It’s a dog’s life running a band. If you want to do anything that isn’t run-of-the-mill boneheadedness, you’ll have your work cut out from the start trying to find other musicians who listen to the same records as you. If you put up an ad, and are fortunate enough to have people notice it, you’ll soon become a washing-up ground for the stoned, the morally challenged and the outright sociopathic of the world. You’ll then have to get them to pull themselves together: being musicians, they’ll be unable to come to rehearsal on time or in any fit state; when you point this out, they’ll crumple up and moan about how life’s hard and any true artist needs twelve hours of sleep a day. All this will still be manageable if all you have in mind is a small band of electric guitar wielding malcontents; anything more ambitious will mean you’ll also have to arrange all their parts, make sure they don’t wander off on any self-motivated “explorations” while playing, and successfully stave off their “creative inputs” without damaging their sense of self.
Once you’ve got past this, it’ll come to a question of names and image. You’ll have to patiently explain why, even though they’re quite nice in their own way, “Intense Psychosis” and “Hitler’s Thorax” aren’t the sort of thing you think will fit your particular brand of music; in the meantime you’ll have round upon round of “discussions” about whether dressing for the stage is actually a product of capitalist brainwashing: musicians may be unable to tie their shoelaces or wipe their arses without help, but every last one has a fully-formed opinion about the System and they’re damned if they’re going to let you go without having heard them out first.
So you’ve got your band together: now you won’t get a gig because nobody has heard of the Arse Bandits and, as you slowly realise, nobody ever will. You’ll need a proper venue because cobbling something together at your friend’s farmhouse out of town will mean you’ll run the risk of having the cops down on you in seconds, as, by playing in a band, you’re clearly “against Indian culture” and, who knows, are probably pimping on the side as well.
You beg and you plead, you play opening sets for Kryptos and, on your skyrocketing upward trajectory, Indus Creed. Now you’re known in all the hip circles. So, after your seventeenth gig – which, in “scene” terms constitutes something bordering on unprecedented success – you get interviewed by some website-pushing music writer. Having finally got a chance to explain yourself to the outside world, you elaborate on how your music is an intelligent attempt to blend the 1967 electric-psych sensibilities of Paul Revere & the Raiders and the more minimal aspects of Krautrock with a nod to the innocent energy of Teenage Fanclub: when the review finally does appear, which you discover because you spend your days expectantly staring at your Google Alerts page, it says “the Arse Bandits rocked the house like Coldplay”. This is if the reviewer is one of those who get to the point; if you’re unlucky, you’ll pull one from the music-writing-as-modern-poetry school; in this case the review will say, “the Arse Bandits floated like gentle clouds of imagery across the panoramic soundscape of human consciousness, just like Coldplay”.
Blogs write about you and people “like” you on Facebook. Somehow none of this translates to actual money.
Every good band does an album, so you record one too. In the process, you work your way through several crippling existential crises, lose all your backing tracks to a hard-disk crash, face lineup changes, and slowly learn to live with the fact that, no matter what you do, it just won’t sound as groovy as Taxman. It takes you years to finish this, as this is your life’s work and you aren’t happy with anything less than perfection to the last cymbal crash and fade. All the while, you keep in mind that the music industry as we know it is disintegrating, and that traditional channels of financing and recouping recording expenses are being rendered increasingly invalid in the face of online media, cloud computing, and the proven ineffectiveness of conventional copyright laws in a digitised world; this is why, after five days of sustained drunkenness, you devise a unique business model which involves some manner of website-dickery, mp3 files and downloadable artwork. This fails.
By this time, the creditors are at your door baying for your blood; even your blood isn’t worth anything anyway, as you well know. Your landlord sends you threatening notes, your family have disowned you, in spite of your noblest rock ‘n’ roll efforts you haven’t been laid in years, your backing group have left to go to college, and you’re pretty sick of instant noodles and cigarettes for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
So, as the night rolls around, you get horribly drunk – again – and listen to your album. It’s the best record in the world, it is exactly what you always wanted from pop music, has all the right things in all the right proportions. Soon, you’re happier than you’ve been in ages. And you stagger off to bed, have yourself a wank and pass out, dreaming of a better, brighter world.
Tomorrow’s another day in the rock ‘n’ roll world of the brave, new independent musician.