What Makes a Great Gig?

IAN WATKINS (Lostprophets):
“The thing that I try to bear in mind when playing a gig is that not all of the audience is there to see you play. Some frontmen get frustrated because people are not paying attention. I don’t care about that. I have no control over what people think of us, so I just do my job regardless of what the audience is doing. I know it sounds like a cliché, but if there’s one person in he crowd who likes us then it’s all worthwile.”

  1. SHADOWS (Avenged Sevenfold):
    “From a performer’s point of view, you’ve got to approach each gig with the right mindset, and you have to learn how to vary your show each night. Otherwise you’ll just get bored of what you’re doing, and if that happens, you’ll put on a crappy show. If you’re feeling good, then you can go out and be a little cocky. If you play with conviction and look like you’re enjoying being up there, then that’s what’s really important.”

MATT DAVES (Funeral For A Friend):
If I can feel the energy coming from the audience, then I know it will be a good gig. Also, if I can communicate onstage and be myself, then I’m really happy and I’m just there in the moment, having fun. I don’t like to distance myself from the audience. I’ve been onstage and the crowd have been singing so loudly it’s as though they’ve taken over. That makes a mutual connection and that’s amazing.”

SIMON NEIL (Biffy Clyro):
“As a performer you want things to sound good and you want to be completely lost in the moment. The best gigs are the ones where you’re not aware really of what’s happening, and it just flies by in an instant. If I’m in the crowd I don’t want to know what’s going to happen next – I want a band that musically takes me by surprise.”

FONTE: Kerrang!


OP-ED Musicians Speak Out (Ben Jorgensen – Armor For Sleep)

Most recent album, Smile For them, frontman Ben Jorgensen takes on the hipster culture prominent in the borough of Brooklyn, New York, in the song “Williamsburg”. There’s a difference between being your “hipster” self and just following trends, though. Jorgensen wants everyone to know that putting down others just to feel cool happens in all 50 states – and it’s not acceptable anywhere.

  “I have been summoned from my grueling schedule of sitting around on tour bus to go on a rant describing in detail why I wrote a song berating a mystical placed called Williamsburg. Am I angry at Williamsburg, Virginia? Do the reenactments of Colonial American life really upset me that much? Well, honestly, they probably would if I had to witness the Colonial actors recite their lines about their grievances with England and how hard it is to churn their butter (or whatever else they feel like they have to act out to seventh grade students and tourists), but nope, I’m not talking about that Williamsburg. I’m talking about a place perhaps more sinister that any found in Virginia. The place I’m talking about is none other than Williamsburg, Brooklyn! What is my gripe with Williamsburg? Let me divulge.
What actually spurred the need for me to explain myself was a slightly angered fan who sent a slightly angry message to my personal MySpace account that reads: “Hey dude. I used to think you were the shit when you sang about being dead. Now you have to hate a town; that’s so lame, dude. Good job selling out.” Fuck. He totally got me!
The thing is, the song isn’t really about Williamsburg. The song is about a group of people I met at some parties in New York City and hung out with for a bit. The use of Williamsburg in the song is more symbolic than anything. Williamsburg in general is known to have a large “hipster” population. What, you ask, is a “hipster” exactly? As with most things in life, Wikipedia has an explanation:
“Use of the word ‘hipster’ in present day slang has developed distinct negative connotations, including: Identifying that a person may be superficially following recently mass-produced, homogeneous, urban fashion trends, overly concerned with their image and the contradictions of their identity, potentially anorexic, disingenuously appropriating a pseudo-artistic image or ‘a collage of other urban identities’ from the past, or simple an elitist.”
I sort of agree with this summation, although it is a little bit mean. I think that at one point in time, there were certain people who could literally only afford certain vintage clothing and who had real reasons for doing things which are now done just because they are associated with certain attitudes. I remember someone explaining to me why ‘thugs’ wore saggy jeans; it’s because in certain maximum-security prisons, the prison-guards would make the inmates remove their belts before walking around certain secure areas. When these inmates were released, wearing no belts and having saggy pants became a sign that they had served hard time. However, others who witnessed this most likely had no idea why the tougher guys were sagging their jeans. It just became a trend because of the attitude associated with the fashion of the people who started it. This is how trends develop.
I guess what started bothering me about certain people’s attitudes in New York City was that they needed to assert being above other people because they associated themselves with a subculture they wouldn’t feel a part of unless they proclaimed to be cooler than other people. I know how huge subcultures are for us. They give us a sense of identity and a sense of belonging to something that is recognizable by others who are in the know. I used to be punk rock. I would do everything in my power to make me feel like I was just as punk rock as the squatters who put on shows at NYC’s ABC No Rio. I understand this need in people to belong. But when people call themselves “hipsters” and identify themselves with a subculture that they think they can’t belong to unless they put down people and things not to list of what the Hipster Gods deem cool – that to me is aggravating. Yes, there are plenty of people who wear “hipster” clothing and listen to “hipster” bands who aren’t elitist; I don’t have a problem with these people whatsoever.
But this group of people I ran into in New York City, all they did was make fun of other people’s clothes, the music they listened to, the food they ate and the shows they watched. Maybe making everyone around them feel uncool was a way they cold all bond with each other, but I had to call them out on – and my voice is my songs.
My friend Rob Hitt [ex-Midtown/owner, I Surrender Records], who lives in Williamsburg, was one of my first to hear the song, and he sat me down to say, “Not everyone here is bad.” I agree 1 million percent! Again, the song is by no means about the entire city (even though in the song I say it is, but I was just being dramatic). The people I’m calling out are the ones who think it’s part of their identity to berate others for doing things that don’t fall under their cool umbrella (for instance, listening to emo), and who say, “Yes,, I am a hipster, but only because I know what’s cooler than you.”
That being said, I’m not interested in starting some subculture war. I just think there is something inherently lame about anyone claiming to be cooler than anyone else. That goes for hipsters, scenesters, football players – whoever. This song not taking shit from those who look down on you. It’s about realizing that the people who have the biggest flaws are the ones who are too afraid to be themselves.”

