"The Band"

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"The Band"

Postby Flack » May 1st, 2010, 9:12 pm

In the late 90s I came in contact with a band that I thought was very talented. At the time I was running my own music magazine and got really involved with this band. A few years later, after moving back to Oklahoma, I flew the band out to record an album in my makeshift home recording studio. Let's just say the experience and the results were less than stellar. I have been working on chronicling this experience into book form for some time now. The main thing holding me back is, although I haven't talked to any of the band members in several years now, I feel hesitant in writing negative things about people I at one time considered to be friends. If I do end up writing this book, I will definitely end up changing the name of the band and the band members to avoid embarrassing them and/or causing confrontation. I may even write is as "based on a true story", so that I can change minor, unimportant details to make things flow better. I know it's not computer or technology related, but I think it would be a really good story. It's something several people have been encouraging me to write for several years now.
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Re: "The Band"

Postby Flack » May 11th, 2010, 12:37 pm

Does this one not sound interesting? It is the one that is closest to completion at the moment. Unfortunately, it has the least cross-over with my current audience.
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Re: "The Band"

Postby Gapporin » May 11th, 2010, 1:57 pm

I pulled into Nazareth, was feelin' 'bout half past dead...

Oh wait. Wrong band.

I'd read it. As you probably already know, I'm about as much into music as I am video games, so a story like that would be a good read for me. It sounds like the "bands on the verge of breakdown" documentaries that you always see ("Some Kind Of Monster", etc.).
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Re: "The Band"

Postby Flack » May 11th, 2010, 5:05 pm

Pretty much, except at the end of this one, they break down. :)

The biggest problem I am having with it at the moment is, it's not very funny. It's very factual and historically correct, but it's not entertaining. I will have to post a few excerpts soon and see what you (and anyone else who cares to chime in) think.
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Re: "The Band"

Postby Scarylad » May 13th, 2010, 12:43 am

I think it sounds really good. I have alot of experience with hanging out with bands. My dad is still in his band from highschool. All of my friends were in bands. I never learned to play an instrument, so I was roadie/booker for a while in high school. I love reading stories about amatuer band adventures.
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Re: "The Band"

Postby FalseGod » May 15th, 2010, 8:24 pm

Considering I know who the band is, and I know the story, I still say you should do it. I think the based on a true story would be the best way to do it. You can just call it complete fiction and just make up more story around it too. I thought the story was pretty funny when you told me a long time ago, so there is some humor there.
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Re: "The Band"

Postby Flack » June 14th, 2010, 2:17 pm

I decided over the weekend that this is the next book I will complete.
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Re: "The Band"

Postby Earl Green » June 15th, 2010, 12:51 am

The more I think about it, I think this is probably the best one the go with - best to break the mold and write about something not-so-computer-related early, lest you wind up trying to break that mold on the tenth book instead of the third, and having people go "WTF?"
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Re: "The Band"

Postby Flack » July 15th, 2010, 12:50 am

Here is a rough, rough draft of Chapter One. I need to expand a few sections and rework at least one major area. Let me know what you think about the voice, writing style, and if you would want to read more from a book that started out this way.

--


(07.15.10-00.47)

Like most Americans my age, I can tell you exactly where I was and what I was doing when I first heard about the terrorist attacks against the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. I can also tell you where I was when the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City had been bombed, when the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded, and when Michael Jackson died.

And, for that matter, I can tell you the exact moment I decided I never, ever wanted to work in the music industry ever again. In the fall of 2002, my family’s life was turned upside down when we decided to temporarily convert a portion of our house into a make shift music studio, and invite a struggling band to record and live with us for two weeks. One day near the end of those two weeks, while my wife and I hid in our closet eating Taco Bell tacos while trying to avoid the madness that had overtaken our home, I looked my wife right in the eye and whispered, “I never, ever want to work in the music industry ever again.”

There are hundreds of books out there documenting the bands that made it big after years of hard work and dedication. Other books have been written to champion the men behind the music, the scores of record producers and record engineers who have spent years making good bands sound great, and turning great bands into rock stars. Those are books about survival, perseverance, and above all, victory.

Unfortunately, this is not one of those books. This is a book about heartbreak. It’s a book about friendships made and broken. It is about chaos and conflict and self-destruction. It is a reminder that even if your heart is in the right place, sometimes that is not enough. The moral of this book is that you can lead a horse to water, but you may want to drown him by the time the two of you get there. If nothing else, I hope this is the most entertaining book about failure you ever read.

