WARNING: Starting a Rock Band Can be HAZARDOUS to Your Health!
So you wanna be a rock'n'roll musician? You wanna be in a cool rock band? Do you have what it takes? Are you ready to ROCK? Well, prepare to GET DIRTY! LET'S GO!
by Paul Diamond Blow
If that doesn’t stop you from wanting into the brotherhood (and sisterhood) of bandom, then here’s my advice for starting a band…
To start off, it is actually easier to join a band than it is to start one. If you are a drummer or a bass player you will be in high demand (especially if you are good). Starting a band from scratch is never easy; you’ve got to find people that can play, have equipment, and most importantly—that share your vision of what this new band will be all about. A band is like a five-way marriage (or four or three), and these days it’s hard enough for a two-way marriage to last; just imagine what it’s like when you’ve got four or five egos/personalities involved. The best way to find other musicians to play with (if you don’t already know any) is…
Look in the local music rags
Most local music magazines have a classified ad section for musicians and bands. Sometimes they even let you post an ad for free if you are a musician looking for a band. This is how I got my start in bands; I placed an ad in the local rag saying something like “Bass player looking for cool punk band into Motorhead, blah blah blah.” I got plenty of calls from bands, and finally (after checking out four or five bands) I found one that I liked. There are also the internet classifieds, such as Craigslist, where placing a musician ad is always free.
When placing an ad be sure to include what kind of music you want to play and some bands you like—your influences. You can also peruse the ads to see if any bands in your genre are looking for new members. After I joined my first band I met scores of fine musicians from playing shows—some of them I formed bands with years later. I never had to place an ad again!
If you want to start a band from scratch (you’re probably a guitar player/singer), it’s a bit harder finding like-minded individuals who you can gel with. You’ve got to make sure that everyone is on the same page as far as the musical style and direction of the band. If you want to quit your job and go on a three-month tour of America, that may not sit well with the bass player who just got a job at Microsoft. Make sure you get bandmates who have the same goals musically—it will allow your band to last longer.
Things to look for in bandmates:
• Must be able to play their instrument: Nothing ruins the sound of a band more than a sloppy drummer or a bass player who keeps hitting bad notes… not to mention those guitarists who only know one chord.
• Must have decent gear: Especially if you want to play live shows! I hate it when I play my guitar through a Marshall half-stack and the other guitar player shows up with a cheap Peavy amp and a $200 guitar that goes out of tune and breaks strings every fifteen minutes.
• Must have transportation: I refuse to pick up the drummer and load his stuff for him whenever we practice or play a gig.
• Must have some sort of a job: Well, actually they don’t, but they do need to be able to pay their own way (band rent is expensive). No free loaders allowed!
• No hardcore drug addicts: It’s hard to play in a band when your guitar is always in the hock shop because you needed a fix.
• No flakes: Well, this applies to everyone except drummers (who are all flakes). I can’t deal with someone who is irresponsible (doesn’t show up for gigs or practices) or just plain psycho. Not good, Maynard.
• I must actually like the person: It’s no fun being in a band with people you hate.
If a musician fills the bill, they get added bonus points for:
• A van: It’s cool to have someone with a van, to move all your stuff to the gigs.
• A house with a soundproofed basement: It’s excellent to not have to pay band rent.
• Tattoos, nose piercings, blue hair: Well, not really. But it is nice to have members who look cool. In my current band I make everyone wear dog collars and black leather.
• A rich girlfriend: Hey, how else are you gonna finance that killer new CD?
Those are all my tips for putting together a rock band. Most bands don’t last too long; over a year is above average. Now, if you can deal with the bad ears, diseases, and other assorted negatives, go for it and make some noise with the boys!