Guitar Player VI: “LIES THAT BANDS TELL”

Check out my sixth piece for Guitar Player Magazine on-line. Here, I talk about my abrupt loss of innocence when, at thirteen years old, I realized something shocking: rock bands don’t always tell the truth!

Of course, knowing what I know today, the only thing shocking is the fact that I once found this shocking.

Here then, courtesy of Guitarplayer.com, is “LIES THAT BANDS TELL”

Enjoy!

44 Responses to Guitar Player VI: “LIES THAT BANDS TELL”

  1. I too remember being absolutely crushed that some of my favorite bands (Metallica included) weren't just like “one of us”. I believe because people can identify so much with the music (it speaks to them) that it's hard to separate the music from the human that's behind the music. Once you get past that though it makes the music more enjoyable…..just plain and simple, with no strings attached.

    • It must be difficult for artists whose entire presentation is based on being 'one of us.' Springsteen is someone that's  able to pull it off, despite having a net worth unimaginable to most of his fans.

  2. The lie or the true ? What do you want create ? an angel or a monster ? – The lies are same, decade after decade. Maybe some lies they doesn´t use more, but for this, have others, new lies. We have a WEB.

    For me finished, when I saw members to kill a work of others (soundcheks), members travelling on tour separate, some dont talk with others, side by side, smilling for a photo with fan, and dont look between themselves, and believe : two enemy on tour together! So, peoples say what they want to say. What sell albuns, what sell shows. And we – as a fan –  believe in what we want and need believe.

    Some lies are interesting : the beer never end, the groupies are great, “the party is everyday” and the tooth fairy…well… she exist, but is a witch ! hahahaha…

      • It's a lot harder to pull that kind of thing off nowadays. With the Web, everything is out there- we would have figured out much quicker that Dave was giving the same on-stage banter every night.

            I tried to find a picture of him that captured the guy I remembered from back then, the consummate showman (however, I think that might be from his first 'post VH' tour).

  3. Hmm…an illusory smokescreen…well, it is what it is I suppose…great to read your take on it….especially how you cite KISS…love them…so straightforward….oh and nifty, shifty play by Metallica…okay, so I just shared your words, “the lack of gimmick is usually the gimmick,” with my Dad…he responded, “it's called the art of misdirection, honey.” Jaded?…maybe a bit, he's a magician. But it's hard to dismiss the wisdom of an 18 year old with 71 years of experience!…in any event, I agree with both of you! Cheers!

    • Your dad has a good point. And magic has a lot in common with music. The difference is: magic is something you experience with an expectation that it's engulfed in illusion. With music, there is an expectation that those delivering it are as honest as the personal connection one feels with the songs.

      • How very true Alex. Magic has tempered my approach to music and in fact everything that I embrace. I learned to always expect the unexpected. I grew up surrounded by magicians and experienced firsthand the honest, personal connections that lie behind the illusions. So it is my hope that on some level, albeit unconscious or seemingly lost in rivalry, that those who appear to be disconnected from their art are possibly impossibly tethered to it personally. There must be an honest approach hidden somewhere….akin to world peace. But we're still at war. Hmm, well maybe i'm just to darn hopeful. Thanks again for taking time to respond, you create a brillaint forum for creative minds.

  4. Metallica, Kiss , Ozzy (…or Sharon rather..:) ) Alice Cooper…. No wonder these acts are still going strong, they're not only rockers but have savvy businessmen among them as well. But as you pointed out, it all boils down to one thing, and its the music they put out that caught our ears in the first place. No matter how hard i try to dismiss the fact that some of the bands' “street cred” i.e Metallica,  was actually a marketing strategy :), i must admit i totally agree with you on the musical aspect !!

    • Although the marketing was always there (whether they admit or not), there's no doubt that Metallica, and Lars in particular, were huge fans of music, which drove them to greatness.  But I sometimes wonder if Kiss, in the process of building an 'act,' actually screwed up- inadvertently and accidentally spitting out brilliant gems like 'Black Diamond,' 'Duece,' and 'Detriot Rock City,' songs with a greatness their post 70's music would never hold a candle to.

    • Another savvy music business man, brilliant w imagery/marketing strategies (of course, great songwriter/musician too).

  5. I think that a man might see this as a lie, but as a woman, I see it more as a secret.  We women know that certain secrets are the back bones of the family, they are not lies, they are just things  we are well aware of that are un-said.  Its a known truth that woman have intuition, and that we use it well.  Men lie, under the guise of fishing, or drinking or other musical tales. We woman are not fooled, we just allow it to go on without saying much about it.  Lies, those vicious hurtful words that are said that cover up what should be known, what could help or save, those are choices that have less to do with promotional gimmicks and more to do with nefarious people with plans for evil.  Bands dont lie, persay I think they -use the power of suggestion, and see where it will take them.  One more note, Chris Isaak wrote and performed  a song called lie to me.. he truly understood the use of powerful words about the power of suggestion!