For more info, check www.armorforsleep.com.

SOURCE: Alternative Press

Rok Doc – Tips for staying sane in a band

Chris Cheney (vocals, guitar) of The Living End

Dealing with homesickness on the road

Travelling is a double-edged sword. It’s the best and worst part of being in a band. Living out of a suitcase and being away from home for months on end is something I have to mentally prepare for.
Keeping in touch is easy these days thanks to cell phones, iChat, video conferencing and, of course, e-mail, but the way I deal with homesickness is to just focus on the job at hand and remember to have fun at the same time. A music career can last a year, or more if you’re lucky, so you’ve gotta give it all you can. If you’re the kind of person that needs friends and family within close proximity, then this probably isn’t the job for you. Simple pleasures like hitting the pub for a cold beer with your mates or going to mum’s for a roast aren’t doable when you’re halway to San Antonio. But, really, how many people get to do what I do? Not that money. And lets face it. San Antonio is a pretty nice place for a cold beer.

Omar Zehery (guitar) of Hit The Lights

Maintaining friendship at home while on the road


One of the main reasons we started our band was to get out of the middle of the Ohio cornfield where we lived. You can only hang at the parking lot outside T.J.’s Pizza so many times before you wonder what’s going on outside country limits. If you’re lucky enough to go on tour, it can be a shock to your friends’ systems – and you’ve got to remember that your real friends are the ones back in that parking lot. Make sure you’re the same person you were before you left home. Your real friends won’t give a shit about what you’ve been doing, eating or seeing in L.A. if you come back thinking you’re the bee’s knees. And always stay in touch with the kids who know you the best because what goes up (like hype and popularity) must eventually come down. You never know when your bassist is going to want to go back to school or when when your drummer is going to knock up Charlene. And those things put your ass back in the factory faster than you can say, “third shift”.

William Murderface (bass) of Dethklok from Metalocalypse
Why you need to play metal (or die)

Why play metal? “Look around. Even your salad is dead. For you. You might as well stick your fork from the salad in your waiter’s neck and let it bleed everywhere. Would that really change anything in this world? To me, that’s metal.”
Where should kids learn about metal? “Do they still have the Internet?”
What about kids in pop-punk bands?
“If the music is really nasty and can really hurt something, I’ll give them a giggle. I guess it’s all for the kids, right? They’re the future, right? Gross.”
How do you settle band conflicts?
“Hard fists. If you’re in a sissy, fancy band, you might wanna just have body punches.”
So practice and bulk up?
“Or get more sinister. Learn about poisons and ruining credit; passive-aggressive behaviour. In my band, I just give in. They’ll just mix the bass out because frankly, I’m just not a good musician. If you’re not a good musician. If you’re not a physically intimidating person, give the main songwriter diarrhea. You might win the argument.”

