Can You Believe It?!
Last week an unnamed music biz type who occupies a position of enormous power said to me "Listen, I don't care about the past. Whatever happened, happened. But NOW WE'RE GONNA WORK!" Translation: you little snots have never worked a day in your prissy little musician lives.
"OK" I said. Translation: please don't destroy me.
One of his co-workers leaned over to whisper "His heart is in the right place." I thought to myself that this was kind of like introducing someone to Dracula and whispering "He's great with kids!"
By suggesting that there was a time when Semisonic didn't work hard, this particular person was hinting that we are the subject of many complaints. It's nothing new. Music biz people routinely grouse about other artists in our presence. The idea is to suggest that anytime a band says "no" to something, they're being unreasonable.
If a music biz type needs something from the band, he'll prime us to say "yes" by telling a story about a 'difficult artist.' For instance, one guy, call him Bob, told us how he brought fifty record store owners into one musician's dressing room after a concert, with no warning. (Imagine your roommate bringing fifty of his co-workers into your bedroom right after you get home from a five mile run. "Hey Steve, meet fifty strangers. By the way, you need a shower. Come on in everyone. Meet Steve. He's kind of stinky.")
As Bob tells it, the musician was unreceptive to fifty strangers bursting through his dressing room door. "And he looks at me like 'What's going on here?' Can you believe it?!"
Well, yes I can believe it, however, Bob's message was clear: "Do what I want or you're going on the difficult artist list." We hear tales of how the singer let everyone down by having a sore throat, or how the band refused to be in a mud fight sponsored by a local radio station.
Biz Guy: I set the whole thing up with the station, and then the band shows up and says "No way man, we're not getting in a mud fight."
Biz Guy: A mud fight for Chrissakes. Is it too much to ask?
Biz Guy: Bunch of pricks. Can you believe it?!
Jake: So back to the log rolling contest that you want us to do.
We're agreeable sorts, and generally do what we can. Once, after stepping off a transoceanic flight, we were driven from the airport to a parking lot that was empty except for two tall steel structures: the Sky Screamer -- a reverse bungy jump -- and the Super Swing -- a 120 foot pendulum. A local radio station had sponsored a contest in which the winners would sit side by side with Semisonic on these thrill rides. John rode the Sky Screamer. I rode the Super Swing. It was a 60 second ride that felt like an hour long PBS special on nausea, but I really didn't have much choice. Had I refused, some future story about me would have ended with "And then he says 'No I don't want to ride the Super Swing. I'll get sick.' What a wuss. Can you believe it?!"
I'll be the first to say that if the worst thing you have to do all day is ride the Super Swing, you're damned lucky. Furthermore, in all fairness, some artists do nothing but complain and make life difficult for everyone around them. We once stayed in a hotel where another band had smashed up a marble coffee table. The hotel charged them $1,000 for the table, whereupon the band members demanded the return of all the little marble pieces that the maid had cleaned up. "Hell, if we paid for it, those little pieces belong to us!" Rock on fellas.
Still, some nights I lie in bed imagining a music biz baron bringing us to his country estate, serving us a fabulous lunch, and then making his pitch.
BIZ BARON: So, fellas. I want you to play at the 2001 Armaments convention. United Weapons wants to use you to promote their new Lovemaker Missile.
DAN: A missile?
BIZ BARON: You gotta see it. This thing is amazing. Coffee?
JOHN: No coffee thanks. I just, hmmm, a missile?
BIZ BARON: It's easy. You just get up, play a song, and then thank United Weapons. It won't be like that stupid pie eating contest. I'm gonna take care of you guys. We're even gonna present each you guys with replicas of the Lovemaker. Jake, more lemonade?
JAKE: Do you have any Alka-Seltzer?
Then the dream zooms two weeks later where the baron tells the story to someone else. "Semisonic. I bring them up here, I feed them lunch, they swim in my pool, and I say 'Hey, how about playing a song for United Weapons?' and these guys have the nerve to say 'no.' CAN YOU F@#$ing BELIEVE IT?!"
Dear God, please let us say "no" to that one.