    • Secrets, lies, illusions whatever you want to call them, the truth is everyone's got 'em. Not all of them are ethically wrong, either. But it is better to go through life with an awareness that they do exist, sometimes in places you don't expect them.

      • 🙂 I don't lie- and I'm not happy about this post Alex. Illusions , lies and secrets…don't make for good times or friends.

  6. I think that some rock bands act or band acts done in forthright demonstrative ways, left by a KISS,or intentional gimmicky fashion, literal or figurative, set the stage and establish image done for our sake and can be done within amusing frameworks that attract our reaction and generates more interest,  creating additional feelings that can send the musical experience through the ceiling, with power that pulls us in with it, where we become part of the show, where we need to just…..”roll with the punches and get to whats  real.”……everybody's looking for something…to fill in the holes,… it's just something you feel together” We still decide what to believe based on what we assume, given what is done and told to us (not unlike our government) One, which I prefer has no or less lies that deceive and more truth filled layers to perceive, for ways that can change our perspective and build a relationship by validating a real sense of purpose behind and beyond the music that despite an emotional force and mindful buzz it can create, has intentions to our best interest in play, which, can influence both sides in loyal devotion and with capitalizing effects.    Illusion may be a given allowance within the parameters of entertainer accounts, but they can also be miscalculated on occasion,  best reconciled by dignity's pervasion.

    • Clever Van Halen quotes. Was it the universe that put me on a soundstage with members of both bands a few days after I'd finished this piece? (I taped a couple episodes of That Metal Show as 'guest guitarist' last week, the guests turned out to be Lars Ulrich and Sammy Hagar).

           I think illusion is necessary and as I point out in the piece, I have tremendous admiration for those who are able to pull it off and still do great music.

           Where it really causes problems is in the world of politics. That's why we've seen more politicians crumble recently in the aftermath of personal scandals than we can keep track of.

      • The universe has many special moments, like the one that put you on that soundstage with the topics of your thought.  (When will that air?)
        The world is, after all, a stage that allows us to have encounters by fate or of no coincidence that leave us feeling grateful, especially well timed ones.  A valuable piece of the universal picture is 'trust'.  Trust, it can be lost in seconds and takes time to build, and, requires an emotional intelligence and self awareness to recognize steps to cultivate it, which includes, open communication. Your blog is a great example of this, in your willingness to share, your consistency in words, that, resonates how trust builds rather than depletes by use. thanks for your trust Alex

        • Of course, it's a whole philosophical, metaphysical and scientific debate whether there is an undefined 'universal creative force' (whatever one chooses to call it- nature, the universe, God). While, I understand where the skeptics are coming from, I've seen a lot more evidence that supports it than not, especially when you remove any organized religion from the equation. This 'special moment' is actually small potatoes compared to others I've experienced. When my memoir comes out next year, I'll describe a couple 'special moments' that are downright freaky. 

                By the way, the shows are Sep 24 (w Sammy) and Oct 22 (w Lars). 

  7. MetallicA has lost my interest after And Justice For All, while Kiss or Van Hallen never had much of my interest. But when MetallicA started being a hit it was like being dumped by a girlfriend, a punch in the stomach. As a kid I believed so hard in their metal love and when they finally became a hit,  by doing arguably low quality music, I really felt betrayed. What you describe about them seems to explain this change. Symptomatically, their so-called “return to metal” era simply does not get me, I don't buy that. With the years I have grown my respect for bands like Testament and Slayer, which never really cared so much with that. Even, The Ritual, Testament least heavy album , has more decent music than any “new MetallicA”.

    • I differ with a lot of early Metallica fans in the sense that I actually like the music on the Black Album. It doesn't matter that it got so popular, it's got some really great songs and raised the level of production from metal.  And I've had serious arguments with people about that.

           I appreciate that you respect Testament but prefer not to compare the bands, it's like apples and oranges. And judging from the Metallica fan forum I just posted above, many automatically feel I write from that perspective of the 'guy from Testament,' which isn't true at all. I'm proud of the work I've done with the band, but as a writer, don't define myself by it.

  8. Ah yes bands being deceitful,like in October 1982 when Kiss released Creatures of the Night with Ace on the cover.Then a few months later (february) my buddies and I went to see them live for the first time. The lights go up they start to play Creatures of the Night, this is great we thought theres Gene,Paul and what the f*** is that wheres Ace !  We had no idea.
     Of course today with the internet that would never happen or would it.

    Great article thanks Alex

    • The reverse was the hip-hop group D-12. Eminem was on the album and in the videos. But when they toured, the listings clearly showed a picture with no Eminem. They were very upfront and honest about. Still, people showed up in droves, crying “Where's Eminem?!!”

  9. A couple threads about this post:  http://www.talkclassicrock.com
     
                                                          http://www.metallicabb.com/ind

          It's interesting how some in the second thread are completely misinterpreting and misrepresenting the piece, then getting called out on it by the more intelligent readers. As far as I'm concerned, I thank them all, for if it's causing people to think and get out of their comfort zone, then it's a successful piece of writing.

