Psychobilly Freak Out!

July 18, 2008

Dear Dude,

First off HUGE fan!

I play in a Psychobilly band. We had to cancel the last 3 practices because our guitar player went out of town / anniversary / Lyle Lovett. Now he’s saying that he doesn’t like the band anymore and doesn’t feel like were going in the “direction” he wants. He claims, “were too hard to be a Psychobilly band.” When it’s he that writes most of the songs. He would rather play Honky Tonk Rockabilly and as of last month started drumming for a band that plays that style but only does covers. Anyways what do you think we should do, besides break his face?

Psychobilly Freak Out!

Dear Psychobilly Freak Out!

First of all breaking his face is not an option, physical violence against band members no matter how drunk, high, or angry the parties are should never be entered in the equation. With that out of the way, I can say there have been more then a few times I have wanted to “break some faces!” Music is personal, music is emotional, and music involves artists injecting part of themselves into the overall product. These three things can lead you to think emotional and irrationally about the predicament of your band. So lets try to tear away all the emotional garbage and take a look at this problem.

Ok, the main fact here is he is the main songwriter. This causes a huge problem for you and the other band members if he wants to leave. Its funny that he says its not going in the direction he wants it to while he is the main songwriter but thats not uncommon. I mean maybe he just doesn’t understand the style you really want to do, or maybe it just seems different to him when your band jams, or maybe its because he would rather play drums then guitar and not have the burden of songwriting on his hands. Whatever the reason (and I am sure I could list 10 or 15 more) his heart is not in it anymore and he is choosing to walk away from the band.

Now you are confronted with a choice. Let him leave and break up, or replace him and move on, The one thing that is clear is the current band climate is not working. So what’s The Dude’s advice? I say let him leave. Tell him you wish him luck and hope to play with his new band some day. There is no reason to fight his leaving. If he is not going to practice and doesn’t feel the music it will be a waste of time for to go forward with him. But this does not mean break up? Shit it’s just a minor bump in the road. You know how many band members I have had to replace? If I had a dollar for each time I could retire and just write advice for free all day! I have seen other bands go through major line up changes and still survive.

My advice is find another guitarist who understands the style you’re trying to rock. Shit replacing a guitarist is the next easiest thing to replacing an amp. Hopefully you will have no problem finding that dude who will fit in. I know it seems scary but move on, and most of all don’t give up. It’s a tough road but, you can and will survive, for those who try to rock, I salute you!

The Dude

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

June 6, 2008

Dear Dude,

I’ve been playing guitar for ten years and have been with my current band for four. It began as a bit of fun, as all bands do, and it has gradually grown into something a little bigger than I ever expected. We are currently playing gigs in support of an EP – released on a small independent label with national distribution. It has been getting some good reviews and selling consistently, and we are starting to make a name for ourselves. The next step is to start writing our debut LP.

Despite all this positive growth, I am no longer enjoying my time in the band. For the past six months or so, I’ve gradually been losing interest due to a number of reasons, from personality clashes, to questioning other members motivations and dedication, to even getting bored with the music. I’m missing that variety of styles I started out playing. In short, we can just label it the age-old classic, “personal and musical differences”.

This has reached a climax as of late, and I’ve decided that to preserve the fond memories I have of the band, I should leave. I feel selfish for wanting to leave at such a pivotal point. I feel I wouldn’t be giving the necessary 110% if I stay, but also fear losing the friendships I’ve made if I do leave. I do still want to be in a band and play gigs and tour, just not in this band and style. I know you’ve covered the subject of band members leaving from the one side – members being asked to leave – but what’s the best way to approach it from the other side, when you want to leave the band?

I’d like to know if you’ve ever found yourself in a similar situation, and how you approached it. Or, how would you suggest I approach this issue and explain myself to the band in a way that won’t hinder the band’s progress, or affect my relationship with the remaining members?

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Dear Should I Stay or Should I Go,

You know I have received many emails about member changes and issues, but I have never had the chance to write about it from this angle. Though I’ve never actually quit a band before, I have had to deal with this issue several times in my life and have successfully made it through with friendships intact. It’s not easy, and will take honesty, trust, and most of all understanding to make it work.

