Showing posts tagged feature

Alt Press | Features | What A Mess: Dance Gavin Dance’s Jon Mess opens up

I’m posting this whole thing because it made me laugh so damn hard!! I must meet Jon Mess and hug him for the laughs =)

Original post: http://www.altpress.com/features/entry/what_a_mess_dance_gavin_dances_jon_mess_opens_up/

by Brendan Manley

Fans champing at the bit for DANCE GAVIN DANCE’s upcoming Downtown Battle Mountain II release were thrown into a panic this month when talented, yet notoriously flaky singer Jonny Craig—only recently returned to the band after being unceremoniously booted in 2007—tweeted, “I’m sorry everyone but I’m going to be taking a very very very long hiatus. All my tours and CDs are cancelled. Thank you and goodnight.” Although Craig tempered his comments afterward, posting “I will be playing out the tours with DGD and Emarosa,” followers had to wonder if the DGD “reunion” is already doomed. Luckily, the commendably forthcoming JON MESS (far left), DGD’s resident screamer, was willing to give it to AP straight:


As much as fans were stoked to hear about the Downtown Battle Mountain sequel and reunion, there was some question replacing former vocalist Kurt Travis with the prodigal Jonny Craig. How much of it was it done for nostalgia and hype?
JON MESS: What basically happened was during the summer, Will [Swan] and Matt [Mingus] expressed that they weren’t happy…. They were having issues, all of them, and basically Kurt called me and said, “We need you to come to this tour; we need some extra hype.  I feel like everything’s gonna break up.” So I did the tour, and by the end Will and Matt were like, “We don’t want to write another record with Kurt, because he smokes two packs of cigarettes a day, and he’s claiming he’s gonna sing even higher on the next album, and his range is already nothing right now. So we’re just gonna break up the band at the end of this tour, because there’s nowhere left to go.” Then they basically came up with the idea that they could just break up the band whenever, but do this record first and see what happens. So we’re at the point where we’ll see how long we can do this without Jonny dying or whatever.

After booting him once, why work with him again?
He’s just a character. He’s very bizarre and non-consistent and won’t remember anything you talk to him about two days later. That’s just how he is, and it works. I think it makes it harder and more stressful, but it produces something more unique. You’re not going to be able to create that sort of dynamic with people—the whole dynamic of that makes it unpredictable and that lends itself to the music.

Jonny set tongues wagging earlier this month when he tweeted he was taking a break from music, then said later he’d only tour. Is he even still in the band right now?
He is. When we heard about that, we thought it was hilarious, just because he knew he was being overdramatic. He got into some argument with that rapper Mod Sun [aka Derek Smith, formerly drummer of Four Letter Lie] which basically means Jonny’s whole solo album is on hold, mainly because Jonny was using Derek’s studio, and then they got into some argument and stopped recording. Jonny, just being himself, decided that since he’d been doing so much work and touring and whatever, that he needed to quit music. A day later he calmed down and realized he wasn’t quitting music.

Once during recording [DBM II], when he was fucked up, he told me he was quitting music and moving to Russia. You can’t take anything he says that seriously. That’s why we thought it was so funny, because all these kids were freaking out. He wrote, “All my CDs are cancelled,” but Craig [Ericson, label head] at Rise informed him that he in fact does not own his music, and you can’t just cancel a CD right before it comes out. So that was pretty funny, and he’d already finished all his vocals anyway. He’s still doing the tours as far as we know, and he says he’s gonna announce something after that, but I don’t really know what that means.

You tweeted in response: “Jonny has quit music to pursue the filming of his documentary I’m still here 2 bitch.” Were you legitimately pissed?
I was just making fun of him, because I’d seen that documentary with Joaquin Phoenix, I’m Still Here, and I just thought if he had made his own documentary based off that, Jonny would quit music to become a rapper, and it’d be like, I’m Still Here Too, Bitch! It was just me saying, “You’re full of shit, stop being a dramatic little baby.” Then he hit me up a day later and said, “That wasn’t cool man. That’s not funny,” but I said, “I thought it was hilarious.”

It sounds like you’ve found a way to cope.
People are like, “[Jonny’s] such an asshole,” but they need to look at him as entertainment, because that’s what he is: an entertainer, a singer. You can also be entertained by his crazy antics by not letting them affect you. He was really funny during the recording, just loud and silly.

