But when I did, it looked a lot like this.
My co-worker Chhaya just published a really thoughtful post about touring (and traveling for work) over at Liquid Sunshine. Unlike Chhaya, I never felt called to a life on the road, but I certainly understand outgrowing something you previously held dear. For me, it’s live performance, which so many people associate with the music, but I now find tedious. And it’s not all about travel, although I definitely did my share of that back in the band days.
The driving was fine, and the company was occasionally tolerable, provided I’d had enough coffee/booze/sleep. What always got me was the waiting around. I really hated dragging my shit into the club and being basically trapped there between soundcheck (if you were lucky to get one) and set time. Sure, you could walk around town, but there’s always the need/compulsion to get back to the venue. You could sit at the bar and drink, but if you have the relationship to alcohol that I have, that isn’t always the best idea. (I’m a perfectly jovial drunk, but the problem is if I start, I just keep right on going. This can lead to messy performances, which I really can’t stand.) So mostly you just roam around bored, every sticker on the walls confirming your understanding that there are simply too many bands out there.
You don’t really meet the best and the brightest on the road, either. Soundguys will talk you ear off about their new compressor and how they once ran front-of-house for Whitesnake. That’s if they talk to you at all; often they just mumble monosyllables. Until you spill beer into their monitors, that is. Then they demonstrate a quite colorful vocabulary.
Audiences, while often appreciative, are typically soused. They shout ridiculous shit at you (especially if you’re the frontperson). Sometimes they even get up onstage and step all over your pedals. Believe me, I’ve been tempted to react like Jay Reatard does in this here clip. Actually, I do recall getting a little testy back in the day. (If I caused any unanticipated dental work, you have my sincerest apologies.)
Also, the pay pretty much sucks for playing live. I’ve found I can much more easily subsidize my gear habit by mixing/mastering other people’s work. Don’t get me wrong, I have been paid pretty well for shows, but I always had to split it with other people! (Plus it was the old days.) Hmm, maybe I’m just selfish.
It’s true that there’s something exciting about the chemistry between the right players. I’ve been there before, and some pretty incendiary shit came out of it. Unfortunately, it’s a lot like relationships: the volatile ones usually produce the most passion, but are the hardest to sustain. Intensity can so easily slip into mutual antagonism.
The only downside to studio life these days is that there’s less value to recorded music. Pricing is pretty well fucked, with major stars setting out the online begging cup. But as Don Van Cleave of the Coalition of Independent Music Stores told me just yesterday, we’re only about seven years into the Digital Disruption. It will eventually stabilize. Or so we hope.
Another problem with studio work is that it really brings out your perfectionist tendencies. I still write what I consider to be interesting music that’s well-played, but since I have essentially endless amounts of time to revise and re-envision, I can take forever to release anything. I thought my new record, Northern Lights, was done, but now I think I’m gonna make some further alterations. I’m like Axl Rose but without the hair extensions. And I can play everything myself, ha!
Wow. That’s a lot of blathering. But I guess that’s what blogs are for.