negative band environment

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by mmjazzbass, Feb 18, 2010.

  1. mmjazzbass


    Jan 24, 2010
    so i'm in this ska-punk band and for a long time there's been tension between me and our vocalist/guitarist that's really been bugging me. It basically boils down to him being upset at me for "not playing like a bassist" (i.e. not playing only roots or exclusively on the E string). He's really stubborn about "his" songs and tries to limit everyone else's creative control on them. This kind of thing has been going on for a while, but lately every rehearsal has devolved into him telling me that i'm playing the song wrong, followed by his attempts to tell me what he thinks is right/ a heated argument that eventually involves the entire band. There are plenty of good times in this band, but recently my relationship with the vocalist has made it much less enjoyable for me, and my bandmates can't enjoy it either. I recently found out from our trumpet player (a good friend of mine) that at a rehearsal that I hadn't arrived at yet our vocalist proposed that I should get kicked out of the band. Our horn players convinced him otherwise, essentially saying that the band would go to hell if i was kicked out.
    In summary:
    • My singer switches between loving and hating my playing on a daily basis, and yells at me at every rehearsal without ever giving a concrete explanation of what is "good"
    • The drummer agrees with me that the vocalist is stubborn and overly aggressive, but will likely side with him if he decides to fire me.
    • the horn players are on my side, and have told me they will leave if i get fired.
    I don't want to leave the band, but I would like to address the vocalist about his attitude. I'm really looking for new methods of talking to him about the problem and how to resolve the dispute. Sorry about the long post, but I felt like I should explain the entire situation. Thanks guys.
  2. Knifedge


    Jan 24, 2009
    Typically, when the band stops being fun, the band stops. It really sounds like vocalist has already made up his mind about you. It also sounds like there is much more going on in this situation than your ability (or inability, depending on the mood of the singer apparently). TO me, the singer has other reasons for being like that to you, and he won't come out with it. You are either going to have to talk to the singer to find out what his real beef is, or leave the band and watch it go to crap. If your trumpet player is correct about you being essential to the foundation of the band, then you should easily be able to get another gig, or start a new band. That's my opinion, been through what you are going through a few times in my career.... hope all works out for you....
  3. LaklandBass


    Jan 26, 2005
    I have the perfect advice for you.
    at the end of your next practice hand him an invoice. print it up all nice and have lines to fill in the time you rehearsed and the total amount. when he asks what on earth you mean simply reply with
    "when you start treating me like a band member ill act like one. Untill then youre going to pay me like the session player you treat me as"

    that should put it into perspective for him.
  4. Clank


    Jan 7, 2008
    Huntington Beach
    Endorsing Artist: Ernie Ball Strings
    If he yells you can hand him his teeth.
  5. mmjazzbass


    Jan 24, 2010
    it's especially bad because he's foreign and doesn't really speak or understand english
  6. LaklandBass


    Jan 26, 2005
    hmmmmmmmmmmm get a translator to hand him the invoice? perhaps discuss discounted rates by purchasing hours in blocks of ten?
  7. lowfreq33


    Jan 27, 2010
    Endorsing Artist: Genz Benz Amplification
    Umm.. it's ska. Isn't the bass supposed to be pretty active?
  8. bass_snake

    bass_snake Inactive

    Aug 13, 2008
    Stouffville, Ontario
    Quit the band and start a new one. Find great people.

  9. I deal with conflicts and negotiations all the time In Real Life.

    Lesson Number One is that what he SAYS and what he MEANS are never guaranteed to be the same thing.

    What he's calling a "real bassist" sounds like an issue of style. But your response is that you ARE a real bassist and you don't HAVE to play only root notes. You are CORRECT but that doesn't resolve the problem. It sounds like he wants you to play in a different style but is not expressing that clearly.

    Once THAT issue is cleared up, it sounds like the singer is a real piece of work by himself. I agree that it sounds like his mind is made up - you're not the bass player he wants to work with.

    I always tell people, "I will play what you want, but you must CLEARLY EXPLAIN what you want. If I played it wrong, it's because you explained it wrong." Make a genuine attempt to follow this policy. If he's never explained it well, and you've never tried his way, you'll never know if it's secretly better. In the process, you'll find out if he's going to complain about you no matter what you do (very important to know). If the ONLY thing he finds acceptable is root notes, and you can't accept that, it's not going to work out. But at least you gave it a shot.

