Posts Tagged ‘ Bands ’

Pay to play…please.

Living on the bottom rung of music is a difficult place to be. Starting out as a young musician you have aspirations to make a career out of that which you love. However, Ireland doesn’t really have the avenues to make a living out of music. There are many reasons for this but there are three major ones that I believe hamper the scene and creativity in general: (1) a lack of dedicated places that put on original music (2) too many bands and (3) unwillingness to pay bands. The first two points are difficult and impossible to solve respectively. Pubs are the venues for gigs in Ireland and the punter wants music that they recognize. On the second point, you can’t stop people playing so, an overcrowded market exists. Point three is the kicker and it is the one that really stifles the Irish musician.

Firstly, we all have to admit that we have devalued music. All of us. We don’t think we have to pay for music. Spotify, YouTube etc. etc. pay very little we all know this and now we are beginning to see the fruit of this as even successful bands have to tour constantly to make money. ‘Well screw them’ you might say ‘they have enough money already’. That may be the case but I’m thinking more about the bottom rung musicians and in Ireland, when you are there well money doesn’t exist.

‘What system does exist?’ I hear you ask. For the most part, exploitation. A tad dramatic? No not really. You see I come from a working class background and my parents couldn’t afford to bankroll my dreams. ‘Never stop believing’ is easy to say but let’s be honest that doesn’t pay for guitars, amps, PAs, strings and petrol. Look at point two again. Yes, too many bands. You see there will always be a band that will play if you don’t. Starting out I never cared about money, of course I didn’t I was 14 when I started. But when I turned 18 I was expected to work. Nothing dulls a dream like an empty pocket and nothing kicks you in the stones like working on songs only to be told: ‘We will give you the gig , we can’t pay you but (and every bottom rung musician knows the next line) it’ll be great exposure!’ We all believe this at the start but only a fool believes it down the road. Or so you would think.

I’m writing this because I believe that most musicians live in a bubble or suffer from a psychosis. I’ll never forget my girlfriend asking me ‘How much did you get for that gig?’ I was in my thirties and playing in the Temple Bar area of Dublin. I’ll never forgot the look on her face when I replied ‘Nothing’ (I lie we each got one pint). She looked at me like I was mad. I was. You see that look pulled me out of the reverie but to be honest that had begun to happen a long time before.

It happened one night in a pub in the inner city, I won’t name names here as I’m classy like that ah what the fuck they probably need the exposure. It was The Mercantile and we were waiting to go on and the drummer turned to me and he said: ‘I’m sick of playing up and down in the same places for nothing’. He looked so dejected that I knew that night his heart was gone out of the band and truth be told mine had begun to. It wasn’t really the band. It was more that I had to try to hold down a job and then get to a venue and play to about fifty people who didn’t really care. I’m from the punk school of music so I put on a show but it was hard. What was harder was the realization that when you don’t pay for something you don’t appreciate it. We weren’t getting paid, and we weren’t getting paid for all the hard work that we had done and because of that people treated it as next to nothing. Harsh? Yes. True? Search your feelings, you know it to be true.

I’ll leave it on this, I was in another band and we got an opportunity to appear in a short film. You know the story, it’ll be great exposure yadda, yadda. So, I ring to find what we would need (as I’ve never been in a movie) and the most ignorant waste of space has the temerity to start getting snotty with me as I’m asking are they providing a PA for us to play through. He starts to launch into an attack about how I should know and why am I ringing. I stop him dead in his tracks and tell him in no uncertain terms to never talk to me like I’m an errant child and remind him we are doing him the favour. Against my better judgement I borrow a PA to bring with us to the shoot. We drive fifty miles to a pub at the designated time of one o’clock. No one is there. When they do arrive three hours later we set up etc by eight that evening we have still not started the shoot. I talk to a guy back stage ( I don’t want to embarrass my band mates) he has a word and eventually at around 9:00 the shoot begins. It’s all over by ten but we have to pack up and get back. We were promised food. That’s all we asked. Food. They bought eight pizzas for about eighty people. I got one slice. I arrived home at one. I did twelve hours for a slice of pizza. That was two and a half years ago. The film has never been released and the band have since split. Exposure? When you’re on the bottom there ain’t no such thing!

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A wave that breaks.

Generation X was the label of my generation. We were/are the slackers, the cynics, the ones that had lost all trust in authority and just kinda shrugged at it all. Well at least that was the cliche. Who knows what we were or are for labels are handed out in an arbitrary fashion usually at the whim of journalists or sociologists. What is true is that the movement known as grunge brought the underground overground as it were. There were many bands involved but there were four that stood out for me: Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Soundgarden and Alice in Chains. Well we all know what happened to Kurt Cobain and Layne Staley of Alice in Chains died after. That left Eddie Vedder and Chris Cornell. Unfortunately Chris Cornell died in May. There is a deep sadness that the bands that changed so much lost their frontmen. Of all the four Soundgarden were my favourite and I had the pleasure of seeing them live in Dublin some years back. Sleep well Chris and thank you for the music.

A Wave That Breaks

The remnants of my youth
carried on the updraft of your voice.
It echoed through the rooms of my thoughts.
Images formed of fragments
the possibility of the now,
the slow trudge of an ending
and the beginning of newer age.
What gifts the seer brings
harnessing the whisper to create the scream
showing the believers the worth of their dreams
knowing the unknown
keeping us alive
measuring the distance
of rooms a thousand years wide.

