jueves, 1 de septiembre de 2016

The equation of being a working musician

There's a big gap between playing occasionally as a hobby and try to be an entertainer,
even an amateur one. The later is a job and it needs constant time and effort.
If the entertainer don't get gigs, money or good experiences in return, nobody would
keep on practicing and exerting so hard. 

Fact: There are periods of being down, with zero motivation, not even for playing or writing.
I have gone through them all for years. Learn to deal with that is necessary.

Con:  It's hard when your work depend on people that don't give a shit.

Pro: I sure can do things better, but i'm not getting mad about excellence.

Con: Motivation and patience tends to run out.

Idea: Joining forces with other musicians can be good and productive.

Con: Finding like minded ones have revealed utopic. It's way hard to deal with others that aren't ready for not sleeping, carrying heavy loads, don't eat much and general lunacy.


Next November (2016) will be 25 years since i began playing in bands. I have recalled the date just by chance and it took me aback.
I was thinking of doing an interview for the 5 questions project and thought it was time to ask a spanish musician, someone i really liked, some friend maybe.
And boom, i realized just there and then that i have some acquaintances in the scene, but not closed friends.
Even among my ex-bandmates. No, i definitely wouldn't have beers with the guys i spent more years playing with. Not really because of bad feelings or feuds (there were lots too) but more because of we have grown up in divergent ways. Curious that most of them still play and love music, but we see things way differently and communication is poor.

A bit of regret and sorrow got me: 25 years and i can't say i have a close friend “in the scene”.
Want an instance? being Spanish but writing in English because most of my readers are from abroad. It sums the situation pretty well.
But the regret and sorrow went away soon. I chose the “rational road” and analyzed for some minutes who my mates were, why we took separate ways and what i do recall.

The first years were hard. Does it sound weird to you? Aren't youngsters supposed to have lotta fun playing together? There were good times, hopeful times, but many and assorted frustrations too. The main ones related to my ineptitude with the guitar and singing. It took me many, many years before i began feeling confident or at least comfortable with any of those.

The “middle years” were funny and promising. I went through big dissapointments, quittings and splits and i began not giving a fuck. At the begining of that “era” i got rid of most of my gear, rehearsed in a junk room inhabited by cats, spiders and mice. I made myself a guitar out of particleboard and spare parts. The cables of my amp's speaker were eaten my those gentle mice.
I played lotta crazy gigs in those times. Got frustrated too, but the internet began changing the game and it became easier to get in contact with other musicians and put things up.

Good fun until i tried to “upscale” it: I was playing in three bands at once, playing lotta shows and i didn't want it to fade out.
I really tried and worked hard, but many things happened: partners losing interest, the begining of the recession, the changes in the “leisure culture” and i could have always worked harder and smarter.

That leads me to these recent years. Without doubt, my most productive and creative period. It's curious that i haven't been in a “real band” in the last 4 years. Besides i have only played the odd gig. And i still am frustrated for not playing more, but my perspective have changed a lot.

Many venues haven't endured the crisis and most of the survivors aren't worthy: straight shitholes where no money, public or good manners are to be found. You may thing i'm fabricating, but you gotta know i live in a rural area where rock music is as alien as it is flamenco in the american Midwest.

I've got good advice from wise people, inside and outside the music scene. Some of them said that “upscale” it wasn't a good idea or wasn't possible at all. Others said i must go where the action is, look for better cities of even other countries. Some people is up for, precisely, downscaling it: play non commercial events, outside of the scene.
I have serious doubts about it all. I don't mind working hard and have always been heavy on DIY, it's almost a religion for me. But i see very little public interest for live music around here. Specially if there's cover at the door and the band is local.

Another funny thing i have noticed playing local venues is that there is almost no youngsters, the fellows are getting older. Only the diehards remain. And they get more grumpy and dick every year.
It's funny too how many events have become “family experiences” with kid zones, posh and pricey bars and features like teepees or golf carts for rent. More like Disneyland than a rock'n'roll fest.

Consider that i'm talking of my personal experience and context. I know there are better places and conditions. But i do see similarities all over the scenes.

miércoles, 31 de agosto de 2016

5 Questions project: Daniel Russell aka One hand Dan

Although he's not a bragger, it seems like he has super-powers. Master of the three-necks cigar box, howler of country blues, wrestler of life and bluegrass, Mr Dan "one hand" Russell:


Welcome to the GuerrillaRocanrol blog Dan, let's begin! Do you come from a music family?

