Feb 23, 2011

(no) Money For Nothing.

Dear Ask A Punk-
Seems like unless you're Lady GaGa or an 11 year old boy with fucked up hair, you can't make a living playing music anymore. My band has been together for seven years, we've put out a couple of EPs, we've got all the online stuff going that you're supposed to have these days. We seem to have actual 'fans' in places other than our hometown and all of that. But this Fall we did a van-tour and played something like 35 shows in about 42 days... and in the end after expenses and all were covered each of us in the band (there are four of us) took home maybe $400 or so each. For a month's worth of hard work. I'm actually thankful that the winter has been so bad that we haven't been playing out beyond the usual hometown gigs because it gives me a chance to clock some real hours and get out of my financial hole at my "day job" which I don't despise, but it certainly isn't my dream occupation - but I'm getting tired of this. How does a band "get to the next level"? or DOES a next level even exist anymore? - road dog(tired)

Dear RD(t):
That is a tough one my friend, but it isn't a new problem. You have to remind yourself that 'The Creative Life' comes with no promises that you'll ever really be able to live on your art, no matter what it might be. I currently live in Los Angeles. I see countless people who are undeniably talented and trained and dedicated to all kinds of creative endeavors... and at least 90% of them are not directly supporting themselves with their art... or if they are, they are living very frugal existences.

I count myself as part of that 90%. I've been writing this blog every week for 3 years and counting - but I'm not exactly fending off book or movie deals .... or even advertisers. I played in bands for years too - but back then none of us ever expected to make a living at punk rock - heck, the few times I got paid anything I remember being sort of stunned. I don't play in bands any more, but I always have a guitar out, tuned and ready to play. I write something EVERY day - a script, a song, a blog post, whatever... and I work on creative projects of my own in every medium and genre you can think of (except maybe drawing/painting, good god, I can't draw to save my life.) Sometimes I make money at these endeavors, often times I don't... but I can't imagine not doing them. I can't stop myself from doing them... even when the feedback is bad or (more often) non-existent.

We fall in and out and back in of love with our various creative endeavors, sometimes in the course a single day, and usually that 'falling out' of love is caused by frustration at the lack of interest from the outside world. Our heads start to hurt from all that banging on walls... believe me I know the feeling... but you have to ask yourself if you would be even more miserable if you stopped. Was your plan, from day one, really to be a rich (punk) rock star? ...or did you just want to get up on stage (any stage) and have your loud say ? Can you find joy in the process - everything from rehearsing with your bandmates, to writing new songs to doing your band-related 'online' stuff? If yes, then you haven't lost the spark of what drew you to the creative life in the first place. If no, well, you've got some soul-searching to do. No one is forcing you to do this stuff, and if you want to hang it up and take some accounting courses the world isn't going to mourn... but will you?

Think about it.
Good luck.

Feb 16, 2011

A reader responds to an answer I didn't give...

dear ask a punk-
I read you new post just now and itis bullshit. Why are you always telling people to get off drugs? Most punks do drugs or have done drugs and don't remind me about straightedge most of them give that up as soon as they turn 21 and can go to bars. You know I'm right and so why tell people otherwise. - Not Done.\

Dear ND-
Please re-read last week's question after you've gotten some sleep (note to readers: this email was time-stamped 3:48am)... then re-read my answer. You'll see that the person who wrote in said that she WANTED to quit. Her only question was about the best way to tell her family. Yeeesh. If it wasn't such a slow week in the ol' inbox, I would have ignored you and your question completely. It sounds to me like you're just trying to rationalize your own behavior / habits perhaps ??

Sure lots of people in punk bands were or are on drugs, so were/are a lot of metalheads, and jazz musicians etc etc and etc. You're right, but so what? What does that have to do with people who WANT to stop using drugs? Nothing. ...and besides, we don't know if she was a musician or even really a punk-rocker... While she is apparently a reader of this blog, she didn't identify herself as a punk.

I appreciate all of my readers and I greatly appreciate anyone who takes the time to write in with a comment or question, but come on man - pay attention.

Feb 9, 2011

I know you know that they know. ya know?

Dear aap -
I have decided to quit doing drugs. I have been doing a lot of them and I know it is stupid and know it has gotten out of hand. Booze and weed sure but some semi-heavy stuff too. I'm smarter than this and it is causing problems and I know it is time to stop. I know it was time to stop a while ago. The problem is, how do I tell my parents? I don't think they even know that I do drugs at all and now I'm going to have to tell them and the rest of the family. They've always been supportive, which makes me feel like shit having to tell them. It is almost like a reverse-intervention. I'm tempted to put it in an email and then deal with their phone calls. My boyfriend says that is chickening out but I don't agree. It is still telling them. I just think if they have to read something before speaking they'll read the whole thing. Any suggestions? - Done.

Dear Done-
They already know. The fact that you said they've "always been supportive" means (I'm guessing) that they've always taken an active and nurturing role in your life, as opposed to you being some kid out there on her own with clueless sh#thead parents... So your folks almost certainly know that something has been wrong with you, even if they're not informed enough to know the symptoms of drug abuse... or more likely they fear it might be drugs but are hoping it isn't.

Even active and involved parents, other family members, or even close friends usually know when someone in their lives is F-ing up... and/or is out of control, but people don't know when or how to intervene. 99 times out of 100 they would rather err on the side of hope and caution and rationalize away their fears as "over-reaction" or something like that.

