Thursday, June 5, 2014

Moving In On Your Band-Mate's Lady: Good Idea, Right?

Hey there, folks. I back from the drycleaners. Good crap, do my clothes ever smell nice. And after I follow through on my plan to eventually clean my apartment, everything else is going to smell good too, you bet! And then, maybe, a shower...

Anyway, I've been going through the Van Hammerfiles, looking for unanswered questions, and I found this dude who needs my help.

* * *

Hey Van the Man,

I do have a creepy question for ya:

I'm the Lead guitar hobo of our tiny "punk rock in your face" cover band. That's the easy part. Our singer seems to be attracted to me and she is at least a 7 (out of 10) and I also feel attracted to her.

Problem is: Our rhythm guitar guy (one or THE best friend of mine) is in a relationship with her. He was the one who told me that she likes me and is really easy about this as he seems not to care that much for her (but I may be wrong). Last jam session when we were outside alone for a few secs I had this "kiss her, kiss her" blowing voice in my head. But I'm not one of these assholes who pinches someone's girl.

Now there's the question: Should I give her a try and risk the whole band and friendship stuff? Should I talk to him seriously about it? Quitting or something is no option btw. Same with weird 3-some thoughts.

Thanks in advance.

* * *

Yeah, man, like it's TOTALLY okay to try and squeeze on your best friend's girl. Hell, it would be rude not to.

Are you insane? Okay, I get it that they're throwing you weird signals. She smiles at you, sometimes touches your arm when you're chatting. And he's saying things like "I think she likes you, man." This will confuse you. I understand. And you're young,  you're so fucking full of energy and horny-pants lust, and she's so hot and sweet, and those things they are saying are like GREEN LIGHTS man,

Believe me, man. I've been in these situations before. Based only on the scant, sleazy information from your letter, here are my guesses to what's going on. Their relationship might be slipping a bit. He is feeling down about himself and his relationship and maybe his girl. His girl is possibly unsatisfied with the situation and likes having another good friend to talk to, like yourself.

Seems simple, right? The relationship is deteriorating, so I might as well blow up the bridge for them by attempting to scoop my pal's gal. It's obvious!

Dude, blow your nose and clear your head. If they are actually still in the relationship, then she will shut your ass down, he will find out, and the band is FUCKED. If she says yes and you guys do the hook-up, your buddy, no matter what he says, will hate you for betraying him and your band is FUCKED. Make your move man, and your band is fucked.

Do you want my advice? Never move on a buddy's gal, even after they're broken up. You should wait (I'M NOT KIDDING) a couple YEARS before moving in on a pal's ex. Even if she's into it, he will hate your guts, even if he says it's cool. How would you feel if your pal started stroking his long, iron-hard wanger into the hot comic-reading nerd babe you were dumb enough to dump? You would cry for the rest of your life. You would fall in love with her all over again forever, write bad poems to her, hate him, HAAAAATE him, hate him. And you would cry and cry.

That's what you're plotting to do to your buddy.

This shit is an instant band-breaker-upper, bro.

The exception (and there are always exceptions) would be The Ramones. And let me tell you, as good as they were, as long as they lasted, and as many great songs as they wrote, you would not have wanted to be in The Ramones, man. Johnny Ramone stole Joey's girl, did you know that? They got married and everything. And Joey and Johnny basically never spoke again. NEVER SPOKE AGAIN.

Can you imagine being in a band and your singer and guitarist haven't spoken to each other in fifteen years? How awkward would those twelve hour bus rides be?

When Joey was in the hospital dying of throat cancer, Johnny didn't even pick up the phone, because he knew Joey wouldn't want to hear from him. He knew he hated him. They HATED each other.

Linda and Johnny Ramone. Not shown: hate-filled, bitter Joey.

Over a girl, man.

Think about it.

Okay, if any of you other punters have questions, email me at mistervanhammersmith (at) Like me on Facebook and follow me on twitter, as usual.


Friday, April 18, 2014


Oi, pigs.

You'll have to excuse me, if you please. I'm working on me English accent. I dun't know if you remembah, but back in the early Oities ('80s), all us hahd wohking Amehican bands had to put on fake English accents and pretend to be poofy tossers just to get any recognition. Back then it was all about accents and haihdos, if you can believe it. Well, Van Hammah is bringing that particulah aesthetic back to the masses.

My new band will be called Public Image Seagulls. We will have the poofiest haih and the wohst accents you evah heard. And we will take the wohld by stohm. We ah looking for keyboard playahs at the moment. P.I.S. will have at least fouh keyboard playahs.

It may be that this is a bad decision. Well, I won't be the first one around here to make a bad decision.

* * *

Dear Van Hammersmith,

I'm not sure if I made the right decision. I'm a 16 year old guitarist in a band with an 18 year old drummer and 21 year old singer. The problem was that my singer keeps showing up late to rehearsals (which we all pay for) and is unprofessional. He once got drunk and wasted during a rehearsal wasting 30 dollars and our time, and was late two hours to a thing in St. Mark's where we'd all play and brought equipment (he suggested it).