OK, just so you know, it’s totally cool to have the feelings you do. Music is about creativity and expression and it certainly involves a lot of sacrifice and dedication. Therefore, one of the most honorable things you can actually do as a musician, and fellow dude to your friends, is bow out if your heart’s not in it. I have both been in bands and worked with bands who have members that are just buying their time. The worst type is the dude who just sticks around because they think there’s going to be quick success right around the corner. Look, its just best to be honest. Do you love what you’re doing? Does it fulfill you creatively, professionally, and personally? Leaving a band, especially one that is a working band (touring, playing shows, releasing records), is not a decision you should make overnight. You have to remember there is only so much time to rock before it’s all over, so if you’re unhappy don’t waste your (and everyone else’s) time doing something your heart’s not into.

So there you have it, some food for thought. But you’ve already decided you want to leave the band, so what is the most positive way to go about doing it? What’s the most DUDEIFIED way to gracefully leave and still remain friends with the rest of the band?

These are my suggestions;

– To start, you need to have a one on one talk with the band leader or leaders and tell them why you’re leaving. Its almost like breaking up with a girlfriend, so just remember its best to be short, honest, and keep it relatively simple. Give your friend a chance to talk and make sure you allow them to be angry, depressed, worried, whatever their reaction is. It’s ok, take it from a band leader who has had this happen to him numerous times, they will survive.

– Second, tell them that you’re committed to helping in the transition of a replacement. You will promise to help in anyway that is reasonably possible to keep the band moving and functioning seamlessly. You have to remind them that you have dedicated a lot of time, energy, emotion, and self to giving life to this band and you do not want to hurt the band. You only wish to leave to follow another path.

– Next you’re going to have to notify the band. You want to make sure it is the band and only the band that is there for this conversation. Try to keep it short and tell them what you told the leader (who should not tell the band you are leaving before you do). Remind them that you care about their friendship and that you have really enjoyed your time together. It’s important to bring up big picture things here like friendship, hard work, and all the things you have accomplished together. You should remind them that being in a band is not just about being a rock star, it’s also about the time trying to get there. After this conversation things will be weird. The band is going to have to see you as an outsider for itself to survive. They may treat you a bit differently and they may act almost crazy, but you need to give this both time and space to heal. It’s not something that will work itself out in one night. The natural response is for them to be upset to you leaving, but I promise if you handle it with respect, loyalty, and understanding these feelings will subside after they find a suitable replacement.

– You should define what the band needs to be able to survive. Are there any current shows booked? Are there songs left unwritten? Do you owe any of them money? Whatever it is make sure you define exactly what they need you to do before you go. If they have shows booked or songs half written offer to close those lose ends. You should definitely either tab out or write out all your guitar parts in a way that another guitarist can easily read or pick up. It would be ideal if the band would allow you to train other members, but chances are they are going to want you out of the picture as soon as possible, so make sure you have a map of all the music for the new member to follow. This is a really helpful way for bands to move on from a line up change fast. You need to make sure you allow the band to function as if it were business as usual right up to the point where you exit the band. If you have followed through and kept up every commitment, they should, hopefully, not resent or have any ill will towards you.

– After you and the entire band have fully discussed all the details of you leaving and you’ve committed to completing any and all obligations, its good to figure out when your actual exit will take place. Now this might not happen right away, it could take as long as a few weeks before you’re free from all commitments, but its good to set an actual end date. See, you don’t want to quit a band just to become a fill in guitar player for the same band! You have to be able to set goals and one of them is defining when it is this actually over. This is going to be different for every band but the easiest way to set this goal is to say, ‘ok after this tour, or after these shows, or after we record this, I’m out.’