She Speaks

image…boop,boop.Metronomic time, ceaseless and unforgiving.Under her watch fingers freeze, throats tighten and pulses race. In the moment four fight from going under the sonic waves they have created. Outside there is the alley. The artery. Rain falls in giant globs running from Pearse Street to Lombard finally coming to rest at the side streets end.

Some months before and the half whistled shapeless melody is given form by the guitar player’s hands.Lucid dreams given substance. Consonants and vowels drift from the larynx and the word is made flesh. Bass flitters between the gaps, wild and old. This new ship is anchored by the drum. Happiness fills the space.How easy it can be to make worlds.

Joyce’s Liffey everflows to the sea. The eastlanders follow on to Westland. Time passes.The metronome is tamed. Beginnings give way to ends. Parents to our children (all eight of them and those we lost) we coo at them, play peek-a-boo with them. Afraid to let them go but let them go we must.

I think of them now and then. I wonder where they are and what they are doing? Our children. Out of nowhere She Speaks. I hear the lady clearly and remember our moments, frozen now in my mind. Silently, I thank her and all the minutes we shared. All the seconds. Bip, bip….

The Fear

 

https://shespeaksmusic.bandcamp.com

imagehttps://shespeaksmusic.bandcamp.com

 

Hey all, just a quick plug for our debut single ‘The Fear’ we would be most grateful if you could give it a listen. Just click the link above. We are all very proud of it, hope you like.

The sound and the fury.

The growth of the digital age has changed the face of music. Not a bold pronouncement by any means but rather a cold statement of fact. The means of production and consumption has altered and like any epoch there are good and bad aspects. One thing I’ve been pondering over the last few weeks is the production. Digital recording has allowed for a cleaner, more uniform sound. Ostensibly this should be a good thing however, it presents two problems namely uniformity and also it highlights the ‘bad’ sound quality of older recordings.

These recordings can range from the old Delta blues masters, jazz classics, big bands, show tunes, garage rock etc. Within the punk rock fraternity the rawness of the recording was part of the aesthetic. The DIY nature of the movement often necessitated working outside and against the mainstream. Underground bands from Minor Threat, Subhumans, Crass, Black Flag, Minutemen (the list is endless) represented a rawness of sound where the message and energy was king, the medium less so. Here is the song, take it or leave it. Some of my favourite tunes and albums are less than pristine and less then polished. Those bands were chipping away from the outside and their lack of aural finesse, often necessitated by lack of funds, became part of the whole.

Today bands are often too packaged for my liking. To well put together. One eye is on getting the audiences money. The experience of listening to music has become, in many ways, less pleasurable. The medium has become more important than the message. With the advent of grunge the underground went overground and in that process the underground disappeared. The digital revolution has, in a very real sense, removed the raw, unbridled sexual energy of music and in it’s wake left a pristine almost antiseptic landscape. Don’t get me wrong it isn’t all bad as digital quality recordings can be made in anyone’s bedroom and as the breakdown of the wall between artist and audience has occurred. However, call me an old romantic but I sometimes yearn for the Lo-Fi thrill of a cheap recording one that may not be nuanced but has a heart as big as a whale!

She Speaks

image

So, I lied somewhat in one of my posts. It was the one about recording and more specifically the moving on part. I ended on an optimistic note but in truth I had thought about giving up. I was wasted and spent. Music is beautiful but sometimes it cuts. All the time spent, all the hours of hope, all the nerves and all the times you lost when you should have won. I looked at my bass and thought I can’t even play this thing why am I codding myself? But God it had always been there and especially on those nights when I thought all was lost and that I would never smile again. I remembered the time not long after my mother had succumbed to cancer when my friend Mark made sure we got together to jam. It restored normality. How could I let that go? I very nearly did but the spark wouldn’t die no matter how I tried to dampen the fucker and that is why I lied in that post because that lie was the beginning of the long crawl back.

I get the feeling (and I could be wrong) that people who aren’t involved in music probably read the above and think: ‘Jesus stop being melodramatic’. However, music, as cheesy and clichéd as this sounds, is like a religion to me. Not in the sense that I worship it but in the sense that it gives me solace. I haven’t been in a long-term relationship in a good while so the longest relationships I have had have been in bands. You get the picture, it means a lot! With that I started to claw my way back and wanted to find the fun again and to be clear I had lost the joy, no one in my previous band had caused it, that responsibility lies with me. Now, music is fundamentally about people and the way in which people interact and I started to think about that. I wanted something different than what I had worked with previously and as luck would have it the band I was thinking about needed a bass player.

I would love to tell you that I made a great first impression with She Speaks and that I was a consummate professional. I would love to tell you that. I bowled into practice with a poxy guitar amp that could fit in your pocket and no one could hear me. But as I said music is about people and the ways in which the atmosphere changes when those people congregate and it was there in that first practice. I could feel it. At this juncture I could tell you how talented Rebecca (vocals), Wayne (guitar) and Skip (drums) are, and they are super talented, but what I really want to say is that we all click. The jams are fun and we have a laugh but there is a seriousness too. I love the songs, I can’t wait for everyone to hear them and I think they are really special. Playing together and pushing the air in the room is as good as it gets and what we do together has been great so far but it is just the beginning. We are mapping out the landscape as we go and I am learning anew but I am also relearning what I had lost, Jesus I even got a bass solo into one of the tunes! Rebecca, Sarah and Wayne: thank you, for a long time it felt like I was away…finally I feel like I have returned.