Our material is good. It's rock, blues, soul and he makes good lyrics. But this keeps happening too many times and me and my drummer were finally like screw this and just told him look you have to get your shit together, so you're out for now and I told him good luck in the future and maybe we can work again later on just not now.

One other thing he doesn't keep a steady job and sleeps around other people's houses because he doesn't have an apartment, so I think it'd be better for him to take a break and straighten out his personal life first, then come back to the band. Anyway I feel really bad because it all started with me and him and I love the material me and him made, and I feel like a traitor because he found the drummer.

So now me and my drummer (who is very good) are gonna do another project with people who are serious and wanna get good and wanna be rockers (an issue resolved because my singer didn't like us too playing too heavy). Now, I think my singer doesn't wanna work with me anymore as long as I'm with the drummer or in general. So what do you think Van Hammersmith? Right move or stupid choice? P.S. In church the day after this, the priest talked about work ethic and it's importance so maybe it's a sign.

God Bless and Good luck for the future,

Conrad Z.

* * *

That's a long freaking letter, C-Z, but who cares, right? Tell me your life story. I'm listening. Is anyone else listening anymore? Maybe, maybe not. Anyway, let's get to my answer.

Ha ha ha ha! Is that guy's name Van Hammersmith? Ha ha ha ha!

No kidding. Okay, let's get to the straight facts. So he's a talented guy, but he has substance abuse issues and he's basically homeless.

Homeless. Substance abuse issues. These are very real, big-ass problems. Let's get all super-serious for a minute here.

People don't end up homeless by accident. They either come from unstable or abusive homes, or have underlying mental health problems that make it impossible to deal with life in a responsible way. If you've really got everything going RIGHT for you, you just go back to your parents place when your living situation falls apart. People who don't go home to their parents either feel that they CAN'T, or they are dealing with something else as well.

And blah blah, I'm not saying all homeless people are crazy or were abused. There are always exceptions and everyone's circumstance is different. But I am saying that nobody in their right mind DECIDES to be homeless, and if someone is a homeless alcoholic at 21, they've got some serious, heavy shit going on in their lives. People aren't homeless alcoholics at 21 without REASONS.

RE: substance abuse issues. A lot of us can have beers when we want them (and ooo baby do we want them), but we can identify when it is and isn't okay to drink. We don't get wrecked all the time, and we don't screw up things that we've worked hard to create because we can't live without being loaded all the time.

Maybe this guy is homeless because of his substance abuse. Maybe his substance abuse is a result of his upbringing or mental health situation, which ties in with his homelessness. I don't know. There's a lot at work here that I can only speculate on. All I can say is that a lot of people use substances to self-medicate and treat other problems. This guy has some really serious problems in his life, and they are way too heavy for a sixteen year old kid to deal with.

Your friend needs help. Real, serious help, and he needs to realise it himself and go looking for it. Others can talk to him, but he needs to see for himself where he is and where his life is going. He probably has a lot of pain inside, and it's not going away anytime soon.

And sad but true, being in your band is not going to be the magic thing that "cures" him. He might not like being kicked out of your band, but there's no way in hell that being in a band with a guy like this is going to be any good for you guys, and it's not going to help him any in the long run either. You'd be better off getting together with some other guys who are stable and positive influences in your life.

Now let me be clear: I am not advocating bouncing people out of your life if they have problems. Stand by them. Support them. Encourage them. Try to guide them toward help. But you do not need to make their problems into your problems.


On that note I'd like to tell you all that I'm getting to work on a rock and roll novel about a young rock band, a grizzled rock veteran, and ALIENS. Lots of aliens. Not the one from the movie ALIENS though. Different aliens.

As always, send me you questions at mistervanhammersmith *at* Connect with me on twitter @vanhammersmith and on


Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Let's Play "That Genre Sucks!"

All right, my little droogies, the sad day has come where I must admit that I've finally sold out and joined an Ultra-Metal band. Yes, that means I'll be performing on stage wearing a huge shiny robot costume, using a science-fictionesque nickname, and playing nothing but ultra-chords. What are ultra-chords, you ask? They are like power chords, except like, whoa.

I know, I know, a lot of you are spitting with rage right now, screaming about how Ultra-Metal sucks, and how Mega-Metal rules forever. Fine, fan-boys. If Mega-Metal jerks you off, I'm happy for you, but it ain't paying the rent. And if Ultra-Metal is going to pack four hundred screaming seventeen year old kids wearing aluminum foil helmets and armor into a gymnasium to see us play, then I'll make the cool-points sacrifice.

Anyway, as you might have noticed, this week's question is about genres, so hold on to your effects pedals. Also, email me your questions at mistervanhammersmith "at" Follow me on twitter @vanhammersmith and follow me on Facebook. I make jokes there sometimes.


Dear Han Vammersmitten,

I'm 16, and I've been playing for about 2 years now, just got a sweet Spider IV 75 and I'm really enjoying all of the built in effects. I finally got my phaser and fuzz to work like that classic Smashing Pumpkin's sound on Siamese Dream. My band plays grunge and heavy metal, so Pumpkins are a natural thing. I play lead and rhythm respectively, but our other guitarist claims that the Smashing Pumpkin's aren't "cool" and that they are more psychedelia than actual grunge. I asked him if Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Jane's Addiction were also psychedelic, and he said that he thought they were on some songs (most songs) We are seriously considering kicking him out, just on accounts of being an idiot. Should we? Or should we educate him?


