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A Creative Partnership of 30-Years Seems To Have Become Toxic. Can It Be Cured?

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by TST, Nov 3, 2018.

  1. TST


    Dec 21, 2017
    Wombat Forest
    In the last 12 months or so, I've noticed my creative partner has been acting strangely toward me. I feel up until recently we've shown each other respect and admiration for 30 years, being musical buddies since the 'dawn of time'. It now seems my partner is expressing contempt for me, my contributions and my character. I'm sorry if this becomes a rant ...

    Our relationship is based mainly on music and, although I'm the main song writer, I have always included and encouraged my partner in the process of writing songs - and he's penned a couple of really good tunes. My own admiration for my partner's musical ability (let's call him X, for brevity) is his technical knowledge and ability. He's the kind of musician who really explores the details of groove and structure. In short, I think we compliment each other because his technical knowledge has always married well with my intuitive and/or expressive ability. My strength in music is more focused on writing and narrative (lyrics) and the wonder of discovering melodies that bring those stories to life. I'm not a trained musician, except that I've been doing this for a while now (200 songs and counting). I also sing (apparently I'm pretty good) and currently play bass guitar (my favourite instrument), although I have played six-string guitar for more than 30 years.

    One of things we agreed on very early on was to always consult the other before making final decisions. When introducing a new song to the band, X and I would always come to an agreement as to the new songs place (or not) in our song list. We would spend fabulous hours together crafting a new high. It's really been great. When creating promotional material for upcoming gigs, X and I would always collaborate and both seal off the job. We've always had a pretty good idea how we wanted to portray ourselves visually, artistically. Perhaps most importantly of all, we've never personally attacked each other.

    This has all changed recently and I'm lost as to know how to confront this situation.

    For example, as a graphic designer, the responsibility has always fallen onto me to initiate graphic material for CD covers and promotional posters. This is something I love to do and I have the skills and knowledge to accomplish it quickly and to a high standard. It also helps that X has a background in fine arts and I'm always happy to include his input during the process (and I assure you he always has something to input). But recently this dynamic has changed. X decided, without any mention to me, that he had designed our next band poster. I might have let the incident go if it wasn't for how shockingly bad the poster was, and I'm confident that had I suggested using a fluoro-green Godzilla as an image to promote our band and its songs it would have been laughed out of existence. For context, I have tested the edges of our band's imagery in the past and have no regrets when X or others have kept me from going too stupid. And get this - right after the Godzilla reveal I went home and designed my own poster. I emailed it to him and his single-worded response was "Gay". That's it. Gay. :(

    As I mentioned, I'm a serious lyric writer, which simply means I work damn hard to get to a final lyric through many, many drafts . However, X has no qualms about presenting a first draft of his own lyric and insisting that it's going onto the band's song list. Any suggestions I make now about possibly fine-tuning his lyrics or questioning his motives is met with restrained hostility at the best (it's that look in his eyes and the snide remark). In the last few months this has grown an extra terrible head in the form of X wanting to take the musical feel of the band toward more blues and dance-oriented (he simply deletes a few songs from our final song list and inserts his own). This resulted last week in a gig where we threw out our last set list in favour of doing basic blues and dance grooves, just because it seemed to serve the drunken audience the most. It was the worst gig I have ever experienced in my 30 years of playing live and one that makes me share all of this with you now.

    I'm now at a point where I'm not sure what to do about it. I'm happy to accept that I may have had some part to play in all of this, but I feel I that I've been too naive and giving when it comes to my creative partnership with X. My plan is to have a band meeting and bring up these concerns (bloody tough, tho), but I'm fairly certain it will mean the end of the partnership and band.

    What do you think I should do?
  2. charlie monroe

    charlie monroe Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 14, 2011
    Buffalo, NY
    I think you should do some meaningful self introspection.

    You have done a fine job describing your patience and willingness to accommodate X’s suggestions.

    Are you sure that this has been interpreted as intended? X may feel like you are pandering.

    Have you always been equals, or is it just you who feels this way?

    Any external influences that have changed recently? They may include a new romantic interest or perhaps a difference in this polarizing political climate we have?
    G-Z, DJ Bebop, dbsfgyd1 and 2 others like this.
  3. Kro

    Kro Supporting Member

    May 7, 2003
    New Jersey
    When you say band meeting, is it just the two of you? If not, I'd be sure to approach X privately to discuss first.
  4. Talk to the man...
  5. PauFerro


    Jun 8, 2008
    United States
    I would have a heart to heart talk. Indicate how much you've enjoyed the partnership these 30 years. It seemed the unwritten process was do do this, that, and the other thing. Now that seems to have changed with X's unilaterial decision making. Also, it surprised you that he would respond to your ideas with the word 'gay' and nothing else. You sense, and you hope you're wrong, hostility when you suggest changes to his lyrics...is something going on? What changed? You would like to understand this, as you find it disturbing...ask him what is going on.