Chris Sorenson (bass) of Saosin
Catching your favourite TV shows on the road

Being on tour can be amazing, but it hinders something you might take for granted – watching your favourite TV shows. Our band have figured out the best ways to catch every episode of our favourite show – Lost. Typically, we go straight to iTunes to download episodes after they air and transfer them to Apple TV (www.apple.com/appletv) so we can watch them on our television. Some days, we resort to the iRecord System (www.irecord.com) which records live audio/video feeds directly onto an iPod. However, we have internet access on our bus, so we don’t face the disadvantages that Lost (or The Office or Survivor) fans touring in vans might face. Unless you have a reliable friend at home record new episodes onto VHS tapes or DVD-R discs and send them to you before the next episode airs, you’ll be forced to be more creative. Sometimes you’ll have cable backstage, but that’s a crapshoot. You might have to approach your TV show the same way you approach getting a bed for the night – by asking the audience if anyone has TiVo and an open couch.

Phil Sgrosso (guitar) of As I Lay Dying
Not to take station rejections too personally

If a radio station rejects your band, just keep in mind that radio isn’t the only way to get your band’s name out there. I’m sure back in the ‘50s, if your song was played on the radio, that meant you were gonna be huge (like in the movie That Thing You Do), and if it wasn’t, you couldn’t get anywhere. But now that there are MySpace, PureVolume and iTunes, your music can always be just a click away. There are many reasons why radio won’t play your song, and most of them have nothing to do with how good your band is. It’s an industry, after all, and there are bottom lines to take care of. So if you keep hearing “no”, keep trying and continue using everything else – like the Internet. If radio is your absolute goal, make sure the songs you submit have something catchy or memorable – tracks like that have a higher chance of making it since listeners have something to latch onto. More than anything, your CD quality definitely can’t suck.

Dave Yoha (guitar) of Set Your Goals
Maintaining a semblance of hygiene on the road

Touring is dirty. You live in a manner of disrepair you would never consider acceptable at home. Get yourself a toiletries bag and stock it with every travel-sized product you can find. Always have the following: deodorant, wet-naps (in a pinch, these can perform nominal cleansing of any trouble spot) and talcum powder. Shower as often as possible – you may not know when the next one is coming and those jerks in your band will snake your spot in the shower line. Often showers aren’t an option, though. Change your socks and underwear every day (other clothes can go dirty for longer but these shouldn’t be allowed to simmer). The “wear and toss” technique is a slightly more expensive but liberating option. Just buy a new pack of socks or underwear once a week. Once a pair has been worn, throw them out and move along. If you sweat a lot on stage, consider having a stage “uniform” that you can change out of every night to spare your normal clothes. Follow these rules and you’ll punish the crowd with your annihilating riffs – not your annihilating stench.

David Mawane (vocals) of Big D And The Kids Table
When one member gets all the attention

Not long ago, Big D were just a rag-tag group of whelps, united by a hunger to make music run fluidly though our bodies. As of late, however, it seems people have been asking solely for me, be it for autographs, photos or interviews. I have found many subtle ways to instill in our fans my belief that every member of Big D deserves a smile, nice words and a gandshake. I started by making sure to mention everyone’s name at least once each night onstage – this way my bandmates can hear the crowd cheer especially for them. During interviews, I began ask band members what they think or tell interviewers that other members are experts on certain subjects. With fan photos, I’ve begun grabbing bandmates’ shoulders and pulling them into the photos. All of these are great ways to show your band and fans the importance of everyone. Oh, and a one-on-one compliment and a “thank you” over a nice, could beer never hurts, either.