Obviously, these are not hard and fast rules, but it’s at least a good place to start. See, every band is like a family, or a gang, and every band is going to have its unique set of members, attitudes, and inter-dynamics. You have to go into this thing with an open mind. If the bandleader slams the door on you and throws your Les Paul in the pool next to the practice space, then so be it. But, if you want to quit the band while maintaining your friendships, you’re going to have to be patient and give it time. In the end, it really shouldn’t be that big of a deal. Shit, when you started, or joined, the band I am sure it was great fun and very simple. Try to keep that in mind too. Some people go to work all day in hospitals, or as police officers, and deal with real drama, so try not to blow it out of proportion. In the end it’s a band, and there will always be other bands. You need to keep both your perspective as well as your cool. Make sure you’re open about your feelings and you do everything in your power to be fair and help your bros continue. When they see you are working to make sure they can survive so you can move on, then they will forgive you for leaving and respect you as a true friend.

The Dude

The 5’2″ Tower of Vocal Doom

May 29, 2008

Dear Dude,

I have been observing your nuggets of wisdom, and I am hoping you can help me. I am currently 18 years old, and I am a 5’2″ female death metal vocalist. I have been developing my own style for more than 2 years now, with all my own original lyrics and I have even done a home recording of a cover of ‘Eaten’ by Bloodbath to showcase my sound. Despite this, I have been unsuccessful in obtaining a position as a vocalist, and have even had trouble getting replies from bands searching for vocalists! Although the presence of females within all genres of heavy music/metal has become more noted in recent years, it seems that within a male dominated music scene there still is a stigma attached to female vocalists, especially if they can hold their own against their male counterparts of today!

I am not exactly a feminist, but I am wondering the reasons why I can be overlooked, or even dismissed, before guys want to give me a shot, because at first glance… a petite, 5’2″, female does not exactly epitomize ‘brutality’. Also, I am looking for some other measures to undertake, so I can be noticed, and be considered as a legitimate vocalist???

The 5’2″ Tower of Vocal Doom!

Dear 5’2” Tower of Vocal Doom,

Metal, punk, and hardcore have always been boys clubs. I remember when I went to my first hardcore/punk show there were maybe ten girls out of a crowd of three hundred or so. The same holds for the first few metal shows I went to (in fact there were even less girls around at those shows). Truth be told now a days there are definitely more girls at shows, and more importantly in bands. And this new breed of metal rocking chick isn’t your old coat hanger groupie. Ah no sir, some of the women I have met who are in metal, punk, and hardcore bands now a days know their shit! So why would dudes who are looking to start a sick ass band overlook or dismiss a female singer? And what things can you do as a female vocalist to get noticed, taken seriously, and break your way into the boys club of metal

1. Break Preconceived Notions.
Some dudes may never have seen a girl sing in a metal band and thrash it up! It’s a fucking shame but there have been very few metal bands who have female singers who have really broken out. Sure there have been women who have paved the way like Arch Enemy, Lacuna Coil, Otep, Kittie, Crisis, and even Lita Ford! Metal has had all different types and styles of front women. But for every few bands that have a kick ass front woman there are millions of metal bands out there with menacing dudes screaming as low as they possibly can. Dudes in bands tend to want to emulate the bands they love. I mean I didn’t buy an SG as my first guitar for any other reason then I wanted to be Angus Young. Although that’s a really simple way to look at it you have to remember when you’re out there looking to start or join a band some dudes may never have even considered finding a girl singer.

I haven’t heard your cover of Bloodbath, but I bet since you know who they are it sounds pretty good. Most dudes have preconceived ideas about what they think a girl who sings death metal sounds like. It’s not the typical voice you would expect to hear from a woman, so its natural that dudes would be concerned that your voice wouldn’t sound as strong or as similar to all the bands they love or are influenced by

Women have unique outlooks on life, not to mention they sometimes can have very unique qualities to their voices. Have you ever wondered why some people think its normal for a man to sound the way he does when he sings death metal? If your going for a Chris Barns type low Death Metal voice then sure you expect to see a big ass dude with dreads bellowing it out. But what about the other type of death metal vocal, you know the super high Swedish scream? What about that is exactly manly? I mean its super high screaming, why cant a woman do that? I would argue that good vocals are good vocals and that there are female death metal vocalists out there who can bellow with the best of them and shrill with the sickest of them

