It's the third week of January. By now, if you're like everyone else we know, you've broken your New Year's resolution -- popped that Vicodin, lost your gym membership card, hit the drive-through at Jack in the Box. We know a guy who resolved not to make any resolutions -- even he went back on his word.
So let's make a deal. Clean slate. Do-over. And this time, let's think big when it comes to making resolutions. Don't just change your personal habits, change your life. Don't count carbs, make goals. Isn't there something you've always wanted to do, to be? Well, now you can, with our handy Resolution Guide. In less than one year, you can be well on your way to an exciting career in -- okay, we broke our resolution to quit watching late-night cable. Anyhow, take a look. We vow to come see your band and eat at your restaurant. Really. We can keep a promise. -- Amy Silverman
So you wanna be . . . a rock star
Hey, readers! If you find yourself fantasizing about the life of a rock musician on career day, remember that thanks to reality television and rising crime statistics, there are a lot of lazier approaches to fame, fortune and overindulgence. So for any air guitarists and desk drummers out there not prepared to slog through thankless gigs for poor compensation and sleeping on amps in cramped vans traveling cross-country, now's the time to consider a less daunting fantasy occupation. Like "Yes Man." Or "Professional Widow." Or "Getting Shot Out of a Cannon Guy."
Still there? Well, if you have the head for success, and the stomach for disappointment (and a talent for convincing people you have talent), you may indeed be ready to rock. If you responded with a well-timed "fuck off, journalist," GREAT! You're well on your way to ingesting your own star-quality vomit. But what to do next?
Before you go enlisting others to flesh out your shallow dream of stardom, decide a direction for the band you are about to put together. Unless you want to get stuck performing your drummer's tentative stabs at songwriting (you oldsters might recall this as the singular reason Cream broke up), it's crucial to establish yourself early on as the creative spearhead of the group. Adam Trombley, singer-songwriter for the group Until August, avoided any confusion by recording home demos that other players could learn his songs from. "With a demo," he says, "you have a concrete idea of what you're about musically, and a potential to frighten away players who want to jam to Dave Matthews."
If you can play all the instruments yourself, you might want to advance straight to the final recording stage without ever involving any superfluous personnel. Such was the case for Scottsdale singer-songwriter Adam Panic. Panic recorded his first two EPs before he was 18, and he managed to do without a band until his recordings went into regular rotation on KEDJ-FM 103.9. This won him a coveted slot at the annual EDGEfest, forcing him to borrow members of The Format's touring band to back him. This is what is known in the music business as a "good problem."
"I'm just going through people who know people," Panic says of the inevitable auditions. "I don't like putting an ad up in Zia's. I seriously wasted so much time going to people's houses in Peoria. One keyboard player had a month to learn two of my songs, and all he wanted to do was talk about his psychological problems."
Having heart-to-heart talks with potential members at the outset may be a time saver later on when you find yourself stuck in a recording studio, or worse, traveling on the road with a band you can't stand. Bob Hoag, founding member of Pollen and The Go Reflex, runs the highly successful Flying Blanket Studios in Mesa, where he has recorded every local band mentioned thus far in this primer and scores of others. He's had a front-row seat to every foible that can self-destruct a new band. And "traveling for the first time together as a band to record out of state" tops his list.
"I had a young band from California that had never spent more than a few days together. They learned many special lessons in the 21 days they spent here in Arizona. One, they really don't like each other. Two, they should not be in a band together. And three, if you smack your guitar player in the face, he will chase you around the studio parking lot with a 2-by-4 until he catches you, and he will hit you with it. And I learned that as a producer, you shouldn't let a band stay at your house for 21 days." The details of that lesson are too gruesome for Hoag to recount, but some of you good-hearted fans who offer to let touring musicians crash at your house, please note that he is still haunted by "the psychic imprint of discarded underwear on my couch."
Of the recording process, Hoag advises young bands to ditch the concept that you're just making a quick demo with which to get signed. "Every recording you make should be a 'real' recording, something you can listen to and be excited about," he says. "If you're doing it for other reasons, they're the wrong ones. Come in with three or four songs of such a quality that you'd be happy to put them on an album."