing musician as much as I want anything else in life, and I know that my life would have so much more satisfaction and meaning if I were to accomplish that one thing. But there are certain conditions, like being in a band, being able to play the kind of stuff I want to play (in terms of convincing the band as well as concerning my own abilities), and having some kind of an audience that digs the show.

I saw a Led Zeppelin cover band tonight. It was the first real rock show I'd been to since last summer. And I was reminded how great live music is. But being in the audience is one thing. I love getting to see and hear the music being played right in front of me, but I'm not really thrilled about the standing (or sitting) in a crowd of strangers drunk and high, partying to the soundtrack. When I see bands play live, I'm there to observe the show, not to get down and party. I listen to the music - I don't talk to my buds. And I follow most of the notes and changes. Because I'm not just a music fan. I'm a musician.

I want to be up on that stage. I want to be playing the music. I want to be creating the music, not just listening to it. I enjoy listening to it, but I don't feel like I'm in the right place when I'm standing in the crowd. I belong on the stage, wearing that guitar. And that's exactly what I want so bad. Playing music is a hard business - some bands make ridiculous loads of money, while the majority struggle to make ends meet. But playing music is both a lifestyle as well as a vocation. It's a lifestyle that I want to be a part of, and it's one of the few vocations that I consider desirable to me. It should be the answer to my problems. I'd kill to be a musician, even if it meant having a hard life, as long as I could get up on that stage and play.

So what's stopping me? I can't play. I say that, but I could call up a lifeline of people who would profess just the opposite. But it doesn't matter so much to me whether other people think I can play. What matters is that when I pick up the guitar, I can't make my fingers create the noise I want to hear. I consistently get comments from people who hear me play noise at the den that my performance is mind-blowing, and that's great to hear. But the truth is, I play noise because I can't seem to play notes right. I like that I'm doing something different, that opens people's minds to what kind of sounds can come from a guitar, and I think it sounds great sometimes. But it's my Plan B. I play it because I don't know how to play a searing blues solo. And I don't have the chops to win over an audience traditionally without an accompanying band. Or maybe I just don't want to. There are certain kinds of things I can accept playing by myself, but there are other things that I just don't want to bother with without the right elements of accompaniment. I don't want to play a stripped down version of this or that song. I want to rock people's fucking socks off. With rumbling bass, thundering drums, and wailing vocals, behind my searing guitar lead.

I don't know how to play with people. I've never learned how to accompany another musician, and I never really get the chance to practice. Somebody suggests, "you should jam together", and I'm like, okay, what the hell am I supposed to play? I don't know shit about scales and theory and modes and whatever the hell else. I don't know how to accompany a person's distinct style. All I know how to play is the stuff I play. And it may or may not sound good against the stuff you play. People think I'm a great guitarist, and they're surprised when I tell them that I'm intimidated by the thought of jamming with them, because I feel like I won't be able to live up to their playing - and here they think I'm better than they are!

People say I'm modest, and they say I've got the wrong standards, and they say all kinds of things to try to convince me that I'm good, but the bottom line is, when I pick up a guitar, I can't play what or how I want to play. I guess I have to get lessons or something. But fuck that. I don't want to deal with other people.

Finally, after 5 years of not once using the credit card I inadvertently signed up for (because some business-jerk started asking me questions on the phone before I knew what was happening), they're finally gonna close my account. 5 years of annoying notices, but at least I didn't have to talk to anyone.


  1. What did the final paragraph have to do with anything else in the entry?

    Only really being able to play my own stuff, part of the idea of doing solo albums was that if I could make something good enough, it could convince a band to join in to MY music, as opposed to some kind of (godawful) equal partnership. That's the way it happens with a lot of people. You circulate a demo around to find a band.

    It's very seriously worth your consideration. You could put together a CD of your most well-executed noise and then shop around for a bassist and a drummer. You'll be the one in the position of power. Put up fliers around Guitar Centers and The Den and on the internet. It truly wouldn't be hard to find people that would be willing.

    There are more musicians out there than attractive women. Probably a million skilled people in the area between the colleges and such. You could find a soulful and musically knowledgeable, competent rhthym section that can play in intelligent unison with your whims -- free-form noise experimental jam that can follow you in any direction you go in. It's worth a shot, isn't it? I've heard tons of small-time bands, all you need is a backing band and you can play serious gigs at bars. Wouldn't that be just SO awesome?

    If you're worried about being timid, might I suggest getting involved with younger people? I find them to be much less intimidating. There are intensely talented people at the highschool for exampe. My friend Levi for example listens seriously to Peter Green and Robin Trower, and he might be interested in a noise band.

    Even though noise is your plan B, wouldn't playing gigs in a real live band be a hell of a lot better than not doing it at all? And most bands start out playing a genre that isn't their #1 choice. As your skills enevitably increase through playing with a band, you can direct the band in a blues direction until it becomes a blues band through and through. Plus your trower-into-noise thing at the den was spot on, I'm sure the band would be into doing stuff like that.

    All it takes is one little flier to get people asking to be in your band. You could maybe include a website on the flier with samples. Making up the flier with stuff like "bassist and drummer needed for free-form noise/experimental post-rock band, influences Godspeed You! Black Emporer, Monolithe, Robin Trower, Roy Buchanan..." would probably be really fun even if you don't use it...

  2. It was a spontaneous backup to the final sentence of the paragraph before it, a second example against the idea of dealing with people.

    You give me too much credit. Firstly, even if I recruited some prospectives, that doesn't solve the problem of knowing how to play with another musician. And it's not like I have the skill, or even the desire, to fully orchestrate the music I want to play.

    And when people hear about my influences, they're either gonna be clueless because they have bad taste in music, or else they're gonna be expecting a hell of a lot from me, because my taste in music far exceeds my talent.

    And in the end, I just don't see myself taking messages and making appointments to play music with strangers. Why do you think I stay in the house, living by night, day after day? I don't want to deal with people.

  3. Oh, and I wanted to mention that I felt the Trower part of my Trower-into-noise thing was really sloppy, and altogether unsatisfying for me. It sounded a lot better when I played it unamplified in the back room earlier that night.

  4. You don't have to worry about playing with people, it'll be like they aren't even there. It's their job to figure out how to play with you. By the way... uh... you play with me! How is that different?

    With all due respect I don't think your assessment of how the influences discussion will go down is accurate. There's a middle ground between bad taste and good, and it's the ground that most people occupy. For example maybe somebody loves Robin Trower and Peter Green, but their favorite artsts are Jimi Hendrix and Santana. They're in the perfect position to understand and enjoy where you're coming from, but they're not going to expect you to be a guitar god just because you like good artists.

    You don't have to worry about getting gigs or anything like that. I will do ALL of that, free of charge. You're not the only one who wants to see you in a band.