2. Hanging with the Dudes
Some guys (and girls) can’t deal with co-ed life in a band. Touring can be hard, it is like living together, running a business, and being an artist with 5 other people all rolled into one. A lot of dudes just aren’t that comfortable being around girls all the time. It seems crazy but let me tell you having a female dynamic around your band is a different thing. It is something that should not be feared, but regardless, is something that can be an issue for some dudes

Sure life on tour is hard and having that female element can change the dynamic of your band but it actually can change that dynamic for the better. I have observed many bands with female members and they function just a good (or bad) as most all male bands. Shit there are examples all over the place outside of metal where female fronted bands function just fine. So why should it hold that it always has to be this way in metal? Fuck, if the idiots in country music can make it work, so can metal

3. Sex Appeal
Image sells and un-sells: The world views your band differently when you have a female lead. I mean I haven’t seen Revolver do the ‘hottest MEN in metal issue’. Flip through the latest edition of any guitar, bass, tuba, whatever, magazine and probably the first girl you’ll see is in the back wearing a bikini, selling a guitar strap. Sex sells, image sells, and when you have something like that TO sell, people will want to exploit it. This can make things difficult for a band, to say the least, and it’s quite likely your potential band mates don’t even want to think about dealing with those issues. They would rather go with the dude in the Slayer shirt; it’s the norm, its easy, its simple, and worst of all its been done a million times so you know there is little or no actual risk in it

Now, this might be a reason why dudes would overlook a female singer but let me say this; this issue really doesn’t affect the bands I know who have female singers or members. Sure, it’s not the norm but the bands with girl members use this to their advantage. That doesn’t mean they sex up their female members on purpose, it just means they use it to make their band original. Lets not forget that women buy records too! And if you have the ability to reach both sexes with your music then you have the ability to take metal to a whole new place and that’s really exciting

I suggest you keep searching. You are going to find that band you want to join. Or, this may even blow your mind, you may just find yourself starting your own band! All you need to do is find musicians that want to jam and have just the slightest open minds. Recording that demo is a good step. Put that thing up on your Myspace, launch your own website. You need to get that recording out there. Hopefully your vocals will speak for themselves and if they don’t, well you’re going to have to work on them until they do. Musicians respect other musicians who have worked hard at their craft and show a true love for what they do. If you continue to work on your own music and get your take on metal out there, then you will find that musicians of both sexes are going to take you seriously and see you as the legitimate singer that you are.

The Dude

P.S. For a woman’s perspective on what it’s like to be a metal singer in today’s scene check out Ask the Dude’s interview with Laura Nichol from Light this City.

Concerned Low End Provider

May 22, 2008

Dear Dude,

I play bass in a metal band, and we’re preparing to go record a demo in the next couple of weeks. I’ve been playing in bands and recording for about half my life, so I’m only mildly nervous about the whole situation. Our guitar players are both very talented and consistent players, but they both seem freaked out about going in and recording our first demo.

I suppose my question is this; is it normal for dudes to get so wound up over a recording? If it is a common occurrence, is there anything I can say or do to help? I want these guys to know that they’re going to be fine and that their guitar playing is top notch without seeming like I’m patronizing them.

Concerned Low End Provider

Dear Concerned Low End Provider,

Recording can be the biggest head fuck of all time. Many times when I was younger I would find myself freaking out in the studio over the most mundane little details. I remember one time being so afraid that one of the producer’s cats was going to hit the knobs on my guitar head that I would meticulously cover it every night before we went home. Needless to say it’s pretty easy to lose your cool in the studio. I have seen some pretty big rock stars lose their shit in the studio and it’s not really as funny as you think it would be.

Is it normal for dudes to get so wound up over a recording? Yes, totally. It’s pretty common for at least one dude to be nervous right from the beginning, and we’re not even talking about the dudes who get wound up once you get there. Be not afraid. Many other dudes have fought this battle. Here are some things you might want to try.