Okay dude, the case may be that you should all throw each other out of the band, because I think you might ALL be "being idiots."

Now please let me be clear: I'm not saying you ARE idiots. You are just BEING idiots. Listen more and I will sort you all out.

Here's the shit about playing covers. It don't not never done matter what cover you play, or what "GENRE" the cover is when it's played by the original artists. It just matters about YOUR BAND and what YOU GUYS sound like.

So you've got a band full of, let's say, "skiffle" players. (Google it. It's a "genre" or music style, or whatevs.) Someone says "I love 'Kinky Machine' by The Wongles." But your rhythm player says "No way, Beast! We ain't playing no Wongles! They're flibble! We're strictly skiffle!"

But then your lead singer puts down his heroically massive bong and says, "Hold up, Cyclops. I get what Beast is saying. We play the Wongles, even though they're flibble. But we PLAY them SKIFFLE."

And everyone goes "WHOA." And they all slap their foreheads at once and fall over backwards.

So let's take a look at your shitty band (no offense, but I saw you guys at Bungarosa's last weekend and you sucked. Get it together.) You guys are barely above competent players. The only "style" you can play is "try to follow along." Your solos are weak, your barrage assaults are barely devastating, and your crescendos leave me feeling empty. You don't need to worry about one song being "too psychedelic." All you guys have to worry about is getting through the song at all without fucking it all up and probably breaking up as a band.

Okay, I'm joking around. What I mean is that when you bring four or five players together, they will form a sound. Play any cover in any genre, and unless you guys are such wizards that you can effortlessly slip from "Blues" to "Rock" to "Blues Rock" to "New York Blues" to "Psychedelic Rock" to "Psychedelic Blues Rock" and everyone will notice a difference, then the song will just sound like YOU GUYS.

Am I making any dang-dang sense here? Play any song you want and you'll still sound like yourselves. This is how you have Ministry covering Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash covering Nine Inch Nails. Get it?

Shit, I knew you wouldn't get it. Okay, carry on blokes.

If any of you others have questions, send them to mistervanhammersmith "at" Follow me on twitter @vanhammersmith. And like me on facebook at

Get it? Good.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Winning Back A Loser

Hello my guitar-slinging sons and daughters! (It's possible. I got around in the 'eighties and 'nineties). I'm back again to smother you in the glowing green ooze of my genius. "Mister Van Hammersmith," the kids ask me, "why does the sun shine and the grass grow?"

"Hell if I know," I tell the kids. "I only concern myself with the rock. Got any questions about the rock?"

The kids look at each other and shrug, then they dance away, singing hip hop tunes. I love them all, and I forgive them.

But sometimes a young person asks me about THE ROCK. Here's one now:


