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.