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December 3, 2008

Die Politik Der Band

Okay, so here's the thing. I wasn't going to blog about this until I knew what was actually going to happen, partly because I didn't want to make a big deal about something which might turn out to be a non-issue and partly because, well, although I've not told my fellow band-members about this blog, if you Google my email address... voila!

So, if any of you guys are out there having a sneaky read, well, this is a significant ongoing issue to me right now and please, please try to understand that I use this site for advice and support from friends and random strangers with opinions... and I know that there will be some opinions. I also try to be as honest as possible here, so what's the point in having this site if I don't say what's going on.

Looking back, I didn't blog about last week's rehearsal. I'm not sure why other than that I simply didn't have time! It was the one where I had to cut out of Rockschool early just to arrive late for practice. So... that seems like a good place to start!

[Swirling mists of time]

Okay, so after Rockschool I rode over to Camden to join in with the rehearsal. When I got there the guys were running through a punk song that Rich (bass) had written. Sounded really good. Catchy. Sounded like a real band, all pulling together (without me [cough]).

They ran through it one more time for me and I tried to pick up the groove, volume rolled off to begin with then joining in. That's one of the things I never really knew I'd enjoy so much... the collaboration and the feeling of being at one with other musicians, the whole being greater than the sum of the parts.

We went into a couple of our other pre-prepared numbers: "I Wanna Be Your Dog" and "Supersonic". It was during the latter that I first realised we had something of a problem. Jon (drums) was having difficulty keeping the tempo even. Moreover, he was slowing down the further we got into the song, taking all the momentum out of it.

From there on in the rehearsal never really recovered, our timing being all over the place. I remember looking over at Rich to see what his expression was at one point when the timing was, shall we say 'somewhat synchopated' (not in a good way), only to realise that he'd simply stopped playing and was standing there with a puzzled look on his face. I pulled up short on the rhythm and the tune petered out.

The first thing that came to mind was that maybe Jon was having an off day. Whilst he's no Ginger Baker, with less than a year of drumming experience under his belt, I'd not really noticed too many issues other than when called upon to improvise new rhythms on stuff like the song Bo wrote.

The other thing I should mention is that I'm in a bit of a glass house here. My playing over the last few rehearsals has been patchy at best... missing chord changes, missing entire strings, losing my groove etc. For me to criticize any of the other performances would be hypocritical. It's coming, but fitting into a band takes time. Maybe on guitar, though, you can mask some of the howlers. If you lose it on drums, you're history. Hey, besides, even if I don't always sound musical, at least I can bring the kudos of a shiny Les Paul to the mix!

Once we'd all packed up and headed to the pub for a swift half I made a mental note that I should have a chat with Jon and ask him what had happened. As it turned out, I didn't get the chance. Just before leaving for Paris, a group email (Jon excluded) was sent round, saying that we have a real problem with Jon on drums if we're serious about gigging.

I'm not going to say who the email was from. Frankly it doesn't matter as it might as well have been from me or anyone else. We were all thinking the same thing, that we needed to do something about the situation.

Right now it's all up in the air and smacks of band politics. We need to talk it through. My preference would have been to make the process 100% transparent by including Jon in all discussions, but I guess majority rule says that we need to figure out what path we're taking. I see some logic in that, in that if we decide to simply carry on as we are, other than trying to nudge Jon in the right direction and support him as much as we can, there would be little reason to muddy the water by telling him what alternatives had been discussed.

The thing is that we all really like Jon and are impressed by his enthusiasm, dedication and, well, he's a cool guy. He brings his own energy and character to the band. I do think that he's falling behind, but, like I say, in the 'who's the best bandmate' race, I think I'm only a nose in front of him. We all like him and, same as everyone else, he's an integral part of 'what we are'. It's a bit like Tolkein's "Fellowship Of The Ring"... only without the orcs, warlocks... horses... the ring... okay, so it's NOTHING like the book, but my point is that we all started in on this together.

I think the thing that's changed is that whilst none of us had any expectations of being able to get up and gig in the short term we all realised that with a bit of polish we might make it to the seedy spit-and-sawdust circuit sooner rather than later, if only we could get our crap in a sock. Therein lies the rub. Do we a) hope for the best, that Jon's playing will come along leaps and bounds in a short time, b) find something else for him to do in the band... (what??? Be a 'Bez'?) or c) mercillously cut out his heart and somehow find a replacement.

My initial thought (saint that I am... look... you can see my halo if you squint) was that there had to be something we could do to smooth over the rough edges, for example by making him play to a click or something. Not being a drummer, I don't know what the tricks of the trade are. He's not a complete clunker... he wouldn't have made it this far if he had been.

I have a feeling, though, that the tide may be turning against him. Being a rookie when it comes to such band matters I'm not sure what opinion I should have, if any. What's becoming clear is that the real decision we have to make is whether we're all about getting a songlist together and starting to gig (I typed that as 'gag' first time round!!!!) or whether we're a bunch of like-minded souls playing music for ourselves and no-one else. Personally I don't buy into that 100%, but that's the spin on things at the moment. Who's to say that in 2 months Jon's not going to have pulled it together, or indeed whether in 2 months anyone else might not be up to scratch either. Right now the 'not knowing' seems to be driving a wedge between everyone, so we need to sort this out one way or the other ASAP.

Y'know, I can sense the hunger in everyone. I can feel how nobody had expectations but then we all realised that we might actually come together as a band... even if it means leaving someone behind.

Hey, maybe it is like Tolkein after all...

[Only without the horses, the narks, the gimlets, the niblets, the wacky-dacky-do-dahs or whatever... oh, and without Christopher Lee doing a fabulous impression of Cher circa her 23rd farewell tour]


Furtheron said...

Don't do this to me Ken - there I am finally getting to seriously get off my arse and get a band going and you raise this spectre again...

So - it happens all the time in my experience. I've been in the band talking about ousting someone, I've been the one ousted by the others as well...

My tuppence - it would be best to be totally open and honest about it. Have the conversation with him about the concerns. If he acknowledges the issues that's a real start. Maybe he will pull it through. I was in a band where the other guitarist kept talking to me about getting the drummer to play to a click track but he was a nightmare to work with. All covers and all had to be like the record... I left of my own volition and the drummer followed me later and it folded after that.

Sadly as I say my experience is that this stuff goes on all the time. I remember having to be the one to tell a singer that he was no longer needed and that we'd auditioned and found a replacement already. I felt a total arse. He had the last laugh though - he was for a while a professional bass player a few years later so can rub my nose in it whenever he choses.

Sorry if that isn't that helpful but I'd push the others to be open with it. If the answer is he isn't considered to be right given the ambition of the band better to do it early and seek a suitable replacement than to let it drag on and destroy the initial drive of the band.

Kenski said...

I have to say that I didn't see it coming in that I figured at the outset that I'd be the worst player and that I'd either catch up or get booted.

If Jon (drums) was a total ****er that nobody liked then it'd be more of a surprise, but we all get along really well so far. I wouldn't say we're mates yet, but we could be.

I'd actually thought that as J has just got himself an electronic kit for home practice that I could be cheeky and get him to do me some backing drums. Need to make sure that whatever happens I don't burn that bridge.

Col said...

Voice of Yoda: "You will. Yes, bridges burnt you must."