--

I’ve been into music pretty much as long as I can remember. About a year before I was born, my dad was stationed at an Air Force base in Greenland, and (among other duties) served as the base’s overnight disk jockey. I was eight-years-old when Santa Claus delivered my first record player. It was white and plastic and came with small detachable speakers. Being the thoughtful guy that he is, Santa also left three albums for my listening enjoyment: A Chipmunk Christmas, the soundtrack to Smokey and the Bandit, and Rick Springfield's "Working Class Dog," which contained the hit single "Jessie's Girl." I can remember sitting my room, playing those records and pretending like I myself was a radio DJ. It didn't take long for me to get bored with Alvin, Simon and Theodore singing Christmas classics, and soon I was regularly rummaging through my parents’ large record collection to find new music. While other kids in my neighborhood were listening to things like, well, Alvin and the Chipmunks, I was rocking out to Blondie, The Who, and Queen.

By the end of second grade I was getting a regular allowance, which I spent each week on 45s (record singles). My parents' influence was obvious in many of those early purchases (I had pretty much every single Queen ever released), but I also started buying some of the songs I was hearing on the radio at that time as well. Stacked next to "We Will Rock You," "Bohemian Rhapsody," and "Another One Bites the Dust" was the J. Giles Band's "Centerfold," Eddie Rabbit's "I Love a Rainy Night," and Joan Jett's "I Love Rock and Roll."

Around that same time, I witnessed the debut of MTV. For weeks, my sister and I sat glued to the television, seeing for the first time many of the artists we had before only heard on the radio.

Feed a kid enough rock music and MTV and eventually he’ll want to pick up a guitar. Unfortunately I didn’t have a guitar, but I did have a tennis racket that doubled for one. My parents owned a combination VCR/Camera in the early 80s, and there are several embarrassing video clips of my friends and I making our own music videos. In one, I “play” both the guitar and the “air keyboards”, while my buddy Andy backed me up on drums (a pile of pillows). There are also videos of my friends and I lip synching to songs from Michael Jackson’s Thriller and trying our hardest to moonwalk.

In 1982, Santa came through once again and bought me my first guitar. It was red and acoustic and came from Sears. I also got a Mr. Microphone and, probably more for my parents' sake than my own, my first pair of headphones. Mr. Microphone was a real microphone (invented by informercial legend Ron Popeil) that allowed you to broadcast your voice over FM radio. The only problem with Mr. Microphone was that you had to physically hold the transmit button down while talking into it, which made singing and playing guitar at the same time impossible. If I remember correctly, we rectified that problem with a few wraps of duct tape. I don’t know what the range of a Mr. Microphone was, but I have often wondered if my neighbors were ever subjected to any of my off-key vocal performances.

Eventually with the guitar came guitar lessons. I wanted to be the next Jimi Hendrix, but my guitar instructor had other plans. I spent several months learning basic chords and song structures (none of which sounded like Led Zeppelin, I might add). Later that year (third grade, I believe) my school had a “musical show and tell”. I brought my guitar to school that day and performed a terrible rendition of the hit folk ballad "Down in the Valley." I realized that day there was no direct path between what I was doing and what Eric Clapton was doing, so I quit.

I made the transition from my parents' music to modern heavy metal at a pretty early age. Between MTV and older kids in the neighborhood I was exposed to bands like Twisted Sister, the Scorpions, and Iron Maiden while I was still in grade school. I will never forget the time I first heard Motley Crue's "Shout at the Devil." My neighbor Doug's older brother Greg had just purchased the album, and one day after getting off the school bus a few of us went over to his house to listen to it. The album cover was flat black with a shiny black pentagram across the cover that only showed up when light reflected off it. When the opening track referred to us as "Children of the Beast" and urged us to "Shout at the Devil," I was legitimately scared (I was too young to understand slick marketing.) I actually ruined my first cassette copy of Shout at the Devil by trying to make it play backwards and see if there were any backwards messages hidden on the album. In my defense, I did get the cassette to play backwards … I just was never able to get it to play forwards again.

