Ten. That’s how many people have passed through my band since it started in 2008. There are three of us left now. I guess I can say I have some experience in Losing Band Members. Who am I kidding? I’m the king of the Band Member Losing Kingdom. I stroll through said kingdom, riding a pink and purple panda, wearing a bright golden freckled tutu. Ask me anything. Better yet, let’s start a band together, and then give me three months.
Maybe I have almost perfectionist demands of everyone (except myself, of course.) Or maybe, eventually, in almost every band with more than three people in its line-up, someone’s got to get kicked out. It happened to the Beatles and the Queens of the Stone Age; you’re no better. There’s bound to be a reason: You’ve all gone post-dubstep and he’s still laying down the funk. He’s terrible: he bought a three bedroom mortgage in Suckage Estate and is in no hurry to leave. He conveniently loses his phone on the day of rehearsal. He’s actually driving you nuts: last week you thought you could have a chat and sort out your differences and after, like, five minutes of talking you’re daydreaming about stabbing yourself in the eye with a fork. If you’re in a band, getting rid of a band member will probably be, hands down, the hardest thing you will ever have to do. It’s like firing a friend, except you were never paying them in the first place, so you were basically stringing them along for months YOU SLAVE DRIVING MONSTER! See what I mean?
So you’ve started a band, with friends, because that’s how it happens in the world; bands are started with mates, often under the influence of narcotics, or even worse, Genuine Fucking Ambition (except on XFactor, where they are united by the power of Louis Walsh). You’ve auditioned for a drummer/bassist/keyboard player and out of the sorry scratch of random strangers you found yourself a likeable fella you can’t wait to split the rehearsal studio fee with. And surprise, surprise: six months in, everyone is excited about the future! People turn up relatively early for rehearsal. Sure, there are arguments about chorus this or bridge that, tempo speed and what to do with the saxophone solo. And some people are too poor to pay for fuel because JSA don’t cover that. And your first set of gigs… well, let’s just say you were slacker than a sumo-wrestler’s elastic waist band. You used to clear the room so fast the venue manager bought your CD and used your lead single as the fire alarm. But not now though, you’re growing; what’s left of your initial fan-base (also known as ‘relatives’ and ‘other halves’) told you so. The song-writing is getting… well, it’s ‘getting.’ You’ve popped your ‘got called back up for an encore’ cherry. The live gigs were even referred to as ‘enjoyable’ by Student Music Blog #8796. Plus, you all know each other now, for better or worse. You’re all mates; you fist-bumped and high-fived and told ex-girlfriend stories and everything. No problems.
But Timmy (not his name) is a terrible drummer.
You can’t kick Timmy out, Timmy’s a mate.
But Timmy sucks.
Everyone says so, right after they said ‘yeah, you’re definitely were getting… better…but.’ He forgets his parts. He messes up the groove. His solos are a brazen attack on melody. He sounds like a recently beheaded chicken dancing on a trampoline. He keeps time like Nick Clegg keeps promises. You’re not going beyond pub gigs with him on the skins, or at least that’s what the guy who wants to manage you keeps saying.
So we did what’s right. Had a band meeting, talked to him as a group, as caring and sensitive as men could muster. Gave him a chance to improve, and when he didn’t improve, we took him to the pub, bought him a drink and let him down softly.
Ha, if only. We sent him an email. Dude went ballistic, sent a few not-very-nicely hand written letters and tried to sue us for ‘lost earnings’ or some sort, which is always a pretty rich move when everyone is dirt poor. Last I heard, he’d quit music altogether. I have to live with that.
Some people you just don’t get along with. James (not his real name either) was very funny, affable and at one time very kindly stepped in the way of a flying fist meant for my face. However, James could and would drink any fish under the table, even when there wasn’t a fish around. He shagged the guitarist’s ex for three months in secret. He believed in David Icke. When it was clear we were not working out, I did the smart thing and had a long ass argument with him via the magic of text messaging, finishing off with the very mature ‘wel fine whatevs m8 ur nt in d band n e more then, init. X.’ I miss him from time to time.
I can tell you it doesn’t get easier. I can tell you will have many private moments where you wonder if losing people you get along with is worth the pleasure of being a little more presentable on stage. I can tell you, you will question whether trying to make ‘something’ (because ‘a career’ is too high a dream to dare these days) out of your twenty plus songs and 100 followers is worth crossing the road when you spot them across the street. I can tell you your spirit will die a little when you agreed to kick Frank (you know the drill) out for ‘being too funky’ when really it was because he was old and smelt of heightened Last-Chance-Saloon desperation half the time and you knew he knew you were bullshitting him, but he let you anyway, because friends will let you lie when the awkward truth will kill you both. I can tell you, when band-members leave of their own accord, halfway through a project, unexpected, out of the blue, just like that, you will rend yourself silly in public. You will run your hands through your heavy head and curse like the devil in a holy jacuzzi.
I can also say: at least your music will stop sucking. Time plus effort minus crap drummer has to equal better than before, at least. And you’ll be more honest with yourself, a lot stricter when adding new players to the fold and hey, you can make more friends when you’re famous anyway, innit. Fact is: no one wants to suck, and you are only as strong as your weakest link, and if it does turn out one of your numbers is not pulling his weight, there is only one right way to let them go: You meet up him in a public space as a group and insist it’s nothing to do with them per se, and that you all think he’s a lovely guy, and yeah, you all would love to come down to his open-mic showcase-night-thingy-whatever tomorrow to watch his other music project play. Course you will, all of you say. Then you never see him again.