Aspiring Concert Promoter Extraordinaire

April 23, 2008

Dear Dude,

..there are a lot of up and comers here in the south….all looking for shows. How would I go about organizing a show without actually owning a venue? I wouldn’t be looking to make money…only get the bands some exposure and see some kickazz metal.

Thanks in advance,

Aspiring Concert Promoter Extraordinaire

Dear Aspiring Concert Promoter Extraordinaire,

I have played all over the world in venues that are not your conventional night clubs. I’ve played a bomb shelter, ex slaughter house, ex Nazi buildings, air port hangers, parking lots, a few different type of boats, castles…My point is where there is a will to rock there is a way to rock.

If you don’t own a venue then you need to find one you can rent out. This has been done very successfully by people all over the US and holds true for the rest of the world. The types of places you should look for are: VFW Halls, churches, art spaces, warehouses, vacant parking lots, record stores, coffee shops, and even house basements. My first few tours were spent playing mostly these types of places and there are many bands who only play these types of non-conventional venues. So get out there and get creative. A punk, metal, ska, whatever show can happen anywhere.

So after you’ve found your location the next thing you need to do is negotiate a fee for the hall space and time. You need about 5 hours from start to finish for a 4 to 5 band concert. Get something reasonable, something you think you can cover with an entrance fee. Also make sure to allot some money for PA rental (good tunes need volume). The type of PA you need is going to flux with the size of room and type of concert you’re doing. Be reasonable and be respectful. Make sure if you are doing a show at a non-conventional venue you remember to let your neighbors know rock is going to happen. You never want to be the guy who puts on a show and gets it shut down cause he did something sketchy. That will kill your reputation fast.

Next, you need to find bands. You mentioned “getting the bands exposure” so I am assuming you know some bands. Contact them and work it out, be fair and honest. Those two things are rare in a promoter but that is not to say they don’t (or shouldn’t) exist. I have made many friends and met many legendary dudes who’ve helped build their local punk, hardcore, metal, scenes all over the world.

You will see that a DIY show in 2008 can still happen. As soon as you start to get a local buzz and people are hearing about this new, sick spot, all the local bands will be in touch. Booking agents will start calling or emailing you. It’s just how it works. If you can tap into the local audience and find the bands people love then you can put on some sick concerts! Just make sure once you become a big time concert mogal you remember all those local bands you started with!

The Dude

Shredder Dilemma

April 22, 2008

Dear Dude,

My friend and I are on different levels of guitar playing. Some of the stuff that I bring to the table, he has no idea what to do with. The first thing that comes to mind to him is “Hey! Let’s harmonize it!” Then he says that he can’t because the string switching action is too much for him right now. He’s willing to play chords that go along with the bass notes I’m hitting but we both agree that can get a little boring. What would you do in a situation like this?

Shredder Dilemma.

Dear Shredder Dilemma,

The guitar duo, ala iron Maiden, Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth, Anthrax, etc., has become a staple in metal music. I have seen this situation (guitar players at different ability levels) many times. I mean, we all can’t be Dimebag! And sometimes a good metal band needs that duel guitar work for their live show. Working with another guitar player can be both amazing and debilitating as egos collide. All you need is two guitar players in a room and you’ve got yourself an ego stew ready to boil! I, myself, have actually had the honor of being on both ends. I have been the master shredder in the band and I have also been the weak link. There is a two-part process I think you should try. It’s what works best for me and may very well work for you.

Step One; Documentation and Experimentation. The problem is your guitar partner’s physical playing ability hasn’t caught up to your creative needs. So, you need to slow the whole process down. You need to demo your music one-guitar part at a time. What works for me is this; we set up in our practice space and I use a Digidesigns MBOX and my computer to record with one little mic. A lot of times if I cant play the riff or the idea I will just play the bass notes, or just not play at all. At the end of practice we get our drummer to lay down just the beat of the song, it takes some imagination but a good drummer can pull this off easy. I then take that beat home and record a guitar riff or two, and so does the other guitarist. See, by recording it you are actually giving yourself the ability to look at every detail in slow motion. So lay all those ideas down, and experiment because no one is limited to their ability. Both of you can take your time. You can now bounce ideas off yourself because you can record one track and then start on another idea right over top of it. I swear you will see there are more options then just harmonizing, and you will both be able to be involved in the writing process.