In seventh grade I got my second guitar, a hand-me-down electric guitar from my uncle. It was a no name Stratocaster rip off with a bad sunburst finish, one any budding country and western guitarist would have been honored to own it. Personally, I thought it looked ridiculous. The thing’s only saving grace was that it was electric. I talked my Mom into buying me a small amplifier that with a built in distortion button, and all of a sudden I was in heaven. While that old red acoustic guitar may have been good for playing “Down in the Valley,” this piece of crap Strat clone would screech, scream and whine with the volume cranked up to 10 as I tried my best to learn the riffs of Guns and Roses, Metallica, and Black Sabbath.

Guitar players attract other guitar players, and it wasn’t long before I began meeting other axe slingers at my school. Compared to their rigs, mine was downright embarassing. In an attempt to update my guitar I stripped everything off of it, painted the knobs silver using spray paint, and painted everything else black. Although in my opinion it now looked much cooler, it had a few unintended side effects -- for example, every time you held it black paint would rub off onto your hands and clothes. Additionally, after wiring everything back together, some of the guitar's electronics quit working.

The more guitar players I met the more I realized that all of them were better musicians than I was. My friends who had never picked up a guitar were impressed by my ability to strum along with "Iron Man" and "Smoke on the Water," but other guitar players could smell a poseur from a mile away. I had the long hair, the cool jean jacket and a sweet silver-and-black guitar, but I was missing a few things these other guys had, like dedication, persistance, and quite frankly, talent.

Believe it or not, somehow I ended up in two “bands” in high school. One of them didn’t last more than one practice session, and the other one probably shouldn’t have. The second band consisted of all of my friends at the time. Jeff was going to be our drummer. He bought a set of drums from another kid in the neighborhood, but since didn’t get any drumsticks with it, at our first practice he used rulers instead. Our other friend, Scott, could play any song on the bass as long as it only contained one note. And then there was me, a guitar player who couldn’t play, and kept turning things up louder and louder to try and cover up that fact. I think all three of us had hoped one of us would end up being talented, but that was not the case. Years later, the three of us still laugh about those days.

Eventually the shoddy wiring job I had performed on that guitar finally gave out. I didn’t even bother fixing it, but I did keep it on the slim chance that someday, I might need a guitar to smash onstage. That day never came.
I didn't get my first “real” guitar until my sophomore year of college. Between my freshman and sophomore years of school I got a job at Oklahoma Graphics that paid $6.50/hour and had the opportunity for massive amounts of overtime (sometimes 48 hours a week of time of over time, at time and a half). For an eighteen-year-old living at home with no bills to speak of I felt like a millionaire and began spending money like one. I bought a home stereo, a CD changer, two giant speakers, a giant car stereo system, and dozens of other high dollar items.

I also bought a guitar. One of my professors mentioned that he had an Ibanez guitar for sale. The name itself didn’t impress me, but it looked a lot like the Les Paul that Slash from Guns and Roses played, which sold me. We shook hands and I agreed to buy the guitar for $200. I told him I would bring the cash to school the following day.

The next day, with the cash burning a hole in my pocket, I met my professor at school and bought the guitar. As I was carrying the guitar at to my car I realized I had forgot something in the classroom. As I doubled back and approached the doorway, I could hear my professor talking to a couple of other students, laughing about the deal. I heard him telling them that the guitar wasn't worth $200 -- in fact, he referred to my new Ibanez as the "I Been Had." Deflated, I went and placed the guitar in my car.

(For what it's worth, that guitar has become one of my favorites over the years. I've had several musicians compliment me on its sound, and one even borrowed it for a studio recording. "I been had," indeed!)

I spent the next couple of years picking up where I had left off, playing along to bands like White Zombie and Fear Factory by myself in my room and honing my skills enough to where I could pass for an entry level rhythm guitarist. I never was able to pull off a guitar solo, mine or anyone else's. I felt the music, but for some reason my fingers didn't.

While working at Pizza Hut in 1994, I met a fellow guitarist named Toby who was really into guitar. Sometimes after work the two of us would hang out at his house (a mobile home he shared with a few other pizza delivery drivers) and Toby would sit on his couch playing his electric guitar, even when it wasn't turned on and plugged in, just for the practice. Toby was really, really into playing the guitar. One of Toby’s greatest moments was when his band played a cover of Poison’s “Talk Dirty to Me” at his high school talent show. In the video, Toby had a bright pink guitar and gigantic, teased blond hair. Toby showed me a video recording of the performance once, and I told him he should probably stop showing it to people.

