Category Archives: Life in a Band

Closing out 2018…But What’s Up for 2019?

2018 was a year of challenges for me, my music, and my career. But as always, with new challenges comes new opportunities. It’s something that takes a little getting used to in your thinking. You lose your job, and while you’re worried about how to make rent. But I was once worked for a VP at McAfee who made this (what I considered at the time) bold statement:

“If I lose this job, I’ll find a better job somewhere else(!)”

That’s nuts, right? We cling to the known, the safe, the secure. And then….the band doesn’t work out. Or you do lose your job. Or your relationship goes south. Or you have difficulties with a family member.

I spent much of 2017 without a gig mainly because I wanted to focus on other music other than get stuck with “Classic Rock” again. In mid 2018 I joined a band that is close by but I felt their material was difficult (vocally/Harmonically) and I thought their material selection wasn’t danceable enough. But they won me over and we were a 6 piece that played one backyard party and then just like that we lost half the band.

And Now, For Your Listening Enjoyment..

Through the fall we auditioned and auditioned and auditioned. And then we stumbled across Maddy Hudson.

Maddy was a contestant on American Idol about four years ago and made it to the top 50.

Maddy is an incredible talent and we have been working with her and trying to fill out a reasonable amount of songs to get a demo recording and then filming a video.

Maddy at her audition!

She has been a delight to work with and the band is gaining some momentum. Hopefully will have more news on this (yet unnamed) band in 2019!

Currently I’m woodshedding the Earth Wind and Fire version of “Got to get you into my life” which is a very cool song to work on. (Although I have to admit getting all the guitar parts for “Reelin’ in the Years” by Steely Dan was my most difficult piece of music to conquer).

I have one more post to make in 2018 before we close out the year, so stay tuned!

How Did I Get Here??

Ok, folks, I really didn’t mean to take this long to post.  A number of things were going on, and I think we just rounded the bend, so I’m going to talk about them here.

First, the main thing that held up my post is I wanted to post the songs I talked about recording on Mother’s Day.  Way back in March.  Way back.  Well, one thing that didn’t turn out so well was the mix.

If you ever read Slash’s book, he talks about how Axle Rose refused to go into the studio, so they sent tapes back and forth – he would write down his comments and mail the tapes back, they’d work on them and send them back to him and the cycle starts again.  Doesn’t sound like a very efficient way to make a hit record.  Well it’s not a very effective way to make a demo tape either.

We must have passed those three songs back and forth 5 times to get the mix right.  And each time it took longer and longer to get their attention to mix it and send it back.  Most likely it’s because they were already paid (NOTE: No one gets paid in full until the job is done).

Then, about the 4th iteration of this, the mix came back very, very close.  Just a few tweaks were needed.  Maybe 6 things.  Well, the songs came back and the guitar – my guitar – was awful – it was way too loud and too harsh sounding.  Our singer went back to the engineer and he fixed one of the songs.  So 2 out of 3 were ok, but the third still had a messed up guitar sound on it.

My son also went through a similar experience with a guy in Sacramento.  The guy took his time on the mix and finally gave them some of the money back and cut them loose.

This is where all those music lessons you took don’t help you.  You need to have a clear plan, a clear timeline, and keep them on it or they forget about you.  I actually had something similar happen to me when we were putting a pool in the back yard.  We paid the guy in installments and when he was 75% paid, we saw less and less of him – he was off to his next gig.

Our persistence paid off – we finally got the songs mixed.  I will post links when I have them.

In the meantime, we played one heckuva private party in Livermore in June, then added a new guitar player into the mix.  Frank has good rock and blues chops, which I guess makes me the country guy.  How did I get that title?

On Labor Day we played at R place.  It was one of our best shows yet.  Frank was only in the band 2 weeks at that point, we used Kenny’s sound system and we rocked the joint for 3 hours.  For a holiday, we had well over 50 people in that club.

Our next gig is at Downtown Ollies on Oct 11 in Livermore.   I will provide pictures and links to our demo.  Promise!

Peace Out

Spencer

“ShredZilla”

The Ups and Downs of Band Life

Hey all –

Wouldn’t you know it – band drama continues.  In the last four weeks we:

1) Added a rhythm guitarist

2) Added a bassist

3) Rhythm guitarist quit

4) Bassist quit

On the surface you might think something is wrong with the band, or we smell funny.  I don’t think that’s it (I hope).  The rhythm guitarist quit citing personal changes in his life, but didn’t go into any kind of detail.  That’s fine, we wish him well.

The bassist quit citing personal issues as well, which we understood, and wish him well too.

And then there were three…..(again!)…this is where we started, for crying out loud!  Me, a drummer and the singer.

Welcome to band life.  Better take some Dramamine, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

Seriously, this happens a lot.  There are several factors, in no particular order:

  • Musical conflicts are high on the list
  • Personal issues (marriage, job, kids – these are a bigger factor when you get older)
  • Substance abuse (also a personal issue)
  • Their level of commitment doesn’t match the rest of the band
  • Their goals (gig a little, gig a lot, do originals, do covers) don’t match the rest of the band
  • Their talent level doesn’t match the rest of the band
  • Personality clashes – too many alpha dogs in the pack can bring on fights and no alphas mean the band can just drift and get nothing done
  • …and probably more…

In my previous band, everybody’s goals were definitely different than mine, plus we didn’t have the right kind of alpha in the band.  Just having an alpha – someone who takes charge either a little or a lot, and starts to pull the band one way or another – doesn’t guarantee success.  Sometimes alphas are wrong.  Sometimes alphas focus too much on one thing (say musical perfection) and not another (promotion).

If all this sounds like herding cats, it sure can be.  Again, in my last band, I would send out a long email on how our band website stacks up against others and what we need to do.  I got zero response.  Not a single “Oh wow, thanks for doing that”.  No dialog, no interest, not even a disagreement.  It’s no wonder that only a few things changed on the website in the year I was with the band.

If you’re guessing I’m an alpha, I’d say so.  Certainly not because I want to control everybody, I just don’t see everything getting done if I don’t pitch in and help.  I also use my MBA background for strategic thinking, marketing, evaluating competition and determining opportunities.  That’s actually fun for me (don’t laugh – it comes in handy).  I want to accomplish something for myself and the band I’m in.  Someone else, who may look at the band as a way to get away from the kids one night a week for practice, could care less how the website looks.

Bands are usually a democracy, or at least they start out that way.  Everybody has a say.  Like a marriage.  And if somebody is really unhappy, something will eventually change.

Luckily the three of us that are left all seem to be like minded in what we want to do.  We state our opinions without getting in each others face about it.  Since I’m more technical than the other two, I’m more than happy to help with the web site, the drop box musical repository, sending reminder emails or confirmation emails about time, place, agenda.  Our singer, on the other hand, is a real people person and is very good working out deals with people.  That’s a skill I’m not very good at.  But I’m glad he is.  It’s a skill someone in the band needs to have or you stay in the garage.

We are recording three songs in May over in Emeryville, and playing a gig May 24th.  I have the gig covered (the bass part anyway) with a long time friend and associate from Guitar Showcase.  I’m glad he was free that night. The auditions have started to try to find someone quick so they can help us with the recording.  We have two auditions lined up so far.

Meanwhile I’m still learning new songs and getting the four sets down.  I got the Tascam GB 10 recently so I’ll be reviewing that in my next blog.

Wish us luck!

Spencer