Good to see you're still alive, man. I've missed your ornery self.
Anyway. Question.
So I've been playing around with bedroom recording using cheap software, a cheap recorder, and whatever guitars and improvised percussion bits I find laying around the house (I'm under the moniker "Tumble Notion" on Soundcloud, if you fancy a stream. Pardon my shameless self-whoring.). I've been absolutely loving this, and I recruited a fledgling guitarist friend to spread that joy. However, after an enjoyable few months mucking about and learning (but mostly mucking about), my fledgling guitarist friend decided that he wasn't good at guitar, and, therefore, hated it and wanted nothing to do with the damn thing. I initially thought it to be kind of a phase thing, but it's looking to be a somewhat permanent decision.
SO. How can I lure my buddy back from the guitarless pit he's willingly stumbled into?
Okay, Tumble Notion, the first thing you have to do is go to your local video shop and rent a VHS tape of a film called "Mr. Holland's Opus," starring the Hollywood's whiniest man, Richard Dreyfuss. Who he? Are you telling me you don't remember his from "What About Bob?" Oh man, do yourself a favor. "What About Bob?" is the most cringe-inducingly hilarious film I ever-- what? Oh, right. Mr. Holland's Opus.
The film is genuine Hollywood pap, meant to inspire us to love music and teachers and being inspired, and everything that makes us feel good and cry at the same time. It's actually good and awful at the same time, but I don't actually care if you watch the whole thing. You only have to watch the one scene about the girl who sucks fucking shitty balls at the clarinet so much that playing makes her cry.
Whoa, you say. She sucks AND she hates it? She should quit. Just like your buddy quit, right? Well, maybe we don't actually want him to quit. Just like Mr. Holland didn't want Gertrude (played by absolute smoke-show hotty Alicia Witt. Red-heads rule!) to quit the stupid clarinet.
He makes her listen to "Louie Louie," which is as fun and as easy as jerking off. And BAM! She falls in love with the clarinet, then goes home and jerks off. If I were her, I would jerk off looking in a mirror. Because she's so hot. And yeah, it's politically correct to call it jerking off when a girl does it.
Here's the scene:
And maybe you're saying, "I don't know Van, she's not THAT hot. She's okay, but..."
To you doubters, I give you the smoke-show Alicia Witt:
For those of you who were wondering if Van Hammersmith has a type, I give you Alicia Witt: my type.
Also, after watching that clip for the first time in years, I have to change my opinion: the film is just fucking dreadful, and I'm sorry if you sat through all seven minutes of obnoxious Hollywood garbage. However, I will know make it up to you by providing the simple formula that will make playing guitar fun for people who hate it because they're no good at it.
STEP ONE! Help the hater discover the joy by teaching them a super-easy and fun song. Something with only a few chords and easy patterns. Something like "Louie Louie," or "All Along The Watchtower." (NOT the Hendrix version).
Play that song again and again until the hater gets good at it. Then play it more and more until it's so easy that it's actually fun, and they can play without having to think about it. Play it until they're ALMOST sick of it, and then learn another song.
Make sure that second song is also mega-easy. Repeat the process, adding easy song after easy song until the hater knows a handful of super-easy songs and can play them without having to try hard.
STEP TWO: Um, just keep going, I guess. Learn more songs. Presumably as he keeps playing, the hater will get better, and hopefully won't hate it so much. Not such a fancy, technical system, is it?
I guess the point is that if haters are gonna hate because they suck at what they're playing, let them build confidence by playing easier stuff. When I was learning I always liked the easiest songs best, because I could rock really hard, and if I screwed up or got lost, I could quickly find my place and keep going.
But that's only half the problem, right? As of now, this hater won't even pick his guitar up to try. You're going to have to get sneaky. Arrange a small party. Enlist the help of a hot girl, and let her know what she'll have to do.
At the party, have the hotty flirt with the hater. Have her ask Hater if he plays guitar. He'll say:
a) No. I tried, but I hate it more than going to the dentist.
b) A little, but I kinda quit.
c) Totally. Me and TumbleNotion are in a band called Tumble Notion. Check us out on SoundCloud.
If he says c), then everything is cool. If it's a) or b) then Hotty will have to convince him to try again. She can say things like, "I'd love to see you play sometime," or "It would be great if you guys played a show."
Then, when the party's over she can basically disappear, as long as she swears to never reveal her deception. She's done enough. It's now up to you to encourage him to try one more jam. Teach him something super easy and have some fun, damnit. Make sure he has loads of fun. Get some ketchup chips, or dill pickle chips, or whatever he likes. Get some ginger ale, ketchup chips, and have fun jamming!
Make sure getting him to fall in love with playing is your NUMBER ONE priority. And then?
Then bro, the world is yours.
Was that helpful? No? Just irritating? Worse than Richard Dreyfuss? Ouch. That hurts, man. I'll do better next time, I promise. The next time someone sends me a question at MisterVanHammersmith "at" I'll really do my best for real.
This isn't easy, you know.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

I Wanna Turn You Off

Greetings young Van Hammerlings! Sometimes, when I am sifting through day old newspapers and snuffling food from old pizza boxes, the question comes to me: Van Hammersmith, are you really qualified to give young people advice? And then my land lady attacks me with a broom and tells me to get away from the garbage cans, so I move on without really answering my own question.

But I want to answer Ex-Eye's question this week. Because Ex-Eye needs help, and not just band help, but life help. He is under the thumb of a woman who is doing him wrong. I've been there, Ex-Eye, and I want to see you on top again. On top of the WORLD, Ex-Eye. But it ain't E.E.'s lover who is doing him wrong, it's his bass player, and that shit won't flush, baby. Because there aren't too many bass players who have the right to push around the other members of their band. Roger Waters, maybe. Paul McCartney I guess. Others? Probably. I'll have to think about it. Send your suggestions to my twitter feed or facebook page. See how neatly I put in the social media plug? For an under-employed half-hobo, I know how to pimp my brand.

Here's Ex-Eye's question:

* * *

Dear VH,
I play guitar for my thrash metal band and we have been having a problem with our bassist. She is rarely at practice, always has an excuse for not knowing our songs, telling us what to do even though she does nothing, and acting like she is so much more mature than the rest of us.

Her little brother (drummer) formed the band two years ago and he and I write everything. When I got kicked out of my parents' place I moved in with them. So I live at the mercy of our bassist (I can't get my own place because I can't get a job) and I wanna get a new bassist but I think she'll kick me out on the streets if I fire her.

I'm not the only one that wants to replace her, our other guitarist and even her little brother wanna get a new bassist. We've talked to her about her attitude and going off with her boyfriend for weeks on end. However, nothing has changed despite her many broken promises and joblessness. We got some shows coming up soon and I don't want her bullshitting the songs again. Is there anyway I can keep a warm couch to sleep on and have a good bassist?
Your new fan,
* * *

Okay, E.E., here's my first thought: even if you dumpster this sour-note plucking butt-fire, are you really guaranteed to get kicked off the couch? Aren't you her little brother's friend? Can't he stand up for you and prevent you from getting thrown out into the street? And can't you appeal to their parents as well, reminding them that they are doing a great thing by providing you a home?

