Friday, June 6, 2008

Random music #13.

Music writing lesson #13.

Local bands will go out of their way to hurt themselves. You probably can't get them to put the scissors down, but you might ask them to stop making the stabbing motions at their wrists.

It was a rough week in the world of music journalism. Last week, I was reminded again why writing about local music is sometimes less fun than writing about washed up rockers. I did a piece on a local horror punk outfit, that's a fun change of pace from the usual pop/punk/faux jazz fusion stuff that shows up.

The interview was set. The photographer was scheduled. Half the band showed up. Half decided to stay home. Neither the pictures or the interview was as wonderful as it could be. Possibly realizing it would be a good idea to have some involvement in the article, one of the musicians sent me some pictures and a request to call another member by some jolly pirate nickname.

I said, no. Not only that, I gave him a list of reasons why I couldn't use the pictures. They were my favorites... First, they sucked. They were the wrong resolution, the wrong color and the band appeared to be drunk in one shot. The beer bottles in front of them and in the hand of the lead singer weren't particularly helpful.

The article ran. It was what it was, but not terrible. The helpful musician who sent the photographs, his wife decided to send me a note explaining how I'd mis-characterized the band in the article she didn't read. I won't say that he had her contact me, but you know... it would tend to look that way.

I called her on it, told her it looked like she didn't read the article, as she missed major portions of it, including the opening paragraph. I suggested her husband would have done better and gotten some input if he'd behaved like he gave a flying fuck.

This is why writing about the washed up rocker is sometimes a lot more gratifying. Most of the time, the bass player shows up when he's supposed to. His people get you what you need and at the end of the call, they say, "Hey, hope to see you at the show." They don't send their wives to bitch if they're feeling pissy about not getting what they want.

But I still told her that I thought they were interesting and neither her bullshit or her husband's had changed my opinion of the band. I made it a point to tell the lead singer, one of the two who showed up to talk and be photographed, to keep me informed about another show.

A lot of local bands fill their heads full of mythology about how playing music is going to be. Too many of them think because a few people come to a few shows, they've arrived. They drink the kool-aid even before it's been mixed with water.

To a degree, as a music writer, you have to be willing to overlook the casual rudeness, the idiotic posing and the strange egos -unless they pull this stuff during the interview, then by all means, "it's showtime." I think you have to be willing to tell them when they're doing it wrong, when they haven't got their shit together, when they're shooting themselves in the foot.

Like Lester Bangs said, "Be honest and be merciless."

But you don't have to call anybody a cocksucker.

They don't have to listen. They can continue to behave like clueless jackasses and eventually, they'll be boring their fellow gas station employees with stories about what it was like to be in a punk band ten years ago when the music scene was still cool.

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