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.

Mr. Roboto

May 28, 2008

Dear Dude,

I just recorded and my site started to blow up once it was online, because I promote over 10 hours a day. When I don’t promote my site basically doesn’t do as well. I also noticed that there are things like ‘friend adding robots’ which many bands use. I don’t know where to find a good one, it would free some time up for me since I’m a one man band its hard to do it all on my own. Honestly, I know all these big bands cheat! My question is simple how do I safely cheat the way other bands do so I can keep up? I have great marketable stuff and I’m sick of watching tons of shit bands get huge and signed. Times are hard for new bands, especially that play emo, because Myspace no longer lets you add people under the age of 17, which is basically all the people that even like what I play. Do you know any tricks or secrets that could help give me some hope or something? Please get back to me if you have time, cause honestly I don’t have a clue who to ask these questions to. All I know is I have good music that people would like, but other than promoting, I don’t know what else to do. I can’t find a good manager and I don’t know how to attract record labels. I’m really stressed by all of this. Your advice would mean a great deal.


Mr. Roboto

Dear Mr Roboto,

Myspace’s weight in the music world is continually growing, while the anonymity of the Internet still allows for all sorts of cyber-manipulation. Logic than follows that it might be easy to fake, or project, the appearance of popularity in order to attract record labels, booking agents, managers, and of course that all coveted “heat” (or “hype”). Bands will do just about anything to get all of the above and it’s easy to get sucked into the game and compete, or worse feel like you have to “cheat” just to get your music heard.

How do you safely cheat the way other bands do so you can keep up? There is a very simple answer to this question: DON’T! Sure, bands will scam, cheat, lie, and steal to be popular. The music business is full of ugly people, but my suggestion is make a conscious decision to NOT be one of them. When Darkest Hour first started the big deal was SoundScan. It used to be all the rage amongst bands to add numbers to their live SoundScan forms. See, when bands play shows they write in how many records they sell every night and then once a week fax the info to their record label. It was real easy to turn a 2 into a 20, etc. That was the way to cheat in the 90’s. Enter the next generation, the Myspace count cheat.

Have I seen bands get big off of using their Myspace page for promotion? Yes. Is it possible to fake your profile into looking sick as shit and attract the attention of a few managers and record labels? Yeah, sure that’s possible too. But you have to think it all through. First, forget that its just plain stupid to fake anything (especially being a rock star, I think that’s probably the lamest thing you can try to fake) but just think about what might happen if you do convince that record label, manager, or booking agent to work with your band because of fake numbers. How would you like to do a tour that no one shows up to because you don’t have any real fans, or your record comes out and no one actually buys it. The point of Myspace is not to just have gigantic numbers, it is to network your music so people can hear it and your actual fans can keep in touch with the happenings of your band.

I think you’re missing the point of Myspace all together, and more importantly I think you’re missing the whole point of playing music. You mentioned you’re a “one man band.” I am sure you have already encountered how hard that is going to be. My suggestion is take those songs and get a band together. You have a flying leap start, by already have songs written. You just need to take your music to the real world, in addition to the virtual one. You have to start spending 10 hours a day playing music, not sitting in front of the computer. If you are going to spend ten hours a day on Myspace promoting your band, then you might as well just have a 10 hour a day office job, instead of trying to be a professional musician. Why do I stress playing shows and jamming with other band members? Because actually playing music for (or with) people is the interaction you should want to have as a musician, not the interaction that comes from the other side of a computer screen.

The Dude

Stay at Home Face Melter

May 14, 2008

Dear Dude,

First off, at 28 years old, I’ve been following DH since you played about 8 years ago in an old church basement in Cincinnati so, naturally I’m a big fan. I’m in a unique situation, similar to yours. I have my Masters degree in Counseling, and a Bach’s degree in Social Work. I work now getting kids who are addicted to drugs off of them, and I love my job. I’ve been playing metal since I was 13 and my band, if I may say, melts faces. But we’ve all made a choice to play as a hobby. We love our families and our jobs here at home. But one question that keeps coming up is: Is there any way to have your music distributed on a national level (by a label or otherwise) without national touring? We just would all really love to go to Best Buy and be like “Hey, that band, Pterodactyl Battle, yeah that’s us. You can buy that here”. So, if in your spectrum of amazingness, possibly from a bubble bath, you can offer some good advice outside of giving up (heard that one), then your spectrum of awesomeness could only increase. Thanks so much (for your music and help)


Stay at Home Face Melter

Dear Stay at Home Face Melter,

Being in a band at home is actually harder then most people think. I have a bunch of friends who are in bands but also have other “careers.” It’s funny because when I was a kid I just thought it was all or nothing, like rock star or bust! You were either in a touring band or your band didn’t matter. Now that I have been slugging it out for this long I can tell you there are many ways of rocking in life, not just the full tilt rock star touring action. So you’re not in a touring band but you want to get your music distributed on a national level with out touring. Can it be done and if so how?

Lets get something out of the way first. Getting your CD in Bestbuy is probably not going to happen if you’re not touring. Also getting signed to a bigger independent record label is also probably not going to happen. I say ‘probably’ because you may be able to prove all of the above wrong by doing one thing: being an amazing, amazing band. Now that’s going to be really, really hard so I would think realistically. The truth is neither of these things needs to be part of your ultimate goal anyway. What I am saying is that you already have a way for your music to be distributed internationally and at very little cost to you. You already have a way to sell your product to the world without a record label OR best buy. You already have… the Internet.

First you need to record your music well. Its going to be self financed at first so play shows, do a car wash, play more shows, work a normal job whatever you need to do to get some cash. If you have a career and other band members do too, then its up to all of you to pool your money for a recording. Remember its like a tattoo, you will have it forever so be willing to spend a little bit more money and time on it then you first thought you should.

Take that recording and put it up on itunes, your website, Myspace, Pure Volume, Sound Exchange or any other website that sells MP3’s. I did that with my own band, Man and Wasp. We recorded the songs ourselves and released it on the Internet ourselves. Now we have a band that never tours, never plays, but has a record available for purchase anywhere in the world over the internet. It allows us to just keep writing songs and not have to think about the pressures of touring in a band.

If you want an actual product, well then, you can very simply start an online store. Bands of your size can get CD’s pressed themselves at places like Furnace CD. It’s actually run by the man who signed darkest hour to their first record deal. You can order say 1000 CDs and then set up a site to sell them through. It may mean doing a little more work yourself and fronting a bit more money but it will mean that you will have an internationally distributed record without having any pressure to tour what so ever.

All you have to do from here on out is promote the site. Play shows, pass out fliers, you can even “cyber” tour (you know just add friends to your myspace and promote your band via the internet). Especially if your career happens to be a boring desk job. Believe it or not you could use that cubical time to do some real “tour” work on the computer.

There is really only one reason for a record label to sign a band that is not going to tour all the time. And that’s out of pure love for that band. How many record labels in 2008 are making that decision? Lets just answer not enough. So fuck it, there is also no reason to sign to a record label if your not going to be touring or doing it full time. You don’t need them. You can do everything yourself, on your terms, and on your time line. That’s what the future of music on the Internet is really, at least I believe. Soon we will all be able to create music and distribute it ourselves straight from artist to listener.

The Dude

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

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!