That said, you admitted DGD’s future pretty much hinges on whether or not this lineup implodes again. Isn’t that kind of unsettling?
I think that it depends; you’d have to ask each member in the band. We started that whole Secret Band thing—me, Eric [Lodge], Will and Matt, who’ve all been friends since we were 15—so obviously if Dance Gavin Dance didn’t work out, we could continue that band. I know that Will’s gonna continue to make music; he’s probably going to release a rap album. Matt might either go into the industry as a tour manager or go and do session drum work for other bands. Everyone has girlfriends, Eric has an economics degree, Will’s a professional video editor, which earns him a lot more money than the band does, so everyone has fallback, but that’s just in the event of a disaster.

I don’t think anyone wants to see the band end, but it definitely would be a very strange to replace Jonny again. It’s too hard to speculate, so we’ll go with the flow. People are expecting us to break up at some point, and we have five albums, so that’s a pretty decent body of work, I guess. It wouldn’t be an absolute tragedy.

What about touring? Are you guys going to be able to get along together on the road?
We’re not gonna be in a van, so that’s gonna be really nice. I think one factor is that we’re all a lot older: We’re all 25 or about to be 25, and Matt’s 22. Back in the day when we were with Jonny, he didn’t have the same amount of friends and connections and whatnot, so there are plenty of people to keep him occupied now, so we don’t have to deal with him. [Laughs.] We’ll see how it goes. We don’t really care as much to put up with stuff, so that definitely means that if something goes wrong, we’re just gonna say “Fuck it” probably, just because everyone’s pretty satisfied with the amount of music that’s been made and everyone has other things they can do. I guess as you get older, the whole playing to kids, I don’t want to say you grow out of it, but it loses its charm. I think making music is much more rewarding than playing it. I know there are other bands or people that say they love being onstage, and I think it’s fun, but I’m becoming more of a homebody as I get older.  alt

Alt Press | Feature | No Money, Mo’ Problems: Why even successful bands struggle financially

I’m posting this in it’s entirety so maybe everyone will ACTUALLY read it. It’s important to know. Seriously. My soul hurt a little while reading. Don’t even look at the length, because it will only take about 20 minutes max of your time. So just read it. And remember it the next time you go judge a band for selling out.

(I’m not saying anyone I know actually thinks this, it’s just a general statement.)

Original post here: http://www.altpress.com/features/entry/no_money_mo_problems/

by Emily Zemler

Recently, ACE ENDERS announced that due to financial constraints, he would likely not be able to continue touring, and the album he’s working on now may very well be his last. Since Enders revealed this, he’s received a massive outpouring of support. Fans have sold T-shirts and wristbands to benefit Enders, his wife and young child. Supporters have solicited donations to help the musician continue being, well, a musician. The response has not been entirely positive, however. Some people think that if you’re a famous musician (or at least relatively well-known) you shouldn’t need or accept financial support. The circling question seems to be: If musicians sell records and merch and get paid for playing shows, why don’t they have any money?

The idea that musicians—even well-known musicians who sell out large club shows—have money is a misconception for the most part. Financial concerns and viability obviously vary from artist to artist; no two musicians are exactly the same when it comes to money and how it’s made and spent. But what most fans fail to realize is how much it costs to be a musician and how much more it costs to be a musician on the road. 

THURSDAY vocalist GEOFF RICKLY is fully willing to admit that his personal income last year was less than $10,000. Rickly spent months of 2010 working a retail job in Brooklyn to make ends meet;  and thanks partly to living in New York City, he hasn’t owned a car in seven years. If that surprises you, you’re not alone. “I saw something online once that said, ‘Oh those Thursday guys don’t care, they’re driving their fancy cars and living in their big houses,’” Rickly says. “I thought that was so funny. In our biggest year, when we were all over the radio and on TV, I made less than anyone with a desk job makes. It’s a weird misconception. But I remember when I was a kid, I saw Snapcase; and they were the biggest hardcore band I’d ever seen at the time. They had a thousand kids piling on the stage, everyone was buying T-shirts and I thought, ‘These guys must be loaded!’ I think about [that now], and it’s really funny.”

While your assumption that someone like Lady Gaga is probably not hurting for funds is likely correct, the truth is that most of your favorite bands struggle, even at their peak. MIKE MURPHY, bassist for HASTE THE DAY—who recently announced they’re calling it quits after a two-month farewell tour this spring—describes his band’s early years as very difficult. “We toured our first year or so playing venues to five kids,” Murphy says. “We played one show to nobody, literally. We used to take band money and buy peanut butter and jelly. We survived for a long time on Ramen noodles. You buy a big thing of Ramen, go into a gas station, use hot water from their coffee maker and put it in a Styrofoam cup. Sometimes they charge you 89 cents for the cup. That was a big deal back then, so you tried not to get charged 89 cents or you bring your own cup. It’s hard to get paid when no one comes to your shows when you’re a band starting out. But we got lucky and got support later.”

