Tough call... time to let a buddy go?

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by B-NoteCowboy, Jul 11, 2004.

  1. OK,

    I'm in two bands. One is a pretty stable situation and has been gigging locally for years. The other one is pretty new, but is built around a project which has evolved and now I face a dillema.

    My best friend started playing drums last November. A mutual friend (who is a guitarist) and I talked him into picking them up. He is one of those guys who is always grooving to music and tapping his feet and fingers. We knew he would pick up the drums fast and he has. Pretty solid drummr, still needs to work on his fills but that's another story.

    Anyway, we figured that the three of us should work together and set a goal of a show for our friend the drummer to work towards - to keep him focused and motivated. We decided to focus on a Halloween show the next year (this year) and began to plan what it should be. Easy drum parts, but fun rock and roll music. The Halloween angle made an easy decision for a bunch of guys in their mid-30's. We decided to do a KISS tribute show. Afterwards, we would work on original material and a broader range of covers, but we all agreed this would be fun.

    Well, we needed singer and another guitar player, so we asked my business partner who has been in several bands as both a singer and a guitarist. He loved the idea and we had a band. The problem is the mutual friend of myself and the drummer... is not that great a guitarist. He isn't a natural talent and has no stage presence. Very average. At the time we made the plan, we were thinking one show for friends and family. Now.... we have a 20 song KISS set, and through people who have visited practices and word of mouth, we are getting lots of large bookings for the month of October at various halloween parties.

    A few weeks after coming up with the idea, I talked to my wife's cousin about it. I've played with him few times, and he is an absolutely amazing guitarist. Fantastic. Plays lead stuff on Metallica to SRV. He said he loved the idea and wished he could be part of it. Well, we had four guys already, but as I mentioned... this isn't a tribute band, it is just a tribute show we are doing. So I asked him to come to practice.

    Fast forward..... after lots of practices, it is clear that our weak link is the original lead guitarist who is a mutual friend of myself and the drummer. The project to get my friend to learn drums, had blossomed into what is actually a pretty damn good band and a 20 song set Halloween KISS show that is getting tighter and tighter. The problem with the show is that we are a five man band doing a show based on a four man band. Not a huge deal, given some artistic license but it just doesn't look right. Dig?

    Anyway.... Two of the last three practices (which are big deals because our singer and our really good guitarist come from at least an hour away to practice) the original guitarist hasn't shown up, and hadn't bothered to tell us he wouldn't be there.

    This pisses me off beyond words. It is the ultimate disrespect to the guys in the band who are driving that far to be there and we were counting on him on some leads and lots of rhythm riffs. Today, he doesn't show up but the four of us did... and after being pissed off, I had an epiphony. We had the best f*cking practice ever today. We tightned up our set list and added 2 new songs in the course of a four hour practice. It sounded great and the chemistry was fantastic.

    What I knew already was crystalized today... the guy who didn't show up, and didn't tell us he wouldn't be there is the weak link.

    I think that beyond just having the right look and chemistry for all the halloween shows we are booking this year, we need to think beyond that and realize that not only is this four piece group who played today, the best fit for the look and sound of the set we are working on, it is the best chemistry and most reliable group for beyond.

    Problem... the guy I am thinking of letting go was sort of the co-founder of the idea, though since then I have pretty clearly evolved into the band leader in this project. He is also a much closer friend to our drummer (my best friend) than he is to me. It would put our drummer in an akward position.

    Is it worth it to let this guy go at this point? Too late in the game for something that originally was for fun and to get our drummer focused? Or do we owe it to ourselves as a band to think about the quality of this show, and beyond? Dependability is a major issue for me. And this is twice now that the guy has left the other four of us in a lurch for an important practice.

  2. Blueszilla

    Blueszilla Bassist ordinaire

    Apr 2, 2003
    The Duke City
    Have you spoken to him since the first missed practice? Has he given you a reason for his absence? You might be better served to determine exactly the reason he didn't show up. If it turns out he has sensed that he won't fit in for the reasons you have given, and decided on his own that he is going to quit, you're off the hook with the drummer and you have your 4 piece band. Do you really want to let him go (sounded like he may have had some needed parts for some tunes?) or do you want to keep him? You may want to make sure how you feel about it, and then determine what to do. Most important, you should talk to him and get the facts. Communication between all of you will hopefully help keep you friends regardless of what else happens.

