Monday, December 21, 2015

The Band Leading the Naked

First things first. The title here is taken from the phrase "the blind leading the naked". In addition to being the title of The Violent Femme's third album, it is derivative of dialog in Shakespeare's King Lear, where Gloucester and Old Man are discussing: "...[it is] time's plague when madmen lead the blind".

While we could dive into the historical and current context for the quote, this article is about being a bandleader and how sometimes the musicians in the band are the ones leading.

We could also muse over the wonder of a few lines before it: "...bring some clothes for his naked soul" relating to the musicians helping clothe the naked song, but let's save the metaphors for lyrics. Gordon Gano, lead singer and songsmith for the Milwaukee-based Violent Femmes (which I fully admit rocking out to in my late teens, what better time?), was likely drawing from this King Lear dialog when naming his album...but how do I know he named it? Maybe his friend, drummer, bassist or someone else named it. The lead person in a band somehow seems responsible for everything about the band, even down to the album title, but alas it is a group effort. All members of a group, sometimes even of the production staff, record label, friends, support network, anyone related to the project is part of "the clothes" of the otherwise naked project.

Let's look at potential fallacies, alerts and such:

The emperor has no clothes.         
Who calls it out when a project has no legs, is going all wrong, or                                                          is otherwise off course?

Flats with THAT dress?! 
The critic.

Bro that shirt is dope.                    
All is good so long as you keep preaching to the choir in your                                                                niche market.

These shoes look great                    
but can't walk a block in them.       
Your band looks great online but when it comes down to it,  the drawing board and the woodshed are a-callin'.

These work boots are not fashionable 
but my feet are warm in this Minnesota winter.
You're not drawing the masses, but there's some music being made that has an intrinsic value.

These may be silly examples, but serve to show the bottom line is that HOW this music is dressed and WHAT it is wearing makes the difference of where it can go, who it appeals to, who takes notice, and most importantly, if the music itself is comfortable.

Bandmates and musicians (and engineers) adding creative input to music projects are all part of the way the music is dressed. Their influences, ideas and skills will be the fabric.

This doesn't just apply to music and could be in a classroom where the questions students ask change the course of the discussion.

You never know what will happen when more people start adding to a project.

In my case, charts and drummers are new chess pieces. I'm enjoying the new directions my music is taking as I adapt to rhythms and have a chance to "learn" my own songs; memorizing one particular version of a song and digging into it.

As much as the role of bandleader often asks us to be proactive, even bullheaded, or have some artistic agenda we're trying to promote.....I feel most creative when I can use the fabric the band brings to the table to sew some new musical clothes.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Well Folks, Here We Are.

Dear Thoughtful Readers,

You may have noticed, if you've been following this blog (I know there's at least two of you), that it's been nearly a year since I picked up my pen.

I thought I was too cool for school, but am now going back to it. I tried to launch OnAxis as a full blown music publication (see the carnage here). I wrote business plans (two of them). I thought of ways to make music journalism useful to the masses in a world of social media. I came up with some cool shit.

But, I didn't have a staff of 5-10 eager interns and about $1-5K to buy Chinese food for late night brainstorming sessions, so....yeah.

What I really need to do is pick up my guitar.

One excellent thing in this journey is collaborating with Photographer Roman Sobus. Together we talked about how to grow and make vibrant this OnAxis Music & Media adventure.

It will grow. Maybe it has nothing to do with interns and Chinese food.

It will grow when I stop chasing my tail, and start grabbing the bull by the horns. I needed a metaphor. It's a matador.

They don't grab the bull, they lure it with a red cape.

Social media anyone? How are we not hypnotized by it.

In music self promotion, it's omnipresent. My wrist brace on my right hand is evidence.

What happened to the days of sitting in the sun playing my guitar? Well, there's no time to hippy out when you're running a band, I can tell you that much.

People think I am making profit. I laugh.


After the smoke and mirrors clear, you are who you are. I like this blog, and I am going to write in it more. It doesn't have to be some fancy website. It's my words that matter. Right?

It doesn't have to be a big's the performance that matters, right?

Right, right. On with the right direction. On with OnAxis. Good to be back. Talk soon.

Thank you,
OnAxis Music Editor