Having a clutch of nice guitars and shiny gear with enticing LEDs flashing on it is all very well and is, frankly, a laudable aim in itself, but it's really all about getting out there and playing in front of a live crowd. So this is my blog about being in a working band. I thought I'd start with a few tales about how we started and we'll see how it goes. If you like it I'll carry on, if not then I'll try to shuffle off, unobtrusively, and pretend I never wanted to blog anyway! So, here goes .... Some time at the tail end of 2008 one of the dad's at my boys' school put out a call in the school newsletter for other parents to form a band, and as I'd fairly recently moved to Andover from out of town, leaving my old band in tears behind me, I decided to apply for the gig. Some time passed and then I got an Email saying he wanted me in and we arranged to meet up in a local pub. This guy, who I'll call Vladimir (not his real name, obviously) was a guitarist (and a bloody good one, too) and we met up with the bassist, Paul (Real name: he's still with us and as cool-as-you-like). We all got on well, drank a lot of beer and seemed to have similar musical tastes. Vladimir had also been in touch with a drummer, so we arranged to meet up for a jam session/rehearsal a week or so later in a local village hall Now, all seemed to go well at that rehearsal. I turned up a bit late and nervous as I was down to be second guitarist and lead vocalist: a role I'd never even tried in my life, and I was really worried about whether my singing voice would be admired or laughed at. The drummer, Charlie, was there (real name: also still in the band, although "with us" is stretching the truth) and we all seemed to play together well. People said nice things about my voice and it was all looking good, although Vladimir didn't seem to like the idea of me taking one of the solos in a song with two lead breaks in .... Our next meeting was at my house, and we got down to the business of rehearsing pre-agreed numbers. We rattled through "Sharp Dressed Man" pretty well at low volume and tried a couple of others. There seemed to be quite a bit of Metalica in Vladimir's proposed set list which didn't seem to fit to well with our aims, though. It was like this: Vladimir had the idea to put the band together to help raise funds for the school, so it seemed to me that a set list of music you could dance to, but on the rockier side of things, would be ideal so I wasn't sure where Metalica fitted in. Nobody was going to pay to see a bunch of forty-something dads playing heavy metal, were they? So the next meeting was in the pub just near the drummer's house (yeah, typical drummer: buy a house next door to a pub!). Vladimir had an Excel spreadsheet with him (rock 'n' roll!!!!!!) of songs he thought we should do and, well, I guess me and Charlie got a bit out of hand. The evening mainly involved drinking a lot of Guiness, during which time Charlie and I crossed out a lot of his list and added a lot of our own, including a lot of suggestions from Paul. Vladimir was not very happy and didn't say much on the way home. I have to say, I wasn't too enamoured with how things were going. I didn't think I'd ever gel with Vladimir: he didn't seem to share the same ethos for the band an seemed intent on just pushing songs which he knew anyway. Was he sjut looking for a backing band to show off his guitar skills? To be fair, he was a very good guitarist, but I wasn't going to stay in a band with someone I didn't get on with, so I resolved to go to one last rehearsal to see how it went. For the next rehearsal I arranged for us to use a room at the school for free: since we aimed to help raise money for the school it seemed only fair. When I arrived the other guys were there all set up and Vladimir was shredding away at full volume, so conversation was difficult. I was keen to get a bit of social interraction going, but Vladimir clearly had no time for chit chat. We played through a couple of songs, but the wheels fell off when I asked Vlad what the chords were for the next song. He went a bit mental. He was ****ed off that I wasn't there knowing all the songs off by heart, as he did. To be fair, though, part of the reason he was all ready was that they were songs he already knew anyway: that's why he chose them. He started effing and blinding at me, the started on Paul, the bassist, wanting to know how many hours practice he'd put in. I explained, albeit a bit heatedly, that as far as I was concerned, us all practicing along with the records at home then coming together to play through them wasn't how I'd ever worked before. To me a band should listen to the records, get really familiar with them, then learn the chords and work out the riffs (or their version of it) then all get together an work it out so you put your own individual stamp on the cover. Added to which, if you try to practice along with the records you can end up playing in weird keys, like most of Metalica is in Eb, but only because they down-tune by a half tone. And, we were supposed to be having fun! Anyway, Vlad told us we'd never get anywhere and stormed out, which with hindsight was hilarious. You see, dear reader, you can't just storm out of a band practice: you have all the gear to pack away. So the three of us sat there in embarassed silence while Vladimir moodily packed up his gear, throwing his leads into the case, and then made a couple of trips out to the car. I took my guitar off and sat on my amp and the drummer motioned to me not to pack up, which I wasn't going to do anyway. Then he casually asked me, "So, are you going away this year?"ME: "Er, yeah,I'm driving Route 66 with some buddies in May."
CHARLIE: "Wow, cool! What about you Paul?"
PAUL: "Er, I'll probably end up going to France in the summer."
ME: "Oh yeah? Whereabouts?"
PAUL: "Probably Normandy."
ME: "Oh .... nice." So the three of us sat awkwardly discussing holidays, while Vladimir stomped in and out moodily. His parting shot as we left was to me, and he jsut said, "Thanks for organising the room." The three of us sat and stared at each other. I craned my neck round to watch after him .... "Hss he gone?" We all started talking at once, then stopped, then all started again .... "What the f@ck was that all about????!!!!!" So we talked. We all kind of agreed that none of us were into just practicing along with the records as we wanted to make them our own, and we all agreed that Metalica was right out! For us it was about doing songs which were a bit unusual, not the usual wedding and party band stuff, but stuff that people would still want to dance to. So, would we carry on? You bet yer ass we would! If only to prove Vladimir wrong! So would we stay a 3 piece? Hmmm .... tricky. So I told the guys about my mate, Ted, who I was at college with, who is a pretty nifty keyboard player and saxophonist and lives in Romsey. He might be interested. "Have you got his number?" Charlie wants to know.
"Well, of course I have his number, he's my mate!"
"No I mean with you now. Call him now!"
So I called Ted. "Hi Ted, it's Dave ....... yeah, all good ..... listen, you know diva guitarist syndrome? Well we've just been struck by it ...... yeah, just stormed out! ...... listen, would you be intersted in joining us? Guitar & vocals, bass drums and you if you're in? ..... Tuesdays in Andover ..... You're in? cool! .... Yeah, I'll call you about next week .... cheers Ted" So, we were back to four, but now instead of a rather crap band which I didn't want to be in, I was part of an exciting musical project. I liked Charlie and Paul, and with Ted in the band it would suddenly be fun. No more Excel spreadsheets and no more home-practice Gestapo breathing down our necks. I went to bed that night with a warm glow. So, how will this fledgling band fare? Will Vladimir return? Will we ever get a gig? Tune in to the next thrilling episode of "Screaming Dave's Working Band Wisdom"