I've been asked numerous times before, so it came as no surprise to me when I was asked by a younger coworker (When you're about to be knocking on the door of 40 very soon, a 20 something year old coworker is young okay?) "What's it like to be in a band?" A question I have heard many of times over the years. Hell, even asked it myself a time or two. I pulled out my "go to" response that I normally tell people when I'm asked. "It's like having three or four girlfriends at the same time." Sounds weird huh? I thought so too when an older, wiser person gave me that exact response many years ago. Allow me to break it down for you. You've been in a relationship right? Maybe even a few of them? Bet each one was different. Now... Imagine all those different personalities coming together in a single room to achieve a bigger relationship. At times you're going to encounter; this one is mad at that one, you're upset with the other, those two are mad at you, this one is oblivious to everything around them, this one is always running late, and so on and so on. It can be a very trying (and tiring) experience. Now don't get me wrong, it can be, and is, a bunch of fun - so long as the group dynamics are there, and each understands a give and take system. I was fortunate enough to be in a band that was more of a democracy than being run by a single band leader. Regardless though, you can, and will have issues from time to time.
Now that's the general answer I give when I am asked in a broad sense. If I'm aware that this young (9 out of 10 times) axe shredder is looking to form or join a band, I will also offer another piece of advice I was given by another older, wiser musician: Music, Money, Friends. Pick two. You'll very rarely have all three. If you are lucky enough to achieve all three, then you've made it. Simple as that. Congrats and enjoy an awesome life my friend! For the rest of us though, we usually only get two of those three. In case you're wondering, I chose music and friends. We won't begin to discuss the money I've spent throughout the years on music equipment, literature, lessons, U-Haul rentals, the newest gizmos to get me closer to the tone I've been chasing for years - that all comes later in a different entry. Now where was I? Oh yeah...
Pick two from those three. Whichever two you picked, that's your goal to work towards. My young slayer of the six string then asked me about E.C.M.C. and what it is we do. (Nosey little guy isn't he? Ha! Kidding. Love ya guy!) That's when it dawned on me all these years later. I have been on every side of the stage, and then some, with the exception of venue owner. I've seen about every aspect you can think of. I've been entertainer, spectator, promoter, stage hand, bouncer/ door man, lighting (canister and bar lights count dammit!), show organizer/ master of ceremony, audio tech (sounds better than "sound guy" huh?), and at times all around "go to" guy for decision making at shows; hell, sometimes even at shows that I am not hosting. Of all of these, entertainer and spectator is, and always will be my favorites. I've learned alot throughout the years from being on both sides of the stage. One of the biggest lessons I learned was not too long ago, but I'll get to that later in the story. As you can probably tell by now, I'm old and like to ramble.
So... Anyone who knows me knows it's no secret that I am a HUGE (figuratively and literally) fan of one Mr. Ryan Martinie - bassist for Mudvayne (formerly) and of Soften The Glare (currently). Time to get in the Way-Back time machine kiddies! I'm showing my age again huh? If you don't get the reference, Google is your friend. Let's take a trip back in time. Picture it: Western Maryland, 2001. At the mall looking for new CD's that may catch my interest. Browsing through the "M" section of the CD bin, I came across an album titled L.D.50 by a band named Mudvayne. Hmm. Interesting. Flipped it over, checked out the names of the songs. Internal Primates Forever, Death Blooms, -1, Nothing to Gein. Gein? As in Ed Gein? The Plainfield Ghoul? Very interesting. Think I'll give this a try. I purchased said CD and leave. Put it in the CD player of my truck, and start home. Driving home that's when I heard it. The slap and pop intro to the song "Dig" - I was hooked right there. That. That's what I want to do, and that's how I want to play (I would learn years later that is). Goals. Gotta have' em man. Within hours of buying the L.D. 50 album, I returned to the mall and purchased the DVD single of Dig (and later on, the Live in Peoria DVD). I was mesmerized - not just by the song, but by this guy's technique. His right hand precise, fingers moving in a blur, attacking the strings, while his left hand technique was unlike any other I had ever really seen before in metal (& I grew up watching the Cliff Em All video religiously). His left hand was continuously jogging up and down the fretboard, flawlessly finding the notes, using double stops, and at times, chords. Yup. A bassist who chords. Gotta love it. Again, I was hooked. I should pause here and say Ryan Martinie and Cliff Burton (R.I.P.) of Metallica were the main reasons I picked up the bass. I'll spare you the long winded boring story of how it was that I decided to become a musician in the first place, even at a later age in life. Alright. Enough flashbacks. Let's get back to the story shall we?
