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When the drama subsides, most bands abide


I’m sure we’ve all experienced it now. Looking at your Facebook or Twitter feed, and your eyes fall on an update from one of your favourite bands that starts “we are sorry to announce….”.

You read on, with that sinking feeling in your stomach, to find that one or more members have left the group. Maybe there will be a farewell show, maybe not. Either way, the band you knew and loved will never be the same again.

Cue torrents of comment-based anguish. They will range from frowny-faced “WTF”s to entreaties for all parties involved to reconsider; from lamentations over the perfect nature of the fit to the irreplaceability of the departing members abound. At the extreme, the howls of dismay will be joined by calls for the remaining members to disband, or change their name.

But I am here to tell you, however bleak things may seem as you read the press release, all is not lost – far from it. In fact, more often than not it is a blessing in disguise.

Lets take three names for starters. Chuck Moseley, Terry Glaze, Chad Channing. Whilst they may be familiar to some of you, I think it is fair to say that none of them are household names, even in metal terms – yet their replacements are all firm fixtures in the hall of fame.

Chuck was replaced by Mike Patton in Faith No More. Terry handed his mic on to Phil Anselmo in Pantera, and Chad’s vacant drumstool was filled by Dave Grohl in Nirvana. Could we imagine what The Real Thing, Cowboys From Hell or Nevermind would have sounded without their input?

As I think about this, I’m genuinely struggling to think of a major band that managed to release their magnum opus with their original line-up still intact. Bruce Dickinson was Iron Maiden’s fourth vocalist. Neither Cliff Burton nor Kirk Hammett were part of the original Metallica. There are three times as many ex-members of Opeth as there are current members.

And, of course, it is impossible to talk for any length of time about personnel changes in bands without mention of the amorphous, many-headed hydra that is The Dillinger Escape Plan. Three bass players, three singers (if you include Patton), three drummers and four second guitarists have graced the line-up. They have never, to my knowledge, recorded with the same line-up twice – and yet they have only become stronger.

Ben Weinman The Dillinger Escape Plan

Although they may have problems if this guy leaves

The defence rests.

But, in the interests of fairness, we should also pause for a second to consider the times when things did not go so well.  It is fair to say that Sepultura have never recovered from losing Max. Fear Factory spent a terrible few years in the wilderness following the departure of Dino. Black Sabbath leaked members and became a dreadful caricature of themselves, before somehow manufacturing a ‘reunion’ gravy train that has managed to last sixteen years and counting – far longer than Ozzy’s original tenure with the band.

So, as we have seen, line-up changes are nothing new. So why does it feel like it is happening with ever-increasing regularity?  I think a large part of this is down to the way we consume and discover music in the third millennium, and nowhere is this more apparent than in the scene that may loosely be described as ‘djent’ by the people that can stand using the word without vomiting blood (I may not be part of this group). Whilst Jonathan Carpenter‘s bowing out from The Contortionist this weekend is a few steps removed from that scene, today’s Matt Rose/Monuments removal isn’t.

As far as I can see, a big part of this is that anyone can have a dream of ‘making it’ in a band. Most of these people can even get their shit together enough to book a regular practice and play a few gigs in local venues to their mates – but very few of them are cut out for the practical realities of taking that band from those local gigs to the next stage, which almost inevitably involves plodding round the country in a tiny van, playing to indifferent crowds for not enough money to cover their costs. Similarly, people who get on perfectly well when they meet once a week for practice find that they simply can’t stand each other when they have to spend all day, every day with each other under those trying circumstances.  Other commitments too – rent, family, jobs, debt – also prevent people from making the commitments required to get their beloved band to the point where it can pay their bills.

So changes in the early days are almost inevitable – and one of the interesting side-effects of the internet is that bands are building national, even international, profiles far earlier in their careers than they ever were before. The HAARP Machine are an excellent example of this; having a profile before they even really had a band. Of course, the internet is brilliant and the breadth of music available to us now is something we could only have dreamed about even fifteen years ago, but one side effect is that there will appear to be many more casualties than there were before. But, really, this is just a natural part of the process that was hidden before we could follow a band’s every fart on Twitter.

So when your cherished band loses a member, do not despair – because there is every likelihood that their replacement is going to blow your fucking socks off.

pope resigns - Mike Patton

He’ll do it; don’t think he won’t!

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