Archive for March, 2008

The Nightwish

It’s a common phenomenon, and fans are oh so easily tricked by it. Which is good, because it hides a great deal of what kind of business the music business really is.
Take HIM as en example. It’s a band, or so they claim. They do gothic nu metal or whatever you want to call it. Except, they’re not a band at all. The only "band member" is the lead singer and all the other guys you see on MTV are just under contract with him. He gets first pick when it comes to income percentages. Result is, musicians often switch and no one will notice. It isn’t even mentioned on the website or something because oficially, nothing changed. The Sisters of Mercy for instance, only still have the lead singer as original band member. Even the drum computer which is listed as a member of the band, has been replaced several times. And no one is aware, because again because he represents the whole band, the lead singer gets the biggest -or only- share of close-ups on TV.
The cons of this arrangement are obvious: it’s a ship of Theseus. If you replace each element of a whole, is this whole still the same as it was before? Does a band still have the same soul when only their name is still the same, which is certainly not unheard of? In my opinion, no. The only reason this name still exists is because it makes the money. The new band in question gets a head start and are simply still there to keep the albums coming, often strangled by a multi million dollar contract.
However this setting has pro’s as well, which is where Nightwish comes into play. I will elaborate in a few minutes, but first!
Nightwish! They’re not the first, not the best selling, but in my opinion the greatest in their genre. They often manage a mix of heavy fucking metal and pansy-ass opera that sends chills up my spine. They have at least one tour that I know of on their name, that included a whole choir as backing vocals. If that doesn’t make you hard, I don’t know what else to tell you. They have soul, they have energy, and their lead singer had a voice that was able to freeze alcohol.
Yes, was. It’s not my cup of tea entirely but still I was excited to see this band, if for no better reason, to hear if this woman really could do with her voice what I’m hearing on the best-of album I own. From the images I saw on TV I was expecting a giant of a woman, hauntingly beautiful and a Lacuna Coil-type energy that sends your balls safely up your groin with a dominatrix glance. Undoubtably each of the musicians backing her up (because her voice is really what the music is about) were merely her sex bitches on the tour bus. I hadn’t spotted her backstage anywhere but that happens now and then: the lead singer distancing him/herself from the band. Haven’t figured out how that works, precisely.
So here I was watching the soundcheck: As usual, each instrument individually, by a roadie, then the band members, then all together. Played a few songs without vocals before she came on stage. What I was expecting was a statuesque woman, what I got was a girl. I squinted but I couldn’t for the life of me recognize the face I was expecting, and for a moment I was wondering if I had been tricked by several layers of make-up, all this time. But then she started to sing, and I turned to my colleague with a desperate, "Tell me this is a joke" quizzical stare.
I was informed that Nightwish recently switched lead singers. They can do that you see, as long as the majority of original band members is still signed, they can keep the name. At this point you would expect auditions to take a year of four until they had found the perfect voice to mime the former one, but fuck that. There’s money to be made, people! So they went with this petite thing in an Alice in Wonderland dress that kept sagging. This was the first thing I noticed: she’s tiny. I mean, not that small in stature, but… she just doesn’t fill the stage. But okay, I’ve been proven wrong on that subject plenty of times. Artists just don’t bother to put any effort in their performance when there’s no crowd watching, which painfully shows how fake the energy during a live performance can be. However still, I just couldn’t feel it. Not in her singing. Bobbing my head simultaneously with my colleagues and humming along, sure. But the chills, goosebumps, tent? Missing.
I was hoping for a better performance at the show, but I was left hanging. All the pyro, bells and whistles in the world, couldn’t make up for the lack of energy in this woman. God it was painful. Not only did she manage two bunny hops before needing to pull her dress back up her tits (yet no nipple flash, which could make up for quite a bit), she just didn’t have the voice, either. Sure, she can sing, and quite well at that. But then, so can my sister and guess what- she can fill a stage. Those of you who know Nightwish, know the impossibly high melodies, seemingly sung without effort. The voice effects in between and the opera influence that, if only they could be repeated on a live stage, would prove a masterful control of the voice.
Fucking, forget all of that. Songs were adjusted, octaves lowered to match this girl’s voice. God, was it painful. It was plain fucking Boring. Magnificent, impressive, but skullfucking god Was It Boring. Instead of carry and support the show, the pyro effects Were the damn show. Lots of flamethrowers and such, wee good fun but not worth 30-something euro, now is it?? No grace, no dominance. The talk in between that is supposed to inject the crowd with new energy that often goes missing during a lengthy intro, was reduced to pointless chatter between the members in a Finnish accent impossible to understand.
So here we have our pro: HIM can’t just commit a crime like switching singers to some far cry of what the band’s sound is actually based upon. I’m no fan of this whole "front man" business when the whole band is involved in the creative process, but when the music is actually built around the astonishing things a woman can do with her vocal chords… Don’t Change The Fucking Vocal Chords. Duh?
Start over. Different name, different income, and for god’s sake, different songs. Don’t choose to be the shadow of something else, it’s painful for everyone, and most of all for the new singer in question if not the fans.
Fans, I am so sorry, but Nightwish is dead. I watched them die without ever even seeing them alive, and it filled my eyes with tears. Like so so many tragical bands before them, their corpses were thrown to the money wolves and they will either be reborn, which ain’t bloody likely, or be put on display as peaked has-beens. Or maybe, if they’re lucky, something in between that would prove both their talent as businesspeople and musicians.
I’m not counting on it.
You were a great band.
Rest in Peace. Please?