One day I got a phone call from a good friend of mine: a fellow metal enthusiast, musician, E.C.M.C. member, etc. A guy who is very much like a brother to me. The conversation went something like this: "Hello?" Dude! You're not going to believe this! "You finally saw your toes?" What? No. Shut up and listen to me. This weekend, in Charleston (WV), Ryan Martinie is going to be playing here with his new band Soften The Glare! (Que the long silent pause here). Hello? Hello? Are you there? - What followed next was a long, high pitched, ear drum shattering squeal that has only ever been achieved by teenage girls while watching Twilight, and middle aged women watching Magic Mike. Yeah. I'm not too proud of that. Also, sorry for the hearing loss there buddy. For the rest of the week, I could only focus on one thought: Charleston, where Ryan Martinie was going to be playing live! Was I going to be able to see him? Would I be able to meet him? Would I get the chance to talk to him? Would he talk to me??? Wonder if he would sign one of my basses? Wonder if he would sign TWO of my basses? Yeah, you get the idea. Hey. I don't wanna hear it. I know first hand about the "Dime" worship amongst the guitarist in the metal community. I've seen plenty of Dean ML and Razorback guitars, Crybaby wah pedals, not to mention the half, and full Randall stacks at the local shows. Did I mention that I got to see Pantera play live before? Ahhhh... Memories. Yeah I'm getting old, but I got to see all the cool bands. But I'm digressing again. So, back to the time leading up to the show in Charleston, I remembered seeing Mudvayne live at the 2005 Ozzfest. Mastodon and Rob Zombie were on 2nd stage that year, if memory serves. Told you I've gotten to see a lot of cool bands. Had a decent view of the 2nd stage, however, for the main stage, I was in the nose bleed section of the lawn seats. The kind of seats where you need binoculars to see the huge jumbo-tron tv's. They were pretty awful seats, but I was there dammit! I was wondering if it would be like that again, or, maybe by some small chance, I could get closer to the stage.
Finally, after an extremely long week that lasted about 32 years, came the night of the show. I made the 4+ hour drive to my state capital (bathroom breaks included in that). I was a man on a mission: to see Soften The Glare play, and hopefully meet the guy who has had more influence on me as a musician than any other person. I pulled up to the venue, and met my friend outside. Wait. This is a regular bar. This can't be right. "You're sure we're in the right place?" Uhh. Yeah. *points to a flyer hanging on the window with Soften The Glare's name on it* "No. This can't be right. I was expecting the likes of a huge stadium. What gives? Are you SURE this is the right place?!" Just shut up, pay the door man, and go inside. Damn bass players anyhow. "I heard that..." GOOD! And all of this coming from the guy who I call a brother. Once inside, I quickly scanned my surroundings. 25, maybe 30 people. Decent little stage setup. Nice lighting. Ooh okay, over there's the restrooms. Then, over at the bar, less than 10 feet from me, was Mr. Ryan Martinie himself... If you're still with me and haven't given up on reading this yet, there are a few things you can tell about me. 1) I'm long winded. 2) I take my admiration seriously. Finally, 3) I'm never without words - which is what makes the next part of the story funny to those of you who do know me. I stood there, frozen. Not only was I frozen, I was speechless. Let me say that again, I was rendered speechless. I just stood there, (looking back, I'm sure I was really creepy looking to anyone who may have been paying attention to me. Surprised I didn't end up with a restraining order that night. Just saying). All of a sudden I felt a nudge against my shoulder. Dude. Go say Hello. "Uh... Er... Arp..." What the Hell man?! You've waited for this moment your entire life! Go say Hi to the guy! He's a person just like you and me! To which I promptly replied - "Uh... Er... Arp..." Okay. Have you ever seen that episode of Saturday Night Live where Chris Farley interviews legendary bassist Sir Paul McCartney? That's what I was afraid of. I was afraid of opening my mouth and pure stupidity would come spewing forth. Something like: "So, uh, you like Warwick basses right?" or "Uh. Do you remember that time when you filled in for Fieldy of KoRn? That was cool". I didn't want the guy thinking I was missing a chromosome or two. Or, worse yet, that my parents were related BEFORE they were married (Hi uncle daddy!). Alright, alright, truth be told, I was a little star struck. Yup. It's a real thing. I never understood it, until it happened to me.
