Monday, March 19, 2007

Audition

Mimosa, the funk band, is musically fulfilling and very interesting. Since we've been together I'm sure that my drumming has improved leaps and bounds, but more importantly, my skills at being a band member have improved too.

What I mean is that I have learnt so much about a side of being in a band that I wasn't at all familiar with, the whole songwriting side. We do our own material, with the exception of just a couple of covers. So I have picked up knowledge on developing a groove that is appropriate for the song, on coming up with fills that feel right and serve their purpose and, possibly most importantly, on interacting with a group of seven people who often all have different opinions.

On top of that we've done some great gigs, we've done a nice three track demo and we've got plenty more stuff lined up. But, I've always had the feeling that there was something missing. It's the "rocking out" thing, the fun that I get when I'm blasting out a Nirvana or Faith No More song. Funk is special, if I was told that I could only play one genre for the rest of my life then funk would be it. But rocking out is fun too. The sheer musical prostitution of playing some Chili Peppers songs to a pissed up audience at the local on a Saturday night is a blast.

So I've kept my eyes and ears open for a covers band that fits the bill. One that doesn't necessarily rehearse every week, one that consists of people that I think I'll get on with and whose company I'll enjoy. That does a few gigs, nothing too frequent, that plays for fun but also plays well.

I joined one band a few months ago and it was a case of nice from far but far from nice. The songs were decent, the bassist was great but other stuff didn't happen. From the first time I played with them I knew it wasn't a long term thing and, sure enough, the guitarist (and founder) had a wobbly and disbanded it after a while. Then, shortly before I went to Sri Lanka a few weeks ago, I got a phone call from a bloke that I sort of knew, who had seen me play a few times in MLC, the best covers band I have ever played in.

He told me that they were looking for a new drummer and was wondering if I was interested. Much of their material I knew and they didn't rehearse every week, they didn't gig too often and it all sounded highly interesting. I told him so and arranged to go along to an audition. I was given six songs to learn and learn them I did.

Now auditions here for drummers are a fascinating topic. Or at least I think they are, which might just be because I find most drum related things fascinating. I have had a few of them in my time. Some I've got, some I haven't, but they've all been interesting and good learning experiences. One, probably about a year ago, when I thought the band was crap, total shit, utter poo, yet I didn't get it, taught me a lot.

I was gutted. I had never thought that I'd be unsuccessful. I learned that sometimes the personalities aren't right, sometimes a person might be a great player but just not of the required style, or sometimes I might not be good enough. The important thing is to get positives from these experiences and use them to do better next time.

There was another memorable one about the same time. A bunch of nice people but the music was a bit too straight for me, just too rocky. And the guitarist's hair was too long. The memorable and funny thing was the singer. The band hadn't rehearsed for a while because the singer ( a lady) had had an operation. So, I arrived for the audition and went in. Every single audition I've attended has this same awkward period, which I'm sure must be the same for most drummers in most auditions in most bands.

You get there, go in and are then confronted with the minor task of setting up your equipment. For a guitarist or singer this is easy. They just plug something in, stick a pair of socks down the front of their trousers, forget the words to every song they know and bang - they're ready, not that guitarists ever go bang. (thanks C!)

For a drummer this is slightly different. Even on a studio kit we tend to use our own cymbals and snare drum and maybe bass pedal. So these things have to be swapped over and the height of stands on the kit has to be sorted out. None of this is fundamentally taxing. The bit I find awkward is that it has to be done whilst making idle chit chat with the other band members. They want to impress you, you want to impress them, but all anyone wants to do is get on and play. In a band in which you're alredy a member the set up time is enjoyable and a bit of a laugh. There's "how's it going?" type of conversation, there's usually a fart or two, some jokey things and general banter.

But, when you're being auditioned it's all a bit strained, uneasy on both sides. Necessary but uneasy nonetheless. Anyway, at this other one I was telling you about, while I was setting up, the guitarist and bassist were talking and I heard one of them say that he was looking forward to seeing Julie, the singer, to see "what they're like". Now it's probably quite obvious to you, as it was to me at the time but I couldn't resist and had to ask what he was referring to.