Not only did Toby have a guitar, but he also had a multitrack four-track recorder. Multitracking is a a technique that allows musicians to record and overlap multiple tracks of music, one at a time, without overwriting or erasing the previous tracks. This revolutionary style of recording was invented by Les Paul. While recording studios use physically larger tape reels, home multitracking machines called four-tracks (because they can record up to four tracks of audio) were released. A four-track records four separate audio tracks on a normal cassette by using the left and right channels of both sides of the tape at the same time. Four-track recorders are ideal for one-man projects. With the ability to record multiple tracks at different times, a single musician could theoretically play the drums, rewind the tape, play the guitar, rewind the tape, play the bass guitar, rewind the tape, and finally add vocals. That way, you can record horrible music without having to involve other people. Toby played his acapella version of "Stand By Me" for me, but while listening to it, my mind was elsewhere. With a four-track recorder, I could finally achieve my dreams and become a rock star.

By the spring of 1995 I had saved up enough cash to purchase my own four-track recorder, and over the next few months I purchased the other necessary equipment to make my dreams come true: a bass guitar, a microphone, and a $20 drum machine that I found at a garage sale. Unfortunately what I didn't have was songs. Not a single one. Not even an idea for one. In retrospect I guess that's kind of a backwards way to record an album. What kind of musician has nothing to say?

The songs for my album came slowly, and most of them were stupid. One song was all about Taco Bell. For the record, “bean burrito” rhymes with “Cheesarito”. Another track, "Don't Take My Picture," was about a friend of mine who didn't like having his picture taken. There was "The Ballad of OJ," which chronicled OJ Simpson's trial, and "Mad Melon," a goofy little ditty dedicated to watermelon schnapps. My friend Jeff and I wrote Mad Melon while sitting around drinking the stuff. If you drink enough of it, you can get “Mad Melon” to rhyme with “Bob Dylan”. And then there was the album's title track, "You Never Told Me (You Were a Leper)," which tells the tale of a man's love with a leper that falls apart, one piece at a time.

If ever there were a crash course in the problems with low-cost recording, this was it. My $10 Radio Shack microphone sucked, and my $20 garage sale drum machine didn't even sound like it was worth $20. The songs were silly and comical and lo-fi, and somehow throughout the recording process I had fooled myself into thinking they were actually good. Using my computer skills I whipped up an album cover, which included one of my friend Scott’s paintings on the front and the lyrics to all the songs on the inside, and began duplicating copies of the tape, intending to sell them. I bought thirty blank cassette tapes for the initial run and made copies on my wife's dual cassette boom box. Those thirty copies would have to hold me over until word got out and I could really ramp up the duplication process.

Around the time I finished recording the album, some friends of mine were throwing a party. This party became the listening party for my new album. As someone inserted the cassette and it began to play, I could see it on everyone’s faces. The album was horrible. For the first time, I could hear it away from my computer and my safety zone. The recording quality was horrible, and my vocals were worse. A few of the songs had catchy guitar riffs, but for each thing that was right there were a hundred things that simply didn’t work.

Turns out, I never needed more than thirty copies. The best review I got was from a friend who told me, "There were a couple of parts that didn't suck." That was being kind; it did suck. All of it. Limitations with my equipment (and my voice) had prevented me from putting down on tape what I was hearing in my head. A lot of what was finally recorded was simply deemed "good enough" at the time, when in reality it wasn't. Somewhere out in my garage I still have a few remaining unsold copies of the album.

As I lamented the failure of my album to my wife, she told me to stick to where my talents lie. She told me I was a great writer, and maybe my destiny lie in writing about music instead of performing it. Additionally, during the recording process what I found that I enjoyed more than the performing itself was the technical part of recording -- the solving of problems and the actual process of recording. The songs were all just the necessary crap I had to come up with to do all the other parts I really enjoyed.

I decided then and there that if I ever had anything to do again with the world of music, it would involve writing about it or working on it behind the scenes. The curtains had officially fallen on my musical career.
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Re: "The Band"

Postby Earl Green » July 15th, 2010, 10:12 am

Well, I'm on the hook for the rest of the book whenever you get that done. 'Nuff said! :mrgreen:
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Re: "The Band"

Postby lethargic » July 15th, 2010, 4:08 pm

I think you know I can't wait. This is my favorite story ever told by anybody. This makes me want to add more to my horrible music story. haha

"Limitations with my equipment (and my voice) had prevented me from putting down on tape what I was hearing in my head."