Since you're still here, I'm going to spare you a bunch of boring stuff and get on with the story. (Besides, I'm sure my cohort will be along anytime now to fill you all in on some of my less than proud moments from that night). Soften The Glare took the stage and started playing. I was 6 feet from the stage basking in what can only be described as pure audible chocolatey goodness. The guitar, bass, and drums were blended beautifully, smoothly, and flawlessly. No words to this music. It's in my arrogant opinion (opinions are never humble are they?) that words would take away from the experience. The music itself tells the story, taking you on a journey unlike any other. I recorded about an eight minute video of them playing. Then I did a very unusual thing for this day and age. I put my phone back in my pocket, and just lived in the moment; exactly the way I believe they would want you to experience it. For the next 45 - 50 minutes or so, nothing else mattered or existed to me. I was there, living in that moment, knowing I would be telling this story for years to come. Guess I was right...
The set was over, the band was leaving the stage. What? This can't be right! You just started playing 5 minutes ago! I don't care if my watch says it's an hour later - Encore! Encore! Please?! Ha! Okay, I wasn't that bad, but I may have been thinking it. So the performance was over (dammit...), gear was being taken off the stage, and I was still beside myself about how to approach Ryan and hopefully engage in a conversation. How do I approach him? What do I say? Will he talk to me? Will he take the time to sign a few things for me? OH NO!!! I left my sharpie marker at home! That's it. I'm going to kill myself. I'm using a bass string to hang myself from the ceiling. Damn me anyhow. So I walk outside with my friend, I'm pacing back and forth nervously, trying to figure out what to do. The door opens, and there's Soften The Glare with their gear, loading it into a giant van. Now I will take a moment here to mention that I did notice that a few of the spectators outside with me were also fellow bassist - a few of which I recognized from bands the E.C.M.C. has worked with throughout the years. Good. Glad to know that I wasn't the only fan boy there that night: lessened my chances of having that restraining order against me. So, Soften The Glare is almost finished loading their gear, and I hear my friend say - Hey. What's up man? "Oh my God! Do you know who that is?! You can't just speak to him you savage! You're a guitarist!" - all of that of course, was said on the inside. On the outside, it was more like "Uh. Um. Err. Hi" and then it happened: Ryan walked over to my friend and I and started talking to us... Before I continue this, I'll let you all in on a little secret here. You know what I was the most afraid of this entire time? That he, nor the rest of the band, could be "bothered" by the likes of me. Make sense? This cat is one of my heroes of all things bass. Guess why I first bought a Warwick bass? That guy. (Well that, and they're f'n awesome!) For years I had always imagined that Ryan was this really cool guy who took the time to talk to his fans, sign an autograph or two, take a picture with you, and hell, maybe even have a drink with you. I was terrified that maybe, just maybe, I was wrong. What if he doesn't want to sign an autograph, or to even acknowledge my presence at this bar? Oh no. That would crush me. You know what? I was worried for nothing.