"Well don't say anything, but the actual reason we've haven't rehearsed for a while is because she's just had a boob job" he told me. "This will be the first time we've seen them."

This was exciting news, as any bloke will understand. I must confess that I've seen women on TV that have had boob jobs and I'm positive that I've met many in real life too but, until this point, I had never met anyone who I had known categorically to have had one. This was going to be a challenge. Like most men looking at breasts is one of my favourite pastimes, but here was an extra special reason to stare coupled with an extra reason not to (I was auditioning).

All was made worse by the fact that she didn't know that I knew. I kept catching her admiring her new breasts in the reflection when she thought no one was watching, she was obviously pleased with the results. I maintained my cool and my professionalism. Almost. At the end, as I was leaving, she was at the bar with a girlfriend having a smoke. I went in to say goodbye and thanks. As a last thought I said to her

"By the way Julie, they look great you know!"

She was shocked, pleased, embarassed and didn't know where to look. Unlike me. I didn't get the job either. I don't know exactly why!

The single hardest factor is that you usually don't know what you're up against. For the one this week I was told I was one of six drummers who the band were seeing. I didn't know who they were or how good or bad they might be. In one way that's irrelevant, as long as I do as well as I can then I can live with that.

Of course, that's the theoretical stuff. As it happened I turned up on Monday night feeling vastly underprepared. I had done a lot of practice but there were two songs that I didn't feel comfortable with. One of my first teachers used to say to me that, when learning a song, you have to "make it yours". He meant you have to know it so well that you can feel what's coming next, you don't have to think about it. This becomes more confusing too as the more experience I get the more I find I'm able to feel my way through an unknown song.

But, I really didn't feel as if I owned the two songs; Do you want by Franz Ferdinand and Golden Touch by Razorlight. We blasted through the following:


Vertigo - U2
Do you want? - Franz Ferdinand
She sells Sanctuary - The Cult
Spitting Games - Snow Patrol
Golden Touch - Razorlight
Rock 'n' Roll Star - Oasis
Brown Sugar - Stones
Dakota - Stereophonics
Chelsea Dagger - Fratellis

It's funny. I hate Snow Patrol, just can't stand their music. Sorry Jules and sorry Child of 25, but they just don't do it for me. But I love "Spitting Games". I used to play it in the last covers band and it's a song I've always liked. It's the dynamics, the way the it really kicks up in the choruses but is nice and mellow in the verses, yet it moves in a subtle way.

As soon as we started to play I felt good, there was an instantly good feeling with the bassist. Sometimes it happens. He struck me as good player and hopefully he thought I was a good player too, but it's not about that, it's just that there are some drum and bass partnerships that gel better than others. During "Sanctuary", a song that is technically easy, we were in a world of our own as his bass and my bass drum locked in nicely. I made some mistakes, which was good and expected. I always make mistakes, it's how we deal with them that matters.

Then we were done. I packed up and left them to talk. When I left I thought about it and came to two conclusions. The first was that I just knew, or felt, that I was going to either get it or to be the second choice. The second was that I enjoyed the audition in its own right. Rather than treating it as a test I had just enjoyed the moment and had a blast, as I think they had.

The following day I got a call to thank me and was told that they hadn't come to a decision but would decide between me and one other bloke. Then, the next day I got the call to say I got it.

Great. I'm pleased. Now I need to go and do some practice. And stop writing these huge long posts.

5 comments:

Darwin said...

Congrats!

confab said...

how many pints had u had before u gathered up the balls to more or less say "nice boobs"? that would take some guts!!! haha...good stuff though...

snow patrol is ace. i'm a big fan. current favourite is 'make this go on forever'.

I wish it was easy in Colombo to find an audition or a band to jam with. London seems full of opportunity eh? I wish i was back there!

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

Darwin - Thanks!

Confab - I was stone cold sober. It was a split second decision to make the comment and I said it with a cheeky grin!

You're right about the musical opportunities here, there's always bands looking for drummers. But, that's as an amateur. For professionals there's hardly any work and even less money.

Indyana said...

Great!You must be thrilled!

N said...

congratulations! No offense taken at all on the Snow Patrol hating :)...at least u like spitting games!