Also, it might be a good idea to try to smooth things out with your parents. Unless there is a really dangerous situation there with violence or substance abuse or something, it's probably worth trying to smooth things over. Believe me, life is better when your parents are on your side.

Where was I? Ah! This is GOLD, people. I have some smooth-ass moves to lay down for you. Here's how to deal with someone who sucks but also has a massive power-trippin' ego. It's all about psychology, my Van Hammerlings.

Okay, here's the deal. Nobody joins a band because they want to be made a fool of. Nobody says "I want to get up there on stage and look like a fucking tool who's ruining everything for the band." Nobody says that. The problem is that sometimes people don't realise that they're actually doing just that. Sometimes people thing they look AWESOME, even if they've been putting in the absolute minimum effort, and actually look like steaming shit-bags on stilts.

Now! Here is how we need to deal with the bassist. CLEAN your hearts and minds of anger. Cleanse your souls, because what you are about to do, you are doing for her. You are doing this for her OWN GOOD! and it will not work unless you can be absolutely sincere about wanting to help her.

If she does not know the songs, and if she does not attend practice, and if she sounds awful when the rest of you sound halfway tight, you need to have a chat where you COMMUNICATE to her that you are worried about how the upcoming show is going to go.

Tell her you are concerned that if she doesn't know the material, she will stand out and she will LOOK KINDA BAD. People will notice that she is the one member OUT OF STEP. And this might be embarrassing for her.

Now make her the OFFER. Tell her you will do everything you can to help her learn the songs and get up to speed so she can be really awesome at the upcoming shows. But if she makes excuses and refuses to put in the work, tell her the best thing to do is TURN HER AMP ALL THE WAY DOWN.

This is an ASSHOLE MOVE. It is also an effective way of communicating to someone that they suck so much you would rather no one hear them because they suck so much. Say something like, "Look, it sounds really bad when you're all out of time and playing the wrong parts and screwing everything up. Let's just turn you down so you don't look bad. It will be better for you."

Tell her she can turn up when you play the one song she plays kinda okay, if that will make her feel better.

This does not solve your problem, but it gets things moving, because this should move her to realise how unsatisfied you guys are with her performance, and she either needs to step up or step back.

Let's role play how this can go if she refuses to turn down:

HER: Fuck you, I'm not turning down.

YOU: What, you want to suck really loud? We're trying to help you out here.

HER: Fuck you, I don't suck. I'm awesome.

YOU: Sure, but you don't know the songs. It's impossible to sound good if you don't know the songs.

HER: Fuck you. Read this long list of excuses I have about why I've been too busy to learn the songs.

YOU: We accept and acknowledge all of you awesome excuses. But you don't know the songs. You will sound terrible. Please just turn down your amp.

If she agrees to turn down her amp, you either get her to work way harder, or you slowly start moving on without her. If her work ethic doesn't improve, just gradually move toward her air-bassing with an unplugged instrument, then add another bass player who is actually plugged in and playing over at the side of the stage. Eventually she will get the idea and fuck off.

The problem with getting rid of a bad player is that the focus is usually on the people doing the firing. You need to make the whole thing about HER, and that's what the turn-down trick can give you. Yes, you will look like assholes, but she might figure out that she's not keeping up.

If you're afraid of the actual sit-down confrontation, try it casually in practice. Have her brother (who she presumably can't throw into the streets) just tell her, hey, maybe you should turn your amp down a bit. More. No, more. A little more. More. That's it. Why? Because you don't sound very good. You don't know the song very well.

I'm recommending this as a SLOW solution to your problem because I don't want you to get thrown out on the street. I hope it works out. If it doesn't, let me know and I'll try another suggestion.

And the rest of you are welcome to ask me your weird life/band/music questions. Email them to me at mistervanhammersmith at

You're welcome.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Stop Standing There, Bass Player

Greetings, my devil-horned comrades! I have come to you again to share whatever it is I have. The Clap, the Syph, Gon, Clam, Slith, Gloff... I've had'em all, usually twice. But that has nothing to do with this week's column! This week's Q+A is about some jerk and his jerk-band. Read on!

* * *

Dear Van Hammersmith.

I have been playing lead guitar in the same band for four years. The band is me and three of my best friends. We used to gig at least once a fortnight - pubs/clubs/parties, but in the last six months we have been almost dormant. We now have gigs booked for a month away and haven't all jammed together in 4 months. Sunday just gone, myself, the bass player and drummer jammed, and we all played very well, especially after such a long break. However, the bass player only seems to be interested in his own "Progressive Rock/Metal" shit that is bass heavy. We wrote the music for a whole song (his song) and nobody had any problems doing so. The minute I bust out one of the many riffs and progressions I've been sitting on for months the bass player just fucking stands there and isn't interested like a fat woman at a salad bar. My renewed love for music which has come about from listening to bands like NOFX and Frenzal Rhomb (more so their attitude, rather than music), gets punched in the face, and I'm seriously thinking about punching the daylights out of my best friend for being a cunt. I am more than capable of playing in any other band. What should I do? Sorry for the long ass question bro.

Cheers, Beno.