Although Murphy says money is only a small factor in Haste The Day’s breakup, it’s hard to imagine wanting to spend more than a few months of your life living on that kind of diet. But it seems like every band has stories like Murphy’s, some more recent in their careers than others. THE SWELLERS’ guitarist/singer NICK DIENER describes a time when the band slept on a “concealed shelf in the middle of a 24-hour Walmart just to avoid getting a hotel.” His bandmate and drummer JONATHAN DIENER adds, “Our first few years of tours, I would eat at Taco Bell twice a day and only spend one dollar on a bean burrito, then try to eat protein bars to hold me over until the next day. We would go to places like Cici’s Pizza Buffet and eat 10 plates of food for $5 because we thought it was a good deal.”

Almost every touring band advocates the dollar menu at McDonald’s,  and JONATHAN DEVOTO, frontman of BIRD BY BIRD and formerly of THE MATCHES says, “I’ve definitely gotten food poisoning on multiple occasions from eating food that was a little past its expiration point. It’s incredibly difficult to justify throwing away perfectly good food—rotten, mind you—when you only have $2 left in your wallet.”

So why is everyone so broke and living off rotten food? Aren’t fans spending their hard-earned money to buy these artists’ CDs, T-shirts and concert tickets? Where does that money go? Let’s break down each piece of that puzzle, bearing in mind that there are exceptions to every rule and each artist does things slightly differently.

First: CDs. What happens if you hop over to Best Buy and pick up a new record by your favorite band? Say you pay $10 for the album. Depending on whether the band are signed, what sort of label they’re signed to and what kind of distribution deal that label has, the store will likely keep about $5. The remaining half goes to the record label. If the band are signed, the label uses that “profit” to pay back the money that was used to make the record—both creatively (including costs for producers, studio time and equipment) and constructively (album packaging, distribution costs, etc.). In the end, the band probably will not see any of that money you spent minus a small portion for mechanical royalties.

If you buy the CD from the band’s merch table at a show, they’ve probably already bought that box of their own album from the record label at a wholesale cost. If they’re lucky, they may earn a few bucks on each one. “It’s even hard to sell CDs at shows now because they cost so much for the band to even get them wholesale,” says THIS IS HELL guitarist RICK JIMINEZ. “For a while, it was a recurring thing to see $5 CDs at merch tables, but most labels charge their bands at least that much just to sell them.”

Second: T-shirts and other merch. This too can vary, but as Rickly says, “For some reason, that’s the piece of the industry that bands control the biggest piece of.” But merch still incurs costs. Rickly explains if there’s a Thursday shirt on sale for $15, the band end up with $4 or $5 profit. The venue takes about 20 percent, depending on its size and policies. It costs $3 to $4 to make a shirt, depending on which brand the band use; and a band’s merch company takes about 20 percent. Still, as Rickly puts it, “I can say without a doubt that if you want to put money in a band’s pocket, buy a T-shirt [at a show].”

Jonathan Diener agrees. “Ordering merch before a tour is one of the biggest hits you’ll take, depending on the size of the shows.” Devoto adds, “I suppose the two best ways to make money are creative merch items that people actually want, combined with endless badgering. Talk to every person in the crowd and trick them into buying your merch. No shame.”

But what about ticket sales? You might pay up to $40 to go to some shows, so why should you have to buy a shirt to make sure your favorite artist has enough gas to make it to the next city? Again, the income has to measure up to the costs. Enders describes the impetus for his recent decision as a struggle to survive on the road. “It’s become really hard to survive as a musician or any type of artist,  because the funding is not there,” he says. “I can’t afford to do it, is what it comes down to. It takes a toll on everybody—my family, friends, my connections to people over the years have diminished.” Because touring costs so much money, Enders, who is currently unsigned, says, “You come away from a tour mostly hoping to break even, for an artist like myself. If you break even, that’s a successful tour.”

