The situation started back in spring of 2015 when I was asked fill in on vocals for some shows. I chose to do it as it was a friend helping another friend out. After a time I ended up being drafted to this band full time as everyone was happy with my work and I was also enjoying myself as well. Once the drummer took off for greener pastures I was able to help fill that vacancy by enlisting an incredibly talented drummer who too the spot without much prompting. We were off to the races and things seemed to be going well...until they weren't of course. The bass player sort of fell off the map unceremoniously and I then added bass playing to my vocal duties. Again, I was happy to do this because I believed in the work we were doing and took it as another challenge.
Our namesake and band leader was having an increasingly difficult time keeping himself together at shows and was getting intoxicated to the point of not being able to pull of his end of the bargain. There were times where it was incredibly troubling to me and others in the band. Why can he not just drink after we play? Why not just drink a few before the show and then do what you want afterwards? We then decided to make a request that he attempt to control himself until we were finished playing and then he could get as shit faced as he wanted.
One show, he tried, and then promptly complained that we were cramping his style and that he felt maladjusted and ill at ease. Shows continued on in much the same manner as they had previously; sometimes good; sometimes precarious; but never were they GREAT. Then of course it all came to a screeching halt at a horribly mismanaged and embarrassing show in Portland.
I arrived much like always; stuck my head in the door and promptly turned around because I did not want to sit through the crap that was on the stage at that time. Our band leader and namesake came out and made the snide remark 'great show man' with the implication that I had booked us a lousy show at a shitty venue. Yes it was true that I booked the show but I only did that in the hopes we could try out some new places, test the waters with some new bands. Why does it always have to be the same old shit all the time? You cannot play at the Chinese Garden Lounge and whatever flavor of the month sports bar is going on in Longview ad nauseum, however I digress.
We proceeded to play the show and within the first song it was apparent that our band leader was unable to play. He blamed equipment malfunctions as the reason for his performance issues but it was clear to both myself and my other band mates that he was fucked up. So we continue on but we can all feel the increased pressure of having to cover up for someone who is clearly in no shape to play. It was no longer a joke, there was something seriously wrong and something needed to be done about it.
It was suggested that no more shows get booked until he could sort himself out and work on getting his skills back. His playing had deteriorated to the point where it was noticeable to the audience and embarrassing to the players involved. But rather than take suggestions and concerns seriously, he chose to blame the people in the band. He felt that it had changed and that he was unhappy with the current direction of said band. The drummer promptly quit, as he had seen this song and dance before in another band and was not about to ride it out a second time. The lead guitarist had made his stance clear. When posed with the question of whether or not I was quitting, I stated that maybe it was time to call his original vocalist back.
I really did not want to hurt his feelings, this band has been his life for a long time and I somehow felt like I should help him get his band's sound back. However, unbeknownst to me he had already been testing the waters with his former singer and seeing if he was willing to come back. It was at that point, I found out second hand that we were all kicked out for lack of a better explanation.
In the last bunch of months, I know that he has not touched his guitar, the band is effectively dead and shows no signs of coming back. I do not know what the future holds for this band and its troubled leader but for me I will not be making any surprise appearances or doing any more favors to aid this band ever again. This decision comes on the heels of his recent aforementioned comments about us not being fun.
Let me state my position on a few things just so we are all clear on where everyone stands. I am an alcoholic. My drinking had reached a point where it was starting to affect my life and I made the choice to get my act together before I lost my loved ones along with my mind. I went into this band and sang songs about drinking with just as much authenticity as anyone could have. Songs about drinking are nothing new for me as many of my solo songs revolve around the topic in various ways some overtly and others not so much. In his head however, his band is all about drinking and friendship and he felt he was not getting enough of that from the rest of us. I make no apologies about not drinking and have never regretted a single minute of sobriety.
However, let me also state that I do not care what my friends do in their spare time. If you want to drink I could give a fuck less. Go for it. I know from experience that alcohol has a strange power to help us forget about shitty times, helps us get loose, allows us to let our hair down. If alcohol still does it for you then cool I am happy for you. It stopped working for me and the personal costs it was exacting on me was too much to ignore. So for anyone who has ever disparaged me for choosing to save myself....FUCK YOU.
As a musician, I have always done my best to give my all onstage no matter what band it was. But
let me be clear when I say that I too have had my moments of embarrassing substandard performances on stages in front of paying customers. I regret those times because I know that I was a burden on my band mates and I was making it harder for those bands to take those next steps to whatever their goals were. But now that I no longer drink I can focus 100% on the performance and all the elements which go along with it. I am even more enthusiastic about doing shows because my current band mates take their work seriously and know the value of working with a clear head and know how to operate within the confines of moderation. I would much rather play shows with people who take their craft seriously and with other bands who feel the same way.
I have lived the 'let's get as fucked up as possible' years and while it was fun when I was 21 it just does not ring genuine when you're past the age of 40. I take what I do seriously because I want to make art and not fuck around. I also do not feel the need to be a babysitter for people who are unable to control themselves. So if that makes me 'half as fun' then I will take that designation and run with it because again, I take what I do seriously and see little benefit to being a drunk sweaty disfunctional mess. I lived it hard and then I decided I wanted to be an adult.
For a small handful of musicians or artists, there are those who can somehow balance their substance abuse and the quality of their art. For those people it works, but for many of us that is simply not the case. I do not feel that I sacrificed the content or quality of my own art just because I stopped drinking. But for me the choice was clear, it came down to whether I wanted to drink or I wanted to live. I chose to live and face life head on with all the twists turns and unexpected weirdness. In recovery they call this 'living life on life's terms' and that is the one key thing I take from recovery.
NOW......since I am on the other side of the fence I see the physical, mental and emotional toll that alcoholism causes to many of my friends. It is etched on your face behind your smile and your glassy eyes. You do not need to be outed by me because you out yourself every time you look at yourself in the mirror. You out yourself with the things you say and the things you do. Your addiction is slowly but surely eating you alive and it makes me sad. Some of you will be gone one day and it will be way before it was your time to go. But I will not tell you how to live because that is for you to decide. No one can make you want to change, you have to change for yourself. Until that day comes or if it ever does, you will continue hurt yourself and those you care about. Those who stand on the sidelines hoping for the best outcomes for you will be affected and hurt by your choices.
Now to my former band mate I will simply say this: You called me I did not call you. You came to me in a time of need and I accepted your invitation because I like to help my friends out. Your comments about us not being fun was not only cheap but it was the mark of someone incredibly ungrateful. I hope that one day you find peace, clarity and balance. So with that being said I will simply say GOODBYE.