I remember when I started listening to heavier and heavier music, one thing that always attracted me to it was the live performances. The energy that was emitted by the musicians dominating the stage. They would throw themselves around, head bang till their necks snapped and bleed from their noses due to the sheer aggression of it all. It was intense. I would watch them perform their music ferociously and the crowds would love them for it.
As you watch your favourite bands perform, you slowly start to wish you could do the same. ”I’d love to get on stage. I’d love to show the metal world what bone-crushing riffs I can write”. These are genuine thoughts that cross most metal-head minds and who could blame them? This was a dream of mine too. I always wanted to play in a band. Music excited me and I wanted to create my own. I originally got into music from a song writing perspective after I picked up the bass guitar. Unfortunately that didn’t last long. I’m not someone who enjoys ‘learning’ how to play something. I want to be able to pick up whatever instrument I want, and play like Mike Portnoy or Guthri Govan. I know, unrealistic expectations, but one can dream.
One instrument that was easy to learn fairly quickly (for me anyway) was the voice. I decided to form a band with a few friends and I would take over vocal duties. Back then, if you couldn’t play an instrument, your friends would throw you in front of the microphone down at the garage and you would just work with it. As you slowly get used to your position and song-writing, the first thing that crosses your minds is ”so, when shall we go out live?”. Well, this is really the point of this article. ”When SHOULD a band hit the stage?”
I don’t want to come off as too pretentious or egoistic when I provide my opinions below, but these are what I feel and think are the necessary things a band needs to take into consideration before they hit the stage for the first time. I’ve heard quite a few bands come and go. Some terrible. Some great. And these are all things I’ve noticed throughout the years. I’ve learnt from them too:
1. PRACTICE: Learn to walk before you can run. We all know there’s a rush to show everybody what you’ve got or to just experience the stage but if you don’t nail your songs down beat by beat, the whole experience will be pretty poor. For you and also for the crowd. If there is one thing that can ruin a live performance it’s a band not knowing their own songs. Practice til the songs are pouring out of your ears. Don’t rush. It’s better to take your time and make an impact than rushing to meet deadlines and being just another average up-and-coming band. Know your shit.
2. RECORD YOUR SESSIONS: This is very important in order for you to hear what you sound like. Sessions can be loud, overpowering and most of the time, some instruments and/or vocals can be lost in all the cacophony. This is why I highly recommend you record your sessions through some software. Each musician can individually quickly record their instruments down at the garage through a programme like Ableton Live or Cubase (great for demos too). This will allow you to get a better feel of the music you are writing and will allow each musician to give creative input on the songs which probably could not have been possible before.
3. TAKE CRITICISM: It’s always good to have a second opinion. Show your music to your like-minded friends. Hopefully they will give you constructive criticism and not just be ‘yes’ men. These people should want you to succeed, so if they’re giving you opinions it’s probably to the benefit of the whole band. So take it on board. Good or bad.
4. IT’S ABOUT THE MUSIC: The music should always supersede image. Of course, it’s important to have stage presence. To be a crowd pleaser. It’s what attracts people to your live shows. But the music has to be good or else people will slowly lose interest. If you’re playing metal music to look cool then you’re doing it for the wrong reasons. Don’t do it because you want to be important or because you want people to like you. Do it because you love it and your performances will be all the better. There is nothing more rewarding to a listener than watching or hearing a musician love what he/she is doing. People will notice. So do it for the right reasons and you will have no problems.
5. REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS: We all have delusions of grandeur. I’m pretty sure we’ve all dreamed of becoming huge rock stars, playing the biggest festivals in front of hundreds of thousands of people but be realistic. Even within this small tiny Island and its scene, a band needs to be realistic. If you’re just starting out, don’t expect to be headlining gigs or festivals. Start off by opening for bigger bands and if the crowd likes you, they will let you know and you can take it from there. Again, learn to walk before you can run. It is essential for a band to understand where they are. Don’t think that because you wrote a few songs and you think you’re the shit, you should be the main attraction of a gig. People haven’t heard you yet. Odds are they don’t really care about who you are until you’ve played your music to them.
So, there you have it. This turned out to be quite a long post and I apologise. However I feel like these are important points for upcoming bands to take into consideration. Remember, do it for the passion, be patient, take criticism and keep a level head and you will have all the fun in the world tearing it up on stage.