* * *

Cheers, Beno! Remember, we are enlightened motherfuckers, and we do not use the hateful term "cunt." Remember, vaginas are awesome and powerful, and do not deserve to be used as insults.

Penises, on the other hand are stupid and silly-looking. The tend to care only about themselves, and they tend to screw up situations for everybody else, so I'm going to have to say your bass player is being a real dick. A dick-head, if you will. A dick-hole. A dick-face. A cock-headed dick-brain. What do you call your buddy when he's standing up? Erect. When your buddy sits down, point out that he's "gone limp." Get the point?

Ha ha! That reminds me of this time my band was touring with this other band. The guys in the other band were Brazilian. They spoke very good English, but sometimes they would ask questions. One day the guitarist asks me, "Hey Van, what is an asshole?"

I say come on, you know what an ass hole is. It's the hole in the middle of your ass.

He says, "But why do you call a person an asshole?"

I think, and then tell him: "You call a person an asshole if all that comes out of him is shit."

He looks over at his lead singer and then nods. "Yes. Exactly. Asshole."

Anyway, what should you do? It sounds like your band has already broken up, dude. When you take breaks for half a year at a time for no reason, or if you go from gigging all the time to gigging twice a year, dude, you're band is on life support. You're pretty much a free agent and can cruise with other bands. And if your old buddies say "Hey man, what's up?" you can just tell them, "We never play anymore, man."

Exceptions include massive bands who tour and record and gig out of their minds for years and need extended vacations to stay sane. But if you're trying to get your band going and suddenly you realized you haven't even jammed in four months, you better start calling around and seeing if you're still a band.

But to your specific question, yeah, you should punch him. Wait, no, wait. Don't punch him. Talk to him. Ask him what's up? Don't be confrontational. Ask him for-seriously: why is he not actively participating when it's time to work on other people's songs? And if he answers that he's not interested in that type of sound, you've just got to communicate to him that if song-writing duties are being shared, he's going to have to do his part on everybody else's songs.

Gee, Van, we never thought of that, you sneer. Right? We never thought of talking to him. But did you talk to him? Really for real? Because it wouldn't surprise me if you just internalized your anger and said nothing at all. Or got mad and screamed at him but didn't calmly help him to understand how you feel.

That's what you gotta communicate, dick-head. Your feelings.

Also, communicate that he's being a dick.

Look everybody wants to get their riffs in, and all lot of the time you hate everybody else's riffs. That's life. That's music. If it totally doesn't work anymore, move on, bro, because like I said, you band sounds dead anyway. But if you think there's some future there, then you've got to patch it up with this prog-bag.

Gah, prog people. "Uh, I want a seventeen minute song with fifty tempo changes and never playing the same bit twice." Okay buddy, the audience will totally connect with that shit. But whatever. It's a valid and popular genre. But it's way over my head, bro.

Anyway, I veered off on a tangent there. Okay, send me comments or questions at mistervanhammersmith o'er yonder at Follow me @vanhammersmith, find me and like me on facebook. And punch a dick today, even if it's your own.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Where Can I Find Love? I Mean Bandmates

Hey everybody. It's Sunday night as I'm writing this, and although I'm crushing beers,  I'm also taking it a little bit easy tonight. After all, tomorrow I've got to put on a fancy suit, put a bunch of old newspapers in my briefcase, and head out there into the mean streets looking for a job. My plan is to start in the mail room but then somehow get the CEO's hot-honey wife to fall in love with me, and then somehow save the whole company through the power of rock and roll.

Will I play the solo from "Walk This Way" while standing on the table during a board meeting? Yes, I think I will.

Anyway, I want to draw all your attention to my previous post when I told you that I'm looking for bands to interview for an upcoming project. Starting-out bands. Gigging-at-the-local bands. Your band. Read the post, then read this chump's question and my derisive answer.

* * *

What's up, Van?

I recently moved to the big city, I've written some material that I finally feel it's not corny crap, but I don't know how to start out. I'm in search of a drummer and a bass player but my internet searches have so far been fruitless and I haven't been here long enough to actually know people. I need your veteran rock'n'roller wisdom on how to start fresh in a new place where you know no one, since I'm sure you've had your fair share of travelling.

* * *

Another nameless questioneer. I will call you "Cheshmire." Well, Cheshmire, I have traveled and toured and toured and traveled, it is true, but I must admit I have not often moved to a town where I knew nobody at all. Usually I go to a town because there's somebody there that either wants me to hold them in my big strong arms and love them all night long, or because they want me to come and join their band.

Actually, I've only moved twice to join bands. Once was a very short trip, two towns down the highway. My lease was up and I needed to find a new place, and I was sick or riding the bus every week to go to rehearsal, so I just got an apartment closer to where the other guys lived. That wasn't such a big deal because it was only about sixty miles, but hell, I had to figure out a new laundry place, a new grocery store, everything. But hey, finding that stuff on your own in a new town... that's how you get street smart, man.

The other time was when I moved from Philadelphia to San Francisco. My band at the time, a country covers band, had broken up, but an old buddy was starting a rock act in Frisco and invited me out West. I know what you're thinking: "Philly and Frisco are pretty much the same." Yeah, that type of thinking will get you beaten up.