The bane of my existence.
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Re: "The Band"

Postby ubikuberalles » July 15th, 2010, 4:53 pm

Like. Me want more.
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Re: "The Band"

Postby Felix » July 15th, 2010, 5:25 pm

You've got my interest!
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Re: "The Band"

Postby Flack » July 15th, 2010, 10:15 pm

I recently read a book by Dave Barry and noted that he puts at least one joke in every paragraph, and sometimes more than one. I'm trying to do that with this book, and the first three chapters lend themselves to this. The fourth chapter is dedicated to the first time I interviewed the band, and there's really nothing funny about it at all. I still have the interview and am thinking about including it in the book.

As I get some more bits and pieces put together, I'll post them here as well. Right now I'm working on a compilation of some of the craziest bands I ever interviewed while running my music magazine. If I can get those edited together, I'll post them sometime over the weekend.
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Re: "The Band"

Postby le geek » July 16th, 2010, 10:11 am

What I enjoyed most about Commodork was your slice-of-life story telling. Obviously--as a fellow C64 and BBS nerd--the subject matter drew me in, but your skill at capturing the foibles of human nature in a self depreciating way was the highlight. "The Band" definitely seems ripe for more.

Cheers,
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Re: "The Band"

Postby Flack » July 19th, 2010, 8:39 pm

Thanks Ben, I appreciate all feedback, especially the positive ones. ;)

The band book ("Project: Atomic Sadface") will definitely be more of the same. I think overall it'll be funnier than Commodork and Invading Spaces.

I am still struggling about the "based on a true story" thing. Other than names, I'm wondering just how much I should change. The entire story from beginning to end is so crazy that I'm not sure it needs to be embellished at all.
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Re: "The Band"

Postby lethargic » July 20th, 2010, 2:33 pm

You should change the band's name to Oil Pan I'm thinking.

Speaking of music, I had a new song go out today on a compilation. The thing is... I never mixed it. I didn't put any effects on it. I did NOTHING but record it, add an overall reverb to the entire thing and then give it to them. Yet it appears to be one of my most well recieved songs ever. haha
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Re: "The Band"

Postby Flack » July 20th, 2010, 7:14 pm

Link?
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Re: "The Band"

Postby ubikuberalles » July 20th, 2010, 11:14 pm

Flack wrote:Link?


Image
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Re: "The Band"

Postby vortex » July 21st, 2010, 11:00 am

I'm amazed at your writing style and ability to keep a reader glued. I started reading this on my journey home from work last night. Unfortunately, I found this too late and my train was pulling into the station as I was about 1/3 through. All night I was thinking about continuing where I had left off.

Flack wrote:I still have the interview and am thinking about including it in the book.


It would be cool if the interview was audio and you included copies of it on cassette along with the book. Or you could include a copy of your first solo release if you can find it in your garage.
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Re: "The Band"

Postby AArdvark » July 21st, 2010, 7:47 pm

I'm putting aside my twenty bucks for the book when it's available. Wow! I'm gonna have to start a Flack section in my bookcase.



THE
"WELL, SOME PARTS DIDN'T SUCK' = PRICELESS!!!
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Re: "The Band"

Postby AArdvark » July 21st, 2010, 7:48 pm

P.S. When will the aforementioned first album be available on Tindeck?
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Re: "The Band"

Postby Flack » July 21st, 2010, 7:50 pm

If you are that desperate for horrible music, work your way through this:

http://www.robohara.com/music
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Re: "The Band"

Postby lethargic » July 22nd, 2010, 10:31 pm

Yesterday the funniest thing I heard on the internet was that pug dog singing the Batman theme.

Today's funniest thing I heard on the internet was you angrily yelling Taco Bell for 30 seconds.
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Re: "The Band"

Postby Flack » July 23rd, 2010, 8:34 am

Likewise, I found your Youtube videos of your band and fell asleep humming one of the tunes. I forgot which one it was (I fell asleep) but I liked all those.

I just had an idea for a band. Me, you, and a singing pug dog ...
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