Stacy Dupree (vocals/keyboards) of Eisley
Celebrating holidays on tour

My band (who also happen to be my family) are big holiday people. We never skip being home for Christmas – that’s a huge no-no. But we’ve been on tour during birthdays and less-important holidays and we always make sure that it’s a special day for each person – even if it means buying tons of cheap crap from a gas station or an inordinate amount of Starbucks for the day. A lot of the time (for holidays and just for no reason), my mom sends huge packages of candy and cookies to whatever venue we’re about to play, and it always makes the other bands on the bill jealous. But we share (for the most part)! It’s really important to stay connected and keep up with your life back home when you’re on the road – especially with holidays. We always call home to make sure everyone is being taken care of and having fun and to hear all the juicy gossip we’d otherwise miss out on. We even make sure we talk to our dog, Cleo (she’s usually the one who lets most of the gossip slip, anyway).

Shannon Burns (bass/vocals) of The Forecast
Holding your own as a female on the road

Boys, boys, boys. On any given tour, 15 to 30 guys surround me every day. Sometimes I think of it as being in high school and I was somehow mistakenly placed in the boys’ gym class. You might think, “How can I succeed in a class in which everyone can run faster, jump higher and lift more than I can?” The answer? I’m still trying to figure that out. What I do know, ladies, is that if you think you’re not as good as the boys are, then shut up and start practicing. Be yourself. If you feel like wearing a pretty dress, do it. If you wake up at 6 a.m. in a hotel room full of smelly dudes and you don’t really feel like doing your hair and makeup, don’t. You’re on tour! This isn’t America’s Next Top Model. This is about believing in something that you’re willing to give up everything at home for. At the end of the day, just be ready to shotgun a beer. Otherwise, guess who they’re gonna call a “girl”?

Matt Watts (guitar) of The Starting Line
Keeping the business up front and the parties in back

No matter how dedicated you are to your music and the peripheral party that surrounds playing in a band, eventually your band have to focus on the business side of things. Running a band can be overwhelming at times. That’s why the best way to keep everything in small doses is to have different people in the band take on different roles. For instance, have one person handle the booking, have another handle the merch and have another take care of all the MySpace and Internet stuff. This will give you each a hand in your success, but not to the point that one member feels like a manager. Just make sure that everyone in the band is well aware of everything going on with your particular area of responsibility. Communication is a must on all levels when you’re in a band. And if you’re going to be in a successful band, every member must constantly be working toward the same goal. This takes time to fully achieve – sometimes years – along with patience and a true love and dedication for it. But if you do it right, plan on leaving home for a long time, eating shitty food and having the time of your life.

Corey Warning (vocals) of The Graduate
Overcoming writer’s block

While writing our first album Anhedonia, we had around a dozen songs before pre-production and I was falling behind on lyrics with a case of writer’s block. One of the first things I do when I’m stuck is take a step back and look at what’s already in front of me. If I could toss something out without much regret, I usually get rid of it. If that doesn’t work, chance the subject. Before we wrapped up the album, I had about five versions of “The City That Reads” piled up with separate lyrics, all about different things. Don’t forece yourself to write about something if you’re just not feeling it. Changing up vocal melodies can spark new ideas, too. If you normally write lyrics before music, try switching it up. If you’re still stuck, take a break. Chances are, you’ve been spending too much time at the drawing board and need recharched. Go see a movie, sit in a park, read a book or listen to one of your favourite albums – get yourself inspired and motivated again. Finally, one of the best things you can do while writing is to letgo of inhibitions. Don’t hold back – sometimes all it takes is a little spark to lead to a major breakthrough.

Danny Stevens (Vocals) of The Audition
How to get rest on the road


“Getting sleep on the road is important, especially if you’re a singer. (Trying to hit notes after zero rest is a no-go.) If you’re like most bands, you’ll be touring in a van and need to get your etiquette down. In our van (an 11-seater), everyone as a set place they like to sleep. Bring your own pillow, but earplugs or an iPod are necessities to drown drunken snores and late-night band feuds. It’s pretty much impossible to get comfortable in a van, so just find your own zone. When you do get to crash somewhere where you can actually sleep horizontally, make the most of it. Try to avoid staying up all night raging. Just remember, it’s all part of the rite of passage.”

SOURCE: Alternative Press magazine

Learn From My Mistakes (advice for beginning musicians)


“The best advice I can give anybody – whether it’s with an instrument or their vocal instrument – is to find a place [to practice] where you don’t worry about any kind of outside opinion. It’s hard for people to get involved in art when they’re searching for someone else’s approval. As soon as somebody can learn how to grade themselves, whether they’re singing or playing guitar, that’s the best thing. Then it doesn’t matter if someone else notices what you’re dooing, because you’ll notice it and you’ll feel it. The worst thing you can do is anything to please anybody else.

