Need to make a decision

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by B-NoteCowboy, Jul 15, 2005.

  1. OK... if this is deja vuish, it's because I had a similar problem I posted about a year ago in regards to the lead guitar position in my band. That has since been nicely resolved, but now I have a new problem. I could sure use some verteran band management advice from some of you cats.

    OK. I've got a KISS tribute band. Started off as a fun one-off show project and has really snowballed into a nice opportunity. Last year, we did only about five shows around Halloween, but they were fun and well received. Since then, I've been tweaking the set list, costuming, stage blocking and we hired a really good lead guitarist who is rock solid. My drummer has gotten much much better and we are poised to be able to put on a great show.

    Good news came last month in the form of us being hired for a month-long gig at a local BIG haunted house/town kind of attaction. 12 nights, two sets per night, and it pays very well. There will be thousands of people cycling through every weekend, so it's a great opportunity to get the act seen and our name out. Five weekends from 9/30 through 10/31. Pyrotechnics, pro lighting system, great sound system and a fantasticly cool harbor-style amphitheater stage with a full scale pirate ship as part of the facility.

    So here's my problem. In the original incarnation of the band, our rhythm guitarist/vocalist (aka Paul Stanley) was backed up by another band member on guitar. In the interest of having the most accurate show possible, we've gone to a strict four man lineup. Problem is, our current Paul can't play guitar for crap but has great vocal range and stage presence. A natural frontman but a very hamfisted guitar player who has to get up to speed (with lots of shortcuts) in about two months. He also has a big family, and two jobs. And he lives 90 minutes away making it tough to be flexible on practice/photo shoot/ band meeting schedules. Natural knack for harmonies on background vocals, and great range and power on his leads.

    As he has been difficult to pin down for practice, we've had a guy sitting in with us to fill in on the rhythm part. He knows the music backwards and forwards and can play both guitar parts. Knows the shows, the manerisms, the characters. Uberfan kinda guy, and he's the right "body type" to play either guitar character in the show. He's got good stage energy but.... he isn't great vocally.

    He's gotten much better over the last month, but still has a ways to go. He brings so much else to the table though that we've decided we have a decision to make now. Long time friend (and business partner) who can't play guitar well, or drummer's coworker who brings much dependability, guitar-playing and energy but isn't as strong a vocalist? He would be singing lead on about half of the songs on each setlist. He's very organized committed and LOCAL.

    I've got to make a decision quick so we can be as polished as we can be one way or the other. It seems to come down to what do I value more? perfect vocals and subpar guitar, or perfect guitar and possibly subpar vocals?

    Last year it was more about fun, but this year it has to be about business as well because there is a lot of opportunity on the line for contacts, merchandising etc.

    In the last week, our lead guitarist was out of town and the drummer and I jammed with both of the other guys seperately. It isn't really a fair comparison, but with one guy, the sound was a perfect and tight as I've ever experienced in any practice situation. We all felt it and commented on the power of it. A few days later, we jammed with the other guy and the vocals really stood out more clearly and stronger, but.... oh my god.... he has a loooooong way to go just to be adequate.

    Is two months enough time for a very average guitarist to be able to learn rhthym parts for 21 songs well enough to not detract from the sound? I know he won't be able to play as well as the other guy even if he had a year, but the lead guitar and bass are so strong in the group that some shortcuts on rhythm guitar are probably not going to be noticed by 99.9% of people seeing the show. Flat lead vocals might be more noticeable even though the other guy adds wayyy more musically. So... I'm torn.

    Which is harder in that amount of time - to refine vocals or to learn guitar parts? Given more time, I think either guy would be able to do what needs done, but we don't have the time. We have two months and the show has to be ready to roll out for some practice shows before the live bullets are flying (so to speak). Which is easier for the layperson in the audience to notice: oversimlified rhthym guitar in a four piece band, or occasionally flat lead vocals on a guy that sings about half of the leads? Long term, neither problem is something that can't be overcome, but in two months... what is the best route to take? Thoughts? Questions? Any input would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance.

  2. You are definately in the midst of a difficult decision.

    From a musician's point of view I'd say go with the stronger guitarist.

    From a Kiss fan's point of view, which of course is your audience, you absolutely need the best Paul Stanley you can produce. From what you are saying it is the guitar challenged singer. I've gotta say keep the vocals strong and help this guy step up to the job.

