Jazz guru Ruth discusses the value of hum ility
I wouldn't describe myself as a session musician, because I don't do
a lot of one-off studio recordings, but I'm definitely part of a lot of
different bands. An important prerequisite for any musician is to
be calm, straightforward and reasonable. A lot of artists can be very
eccentric and seem to think that their art is the most important thing
in the world. Of course, approaching your art with confidence is a
good thing, especially in today's competitive world where it seems
that almost everyone is an artist, but it's crucial to realise that you're
not the only one with a
creative output. Every
musician has something to
say, and everyone's art is
equally valuable. This is a
sensitive issue and, in my
eyes at least, not discussed
enough between artists.
Situations vary from band
to band, of course: in some
groups you take on the
role of a session musician,
meaning that the music
is pretty much set and
you're there to execute it
in a live situation; other
bands require more artistic
input, but are still led by
one individual. The latter
situations are the trickiest,
because as soon as you
supply a certain amount of
creative input, the project
becomes a little bit yours as well. However, you're not really involved
in the final decision-making - which can be frustrating! Then you
have projects which are collaborative, where everybody has an
equal say on everything. As much as I like those situations (and I
am in a couple of bands like that, where we work well together), it
can be difficult to get anything done, because you need everybody's
approval on all issues. And with most musicians having a very strong
idea of what they want, compromise is difficult to achieve. The final
situation, then, is having your own band and making all the decisions.
As much as that means creative freedom, it also means a lot more
work, because you have to do everything by yourself. I definitively
think it's good to experience all these different dynamics, because
they not only teach you about playing different styles and becoming
quick at learning new sets of music, but also about dealing with
different personalities - sometimes in quite stressful situations.
Trivium bassist Paolo studies band psychology
I've always been fascinated by the make-up of bands. W ith each
group comes a different dynamic between players and writers. The
identity and sound come from how those members interact in the
studio and live, it's the magic that makes those special records. Often if
you take out an integral piece it will not be the same. Yet sometimes it
gets better in a totally unforeseen way, and the rest is history. Looking
at the way that Trivium has grown as a band, I think initially it was
the more traditional setup of a band leader with contributing band-
members. Matt Heafy, as the lead singer, will always be the figurehead
to the public, and I think it's important to have a defined centrepiece to
a group, but we have changed dramatically behind the scenes. I think
the writing is where we have altered the most.
We write as a three-piece, and not to discount the drumming side
of the creative process, but the initial ideas begin with Matt, Corey
Beaulieu, or me. From writing nothing on the
album to
almost 60 per cent of some of our last few records, my role has changed
the most dramatically. I believe that all of us allowing each other to
grow and create has spawned some incredible ideas. We expect a
certain level of quality in each other's music, and we respect that each
of us brings in something unique to our sound.
Some writers are just so talented that it's undeniable. The success
of a band with a central figure comes down to them delegating
responsibilities. I view a guy like Bruce Springsteen as a great example.
He is the main writer and leader without a doubt, but it's his ability
to see the benefit of letting the E Street band members shine in his
songs, highlighting their talents, that makes him great. It's important to
understand the role you play in a band. Excelling at what you do best
will serve the music more than interjecting yourself into an aspect of
the music where you are not as strong. This seems to be the biggest
area of contention for bands - the idea of getting fair credit, or having a
chance to prove you can write, sing, or play just as well as the next guy.
Being in a rock band is like walking on the edge of a cliff and hoping
the ground doesn't give out beneath you - but understanding the
personalities in your group can help to keep the ground stable beneath
your feet.
© Scott Uchida
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