BEN WEINMAN: (advice for beginning guitarists)

“First, slow down your right hand so you can catch up with your left. Most guitar players just play really fast with their right hand, but there is no real synchronization with the left. Next, be able to change strings and start on either a downstroke or an upstroke at any speed without flinching. Hold your pick exactly the same way when you play slow that you hold it when you play fast. Having to readjust your hand in order to play riffs at different speeds is a big setback.


“Play as many types of music as possible, so that you don’t find yourself in a situation where you can only play one type of song. I’m a bass player now, but I still play the guitar at home a lot, and the drums a lot as well. Don’t limit yourself to one kind of music or even one instrument. It’s nice to lift as many restrictions as possible.”


“No matter what, if you want to be a musician, it [takes] a lot of luck. But you can’t get that luck without showing that you deserve it. On the technical side, you need to practice, practice, and practice. It sounds really obvious, but it’s really true. The people that care about being good – that really strive to be good – those are the ones who ultimately succeed. Be in a band for the right reason: to be in a great band that has something very important to say; not to be famous or meet chicks or get cheap drugs. You have to do it because you really enjoy performing for people and sending out a message.


“Complete everything you start and everything you set out to do. That’s my advice. I think I figured it out late, but… If you’re going to talk the talk, you have to follow through on it. Don’t say, ‘Oh, I should really practice.’ Just practice. Don’t think about it. Don’t talk about it. Just do it.”


“Just practice. I think that’s what I need to do more of. I don’t practice that often. I’m always trying to write stuff. I should actually just play the guitar more.”


“It’s not so much about pushing limits and it is about pushing yourself. Just learn what feels comfortable for you and if that works, try to educate yourself on it. Teach yourself. That’s the only thing I can talk about. I don’t know any other way of doing it.”


“You really have to believe in what you’re doing. You don’t have to be afraid of the judgement of other people, so try to experiment with different things. Women, do not be afraid to show your femininity. There will always somebody saying, ‘Hey, you’re using your body!’ and stuff like that. And no matter what you do, someone will always have something to criticize. So don’t care about the others. Do whatever you like and whatever you really feel.”


“This is going to sound kind of weird, but it’s all [about what’s] in your heart. If you feel music, you are music, and it just comes out of you. That’s pretty much it. And usually the more you drink, the better it sounds. Your riffs become freakin’ gold as soon as you drink a couple of beers.”


“Music is to be enjoyed. It’s an art, it’s an expression, and it should be played with love and respect – and with huge amounts of fun, of course! What music is not is a vehicle for fame, recognition or notoriety. So in short, just have fun with it and keep it real.”


“Don’t goof off too much while you’re playing live. A lot of time, people will be hanging out by the drum riser while we’re playing, and I’ll just kind of goof around and make faces at them and stuff and totally lose track of what I’m doing, then play an extra beat or forget where I am in the song. That screws everything up, and it just sucks.”


“Don’t think that people are going to be impressed by how many notes you’re playing (on bass). They won’t be. Everything you do will probably go completely unnoticed. It can be very difficult, especially if you play in a ‘progressive’ band, not to want to provide a certain amount of shred. But you have to realize that your job is to lay down the bass and the base and nurture the chords first and foremost.”



“It’s important to explore different styles, whether it’s latin or even black metal – which I think some of the best drummers play – and to study a lot and listen a lot. I probably listen to music more than I play it.”


“Try to listen to as much music as possible because for us as musicians, it’s like reading a book – and you couldn’t go and do surgery without having the knowledge and background of the people who came before you. It’s so essential to understand how things broke from the blues to rock in the ‘50s to punk and metal. It’s just really important to me to know the roots of all this music we have now and understand the process of how we got to where we are today.”


“The one mistake I made when I was younger was that I didn’t practice enough. I really wish I would’ve grabbed my instrument and really taken it to heart. So just stick to your guns and practice a lot. When I was younger, I played drums in the jazz band and felt like it was the first real instrument I had accomplished. But by the time I hit eighth or ninth grade, I got really cocky, so don’t let your ego get too big because that can be a problem, too.”

SOURCE: Alternative Press Magazine