    If he won't talk, then that's another post. But if he'll talk, you might find a number of things have happened that you weren't aware of, and you can clear the air over them. He might come out with stuff that you don't agree with, which then means the relationship has to change significantly. It sounds like he's feeling constrained in the creative side of what you guys do,and is coming out with guns blazing to assert his creative control. Almost like a rebellious teenager.

    The fact is, you need to talk as none of us know what is going on in his mind, but something has happened to trigger this sudden culture change.

    Also, it could be something in his personal life. I had a guy I was developing into jazz. We did a free gig at a Farmers Market. Halfway through he packs up his stuff and leaves.

    We were flabbergasted. I met with him later, and yes, he had some issues with the way we just call tunes as a band, rather than having a fixed set list in that context. But as I delved deeper, I found out he'd lost his job, had to sell $8000 of equipment to pay a couple months rent, needed medical attention but had no benefits, and didn't know how he was going to pay his rent next month. There were personal issues bothering him, and it manifested itself in his band behavior.

    I don't know if that's the case with X, but until you talk to him, you won't know.
  6. Cowboy in Latvia

    Cowboy in Latvia

    Mar 1, 2015
    This post is truly insightful. OP, you might do well to follow this suggestion.

    I would add that when you are listening, truly listen. Don't formulate responses at all, just listen. Often we find ourselves listening so that we can respond and be heard. However it can be much more powerful to hear someone else without regard to self.
  7. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    This. Not the whole band. Just you and him.

    You guys have a lot of history. Accentuate the good times and your best collaborations. Tell him you don't want it to end, but that you guys have to get to the bottom of this recent animosity. Ask what you can do to help get things closer to the way they were. That will usually get people to open up.

    The next suggestion? Taka a break. No writing or even gigs until February. Take the holidays off. If you're already booked, take Spring off. Just take 6 or 8 weeks without seeing each other at all. It'll either fix things or let one of you know you're happier without the other. Either way it'll be solved.

    But don't allow a 30 year relationship like that to end badly. That would be horrible. Be prepared to part as friends.
  8. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    My usual response, which is needed. Sit down with the man over a pot of coffee (or pitcher of beer) and have a talk. Both of you apparently have a reason to talk, and to listen.
  9. TheReceder


    Jul 12, 2010
    There's more going on than either you mentioned, or than you know.

    Like others have said. Talk to the man. More important... listen to him.
  10. Marc DLarosa

    Marc DLarosa Supporting Member

    May 29, 2017
    There's a place called Wombat Forest, where people live? COOL!!!
    TST, Ekulati and BOOG like this.
  11. Seanto


    Dec 29, 2005
    I agree that if this relationship is that meaningful to you, the only way to fix it is to talk it out. At the same time if someone is going to respond to my contribution with just "gay" i would really be questioning whether i should be associating with such an ass hat. 30 years is a long time, and maybe some resentment has finally hit the point of spilling over. You have finally become the bickering old married couple, potentially. I had this feeling grow toward people in MUCH LESS time.
    TST and Bass Man Dan like this.
  12. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Supporting Member

    00 images2b3.
    forget the "band meeting" stuff...you have a 30-year relationship with X! time for a little respect! good luck! :thumbsup:
  13. keto


    Mar 3, 2016
    Print out your post so you have all the talking points and feelings, and sit down with him and show him. Then let him know how much you value him, and ask why the changes, in a nice way.
    TST likes this.
  14. Bass Man Dan

    Bass Man Dan Endorsing Artist: Ned Flanders' Bass-a-Reeno Supporting Member

    Oct 20, 2017
    Who in the hell, as a grown up, responds to anybody's honest attempt at anything with "gay"?

    Disrespectful at best. Immature and hateful at worst.
    DirtDog, Gluvhand, Stevorebob and 6 others like this.
  15. I agree with all of the above, talk to the guy.

    I am curious about the bad gig comment. From whose perspective was it the worst gig in 30 years? Your's, the band's, the audience? I guess what I'm getting at, maybe y'all have just developed a different view of where you're going.
    DJ Bebop, eJake and TST like this.
  16. vvvmmm


    Dec 6, 2016
    Sometimes ya just gotta have a screaming argument, fistfight or outright breakup, to get back onna even keel.

    Just had a couple (the first option - he's a kinda Trumpie and I'm a flaming leftwinger) with my best bud of 19 years; we do it every 5 or so.

    He says it's a guy thing, I say he's a screaming poopie-head, and then we are alright for the next 5 or so.

    The key is, ya gotta value the friendship first. In the past - with others and when that friend ship included other stuff, like making music - the results weren't so good.