    Good luck.
  3. Munjibunga

    Munjibunga Total Hyper-Elite Member Gold Supporting Member

    May 6, 2000
    San Diego (when not at Groom Lake)
    Independent Contractor to Bass San Diego
    How could all this be happening without the original guitarist seeing the handwriting on the wall? I think he's giving you the easy way out.
  4. The first time he didn't show up without telling us, I had sent an email earlier in the week to everyone saying this was going to be a dress rehearsal with video and photo shoots, so we could put together some promo material for our show. He had said two weeks before that day that he could be there. And when everyone but him got there, I called him and tore him a new a$$ over it. To his credit, he did get in his car and drive up. Two hours later, there he was.

    See, his job brings him to our town on a sales route twice a week. But our other guitarist is also out of town and has to work early during the summer so he can't make weeknight practices. The only thing we can all commit to week to week is a friday night or saturday/sunday time. When guitarist #1 has to actually make a trip for the sole purpose of practicing, he suddenly doesn't seem to be as motivated.

    I wish I could say it's because he sees the writing on the wall, but it isn't. I honestly think he is just extremely dense. As for talking to him... after the first time like I said, I told him if he had any hopes of being in the promo shots and wanted to be in the band, he needed to get the f*ck over here NOW. And he did, though it shouldn't have taken that to get a guy who is a marginal player to come to practice.

    I haven't talked to him yet about yesterday, but I had told my friend (drummer) that the guy was on his last chance as far as I was concerned before yesterday. He talks a great game though. Always getting on chat and sending emails about how into the project he is. He shows up to practice with me and the drummer during the week, but when the other guys can come up on the weekends... different story. Kinda hard to put it all together and get tight when you are counting on him for certain stuff.

    As for what he does... our other guitarist is phenomenal and can do all the leads that guitarist #1 did in his sleep. Our singer is a good enough guitar player to do the power chord rhythm stuff in our set. So, if we did boot him... it would take about one weekend to overcome the loss.

    First thing I need to do is talk to our drummer today I guess. See where he stands on it. He was pretty pissed at the guy yesterday too. This would be an easy decision if the original intent had been to put together a band that plays paying gigs. That aspect has just evolved much more quickly than I had thought and the guy's talent and dependability are coming into question. His desire to be in the band unfortunately isn't in question. It won't be easy to pull the trigger if that's what we do.
  5. James Hart

    James Hart

    Feb 1, 2002
    Endorsing Artist: see profile
    no call no show == no job in my neck of the woods.

    it's basic ethics of the working stiffs.

    I bet Munjibunga called it. That's how I read your first post too
  6. Slater

    Slater Bye Millen! Hello?

    Apr 17, 2000
    The Great Lakes State
    It seems like the guy is outing himself. Take a deep breath and call (or meet) the guy and tell him the band is now a four-piece. Maybe offer to have him come to the shows and have him sit-in on the tunes he plays well...
  7. Blueszilla

    Blueszilla Bassist ordinaire

    Apr 2, 2003
    The Duke City

    Yeah, he might be wanting you to let him go. I hate that passive/agressive bs (if that's what he's doing). Just tell him straight up what you said here. Things are going better than you expected and you want to make a real band out of this project and everyone else is on board. Put up or shut up. He'll get the message.
  8. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
    Boot him. Think about this from an audience perspective -- would you want to go see a 4 piece with a MONSTER lead, or a 5 piece with an admittedly "marginal" player cluttering things up? He doesn't particularly belong.
  9. Yeah, yeah, the audience can excuse all the sleazy behavior in the world. Not. Sigh. This is why many of the pro musicians I know make bad friends. But the ones who get this straight are great to work with, so I'll try to make this point.

    If you and he started a band with a promised obligation to do a show together, and he's living up to his end, you STILL have an obligation to do a show together. That means that for this Halloween show, you owe him a slot.

    Having the better guitarist might be good for your band... But if you wanted the "best guitarist," you could have held auditions on day one. You didn't: you wanted your friend to help you set up the band, and start it, and talk about it, and plan the gigs. Unless you made it clear--and I mean crystal clear--that the time he spent working, practicing, etc was in risk of being lost, that work gets paid back, by not kicking him out of your band if he's still producing what he did in the first place. Have you been auditioning for better drummers? Better bassists? You can't justify kicking him out.