    Good luck!
  3. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    I'd probably go with the better singer and just have him turn down his guitar...
  4. Joe Nerve

    Joe Nerve Supporting Member

    Oct 7, 2000
    New York City
    Endorsing artist: Musicman basses, Hipshot products
    I actually read that whole thing. :)

    Your situation sucks, but you know that already. I think I'd go with the crappy guitar player. Paul Stanley couldn't play guitar anyhow, and KISS can easily be pulled off with one guitarist. A few rightly timed power chords is all your better singing friend would have to really work on. I used to teach my 9 year old brother kiss songs on the guitar, and he didn't have an eigth of an ounce of talent. Paul Stanley has a pretty good vocal range though, and singing his stuff ain't exactly the easiest to pull off. People care most about the vocals and the drums in the band. 2nd guitarist are NOT a priority to sound together. If they're in tune, and low in the mix you really can't go wrong.

    Antother big factor however is how much each of them REALLY wants to do it. Will the better singer guy commit to playing all the shows? If he won't, can't, or you're unsure - you may have to go with the other guy.

    While it may seem crazy because you don't have much time and 2 guys you're already working with another option may be posting ads all over for the right guy for this one particular run of shows. I'm sure there are very polished paul stanleys all over the country that would be happy to jump into a gig that paid well. If he knows the stuff there really doesn't have to be much rehearsal involved.

    Lastly, as a somewhat desperate option - you can have the better guitarist playing backstage while the crappy player is faking it. I'm quite sure that KISS has done that at shows with Ace Freehley, and I know for a fact that some other groups you'd never think would do such a thing, have.
  5. I guess I don't understand what the huge problem is. Can't the guy playing Ace Frehley handle most of the guitar stuff, while your awesome singer playing Paul Stanley just hits a few well timed power chords or something? Maybe I'm over simplifying it, but I would think you want a strong vocalist more than anything in a tribute band...turn your Paul Stanley down if needed, and have the lead guitar and bassist (I guess you're Gene Simmons?) dominate the mix.
  6. Go with the stronger singer for sure. Most non-musician types I think would have a much eaiser time picking out a mediocre singer than a mediocre guitar player.
  7. DaftCat


    Jul 26, 2004
    Medicine Hat

    KISS coulda been a trio in the instrument aspect.
  8. fr0me0


    Dec 7, 2004
    Winnipeg Canada
    i'd go with the singer and I like the idea of the guitarist behind the stage if its possible.
  9. Thanks for the input guys. Seems the concensus opinion is to go with the stronger vocalist/stage presence and simplify his rhythym part.

    Looking at it from a layman's point of view as a general fan, I think you are all right - weaker vocals are much more noticeable than weaker rhythym guitar - so long as his weakness is just having to play more basic parts low in the mix.

    OK. Sounds like a plan. :cool:
  10. waxcomb


    Jun 29, 2003
    Martinez, CA
    As long as he looks like he's playing a flying V like a violin, that will be cool enough. Lots of strutting, pouting, arm swinging and showmanship are what made Paul stand out, not his great playing.

    Or, you could get the other guy and just do Gene, Peter and Ace singing songs: Shock Me, Hooligan and God of Thunder.
  11. No flying V, but he will have a Paul Stanley black Ibanez Iceman.

    Ironically... the solution presented itself today when our lead guitarist admitted he was going to have some problems making all the shows. So I asked him if he wouldn't mind sitting this series of shows out. He was actually relieved (custody situation with his kids taking a lot of time and travel on weekends) and said no problem.

    So.... the other guitar player is now Ace but knows all the Paul stuff too so he can play all the intros that Paul normally would play. Nobody but the most nerdy KISS fan will notice. And the nerdiest KISS fans will all be in the band, so I think we are in good shape. He'll also be better for helping our "Paul" assimilate the guitar parts than I will as I obviously haven't studied them like he has.

    I'm very relieved because this guy brings a lot of musicanship and knowledge of the show to our group. Great guy with a lot of creative energy and motivation - which takes a lot of pressure off me. I think mainly I was anxious about not having him involved because we were working up some great musical chemistry. I've got great stage chemistry with the guy that is the better vocalist, so I went from having a problem to being extremely optimistic about the quality and energy of this show just like that! *snaps fingers*

    The moral of the story kids... is don't burn bridges and make sure you have extra musicians in case one breaks down.
  12. waxcomb


    Jun 29, 2003
    Martinez, CA
    He's worth a deuce!
  13. Tash


    Feb 13, 2005
    Bel Air Maryland
    Sounds like the situation is resolved, but I couldn't help thinking something:

    -You have a good singer with great showmanship
    -That singer is a lousy guitarist
    -You plan on covering his lack of musicianship with tricks adn theatrics.
    -You are a KISS cover band...

    How is this different from the real KISS????? :)

    PS: You just become my new sig too!
  14. Exactly! :D