Hello and welcome to the sixth installment of Eric Morgan’s How To Kill Your Band. This column offers advice to up and coming artists from the perspective of a professional musician who has thrived with and without label support over the last decade. If you have any questions regarding the content of this blog, or if you would like to learn more information about the services offered by Haulix, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and share your thoughts. We can also be found on Twitter and Facebook.
I’ve been in the music industry as an artist for nearly 10 years now. In that decade I’ve achieved nearly all of my childhood music dreams, but I’ve also made just as many mistakes that run over my mind before I fall asleep each night. A wonderment of how a few different decisions, rerunning in hindsight, would work out in some alternate universe. This ever creeping determinism is a fallacy I’m quite aware of but one that I will never completely shake, though it’s these experiences I’ve learned the most valuable lessons. These are the things I’d like to share in a series of mini-blogs I call How To Kill Your Band.
Part 6 – Nightmares
I’m 27 years old and there are two recurring nightmares that haunt my unconscious hours:
#1 – I’m back on my high school baseball team. It’s a tie game in the 9th and I’m up to bat with a man on third. The pitcher checks his signal as the runner edges off third then throws a pitch that seems to spin in slow motion as it tumbles towards me. I turn to square sliding my right hand down towards the center of the bat executing the most beautiful suicide squeeze down the first base line. The ball hugs the crease between the infield grass and the dirt base path, staying undeniably fair as I exit the batter’s box starting my sprint. I pass the untouched ball halfway to first when I hear the crowd erupt in a deafening roar reacting to the runner from third crossing home plate and knowing I’m just a few steps away from beating an uncontested play at first. Except at that exact moment, my legs freeze. I can’t move. What was a certain walk-off bunt has turned into a tragic disaster. The pitcher looks up in surprise after fielding the ball to see my stalled husk and chuckles lightly at my struggle before his tag ends the game and my slumber.
#2 – In this dream I always start by crawling out of the tour van and realizing the opening band before us has been finished for dozens of minutes and I’m late to setup. Time drips away as does attendance in the frantic struggle to get the gear on stage. There’s always something strange that defies logic i.e. the stage is 300 ft deep, it’s raining inside the venue, my guitar has no strap buttons. Even when we finally get started with our set, this becomes a Murphy’s Law nightmare where one by one, every piece of equipment in my rig goes wrong. On stage in front of people completely helpless I am left to the pit in my stomach and the mortifying embarrassment, that even after waking, will ruin my next several hours.
While I haven’t stepped foot on the diamond in nearly a decade, I do frequent the stage and the anxiety to get everything perfect is palpable. Any of our old tour friends will attest to my resolute dedication to arriving before the scheduled load-in just to make sure nothing interferes with a proper soundcheck.
Unfortunately, my nightmare came true last weekend during BORNSTELLAR’s second ever show. it was the kind of venue where there wasn’t a true soundcheck, the stage didn’t allow for backlining gear, and you loaded in as soon as the band in front was done. No problem though, I’ve toured enough that I know how to set things up quickly in a disorganized rush. So we load out of the trailer onto the stage and by the time we get everything powered it’s time to start the set. We begin with a little ring out to get everyone’s attention before going into the uptempo riffing that intros our first song, “Wake the World”. Then nothing. I make no sound. Everyone is chugging through the song but not me. Nope, I have nothing. Actually, I have worse than nothing. I have some type of alien noise endemic to nothing on this planet inundating the few moments of otherwise silent rests in the song. Things happen, I’m used to fixing little things that tend to go wrong during a set. I start the mental checklist: wireless? batteries? speaker cable? loose connections? After the song I scamper back to my amp and check everything in order. None of the usual suspects are showing. I am, however, getting an oddly low input signal to my amp, like there’s a pad being applied. Wireless can be finicky in some venues, and in the absence of any other clues, I decide to ditch it. The first instrument cable I try seems to have a short. My other guitarist throws me his backup cable. It seems to be working. I signal to our drummer that we can start the next song and I climb back to the front of the stage. Thirty seconds into the song, aliens. This is my nightmare. I don’t really remember the rest of the set other than I spent it back near my amp trying to coerce a usable sound out of my guitar. Or hide. Mostly the latter.
I was in such a disheartened mood on the drive home that I swore off thinking about music for the rest of the week. It didn’t last, I was in my guitar shop the next morning almost daring the technician to figure out what the hell went wrong. After three hours of isolating every single electronic and mechanical component, we found the issue: the three-way pickup switch had one shorted wire causing the pickups to cut in and out with the slightest nudge. After I had the switch replaced, the lingering frustration had me on Amazon ordering backups of any part that could potentially fail in the future. Five days later, I’m still going over the disaster in my head. Usually the HTKYB series gives some sort of lesson or advice about navigating your music career discerned from my experiences in the industry. Not here. This week’s post shows that no matter how long you’ve been grinding, new shit happens that can knock you around. Sometimes you have to accept the bad luck with the good, take your lumps, and figure out how to move on.
This column was contributed by Eric Morgan. Eric spent a number of years touring the world as part of the Victory Records band A Hero A Fake. He’s currently developing a new project,Bornstellar, which plans to release its first EP later this year. Click here to learn more about Eric’s time in music.