    You need to play the Halloween show with him. However, your ethical obligation doesn't mean you have to keep him in the band forever, just for the initial show(s) that you agreed to shoot for in the first place.

    I have played in bands where I KNEW I was just a stepping stone--the others were much better than I, and they made it clear that they were looknig for replacements. I thought it was a blast, and learned quite a bt. Everyone left as friends, no hurt feelnigs, all well. That is the epitome of professionalism.

    Conversely, I've seen situations where people dump players as soon as a better thing shows up. You made a mistake by having that other player come by in the first place (why even bother if you only wanted four?) and more mistakes by not talking about things soon. But you can salvage your situtation by being blunt but polite: You like your friend, you want to fulfill your promise, you want to jam with him occasionally, but after the shows you agreed to play, you'd prefer to use the other guitarist. You get basically what you want, he gets the minimum of what he expected, and you develop a rep for being a fair guy who's good to work with.

    And yes, you can still kick him out if he starts blowing you off--that's inexcusable in any situatino. But you might (and should) feel slimy if you hold him to a higher standard than others in the group, or "help" him along towards quitting before the show by snide comments or deliberately difficult scheduling.

    edit: Personally, I don't think you have done the wrong thing so far, and I hope I didn't come across that way. I just think you should avoid doing it now.
  10. Blueszilla

    Blueszilla Bassist ordinaire

    Apr 2, 2003
    The Duke City
  11. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
    The key words in your post are If you and he stared a band with a promised obligation to do a show together, and he's living up his end." The guitarist isn't holding up his end. He doesn't show up to practice and doesn't even call. It's not "if he starts blowing you off", because he's already started blowing them off.
  12. Eric, that is a very reasonable and well thought out reply. And frankly that is the direction I think we are obligated to head *at this point* but things could change.

    A few things to consider. The original goal was to put together a fun and servicable act for a single show this Halloween. It wasn't even a "band" so much at that point. Just some guys helping a friend learn drums. Over the last several months however it has evolved and become a pretty good show. As more people have heard about it and come to see us practice, we have generated a lot of local interest and now we are pretty much committed throughout the month of October in multiple club and/or otherwise public venues where we are charging for our appearance. So it isn't just about the Halloween show for friends and family anymore.

    Anyway, to update... I spoke with our drummer yesterday. I made my feelings known - that I don't like counting on a guy to be here and then having him not show up. Not that big a deal for me, but it is for the guys who come in from out of town expecting everyone to be there. Also... it may be July, but we are losing time on getting this ready. Anyone who has seen a KISS show knows it is more than just the music, which isn't that tough. But the choreography, lighting, stage presence, costuming, etc. etc. We all have to be on the same page for this if it is going to be a good show. And that means when we get everyone committed to be at practice, I expect them to be there.

    As for his excuse for not coming to the photo-shoot/dress rehearsal, it pissed me off almost as the fact that he didn't show up until I called and ripped him a new one. He was also going to go to the freaking STAR TREK convention while he was in town. Well, it turns out the guy he wanted an autograph from wasn't going to make it that weekend, so he figured it wasn't worth his time to come to town just to practice.

    Now, like I said... he talks a great game and when his job brings him into town once a week he is ready to practice all night. But, the other two guys can only come on weekends and it's kinda hard to put together a tight sound when you are praciticing with some elements of your band on one night and some others on another night. Somehow, we put together a trial run show last week for about 40 people that turned out very well, considering the circumstances. Everyone enjoyed the show and had a great time.

    There are other things too, but they are kind of picky quality/tone/ sound kind of things. If that was the only problem, I could fix it myself and it would be no big deal. But I guess to boil it down... what pisses me off is that yes, he seems genuinely interested in the project and does practice on his own and with us, but only makes the effort to physically be here when it is convenient for him. And the fact that two other guys are driving an hour and a half to be here doesn't seem to make him feel all that obligated to show up, so I guess my sense of obligation to him to put together quality shows for not only the haloween party, but for the paying halloween gigs we are lining up... is wearing thin.

    From a quality point of view, he just isn't adding that much, and I could live with that because he isn't distracting either. But here is the production problem for this show specifically....

