Monday, February 28, 2011

Recording your Band Rehearsals Every Night

Record your Rehearsal
When my new band gets together we record everything that we play. The band is in the "crawl before you can walk" stage. Any musical part we come up with, no matter how small, could end up as a chorus, or verse. As confident as we are that we will remember that tiny part the next time we get together, we don't trust our memories to chance. We record it. We may hammer a part for a while, then hit the record button, but we always record a part before we move on to the next thing.

Acquiring a good quality digital recorder is no longer a matter of spending big bucks. After all, you simply want to capture the basics, so you can work on the parts later. The last thing that we do before we break for the night is to download the recordings. We each take a copy home and work on the parts before the next rehearsal. A band that cannot devote three nights per week to rehearse would be wise to record everything that they come up with. That way, you can razz your band mate if they fail do prepare for practice.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

How to Interview a Band or Musician

How to interview a band
I have been interviewed many times over the years, by local and nationally recognized writers. There is nothing more exciting than seeing your photo on the cover of an online or printed music magazine, and reading your words on the pages inside. What I have come to learn however, is that writers tend to ask the same questions. Good writers and not so good writers would be wise to avoid certain questions.

My favorite interviews tend to be the ones where I can tell that the author did solid research before meeting the band. They checked into our past projects, listened to our our disks, attended our shows, or went so far as to interview our friends and family members before coming to us. If I'm squirming during an interview because someone just asked me a question that I didn't expect, I'm usually impressed. If I have to pause and think before answering a question, it's a probably a great question.

The following is a bit of what I encountered during past interviews, or interactions with the press or promotional writers.
  • There was a time when the writer started the interview by asking us what the name of our band was, after he had set up the meeting a month prior. You would think that he would have looked up our name, or listened to the CD he was given by our record label.

  • The writer who just had to interview us in a bar, even though it was nine a.m. on a Sunday morning. Milwaukee does have bars that are open that early, but trudging out of my house on a cold winter morning to go to a smoky bar for a band interview didn't put me in a great mood. Was the writer trying to put us in some sort of agitated mental state?

  • I recall a staff writer for a national magazine who actually tracked the previous bands of each member of our current project, even the trivial stuff that went nowhere. That was impressive. This is why some people rise above their peers.

Ask Good Questions When Interviewing a Band

I never want to hear the words "What are your musical influences?" during an interview ever again. Do I answer that by telling you the first albums I purchased, then move on to the live shows I attended? Do I talk about the high school buddies that I jammed with, the musicians that I was jealous of, the songs that my mother played on her record player? Do I talk about the horrid 70's music that I was forced to listen to while I stocked grocery store shelves as a teen ager? I grew up on prog rock, but played in a hardcore band. Do you think that the fans of my band want to know that I loved ELP? This question still comes up, and I wish it would die. It's as bad as the next question that I never want to be asked again.

"Describe your sound." Aren't you supposed to describe our sound to your readers? Aren't you writing this piece? Aren't you the one being paid to paint a picture for your readers? The next time someone asks me to describe my sound, I'm going to tell them that it's a mix of spoken word and ambient sounds recorded on a subway platform, just to see if they actually listened to our disk before sitting down with us. If they nod their head in agreement, the interview is over.

Don't write about who I worked with in the past. Who cares about the people I worked with in the past. Milwaukee is the most incestuous musical town I know of. If we stayed in it this long, we probably worked with dozens of musicians. That's what we do, we work with others. It's how we learn, it's how we stay fresh.

I don't want to read the words "The band has stayed busy, despite their breaking up 14 years ago." What you are really saying is "This band broke up 14 years ago, but I have to interview them and make them seem topical and plugged in to the current scene." You don't have to do that. Tell your readers that the band broke up 14 years ago, and they are getting together to have some fun. The fans who loved them 14 years ago will understand.

Finally, get me to laugh. Say something funny to me. Bring doughnuts to the interview. Pick up the tab. Have dinner with the band, and space your questions over the course of the evening. I'll give you more, if you just give me the time and respect.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Drummer Jokes That Are Funny | A Drummer's Perspective

Drummer JokeI have heard so many drummer jokes in the past 25 years. Some are funny, some hurt, but most allow for the word drummer to be exchanged with the words guitar player or singer. I have searched the web for the best drummer jokes, and really it boils down to the same jokes about the riser being level, and how we aren't really musicians, etc.

Drummer and Guitar Player Jokes

I did a simple search using the words drummer jokes, found dozens of jokes, then did the same for guitar player jokes. It was amazing. So many were the same. The one about the pizza delivery driver, the joke about how we don't know when to come in, or putting sheet music in front of one of them to get them to play softer. Some have nothing to do with our ability, such as "How can you tell when a drummer is following you? You hear his knuckles dragging."

If anything, I do like the musician jokes that involve St. Peter at the pearly gates of heaven. Those jokes say more about how hard it is to make a living in music, or how we musicians are treated pretty poorly sometimes. It's the life we choose, so we have to joke about it sometimes.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Riverside Theater Sections and Seating Areas | What's The Best?

Riverside Theater
The Riverside Theater has been around for decades. It survived a major fire, the television revolution, and the demolition ball. The best place to sit at the Riverside Theater depends on what you are viewing.

The Riverside Theater has four sections on the main floor. The balcony also has four sections, and there are 16 box seats in the wings.

The Best Place to Sit at the Riverside Theater

For a concert or comedy, sit past row J, as the venue floor starts to elevate there. Another great spot is the first couple of rows in the balcony. The balcony hangs over around row s on the main floor, so if you are in the first few rows, it’s as if you are sitting around 17 rows from the stage, but elevated.

The box seats in the wings can be nice sometimes, but I don’t like those seats during theatrical performances. Those seats allow you to see the wings of the stage, which can ruin the fantasy of a theatrical production when you see the actors waiting to enter or exit. For concerts, the sound is not the best in those sections, but you do get an unobstructed view of the stage from there.

The orchestra sections to the far left and right at the Riverside Theater do provide adequate views of the stage, but beware of pillars, or obstructions. I enjoyed the sound of a concert when I sat one seat from the right end, in row x.

The balcony extends all the way to row BB, and that can make you feel quite far from the stage. I would rather sit far right or left on the Orchestra level, than find myself in rows W through BB in the center balcony.

Years ago, I sat in the orchestra pit at the Riverside. I don’t know if they still have pit seating, as I haven’t seen it set up in many years. The pit seating is as close as you can get to the stage, but the sound from that area is not so good. You are too close to the stage to hear the p.a. system, and so you may only hear the stage mix. That’s the sound the performers hear, and that may not be optimal for the fan.