Out of tune….
I’ve doing a great deal of thinking about music lately, and the role I play in it. I’ve been listening to stuff I did ages ago, as well as stuff I’m doing right now, and it’s made me really pay attention to musicians and how we act. If you’re not a musician, this should give you some insight into the unspoken shit between musicians. If you ARE a musician, you’ll already know everything I’m going to say. Some musicians may attempt to deny some of what I am going to tell you. If they do, they are liars, plain and simple. They can’t help it though, so don’t judge them too harshly. You’ll understand soon.
Musicians are a weird bunch. You have tons of different types, styles, and personalities out there to experience, but they all have certain things in common. Some of this stuff is obvious, like the fact that musicians ALL want to feel like “rock stars” deep down inside. I know, you probably know of a musician who says “I don’t want to make it big, I just do it for the love of playing”. He/She is a filthy dirty fibber. I’ve said that before too, and it wasn’t said because I truly didn’t want that incredible feeling of being in front of a crowd who all love my music, and everything to do with the fact that saying shit like that would make me look/feel like a jackass.
We play music and write music because it resonates with us on a very deep level, whether we realize it or not. We want to release what’s inside of us, and we want it to resonate with others, to share in the feeling of being on the same page of the same book. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with this, it can be problematic when said musicians get heckled and told that they suck. Then again, for musicians, that’s par for the course.
Here’s something all musicians do. We lie. Some don’t even realize they’re doing it. Try this, go up to an awesome guitarist after a show, pretend you didn’t know he played guitar, and ask him if he’s any good. 99% of the time, he’ll say he’s “alright”, unless he’s Joe Satriani or some shit. That’s said to not look like an egotistical asshole, and seldom has factual basis.
Even when musicians know they’re awesome, or even just very good, they’ll RARELY admit it. Some will even fight about it, trying to prove they’re worse than they actually are. Part of this is because we hold ourselves to absolutely INSANE standards. A guitarist, for example, will think he’s just OK unless he attains the level of Vai, Satch, Johnson, Petrucci, etc… If he doesn’t make the perfect grade, he’s not “good”.
Another thing to keep in mind is that all musicians are ridiculously harsh critics. We criticize other musicians, other music, and mostly, ourselves. I can’t count the amount of shows I’ve seen where a local band has kicked ass, not making any obvious mistakes, even to a trained ear. The band will walk off stage, head outside, and go over how each member feels they fucked up horribly at one point or another, and that the show wasn’t that good. People will approach them, saying how great they were, and the members will honestly wonder who these people were listening to while they were on stage.
I think a big reason why much of this happens is because of the following. Bands in a scene are usually split into black and white groups. You’re good, or you suck. Problem is, you never really know where your band is on that scale.
Saying you’re good will make you look either like a moron if your band is in the ‘sucky’ category, or like an arrogant ass if your band is in the ‘good’ category.
Saying you suck, or are simply OK, is a win-win. If you actually DO suck, people will think “at least they’re honest” and/or “they don’t care, they’re just having fun”. This CAN be true, but it’s rare, and usually with joke bands who’re fucking around to blow off steam because their regular band is hitting hard times or getting too stressful.
Saying you suck when you’re actually good, makes you look humble and feel a bit rockstar-ish, since the awesome ones who aren’t total assholes act the same way.
Now, another thing musicians know, is that their music will not appeal to everyone. This can be a difficult pill to swallow, especially when they really dig the music they’re writing, but it’s a hard fact they deal with. Most local bands will have small followings, usually just friends and family and other musicians, since they try going to each others’ shows to support the scene. If a band is good, and their music appealing, the following will usually grow. If they aren’t, it’ll be the same small group going to every show, pounding drinks at the bar to get them through the same set of songs each time. This brings me to my next point.
Musicians are fully aware of those in the crowd who don’t like their music. It’s actually VERY obvious to us. If you think you’re hiding it by standing next to a table, holding a drink, and tapping your foot, you’re wrong. We know, and we understand, and it’s seriously not a big deal….Yes, that’s right, it’s not a big deal, and I’ll tell you why.
Bands on stage are pretending! They pretend the crowd is into it. They pretend they’re playing in Madison Square Garden. They pretend Olivia Wilde is standing in front of them wearing a sheer white nighty, soaking wet and looki….wait, shit, where was I….Oh yeah! They know there are times where the energy may not be there, so in their minds they create it. Now don’t get me wrong, that doesn’t mean a crowd being into them wouldn’t be 1000 times better, but if they aren’t, then steps are taken.
Now, personally, I fall in one of these categories. If you know me, and have seen my band, please understand that what I’m about to say is nothing but the honest truth. I’m not delusional, I’m not humble, and I’m not deaf or blind. If you don’t know me, here’s the scoop.
I’m in a band right now. We’re an original metal/hard rock band. I’m the singer. We aren’t appealing to most people. Our following is generally the friends, family, and fellow musicians group. We actually aren’t bad from a technical standpoint, our music just doesn’t resonate with the people who listen to it, even those who are into the genre of music we fit into. I personally feel partially responsible for this, for the following reason.
I’m actually a good singer, technically speaking. I physically CAN sing, hit notes, hold a tune, follow a progression, etc… The problem is, the sound of my voice is not appealing, at least for the genre I like to sing. I love metal and hard rock, but would sound more at home singing blues or old RnB like Bill Withers. This makes for a very niche sound, and something most fans of metal and rock don’t really go for. It’s the unfortunate truth of my music career.
I’ve said many times that I don’t care, and I just do it for the love of it, and to a degree that’s true. I do it for the love of it, but that’s not the whole story. I also want that feeling. The feeling of being on stage, performing in front of a crowd who wants to be there to hear our music, a crowd who knows the words to every song and sings with us. I know it won’t happen, but the hope keeps things driving. When I lose that hope, I’ll most likely stop playing.
If you’re still reading this shit, then
you’re probably really fucking bored I’ll ask one favor of you. If you know me, and read the above, PLEASE do not give in to the urge to “reaffirm” me or say shit like “no dude, it’s not like that, I really DO like the way you sound”. Whether you honestly feel that way or not, I already know. This post isn’t about being on the pity pot with a case of the “poor me’s”, just a chance for me to actually be honest and get shit off my chest that bugs me.