Monday, 24 November 2008

I was in a band once....

For the next six weeks from 3/11/08 I will updating weekly.
My career (?) in music
A six part confession of how I never made it.
In e-book form to download and read at your pleasure

*Part 4- The move sideways off the ladder.*

Roger’s brother’s 21st was coming up and he wanted a band for the party, Roger would have had the ready made answer except that he no longer had a singer and his guitarist (Russell) was in Bali with his Family. Guess who came knocking on my door?
Roger wanted to know if I wanted to put a combo together for the occasion, also asking what Jim was up to. I told him I was good for it but Jim wouldn’t sing because of his preoccupation with his new girl friend. That and the fact he wouldn’t sing in any band Roger was in unless Rogers head was on a spike out the front.
I made the mention of James and how we’d been jamming together with his dog, and I could see Rogers brain ticking over.
All right I’ll ask him I said.
James had a good voice and could play a little guitar so he was interested; he even contributed a couple of songs. Jessy was more than happy to join in there was only one catch, he couldn’t use his Mega kit, amazingly enough he agreed and used a standard Bass, snare, tom and high hat ensemble.
We put together a basic collection of Stones and Kashmir standards. Roger who had been learning guitar and stockpiling songs, played half the set and I played bass on those numbers. We went over well and had a good night. Of course any chance of starting something with James got squashed when I had found out that during our practises Roger had been working on James to join Kashmir.
Roger told him that he had just got another guitarist- Singer to play along side Russell and they were going to start lining up work. The new member was a guy called Chris who was the bigger brother of Rogers best mate at school. He was a nice enough guy but most importantly he was a Roger clone.
I was getting used to being Rogers band pimp by now, every time he run out of singers or players I’d get him a new one.
It was my own dumb fault really they were still mates.
Then it happened again soon after.
Jessy’s big brother had gone to Sri Lanka and came back with a wife, Jessy said the band would play at the wedding celebration.
Chris wasn’t ready and Russell had only just got back so I played the first set instead of Chris.

It really wasn’t the sort of gig the band were suited to and no one danced until the band stopped and they started playing records.
That’s where me and Kashmir parted ways, with most of our friends turning 18 or 21 there seemed to be plenty of work for the band and they were actually getting better.
Roger was no doubt in control and Chris was his right hand man, both non smokers and not much for the drink. James and Russell were as thick as thieves and were huge fans
of getting totally wasted at every single opportunity.
Jessy didn’t socialise with the band and only saw them at practise when necessary or at a gig.
During this time I was a regular at their gigs, lets face it most gigs were at a party. Jim had come back on the scene after breaking up with his girlfriend on the other side of town and would often be out with James and Russell and others getting bent. Things were going along quite well for the band who were now even getting paid for their efforts.

Then Jessy dropped a big bomb on Roger.
Jessy was a talented drummer actually a few members of his family were talented musicians including his younger brother who was becoming an excellent bass player. The Sri Lankan community in Melbourne has always been quite large and close-knit so when Jessy and his brother were approached to join a professional Ceylonese cover band they didn’t need to be asked twice. Jessy really only joined the band because he was my next door neighbour and a friend he didn’t even like the music. Most of the songs he didn’t even know the names to. So the band often practised in set list order to avoid trying to tell him what song was next.
Roger no longer had a drummer,
The band couldn’t work.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

I was in a band once......

*Part 3- You’re in, you’re out!*

My second gig in my newly named band was embarrassing. Al’s band RACK were heaps tighter and actually played songs people knew.
Jim had gotten us in trouble because he was pissed and threw up in the car park.
He was having girl friend problems.
There was never a chance of getting groupies if we continued to play like this.
We needed a new strategy.

