Diffusing the chain reaction bomb
by Gene Baker, editor, Music Insider Magazine
The thought process leading up to this article has somewhat pained my mind to say the least, almost dreading the idea of putting words into text.
Band drama should be converted into the four letter word category, or at least that’s the way I tend to look at it and try to avoid it at all cost. As with every action; there is a reaction, usually similar in proportion to its origin, then the ripple effect plays until it completes its cycle. Bands are relationships not much different than any marriage, the only problem is, it’s not just one other person, it’s a complete dysfunctional family, and the bigger the band; the bigger the problems tend to be. Couple that with band mate’s girlfriends or wives, some added life stress, work problems, a nightmare gig, your favorite alcohol, rude venue management, etc … or potentially anything else that could happen under the wrong circumstances. Hence the reason many bands seem to self destruct within the first year or two as do many marriages. I think the key is learning how to build relationships with the goal to remain friends forever. But as we all well know, friends, family, you name it, we all fight now and then so learning how to minimize casualty and some good damage control clean up techniques can really help you keep bands on the road.
Throughout my guitar building career I have had the pleasure to work with some corporate “Bull Frogs,” as we called them at Fender, as most of us are just mere tad poles on the lily pad of life. John Page, my boss at the time, prepared me for an engineering trip to evaluate Guild Guitars in Westerly, RI whom Fender had recently purchased at the time and would meet with the Fender CEOs. John loosely told me, “Don’t waste their time with chatter, they are going to ask you bullet questions and they want bullet answers. Keep it short, sweet and to the point. Identify the problem; form a solution; execute a plan. I find learning these various skills on how best to communicate with people help play into everyday life. In this case what I learned was communicating very specific details in short that would evoke the end result, I believe, would best help the situation. Often too much information just muddles the water. KISS, Keep it super simple.
Even these days so many of us get lost in text and the lack of meaning without the voice, or completely misunderstand what was written. So many times I have seen situations get blown out of proportion when a simple five minute phone call would have diffused a chain reaction bomb. I must admit, I love email, text, work-orders, procedure lists for a paper trail, and the speedy communication we accomplish on this perpetual technology rocket we ride. But in touchy situations the phone can often be the heaviest thing to pickup, yet the fastest and best cure. I will admit I have fired band mates in an email or phone text to dodge the initial reaction then follow up with a phone call or arrange to meet in person once there was a little chill time. But at the same token, I am a heavy believer in the three strikes rule of thumb because we all screw up and everyone deserves a second and sometimes third chance before letting them go.
The way I try to look at it is to put yourself in the other person’s shoes before reacting and try to understand their situation. Even if you do find yourself losing it for a moment its never too late to say you’re sorry. Stop, listen and work the problem out because most squabbles in life are rather small and you often find yourself laughing at the reasoning behind it after the fact.
As they say, every band needs a leader and it’s actually rather important that you understand whose role that is. In my younger years it seemed like we all just wanted to be a band and would all share that role, but it always became apparent that there were too many cooks in the kitchen. Bands are artists. Artists are typically emotional and very passionate people and to me that is why the music industry is easily the greatest industry to work in. Unfortunately band members will never see eye to eye on all things, so someone has to take that role and maintain the respect of the band members or you’ll have a mutiny eventually … Over my band’s history, we have had members leave or get fired for all kinds of reasons; medical, work, excessive alcohol, fights, band member on band member’s gal, incarceration, but the one that still reigns king of the chopping block is drama. This leans on Ronnie Montrose’s balanced wheel philosophy of a rock band needing four wheels to travel down the road of rock-n-roll. One unstable wheel and you are going to have a blow out, so make sure you have a spare! So when the day comes where you have to can a band member, another Ronnie Montrose and Sammy Hagar situation, both guys who are very talented artists in their own right, but again, it all comes back to too many cooks in the kitchen. In this case it becomes more a matter of knowing how to let a person down gracefully and still maintain their friendship. Honesty is usually always the best policy even if sometimes honesty can really hurt. So try to treat people the way you would want to be treated in the same situation.
I was looking for some sort of band ten commandments as a general guideline as to how most bands should try to carry themselves but all I found were jokes, so I ended up at the Bible’s Ten Commandments in which many of those ring true even in that format. Unfortunately some things do come to an end and helps create new offshoot bands, solo careers and more. I often bring prior members back into the band for an occasional fill-in for a band member that’s out for a gig. Maintaining that family vibe throughout your local music community is a very good thing. I feel extremely lucky in our region that local bands work together with little to no animosity, helping promote each other instead just waiving their own flag. That to me is what it’s all about. Friends helping friends and music is such a good way to share that with everyone we meet.
In summary, just be good humans, treat everyone with the respect you would appreciate in return, communicate positively and don’t be too stubborn to say you’re sorry. As the show must go on.