    I recently quit a band with a singer who is very similar to what you describe. He is the main obstacle to that band's success. A difference was that he never harped on my playing, but on everyone else's. It was difficult to witness. Best of luck.
  10. Ok that's an important detail.

    My sincere advice is to find a new band.
  11. mmjazzbass


    Jan 24, 2010
    That's one of the biggest points I've made to him before, and I've shown him recordings of ska bands with active bass players. I think this is just another case of the vocalist/gui**** being obsessed with the spotlight, so making logical arguments based on what sounds good won't make any headway if they involve him taking a less prominent role.
  12. ...if the behind the back discussions have already begun, it's done anyway....just leave.

    You'd be in a better situation sooner if you do.
  13. Slax


    Nov 5, 2007
    Long Island, NY
    My thoughts exactly. I was in a ska band for years, always had a pretty active bass line.

    That same ska band was also one of the biggest argument filled bands I was ever in. *shrug*
  14. the next time he yells at you ,just unplug and start packing up......tell him you're done taking his not quit,do not argue......either they let you go or tell the singer to back off...either way you solve the problem and maintain your dignity...and outside of those two outcomes what options are there
  15. Gopherbassist


    Jan 19, 2008
    If he is protective about his songs, write songs for the band, with the band, that are your songs. I don't think he could complain about that. though he probably will.
  16. joshmat


    Nov 20, 2005
    Houston, TX
    +1 there ... mmjazz, correct me if I'm mistaken, but it looks like you're a young player (no offense intended). I'd suggest you take a tact similar to Jim's advice; a very objective, "hey, I'm not interested in being pushed around or playing mind games, I'm here to play AND I deserve RESPECT attitude." You DO deserve the respect you're seeking, but you've got a lot ahead of you. I would think if you need to leave, you'll find a better gig yet. Hang in there and best of luck!
  17. Spinal Tapper

    Spinal Tapper

    Nov 15, 2007
    Life's too short - they'll see how hard it is to find another bassplayer once you leave.

    MOVE ON>
  18. mmjazzbass


    Jan 24, 2010
    funny story actually, a year ago I had to leave the same band for outside reasons and apparently they went through several bassists. A few months afterwards i got calls from both the drummer and vocalist essentially begging me to come back. it's funny how quickly they forgot that :rollno:
    but anyway, i've decided that at our next rehearsal I'm just going to keep playing like i have been, and if i get chewed out i'll pack up and leave (thank god i don't keep any of my gear in the practice space). If i get questioned about it i'll say bands are supposed to be collaborative, i feel taken for granted, blah blah blah etc. if i get kicked out whatever, but at least i get to end it on my own terms.
  19. Pat C.

    Pat C. Supporting Member

    Jan 1, 2005
    Tuscaloosa, Alabama
    This is an interesting point. You should ask them why they asked to you come back. Obviously they found your playing at least acceptable, maybe your playing has changed and you don't realize it? Maybe not, though...but insist that the singer addresses this issue.

    Also, what is the heirarchy in this situation? Is the singer the bandleader (as in, he gets final say in musical and/or business matters) or is he just pushy? You can ask this question also, pose it to the entire band - I'm sure if this ensemble truly is supposed to be a group collaboration than the other members will balk if the singer tries to claim leadership. This also gives you an opportunity to state your conditions for participation: "I would really only want to continue if I can contribute my own ideas" or something along those lines. Unless you're willing to take direction from the bandleader, in which case you're a hired gun and you can insist that the musical direction is presented to you concisely and professionally. :)

    Very few musical endeavors are worth putting up with someone yelling and berating you for your playing. If that doesn't resolve itself than you may want to move on sooner rather than later because later on you'll probably regret staying in such a sour situation.

    I hope it all works out, good luck.
  20. ::::BASSIST::::

    ::::BASSIST:::: Progress Not Perfection.

    Sep 2, 2004
    Vancouver, BC Canada
    The instant a band member "yells" at me I'm gone.

    Life's too short for that BS.