In the short time since the band had started Rogers playing had improved, (my own was progressing slowly) he had also taken to searching out new songs (that mainly suited his tastes) and painted banners to place behind the band for live performances, which he kept in his garage.
We all made a conscious effort to practice more as we were clearly not ready the last time we played.
I was now working in as a factory hand so I had cash coming in and bought my first electric guitar a Maton Telecaster copy.
Lovely to play but a bit tinny, thank goodness for fuzz boxes.
Jim was missing more practises due to his working in the city and Roger was usually organising them at times that were inconvenient for Jim to attend. Jim who at the time was obsessing about his ex girlfriend was constantly drunk or whining about her. This culminated in Jim being sacked by the band, something I was not really big on but it was a band decision, this was my first experience in band manipulation and should have payed more attention, because I would be next.
I met a guy called Tony prior to starting work at a drop in centre I went to near home, he had great parties and I introduced him to Jim’s ex girlfriend, he said he always wanted to sing in a band so I offered him the job.
He turned up at the next practise much to the other guys surprise and announced he was the new singer, we tried a few songs , he could sing , he got the job.
The hard part was telling Jim who was still a good mate that we had anew singer and by the way he was dating your ex. Stressed times in deed. It was easier to get drunk and listen to mournful songs. I’d written a few songs with Tony and the band was still doing a 50-50 mix of originals and covers.
I was starting to miss practises as I was the only one working (the others were still at school or college) and I couldn’t be shagged running home and missing dinner.
I was also spending more time with Jim as we had more in common and also Al who had been kicked out of his own band about the same time as Jim got the boot.
Al said he got the boot because he went to the wrong school. The real reason was the other guys had a mate they liked better they wanted to join.
Al had gotten himself a girlfriend he met at a party who lived on the other side of town and Jim hooked up with one her friends, I tagged along because they were nice people who had great parties. It was during one of these sojourns that I missed that one too many practises and was informed by phone that my services were no longer required.
I called them a pack of cunts and told them they can’t do that.
I was wrong and totally deluded if I thought they couldn’t.
A revenge band of Jim, Al and me was out of the question.
Al had sold his guitar and both Jim and him were spending a lot more time on the other side of town.
It was getting tedious and quite frankly the girls weren’t that hot so I tended to stay on my own side town and go back to my old crowd, in the process nicking Tony’s girlfriend for myself.
Now this girl’s best friend was Mandy who sung back up at the Kashmir gig, and her big brother was a great guy who had only just started going to the local youth club.
James was a big Teddy bear with a great sense of humour and a bigger personality, he is still my best friend to this day and we both were groomsmen at each others weddings. I was drawn to James as many people were as he was fun to be with and life was never boring with him around.
James was a Rolling Stones fanatic and we would sit for hours rediscovering the entire Stones back catalogue. He had a trick where he would play his harmonica and make his dog howl along. I use to take my guitar around and jam. Me ,James and the dog.
Meanwhile Roger and the band had managed to secure a gig at his High School as part of an “Express Yourself “ week or something like that and they needed some one to mix the sound.
So he asked me. I had realised long ago with Roger that he some how had a distinct separation of friendship and band matters and he asked because no one else knew what how to do it , that and the bastards were playing half a set of my songs.
The gig was quite a good performance and they carried it off well, it did get a bit grating when Tony kept referring to myself as our mixer and writer of our next song several times. Hell it was good to get credit, because I knew we weren’t getting paid.
Tony celebrated the end of the gig by announcing he was leaving the band.
Thank you and good bye. I don’t think they ever saw him again.

Monday, 10 November 2008

I was in a band once....

For the next six weeks from 3/11/08 I will updating weekly.
My career (?) in music
A six part confession of how I never made it.
In e-book form to download and read at your pleasure

*Part 2 – Not what I expected.*

One thing was painfully obvious after the first gig. Groupies were a myth.
Not one girl even came up to make an enquiry. I would have been happy with a simple “You were shit”
Sadly it was a trend that would haunt our careers. But as for the band; we were all bitten by the bug, even Jessy.
But Al was bitten hardest, he wanted to form his own band with other guys from his school.
In one foul swoop we lost our equipment, transport and our practice room.
As well as having no lead guitarist, Jim had managed to get off the dole and find work, so practice was often held without Jim.
Roger at this stage had stepped up a notch, his ambition to play had turned into obsession and he bought himself a bass guitar out of the “Trading Post” and practice was now held in his garage.
There was no way I could carry the guitar role off by myself , so Roger asked his old band member.
Russell who had moved out of the area a year earlier was eager to play with his old mate . How anything was achieved during this period is still amazing with Russell living so far away and no body having a licence to drive. It was usually a patient brother or sister who dropped everyone off at practice and picked them up again especially Jessy with his huge drum kit.