To put it in perspective, just look at what an average mid-level band have to pay for on tour: booking agents, managers, lawyers, business managers or accountants, buying or renting a van or tour bus, buying or renting a trailer, fuel, vehicle repairs, driver (if on a bus), hotel rooms, hotel rooms during the day for the tour bus driver, vehicle insurance, tolls, food, guitar picks, drum sticks, drum heads, instrument repairs, touring crew members, per diems for the band and crew members, merchandise, lighting, onstage production, wardrobe, taxes and, in some cases, medical bills.

Most bands set their per diem (which is basically an allowance everyone on tour gets each day to make sure they can eat) at $10, although some newer bands get $5 per day and some larger bands get more. Bands also have to pay taxes in every state they perform. Rickly explains that about 50 percent of a total tour profit is withheld to pay taxes, which he supports because Thursday rely on the roads to get from city to city and the local fire and police departments to be available if an emergency arises at a show.

SHERRI DuPREE BEMIS, vocalist/guitarist of EISLEY, says, “At this stage for Eisley, headlining tours mean we will get paid a little something at the end of the day, and support tours mean we only cover our costs of touring. A few years ago, labels could usually afford some form of tour support for bands, which basically is a loan of sorts. But now that album sale revenue has kind of dried up, it makes it harder to do that.” Her solution—and that of her husband, Say Anything’s Max Bemis—is to find creative ways to make money as an artist, which is similar to what Devoto mentioned about making innovative band merch. (Remember when the Matches sold homemade soap during the 2008 AP Tour?)

“[We] are always coming up with ways to make extra income to pay bills and make house payments when we’re not on tour,” DuPree Bemis says. “[Max] created something called ‘Song Shop’ and has been writing and selling custom songs for fans about anything they want or are going through for the last couple of years, and the revenue that has generated has been really helpful. Plus it’s fulfilling as an artist to always be creating. Likewise, I’m an artist and I design custom artwork and tattoos for people, or make, sign and sell my own prints when I’m at home. We wouldn’t be able to keep doing these things if it weren’t for our fans, though. They are everything, and you can’t ever take them for granted in this career. Without someone to create for, you can’t create.”

Which brings us back to Enders. A month ago, he says, he was ready to quit, walk away and join the real world. But the outpouring of support from his fans, from whom he never asked for donations or help, has now caused Enders to reconsider his options. He and his wife Jenn, who has also been very vocal about their family’s situation on her blog, are using the donated funds to start an internship program of sorts. Enders hopes to create a community of music fans who can help spread the idea that music is about commonality not trends. They hope it will help produce art and music events in their towns or at their colleges. It’s slightly unclear exactly how the program will work, but Enders is passionate about reviving a love for music not based on commodity.

“I lost that feeling for so long because I got so consumed by the business of trying to survive,” he says. “I didn’t realize that people still look at my music like that. It opened my eyes. So a month ago I would have said, ‘I wash my hands of it; I had a good run.’ But seeing how everyone made shirts and wristbands for donations and sent the donation money to us, the plan now is to go back to that grassroots feel of music. Basically, what we’re going to try and do is this intern program where we interview people and make a group of people—not like a street team, but a community of people to help put the idea back in people’s head that music is more than a fad that’s ‘in’ right now. It’s taking away the barrier between artist and supporter.”

Enders also says his statement that his next album could be his last might not actually be true anymore. “I don’t want anyone to read too much into that,” he says. “If I make this record and it allows me to make another, then great. If not, I have to sit there and decide what I need to do to support my family.”

Why create music if it’s not a reliable means of supporting oneself or one’s family? Unfortunately, money makes the world go ’round and money and art have been forced into a tenuous, sometimes needy relationship. “Not to reduce the music industry down to money, but that’s how artists make their living and what makes it possible for them to be able to create,” Murphy says. “Money allows the artist to concentrate on their art so they don’t have to go home and get a job. So that money that you support them with really makes a huge difference in them being able to communicate their art with you more effectively.”

Bottom line: If you want to help a band, see them in concert and buy a T-shirt at their show. Consider buying a physical album instead of downloading it, and purchase it directly from the band instead of a mass retailer. And next time you call a band a “sellout,” it’s worth considering why they agreed to license a song to a commercial hocking beer or clothing. “If you can put your music in a car commercial, put it in the car commercial,” Rickly says. “I have so many friends that are in underground punk bands that never, ever do commercials. They’re viewed as these Holy Grail bands that never sell out—and their day job is writing jingles for commercials. It’s the same thing. People can call us sellouts all they want. I just wish we could sell out more. I’d have more free time to write music.” alt