Tuesday, 2 October 2007

Instant Karma

We musicians can often be a curmudgeonly, back-biting lot, forever feeling the urge to measure ourselves against the perceived talents (usually obvious lack thereof ) / achievements / number of assorted groupies and hangers-on of our peers, and have a damn good moan about the vast list of (patently unfair) advantages that all and sundry in the music industry - with the exception of ourselves, of course - must have had at various points in their careers. I'll put my hand up and plead guilty to participating in my fair share of pointless slagging and whinging sessions - although I'm certainly no operatic soprano when it comes to demeaning fellow professionals, and I'd like to think it's a tendency that diminishes with age...? Well, once you get to that point of maturity (?) where you've truly stopped caring that an absence of discernible instrumental skill is no hindrance to spectacular global success in this business, anyway. (Why does Adam Clayton of U2 always spring to mind when considering this? Answers on a postcard/comment form...)

Still, as long as all we do is a bit of beer-fuelled bitching, ("ooh, got ANOTHER new Gibson has he? That's his fifth in the last two years isn't it? Well I never did - pass me nail clippers, could you? me left hand's looking all ragged, ta - what was wrong with the old one, that's what I'd like to know, eh? Not that it'll make him play any faster - that's better, I could really feel it during me extended solo bit in 'Sweaty Animal Cavities', you know, when I'm doing those 3rds, yeah? - only thing'd make him faster would be an amphetamine enema"), then that's fine. Everyone (ok, almost everyone - I will accept there may be one or two musicians in this world of ours who are so damnably nice, and genuinely affable and unpretentious and just all-round too-fecking-good-to-be-bleeding-true who've never said a bad word about anyone. Smug b@st@rds.) indulges in that from time-to-time. It's when we cross the line, and deliberately engage in acts of villainous skullduggery against our own kind, that's when our deeds are most likely to come back to bite us in the bahookie - in the following cautionary tale, almost literally.

Back before the dawn of time (or at least, predating the phenomenon of the 'Wonderbra', Operation 'Desert Storm', and the resignation of Margaret Thatcher - oh wondrous day! ), I was one of the "twin lead guitarists" in a marvellously unwieldy student prog-rock-jazz-band called "Mind The Gap" (briefly mentioned in previous post "Swordfishtrombone"). One of our drummers (you're getting the picture now, aren't you? ), Simon, discovered that his drum stool had a serious problem on the day of a gig. Being a bit of a skinflint, and pushed for time to buy spare bits (or a replacement), he settled upon a devious course of action. Spotting another, better-quality, drum stool sitting quietly minding its own business in one of the music department's practice rooms, he swiftly replaced it with his own, and scarpered (I'm sure he meant to swap them back after the gig. Honest).

Now, Simon was one of those drummers who's always trying to play that little bit more, to push his fills perhaps a semi-demi-quaver beyond what would actually fit into a given space, resulting in a spectacular application of sudden flailing arm redirection, and occasional inappropriate cymbal strikes falling headlong into the next bar. Quite a vigorous chap, in other words. Not one to sit reasonably still on his seat.

Well, we were about two-thirds of the way through the gig - nicely set-up and quite high stage, for once, with plenty of space, which was a rarity given all our kit! - and storming through a complex song by my mate 'Big' Rich Hind when to our immense surprise the drums suddenly disappeared, and there was a dull 'thud' from behind us. Looking round, there was no sign of Simon, but it quickly became apparent that he'd somehow managed to fall off the back of the stage, and was at that moment trying sheepishly to clamber back up. Rich and I looked at each other, and jumped straight back into the song where we'd left off. Hey, who knows, maybe he'd even meant to do it? He joined in again by the next chorus, but seemed strangely restrained for the rest of the evening.

So how does an otherwise-stable drummer come to fall off the back of the stage, I hear you ask? Well, somewhat satisfyingly, it turned out that the stool he 'borrowed without asking' also had a fault, and when it met with Simon's rather 'bouncy' playing style, it was only a matter of time before it gave way, sending him backwards arse-over-tit, into the gap that had oh-so-cleverly been left between the stage and the rear wall - probably to allow for some minor-but-irritating architectural features, or in case we stained the curtains, knowing York University.

He tried to set it up again before the next number, but the stool was being far too temperamental, so the suitably-chastened Simon had to play the remainder of the gig crouched in a painful half-squat, resting as little of his weight on it as possible (ladies' dodgy public toilet position no.1, I believe?). Plus it turned out to belong to a guy who was a bit of a gorilla (the big, muscle-y, not-happy-if-you-take-its-bananas bit), and who wasn't exactly best pleased when he discovered his drum stool was bust the next day...

So there you have it. The moral of our simple tale? You can say what you like about them, but don't nick things from other musicians, or you'll meet with a potentially dangerous accident (Simon was fine - he landed on his head). "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but stealing a collapsing drum stool will make me look a complete arse, and risks getting me a bit of a kicking". Something of that nature.

In the immortal words of Fathers Ted & Dougal,

"Down with this sort of thing!" - "Careful now!"

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