HMXHellion is Senior Writer/Producer at Harmonix. When not playing with her band VAGIANT, HMXHellion enjoys sleeping with forum posters. Yeah, that's right. She is aware that Naoko is much better looking than her, but HMXHellion puts out. Play the odds.
A band can be a fragile thing. Sometimes the chemistry is perfect – you all love nothing more than sitting around in the space chugging Clamweiser and writing Deep Purple rip-offs about how great you look in Capri pants. But sometimes the chemistry isn't so hot. As the great Kenny Rogers once said, "You gotta know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, know when to walk away, know when to punch 'em in the kidneys while shouting, 'No, every song does NOT automatically get four times more awesome by adding egg shaker, you fat fartblast!'"
Part of the difficulty in determining whether your band members are a good fit or not is that, as I've mentioned more than zero times, musicians are insane. You will probably have to accept certain "eccentricities" from your bandmates that you would never accept from your casual acquaintances. If you're not sure whether your bandmate is the kind of crudbox who needs to be removed from your band, or just the average sort of musician jagweed, here's a handy guide:
- Always late to practice -- ACCEPTABLE
- Refuses to go to practice because "we don't need practice, we have heart" -- NOT ACCEPTABLE
- Hits on your crush -- ACCEPTABLE
- Slept with several of your ex's -- ACCEPTABLE
- Slept with your significant other -- ACCEPTABLE
- Slept with your parent, spouse, or pet -- NOT ACCEPTABLE
- Has a drinking problem -- ACCEPTABLE
- Has a flatulence problem -- ACCEPTABLE
- Has a problem remembering whether you said it was okay to sell all your band's gear on Ebay in order to buy a Ski-Doo and some pudding pops -- NOT ACCEPTABLE
- Is not talented, but is extremely attractive and cool -- ACCEPTABLE
- Is talented, but is extremely homely -- ACCEPTABLE
- Is better looking than you -- NOT ACCEPTABLE
- Hates fun -- ACCEPTABLE
- Hates you -- ACCEPTABLE
- Hates your awesome idea for a concept album about the amazing journey from larvae to full-grown butterfly, entitled "Metamorphobliss" -- NOT ACCEPTABLE
Once you've made the decision to get rid of a bandmate, the real fun begins. How do you kick someone out of the band without getting a sock full of gummi worms to the face? To answer that question, I've decided to finally answer some of the numerous letters I receive from RockBand.com members on an hourly basis:
Wow, you sure are extremely great looking. Why, I can't remember ever having seen a better looking person ever in my life – you are even better looking than Jo on Facts of Life and Scarlett from GI Joe combined. Anyway, I've got to get rid of my bassist. She's a total slacker who believes that music should "just happen." She also plays funk slap bass and I think she may have stolen my hairbrush. Help me, Hellion!
All Funked Up
Dear All Funked Up,
I would recommend the SNEAK ATTACK approach. Ensure that your other bandmates are on board with the plan, then call a band meeting and insist that it is time to ramp up your practice schedule. Use the phrase most terrifying to slackers: "time to step up our game." Suggest a four evening per week practice schedule – if you can get through it without laughing, I also recommend calling a moratorium on the smoking of "square mackerel (1)." That ought to scare the slap-pop right out of her.
I don't know if anyone has told you this, but you are the greatest rhythm guitarist of all time. You are even better at rhythm guitar than the guitar-playing baby that Malcolm Young and Keith Richards would have if two dudes could have a baby (2). Well anyhoo, I have a problem with my band's frontman. He is always having unpredictable crying fits and asking whether we can do a straight cover of Debby Boone's "You Light up My Life." That would all be fine, but at our last show, he asked "How's everybody doin' tonight?" and then performed an impromptu 10-minute a cappella number about the evils of sweatshop labor. What can I do? I am worried that if we kick him out, he will use all of our gear to build a "tower of pain" and then leap off of it in a desperate bid for attention.
Out of Kleenex
Dear Out of Kleenex,
Okay, this is a toughie. You're going to have to go with the ever-popular PASSIVE AGGRESSIVE approach: get him to quit on his own. It will take time, but it will be worth it in the long run. The most effective and riskiest way to do this is to initiate a big fight. It has to be sufficiently epic for him to storm out in a huff and then refuse to speak to you until you admit that you were wrong to ever suggest that he can't pull off an ironic sweater vest – which you never will. Eventually he will join another band(3) and then talk s**t about you and your lack of talent and undefined abdominal muscles in the press.
You probably get this on a daily basis, but I would really like to marry you. You just seem like the ideal woman. If aliens came to Earth and were like, "Send us the best examples of humans you have on this stupid planet," I would send you and Harry Dean Stanton. Anyway, I have a problem: my drummer is really hard to deal with. He is always critical of my super rad lyrics and he alienated our fan base when he tried to take down Napster – that was hella annoying! Sometimes he also makes fun of my cool facial hair. What's a guy to do? P.S. You are a fox.
Dear James H.,
That certainly is a doozy! In your case, I would recommend the rarely used but highly effective STRAIGHTFORWARD approach. Just sit your drummer down and tell him the truth: he's just not the right fit for your band. Be gentle, but be firm. Tell him that he will always be fully credited and compensated for any songs he had a part in and reassure him that no one will ever replace him. Sometimes honesty really is the best policy. Plus your drummer is freakishly short so he really can't be all that surprised that it has come to this.
The thought of kicking out a band member can be daunting and overwhelming. In the end, if the decision is the right one, your band will be better for it. Suck it up and make the change. Your fans won't miss your former guitarist's disturbing and unpleasant soloing face that makes him look like David Johansen(4) smelling a vomit pie… and neither will you.
1) I am not really "up" on all the latest slang, as I am not a fan myself of "Dona Juanita." Due to my unfamiliarity with the hippest terminology, I got these slang terms from www.whitehousedrugpolicy.gov/streetterms which also suggested "Alice B. Toklas," "Hanhich," and "Loaf." Does anyone actually use these terms? Please comment below and tell me if "square mackerel" is a real one of if the government is just totally f**king with me so that I'll sound wicked dumb. 'Cause I'm totally gonna start using that – it's very 1940s-secretary-sounding.
2) If anyone could do it, it's Malcolm and Keef. Nom nom, straight boy makeouts. Stop judging me.
4) My editor Brett Milano wishes for me to clarify that David Johansen is the singer of the New York Dolls. Fun fact: he was also pop star Buster Poindexter of "Hot Hot Hot" fame.