Less is more, it really is!
Between 2000-2002 I ceased doing gigs and concentrated on my new career in the corporate IT world. This was very much a culture shock for me where I learned that the fictional David Brent’s of the world really did exist out there. Ricky Gervais hadn’t made it up – this was for real. Despite having to fit in with a 9-5 regime (alien territory in the world of the working musician) I have to admit that my time spent away from playing music was fairly therapeutic. It gave me the chance to learn new skills and dabble in a (not very very well informed) new interest in vintage drum sets. However, once a musician, always a musician and the pangs for playing live again were soon irritating me like a repetitious itch needing a scratch. I managed to hook up with Martin Malone again and started rehearsing for a new Eskimo Chains album – which ultimately would never make it to the studio. Other than that, there were dallyings with some dodgy ghosts from the past and attempts at starting corporate-function money bands, but nothing that ever came to fruition. Fact was, I didn’t need the money, but the necessity to validate my existence via performance would not go away.
By 2006 I’d started working with a group of decent musicians with a view to getting a band together to try and get better gigs than the usual alehouse fayre on offer. It is often warned that you should never try and relive earlier glories, or so the saying goes, “the past is a great teacher, but makes for a lousy master”. Never the less, it was my intention to take this new band and make it as good as one of the better acts I was plying my trade with during the late 1990’s. Unfortunately, things had changed for the worse since those seemingly halcyon days and the market I was trying to get back into as a spring-board for better things was in swan-song. With nowhere else to go, it looked like the only option was back into the ugly pub-band market to play music I in all honesty, despised. Before deja vu could get a grip on me, a friend (still scraping a living together as a professional drummer) called and offered me the dep with a Soul band he’d been working with on and off for a while. He’ d had a better offer from a semi-pro outfit and it looked like the position would become mine in a matter of weeks if I wanted it. Although it was sad to say goodbye to the guys I’d spent the best part of a year putting a decent band together with, it was clear the only way they could go forward was down the pub route and with my past history, such a move could only be detrimental. So, with some reluctance, we parted ways.
‘The Band of Thieves’ although very good, were showing signs of playing the same show a few too many times. Change was needed somewhere, rapidly. As soon as I’d got a few months behind me the idea was mooted that we do another band together, this time, avoiding the same old tired, commercial assault on a market that was flooded with punter-led low-expectation bands. After a few months of rehearsals and some personnel movement, we decided on a Blues\R&B\Funk direction and by 2007, ‘Forty 4’ was born.
You really do have to pay your dues if you want to play the blues – it’s true. So far, ‘Forty 4’ have been pretty much ignored on home turf, but had better luck outside their county boundary and continue the long, hard struggle to take their music as far as it can in the blues world. In this game, you’re in it for the duration. There’s no microwave success recipe and no time limit. It literally takes as long as it takes. For all the lack of monetary return, hours put in rehearsing, travelling and the general sheer bloody minded determination you have to develop in the face of being ignored; eventually, the green shoots of hope do start to appear. Being in a modern blues band in the 21st century is not a million miles away from being a teenager in a band trying to get a record deal. It really is a labour of love, though unlike in my youthful days, there’s no “if we don’t make it in six months we fold” attitude on board. As for me personally, I don’t get to play as much as I used to; but the intrinsic rewards are far greater and it’s a heck of a lot better than playing five nights a week and hating every gig. I guess these days, after many years spent playing drums because I had to, it’s nice to be in that zone where I can play my drums because I want to; a feeling lost to me since I first sat behind my Maxwin ‘Funky’ kit, all those years ago. In summary, despite the historically bad decisions made, the wrong turns, the selfish moves, I got exactly out of the music business what I deserved – nothing! Today, although the extrinsic rewards may be few, the fulfillment just seems to get better.