Monday, December 21, 2015

The (hi-)story of DrScythe – Part III (Meinthat Part II)

This blog entry is about Meinthat falling apart after the guitarist had to leave. With him gone we also decided to go for a little bit more metal in the songs and began rehearsing a song by Amorphis. To be honest I don’t recall the exact chronological order of the events so I just try to group them by topic.

The shortest part is definitely my own failure to write new songs. I love listening to metal but forced creativity never worked for me (and it still doesn’t) and the ideas were rough and rare. So we had some ideas and riffs but nothing new to keep the band together or to recruit new members easily. Sadly this wasn’t the only problem because that could’ve been solved by someone else with songwriting skills.

What really ‘ended’ Meinthat was the endless search for new members. When we found a new guitarist, the bass player left and meanwhile we also had two different drummers and so on. Frustration kills any motivation and you’re really annoyed by playing the same songs for weeks and not moving forward.
During the first phase (last blog) we had some weird guests for the tryouts too but the people who wanted to join us after the guitarist left and after the style change really took the cake. Trying to kick other members without being a member, trying to kick out my fiancée because relationships in bands don’t work, collect 20.000 bucks in advance for promotion before playing a single note or checking out a dozen bands because of being so ultra-skilled that everyone wants him – those and many other reasons made us say ‘don’t call us, we call you’. Just FYI: those are not made up! Funniest moment was the 20.000 Euros guy; we all were students so I don’t know what he was thinking. Looking at it retrospectively you can laugh your ass off about what people say and do but if you’re trying to form a band it’s really counterproductive. Your already stressed motivation drops lower from week to week which doesn’t help with writing songs either and so you’re slowly approaching the point of having the insight that it doesn’t make any sense anymore. Before we finally gave up we had two members (in addition to my fiancée and myself) left, one even writing songs. The last ‘arrow to the knee’ were our timetables. Even if your motivation rises and you got ideas to play with you can’t do anything if you cannot find a date to rehearse.

And so when I got a job and rent the apartment I still live in (with my fiancée) in 2011 it was finally clear that ‘Meinthat’ was no longer. On the one hand it was sad to end this on the other hand it was just a relief to do whatever I wanted as a creative person again.

The whole time I collected ideas that didn’t suit the band’s style and always had the idea to record them someday by myself or with someone I don’t even know in real life. Well how I ended up doing the solo-artist thing is part V so you’ve got to wait till then if you’re interested. What I took away from this story is an attitude. If you really want something to work you’ve got to make it work. It was up to us and I am quite sure that none of us was really into it enough to overcome the lack of motivation.

Friday, December 11, 2015

The (hi-)story of DrScythe – Part II (Meinthat Part I)

As I already mentioned before this is the largest part of my history as a musician so I have to split it up. Together with my fiancée I began playing songs by the German band ‘Schandmaul’ and soon we decided that we should do this as a band and try to write own songs. Within a few months we had the luck to find a rehearsal room, a drummer and a bass player. Although I want to add a complete chapter about band practice including optimizing rooms I just want to mention now that the room was quite weird. In the cellar of a WWII bunker, two by eight meters and cold. Nicely cool in summer; freezing during the winter months. With no heating included...

We began by playing cover songs and kept looking for a guitar player. As I was the lead singer in this band I restrained myself to playing rhythm guitar, mostly strumming chords and even that took a while to get used to while singing. But nowadays I still feel weird singing without a guitar in front of me. While you get the impression that there are hundreds of guitarists available for every band we struggled to find someone. The genre of medieval inspired folk rock seemed quite off the charts for many but you would think that out of those hundreds of guitarists in forums someone would say ‘okay, let’s try that!’

Our first candidate was able to play the basic stuff but couldn’t handle a very simple solo. And that was one of my main requirements: whoever wanted the ‘job’ had to be able to play solos better than me and I am still not good at playing this instrument today. So back then it was relatively easy to be better. But at some point we found a guy and we began playing our own songs. Before we could record one of them we had to kick out the drummer. His only cymbal was his hihat. We bought him a triangle as a joke but he immediately promised to buy a ride and a crash. Then he told us that a neighbor had his packages and after a few weeks we were a little disappointed because of the lies. We weren’t the typical ‘friends since elementary school’ that some bands are based on but at least we wanted to be honest. Luckily we found a new drummer very soon and he used an electrical drum kit which was great for lowering the overall volume. Why was this great? Well...did you ever hear an electrical violin really loud?...

