Changing Direction When the Familiar Doesn’t Work

Hi ya –

If you’ve been following my posts, and they’ve been infrequent to say the least this year, I was in a top 40 band at the end of 2009 and into 2010. I made mistakes with band personal, material choice, and not following my gut instincts, the band folded, and I’ve been not playing with anybody for months.
The current economy is hitting the working musician hard. Many bassists we auditioned were already in another band, but looking for more work. Established bands (that is, web site, DVD, complete lineup, tons of experience and professional package) were scrambling to get more than 1 gig a month. (News flash: if you’re in it for the money one gig a month is not meeting your needs).
I realize now that trying to start a cover band (i.e., a band that only plays hits from other bands) with no connections, limited equipment and weak vocals was just not going to work. It’s tight right now and club owners and booking agents are going to go with known bands, not new ones.
So I felt validated that my decision to fold it was the right one. Still, I stuck my profile out on bandmix.com just to see if anyone would ping me.
And four months later someone did.
Scarlett Dark, lead singer for LIPSHOK , an all original metal band out of Hayward wanted to see if I could possibly add something to their new material. They have a CD out on iTunes called “In the Darkness….Light”.
OK, they have a CD, they have a full line up (vocals/keyboard, bass, drums, and guitar) – and just what do they need me for?
Primarily Scarlett wanted to know if I could write music. The answer to that is yes. She wanted to know if I was available? Again, yes. It appears that members of the band have too many commitments to put forth an effort to produce another group of originals. Scarlett has done all the writing and wants input, as well as someone to record with.
I met them in their home in Hayward where they converted their detached garage into a fairly sound proof practice studio with recording equipment. Scarlett’s husband Phil has a good nose for bargain equipment (this I envy!) and happily showed me some of the gear he’s picked up : amps, mixers and even a 7 string Ibanez guitar.
We played for nearly 3 hours. First, I followed a chart Scarlett wrote. Then we tried out different styles on the same chord progression. Phil said “Man, I love the chops, but can you change gears and play real melodic?” I guess I was more in “impress them” mode so I slowed down, and built more melodies around the changes rather than show speed.
Next, we worked on a piece that I had been playing around with for quite some time. I built this riff around B Phrygian mode (this is B to B in the key of G: B C D E F# G A B) I liked it because it reminded me of Yngwie Malmsteen. They grabbed onto that and started building a chorus and bridge to it, Scarlett writing down the chords and promising to write lyrics to it.
In the end, it was a very satisfying and promising start. We are trying to schedule another practice for this weekend and continue to flesh out this tune and a few others.
So, in the end, I’m not really replacing anybody but a part of a new start with these nice people.
This is only the 2nd all original band I’ve been in. Everything was top 40, and money, money, money. Some key points with my new direction:
1) Venues – places to play – these are limited. Not everybody wants to hear original music and in this genre of metal (think Nightwish to get a flavor of what they sound like).
2) Time on stage – usually one set. I’m used to being in a top 40 band where you take the stage for the whole night. Normally original bands play with other original bands in the night. It is not uncommon for 3 or 4 bands to play in an evening.
3) Money – ha, not much. Maybe enough to cover gas.
So why do it? Well, if it’s so hard to crack into the top 40 circuit now, I might was well go with artistic expression. With only a 4 piece, my corner of the song is wide open for me to embellish. It is my hope that my input will be significant and maybe…just maybe….we make a CD.
Now that would be cool….
My next blog will be more on metal playing, speed shredders, and 7 string guitars.
till then…
Spencer