    You guys have seen KISS shows, I imagine. Part of the problem is that he has no stage presence and tends to almost hide while he is on stage. Having a hell of a time getting him to step up and be seen on his solos. It just seems to freak him out. Meanwhile our other guitarist wings it on his first try and sounds damn near like Ace Frehley.

    Speaking of which... Since we asked guitarist # 2 to be part of the band after solidifying the four man lineup for the show, it does create a problem of costume/character. The fair thing is to have the fifth guy do something original or be another character (ala Vinnie Vincent) and just remind folks this is a tribute show, not a tribute band. But.... frankly, guitarist #2 is phenomenally better and ALWAYS makes practice when he says he will be there. He is the working image of dependability and talent. He is a guitarist anyone on this forum would enjoy having in their band. So, in my mind... he has earned the right not to be the "fifth" guy without a character. He should freakin be Ace in my mind. But... that of course is the character of choice for guitarist # 1.

    My concern from a production standpoint is that our Ace will be sub-par. That isn't a character whose guitar work just adds to the wall of sound for crying out loud.

    My plan right now is to reward guitarist #2 with more solos and let him do Ace's signature song, Shock Me. My personal hope is that guitarist #1 gets frustrated by that and volunteers to either give up the character or leave the project. But... we also have to be able to make the production plans on costuming and choreography etc.

    Don't get me wrong... it is a fun project, but this dependability issue is forcing me to reexamine the value that the guy brings to the band and if he is worth the headache.

    But.... as you pointed out, he is a friend and at least for these shows, we may have a moral obligation to him because he has been working on the material. But, I plan to make it clear to him that if he misses one more total group practice for which he has not told me beforehand he cannot attend, that we will have to plan the show without him. Time is just getting too short not to know exactly what we are doing in that regard.

    Beyond October when we shelve this show, we will restructure the band, guilt free.
  13. HiFi


    Apr 20, 2002
    Anaheim, CA
    Perhaps the 'dense' guitarist realized that KISS is a four piece band. . .and then realized the ramifications of that discovery. :D

  14. Well, I'll say this. He realized immediately when I asked the other lead guitarist to join the project that we had one guy too many. He was pretty vocal about hating the idea.... until the new guy came to practice. :eek:

    For some reason, he has been pretty quiet about it since then! ;)

    Actually, sound-wise it would work great because our singer can play guitar, but this way (with five guys) he doesn't have to play much. If guitar guy # 1 leaves or gets booted, our singer can easily fill the Paul Stanley guitar role which doesn't require a whole lot, to be honest. But as it is now, he can focus much more on showmanship and vocals (obviously showmanship is huge for this show).

    For now, Guitar guy # 2 is playing about 75% of the leads, and guitar guy #1 is playing the rest. The singer is playing here and there just to fill out the sound a little more, but could play more if needed. So soundwise, five guys is fine. But, as I mentioned in the original post, we practiced without guitar guy #1 on saturday for about 4-5 hours, went through our set list twice and worked up two new songs to the level we can add them to the list. It was a fantastic practice with a great sound, chemistry and energy and really made me wish that we had though bigger in the first place.... but we didn't. :scowl:

    Our drummer by the way, has become extremely solid. Still a little raw on his fills and solos, but his crashes and ability to hold down the beat without screwing up tempo during the songs have really developed well. Of course, our bassist/vocalist totally kicks butt. ;) Seriously, I am so freaking anal and nitpicky about all this stuff, I'm just starting to feel the pressure on how to deal with the guy. I probably should just relax and have fun with it through October and then come up with something new.

    Sure is a hell of a lot of energy for a side band project!
  15. john turner

    john turner You don't want to do that. Trust me. Staff Member Administrator

    Mar 14, 2000
    atlanta ga
    friendships are built on mutual respect, and the way you're going about this now, this guy isn't going to be your friend for much longer. i know if it were me i would appreciate knowing your true feelings instead of just dealing with someone who "hopes i'll get frustrated". that's pretty lame if you asked me, especially since this guy has to go out of his way to practice.

    if you don't want him in the band, and want to have the other guy in the band instead, you at least owe him that knowledge, plain and simple - that's a simple issue of respect. he's probably been aggravated about this whole situation since you asked the other guitarist to come practice, who you obviously favor in the band, and yet you bitch this guy out when he skips coming to practice? that's sorta odd - why bother doing that?

    here's another way to look at it - imagine if the tables were turned - he asked another bassist to come practice, who was better than you, and he favored this guy over you. how motivated would you be to participate? hmm

    again, no insult intended.
  16. No insult taken, but I don't think you are getting the whole dynamic of the situation. Maybe I just haven't explained it well enough....