For what it’s worth.

The weight is back. That sky-high pile of shit resting on your shoulders, it’s back. I noticed when I was walking through town looking for a new place. I had my head bowed and my cap over my eyes, staring at the cobblestones passing like a record under a needle, hiding my frown for those curious enough to stare.

One week down, two to go, and I haven’t found anything so far. I have to suppress a sort of panic boiling up, telling me that what I do won’t be enough.
I have one application taken into consideration, given a "I’ll contact you" left hanging. My usual response: forget about it and keep looking. But where?
It’s a cold, drafty place with a price tag even under my budget. But, it’s located right smack where I want it. 2 minutes on foot from work, 5 minutes from capoeira training. Not that the latter would matter, I can’t afford the new class season that has been going on for a month. I got to wear my new belt, once.
And hey, it’s a place, right? At least it’s something, and there is very little I can’t "personalize" right into dysfunctionality. It’s a talent.

Have you ever experienced this? Something urgent hanging over your head with a whole bunch of side effects? It’s hard to describe. One moment you’re okay, the next your mind drifts towards the problems at hand and the sky turns a shade darker. It’s a feeling I wish onto no one. Not that it’s impossible to overcome, however. You tell yourself a few times your fate is in your own hands and if you’re flexible enough, kick yourself under the rear and get going like those "tough" you can’t help but wonder about.


In the mean time, I’m sort of screwed at work, too. Last year I helped out with a small theatre group, playing sound technician. Push a button, play a song, nothing big. Not getting paid but meh, it was only for two weekends.
Some time ago I was asked to do this again. "Sure, no problem," I said. Next thing I know, I get a list of dates, a month and a half long, at least four times a week. It’s a production of about 25 actors, a choreographer and a director who usually does TV shows. Mixing microphones, exact cues for subdued, singing and dancing music and so on.
Way over my my head as I might be, I don’t mind. It took me a bit but I now figured out the works and I’m ready for the actual shows, starting tomorrow. What the problem is however, is that this joke has cost me around €1000 already, and that’s not counting the free meals I get at work. A full week of followspotting Disney on Ice, a gig of the Queens of the Stone Age,… All gone, because I have a rehearsal to be with. Right now, when I need my money the most.

This does not mean I would have refused if I knew beforehand, however. I would have considered it, but I would have made it work like I’m doing now. Money or no money, there’s no beating the feeling of the bits of gratitude offered to you at a job like this. They know. Perhaps not that I need to take whole days off for a 3 hour rehearsal in the evening (I try not to mention that), but that I put in my effort as much as anyone else. This is a big thing, it’s sold out already and we haven’t even played a single show. An extra show was added, sold out within a week. The press came to watch us one night, and they just loved it. And this, in part, is thanks to me, who so knightly gave up about a week’s worth of income to learn something new and contribute.

I hate to toot my own horn, but a small "You handsome man you" is in order, I would think. As part of the "backstage" crew it’s not something I should be expecting, but at least I have myself to pat on my back. I rock.


Oh, and.
Fuck you.