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The Secret Rock Star On… Splitting Up (And Reuniting)

The Secret Rock Star
The Secret Rock Star 13 June 2018 at 14.09

They’ve sold countless records, toured the world and appeared on the cover of just about every rock magazine you can think of. Meet Rock Sound’s top secret band insider…

Bands break up. It feels like it’s happening more and more, and being honest, there are a few reasons why.

First, bands fall out. In my experience it’s rare, but sometimes the friends within the band grow apart. Sometimes, there’s a big blow-up and nobody speaks to each other ever again, but that’s rare.

Most of the time, it starts with one person. I’ve certainly known of people who’ve just turned around and said, ‘I want to leave’. It’s usually the person who everybody suspected was falling out of love with being in a band, maybe somebody with a young family.

That’s usually not a problem. Most bands can deal with the departure of a member, but what one person saying they want to leave often does is start an exodus. Anybody who’s even remotely on the fence sees their friend leaving and jumps ship, so the remaining members, however badly they want to do it, can’t carry on because their friends have ditched them. It only takes one person to not want to do it any more, and more often than not a band is dead (at least for the next few years). It’s so fragile.

So why does that one person want to quit?

Money usually has something to do with it. The price of touring is rising, backline technicians get paid whatever size the show is, and maybe most importantly, people have families. Say what you like about fulfilling your dreams and being an artist, if you’re not making enough money to feed your children, it affects everything.

Being in a touring band becomes a real job for some people, but worse than a job because many people don’t get paid a lot for it. I guess some bands don’t like the material they make either, which is sad.

It can get repetitive, for sure. If you’re a guitar player you’ll have played a guitar part a million times before you’ve even left the studio, then playing it every night just becomes a job you’ve done so many times before… unless you’re in Rage Against The Machine or something.

People ask, ‘How can you get tired of people adoring you?’ And it’s like, ‘Yeah, they do for two hours, and then they go home and you get on a bus that’s full of untidy boys and girls and waste some more time until the next show.’

So I suppose if you don’t like what you’re playing and you like money, you don’t have much hope being a touring band after that!

If somebody checks out, it doesn’t just affect them. It affects the bandmates, manager, merch people, touring crew... everybody. That’s why sometimes, bands carry on even when they don’t want to do it. That’s when it gets messy, your bandmates resent you and it just becomes more and more fractious.

Often, this is because people don’t want to admit defeat in chasing their dream, and that’s why you’ll see bands maybe a year or two before they split up, and you can tell that they don’t care. People in your band will see it, and as we all know, fans aren’t stupid. You guys can figure it out just as well (if not better) than us.

Some of my favourite bands are still touring and you can tell they don’t care. I wish they’d just get rid of the band members who don’t care and start a new project, because it’s never the same band if people clearly don’t care. Fans don’t get the real thing, the band themselves don’t get the real thing.

Sometimes the bitterness fades, and that’s why bands get back together. That’s why the most sensible thing for people to do is go on hiatus, take a beat and revisit it later.

Conversely, you look at some bands - some big bands - and think, ‘How the hell are you still a band? I know you hate each other’. Then you see bands that are nice and whole and like each other, but they’re done. It’s upsetting. I have friends who have to find real jobs and were in great bands, but it’s not just up to them, it’s up to fans to make them feel wanted and support their art.

People announce they’re ending and everyone says it’s such a shame. But bands are like, ‘Where were you on our last three tours? If you’d come to the shows they wouldn’t be splitting up’. People take bands for granted and then complain when they don’t exist any more.

It doesn’t have to be the end. Some people realise they’re better off out of it. They move into the industry or leave music and they’re so much
better off.

And then there are some bands who when they quit, you know they’re going to come back. Maybe it’s those bands who used to be huge, then dip a little and take a break for a couple of years. Then they’ll come back and cause a big scene and everybody will want them again. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, you know?

And a lot of the time when people leave bands, they’re not worth anything to anybody any more. That can really impact people’s mental health. Just because a band finishes, doesn’t mean they’re now dead to everybody who supported them.

People don’t realise that you’re not just losing your future band, when bands break up all of the things you’ve worked on for the last five, 10, 15 years are just gone in a few days. It’s such a big thing to take on, and I know from my friends’ experience that it’s nice when fans don’t abandon them, when they’re genuinely sorry the band doesn’t exist any more because the music industry is a lot of things, but it’s not fair.

People in the industry don’t stand by bands when they’re not worth anything any more. Managers will leave you, labels have no obligation to help you through the transition period.

If anything, bands’ managers are a filter on rejection. They feed you information and spin it as positively as possible, so sometimes when things do go wrong bands don’t even see it coming and it hits them so much harder.

It only takes one or two things not to fall in a band’s favour, and they’re done. A cancelled tour, one bad album and it’s over. Cherish the bands you love, support the bands you love, because you never know when they might disappear forever.

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