    Ideally, I would tell him exactly what I've said here. My drummer who is a closer friend to him has asked that we hold off on coming right out and doing that. He is going to talk to him this week and let him know that everyone was pissed about him not being there, that we had a great practice anyway and that we are giving our other guitarist (not just some dude by the way, he is my wife's cousin so not just a random guy we didn't know) more responsibility because he has earned it.

    That can have one of two results, either of which is favorable in my opinion. Either guitar guy #1 decides to walk his talk and be as committed as he says he is, and not leave his bandmates wondering where the **** he is, or he decides that his diminished role isn't what he wants and he decides to leave without being fired.

    Not sure what is "lame" about that. Essentially we are putting the cards on the table for him to make his play. Like I said, I think if he is putting out the effort - we are obligated to keep him. If he isn't though, then he needs to know that isn't helping the rest of us plan for a rather long and extensive show that is rapidly approaching.

    Sorry if I was unclear. If we were just going to try to frustrate him into quitting, I would agree with you. That is chickensh!t. But there has to be a consequense for standing the fellas up twice, IMO. He still gets the same cut as everyone else, he just doesn't get some of the juicy leads. He shoulda shown up.
  17. john turner

    john turner You don't want to do that. Trust me. Staff Member Administrator

    Mar 14, 2000
    atlanta ga
    maybe i misunderstood. the point was doing kiss tunes right? a kiss tribute? maybe he imagines that is a one guitar gig, and this other guitarist coming into the picture is a vote of no confidence in his abilities. that would certainly make me not interested in going out of my way for the gig. i'd be concerned about a third outcome of your drummer's conversation - the "oh, man, ok, i'll be really serious now" speech followed by more unreliable behaviour. i've had it happen.

    i think the problem here stems from a lack of communication with this guitarist with regards to the situation at hand. ultimately you guys need to all get together and talk about it bluntly. what does he want out of this project? what's he willing to do to get it? this project has grown into something more than what it started out as, and the best way to let it meet its potential, imo, is to make sure that everyone's on the same track. that means a meeting with everyone, or at least you original 3.

    also, what do you want? be clear on your objectives and desires to yourself - what's the best band situation you can imagine? shoot for it.

    i guess i just hate to see folks indecisive :).
  18. McHack


    Jul 29, 2003
    Central Ohio!
    Here's the bottom line. If you're in a band, you show up & you do your part. If you don't show up,,,you're simply not doing your part. That effectively

    Too me, it sounds like this guys feelings are hurt that another guitarist showed up, & he's doing the passive aggressive lash-back type of thing.

    JT is right in that you need to fix the friendship, or it'll be the end of one. Personally, if someone's going to purposely circumvent the potential success of a group,, because his feelings are hurt,,, then he's not that great of a guy anyway.
  19. maybe he imagines that is a one guitar gig, and this other guitarist coming into the picture is a vote of no confidence in his abilities. that would certainly make me not interested in going out of my way for the gig.

    I'm sure that is exactly what he imagined. But, he has very little actual gig experience and frankly is no Ace Frehley. By the way, the second guitarist was added about a month after we came up with the idea last November. So it isn't like guitar guy #1 had put in a ton of effort already on the music. It's been five guys pretty much from the inception.

    Anyway, good advice. I appreciate all the different points of view. It is kind of a complicated situation. Not purely business, and not purely for kicks. And that makes it that much tougher to deal with stuff like this. It helps to get input from musicians when sometimes I may be too close to the forrest to see the trees.

    I've fired plenty of guitarists in my other band, but that is a much more clear cut arrangement when they come in. Makes it much easier to be decisive when they aren't adding to the sound or chemistry.
  20. Munjibunga

    Munjibunga Total Hyper-Elite Member Gold Supporting Member

    May 6, 2000
    San Diego (when not at Groom Lake)
    Independent Contractor to Bass San Diego
    This is also called maturity. It takes honest self-evaluation and a fairly secure ego. We are what we are. I've auditioned for bands where I knew immediately that I was not going to be in the band, for their reasons or mine. Be nice and move on. Let him go, but let him play on Halloween.