The official site of author Ed Lin.

Being a Band

Posted by on Jun 17, 2007 in Ed, Music | 2 comments

I have wanted to be in a band ever since I heard The Clash and U2. I have wanted to play bass in a band ever since I heard that throb from John Entwistle (R.I.P.) in “The Kids Are Alright” right when Roger Daltry sings “But I know sometimes I.” Right on that second “I.”

Just this past Friday, I’ve joined a new band. No name yet, but we’ve already got a great dirty sound.

Being in a band has little to nothing to do with being a good musician or singer. It’s a real chemistry thing. The love/hate/attraction/repulsion you all have for each other has to work out. A lot of bands break up on tour because if you’re not making music together, you may not all have that much in common. You’re sitting in a van or bus for hours on end you’re bound to have fights sooner or later about something personal or political.

Having been in many different bands, I would say that Jake and Elwood summed it up pretty well in “The Blues Brothers.” They said they were on a mission from God to put the band back together. And it is a spiritual undertaking, being in a band. You have to believe in something bigger than you and every other individual in the band in order to make the music work.

About 12 years ago, I was in a band called Tea Club. The drummer was this dude named John who reminded me of a gaunt Herman Munster with thick glasses. The guitarist was Stan, who was in charge of booking our rehearsal time at Tucasa and would routinely show up an hour late even though he was the one who set the time. Donna, the singer, was usually either high or pissed off that she wasn’t.

None of us were great at what we did, but we were pretty good at creating ferocious sonic landscapes for Donna to flip through her notebook and find words to shout over. We could come up with three or four songs every two-hour rehearsal.

We played two shows. One was at the grand opening of the Asian American Writers Workshop at its basement St. Mark’s street location, and we successively drove out most of the more than 100 people onto the street. The second was at the Asian Pacific America Heritage Festival in 1995 in Union Square.

Amazingly, I found an academic paper on us (apparently presented last year) that referenced our song “Alien,” which I came up with the music and Donna the lyrics.

That Union Square show was memorable for me because Donna and I got into a huge fight right before we were going to go on. A. Magazine was sponsoring a contest to find the best Asian-American band and Donna wanted to enter it.

Unfortunately, the deadline was that day and they needed a cassette handed over immediately at their booth at the festival for us to be considered. I had brought a cassette for the soundboard guy to record us. Donna wanted us to hand over the tape to A. Magazine after we played so we could enter the contest.

I was like, we hand that tape over, we’re never going to see it again and anyway they’re looking for like some bullshit pop garbage like Ace of Base.

Donna: “We need to enter that contest!”
Ed: “It’s a band decision!”
Donna: “So what, majority rules?”
Ed: “Yeah!”
Donna: “Well what the fuck is your problem!!”
Ed: “It’s a band decision!!”
Donna: “So why are you against it, you fucking asshole!”
Ed: “Go talk to Stan and John! If they go for it, then we’ll give A. Magazine the tape!”

So she goes over and bullies Stan and John into agreeing with her. But she still has to have it out with me.

Donna: “Why are you against it?”
Ed: “We’re never going to see our tape again! We’ll never have a record of the show!”
Donna: “We have to be in this contest!”
Ed: “Well, the band already agreed, so we’re going to give them the tape! Now shut up, you little bitch!”
Donna: “Don’t call me a stupid bitch!”
Ed: “I didn’t call you ‘stupid bitch’! I called you ‘little bitch’!”

Then we had to go out there and play. Stan owned two guitar amps, one good and one bad. For some reason, he brought the bad one and when it died, I started jumping up and down to distract the crowd.

So of course we didn’t come close to winning the contest. And despite repeated calls to A. Magazine and head honcho Jeff Yang, we couldn’t get our tape back. To be fair to the magazine, in any contest like this, you can’t go through the expense and time to return submitted materials.

But I still wish I had that tape because we had put on a pretty good show.

I also had a serious conflict in another band with another woman. It’s not that I have a problem with women. I have a problem with drug addicts. Yeah, this second woman, Laura, I found out later, was a crackhead.

So I was in this band, which never really had a name, with my college friends Howard and Dan on guitars and Laura on drums.

It’s tough finding a drummer in New York City. There aren’t many drummers and even fewer actually have drum kits because of the space situation in the city. Even fewer can actually play.

So when Laura would go on her crazy rants between songs (she said I looked like Chairman Mao and that the NHL goaltender Grant Fuhr was cool because he was black), Howard and Dan would just look at the floor. She was a good drummer who generally showed up on time. Because of that, she usually got her way.

She slowed down one of Howard’s songs, changing a Replacements-like song to a funereal-beat, robbing the song of all its hooks and appeal. She also said that none of us could use curse words in our language anymore (i.e., “Shit, I’m sorry I fucked up that song, guys.”) because it was offensive, even though she would go off and sing the lyrics to Richard Hell’s “Love Comes in Spurts.”

The end for me was when my grandfather had died and I had to go to Taiwan for the funeral. Laura was yelling at me, saying I wasn’t committed to the band if I left. I just smiled at her. Howard and Dan stared at the sidewalk. I walked away from Laura and the band.

To this day, I still feel so much animosity towards both Donna and Laura I can totally understand how former band members can hate each other’s guts. When you’re creating music together, such an arena is fraught with heightened emotion. Everything you feel is doubled or tripled.

This new band I’m in, after one practice I can already tell we’re already experienced enough to not piss each other off. We’ll probably get out and do some shows.

Will we ever do an album? I think I have the right attitude in saying that I don’t fucking care. Being a band and recording an album are two completely different things; as different as writing fiction is from publishing fiction.

2 Comments

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  1. Brian Yang

    Ed Lin for president indeed motha fucka!

  2. burnedouteyes

    Your stories & the way you tell ’em crack me the hell up.

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