    • Pretty interesting reactions from everybody. It seems there are some really “die-hard” fans out there who swallow “hook, line, and sinker ” every stuff that their fave band's PR dish out, and consider everybody else's opinion as blasphemous. To them, “Who the f**k is Alex Skolnick anyway ?? ” :):). Then again, there are those who know their thrash metal history well enough to appreciate the fact that someone who has been there since thrash's earliest moments, and contributed considerably to the movement, still has the time to take us for a look at the inner workings of the mighty music biz. Another thought-provoking article, just what we need especially with today's mass-media oriented culture. Carry on.

  10. Hey Alex,

    Sorry to get off subject but I just wanted to say hi! It's Don from Connecticut. Your old student from AIG. Back to the subject on hand. Sorry!

      • How's it going! All good I hope! I'm pretty excited. I'm working on a new online lessons project that is coming along pretty good. I've been thinking back to our lessons because I remember us working on some of the fundamentals like timing. You kept telling me to grab a bass and use that to help. Anyways good to hear from you!

         I totally forgot I posted over here! (+

  11. I saw an interview with Chuck where reveals that he's actually a christian, how all the demonic symbols are just part of the image of Testament.  I actually like the hypocrisy of this because there are lots of christians out there that like Testament and (the illusion) forces them to come to terms with symbolism on some level.  Perhaps some of them will come to terms with the fact that ALL of religion is symbolism, but that's another topic.  Anyway, I applaud you for another well-written article that brings light to the reality behind advertising.  It doesn't bother me that bands adopt images/products contrary to their actual experiences/beliefs.  Asamov wrote about extra-terrestrials, does it make his work invalid because he was really human?  How about Tolkein?  I do think Metallica was at one time immersed in every man's struggle and that makes them more than qualified to write metal songs.  I also like that knowledge of what's behind the veil is often what separates the old-school fans from the wannabees.  Sometimes there's a fine line between fiction, non-fiction and “based on a true story”. Some times I just wish bands like Metallica weren't who they really are.  Nonetheless, music that is good will endure.

    • True about Assimov and Tolkein, which brings up a good point: this is really not so much a critical essay as much as observational one (it's interesting that some can't seem to tell the difference). Re: Chuck- I don't think he considers himself 'Christian,' in a religious sense (although I can't speak for him). Never seen any evidence of that (crosses, Bibles etc…). He mostly seems in touch with his Native American Heritage. However, he was raised Christian, and is respectful of that faith despite any conflicting imagery.

      • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v… for the interview.  Chuck starts at about 8:20.  I didn't mean to be project criticism of Chuck either, just saying that whether the band is communicating to the audience on an album cover, video or telling them they're the best audience of the tour it's all basically giving them what they want to buy.  I'm not against it.  In another analogy, actors are never considered responsible for their stage characters but their ability to develop realistic characters is a mark of their craft.  Who says people have to be just one thing?  Brandford Marsailis was great for the Grateful Dead. Kevin Eubanks is equally at home playing elevator music, jazz or Deep Purple. 
        I don't know of a rule where the a band has to be their music, though with Lars I think the exception is that he was expecting sympathy from his audience. In his case, IMO he has the right to complain and the right to be a superficial Hollywood yuppie but the expectation his fans to feel sorry for him and his loss of revenue?….not so much.  As a musician and a fan the craft and creativity is what I respond to rather than the persona or “actual being” of the musician.  I do have a sense of satisfaction when my favorite musicians are, like yourself, both talented AND possess depth of character.

    • I attended 5 Van Halen concerts from 1979 to 1981. I found Diver Down to be a dissapointment after Fair Warning so I suppose  that's why I chose not to attend the concert with you. I enjoyed the article and had a good laugh. One of your fans (worshipers) in Tel Aviv told me about it but didn't know which older brother you were referring to.

    • Just kidding, of course, VH with DLR were the most awesome rock shows ever (only Stanley Clarke was as awesome). Maybe every crowd got better every night for DLR, who knows?

  12. I know I’m about six or seven years late with this comment but, in my opinion and based on my research, Metallica realized how much power they had over their young fans with the song called “Fade To Black”, from the “Ride The Lightning” album. James Hetfield said, when he visited his girlfriend one evening in 1984, her sister was listening to ‘Fade To Black’ on the stereo, crying. The master plan for their world domination was formed after the big success of their “Master of Puppets” album, when one of their managers said each member of the group could buy a house in San Francisco with the money they made off the album. Being European, business minded and more ‘worldly’, Lars Ulrich formulated, and helped execute, the master plan. They also had powerful management agency behind them, Q Prime Management, and very skilled, and well paid team of entertainment lawyers, who fought the record companies, Megaforce and Electra, on their behalf. However, none of this would have been possible, without really good songs they wrote, particularly their early work, ‘Black Album’ included.

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