Headbangers’ Brawl is a weekly column where Metal Insider’s Bram and Zach take a moment to debate and analyze two opposing sides of a topical issue occurring in the world of metal and/or the music industry.
The past month and a half has been filled with splits and departures from some very well established groups. While some remained vague, many of these separations highlighted the many hardships that come with being a well known musical act. Constant touring and clashing personalities were never unknown symptoms, but the recent announcements of key member departures reveal that such issues can still arise.
With all of this in thought, Bram and Zach take the opportunity in this week’s Headbangers’ Brawl to debate over what are the hardest obstacles that an active band face today, as well as what was the most disappointing split of the past month.
Zach: I think many underestimate the hardships of touring. Not only can the strains of constantly being on the road, away from home, effect you personally (as they did with Trivett Wingo), but it can also take its toll on the relationships within the band. You start off as best friends, sharing the same passion and focus for creating music. But after a few weeks crammed in a van with no personal space, those same feelings start to drain, and tension is bound to happen. When you spend so much time with someone, especially in an environment like the touring cycle, others are going to start rubbing you in the wrong way. Granted, he never said that he started to hate his band mates, but one of Mike Portnoy’s main reasons for leaving was that he just wasn’t having fun anymore hanging around the same people, and that he needed some time apart. That’s why many band’s take so much time in between recording and touring to pursue other projects or to just do nothing (Slipknot and Tool come to mind when thinking of this). Sometimes you need to recharge your batteries before you blow up on your bandmates.
Bram: This is oversimplifying things a lot, but when you decide to play music professionally, you have a job. Sometimes jobs work out, sometimes they don’t. But you’re basically entering into a long term relationship with your bandmates. And like any long term relationship, you’ll have obstacles thrown at you. I think one thing that’s become a bigger problem with bands is that they’re making less money now off CD sales. Bands live and die on the road now, so they have to be out longer. If you’re not 100% cool with the people in your band, that’ll eventually take it’s toll on you and the next thing you know, you’re quitting music to go to business school.
Z: It sucks that bands are making less and less money off of music, but it’s a sad truth. Though one could argue that a metal band always made their money from the road. You’re also right, Bram, that bands need to look at it like a professional job. But in some instances, when bands become more famous and are exposed to more rock n’ roll luxuries, that sense of professionalism is lost. Take a look at Aerosmith as an example of that. The fact that such a large, and iconic, band could let such ego driven drama tear them apart in front of the media is just sad. Though in that instance, many wish they would just break up already instead of dragging it out the way they are.
Personally, I’m pretty disappointed by Jane’s Addiction parting ways with Duff McKagan. The online videos I’ve seen of Jane’s Addiction’s most recent reunion with bassist Eric Avery seemed forced and overall like there was tension in the air (mainly between Perry Ferrel and Avery). When they announced McKagan was replacing Avery, I felt that he could possibly really light a new fire underneath the band and give them new life. It made the thought of seeing Jane’s Addiction live exciting again. But now with the sudden split, the excitement is gone.
What about you Bram? Any particular group split that happened recently caught you off guard or was disappointing to hear?
B: I’ve actually thought Jane’s Addiction has been going through the motions since the mid ’90s when Flea played bass for them for a second. I’ve gotta say Mike Portnoy leaving Dream Theater might have the most impact out of the most recent band departures. That’s not to take away from Dream Theater at all, but he made himself the unofficial spokesperson for the band. The Sword have too much momentum to let a drummer leaving
change that much, while Mutiny Within isn’t popular enough for anyone to really even notice a member change, with no offense to them.