THEY SAY that if you want to do the band-thing you have to write a bio. That people want to know more about you. Well, here it is: I woke up drunk this morning, shat twice, went to work, came home, and wrote this. This was an anomaly. Most mornings I only shit once.
But enough about me.
Last week I launched the arduous process of trying to book a gig in Boston. There are only two more places I want to play this year, O'Brien's and the Abbey Lounge. It was probably a mistake to tell the club's respective booking agents that we only want to play-out 3 or 4 times a year. In my mind that makes each gig special. However, the status quo approach is to play every week, build a fan base from your live shows, promote yourself until you hate playing-out, hate your band mates, bore your original fans, suck-up to an A&R rep just out of acne, make some money for a "team" of people relying on your favor, get famous for 14 months, get lied to, get burned, get broke and break-up. These booking agents must think we're a joke when I tell them we don't want to make a JOB out of what we love to do. But perhaps they haven't thought that far ahead. Nothing ever gets done in this system on merit. Merit has a one-eyed pyramid scheme on the back and/or Ulysses S. Grant on the cover.
The truth is this: You'll never get a gig if the booker doesn't know who your are. And if EVERYONE in the city, state, country, world doesn't know who you are then you had better go down to the club and meet the booker. And if you haven't found the right blabberhead to manage you then that blabberhead has to be ME because I'm the only extrovert in the band. And doggone it, people like me. Too bad I'm casual about selling the band, because CIVIL WAR II is a pretty special piece of punk art from song-to-song-to-packaging and when we DO play live we play like we're trying to commit suicide after every song, the room gets all tingly inside, and we never get the "golf clap."
How do you like our "bio" so far? (A: quit why you are cliched. SEE: This Is Dumb.)
The sad thing is that every band in the world thinks their shit is great when it's usually crap. I call it the "Rock Drug." The Rock Drug is that natural rush a "musician" gets when they get through playing a gig or hearing a song they've recorded and all the self-referential madness blurs the line between subjectivity and objectivity so that the artists' ego swells to the point of pretend handshaking, speech-making, and pseudo-babe taking until that natural drug gets rote and the heroin cliche kicks in. I hate musicians. There are two key things to remember if you want to make music and adhere to the laws of gravity: 1) Music is subjective. Even if that same, goddamn song that has been shoved down your corporate throat everytime you get into your car reminds you of your last, bitter break-up...you're GOING to LIKE that song because every time your hear it, it reminds of that time you were in your car, driving away, after the last bitter break-up. Just because YOU like the song you've just written, doesn't mean anyone else will. Ever. 2) It's all been done before. You and your little band did not invent the "E" "A" "D" progression no matter WHAT you're screaming and no matter how many tits you have in the band. Having said that, we do have a song whose only lyrics carries out pi to 32 places. But I'm quite confident that there's another band--maybe even a country band--playing folk music in the Yukon, that carries it out to 248.
(True Story: An A&R guy once asked a friend of mine "how many tits" he had in his band. He said he didn't have any. Satistically speaking this guy told him that in order to ensure financial success and net profit for the recording company the average number of tits in any one band should be 3. The A&R guy may have been drunk at the time, but regardless, my friend thought seriously about getting a boob job.)
So...aside from not promoting the band like normal carnivores, what else can a band do to bolster unpopularity? The first thing any ambitiousless artist should do if they want to be an unpopular band in Boston is to get banned from TT The Bear's Place. They've banned us twice. Once in 1993 and again in 1998. They said we were "too hard." My hunch is that Bonnie (whom I have never met) didn't approve of the band name. What do you expect from a club whose name is derived from a teddy bear moniker? I always hated that place anyway. The stage and bar are set up horizontally when the room should be designed vertically and unless you're precisely 10-feet in front of the stage, the bands all sound like shit. But it's easy to fool the college kids who are just trying to free-up some extra dopamine by rattling their inner-ear sacculus to loud guitars and drums as long as it's not too hard--whatever that means. But she wouldn't be the only one to take issue with the name. Supposedly our first gig at the old Causeway had a couple of protest callers and our live, acoustic performance on WMBR drew the ire of Aural Fixation's, Sue Safton who chided that the Phoenix (Boston's Lifestyle-Manipulation Guide) wouldn't print our band name and we would have to change it to P.F. Trap or something. Maybe Lars shouldn't have smashed his acoustic guitar on his punk-rock cinder block in the "on-air" studio. But technically, she was right. The Phoenix listed our very first gig as Penis Envy. I still can't figure that one out. Maybe Sue was privy to normal new band hazing that occurs among the scene illuminati. We weren't the first to have our first-gig band name butchered in the local press. It's as if Massachusetts Brand politics trickles down, corrupting all, including the scenesters. Cow-path rivers drain into delta-like rotaries and greet out-of-towners with a friendly, "Welcome to Boston! Get lost and go home."