Daniel Russell
Yes I do...The Russell's have a pretty long history of being known to play multiple types of instruments. Tammy Wynette is actually a distant cousin, and lived with Russell's when her parents died and they're responsible for teaching her guitar and auto-harp. I actually learned slide guitar from my cousin Maxwell Russell who is a blues and rockabilly player from Muscle Shoals area. His son Kirk Russell plays drums in my band and was a guitar prodigy when he was 4 years old playing Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Frank Zappa. We also have uncles who all picked guitars, banjos, and one uncle who built violins.

That's awesome! so you began playing quite soon, isn't it?

Daniel Russell
Actually, never touched a musical instrument until I was 23 years old. I probably didn't get serious about my playing until about 4 years ago. I just practice allot, and I'm surrounded by friends with insane talent. I also am a very open person to criticism, and listen to whatever a more experienced player says to me.

Talking of getting serious in music, one thing that amazes me it's the commitment you and musicians in the "deep blues scene" have for music; apart from dayjobs, family and what not...that's not so common to see, How do you organize?

Daniel Russell
Some guys are hardcore, and they live off of nothing and sleep in their vans.They eat,breathe, and sleep it. For me, I actually led that kind of life when I worked as a professional wrestler for over 10 years. Now that I'm married and trying to build my family I can't make those kind of sacrifices. I do have a wife and family who supports what I do. The balance...I work Wednesday-Sunday 8:00 am-5:00pm as a cable technician. Most my gigs are after 9:00pm and aren't too far from the house. On festival gigs and all day stuff I use floating holidays, and for tours I use vacation time at work. I practice every night, and work on how to lessons for hill country blues on cigarbox guitars. When I'm riding in my work van I study the music I'm trying to learn. I also make custom pro wrestling costumes for extra cash. So it a nutshell, I don't sleep.


Daniel Russell
I also spent allot of timing working on booking gigs, writing lyrics, and trying to figure out revenue for the band to pay for recording and social media promotions...Anywhere in the day I can fit in the time.

I'm overwhelmed! next one: where did you record your albums and where can people find your music online?

Daniel Russell
I recorded "Self Medication" with my cousins and best friends Alexander (Sweet Baby) Bowling and "Billy Smart in a live recording session at King of The Jungle Recording studio in Birmingham, Alabama.
You can buy it off of CBGITTY.com, iTunes, cd baby. Getting ready to record #2.

I thought you had two albums, my mistake! In the last 10 years or maybe more, i've seen how americana roots music, country blues and folk have been assimilated by young people that probably was brought up on rock, pop or rap. Do you see it that way, and have an idea of why that's happening?

Daniel Russell
I grew up on Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson. I really found my personality in allot of 90s music. I mean I listened to NWA all the way to Better then Ezra. The music industry used to be after the next game changer and the sound you never heard . Now it's more profitable for them to promote bands who spend more time branding a look then learning their instruments. Past couple of years some great music has made its way through, but if the kids don't know about it, how the hell are they going to find it?
When it comes to the roots revival scene we're going through, I think it's the rawness that attracts people. We still have scum suckers trying to market themselves off of it by dressing like its 1902 and playing shitty mandolin on their songs to be "Americana" but when people hear real raw music for the first time in the right light...You can literally see it change their life!! Its totally unpredictable...
The band and I recently played a blues competition in the Muscle Shoals area. The band we competed against was a tight, controlled volume blues band who wore matching shoes and ties and chick singer. We blew their wang dang doodle asses out of the water...I had to talk to almost every person in the room after our set! We played a Junior Kimbrough song, and 2 RL Burnside songs. Most people had no idea what they just heard and was googling those names as we were speaking . They wanted more!!!  But we lost , lol. The judges didn't think we were playing blues..

Whoa! that sums a lotta things about showbiz...great answers dude!

Daniel Russell
Lol, poor young generation... They have s whole lot of "Ooaa Aaa Oooss" in their music

I hate when "theater tricks" as matching clothes, vintage dressing, visual effects and other craps get in the way of real music...

Daniel Russell
My bass player only owns one tiedie shirt, that's the closest to a uniform we can get lol.


I try to find another way around that...most venues and promoters only pick those tricky bands, i think the corporative ideas has done much harm.

Daniel Russell
People want to be famous....It's more glamorous then being cool. In anything, there will always be those who think they can buy themselves shortcuts...Then the game changers will keep being imaginative and keep creating....The posers aren't in it for the long haul, they'll get tired and pretend to do something else.