Step Two: The Big Pull Off. So, after you’ve found all those sick harmonies and you’ve got your rock opera all recorded over your practice space demo you ask yourself: How are we going to play this live? And that is where step two comes in. To be able to pull it off you are going to have to get your guitar partner/band mate to do one thing… practice! The demo is the best tool to help him do that. It’s his guide. You can even tab the entire riff out for him; right down to every little detail. Try to communicate exactly how you want the riff to be played, and make sure you can play your end of the harmony clean. Lastly, be encouraging! Guitarists can be awful to each other, sometimes. I have seen some dark stuff in my day, and if you’re both encouraging and willing to work together, you will both progress as players and be able to pull things off neither of you thought possible.

The Dude

Man vs. Stage

April 21, 2008

Dear Dude,

I love your music and have followed you for a long time. My question is related to performing: Any tips on overcoming stage fright?

Man Vs. Stage

Dear Man Vs. Stage,

I get asked about stage fright all the time. It’s not that uncommon, doing anything in front of a lot of people is hard. Now some of us are natural at it and others need to work through it. History has proven that there have been plenty rockers of both types. Of course, I don’t hold the magic cure for stage fright but, I can give you a few good tips based on my many embarrassing experiences.

The biggest step in stage fright prevention, for me, is practice. Before every tour I play along to my own CD to be prepared. I also rehearse with a band (that helps builds collective confidence which is very important). Not to mention you’re going to be jamming live so you want to be tight and all on the same page. But what really helps me, personally, is that alone time before. To know I have spent the time to make sure I know what I am playing and how to play it on stage, is a big confidence builder. It’s through practice that the confidence to know you are able and ready to rock is born.

My second tip is simple, don’t self medicate. A tip, which is as unpopular as it is true. Drinking a beer, taking a shot, smoking a joint… it all sounds like something you might do if you want to calm your nerves but, the truth is rocking is hard, and when your wasted its not any easier. So heed this advice, don’t get wasted to try and keep yourself from not getting nervous. Sure, I know tons of dudes who jam wasted, and to each their own. Everyone is entitled to his or her own thing, but if nerves are your problem error on the side of caution and don’t mix drugs or alcohol with them. Save the party for after the concert.

Lastly, don’t be your own worst enemy. Being on stage in front of people is hard and puts yourself up for both praise and criticism. Be aware of this. Watch videos; listen to recordings of yourself live and face it head on. It’s by really watching what you’re doing or how you appear that you can see how your art is seen and presented to others. Take that fear and learn from it. Use it to grow as an artist and a person. If you soldier on it won’t be long till you feel comfortable up there and you will have the confidence to know you pushed yourself in a way that only a true artist can.

The Dude

The Dude’s Live Rig

April 11, 2008

Dear Dude,

Is there any place I can find info on the gear you guys use? I was at the last London gig you played and noticed you had a rack setup under your 5150.. if it isn’t any hassle can you please tell me what you go through etc, pedals and stuff… and what les paul you use?

Damn awesome show by the way!!

Cheers in advance

From the UK

Dear UK,

Only a musician can spot those kind of details but yeah, at that show I did have a 5150 and a small rack (Wireless and Noise Suppressor).

Before I get into my current set up let me just say that the 5150 is my safety amp. Whenever I travel abroad its usually the easiest and safest amp to bring. It always sounds pretty good, but most importantly it always sounds the same. There are tons of amps that I prefer in general but there are none that are more consistant and reliable. If you own a 5150 I suggest making sure you look at the last time it was retubed. I have found that replacing the stock power tubes in a 5150 makes a HUGE difference in the overall sound. I always replace the power tubes whenever I go overseas and use a rented amp. Fresh powertubes can make all the difference.

