A couple of days ago, I mentioned that I got fired from a band after getting them a cool opportunity – here’s the story.
I’d been out of music college for a year or two. I got an ok grade, but I also quickly realised that… well music college doesn’t really do anything for you. The tuition wasn’t really that great, so I was looking for other teachers, ways to learn, and how to reach the level of playing that I wanted.
I was living at home with my mum (my parents had divorced when I was pretty young, about 10 or so), working any day job I could find to make some money. I was doing bar work, working at a fish and chips stall, working for a photography events company; I even had one job where I was shovelling rocks for 5 hours! I couldn’t afford to goto all the awesome metal festivals that I wanted to, so I would sometimes work in a sandwich bar at festivals so I could see my favourite bands.
On the music front, I was playing in a black metal band with one of my friends I’d made locally growing up. It was pretty fun but didn’t work out – we had the usual problems of finding the right people.
Eventually, my mum re-marries and moves to the South Coast, so I move in with my Dad. I was pretty broke at the time, getting by enough with some guitar teaching – I still had a lot to learn on how to make money teaching guitar. I was looking for other bands to join.
I’m browsing all the usual websites, replying to adverts, went to a couple of auditions, but didn’t really find a band that “clicked” with me.
Eventually I find one band, their demos are cool and I get along well with the other guy in the band, the main songwriter.
He couldn’t play lead and was specifically looking for a lead guitar player, which was perfect for me. He liked my playing (I was just getting the hand of shred guitar and developing serious speed in my playing), so I join forces and we start rehearsing for a few months, and the next challenge for any band in its formative stages – finding a line up.
Fortunately, he was friends with a drummer, so we had that band member locked down. We found a bass player pretty quickly, and eventually after a few months of looking, we found a pretty good singer.
It was the usual sort of progression for a band:
- Sit in someone’s bedroom, in the tiny place they rent, and work on the riffs together.
- Recruit the band and start rehearsing in a rehearsal studio.
- Eventually, get up to scratch and play some gigs in little pubs around London, to 5-20 people.
It was pretty fun, the feedback on the music was cool. I thought the band had some serious potential.
We played a couple of shows, and people would come up to me afterwards to say how much they enjoyed the show, and especially my playing, which was great. I’ve talked before about some of my self doubt and anxiety playing, and this positive feedback really helped.
So I’m thinking, “This is cool, but how do we push to the next level, play to more people?”. For me, guitar has always been about what comes next. It’s about the journey. And a journey requires that you move forwards.
What’s the next thing we had to do as a band?
If I can’t see myself working to the next thing, I get depressed. In fact, whenever I feel depressed, I ask myself what the next level I have to achieve is, and start working on it. Depressed feelings soon evaporate.
Anyway, I didn’t really fancy playing bars in London forever. It was fun, but I wanted to move on, to see some growth and progress. At the time, I thought that meant getting infront of more people.
I had been active on some heavy metal internet forums and had a group of friends that partied in London (possibly a little too often), slowly building up a bit of a network in the metal scene. So knowing someone who knew someone was within the reach of my friends.
One day, I get a message from one of my friends pop up on Facebook. There was a sold out show in London with an international touring metal band headlining. The venue was about 1500 people capacity.
The promoter was desperate for any band to fill the support slot. If we wanted it, my friend would make the call and put us forwards, with a pretty good chance of the promoter saying yes.
So I’m thinking… jackpot!
Could this be the break we were looking for?
An opportunity to get infront of people and PLAY. I mean… isn’t that what it’s all about?
My friend said they would make the call if I wanted.
So, I phoned the other guys in the band, told them about the opportunity and…
… they pussied out.
They were too scared. But really… I should have seen it coming.
When the other guitarist turned up to rehearsal on a cocaine-hangover, when we wasted an entire rehearsal arguing over what cover song we are going to learn (so dumb)… or when you get told at rehearsals that playing the songs twice is “good enough we don’t need to do that again”… well the writing was on the wall.
To top it off… they fired me the next day.
Apparently wanting to get opportunities was too much for them. Lol.
At the time, I was really pissed off.
In retrospect… it was the best possible thing that could have happened.
At that point I realised, if this dream I had, of creating awesome music was ever going to get anywhere, I had to take more control.
Not just control, but responsibility.
I had to make it happen myself. I had to take responsibility for every aspect of what I wanted.
Up until that point, I had never written a whole song myself. I had been relying on other people to do the song writing, so that I could turn up and play solos.
That’s when I sat down and started learning how to write songs.
It took me a few years, but… eventually I did it. I figured it out. I learned to write songs, and I finished writing .
Now all I had to do… was record it… … and find other musicians to play on it!
At this point I never imagined that I would end up on a flight to Europe, to sit in a recording studio with one of my heroes for 2 days, recording vocals for one of the songs.
See you soon,
Sam “Got fired for being too ambitious” Russell