Anyway, I've addressed this issue in columns many times, long ago, but since I want you to read this new column instead of poring through the archives at that other website, I'll answer your question fresh and new! How do you meet other players? Hmmmm.

Here is the easiest answer. Go to where the musicians hang out. That means find out where the guitar and instrument stores are in town and go hang out there for a while. Don't just lurk around, looking like a thief. Approach and talk to one of the staff. Tell them you are new in town and you don't know much about the local scene. Tell them you're looking to meet other players. ASK QUESTIONS. Here is what you need to find out:

1. What are the bars where the local bands play. Who gives a shit where Aerosmith plays when they pass through town? Find out where Joey Dirtmonkey and The Buttfucks play on Saturday night. Find out what bars host the local jams. Ask about a few different places. Is there a rock bar? Country? Goth? God, I love Goth bars. Because I love Goth chicks. Sexy nerds dressed in fishnets and latex? I am there all fucking night. I spike up my hair and show up in a leather jacket and no shirt and walk around saying I know Jaz Coleman. Awesome.

2. I lost my train of thought. Right! Ask the guy about local practice facilities. They might be a good place to check out. They often have a posting board where people are looking for players. You might bump into some people too, but don't hang around like a dickhead stalker. Put up a poster with your details: "Guitarist named Cheshmire seeks band. Must love Prong. Email pronglover@prong.prong."

3. Ask the guitarist guy if he knows anyone looking for players. Ask about the local scene, ask about where people connect in this town. And if he gives you a dickheaded shrug to all of your questions, find someone else to ask. And go to the other shops in town too. Talk to as many people as you can. Usually if you ask five people you'll get five different answers.

After you've pumped these assholes for information, drop twenty bucks on some new patch cords, or strings or something. Don't wimp out and buy a pick. He'll say, "That butt-tard asked me questions for twenty minutes and then spent fifteen cents. If he comes back DON'T WASTE YOUR TIME ON HIM."

Next, go to a jam night. Bring your guitar. Ask to play. Ask the hosts who the regulars are and introduce yourself. Say you're new in town and you're looking to meet other players. You gotta talk to people, baby.

That's the problem with this internet thing, man. It's easy to meet people, but it sometimes makes people forget how to approach strangers in real life. Be brave, be cool, and don't get too wasted.

I'm out of time. Take care, babies. Email me at mistervanhammersmith on yonder with your questions. Follow me on twitter @vanhammersmith and find me on Facebook. When I finally get 25 "likes" I'll post a URL.

Kiss me. I secretly love you.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Dear Dickhead, You're Fired

I am so, so hungry right now. It's a little bit sad, but I'm not sure how well I'm going to be able to answer this question-- which I might point out is a brand new question, submitted within the last few weeks by... huh. He didn't sign his letter. No matter. I will call him "Thunderin' Joey Amos."

Anyway, yeah, I'm hungry. I'm short on cash and haven't been able to buy any food or beer, and I was waiting for one of my ex-girlfriends to come over and make me some dinner, but it turns out one of her more recent ex-boyfriends called up with a crisis more dramatic than being hungry. All I've found in the house was a baggy full of left over marijuana stems, so I boiled them and made some weird tea. It didn't give me much more than a mild ten minute buzz, but it did make my hunger worse. I'm starting to wonder about putting rat traps in the alleys. You know, for the meat.

But I'd better get busy and answer Thunderin' Joey's question. And then? Go to the park and eat acorns, I guess.


First, it's awesome to see you back.

I'm one of two lead guitarists in a 5-piece metal band. The other guitarist, the drummer, and myself write basically everything, and what we're writing is awesome - at least, we love it. Our biggest problem has quickly became our vocalist and our bass player, because they don't show up for practice and now they're both out of the loop on this stuff we've got done. To make matters worse is their work ethic- to say the least, neither of them have one anymore.

The vocalist sucks. He can write wonderful lyrics, but his voice is god-awful...but he's got an ego to the point of thinking he's god's gift to metal, and any attempt to get him to take lessons has failed. Even when people tell him he's bad, it just rolls off him.

The bassist used to be the other guitarist until I came along. Since he took up bass, he doesn't try to learn anything. He just plucks open notes instead of learning the material; whenever told to practice or if I've written a good bass part for him (because it's came down to me writing parts because he won't) he doesn't try to learn them, because "he plays bass".

The answer is obvious to me- fire them. They don't pull their weight. My big question is HOW. The vocalist got me in the band in the first place, and both he and the bassist formed the band; the other hurdle is getting the other guys who do pull their weight on board with such an action. They're all friends, and they don't want to hurt feelings, which I don't want to either, but something's gotta give. They aren't trying anymore. We have gigs lined up, and we won't be able to play any of this new material because these two don't know any of it.


I like this guy. No wasting time with hellos and goodbyes. Thunderin' Joey Amos is all business.