    But 30 years? G'luck.
    hardtop, TST and TwentyHz like this.
  17. fhm555

    fhm555 So FOS my eyes are brown Supporting Member

    Feb 16, 2011
    First, it was a silly band poster, obviously one of many in a 30 year period of continous work so who cares if it was not up to your standards, it’s a silly band poster.
    You should have let your partner have their moment with a little grace rather than negative criticism.
    Given their response to your replacement poster, i’d say you hurt some feelings and possibly unleashed years of resentment created by feelings harbored by your partner of being less than an equal partner in the relationship. The fact they are now insisting on unilateral changes without consulting you speaks to a desire to prove they in fact have the skills to do things well enough that the usual consultation and your approval are not now and never really have been required, they’ve just been going along to avoid disagreement.
    It sounds like a typical stuffer. In the name of getting along, when they disagree they fail to express their true feelings and just go along to avoid drama. As the resentment builds, very often with them being totally unaware it’s happening, they slowly resolve to quit being a doormat and speak up, or maybe compose a silly band poster without consulting you, and when you dismissed it as completely wrong, it unleashed all those years of stuffed frustration and resentment, which manifested in a terse one word reply to your attempted error correction. Your basic tit for tat so common in long term relationships where one partner believes acquiescence is preferable to arguing but resents doing so until they can no longer contain that resentment.
    I’m betting if you take an honest assessment you will find the passive agressive behavior surfaced after your dismissal of your partners band poster as an amateur effort not even worthy of discussion, but i’m betting warnings have been telegraphed for some time now and you simply missed or ignored them because from where you sit, it’s a picture perfect drama free relationship. Complacency in an LTR with a passive personality is also very common so don’t be too hard on yourself but do try to become better attuned to your partner, make it clear you are no mind reader and the only way you can know how they feel is for them to express themselves honestly and openly, and encourage them to do so in every decision making situation. Don’t assume agreement means they like what they are agreeing to, they may just be trying to please you at the expense of their personal feelings.
    G-Z, BBQisgood, eJake and 7 others like this.
  18. 40Hz

    40Hz Supporting Member

    Abrupt changes in a long running relationship are either an indication there’s been a long slumbering and well hidden resentment building; or an outside influence has entered the into picture.

    The best collaborative artistic relationship I ever was a part of got torpedoed when a new lover entered my co-writer’s life.

    As is natural with fundamentally insecure individuals, she did her best to increase her value to him by pumping up “her friend’s” self-image. And she created a small monster in the process.

    When that led to the inevitable friction, she immediately threw her support behind my co-writer (“You’re carrying those guys. They’re just riding on your talents!”) and did her best to separate him from the rest of the herd as all good predators do.

    Any attempt to conduct a rational discussion of mutual grievances was met with either stony silence or wild outbursts and accusations about things that left me and the rest of the band scratching our heads since the things he seemed the most incensed about didn’t have much relation to anything that was going on, or (in some cases) had ever actually happened. Crazy stuff!

    It ended with him flouncing off into the sunset, his loyal companion by his side, standing tall against the world and all its evils…<cue soundtrack>

    Unfortunately, the experience soured the rest of the band badly enough that a few months later it all unwound and it was one more band to chalk up to experience.

    So it goes.
    Last edited: Nov 3, 2018
    hardtop, yodedude2, TST and 1 other person like this.
  19. Koog

    Koog Supporting Member

    Dec 27, 2010
    Central Iowa USA
    Congratulations on what sounds like a long term, productive musical relationship. Given the history you describe, I understand your desire to preserve the relationship and have things between you return to the way they were during the period that you define as your most productive and enjoyable. Unfortunately, your best time may not be the same as the best time for your creative partner.

    I've been playing music in collaboration with others since 1963. My experience says that about the only thing that is not repairable in any collaboration is when resentment, for any reason, creeps into the picture. When this happens, efforts at reconciliation are usually a few steps too late. At this juncture, it is just time to move on. Time may heal the situation, but not if the persons at odds stay together in the collaboration. Both parties need space to have a shot at becoming friends and collaborators again.

    Your description of the circumstance is thorough and revealing. At the risk of upetting you, I would suggest that there is some degree of resentment from you as well as from your creative partner. This is the piece of your description of the circumstance that would tell me it's time to move on. Separation may just free you to the extent that you will find a higher level of creative juice.

    I wish you the best as you find your way through this. And, you will!

    TST likes this.
  20. Talk. Get to the heart of it. Honestly. Don’t hold back and encourage X to do the same. I had a 20+ year musical partnership end over personal disagreements and petty jealousies. We didn’t speak for over 2 years until he called to tell me he had only weeks to live. I dropped by one afternoon and we talked. Never saw or spoke to him again. Have it out no holds barred and resolve the issue or agree to disagree. Then move on together or separately.
    eJake and TST like this.

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