Humans and Bands

Jay Reatard fired his whole band. As you can see, Jay's a class act.

Been there, though. Sometimes you gotta give 'em the boot. They have a job to do, they're supposed to do it. In Jay's case, they're not "contributing". Jay writes the music. The band is named after him - it's his group.

It's not easy managing a band. It's somewhere between running a volunteer organization and being married to multiple partners. A tricky balance, requiring a wide personnel/personal skill set.

Many bands like to talk about how they're "democracies" where everyone writes and contributes to the music, vision, etc. It's true some bands do work this way, but very few. Or at least very few successful bands.

Look, Picasso didn't have a bunch of other people coming in to doodle on "Les Demoiselles d'Avignon". Shakespeare and Stephen King didn't have some of their teenage school friends dropping by to scribble a few lines or tell them they didn't think the second verse "worked". Frank Lloyd Wright didn't bring in some "session architects" to add some parts to the Johnson Wax building.

Heard of "the auteur theory"? It applies to bands, too. I've met a lot of band members and musicians in my day. Hell, I've been a lot of band members and musicians in my day. Mostly they want to stand in the back and play. And sleep with the significant others of the rest of the band members. Sure, they're all egomaniacs, but not all of them crave the spotlight enough to do the work.

But they're still people. Messy, fucked up people. So here's the inevitable solution.

To be honest, this isn't exactly new. When The Pants were touring through Germany, Florian from Kraftwerk got a little tore up on schnapps and gin and started talking about how he was going to replace his whole band with what he called "Bandroids".

Typically, he was overreaching and way beyond what the technology could deliver - he talked about creating an entire label of Bandroid acts, eventually evolving things to what he called "maschine für maschine" - music by and for machines. Then he started talking about robot bicycles. I left him with T What?! and went back to the bar. That's all I remember.

Anyhow. Bandroids replacing humans - it's closer than we think!

Peter Hook Faked Ian Curtis' Autograph. Piker!

So Hooky admits that, maybe, you know, a couple of times he might have faked Ian Curtis' autograph.
Yeah, so what. To tell you the truth, I've faked Hooky's signature. Also Simon LeBon's, Mike Score's, Cy Curnin's, Jonathan Brandis', and once, when I was real messed up, Kevin Bacon's.

Every time, I managed to snag something between a fin and a Benjamin. Here's how it goes down: It's pretty much always night time. I'm out at a restaurant or club, keeping a low profile. Some giggly woman comes up and says "excuse me, are you Peter Hook?".

I smile, affect a terrible English accent, and reply "of course, luv." They start gushing about how much they love New Order and inevitably a request for an autograph follows, with a shakily extended piece of paper.

I look to one side as I'm pulling the Sharpie I always carry out of my pocket and say "sure, 20 bucks". More or less, depending on how I'm feeling.

Now before you all get up in arms, every successful singer I know does this. When you're almost famous, you get recognized all the time - just as somebody else. In the mid 90's L.A., I couldn't leave the house without getting "recognized" as actor Jonathan Brandis. Of course, the more you deny it, the more they're sure you're him.

The best part about this is that everybody wins. I get some cash and/or free drinks. The fan gets a special experience and a good story. And Hooky gets taken down a peg, because inevitably said fan will tell everyone he charged them for an autograph!

Anyhow, in today's music business, the conventional wisdom is "the music is now free, so sell what can't be copied". You know what can't be copied? Special moments. A connection between an artist and a fan. And also my faked version of Simon LeBon's signature.

Some of my more-broke musician friends think this is appalling. They think it should be about the music or something. They say musicians are supposed to produce music, not meet-and-greets, dinner dates, web chats, and (possibly faked) signatures. Then they try to sell me a t-shirt.

But sports fans have no problem standing in line for hours for an autograph factory like A-Rod at a "sports convention", and that's after buying tickets to games for hundreds of dollars. The secondary market for memorabilia is blowing up. Why can't I get in on this?

Music's being downloaded for free, like it or not. I gotta get paid somehow, like all my friends who play guitar. While I was "missing", I know people were passing around fake Sid Luscious merch, bootlegs, and so forth. Not to mention all the 80s band who ripped off my sound and look. I think of this as karmic (and actual) payback. What's a pop star to do?

And let me tell you, some of these people that come up to you and ask for autographs, these "fans" - they're creepy as hell. No musician will admit it in print, but most of them are terrified when people come up and start freaking out about how much they love you and how great they think your music is.

What's going through our heads is "Mark David Chapman". What we're not saying is "that song you think is so special? I wrote that in about 15 minutes because we needed 4 more minutes of material on the album."

And don't for a minute think that the "signature" on these things looks like how we actually sign our names. We aren't letting you fake up checks and credit card applications - I made that mistake once. Ok, twice.

Look, I've met lots of famous musicians. Most of them were boring. Or jerks. Yeah, a few were real nice (Eddie Van Halen tops this list). But I never once deluded myself into thinking they'd remember me, and that on the off chance we met again they'd say "hey, how are you, Sid?" Ed gave me a guitar and an amplifier once, but I still bet he couldn't pick me out of a police line-up (actually, I'm banking on that!)

Never confuse the art with the artist. The best thing you can do is simply say "thanks for the music" and walk on. That's all we want. If you want a "connection", buy a CD. Go see a show. Or just make up a story for your friends.