Okay, TJA, you're in a sitch that's very familiar to many a workin' guitar man: you're in a good band that has a few bad players. And the obvious answer is the one you're already come up with: fire them. As for how, bend your ear and listen to wise old Hammersmith lay it down, not old school, not new school, but (toke, toke) hi-i-i-i-i-i-gh school.

(Just joking. As I've already pointed out, my weed is long gone.)

You've got a couple ways to handle this. The first solution is the old "quit and reform" trick. If the vocalist and the bass player are the guys that formed the band, but now they're the ones who suck too much to be in it, all you have to do is have the other three guys say "Your commitment is no longer there, and we've decided to jump ship. We're QUITTING THE BAND."

Then you walk across the street, form a new band, and start trying out really dedicated bass players (not disgruntled guitarists who have been kicked off guitar in the band they started and are super-bitter about it). Also start looking for vocalists who... you know... don't fucking suck.

If this is not the way you want to go, or if you can't get the other guys on board with the plan (or if the band already has some name recognition that you don't want to lose by starting again under a new name), then there are still other ways to go.

If the most glaring problem the band has at the moment is attendance at practice, then there is a real shitty solution. It rarely works, and the people that try to enforce it usually end up looking like assholes, but it's worth mentioning. Go down to your local dollar mart and get a notebook and use it too keep track of attendance at practice. If everyone agrees on a time and someone bails, then mark it down. Say something like three absences and you're out.

Of course there will be an excuse for every absence (Dude, my sister was having a crisis! She had no food or beer, and I had to bring her my old weed stems!) but you've got to hold the line and explain that if someone is not able to attend on a regular basis, then they are simply too busy to be in the band.

Like I said, this is a dickish way to operate, but the important thing is that you communicate to the guys who are often absent that they are holding up the band's progress because they never show. And they either need to step up or they need to recognize that they don't really give a shit anymore.

That's right, boys: STEP UP or STEP ASIDE.

But let's back off and analyse these guys as human beings for a second, and maybe we can think of ways to "fix" them. First, your vocalist. You acknowledge he's a good lyricist, but he's a shitty singer. If he won't take lessons, you could suggest he tries an effects box for a few songs. Rent some piece of shit for a few practices and get him to sing with some vocal distortion and reverb for a while. It's a patchwork defence, but it might be a temporary Band-Aid that helps him in the long run. He might use it to make himself sound better, cover over his weaknesses, or generally hide behind it. If it makes him sound a little better at gigs, then hey! Partial solution.

If he's some kind of purest snob who doesn't think real metal vocalists use effects, then offer to bring in another singer to take over some of the duties where he's weak. If he refuses this, that and the other thing, and you find yourself just stuck with a shitty singer, then... well, not even my awesome powers can help you. Either FIRE HIM or acknowledge that he will limit your band's potential, and live with it.

As for bad bassy, I can see why he's acting so shitty. He started the band with bad singy as the guitarist, but he got kicked down the totem pole by a better player. He views bass as beneath him and unworthy of his time. He's bitter for being usurped. He feels marginalized. He feels... um... besmirched. Sorry, my vocabulary starts to go when I haven't been eating properly.

What I think you guys need to do is have an H.R. night. Yeah, I mean human resources. As in that woman in the nice suit who meets you in an office (sometimes with a witness present) to ask you what you want out of your career with the company.

Go to a pub and order a few pitchers of draft. This is important. You all want to be on the same team. You all want to be drinking from the same jug of beer. It shows camaraderie. Next, go around the table and ask each member what they want to get out of the experience of being in the band. Rock stardom? Good times rockin' the songs? The gigs? Or chicks, man, chicks. Whatever.

Ask each member if they are getting what they want right now, or if they think they are effectively working toward getting what they want. Ask if they think it's possible to get what they want in their current role. What would have to change for them to be satisfied with their role? Because seriously Thunderin' Joey Amos, your bass player is not satisfied in his current role. It's obvious he hates what he's been asked to do.

Look for compromises. If he's unwilling to give bass his full effort and attention, see if there's another role he could perform. Maybe you guys could trade off bass and guitar for some songs, like the ones he wrote on guitar IF he's willing to give 100% when he's on bass.

If the only thing you guys are willing to let him do is play bass, you'd better let him know. "Dude, it's this or nothing. If you don't want to play bass, then you might want to think about looking for another band. Because you're holding us back."

He's be pissed. Absolutely he will. He was one of the band's FOUNDERS. But bands that succeed make these hard decisions. If he's not up to the rest of the group's level, it might be necessary to move him out.

Just make sure he gets song-writing credits where he deserves them when your album goes platinum.

Do albums still go platinum? One Billion Downloads. Whatever. The Van is out of touch with modern society.

But I know how band dynamics work.

That's all I've got for you, baby. I'm going to go hit the food bank. Don't worry about me though, I've got a gig this weekend, and I should pick up a few hundred for it. It's with a cover band, opening for a classic rock band. I won't name names though. Why not? Because I owe people money and I don't want to be found.

But if YOU need to find me, just email your questions to vanhammersmith (at) I don't answer emails, but I do reply to tweets (@vanhammersmith) and you can find me on Facebook. Two people have liked me so far! Hooray, I'm internet famous!