My current live set up is as follows from Guitar to Speaker:

Guitar > Senhieser G(2) Wireless > Zack Wylde signature Dunlop Wah > Turbo Ratt > DigiTech Whammy Pedal > Boss Tuner > MXR EVH Phaser > MXR EVH Flanger > Dunlap Little JR Volume Pedal > Line 6 Delay > Decimator Pro G Noise Suppressor > (2) Randall RH 100 Heads > (2) Randall RH 100 Guitar Cabs with Green Back Speakers.

I also run in a separate chain an old Alesis Quadraverb. It’s an effects processor from the 90’s, but I have also run a boss DD6 Delay pedal there too. Effects through the effects loop sound much different then through the front of the guitar chain, so I use a little bit of delay here on all my leads and basically any part you want to sound beefed up or filled out.

As far as guitars, I have used every type of Les Paul. I usually prefer the customs but have fallen in love with a Les Paul Gold Top. Its funny because its way newer and totally not vintage, like my other guitars, but a guitar just speaks sometime. It doesn’t have to be expensive or super vintage you just have to love it.

I have also used Dean, Washburn, ESP, and Gibson: Explorers, V’s, RD Artists, and shit I am sure there are a few I forgot. Oh yeah I once had a guitar shaped like a machine gun! Anyway, my new favorite is a few of the Washburn Idols. You will see me playing them live now. They sound as sick as the Les Pauls, no lie but also stay in tune way better. No one is going to believe that those guitars play and sound as good as the Pauls but all I have to say is pick up one of those guitars up and it will speak for itself.

That’s the basic breakdown if you want a full run down on my thoughts on most of this gear then check out the reviews section.

The Dude

Flaky Band Mates

April 10, 2008

Dear Dude,

Hey man, me and my bud have been trying to get a serious band going for over a year now, but all the drummers and guitarists in our area always flake out on us when we get something promising in the works. Advice?


Flaky Band Mates


Dear Flaky Band Mates,

There are few constants in the music business that I have witnessed but one of them is definitely that musicians are NOT reliable. The age-old stereotype is sadly often times true. But that doesn’t mean ALWAYS TRUE. There is also sometimes musicians who are reliable, dedicated, determined, and willing to go through just about anything for NO MONEY. They are motivated by the urge to rock the world! They are motivated to put on sick rock concerts! They are…you get the point. That’s the type of dude that you want to be in a band with.

Now that doesn’t mean every person has to be a leader or some motivated work-alcoholic. It takes many different types of dudes to make a team of dudes that work well together but, that’s advice for a different day.

So how do you replace or avoid members that are too flaky? Well the first thing you need to do is to find new people. You need the numbers, you need options, and there are tons of ways to do that. I love putting up fliers. It sounds pretty old school but it kind of works, for real. Find your local Guitar Center (or a great local music store) that is tied in with local musicians and put up fliers! My favorite is Atomic Music in College Maryland. It’s a good example of a real community music store, and I love to see that there are still places like that out there. Guitar Center would work too. Just find where local dudes interact because its like blood for sharks. Where there is gear there are dudes.

There are, however, more subtle ways to meet musicians. My personal favorite is to ask other musicians you’ve met on the road. Now you may not be touring yet so that won’t help at all. But maybe you have been in another band that played one show or you have been to shows of local bands. There has to be other local bands in your area in similar situations. If you haven’t been around local bands then you need to start going to local shows (if your not sure how to do that well….just write in another question). The point is network with other musicians and you will eventually find dudes who you will like to jam with. I mean, that’s how Van Halen formed!

So, is that it? Well no, not really. I couldn’t leave out a response about this without mentioning the Internet. The most important communication tool of the 21st Century. If you’re creating music get on the Internet and post it. Make a Myspace page and send it around. If you want to survive and do music you love, then shit, you may have to resort to doing something as lame as finding dudes over the internet. It just doesn’t matter, the point is you have to try, and like I said ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE.

