Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Secure in My Basement A Drummer Learns All Over Again

Wanted: Rehearsal space. Must be secure, cheap, and warm in winter. This ad is fictitious, but a common site if you are a working musician looking over the want ads. A solid practice space is something to hold on to at all costs.

There are building owners across Milwaukee who take a risk and build out spaces for musicians. The buildings are generally in so-so shape. They are sometimes in a transition period, going from bad to good, or vice versa. That's when you can catch a property owner willing to accommodate the artists.

My least favorite space was an old sausage factory on the banks of the Milwaukee river, at Humboldt street. It was unheated, and there were no bathrooms. It was dank, dark and scary. Our space was big enough for two drum kits, but only one band. I paid $50 per month in order to play my drums alone, when the band that shared the space wasn't rehearsing. In the months that I was in that space, I never saw the other band. I had lots of alone time. The building is long gone.

I spent a couple of years rehearsing in Cudahy. We rented a space in a home that was once filled with cats. Imagine the smell. My bass drum still stinks, 12 years and lots of scrubbing later. It was the perfect place to play, aside from the cat piss smell. To the west of the building, there was a parking lot. To the south, a vacant lot, and to the north a busy street. Nobody ever complained, and we had eight musicians blasting away.
Nothing compares to playing in your own home. If you have a flash of creativity, you can run downstairs and bang away on the drums. If you get the chance to host the band for rehearsals, you don't have to do the hauling.

I just acquired a full-volume practice space that is ten minutes from my home. I get to play my drums as loud as I like, and as hard as I want to, for the first time in years. In the past, I had to use Hot Rods, and only got the time to work the set. I had no opportunity to be creative, because we practiced in places that couldn't handle full volume rehearsals. Now, it's just me and my drums. It's been a long, long time baby, and I'm back.