I fell down another internet rabbit hole the other night, you guys. I never can remember where these things start, but I can tell you roughly where it ended before I passed out with a pile of jelly beans in the little makeshift crib of my jacket. It’s worth noting that Kobe Bryant has played an exponentially more significant role in my life since I’ve moved to Los Angeles. So it’s not totally random that I read this ridiculously compelling article on Grantland about Kobe’s attempt at a rap career. He’s definitely not the first athlete (or actor, politician etc.) to attempt a musical side job, and definitely not the worst.
And the next morning when I had sobered up from my sugar rush it got me to thinking. Why is it that the individuals of highest celebrity insist on trying their hand at music. Jogging through my recent memory, I’m estimating the success rate of such aspirations at roughly 0% (Internet rabbit hole, here I come!), so perhaps it’s obvious. Who wouldn’t want to be a rock star? The boundaries for such a definition are broad enough to include David Lee Roth to Freddie Gibbs, and everything in between. They’re icons of another dimension.
So, seeing as I am a rock star (and known purveyor of sarcasm), I figure there’s no harm in filling you in on the secret. I’ll give you category by category insight on the path that leads to musical superstardom — actual musical talent notwithstanding. Strap in kids, because im about to rock your world (get it?).
For our first installment, we’ll address the instrument of choice, or more broadly “the role”. Every band is a delicate balance of talent and persona. A medium of acumen and madness. If the crowd is your classroom, then your instrument is the chalk, chalkboard and lesson plan, all in one. There’s a reason dudes name their snare drum or sleep with their guitar. It’s an extension of who we are, not only as musicians — but as human beings.
Matt’s Pick : Drummer
An easy choice, personally. I could go into detail about how the drums are the most integral component of a band. The heartbeat, the foundation, the character etc. I could also go into detail about why it’s probably the easiest instrument for one to adopt, considering the only melodies you’re responsible for are the harmonic thuds that you have your drums tuned to. But this is about being a rock star, not a musician — distinct difference! You pick the drums because you’re shrouded in mystery, and your aggression is the audience’s portal into your soul. Most likely you’re stuck in the back, drenched in sweat and not even able to make eye contact with the babes whose gazes are fixated on your lead guitarist. You’re a beacon of anonymity, and you’re stupid if you think that won’t work in your favor. You’re also stupid because let’s face it, you probably can’t read (music).
The Frontman – Often equipped with an instrument called the guitar, you better have some serious onions to pull this one off. Forget the fact that playing the guitar while simultaneously singing an incredible science that only a select few have conquered, you sir are the most scrutinized and dissected member of the band. Think for a second and determine exactly how famous you want to be. By signing up as frontman you’re risking paparazzi famous my friend. You play your cards right, and you could be on the rock and roll Mount Rushmore, but fail, and you’re this guy. Assumedly, you’re going to be front and center, so half-ass anything, and it’s going to be immediately evident. Whether it’s true or not, you’re a goddamn genius and those who disagree just don’t realize it yet. Play your guitar like you’re wrestling an alien, dance like you’re fighting invisible zombies, and for the love of god – do not let ANYBODY understand any of the words you are singing. The second you become predictable, all bets are off.
The Bassist AKA The Wildcard – You want to be the under-appreciated glue guy of the band? Go for it – but I wouldn’t recommend it. Why would you go through the trouble of actually learning how to play an instrument while subsequently forfeiting your right to rock and roll superstardom? You know who Prince’s bass player was? That’s what I thought — and I’m sure that guy was a total badass. On the other hand, you could be Flea, but you better follow the rest of these steps dead on. When on stage, you’re generally going to command fewer looks for your playing, because you’re essentially doing what the guitar player is, except less fast and with much less volume. As Frank Zappa said in his autobiography, “Electric bassists are often failed guitar players, demoted to this duty after a band meeting in a garage when they were thirteen.” Face it, you’ve already lost by drawing the short end of the stick with your long, goofy, wannabe guitar. There’s one thing that can’t be overshadowed during a performance, however, and that’s attitude. Attitude can be traced directly to the eyebrows, so when you’re looking at the neck of your bass, pretend you’re having a conversation with it, and it’s talking to you in a language you can’t understand.
The Keyboardist – As a percussion instrument at it’s core, I have love for the keys – no doubt. But unless your name is Billy Joel or Elton John, don’t even bother. It’s a constant struggle to figure out whether you should sit or stand, who you need to be looking at, and why nobody can hear anything you’re even playing. The fact that the keytar exists pretty much tells you all you need to know about it’s relation to rock god status. Steer clear.