So you want to be a "Rock Star"?
All it takes is luck, and a lot of it. Sure, you -make- 90% of your own luck, working your ass off and having a plan. But luck is what makes the band. The "who the hell knows" 10%. Random combinations of skills and personalities, some that you think should never work well together, somehow clicking. Magic. You're on stage, half way through a song you've played six thousand times, and you just feel it, somehow, that the drummer is going to change it up a little, make things interesting. You look back... sure enough he's looking right at you, got that "guess what" look in his eye. BANG! You catch his nearly invisible cue, KNOW what he's going to do (you've played together everyday for years), and, damn, everything just happens right. Magic. It's rare.
If you're in a band and you've got that, hang on to it, no matter what.
Those are the moments every musician lives for. Otherwise...
Have fun sleeping in your car, or in the dirt next to your car, or in some stranger's house, with your guitar player snoring, drooling and farting three feet away from you, mosquitos buzzing around your head, and some three legged dog barking just outside the window, that has to stay open. It's 95 degrees at three in the morning, and, you know, beer and Taco Bell.
Sure, you could get up and drive the seventy-five miles home to your own bed, but you've had a few, and the singer is watching out for you. He'll try and take your keys, again. Singers. They sometimes get big black eyes for this. Then people ask, "Hey, what happened to the singer?" the next night while you're on stage. Fingers get pointed.
If you're lucky, you get into a studio and record stuff. It comes out... OK. Never as good as certain nights when everybody was "on", though. Then there are the live recordings, the ones where you say, "Man, we must've been loaded when we played that one..." And the ones you know will never be played as good again.
I played in a lot of bands, but none ever managed to get into the studio until Ruby Groove, or even figured out how to get a live show recorded. This was 80's and early 90's remember. Nobody had a 96mHz 48 track studio on their laptop back then (nobody even had a -laptop- back then). Getting into a professional studio was a huge deal.
Below is some recorded music from a few of the bands I've played in.
It's all copyrighted, so don't try to sell it (ha ha! good one Rick!), somebody will come after you (probably the rhythm guitar player). In mp3 format.
This was a Chico based band mid- through late 90's. I came up with that name one afternoon while staring vacantly at the names of a bunch of guitar amp tube boxes on the fireplace mantle. Groove, Ruby, Sovtec, and one other (Phillips?). We had our third gig coming up that week, and still no name. "Sovtec Groove" sounded stupid, so...
Later on people would say, "Cool name, like Pearl Jam!" Hmm, crap you're right. Well how about that. Don't think too deep on the band name, your music is what makes it good or bad.
Some of these songs still stand up ok, "Heaven" in particular. Some don't. Wayyyy off time, and some flat out, blatant mistakes, all recorded for future generations.
These were recorded, mixed, and roughly mastered, over two weeks in November '95 at Orange Whip Studios in Santa Barbara. Gum has the best bass mix, then Heaven, the rest... not so much. We were POOR, so we got the studio (a verrrry nice studio) from about 11:00pm until the wee hours. We learned a lot. Primarily, engineers and producers can make or break you.
Green (like me)
We played quite a few instrumentals at first, kind of proggy, as it had taken us a few months to find Bo Morse, the singer. He was just a kid, 20 years old, without two nickels to rub together. We installed him on the couch, put up with his roach coach burrito diet. But man, what a voice. We played one show where we lost the house PA with a couple songs left in the set. We all had stage sound, but Bo had nothing but his pipes. He hopped up onto the bar next to the stage, we turned down (a little), and he belted out the songs with just his lungs. It was awesome. Next set, after the PA was fixed, he cleared out the floor out to about 15 feet from the front of the stage with some toxic burrito gas, but that's a different story. A serious vocal talent. When we were recording at Orange Whip, he held a note on key during a fade out for nearly a full minute while laying down scratch tracks. I wish we could have used it.
Our first original instrumentals morphed into structured jams with vocals, and eventually into a catalog of about 60-70 original songs. Since we all lived together, the writing happened at all hours, any time, everybody was in on it.
It was the tightest band I ever played in. We played every single day together for those years. If we weren't playing a gig, we were set up in the living room. I played round wound finger shredding strings back then. I used about a tube of crazy glue a week, gluing my fingers back together during shows. Here they are, on a good day.
What do you do when the police show up at your gigs (again) and tell you to shut it down? You agree to wind it up with two more songs and say "Goodnight". Then you play a 10 minute song, the first five minutes consisting of the band jamming over a drum improvisation, and the singer inviting girls on stage for a couple big swigs of tequilla. The police then bust in, screaming "WHO'S IN CHARGE HERE!?" and disperse the crowd. Ah... Good times...
Ruby Groove, live, October '95.
We were doing very well in the Central Valley, getting known, building a fan base, and then the idiots decided they wanted to move down to the south bay area to "make it big". Brilliant, start from scratch all over again. From "big fish/small pond" to "tiny minnow in the ocean". I made my case for staying another year or two, but no. Have a good time. Adios amigos. I played covers, jazz and blues, on and off.
South SF bay based band from late 90's through the early 2000's.