1. Suggest your dudes practice: I know, I know, it’s redundant, but it’s true. I have seen so many professional bands make up shit on the fly in the studio it would make your head spin. I mean do you think Born in the USA was written after the drums were tracked? Ah, No Sir! It’s sad, stupid, and fucking lame when you think that there are some bands out there who get thousands of dollars from record companies and show up with half written songs, while other bands work at taco bell all summer just to get into a studio. Anyway, make sure you have all your songs written. Like I said, you would be surprised at the amount of bands I have worked with who hadn’t fully finished every note and lyric before they started recording.

One suggestion you can make is to try practicing with a metronome. Tell them you heard that playing with a metronome a few hours a day can greatly improve your ability to play in the studio by improving speed, tempo, clarity, and rhythm, amongst other things. Ask if they have ever done that. Then mention that you were thinking about doing the same thing, but only on a few songs that you don’t feel that confident with.

This will show them three things:

a. You are thinking about practicing and the upcoming recording process.

b. You found that a solution for your nerves is practice.

c. They might be able to cure their nerves the same way.

2. Take them by the studio to check it all out: Some dudes who haven’t spent a lot of time in or around recording studios think it has to always be this religiously laborious process. You need to be able to mentally envision the home studio inside the professional one. Maybe you can check out a session for a second (you, of course, have to check with the studio to make sure that’s cool before you just roll by). Really, what you’re trying to show them is that the studio can be a pretty normal place. All those knobs, lights, and chords, can be intimidating at first (I still to this day get intimidated by fancy gear sometimes), but they need to remember they are all just instruments. If you look at it that way it’s just like being in a room with access to an endless assortment of instruments. There’s no way any musician wouldn’t think that’s exciting.

3. Record at home: This might be a little complicated to pull off at first, but there now are ways to record anywhere, at any time. Even if it’s recording on a laptop in Garage Band (that’s free for apple users), it just helps to get your brain in the mode of ‘recording’. I suggest a Digidesign MBOX. Every guitar shredder should have one. It’s the best way to document your ideas and get super comfortable with the recording process. It’s really easy to use and was for me the gateway to start producing bands. If I hadn’t bought that first MBOX I wouldn’t be even able to think about recording anything! It will bring both you’re playing and writing up a level, just being able to analyze and document your playing like that is so valuable, especially for a guitar player.

In the end you can try any of these suggestions, but they all require you to do one thing; communicate. Look, you have had the experience before so you can take the lead and help facilitate a really good first recording experience for your dudes, you just need to open that first line of communication.

Dudes Gone Wild!

May 19, 2008

Dear Dude,

I have been rocking in an established band for many years now, and our singer has caught the dreaded L.S.D (Lead Singer Disease, aka: he has gone crazy). Now, I know rocking and partying go hand in hand, but this guy seems to be taking it to the limit. Quite frankly, his spiraling out of control is bringing myself and other members of the band down. So, what is a fellow dude to do? Do I kick a little ass or do we sit him down and try talking and tell him that he seems to be going through a mid life crisis?

Dudes Gone Wild!

Dear Dudes Gone Wild,

Lead singers, dude, they are their own beast! But coming down with a case of the old overactive partier syndrome, well that can happen to any member. We have all seen the VH1 Behind the Music rock star cliche stories of alcohol, drug abuse, and self-destruction. It’s such an old story most people ignore, or almost, expect it. Why is this so cliche? Because, it happens a lot and it’s often times the true story. Most good musicians have a certain kind of compulsive personality that can easily turn into addiction. Not only are we compulsive by nature we are also around a lot of free booze, and well…lets just say partying. So, what’s the right move for dealing with an overactive partier in your band?

The first thing you have to do is search yourself to make sure you’re aware of all your feelings. Are you straight edge, or do you not drink? I was the sole straight edge member of my band for almost 12 years and let me tell you, it does really suck. If you’re not straight edge but you just don’t drink it’s going to be pretty much the same for you. Basically, It’s going to be lame when dudes are partying. You have to remember drinking socially can be done healthily. It is possible to only have a few drinks every once in a while, it is possible to go on tour and get rip roaring drunk a few times and still come home a relatively healthy person, shit it is even possible to have an amazing time as the only sober person in a room. It’s not all sober extremists and drunken Axl Roses,  there can be a middle ground.