Now you will still find flakes, but that just comes with bands in general. I can tell you that as soon as you start networking you WILL find dudes who feel the urge to rock as hard as you do. To sum it up: network and try to get your music out there anyway possible. Your best bet is to tie into your local music scene. Find those other dudes who are making it work and rock hard with’em!


Bands vs. Friends

April 6, 2008


I play guitar and I attempt vocals, and to be honest, the only reason I can think of playing music or practicing an instrument is to enjoy it, and for me, that means playing live, in a band with a group of people who are your best friends. I also think that bands made up of best friends make the best, most genuine music. However, at the moment, all my friends who are musically inclined are unwilling to make any attempt to form such a kick ass outfit. So my question is this: is it better to try and make friends who will start a band, for that sole purpose, or should you always try to make a band with your best friends?

Friends Vs Bands

Dear Friends vs. Bands,

This is an interesting question. I didn’t know half the members of my band till they joined. Sure, me and the singer were great friends but we had met the other dudes at a few shows and really didn’t know them that well. I had to start jamming with people I didn’t know because simply, I didn’t know enough musicians. There was just no way I could have TAUGHT all my friends how to play music.

That being said, now I am older I have more then a few bands and side projects with many of my friends outside of my main band. My point is that you can do both. Sure jam with your friends, have a good time, spend time playing music with people you love. But that doesn’t mean stop jamming with new people or people that you don’t know that well. In fact I love meeting and jamming with new people. It’s how I’ve made some really cool new friends and it’s how I have been able to truly push myself musically.

It is, of course, important to be around people that you love and make you happy. So I would never recommend joining a band soley for money, fame, chicks, or any other shallow reason I left out. You just won’t be happy unless you like spending time with the people in your band. Sometimes the best moments of tour have been those wasted few hours sitting in a truck stop eating lunch, laughing, and just hangin with the dudes.

Its all about moderation, you have to find a place you can fit in musically and socially. All you need to do is be honest, friendly, open, and most of all dedicated and you will find your group of dudes to rock with! It’s the willingness to open your self up to new people and new opportunities that helps you become a better musician and well, a better person.


Need A Band Name

April 4, 2008


Hey … I’m in a band, and our first show is in may, but we still need a name we’ve got a few ideas. There’s”Ethereal Dissonance” but our drummer doesn’t like the name then another one is “S.T.D.’ because there’s 3 members…and that’s our initials. What one would you say we should go with?

Need A Band Name

Dear Need A Band Name,

Ah, well I wouldn’t call your band S.T.D. because no one wants to buy a T-shirt with that on it! No, but seriously picking a band name is fucking hard. I have been in a band for 15 years that picked its name because we had a show and just needed to have something. So we made a list and then, bam, picked the one that made our stomachs churn the least. It’s funny we even agreed that we would change it if we thought of something better. One thing that’s true for all bands is that they love to make half decisions you know ones that can be changed at any time. It’s good so that way no one really has to make a real decision. Actually, its not good, that’s bad but well you get the idea…Anyway, how do you pick a good band name? Well I like to run it through the patented 4 step naming machine. Just make sure your name fits in here and your probably good to go. (notice I said probably!)

Step one, its good to start by not picking a real offensive one. I mean if it’s something that is going to have to be edited all the time on flyers and in other sorts of promotion then let’s just say its going to make your life a living hell. So don’t pick something like Assfuckers Zombie Death Fuck. I mean it may seem funny but it probably won’t get popular.

The second variable in the old name hunt is whether or not your name is Internet survivable. We are on ASKTHEDUDE.NET because someone owns the dot com. It’s not a big deal, but you don’t want to name yourself something that will get lost amongst internet word searches. For example The Cars might have had a hard time starting a band in 2008. Plus you want to have an easy to find facebook, myspace, and whatever the hell else website you have to have (seems like a band needs to have a million faces these days).You want an original name that you can have control of in both the virtual and real world.

Step three, and this one is really hard. Its good when you find a name that when you hear it, you only think of the band. Some friends of mine had a band called Frodus. No one (or nearly no one knew the band name came from an alien on the monkey’s shows) when they named their band frodus well that’s it. I mean what’s a frodus its nothing the only thing you really think of is the band .