With Russell in the band they and with practice they were able to play more complicated pieces, though they had to knock back Russell’s suggestions of Jimi Hendrix material.
Much like Metal Magistrate we still liked to play our own material,. I had taken up writing simple tunes and covering them up with an overdrive pedal. To my surprise the others like them. Mainly because they were easier to learn and you didn’t have the problem we had with covers. People saying it didn’t sound anything like the record.
One thing that probably has to be noted at this point was we were either at school or on the dole so the only thing that actually kept us excited was the band, and it was contagious. In the space of 3 weeks after the Metal Magistrate gig 2 more bands were in the process of practising and using the Youth Club as their venue.
Even though Jim was unable to make it to a lot of practices we were confident we were making an improvement on our original gig.

We called ourselves KASHMIR which was chosen by Rogers older brother (the same one who became a monk) because Metal Magistrate was too pretentious (?).

When Al ‘s band RACK announced their first gig at the local youth club, Kashmir was asked to support.

On the day of the gig Al informed us that his band had hired a public address system for night and hit us for part of the costs then set themselves up first making it difficult for Jessy to construct his ever growing drum kit
We eventually pushed all their gear to the back and hoped for the best.
When the crowd rolled in the fear factor rose some what ,even more people than the last gig had turned up, of course the Youth club increased the price, none of which we saw.
Then the next piece of an already compelling farce came through the door, It was Jim and he was pissed.
It was the first time our band had used a P.A and Al’s band let Roger and Me plug into their amps.
The gig was a shambles ,
Kashmir weren’t rehearsed enough, (Duhhh)
My guitar broke on the first note of the first song, at first I thought I broke a string but discovered the who machine head had fell apart. ,
Mandy Brown (a late addition as a back up singer ) as well as Jim couldn’t hear what they were singing.
None of the Band could hear what they were playing due to no foldbacks and the mixer sat in front of the speakers. So all the audience – which was close to 150 – heard was a mess.
Russell was told by the mixer to keep turning his amp up because his speaker was actually behind the mixing desk. (the mixer by the way had a graphic equalizer on his stereo, that’s how he got the job)
Roger actually sang one song because Jim didn’t know it.
Kashmir were blown off stage by RACK who were smart enough to fix all the problems before they went on stage. Important lessons were learnt, the support act are scum and always do a sound check.
We were shaken but not knocked down.

Monday, 3 November 2008

I was in a band once......

For the next six weeks from 3/11/08 I will updating weekly.
My career (?) in music
A six part confession of how I never made it.
In e-book form to download and read at your pleasure

Part 1- The very beginning.

I love music I think I’ve established that, but I’m not that great a guitarist , after 30 years you’d think I’d improve but alas I will admit I’m average, I know this because when I get drunk and try to play it comes out a horrible mess, terrible and not even close to what I think I’m playing. On this basis I conclude I could never make it as a rock star. It is a well established fact only the best can played stoned, pissed, ripped or hung out. How many times have you read or heard of Hendrix, Cobain, Townshend, Clapton, Page or Slash (all Heroin addicts) playing or for that matter not remembering playing because they were off their tits.
And because of this I think I never progressed because I don’t like drugs much and quite frankly I’m scared of needles.
But really that’s irrelevant I just don’t think I had what it took.
Oh, and as my kids keep telling me, I’m a crap singer.

Back in the late 1970’s I teamed up with some guys who shared similar tastes in music , similar being a very broad term.
We’d do the usual thing hang around and amaze ourselves with our latest discovery or get drunk and sing along at loud volumes at parties or each other’s houses.

Jim and Al were private school boys, Jim had one of those embarrassment proof personalities and fancied himself a great singer (particularly when he was drunk)
Al was a gentle giant who always seemed excited about one thing or another .
He and I shared a love of guitar, which neither of us could barely play.
Al and I would try and teach each other riffs and licks we would get off other people on our acoustics. Then one day Al come in with a brand new electric guitar, some no name band Les Paul copy, I was in love it was a shiny piece of magic, I’d only held an electric in a music shop, never played though because it was embarrassing being up staged by 12 year olds playing Dire Straits riffs.