You won't believe the culture here in Spain, it's so different in basic things! yea, we are feed the same crappy mainstream culture, the workshipping of money and fame and all that shit. But in folk culture, the "normal things" people do, i think the USA has a more healthy people's culture.

Daniel Russell
I'm the 1960s hipsters got tired of Elvis and discovered Robert Johnson...That gave us Clapton, the Stones, and Led Zeppelin...
Our history isn't that old...my elementary school was once an all black high school. I go fishing next to a Indian mound...
I can visit 3 plantations in a 50 mile radius that still has the slave quarters up.
Allot of families still have homemade wine and corn whisky recipes from the 1900's.

I put you an instance: being a pro-wrestler or leading other "different or alternative" lifestyles would be almost impossible here. How did you get involved in the wrestling career?

Daniel Russell
The 1990s was s good time for pro wrestling...I saw a local independent wrestling show when I was 12 and said that's what I want to do. So friends and I built a ring in our backyard. By the time I was 16, I made a fake id and used it to option s Kentucky athletic commission license so I could wrestle in Kentucky. At the time my parents had no idea what I was doing.

You don't seem a guy that can be put down easily, but what grinds your gears of the showbiz?

Daniel Russell
Overly confident musicians, and crowd funding bums...
It's good to be confident. But you're not the best. More then likely you're not even 1,000th best. So why be cocky about those odds? Being cocky won't teach you anything but humbleness when you fail...
I have nothing against crowd funding. If it's for something that can make an impact, help others, or you can give back to the people who give you the money...There is nothing wrong...When you expect your fans should just give you their hard earned money so you can live your dreams, your an asshole...

Great! Please recommend an old musician you workship and a nowadays band you dig.

Daniel Russell
My favorite in the world is Blind Willie McTell...As far as modern , my favorite cd I bought in the longest time is Grandpa Boy by Paul Westerburg.

Can you imagine your life without playing music? What do you wanna be
doing as musician in ten years?

Daniel Russell
Right now I can't imagine not playing music. It's all I think about sometimes. I'm already excited to teach my nieces, nephews, and future children how to play. In ten years I hope to be playing like I'm playing, just better...Lol

Anything you would like to add?

Daniel Russell
Na, lol I'm not a bragger lol.

lunes, 29 de agosto de 2016

The emperor is naked

Long story short: a friend of mine didn't know Bob Dylan. He watched him playing live on tv. He couldn't understand why all the public was crazy about Dylan. My friend thought: "don't they hear what i'm hearing? Dylan sounds very much like Daffy Duck!"

That reminds me pretty much of some spanish underground bands: they get lotta attention by underground media and sceneters, but they sound awful...very much like Daffy Duck. The emperor is naked!

El emperador está desnudo

(Spanish and more detailed version of the upper post)
Una anécdota real que ilustra perfectametne como los gustos se condicionan y lo gregarios y snobs que podemos ser. La podría titular "Bob Dylan y GP":

Tenia un compañero de instituto que no sabía mucho de música. Un día estaba viendo la tele y anunciaron un concierto de Bob Dylan. Le sonaba el nombre pero nunca lo había escuchado así que lo dejó puesto.

Vió un pabellón deportivo, lleno. La gente emocionada anticipando la aparición del músico. Y sale. Aplauden, gritan, una histeria casi contenida.
Bob Dylan empieza con la guitarra, tranquilo. Le sigue el resto del grupo y hacen una pequeña introducción instrumental. Entonces Dylan se acerca al micro, suelta las primeras palabras y la gente aulla. Todos siguen así a partir de ahí...menos mi amigo que ha quedado en shock.
Con la boca abierta sin creer lo que oye ni lo que ve. No entiende nada pero ve un par de canciones más por si acaso.

Unos días más tarde nos encontramos y me lo cuenta (él sabe que soy músico). Su comentario fue éste:
"y veía al público enloquecido y alucinando...y no lo creía. Dudé incluso de que fuera de verdad y no una peli de coña...la gente flipando y yo solo pensaba ¿están escuchando lo mismo que yo? pero si parece el Pato Lucas..."
Yo siento lo mismo con varios grupos supuestamente underground. Grupos que tocan a menudo y tienen seguimiento, reciben elogios automáticos, salen en medios especializados y suenan...como el Pato Lucas. El emperador está desnudo.