Phillip Hunt is an operations associate at Harmonix. He was born in Texas, raised in England and settled in Boston. He has a pre prepared monologue for when people ask about his accent. It’s not Australian.
Everybody knows that music is about passion. Why else would somebody want to join a band? Ok ok, there’s always the get “rich and famous” reason and the “impress the ladies/gentlemen reason,” but I think it’s safe to assume that these are legitimate reasons and for some it has worked out.
That’s not for me. I’m one of those lucky enough to be blessed with a passion to play guitar. Every piece of music I hear, I keep an ear out for the licks and riffs. I put on headphones and imagine myself up there on stage hammering out a shred-o-riffic solo with all eyes on me.
Once I started to learn the ways of the six-stringed beast, I had to say goodbye to all my friends because I knew those six strings would be all I ever needed (I wasn’t that cool anyway, since Eric Clapton was my hero, though some might say he wasn’t the epitome of cool to most 12-year-olds in 1996). I would lock myself in my room for hours and learn everything I could, no need for the boring music theory stuff thank-you-very-much. All I needed was my Strat copy and my imagination.
Let’s skip forward past the awkward first band, some horrific performances, a couple of moves between continents and all the boring stuff that goes in-between.
I hadn’t been in a band for a few years and an opportunity arose for me to play bass in a group based in London with some serious connections. “Why not?” I told myself. “Bass is easy! Just play some sort of guitar-type solo at the audition and you will be fine.”
I showed up to the audition to find some of my dream guitars and amps decorating the walls of their pimped out practice space. This place was far from the damp and murky sound museums of Boston. This was London, baby. The type of London you only see in Hugh Grant films.
I was handed a bass guitar (touching one for the very first time) and was told to play. This thing felt very different. Heavy, long neck and super thick strings, and a strange sense of adultery ran through me. I knew I was betraying somebody or something by doing this.
To my surprise, I was totally fine. The group thought I was some bass player extraordinaire. What does it matter if the band’s only goal is to get signed and be famous? The music was simple, stupidly catchy and awfully easy to play. I could spend more time concentrating on my stage moves than my playing. SWEET!
I could get used to this. Just as long as you do a little bit of noodly stuff, people will think you’re great! Oh, and as an added perk, nobody could really hear me so it didn’t matter how bad my playing was because… whatever, I’m just the bass player! People only pay attention if you do flashy stuff!
This facade kept up for a little while and I was loving it. Not because I enjoyed playing bass but because I could be lazy. I was selling myself out and nobody would notice! All the fame and fortune without the effort. That’s the dream, right?
After about a year of this, I realized that no, this can't be the dream. In MY dreams, I’m up on stage playing guitar, not a bass. I was cheating somebody who plays bass out of THEIR dream.
I had started to become jealous of guitar players I’d see at shows. I would look at them and think “How? How come they get to be up there playing the instrument they want and not me?”
And then, all of a sudden, the jokes I had heard since starting to play music (how many bass players does it take to screw in a light bulb? No one ever bothered to notice!) had started to become reality. Guitar was my passion, not bass. And so I had started to become passionless with my music. What used to be fun to do some flashy stuff became cumbersome. Root notes it was for me now. In fact, I had started to become a little embarrassed because I knew I was pretending to be something I wasn’t. Before long, I dreaded going to band practice. I once actually used the excuse “dude, you don’t NEED me to be at practice, I’m just the bass player.”
I had literally sold out.
A few missed practices and dodged calls later, I decided to quit the band. Almost instantly I could feel those dreams of being on stage with six strings instead of four come flooding back to me. By this point, I had almost forgotten what to do with a guitar in my hands; it took a while for my head and my hands to fully recover.
The moral of the story is this, it doesn’t matter what instrument you play. As long as you play it with an unrivaled passion, you will be the richest and happiest person you could ever be. I tried to take the lazy route to fame and lost something more valuable that I could ever gain with money. Shoot for fame and you will never find respect. Shoot for respect and fame will fall in your lap.
Ok, enough soppy stuff, I’m gonna go listen to some Cannibal Corpse.
(P.S. I don’t hate bass or bass players, just the fake ones – my old self included - who think bass and guitar are the same thing.)