From the outside being in a band looks easy. What could be better than touring the country/world with best mates, partying and getting to play shows to devoted fans? For many aspiring musicians (me included) it really is the dream.
Unfortunately beneath the surface of many bands this is not the case. Imagine going on holiday with your family and staying in a caravan for two weeks. It wouldn’t be long before tensions started to rise and someone would fall out with somebody else. Extend this to a tour bus for months at a time and you soon realise it’s a miracle any bands stay together.
One band in particular got me thinking about this: Machine Head. In February the bassist Adam Duce was fired from the band and the front man Rob Flynn spoke about it in his blog. He wrote about how in his heart Adam had quit the band “well over a decade ago” because of how hard life is on the road:
“No matter how un-happy or fed up he got, quitting the band would be seen as “losing” or a “failure”. Truth be told, he was sick of it. Sick of touring, sick of recording, sick of practicing, sick of looking at album artwork, sick of being-on-a-team-but-never-getting-the-ball, sick of yearning-for-the-honeymoon-to-resume when 20 years deep it never does. Sick of never quite hitting the big-time, sick of carving the niche… sick of caring.”
It was refreshing to see such honesty and respect towards the fans, instead of the normal ‘we regret to inform that X has parted ways with Y due to musical differences’. The scars are then stitched up and a replacement is announced within weeks.
The replacement is normally a studio musician or a friend from another band, who tends to get roped in so quickly with little thought, that they soon leave themselves. Time needs to be taken. It’s akin to adopting a child; it can change the whole family dynamic.
Machine Head’s solution?
To create a competition to find a temporary bassist for the Mayhem Festival performance in the summer via YouTube.
The announcement on their website reads: “For a limited time the band will accept and review YouTube submissions”. The videos must comply with a few conditions, namely play and sing one of three named songs on bass and write a small introduction about your playing skills (actual auditions will be held once the band has created a shortlist). This reminded me of the plot of the 2001 film Rock Star, which follows a similar idea and is based on when Judas Priest singer Rob Halford quit the band and was replaced by fan Tim “Ripper” Owens for two albums, before Halford later rejoined.
I can play the bass, but I can’t sing. However even if I could sing, I’m not sure I would apply. Meeting your favourite band is definately a reason to do it, but it wouldn’t just be meeting them, it would playing with them; being accepted as ONE of them. Imagine if you messed up or got stage fright (this gig would be to hundreds of people). I know I would feel guilty and I would have let down other fans too. For this reason I’m sure they will only accept bassists with a wealth of experience and not a bedroom bassist, like myself. But one can always dream…