This drummer also had recording experience and so we recorded our first song. You can still find that song on YouTube (Meinthat – Die Mühle) if you want to hear the unexperienced DrScythe shouting his lungs out. While recording our second song (‘Das Schlachtfeld’) our guitarist wasn’t able to play his solo. Which he wrote himself. After only a few minutes of practice I could play it so we agreed on giving him some time so that he would be the one playing on the recording. That didn’t work and kicking him out was the beginning of the end of ‘Meinthat’. We then tried dozens of guitar players but most of them had different ideas of how bands work (I still had the illusion of a democracy being an option) or even suggested to change our genre…

From there the band didn’t move forward anymore and what happened then will be featured in the next episode of (hi-)story. As this series will come to an end I feel the need to explain that those are just building the background for me reflecting on bands, equipment, creativity and more. So don’t wonder about missing opinions or results here and there. That’s it for this week.

Until next time

Friday, December 4, 2015

The (hi-)story of DrScythe – Part I (of VII)

As this is the very beginning I should start at the very first step of my path as a musician: the bass or: my father’s old Framus Jazz Bass copy. I wanted to play this instrument but I was told by him that I had to learn guitar first. So I bought a classical guitar right after Christmas 2004 and began practicing. A few months went by and I decided to buy an electrical guitar. And so I got my Ibanez RG in May 2005 and played almost every day – and didn’t think about the bass for a while. Within the first weeks I also began looking for musicians to form a band and although we didn’t met on a regular basis we still managed to play some songs by Rammstein.
From the very beginning of playing guitar I also began writing songs. I still got the Guitar Pro-file of my 1st song and although it’s nothing special it’s not bad either. It even includes a guitar solo, a part I later ignored completely. But my ambitions to become a skilled guitar hero died off when my abilities wouldn’t improve no matter how hard I practiced. I’m quite sure that I did something wrong back then – but that doesn’t matter now. I began focusing on songwriting and discovering new genres (not just on guitar). The Rammstein cover-band ‘dissolved’ (although we even played one of my own songs we never agreed on ‘Last Aid Kit’ or something else that would justify calling it a real band) and I began looking for new musicians.

I found a very talented bass player at my school who knew a drummer and so a group, later almost officially named ‘Red Collars’ was founded. We played some covers too (e.g. Static-X – The Only, The Strokes – Reptilia, Farin Urlaub - OK) but I already had some britpoprock-indie-like stuff ready that we used. Just FYI: this was the point when I first noticed that it is almost impossible to categorize your own music when it’s not intentionally matching a specific style. Not because you think of your own stuff as the most genuine ever but because the lack of distance to compare it to the stuff you listen to. After rehearsing every week for a while we began to intensify our search for a lead singer but no candidate matched our expectations. I tried to sing sometimes but I had zero experience and practice so it sounded reeeaaally awful. During this phase I noticed that I miss it a little bit to write and play Metal/Industrial like music and that’s when I first had the idea to make stuff like that on my own. I looked for a drummer and named this ‘side project’ Polymetric (later Polymetrix). Calling The X was written was this project – it just sounds very different now. Just before I graduated from high school I met my now-fiancée in January 2007 and was so frustrated by the real band not moving forward that I decided to leave it.

Someone convinced me to play two songs as a guitarist at my graduation but after that I had no plans for making music outside my home. Together with my fiancée I sometimes played Johnny Cash’s cover of ‘Hurt’ – with her playing the piano and me playing acoustic guitar. I sometimes even sang and she encouraged me to sing more often. After I gave her an electrical violin as a Christmas present we planned to found a medieval-themed folkrock band – and we did. That launched a bigger chapter of my biography as a musician – one that I will address in the next (hi-)story entry.

Remembering all that reassured me on giving the advice to play with other musicians as soon as possible to every beginner. You just get a way better understanding of how instruments work together, that each instrument can take the lead part and that playing perfectly isn’t really the point of making music with others. Although accurate playing is indeed the goal you should strive for being able to play as you and not as a machine. As long as your intonation and timing aren’t way off it can be a characteristic to lead the rhythm group with the bass or maximize the ‘laid-back’-feel of a guitar melody. Your inner sense for something sounding and feeling good doesn’t develop by practicing alone or with a perfect backing track.

PS: before the search for musicians for the band in the next chapter began I bought a bass…