Before your band lands a billion-dollar record deal, makes a multi-platinum album and sells out “Enormo-dome”-sized venues, you’ll actually have to book and play gigs without any help at all from the industry (manager, booking agent or record company). Let’s take a cold, hard look at a checklist of things you have to have achieved before you get to play your very first note on a club stage:
You’ve managed to get enough money together to buy a half-decent guitar and amp. You’ve learned how to play. Or, more importantly, you’ve learned how to play something original. You’ve somehow found three or four other people you can actually get along with, who all share the same artistic vision as you, have decent equipment and can actually play. You’ve actually managed to find a place to practice (hint: drummers always have the coolest parents-hit them up first) or are lucky enough to be able to afford to rent a rehearsal studio. You can do this pretty cheaply by sharing a space with other bands-every town has a “music building” and you can usually get a room with two or three other groups on a “lock-out” basis for next to nothing. You’ve stood in said room facing each other and figured out how to play something together. You have a set-10 or 12 songs that you can play tightly as a unit. You’ve made a demo tape that’s good enough to convince club owners that they should let you play (or you’ve rented a theater or community center so that you and your friends can put on your own shows). You’ve managed to acquire a van or some form of transportation to actually get the band and all its gear to the venue.
That’s a pretty scary list of goals-do you think you have what it takes? Because only when you’ve accomplished all of the above are you ready to play in front of an audience for the very first time. How close are you right now? I don’t want to scare you, but it’s one of the most difficult things I can think of, and that first gig is a very distant end result. If you don’t believe in what you’re doing 100 percent, then do yourself and everyone else a favor-give up and go out and support the thousands of bands that are touring across the country right now. They need your help. Anyway, enough doom and gloom. Here are a couple of helpful hints that might help you meet your objectives.
Thanks to modern technology like low-priced signal processors/preamps (try Korg, Zoom, SansAmp or Boss), drum machines and 4-track cassette recorders, nowadays it’s pretty easy to do your own recording at home-you don’t even necessarily have to get a band together at first. If you’re the future resident genius of your band, you can write and record everything yourself and then go into a situation with other players and just say, “Here’s a bunch of songs, learn ‘em.”
This approach may or may not work for you. Every band is different. White Zombie writes together as a unit-when it comes time for us to make a new record, we lock ourselves in a rehearsal space for eight hours a day and don’t come out until we’ve written it.
Last month’s column ended with us looking at the octave riff from “Feed The Gods” [from the Airheads soundtrack] that sounds like a motorcycle engine revving. The riff sounds this way because of the way I bend octaves played on the D and low E strings. Because my pinkie isn’t as strong as my index finger, I tend to bend the low E-string notes slightly more than the notes on the D string. This causes the octave notes to go slightly out of tune with each other and this is what causes the weird engine-revving effect. I often refer this type of dissonant “rubbing” effect as “skronking.” Here are two other examples of “skronk” riffs, both from Astro Creep 2000…
FIGURE 1 is the intro guitar riff to “Electric Head Pt. 1 (The Agony).” Because the whammy bar (floating bridge) kinda pulls the two strings differently, the unison E notes skronk as they’re being bent up to F with the bar. I also use a phase pedal on this part which definitely adds to the skronking effect.
FIGURE 2 is the intro to “Blood, Milk and Sky.”
There are a couple of skronks going on here-the ringing note on the B string at the 18th fret (F) rubs against the open high E-string note that follows it in bars 1 and 3, as does the ringing D# note at the 16th fret on the B string in bar 2. I used a Korg G4 Leslie Simulator pedal in the studio to add to the overall weirdness of these two skronks.