How much can you pity someone?
Really, how much can you bear to go 'oh poor you' for someone? At what point does it become enough and when do you realize that maybe it's not poor them after all?
Over the weekend, I traveled with my family to a festival in the country and I don't know, maybe it's a 'you-get-what you pay for' kinda thing, since the festival was super cheap, which was great, but that also meant the line-up wasn't too great. I went to see a specific band, Ugly Kid Joe, a band that means a lot to me, but I realized that sadly, they were in the same boat as the other singers invited.
All quite old and frankly, not too great. As I sat through the first night, watching two bands I'd never even heard of take the stage, I found myself l feeling bad for them. This kind of small-country, middle-of-nowhere festival is the high-point of their careers. That and little gigs at small clubs. And that's something.
But it kinda felt pathetic, you know, watching them try to act like they were big stars, when they must've seen the few people in the crowd (also small) that responded. They must know the truth and I felt bad for them, but then I thought – why? Why feel bad? Why am I assuming these people did everything they could to make it big? Maybe they did, yeah, but maybe they gave up. Maybe they resigned themselves to never going anywhere. To be honest, they didn't really have that much going on for them. They were just faded copies of big bands such as Iron Maiden or Nightwish. They didn't really stand out, and maybe that's what did it for them. With a sound like hundreds of other bands, how high can you get?
And yet, as this pop culture and MSM show us, pretty damn high. Most of the people we look up to in this culture of ours don't stand out. Really, open a paper. Well, I tried, but I have no idea who most of these people are. But if you look at the likes of Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift and whoever is “in” at the moment, it's not about talent. They don't have it and yet, they're huge. Maybe it's the same in rock, I don't know, everyone has their fads and there are people with similar sounds and lyrics who are quite big. So it's not the resemblance to another. That can work. Then what is it?
Maybe some just get lucky, many don't, it's the way of the world. But I think that for many, it's also a lack of drive. They just get lost among the way. I was thinking about my own favorite – Ugly Kid Joe, who sadly (or maybe stupidly) broke up in 1997 and got together in 2010, missing a part that could've been crucial for their career. Sure, they could've died out, but they were pretty big when they broke up, they toured with huge names, such as Bon Jovi, Ozzy, Motorhead. A lot of cool, famous people. They could've been big, and yet they stopped. And now, they never will be big.
I see this, at their shows (and I've been to a few over the years) – middle-aged people come to get drunk and feel like they're young again, 'cause this is the music of their youth.
This to me is a classic lack of drive. I don't know why they broke up and I don't really care. For me, this cancels out any pity I could've had for them – because I see they could've done more. That they didn't do anything in their power to make it.
Before the festival, I'd just read Keith Richards' autobiography, Life. Dude, those guys stole girls off one another, insulted each other in public, did all sorts of nasty shit and yet, they're still together. And one of the biggest bands in the world, still. And they were kids who starved themselves to buy band equipment.
Now, that's drive.
Can we still be starving artists?
Sure, the idea is awfully romantic, although reading Keith's descriptions of that period, they seem less than ideal. But I'm not talking about the romantic notion of starving for your art, cute though it may be. I'm talking about the immense drive behind that starvation.
Imagine it, how much they must've wanted to make it if they were willing to live in squalor, to take food from their hungry mouths for guitar strings and good amps.
And I wonder if the youth today, or even the generations that followed the Stones, still have that drive? Some must, I remember reading a similar description in Duff Mckagan's book. Yet, I don't know. I get the feeling that with every generation, we become weaker, less willing to starve.
Not that starving is a good thing, but you know what I mean.
And it seems appropriate, after all, we're becoming weaker and we're encouraged to baby ourselves, so where could we get that drive?
As a young artist, I wonder about that. Sure, I try to do everything I can for my writing, but I've got it easy. I have nice clothes, food on the table, a roof over my head etc. But if it came to not having those things, would I still be willing to do everything? I don't know, I'd like to say yes, of course, but I don't think you can know unless you are or have been there.
I think we've got this idea that it should be easy. Again, not unique to my generation, but I think it's intensifying, this belief that things should be served on a platter. I mean, back in the day, when the Stones and Ozzy and Lemmy were breaking out, you only had a couple of people to look up to – phenomenons like Elvis or Little Richard. So obviously, you didn't expect it to be quite so easy. I mean up to that point, the idea that you could make a living out of music seemed ludicrous, but those guys showed a whole generation that they could do it. They woke up the feeling of 'I'd do anything' in those kids. But now, we have celebs at every corner. A nice ass and perky tits can get thousands of followers on platforms like Instagram, it seems fame and “making it big” is easy as one-two-three.
And maybe that's why we expect it to be. We expect our work to skyrocket, regardless if it's music, books, paintings. We think all we have to do is create and the world will take care of the rest. And then, when we see it's not happening, then we stumble and stop.
WE give up, because we're not prepared for this, we're not prepared to be starving artists. Sure, I want to be big, but only if I don't have to make too much of an effort for that.
So, I think a lot of people just resign themselves to the idea it wasn't meant to be. And maybe it wasn't. If you give up that easily, maybe you didn't want it bad enough. It's not hard to create. Creation is the easy part. What's hard is making yourself known, holding out, working for it.
That's the part most people don't want to do. That's what stops them. So, they give up.
Or they sell out. Only the other night, I was watching a video by another very dear artist, who used to be amazing. Truly fantastic songwriting and sound. And then he sold out. He started singing lovey-dovey shit in the hope he'd make it big. He didn't, but he did alienate a lot of fans in the process. And as I was judging him, it struck me. Is it really so hard to understand?
When the day before I was complaining that I'd read in a group about a porn-writer (you know,a EL James wannabe) who made something like $13,000 in a month. Now, I don't know if those numbers are accurate, but I know that the genre is booming. All this bad boy soft porn is literally everywhere you look, so there must be some success to it. And I was even saying that why bother – why bother write a book that you like and think is good when nobody wants to buy it? Why not turn to writing porn instead, you know?
Sure, it's mindless shit, most of it. (I have nothing against erotica writers, as long as they're good or erotica fiction per se, but most of it is so crap and cliché)
And if that's your genre, that's fine. But it's not mine, so for me, it would be selling out. So why am I judging this guy?
Well, to learn. You look at people who sold out and didn't get diddly-squat. I actually learned a good lesson with this guy – he used to write dark songs, went amazingly well with my writing. You know, they were really my kind of music, and I would've been so happy if he'd kept doing that. So long story short, you don't sell out.
And you don't quit. You just pull yourself together and soldier on.
Here's to starving artists.
Thank you for reading,
Photos my own.