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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

I'll Take the Bipolar Disorder With a Side of Duct Tape Please.

Having a boss who is a bona-fide rock star, definitely has its ups and downs.  Especially if said rock star is an only child who never had to share his toys with anyone and is rarely ever in a "normal" state of mind.  One day he loved us, and the day after that he was ready to drop us from the label like a hot potato.  We never knew what to expect one day to the next.  There were literally days when we would get calls on the road from him, and he would be telling us how proud he was of us and that if we keep going the way we were going we would be huge.  Then the next day would come and we would get a call from the label manager and she would be freaking out and telling us that he wanted to dissolve the label, we were costing him too much money and that basically we sucked as human beings.  It was textbook bipolar disorder.

One constant with us on the road was the fact that our equipment was constantly breaking down.  Add on top of that we were broke and no musical instrument companies want to give you free things until you are rich and can actually afford them at that point.  We were only given $15 a day per diem so whenever we stopped into a music shop every few days to get things fixed or stock up on necessities (strings, sticks, drumheads, etc.) we had to call the label and literally beg them to put some money into our account to get the things we needed to actually play music.

Mickey, our bass player, had a rig that was literally held together with duct tape and hope.  His bass finally crapped out and our boss gave him one of his many, many bass guitars to use.  He had so many bass guitars in his house he had them lining the walls on more than one room in his palatial home.  After about 3 or 4 days he kept bugging Mickey about when he was going to get his bass back.  Mickey's shoes were quite literally held together by wrapping duct tape around them to hold them together.  He couldn't even afford a new pair of shoes.  Our boss who owned probably around 50 bass guitars, most of them given to him and he had never even played, was on Mickey's case nearly every day wanting his bass back.  To start the whole thing off Mickey had to borrow one of his many bass amps to go on the road with because his was falling apart and didn't work half the time.  Mickey thought he would never hear the end of that, but when he had to borrow the bass he was really in for it.  If it were me I would have taken the bass to his house and threw it through the glass in the front door with a note attached, "Here is the bass you have never even played before you rich jerk!"

I realize that this entry into my blog was a bit of a downer, but I am just trying to paint a very large picture.  Not all of them are going to be heartwarming tales of achieving a childhood dream.  Some of those childhood dreams turn out to be nightmares when they come true.  So be careful what you wish for, you just might get it.

To be continued...

Monday, May 2, 2011

"Wear Pants and Don't Use Big Words"

Opening up for one of the biggest American rock bands definitely had its perks.  When our band headed out on the road, for the first few weeks we were bouncing back and forth between opening up for The Exies and of course "Four Floors Up".  Being on tour with the Exies was an excellent experience, those guys were really, really nice to us, let us hang out on their bus and shared many rounds with us.  It was a small venue tour, playing clubs and bars.  Opening up For "Four Floors" was a different animal altogether. Not only did we get our own dressing room, but it came fully loaded with anything we wanted.  If we'd have asked for peanut M&M's with the peanuts removed, we would have gotten it.  There was also a masseuse who travelled with the band that we had access to, our own roadies, a backstage buffet complete with a hibachi/wok chef and really important guys with walkie talkies who ushered us around and made sure we were where we were supposed to be.

The best show that we played with "Four Floors Up" was the Lloyd Noble Center in Oklahoma.  It is the stadium where the Oklahoma Sooners Basketball team plays and seats around 16,000.  That night it was sold out.  The line-up was us opening, Saliva after us and then "Four Floors".  We arrived at the stadium early in the day and were pretty nervous because the stadium was so big, but we told ourselves that no one shows up to see the opening band so we were probably only going to be playing to about a quarter of the expected crowd, which is still a lot of people.  We spent the afternoon before the show doing our soundcheck and hanging out in the dressing room.  "Carl" from "Four Floors" came to hang out with us in our dressing room.  He is definitely the coolest, nicest guy in that band.  He doesn't act like a rock star and genuinely gave us good advice when we hung out with him.    The two biggest bits of advice he gave to us about making it in the music industry and actually making money was:
#1-Don't put words people don't understand in your songs.
#2-Never wear shorts onstage.

The time drew near and we were ushered to the stage by a couple of official looking guys with headsets. Backstage we couldn't tell how many people were out there in the crowd but we could hear a LOT of people milling around.  "5 minutes guys."  The man in the headset told us.  I was feeling ok at this point, a little nervous but nothing I had never felt before.  I began doing my preshow stretches.  "3 minutes."  Starting to hear the crowd get louder.  Starting to feel a little more nervous and sweaty.  "2 minutes, move up."  Since I was the first to always walk out onstage, I was the first up the stairwell.  I stood there for what felt like an hour.  "OK guys, get ready"  The lights in the stadium go out...the crowd roared so loud it felt like the roof was gonna collapse.  "Go man, go"  A slight push on my shoulder by the man in the headset and I started the long, slow motion walk onto the stage and around the curtain.  I looked out to a sea of people and my legs began to wobble.  I had never had to walk out onstage in front of that many people.  The place was nearly full, and i walked out onto the stage getting blasted in the face by a deafening roar of people.  I made a conscious effort not to trip over anything as I readied myself behind my drumset.  Our singer did the usual "How you guys doing tonight?" over the microphone and I actually felt the skin on my face stretch back from the roar that came back at us.  We rolled into the first song and proceeded to destroy that stage with all the rock power we could muster.  In my memory, it lasted only a second, it was over before we knew it.   When we got offstage we were told that we played for 14,000 people.

Our Bass player Mickey jumped off the stage as the last note struck and proceeded to void the contents of his stomach onto the floor off the side of the stage.  I had a surge of adrenaline that lasted for the next 3 hours, I could have karate chopped a car in half.  We were immediately ushered to the merchandising area to sign autographs and meet and greet people.  The best part of that that sticks out in my mind was when a young kid, probably no older than 14 or 15 nervously walked up to me holding our cd out with his hands shaking and said, "You are the reason that I started playing drums, you are awesome!"  I knew at that moment I had accomplished what I set out to do when I was 13 and got my first drumset.  I had inspired someone to play an instrument and my music spoke to them.  I thanked him, shook his hand, signed his cd and talked to him for a few minutes before I had to cut our conversation short and begin signing things for other people.  That was one of the best moments of my life.