Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Why Character Matters

Why Character Matters
Monday 07-19-2010 9:54am PT
I don't know what to tell young bands when they ask me for advice. Not only has the music business changed since I started, society itself has changed. The same rules no longer apply.

The Greg Kihn Band started in 1975. It was before anything. It was before the Internet, before cell phones, before MTV, before computers, before digital, before just about everything you rely on today. We had a rental space at Berkeley Rental Space on Gilman St.- a double garage where we stored our equipment and rehearsed. After they locked up at night, we had to scale a ten foot chain link fence to practice. You had to be in tip-top rock and roll shape. We rehearsed every freakin' day! Every day- I kid you not. We wrote three to four songs a week and played every gig that came down the pike. We worked our asses off, and that's no lie. There was nothing glamorous about it. Ten hours in broken-down van to make 20$ each. So why did we do it? There was no American Idol back then, or any other TV talent show (unless you count the Gong Show) we needed the money.

We toured on the strength our FM album airplay, doing interviews everywhere we went. I did a ton of radio, and we played clubs- great classic nightclubs like the Agora on Cleveland, Bogart's in Cincinnati, Cain's in Tulsa, the Main Point in Philly, the Cellar Door in Washington DC, Toad's Place in New Haven, The Park West in Chicago, The Stone Pony in Asbury Park, The Bottom Line in NYC, the Rainbow Music Hall in Denver, the Paradise in Boston, The Shaboo Inn in Willimantic, The Keystone in Berkeley, the Broadway and the Old Waldorff in San Francisco, The Troubadour and the Roxy in LA, The Keystone PA in Palo Alto, and The Catalyst in Santa Cruz to name but a few.

It was another age and hard work really counted.
We didn't have a top forty hit until our 7th album! Which is unheard-of today. We were on a goofy little independant label in Berkeley- way off the beaten path. We didn't earn an ounce of respect in LA until we had a hit. Not even the other bay area bands seemed to respect us. We didn't care, of course. We were just thrilled to be there.
In fact, if you'd have asked us at any point back in the old days, if we thought we had made it- we would have emphatically said YES! Hell, we were having a ball! We were so blown away by the fact the people would pay money to see us, we didn't care about much else. It seemed like a miracle to us.
I remember, backstage at the Bammies- back in 1981-1984, when we were winning Bammies every year, we would be hanging with the other groups in the "green room" waiting to go on. I couldn't believe the attitudes of some of the other bands! They actually thought the world owed them a gold record every time out! My guys were just happy to be there.

No matter have sophisticated it got, or how far from home we strayed, or how over-our-heads culturally we were- we always kept one thing in mind- always be true to yourself. We didn't put on aires because we knew in our heart of hearts that we couldn't pull it off. We just weren't hedonistic enough; we didn't pack enough hubris; we were never actually cool, we always felt uncomfortable in limos. By staying true to ourselves, we avoided having to be pretend to be something that we weren't.
I have no idea what it must be like to be Lady Gaga- but if this is the freak show you have to be in to make it, then I guess the next generation of rock bands will have silly costumes on and cover their faces. It won't matter, of course.

Whoever they are, and however weird they may be- if they want to make it the real way- they'll have to be true to themselves. People will be able to tell if it's bogus. They will have to live by the same convictions we did: don't lie, cheat, or steal. Always do a good job. Treat people with respect. Get there early and stay late. Wash your face and brush your teeth. Do your homework. Don't be a jerk. And rehearse.
Good luck! Character matters.
Character is what you are when nobody is looking.

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