Today’s rant is about this phenomenon. I will complain and compare it to a more old school approach and try to find the moment, where and how exactly we found ourselves dealing with technological supremacy instead of dealing with the actual music.
When I work with young bands I often ask myself what happened to rock n roll, what happened to just plug n’ play and go crazy on stage. How come the new bands are so obsessed with technology rather than rock'n'rolling. Is it because there’s a new standard for showmanship? Does having insane high-end equipment equivalent to the quality of the music? I highly doubt it. Newcomer musicians nowadays don’t have a strong sense of delayed gratification and they aim for recognition and stardom more than anything else, they spend thousands of euros on the latest piece of gear and bombard their social media with it in hopes to get noticed by the manufacturers and get endorsed by them.
Because endorsement means success, right? Wrong.
Endorsement is a business, if you have lots of followers on social media, they will use you as a tool for marketing and in return they offer you gear for free or cheap, but this is not success. Success is having your musical piece reach people and touch them, not boosting your own ego.
I once mixed an event of three or four metalcore/modern metal bands (horrible, I know) where each band came with their own rig and backline, insisted on not sharing it with the other bands, even though it was the exact same gear for each and every band on the bill.
The gear was as follows:
- A drum kit consisting of kick and snare, both triggered, (one band had two fucking snares!), one or two toms and some cymbals.
- Two or three guitars, all using Kemper profiling amps on top of 4X12 cabs (not even connected), sending outputs directly to their own stagebox.
- The only instrument that actually needed an acoustic presence on stage, bass guitar, went through a series of pedals and left me with nothing but a miserable beaten up DI box.
All of the guitar amps had cabs that were on stage as nothing more than a decorative piece and nothing came out of them. The singer and the rest of the band had really expensive wireless microphones that could have been connected in a smarter way, but hey, that would require a little bit of a “know-how” and that would be too much wasted time for them, so screw it. All of those inputs go to their own digital stage mixer, usually a compact version of X32, mixed to their wireless in-ear monitoring system and then splitting the signal to my stagebox. Alongside this equipment usually comes condescendance, which is not appreciated by my kind - especially when a teenager is trying to “bandsplain” to me, what this amp is doing and how triggers work and totally disrespects my job and position. This kind of behaviour usually ends up with me smiling at him and then ignoring his wishes for the rest of the evening. Overall it’s a cool idea but if it’s executed wrong, and it usually does, it can be a total fucking nightmare.
Imagine you need to change a rig like that three times a night just because bands insist on using their own stuff when in fact all you need to do is simply load a new preset onto the amps. Isn’t that’s the reason for this kind of equipment in the first place anyway? The guitar players didn’t even know how to use the Kemper properly, they used one factory preset for the entire show. If you use a factory preset on such an amp, you clearly missed the whole purpose of this gear. The general sound of those bands is usually too sterile and clean, kick and snare are triggered to thin transient samples, there isn’t even a slight amp humming sound on stage, no guitar feedback, nothing. You end up with a band of morons playing on really expensive gear and producing sonic cacophony, it’s like letting pigs eat gourmet French cuisine.
So what the fuck happened to rock'n'roll?
They replaced rock'n'roll with snobbery technological prestige. Back in the day all you had to do is plug your guitar into a high gain tube amp and crank the fucker up to 10, but today they’re building presets at home and showing off their supposed professional gear on YouTube, it’s like masturbating in front of a mirror and for the whole world to see. Well, your so-called professional gear is a joke, a rather expensive and sad joke to say the least. That custom Schecter guitar of yours with 8 strings and the Kemper profiling amp will sound just like a cheap chinese Fender knock-off through a combo amp when you play so weak with hesitations and without feeling, your triggers will not quantize your sloopy drumming and that awesome wireless microphone doesn’t improve your off-scale falsetto singing.
Do you really think Ole Englund plays so well because of his latest gear or Nils Fjellström plays so fast and on-point because of his triggers? Fuck no, they have dedicated their lives to practice and play music and I guarantee they will yield better results on fucked up instruments and trash cans than those kids on high-end instruments and gear. It’s easy to fall into those traps of technological advanced gear, hoping it will make you sound just like the commercial promised, but it won’t. Despite the fact that we are all consumers this way or the other, metal is not about that at all; it is about being that nonconformant black sheep, and as fitting to the Devil’s music - it must be intelligent, sharp and raw. Once you fully understand music and master it, you may use technology as a tool to enhance your performance, but if you base your entire performance on your gear you will fail miserably. Furthermore, if you decide using such equipment then you should also spend more time learning basic sound techniques and how things actually work rather than appear knowing how it does, because that would be bullshitting and you will get caught.
With that being said, when professional bands with years of experience as a band and musicians use a similar rig, the results are really impressive. The need for in-ears monitoring is understandable when you are facing a really complex setup and everything must be very clear and surgical for the talents, even then it is always operated by a monitors-world engineer who’s orchestrating the operation so the band can focus on doing the metal while the techs are doing the rest. Modeling amps allows a musician to be more creative and explore different planes as it offers a lot of flexibility and numerous ways to create and build your own sound and model real analog amps, it is truly remarkable and astounding but it is being abused and misused to death by amateurs. Music is about music, doesn’t matter which genre it is, it starts and ends with your skills, nothing more. Some musicians are better than others and that’s why they are noticed, not because of their branded guitars, amps or drums. In the end only your talent, experience, dedication and hard work will affect the sound of your music.
But don’t give up just yet, don’t let a bitter old man like me bring you down, there is still hope! Perhaps music quality is a thing of the past and my expectations are rather high, but if you choose going down this path of expensive stage gear then you should better consult a professional and actually listen to what he or she has to say, but first of all: write good music. Write good genuine music, keep the lunatic flames of metal alive and keep your shit simple because no one likes phonies and no one likes conceited cunts.