Friday, September 10, 2010

The trials and tribulations of a musician with standards or shitty auditions I have known

For the umpteen-millionth time, I've been in New York City for ten years. I moved here with wide eyes, hopes and dreams the size of Madison Square Garden, and little more than the remotest clue on how to really make shit happen for myself. 

You know, a lot of kids move here from other parts of the country thinking that it's some hotbed of talent and ambition.....they think that the people who inhabit places like (sadly, the now-closed) CBGB's (for example) are all cooler than hell & going somewhere.

What you quickly realize, once you get here, and the cold reality nips at  your earlobes, is that there's just MORE of EVERYTHING.  Sure, there are a lot more talented, creative, cool people who know where they're going.  But, by the same token, there are also many, MANY more dipshits and dildorods who can't play (or sing or act or write or whathaveyou) their way out of a cardboard box....and most of them think that they're just fucking GREAT! 

That all being said, one has to start somewhere, so I immediately began getting my ass out there and jamming with anyone who seemed like they might be cool, fun, & interesting, and/or had something promising happening for them.  I would take the Subway train all over the place, full of hope that THIS was going to be the one that was going to result in something I'd always dreamed of.  What I found, more often than not, wasn't even in the same solar system.

I had my first "audition" (remember, when these so-called "auditions" happen, you're often "auditioning" them as much as they are you) about a week after I arrived here.  Hell, I hadn't even found a place to live yet (I was still crashing on a floor in Bay Ridge...thanks yet again, Alfredo!).  It was in some sweat box on Dekalb Ave in Brooklyn.  These guys (I won't mention what the band's name was, as I don't want to slander anyone....but the name sucked) described themselves as an old-school, melodic Rock N' Roll band, ala-Cheap Trick (one of my favorite bands), so....I went for it.

They were the kind of band that....well, they'd rehearse often, but it was always for ONE show at Arlene's Grocery, maybe ONCE a year.  Great.  And....they kept talking about how they knew some chick who worked at Atlantic Records who will "probably" show up.  Riiiiight.

Their music was ok....not great, but good enough for at the time.  I had a good vibe with the guitar player, which showed some promise.  In any case, they never called me back after that.

Years later, I became pretty good friends with that guitar player.  He told me they never called me back because the singer didn't think I was a good enough drummer.  Granted, my chops were rusty, and my playing was probably a bit loose.  You see, I'd just MOVED to NEW YORK CITY from the MIDWEST, which....takes some TIME and ENERGY, ahahahahahaha!!!!  But this same guitar player came to see a band I used to play in at the Pussycat Lounge (is that place still open?) WAY downtown.  After he saw that show, he called the said singer who dismissed my drumming skills, and left him a voicemail with three words: "YOU FUCKED UP!!!!"  Hahahahahaha!!!  (Thanks Kelly!).

This wouldn't have been the band for me anyway, really.  They were the kind of guys who, instead of going OUT there and playing gigs, and building a following and socializing and being cool & making it happen....they would constantly prepare for ONE fucking show that was always three months away, a 9PM slot at Arlene's on a Friday with a bunch of other bands they didn't know.....and yeah, this chick from Atlantic might go.  I always came from the school of thought that one learns the ropes of DOING something by DOING it!  You aren't going to learn how to satisfy a woman by doing the "five-knuckle shuffle" to porn every know what I mean?  Relatively speaking, in terms of playing Rock N' Roll, that's what this band was doing, and they never got anywhere close to where I was to go.....and I'm not all the way there YET, either!  Hahahahahaha.  But the truth is, I think maybe a couple of these guys were scared.  Enough said.

Another time, I set up an audition for some "chick band" (which I didn't mind....I'm not sexist, for God's sake!  If PJ Harvey had called me up, I'd have died of a heart the way....Polly me!  Hahahahaha).  They seemed to be smart enough, and....well, I think they had a residency at some place called the Orange Bear.  This didn't inspire confidence, exactly, but I figured, what the hell?  It would be free rehearsal for two hours for me (every time you play, it makes you better the NEXT time, you know?), and maybe I'd make some friends. 

So....I walked to the rehearsal studio, and was about to open the door....but I heard them playing music already.  They were playing Fleetwood Mac's "Landslide".....I felt my heart race....I mean, I like Fleetwood Mac, don't get me wrong but....I'm not fucking PLAYING it, or anything LIKE it.  So, I made what may have amounted to a chickenshit move: I BOLTED.  To my credit, I went straight to Ultra Sound & gave them 10 bucks to let me drum in one of their open rooms for an hour (I did this a LOT and it saved my ASS when I didn't have anything going on.  A drummer needs to drum, not only to keep his chops in shape, but in order to FEEL good).

A similar occurrence happened more recently....maybe five years ago, after I left one of my old bands, and was looking to start fresh.  I found some band who described themselves as being Motley Crue meets Bowie or some shit....oh, and they were being looked at by Universal (I've heard THAT more times than I care to divulge).  But, I figured, what the fuck, it's right down the street....let's fucking JAM!

Well, I showed up....opened up the door....and this one guy, the guitar player, looked pretty cool.  Had the long hair, black jeans, and Black Crowes-esque shirt.  Cool.  But this....SINGER guy...was quite a portly mammal....and he had an afro that looked like STEEL WOOL on the top of his head....and he was wearing ZUBAZ!!!!  Are you fucking KIDDING ME?!!!  I'm getting onstage with THIS guy?  And Uni are interested?  The pungent smell of BULLSHIT filled the room. 

I said something like, "Oh SHIT Man....I forgot, I gotta take a piss....I'll be RIGHT back....ok?!!"  I stifled a laugh, and wondered if they wondered why I would need to take my drumsticks with me to the bathroom.  And I did what any self-respecting, red-blooded American Rock N' Roller would do....I HAULED ASS!  Once downstairs, I called my girlfriend (at the time), and said, "Hey Baby.....the bad news is, there's no way in HELL I'm going to play with these dudes, so I split....the good news is, I'm coming home, and am wondering if you're hungry!"  Hahahahahahahaaha....

I know what some of you are thinking.  You're thinking that, maybe the music would have been great, and that I shouldn't have judged a book by its cover, right?  Wrong.  The way you look, just as the way you carry yourself, has a BIG effect on how you're perceived.  Call it superficial, and call it whatever else you'd like, but that's just the way it is.  Someone who is likely to do his or her best to look their best is very likely to play their best....or maybe they just needed a drummer who wore ZUBAZ!

There were many, many auditions I went on, and played (ie, I didn't split before touching the damn drums).  I tried out for Chubby Checker's band, and even got called back (I declined.  With all due respect, I didn't move here to do THAT).  Hell, I played with LOTS of people, some of which I'm still friends with to this day.  But, really, it took me at least six months before I found people to play with who were on the same page as me in the least.  But, I considered that to be a part of my initiation process, and I knew that with time, commitment, and perseverance, I'd finally get on track to where I needed to go.  And I did!

As Bon Scott once sang, "It's a long way to the top if you wanna Rock N' Roll!"

Thanks for reading!

Your good friend,

Marty E.

1 comment:

  1. Great post Marty. I enjoyed it as always. I'm going to start telling people that you're a writer/drummer instead of drummer/occasional blogger. You're posts are well done! The "portly mammal" line was hysterical. And ZUBAZ? lol. Oh man you have so many good stories...