Roger was a guy whose brother had joined a monastery and left Roger with the coolest record collection I’d ever seen and he secretly harboured a desire to be a rock star. He’d tried being a singer in the early years of High School and still had the microphone he’d bought.
Not long before Al bought his electric Roger had gone down to Tasmania to visit relatives and teamed up with a cousin who played guitar . Roger and he jammed together with Roger playing cardboard drums. When Roger came back to Melbourne he had tapes and couldn’t stop talking about his jams.
Roger’s brother in Law heard these stories and brought round an old SG copy he had in his shed from years ago to see if he could use it.

What this culminated in was me with this shitty SG copy with an action almost an inch high at the 12th fret, Roger on cardboard and pizza trays and Jim singing to Led Zeppelin bootlegs one Saturday night when we decided we should form a band. Normally these things disappear the next morning when everyone has sobered up but that next night at the youth club the excitement was fever pitch.
We threw the idea at Al who almost had a seizure.

He could get us a place to practice with amps and a drum kit. This was the ultimate wet dream and to top it off Al had just got his licence and was going to drive us everywhere. Roger was a bit coy, he knew that real drums and cardboard drums tend to have a bit of a difference in application, But this was taken care of too. The practice hall had a bass guitar as well.
Our drummer and only really talented member came in the guise of one Jessy - my Sri Lankan neighbour who was naturally talented musician who had a passion for Elvis but no one to play with.
Problem solved.
Then Jim sideled up to the guys running the youth club and advised they were having a band night in 3 weeks, the band was free.

In the course of 1 week we had a band a place to practice and a venue to play. Now we needed some songs. Honest it happened that fast.

We made a pact the songs had to be heavy and easy to play, Jessy had no say he didn’t like our music anyway , he just wanted to play. Al took care of this pretty much as well , He had written 3 tunes all re-workings of Bachman Turner Overdrive riffs we knew, I added Wild Thing by the Troggs and Communication Breakdown by Led Zeppelin .
Jim added some lyrics to two of Al’s tunes one about being on the dole (which we were) and picking up the wrong girl at a party (a common occurrence for Jim) while Jim and myself penned the words to Adolescence in my backyard. Our first practice was a mess due to Jessy’s insistence of bringing his whole kit rather than using the crappy one at the practice venue.

Jessy loved his drums and had two kits and a bongo set up that had morphed into one mega kit. It took forever to pack transport and set up, but boy could he play. Much of the first practise was getting Jessy to calm down, Me to try and learn bar chords and teaching Roger the basic fundamentals of Bass Guitar. Somehow just the power to make such noise was a rush and all other annoying aspects forgotten.
We would practice every Saturday morning and Wednesday night trying to pad out the gig so it would last at least half an hour.

Word was spreading that a band was playing on Sunday Night at the Youth club with a minimal door charge, and with being 1970,s Melbourne this was about as exciting as it got on a Sunday, the pubs still weren’t open on Sundays yet.
We named the band Metal Magistrate and painted two faux gothic M’s on the front of Jessy’s bass drum.

The name was a settlement of an argument Jim wanted Metal cigarette case and I wanted Mental Magistrate, so we compromised.
On the night we begged if we could use the practice venue gear and Al managed to get them all to the gig, we set up in the afternoon. We performed on a high stage in a school hall. I played out of a 15 Watt amp on one side Al with his 20 Watt amp on the other and Jim and Roger both plugged into a 30 Watt bass amp. Jessy wasn’t miked at all that would have been a big mistake. Our biggest worry was hoping we could play over him.

As the time approached the crowd grew and grew till there was 10 times the normal attendance, we freaked , even Jim was having second thoughts. It almost come to a head when some door nazi said we had to pay to get in and play and we were thinking of using this as an excuse not to play. To pad the show out we had got Jim to do a monologue with my guitar and tried a version of We Will Rock You by Queen. Due to the primitive equipment and nervous people on stage they sound was muddy but we made it through at one stage Jim being mobbed on stage when he invited others to sing the chorus of Wild Thing with him. After we finished to modest applause and disbelief, some of the crowd jokingly shouted encore, so we played 3 songs again and Jessy did a drum solo. The didn’t yell encore again.
All up it went well with most people who came thought we were a comedy act.
But we were bitten, we were going pro. Or so we believed.