Reports and prose from the fag ends of a jobbing drummers life on the road.
This month’s diatribe of observation and quips gives band managers food for thought, and finds Mann struggling to tell the difference between Lone Star and homogenized tribute.

Go at them………

May 22nd 2010

Ok so where shall we start ….
The first thing to say is all of the following is me Mann, and the scribes I’m about to perform are a narrative that can be taken to be a true account or opinion or ignored.
I don’t really mind if you stop reading this now. It’s nice to get attention but its not attaining, its deserving, so you choose.

Who am I? Who cares….well I’ll tell you who I am. I’m Mann.

Mann the being, Mann the start of creation (nice pun), no its not my Bible its my view of the music scene now and then, the story of Mann the musician and what I have noticed along this path by the river of information flow and Guitar discourse via strings, leads, plug to the amp that’s connected to the thigh bone.

So each month I will jot down a few anecdotes and will make myself available if you respond to Monolith Cocktail for any clarifying details.

Well you can’t make it up can you? Sitting in the back of a minibus going to an airport in Finland 21st May 2010 with Testosterone filled Heavy Metal playing. Oh my god .. is it Heavy Metal let me listen hold on ….
It’s hard isn’t it? Oh you Heavy Metal blokes are so Macho (apart from the long hair).
I should know I played for “China Town” Harlow Square One supporting Dumpy’s Rusty Nuts (who supported Status Quo). See, you are always 7 people away from any sniffer you want to be associated with.
By the way my altruistic nature means I do tend to play with / talk to anyone so … there will be a few connections along the way.
So there I was playing a Double Bass drum kit (only used one hehehe) with short hair and load of drums and cymbals …
Whack “lala la la the Solitaire, where’s the Ace” enjoyed it actually I was just filling in guys were a great fun ….

Anyway back to the Minibus:
It’s hard to tell anything these days. homogenised over compressed mixes
“I can see your 6 gun rising, I can see your …”
For god sake is that really “Firing On All six”?
One of the 70s best kept secrets, Lone Star (not to be confused with the American radio-friendly C&W/pop band of same name) shone briefly but brightly in the UK pomp-rock firmament just before the punks came along.
The band were certainly derivative, of just about every big-name rock band of the time; you can hear bits of UFO, Wishbone Ash, Supertramp, ELO, as well as Queen and Led Zep. But the second album demonstrated great musicianship and songwriting ability, and I would say it is every bit as good and powerful as any from today’s hard rock acts and well worth five stars on its own. I’ve been waiting with baited breath for nigh on twenty years for this re-issue on CD and have not been disappointed.
Na no chance it was some American/Finnish mutated hard rock representation that sounds like those chalk statues you used to get in Kurzaal Southend in other words NOT REAL.

The Kursaal, keep up……

Now there’s a concept Not Real, but in a musical sense what is Not REAL?

…Well to everyone’s ears it’s normally whatever they don’t like. But I think there is a more sinister subjective loop hole that enabled Hip Hop to remain and Mangers to rip off artists ever since Gershwin.
Why? …. One word      Taste!

So why is my taste better than yours?
Very awkward to answer, very …so when the manager is siphoning dosh and the artist is siphoning sherbert up his nose it all sounds so fantastic in the studio. BUT DOES IT? Well who nose? (….nice joke)

It’s a great shame that the many great talents in music have been unable to function in reality (add list of 50 people off the top of your head) and therefore fall prey to the rotund guy in a suit or the guy with a flying Jacket with a massive target (stating “Associated Virgin Labels” on the back) taking the piss!!… Spinning on chairs after listening to a mediocre mix in a £1500 a day and using words like “EPIC”
(Location Check: Jacobs studios Farnham 1992, Dubh Chapter recording album on EG Records)
His taste is tainted …why he should be on our side though. HE IS!!
He’s there to represent the record company have a jolly or to stretch his ego, while his grey supposed experienced locks condescendingly make decisions in a young man’s sport.

Taste can be taken so many ways, I know managers now (for Level 2/3 bands…we will talk about levels on another edition of Mannifesto) that have no idea what is going on creatively in their projects, there is very often that divide. The “Yeah Yeah well I was staying in the International when we played those shows”
Hold on! What are you doing in the International hotel at £150 a night?
That’s the band’s money that is an expense that comes out of their NET advance that is already split at least 4 ways … you do the Math’s …Ergo…. Six and one half dozen.

You don’t go on stage face the music and produce a show …

You haven’t studied and played your instrument for years and are respected in your field.

You just wear a coat and smile what the fuck do you do?

Answer: (use low voice) “I collect the money son, I facilitate” (add cheesy smile)
Yea but If one of the band members is out the show stops …if you are missing nothing changes …you are admin …so why are you considered a band equal … infact if you are the captain of the ship whose your fucking wheel?

So tell me again why do you get 20 % what do you add?
In most extreme cases that are 20 % of the GROSS …don’t do the accountant thing no…

So I’ll ask once more WHAT DO YOU DO?

Manager: “I organise, I arrange, I have a phone bill and an office.”
Yea but you manage 4 other bands …
Manager: “which makes me more connected, which improves your chances …sign here  please “
So we could go on with the concept “The Manager” but take this analogy –
Marcelo Lipi ..Italy’s National coach.
The only guy to win The Champions League and The World Cup …what is his approach …  his doctrine?
He believes in any field to attain what you need, what you desire, you need a group of people connected by the same common goal .. to work as a collective .. to work as one. irrespective of individual technical ability. But he goes further there is mutual respect there is understanding empathy and above all a willingness to support each other towards the common goal
Is this too idealistic when it comes to music… somewhat …but the principle is still the same. If the band is a band then that band of men must be in sync to get through the musical minefield and that includes the manager.
Not easy is it?
And all of this presumes that there are no egos,  and the musical leader the songwriter or writers are defined or accepted.  The producer in the studio has the arbitration function to add to the mix but not to redefine the band’s sound. Good producers are like referees essential but not noticed. That’s why the good ones cost a house to have on your project.
Then to completely fuck it up why not add the fact that your target audience doesn’t buy music anymore.
And there you have it … an absolute mess.

I’m ranting I’ll leave it now ..but really is it any wonder why I can’t tell who it is on the radio, or even care, sitting at the back of a Minibus going to Vantaa airport in Finland…

The ability to expose to a listener the essence of your soul as it can be viewed through the “prism” of a particular piece of music.
To be sure, a certain level of technique must be attained….”technique must come first”….(Rostropovich)
I once heard an Al Dimeola concert. He must have played one million notes during the concert. Not one single note of the whole concert “spoke” to me.
Then I listened to “Machine Gun” from Jimi Hendrix

“No Excuses”

Strident but sentient beings we are,

Searching purpose and meaning in life,
Is there a world beyond the cognitive?
Or do we expire anesthetised from strife,
You decide, as you will soon reside,
Centuries await, the Sedentary will come,
Mobilise the forces,
For now is the time for planet fun.

(T.J. Smitherington Esq. 2010)

In the next blogs ill go into a little more detail about some of the experiences I have had out there in the Music Bizzylizzyness  …  the people I have admiration amazement and respect for. Artists I have played with that were icons in their time, some foundations of the British Indie, Mod scene and some that have molded the UK Pop scene through pure talent.

I now know the difference between the Bright Lights and Dry Ice. I know now that £150k as an advance is peanuts (even though only a handful, if any new bands get this now each year).
And I know what Susan Vega’s arse looks like having followed her onto the stage at The Isle of White festival 2006. Respect Dom great blog …more to come


T.J. Smitherington Esq.

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