My wife and I moved down to the bay area in '99. Couple years had gone by and the old band hadn't even managed to find a new bass player, let alone gig in the interim (go figure). Two of the best musicians had also left, the drummer, Jim Oda, and lead guitarist, Ben Cooper. The remaining original members asked if I'd come back, I said, "yes," and the band was re-named Kronic. We immediately started gigging and I hooked us up with Lee Thompson and his Awesome Sounds Studio in early 2000 to start laying down tracks. These were eventually waaaay over mixed and mastered, and the CDs sold at shows.
We were still pretty tight, but the chemistry of the band was never -quite- there. That "magic" was missing. I had new drummer issues (and I'm sure he had bass issues!). I liked Johnny just fine, a great guy, but he played more on the L7 side than me, I wanted to be able to play somewhere, anywhere, other than on the 1 and 3. No clicking. No sync.
And then - EGO reared it's ugly head! All for one, one for all.... what? Yeah, the personality of the band had changed, dramatically.
I'd have given them the shirt off my back, or a car to drive. Oh wait, I DID! But I guess that wasn't nearly enough. Good ol' greed. Enjoy that 83% of nothing...
I'm not bitter about it (I'm not, really!). Some things just don't work, and end. Quickly, if you're lucky.
On the "up" side, we had a LOT of fun. And that's what it was about for me, at least. The lack of rhythm section chemistry and the (mostly) inexplicable on-stage trainwrecks I was able to shrug off. Enjoy all the time you have on stage! Your worst day on stage is still far better than working in a cubicle.
Below is a pic from one of my favorite memories of the "Kronic" era. We were asked to play a set at a "Ralph Nader for Prez" rally/gig. Now understand, Ralph is right up there with PCBs and toxic sludge in my book, and I wish he'd done everybody a favor, and had just vanished before he handed the 2001 election to the Shrub...
So, when the promotor called and asked if we'd do the show I said, "Nader huh? Sure, we'd love to play, but I need to park my Corvair right next to the stage." Ha ha!
I was absolutely certain that they would say "Corvair? No." and that would be that.
But (and you have to love it when an ill-informed twenty-something is running the show), they said, "Sure. No problem... what's a Corvair?"
Below, the Corvair. Parked right next to the stage...
Below are the studio results from those few years. My favorites are: Hideaway, Invisible Friend, and New Wings. The bass mix really sucks in all of these though.
Hold (the line)
Big (and after a few minutes, inexplicably, the Riff again)
I remain good friends with Bo and Groove lead guitarist, Ben, both stand-up guys, great musicians. They got together again after Kronic ended to form World Wide Sickness. A band that had quite a following for a few years in the south and East bay, their gigs were something else. A spectacle. Bo is still at it, plugging away. I hope he makes it. Ben "Asada!" Cooper was working on being a responsible daddy for a few years, but found some balance and is back at it.
I haven't heard anything about the original Ruby Groove drummer in years (update- Jim Oda is married with a small herd of kids now). He was an incredibly good drummer, on of the best I've seen. I'll post up the studio verion of Steamroller drum intro here someday. There was a rhythm guitar player, too, Steve Dillon. Who knows what he's doing now? I don't.
Years back, after being out of music for a while, I got a call from a Bay Area blues guitar player, Al Shepard, and joined up with him and his excellent drummer Tony for a while. He booked -GREAT- paying gigs. It was blast, practically zero thought was involved while playing. But, after a year and a half of cruising through blues standards, Hendrix and Robin Trower covers, drinking beer, and having fun, feeling some glimmers of the magic with Tony on drums, Al wanted to play more of his original compositions. One thing for sure, Al was a really, really good blues guitar player. Song writing on the other hand...
He said "Hey Rick, what do you think of the new songs?"
Let me tell you, the songs were f**king HORRIBLE. Imagine boring, overly pretentious early 80's corporate generic rock, forced down the throats of dumbfounded blues fans. Common, way over-used, played to DEATH chord progressions, key changes simply for the sake of being pretentious. It was like playing bass in a nightmare. My wife, who went to a lot of those gigs, was so digusted she actually WALKED OUT in the middle of the set. She's always been a huge fan and supporter (and my most honest critic), but they were too much even for her. And she lived with me and the entire Ruby Groove band under the same roof for a couple years.
I said, "Well Al, I think they suck. And so does everybodywho's heard them."
They don't call me "Mr. Tact" for nothing. Nobody helped me pack up my gear that time.
No recordings from that period, either. Some scary ass photos though.
This pic is from some rich dude powerboat Poker Run gig. Pre- original songs fiasco. Band in typical blues gig attire. Good ol' Al...
Weird lether vest - check!
Farmer tan - check!
Muffin top - check!
Boiler spilling out - check!
Plumber butt - check!
Brad Gillis' Strat: check!
Hey -I- was having fun, so was Tony. Al was too, I think. I could never tell.
After that fiasco, I got a call from some God rockers. They were pretty good, musically, and I sat in with them once, but... no. It helps to believe in what you play. Then: studio work, and for a while fill-ins, and random jams.
These days I write and play my songs at home, on the couch, for my wife, the dogs, and the cats. Sometimes I swap compositions with Bo via email or DropBox. Still, the joy of playing live remains.
I haven't been on stage in five years now, but I'll play again.