Maybe, you do party and still have a problem with the level that other band members party. I would say you too have to do a little soul searching. One thing I have noticed from being around functioning alcoholics in bands (and almost every band I meet has at least one) is that they like to judge. Not to mention people with substance abuse problems sometimes like to make claims they know will hurt other people in order to misplace blame, or deal with other internal issues they may be having. It might be a hard look but you have to remember you need to make sure you have thought how your views may impair the judgment of your peers. My point is you need to make sure the judgment of your friend is coming from a place of compassion and genuine concern. Otherwise there may be some subconscious motive you may be missing.

Also, remember when anyone first starts partying they will go through a ‘honeymoon’ stage. They tend to be more social about it and will probably do everything in excess. Hopefully, after being hung over in front a whole lot of people at a show, or just being physically wrecked on tour a few times from drinking, your dude will hit his stride and mellow out. Some people (especially dudes in bands) don’t get to go through that phase of partying that most others go through in college. Lets be clear, do not use this paragraph as an excuse for inaction, use it merely to gain perspective. If you think that none of the last three paragraphs apply to your situation, then please, start communicating with him!

That’s right, after all your band members really should be your brothers and sisters. Vince Neil once said that a band isn’t really a band unless it acts like a gang and a family. I actually fully agree with him. I think if your singer is a person you have been in a band with for a while, is someone you genuinely care about as a person, and care about making music with in the future, you should express your concerns to this person and put it all out on the table. See, bands think in collective consciousness so you want to make sure your band (i.e. family) members know that abusive and aggressive self destructive behaviors are not condoned by the overall group.

At first I would try a simple short conversation. I suggest you do it alone just you and the band member in question. It’s best not to make a scene and you don’t want the member to feel like everyone is ganging up on him or her. Make sure you keep the conversation positive. Its good to start by telling the person you care about them and their friendship. You just want to put it out on the table that the partying concerns you a little and you want to make sure that the members health isn’t being neglected. Your band member may get pissed, may react angrily but people don’t like to be judged even if they are doing something wrong. Remember your friend has a right to make his or her own life choices but that doesn’t give them the right to be self-destructive. You need to acknowledge that you respect your friend’s decision but you want to put it on his or her radar that you are concerned. Friendship is a give and take, so you need to be willing to give your friend the respect to let him or her make their own decisions and they need to be willing to respect you by giving your concerns an honest ear. Try to end the conversation on something positive and leave it open to be discussed later.

This is a hard position to be in. You don’t want to make it a big deal if it isn’t, you don’t want to turn you band into a mess of personal problems, and if your not a partier you don’t want to open up the whole “I party, you don’t” argument. It’s all about intentions, keep them honest and sincere. Its probably not going to be a fun conversation but it will get the ball rolling. So look inside yourself and take a hard look at the situation from all angles. Decide whether now is the time to act and if so start a dialog. It is by opening the lines of communication you can fight dissent amongst your band members, quell any inner tensions, and most of all do the right thing as a friend.

The Dude


May 15, 2008

Dear Dude,

Recently our singer, who was a good friend to us and even a better singer, left our band. I am interested, would it be better if someone of the remaining band members took the roll as the singer (lets say guitar player, me) even if there is a possibility that it could sound bad, or we should look for a new singer, another person who we should teach the songs, our routine and other habits of the band?

Also, do you have any experience with singing and playing the guitar, and if needed would you be able to take Johns roll as a singer incase he leaves the band?



Dear Singer-Less,

Replacing band members is hard as I have stated many times, but man, replacing a singer, that’s real hard. Especially when it comes to death metal or really any kind of metal. So much of the bands personality in this genre is caught up in the sound of the singers voice. Let me get this off my chest. I cant sing. Nope, man I can riff a fucking guitar, stumble on a drum set, and fake it on the keyboards but singing is hard and death metal singing is a lot harder then your mom thinks! So to answer your second question first, no, there is no way that I could take John’s (singer of darkest hour) place or roll in DH. It would absolutely be a different band and to be honest a much, much worse band at that. What’s the best thing to do when faced with this situation? Should you replace him or her with someone new or keep it in the family?

