Shopping At The Gap

Nothing blows the minds of fans and fellow players more than someone leaving a successful band. The fans who dream of being in that spot or knowing those people can’t fathom that someone would step away. Musicians struggling against the system to get to that level can’t believe someone would hand it back. Many times its about conflicting egos, diva moments, stupid communication problems, and/or fundamentally dysfunctional people trying to coexist in a bubble. As amicable as my leaving the band is (for now, at least), that’s all true to some degree. Musicians understand how musicians operate, so the real challenge is often translating the situation to those outside the life.

That translation – that cultural barrier between player and fan – can be the hardest part to negotiate. The entire relationship is predicated on what amounts to an artificial superiority complex from both sides. The player takes all the insecurities and thoughts of mere mortality and buries them beneath that alter ego who lives under the lights, while the fan creates the pedestal for the player to exist on in their mind. The fan creates reasons to like the player, the player creates a facade for the fan to embrace.

It’s all crap, of course. There are two kinds of players – the ones who depend on the facade to mask their insecurities ultimately get them the girls and the fame and all that, and the ones who resent the fan for not seeing through to their true self.

I like to think that I’m a little different, but I’m probably not. The stage is my home, my island. Never am I in more control of things in life than when I’m onstage and prepared, but I’m mostly the same person onstage as off. The challenge comes in the time before and after playing where the adrenaline and focus are high and shifting to being a coherent social crowd-greeter isn’t always easy.

I’ve met literally thousands of people through my life in bands, and dozens of people I consider good friends.

Now I’m not in a band.

Should that matter? It’s naive to think not, and not because of my perspective. There’s a personal value in knowing The Bass Player in That Band you just saw, no matter if you met him at a show or meet him for lunch once in a while or whatever.

It’s very true to say that most players get into the business in order to be That Guy On Stage, specifically to attract That Chick In Front Of The Stage, multiplied by however many. Knowing how many people would love to be in position to use my status for their own social success, I like to think that I’m very much the opposite.

I’ve always battled the persona vs. the person, especially in earlier years when I wasn’t as socially confident and had the quintessential big brother best friend complex. Over several years I learned to being my person closer to my persona without compromising either. I’d say that the two are as close as possible now that I’ve come to like the person. It’s far more common to find those who have allowed the persona to bury the person. The person has weaknesses and fears and flaws, while the persona is bulletproof and perfect.

I decided that my persona and my person need each other. I spent a part of my younger life as the mask that masked the mask that masked the mask that covered up the small untruth that sheltered the bigger lie, and I just can’t be that person. My ego needs to be an artifically confident extension of who I am, not a contrived substitute.

The issue comes down to what everyone else is in it for. Leave a band, find out who likes you for what. It’s a daunting and dangerous challenge, knowing that a simple life decision in your eyes could expose relationships that matter as superficial. I met these people as Member Of Band, and it’s a change to accept me as Not That.

I will lose some people for this. I lost a lot of people in 1995 when I walked away from that life. I lost some people in 2001 when RSW and I walked away from that life.

I’m confident and strong enough to know that the people that decide to abandon me will be showing their true colors, and I will accept that for what it is. Accepting fans as friends is an inherent risk, and I can usually tell who is attracted to the title and the shape under spotlight.

Think I’d be typing this much if it weren’t frightening? Of course its scary – we all live for acceptance, and nothing validates a creative artist like acceptance. But at some point, one must realize that the quantity of friends can be sacrificed for the quality.

The quality friend is that one that you can love and set free. I know, because Sting told me.

So now, as Bass Player In The Band, I have set myself free. And now, as Bass Player In The Band, I have set everyone else free as well. I love you all, and I welcome you all to come back to the person that I am and will be.

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