If you're getting into semi-heavy stuff to the point where even you are noticing negative consequences, believe me then: You couldn't possibly be hiding it from friends and relatives as much as you think you are, even if you're living in another town/state/time zone. No one is that slick. That is part of the lie that drugs tell the user: "You're ok, no one suspects a thing." ...that is dead wrong. Chances are EVERYone in your life suspects something, they're just hoping it isn't drugs.

The question of how best to tell them is a good one. The fact that you think you won't be able to "tell the whole story" without interruption if you go the face-to-face route makes me think that THAT particular family dynamic is part of the communication problem in the first place. I say follow your gut on this one and start with an email... but then be sure to fully engage in the dialogue that will quickly follow - either on the phone or face-to-face. Ya know, the more I think about it, it doesn't really matter how you start this conversation, as long as you start it somehow and soon. Any form of truth is a good start to get away from the lies and delusion (including self-delusion) that you've been dealing with.

By deciding to get clean you've made a great, difficult and profound decision. Don't get too hung up on the etiquette of what to do next - THAT might in fact just be your addiction trying to stall for time, hoping you'll change your mind. The best time to start getting clean is right now, today. Your family will be happy with however you choose to start the journey.

Good luck and let me know how it goes.

Feb 2, 2011

Crazy Bubblegum.

Dear aap

My kids like bubblegum music, miley, lovato, osmnet, jonas etc…It is driving me crazy !!! My son (age 7 & daughter age 11 think I’m from the middle ages…) I told my daughter , these people will Not be a factor in 10 years, mark my words, cuz if they are we are in trouble !!!! In 1993 graham parker sang, I’ve seen the future of rock & it sucks… And he’s not even in the r& r hof, but as the poet macmanus said, ‘that is a story for another day’…Yes I listened to my share of bubblegum as a youngster… am I Being too harsh, should I just let it be & realize this is all a part of a growing Musical phase… is it possible my 11 year old will grow up buying Air supply records (I’m really old, can’t you tell ?) Thoughts, advice counsel wisdom please !!!! - PAUL

Dear Paul-

I'm not sure which statement most qualifies you as old, that you used to word "records" or that you name-checked 'Air Supply.' Either way you're right about one thing: Your kids think you played Little League with Noah on the Old Testament squad. You gotta shake that sort of thing off though, they know no better and you get to wait, quietly and patiently, for every parent's revenge: When you get to be kindly and indulgent grandparents while your grandkids run YOUR kids through the parental grinder... so bide your time waiting for that.

But as far as the music goes, you might be suffering from some selective memory. Even when we were youngsters there was a style of pop music that had us in its crosshairs. I remember cutting 'records' off the back of cereal boxes, taping a couple of quarters to them "for weight" and playing them on a portable turntable. I don't exactly remember WHO was on those records but I distinctly remember a lot of parental eye-rolling when I said: "This is the greatest song ever." ...it wasn't of course... but the key thing is that those first forays a kid makes into finding his or her own music is guided mostly by "liking what their friends like." No matter how humanely and progressively you might have raised 'em, kids go through a period where nothing, absolutely nothing, is more important than fitting in with their friends and, more importantly, distancing themselves from you... and music is often the 1st way to do it. ...and you can't win either way: If you hate it, you're the clueless old dinosaur and if you like it (or pretend to like it) they'll just talk about how weird their dad is because he likes their music.

As I said earlier, this sub-genre has been around at least since the beginnings of rock music. Magazines like 'Tiger Beat' have been around forever for a reason. Somewhere out there right now is an unknown 9 year old boy who, in 4 years will be as big as Justin Bieber. What was Elvis if not teeny-bopper catnip? ...and come to think of it weren't those mostly (younger) teenage girls screaming at the Beatles on Ed Sullivan? There ya go.

The difference NOW is that, as with all things media-related, it is all Cross-promoted and monetized from every possible angle. Kids don't just listen to their new favorite records and stare at a poster, they're online reading tweets and feeling really connected to their new heros in ways that older generations of new fans could only have dreamt about. Imagine if the 1966-era Beatles had online access? The mind boggles.

I'm realizing that, since you are a fossil, I'm not telling you anything you didn't already know... You asked for advice and I've been here bloviating. So what should you do?

Here is what you should do:

1) Indulge them. Let them have their music. Let them sing along and tell you what incredibly awesome "artists" Jonas Brothers are and, if you can, get them to say some of this with the camera rolling. Then when they're too-cool seventeen year-olds and they want to tear down their Bieber posters and paint their rooms black, you can decide whether or not you want to play it back for (or perhaps 'at') them.

2) Strike back against Toddler tyranny. I remember riding in the car with my parents when I was kid and I don't remember even ONCE being allowed to decide what we listened to on the radio. I don't recall even being asked to render an opinion. I'm not saying that was fair, right or even good parenting, but I am saying that there is no reason why a FAMILY car radio has to stay glued to 'Radio Disney' for the entire time the kids are ages 6-13. Know what I mean? Give everyone a turn, but know in advance that when you slide that sweet, vintage 'Air Supply' 8-track into the player, the kids are just going to put their earbuds in and listen to their ipods. ... Try to expose them to some quality sounds, but know they'll resist, or pretend to resist, 95% of your efforts.

3) If they have any interest in playing music, with instruments (as opposed to with samplers) get on that bandwagon. Nothing breaks the spell sucky music has on a kid faster than a hands-on understanding of how blandly constructed it is.

Hope that helps, but I think your only antidote will be Time.