We did have our share of fun with the first CD while playing a lot with the misfit brethren of Kermit's Finger, The Medveds, Pisscubes and others, until Lars went down with tinitus in 1999. But aside from a few gig's with "M" bands like MURDER JUNKIES and MURDER CITY DEVILS we remained relatively ostracized by the narcissistic, self-serving clique. Reviews were favorable. The band name accrued some twisted notoriety.
We were just incredibly bad at attending the right parties and meeting the right people and doing whatever it takes to please everyone but ourselves. So it is with above-tiny irony that I found myself in O'Brien's last week, trying to book a gig, when a party broke out. Everyone from the scene who knows me to see but doesn't know me by name was there. The girl who I used to see about my old office building that I once gave our new CD to, not knowing she was the lead singer of Sugabomb; the Nine's couple who once complimented my drumming in 1997 before I shaved my head; and Joanie, my favorite college radio DJ since moving here from Ann Arbor, Michigan in 1986. I followed her around the Rat one night in 1988 when she was young and--well, I suppose she was never "spry"--but I never talked to her. She stood right next to me at Ed's Annual Band Barbecue Party last year but I was too shy to introduce myself. Then last week while I was geeked-out at the corner of the bar re-reading a science book ("How the Mind Works" -- Steven Pinker) she sauntered over to confiscate the bar stool next to me. She was only there a second and looked at me briefly but I didn't say anything because she had a plateful of food waiting for her amongst her friends and I had Monday Mouth. Monday Mouth occurs when you've had such a good weekend that you don't want anything to do with people for 24 hours. Since I don't believe that rock-stars really exist, Joanie is the closest thing to it. We have never officially met. Next time.
Am I over-sharing? I am?! Good. Part of an adventure is going places you're not supposed to go.
The next time I rant we'll delve into the multiple psychological ramifications that surround the phonetic and semantic effects of the band name. We'll cover its origin and its history of manifestations in Los Angeles and Europe while also remarking on the palatial pleasure of teeth and tounge. Yes. There is a Penis Flytrap LA and a rumored Penis Flytrap UK, but no matter how you slice it, this gorgeous dance of lip-teeth-tongue is quite the love/hate affair. With more to come.
By the way, here's how to be "forward thinking" and change the Corporate Rock Paradigm:
1) Stop promoting bands through constant touring. The band van is dead. The world is purportedly globalized now and only dependent on battlefield "oil" in order to supplicate to powers of the Old World concept of transportation. Bands don't need to go city to city for 7 years developing a fan base based on fickle corportate promotion because in the future NO ONE IS GOING TO LEAVE THEIR HOUSE!
2) Promote bands who have a vast repertoire of good songs by moving 30% to 70% of their songs to listeners for FREE. Extend the pool of contracted musicians to include artists who record at home, such as middle-aged mothers, septuagenarian grandfathers, and teenage rich kids. This is what I call "Bedroom Guitar" TM. The natural process of this shift in strategem will de-emphasize "celebrity" and open up a Titanic size iceberg of genius-emulated musical talent--currently broiling underground--that will exponentially exceed the aggregate value of the current system which features fewer artists, with less career stamina. Promote the home recordings of these bands and individuals on the internet by putting out "sets of songs" two or three times a year.
3) Hype/promote rare live performances of groups of these artists and sell the concept that although the audience has never seen them before. "You may never see them again." De-emphasize celebrity. Merit the songs. Make your makeshift sustenance off of toilet seat covers and T-shirts. Be there for your wife, kids, sex slaves, monkeys. Keep putting out music and live your own life.
There you go. I've changed the world. Good night. Fuck you.