Step four, keep in mind your band has to shred. I mean Slayer wasn’t the best band name in metal till Slayer kicked ass. And Metallica didn’t really mean anything till it was the band that put out some sick ass metal records. So make sure that name fits with your band and you can hold it down. Slayer would not have been good if they sounded like Limp Bizkit, even if they were still named Slayer. It’s the band that makes a name, not the opposite.

If you follow the top 4 steps then you will be headed on the right track to finding a good band name that will stick with you and speak the identity of your band. However If you noticed I said probably a few times above. That’s cause in the music biz well anything goes. There are bands that have names that break all the above rules and find success to no end! And just maybe one of those crazy band names could be just crazy enough to blow your band up. But the truth is not probably! So go with the steps above its just a bit safer…oh and if anyone out there calls their band Assfuckers Zombie Death Fuck send me a T-shirt!


Writer’s Block

April 4, 2008


What do you when you hit a wall in writing music? What do you do to get over obstacles or hard times writing stuff? I mean, you just can’t fill gaps and be good? So how do you do it?

Writer’s Block

Dear Writer’s Block,

Every time I finish a record I just look at the fret board and think, “that’s it!, there are no more possible combinations of notes, I will never be able to write another riff”. Then sure enough a month or two later I’ll have the guitar on, it will come to me, and a new riff is born. It’s then that I am reminded there are millions of sick riffs out there waiting to be rocked! Keeping that spirit in mind there are 5 rules I follow that always help get me back in the game. Now they may not be the best for you and are definitely not the only ways to fight off writers block but, they have all proven to work for me time and time again:

Rule 1: KEEP TRYING. Riffs, songs, parts, solos, none of them are going to write themselves. So the first rule is crucial. You have to put the guitar on (or whatever you decide to write with) and go to it.

Rule 2: TRY TO KEEP YOUR MIND OPEN. The best way for me to do this is to try different tunings, different time signatures, and tempos. I write in E, Standard, Drop D, Drop C, Open C, B Standard. All those tunings force me to play different patters, note choices, and it changes up the entire sound of the guitar. When I find something I like I see if I can move it to Drop C (which is the standard tuning my band normally uses). If I can’t move it because the shapes are too hard or it just doesn’t sound the same (or better) then I try to write a few more riffs or themes in that tuning. If I can do that, well then a song is born with a different tuning. Its important here not to go crazy. I mean the idea is to trick your hands into playing something you wouldn’t normally stumble on to. You don’t want to have 300 songs in different tunings because live that is going to be just insane to deal with.

Rule 3: FIND INSPIRATION OUTSIDE YOUR GENRE. Its always good to look outside your genre. I hear things all the time in pop, rock, hip hop, hell, even ambient noise music, that sound like cool ideas to incorporate. Its just important to really listen to music you like. Maybe you hear a chord change, maybe you hear a quiet part get loud a certain way. The goal is not to copy it, it’s to find inspiration and use your mind to give it your own interpretation.

Rule 4: DOCUMENT EVERYTHING. I am constantly recording demos, riffs and songs all the time. I have a way to do it on the road, at home, even in the bathroom. See, a good idea can come anywhere and sometimes you have an ok idea and with fresh ears it turns into an amazing one. It’s important to be able to write something and then get emotional distance, that way you can really tell if it’s good or not.

Rule 5: TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS. There is nothing more lame then an artist that doesn’t do this. It doesn’t mean you always have to change songs and riffs around a million times in order to make a riff rip! It also doesn’t mean write a riff and stand by it to no exception. It actually means find a moderation of the two. When something feels right it is; when it doesn’t feel right it isn’t.

Writers block isn’t easy, its actually fairly common and usually strikes all of us at some point. But it can also be the beginning of an amazing song. Its from that point of nothing that something is born and as long as you are willing to try, keep an open mind, listen to the music around you, document everything, and trust your instincts those magic riffs will come a flowin’!