When faced with a leaving member of any kind, but especially a singer, its important to do inventory of your band. Who is left? Who can actually sing? Unless you’re going to pull off some crazy shit live I don’t think it’s a good idea to make it your drummer. So then your back to the string section. I don’t have very much experience with actually playing and singing but I have worked with many guitarist and bands that have singer/guitarists. Its hard and it’s a talent but it can be done. My suggestion is that if this doesn’t come natural, and especially if there is a possibility that it could sound bad, don’t replace your singer with a current member. Only do this if you feel the band will sound as good or better. Otherwise its time to look outside for a new voice.

Now it doesn’t mean you have to change the name of the band. Even some famous bands have gone through lead singer changes and survived. Although you will always get those fans that will pick a signer. I would ask yourself how invested in the band name or band you are really. Because a leaving singer is a really good chance to get a new beginning. Chances are your band is probably small enough that changing a singer at this point won’t matter to anyone and if you can find someone out there who is better or at least as good as your last singer then it’s worth it to soldier on.

Its when faced with obsticles like this that I call on the powers of the almighty AC/DC. When faced with a traumatic lead singer change they figured out a way to carry on. And when you’re already world famous its much harder to bounce back from a singer change. ACDC did and Back in Black was born! My point is its not the end of the world. As much as lead singers think they rule the world you can go on without them. Just don’t forget there is a reason the word ‘LEAD’ is in front of ‘singer’. Its to remind you they’re the voice of the whole band, so respect that and you should have no problem surviving. 

The Dude

Drummer Bummer

May 13, 2008

Dear Dude,

I play bass in a metal band. We are just starting to get serious and want to do more things, such as play shows, make a demo, etc, etc. The thing is, our drummer is not exactly the most talented drummer ever. It is quite hard to write new stuff with him, and he does not know our songs very well yet. Should we stick with him and hope he improves?? Or move on to a new drummer?

Drummer Bummer

Dear Drummer Bummer,

As bands grow they often have to go through some major changes, especially in the beginning. Every band I have been in has had at least one line-up change before it got solid; it’s just the nature of being in a band. Regardless, it’s often a difficult, traumatic, and basically, the shittiest situation you can be in as a band member. It’s difficult to ask a band member to leave when there’s a personal dispute, but it’s even more difficult to ask someone to leave because of their ability. So, before you pull the plug think over a few things.

How bad is he really? I mean you have to live with the people in your band. Travel together, eat together, and sleep together. You’re basically going to be married for a short time to all these dudes (or dudettes) in your band. With that in mind if your current drummer is your tight bro take that into consideration. I mean if he’s cool, chances are you can probably (and tactfully) bring up the situation with him. You can tell him you want to play shows, record a demo and that means practicing a lot more! If he’s into it and you think he can actually get better, well then your boy deserves more time. A few hours of shredding in the practice space to get him up to speed is well worth it. To be blunt, you’re going to have to live, eat, breath, sleep, shit, with these dudes, so if he feels like family make an effort to keep him in the band and start practicing with him a lot more.

Ok, so you thought about it and well, you still think he’s not the right fit for the band. My advice then? Absolutely ask him to leave. I mean if you’re serious about doing this band and he is not willing to work, or just can’t keep up with you, then my advice is move on pronto. You need to be musically satisfied in a band too and if he is not going to cut it, it’s much better to move on now than later. I have seen bands hire a session drummer to play parts their own drummer can’t and it usually always results in the original drummer quiting the band. Its ugly, but dude, you don’t want to have to mess with this problem farther down the road. When money is on the line shit gets way more stupid, believe me.

The reality is being in a band with a good friend who has worked hard to get to his or her talent level is always more rewarding and fun then being in a band with a hired gun (you know someone you don’t know that well who jumps from band to band riffing). So stick with your man if you think he or she has got what it takes. Those hours of practicing will make you a better band anyway. Just remember if after that (or during) you feel it’s just not right and can’t get better well then go with that instinct. There just so little time, why waste it making sub-par music?

The Dude