He was the one of the most pleasant, down to earth peole I have ever had the privilege to meet. Here's a guy who has been all over the world, playing music to thousands upon thousands of people, and he was taking the time to shake my hand, thanking me for coming to the show to see him/ them perform. He was very appreciative, yet humble, with all the compliments he was receiving from me and the others there. The whole band was very humble, appreciative, and down to earth. Talk about some really cool cats. World famous musicians thanking everyone there for coming out that night. Now that speaks volumes: not only for their character, but also for what great people they are as well. Now came the fun part: "Will you please sign my bass?" I'll sign anything you want he said with a smile on his face (That sounded like Dr. Seuss didn't it? Ha!). "Really? Okay, well uh, I may have brought TWO basses with me..." Guess what? He signed them both, along with a CD. A few pics were taken as well. I honestly couldn't tell you how long we were outside of that bar talking. At least an hour or so. Yes, I was able to un-clench my sphincter, relax, and enjoy the conversation. Before leaving that night we shook hands a final time, he thanked me again for being there, and I just flat out asked for a hug. Hey. I like hugs, and after all, this is Ryan Martinie we're talking about here. Sure enough, I got a hug. You know what? This is absolutely one of my favorite stories to tell for this reason (here comes that lesson kids). I took away a few things from that night. First being stage presence. Even after a long tiring drive to Charleston West by God, each and everyone of them gave 110% during their performance. I can remember doing back to back shows, being exhausted by the time that second show came around, maybe not giving it my all and just going through the motions. Okay. From now on, play every show as if it will be your last. You're there to entertain. Check. The other lesson being: be humble, be appreciative, and take the time to tell the audience thank you for being there. Take the time to talk to those who come up to you before and after a set. I can recall a time or two, when maybe I wasn't the most pleasant person because I worked a 50+ hour week, then only got three hours of sleep, drove two hours to a show, then waited another three hours to get on stage, etc. Afterwards, when all I wanted to do was load up, go home, and get some sleep, someone would come up to me, and would want to talk about the set, or show, or gear, etc. I probably wasn't too responsive, talkative, or worse yet, I may have possibly been borderline rude without realizing it, because I knew I still had a long drive ahead of me. Man, if that's the case, I apologize to anyone who I may have done that to. Okay. From now on, humility. People came out to support you, and to see you perform - no douchebag! In all seriousness though, whether he knows it or not, Ryan Martinie has actually taught me alot - not just his bad ass bassist skills, but how to be a better person in general. How to appreciate those who came out to see you. How to take the time, regardless of how tired I am, to interact with those wanting to talk to me. After all, isn't the entire music scene a mutual dependency? Crowds depend on the entertainers to entertain, provide them with a good time. The entertainers depend on the crowd to be there supporting them, cheering them on, fueling them for "one more song!". Success is everything, but it's not only about you. It's about people, teamwork, and staying humble. People respond to your heart. And that kids, is the lesson I carried away with me that night.
So how do I end this story? Well as it stands now, all 3 of my Warwick's boast Ryan Martinie's signature on them. The 3rd came from another show the following year. That second time around I was a lot more relaxed. I was able to talk, joke around, and be myself that time. I think all of those guys in Soften The Glare got carpal tunnel syndrome that night from all the swag I wanted autographed - CD's, shirts, posters, another bass, etc. Once again, all were happy to do it. So here's where I'll end this. Remember kids, stay humble in all your endeavors. Have respect for your fellow person, and last but not least - NO DOUCHEBAG! Had to throw that in there one final time.
Also, to you fine gentlemen in Soften The Glare, thank you for being such awesome people who are without a doubt, truly phenomenal musicians. I look forward to my next encounter with you. Hell, maybe we can work it out to where one day you can come play a show at my local bar where I host shows? (Once I find another establishment that is; that story comes at a later date). So Soften The Glare - I'll be in touch ;) Finally, I'd like to say: Mr. Ryan Martinie, if by some small miracle you ever find yourself reading this, thank you. Thank you for being a bad ass bassist, who unknowingly made me push myself throughout the years to become a better bassist, and thank you for helping me to become a better person. Also, just so you know, I don't have anymore Warwick's that need signed (yet). How would you feel about signing an Ibanez? Ha! Just kidding. Well; maybe I'm not...
(Update: Ryan Martinie did sign my one "Work Horse" Ibanez bass for me at a show last fall. How awesome is that? The look on his face though when I said "Ibanez" hahaha)