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Other Stuff: How To Be A Solo Artiste

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Over my many years of Rocking, Rolling, and General Boogaloo as a solo ARTISTE, many young people have come to me and said "Mark, how can I be a solo ARTISTE like you?" And I say to them "Imagine me as your Lulu, and what follows as the Freeman's catologue. Except without the underwear section."

It Is Different To Being A Band

The first thing to take note of when being a solo ARTISTE is that first word, i.e. that you are solo, and not in a band. You'd think people would realise this, but no � most beginner solo ARTISTES have only just realized the advantages of playing on your own, rather than the DUTIES that follow. The advantages, by the way, are manifold, and as follows:

The Advantages Of Playing On Your Own
  1. You can soundcheck in about 5 minutes (although you would be SADDENED to discover the amount of people who don't know this, and spend half an hour saying "ooh, the guitar doesn't sound right". This is not because they are perfectionists, it is because they are RUBBISH).
  2. You can go to gigs on foot, or on the TRANE, rather than in a van/convoy that takes a MONTH to organise.
  3. You can play whatever you like, and don't have to include the one that the bass player sings.
  4. ALL the CREDIT goes to you � yes, you and you alone get to swan around afterwards standing next to people in the pathetic hope that one, just one, of them will say "Oh it's you, that was Quite Good." NOBODY can take that away from you.
Those are the advantages, but to fully enjoy them you must be aware of the pitfalls that are allied to it, all of which make it Different To Being A Band.

You Are Not As Loud As A Band

When people talk during a band, it really doesn't matter as you are a BAND, and all bands are BLOODY LOUD, because they tend to have DRUMMERS, a marvelous breed of people who sit at home looking at that dial on their stereo wondering what it does, and why the neighbours keep GLARING at them all the time. THUS if someone talks during a band's set it is THEM who have to struggle, WHEREAS someone talking in a SOLO set is audible ENTIRELY. MANY people talking during a solo set will drown you out completely, leaving you with only two options, which are:
  1. Say "Will you please be quiet?" Many beginners try this and it is a REALLY BAD IDEA. People have come to the PUB (for surely, you will be in a pub) because they like PUBS i.e. places where they can sit and have a chat. Telling them to stop talking during your set will not only make you look like a complete twat, but also lead to them not talking during your set because they are not there any more. NEVER ask the audience to be quiet, it is just plain rude. And just plain STUPID too. Far better the second option, which is �
Fear not gentle reader, for I shall tell you how to do this too.

Play Loud Stuff, At Least To Start With

Gentle acoustic loveliness is Quite Delightful, but it has the disadvantage of being QUIET. If you start with the sad quiet one that sounds so lovely in your living room, nobody will realise you have started. REMEMBER: You Are Not Famous (and if you are � I have always enjoyed your work, can I support you please?) and you are going to have to MAKE people pay bloody attention. Do the LOUD one first, preferably one with the following aspects:
  1. SWEARING. Bad Language is FUN! Everybody loves it, so do it a lot, it will also make you look TOUGH and RADICAL, and DEAD grown-up.
  2. Try to write some GOOD WORDS. They are all you've got � if you can get people listening, you might as well make what they're hearing something decent eh?
  3. Have a CHORUS, then at the end people will say "I liked that first one, is it called �Bollocks Bollocks Arse Tits?'"
It is sad but true, you really do have to do this sort of thing � once you HAVE them you can get sensitive and that, but THEY MUST BE MADE TO LISTEN. Here is another way of doing so:

Have A Rack Of Covers Ready

Yes yes, if you wanted to play other people's songs you probably wouldn't be putting yourself through this, but it is a GOOD IDEA to have at least a few ready, just in case. Remember Advantage 3, about being able to play whatever you like? This means you can � oh my � CHANGE THE SETLIST. If you have just done your HIT "I Don't Like People In Jumpers (they smell)" and realised that the whole ROOM is kitted out in arran sweaters, you do not HAVE to follow up with "Wool Is MURDER", you can do, I don't know, "Take That (and party)" instead. Just remember though, the whole POINT of hideously prostituting yourself in this way is to make people LISTEN to a song they KNOW. In my GRATE experience I have found something GOOD but out of recent CHART HISTORY is a SURE BET, and you win in THREE (3) ways:
  1. Everybody knows it
  2. They will be surprised you are playing it
  3. All chart hits are a PIECE OF PISS to play, honest, even if you do have to mess them about a bit. Almost EVERY Chart Hits can be done utilizing the chords G, C, D and Em. REALLY.
Playing a SLINT b-side, therefore, might make you feel CLEVER, but will not win you any friends. Let's face it, you probably SOUND like the obscure stuff of yr favourite cool band (well, in your MIND at least), so if you play such a thing everybody will assume it's one of yours and just go to the bar anyway. I KNOW THIS TO BE TRUE.

Nobody Is Impressed With Your Guitar Playing, Thank You

Well, not for long anyway � remember, YOU ARE NOT IN A BAND. The only people who like that long instrumental section you do (oh come on, you KNOW which bit I mean, the bit where you couldn't think of another verse but DID spend a week pissing about with some finger picking) are your girlfriend/boyfriend (at least you're not singing about them anymore) and your sad mate who secretly enjoys folk music. If you embark on such a thing, you will become QUIETER, people will not have to listen to the words for more SWEARING, and they will just start organising the next round of BEER over the top.

Gaps Are A Bad Thing

OK, so we've launched straight into a LOUD one, with some POINTED FACT in it, possibly some swearing, some vague idea of a catchy bit and as little bits of widdling as you can manage. WELL DONE, you have started well, have some more of the same, a couple of SENSITIVE ones (hey, you want SOME chance of copping off after, right?) and a BARRAGE of cunning covers lined up just in case your fantastic CHARM doesn't carry the set. But what's this? What is this thing that is now happening before you get a chance to do all that?


IT'S A GAP!! A big silent bit which is almost instantly SWAMPED by people chatting and buying BEER! NO! Stop tuning up! DON'T rifle through bits of paper! ON NO ACCOUNT apply a CAPO! SAY SOMETHING! Now, those of you who have seen the mighty ROCK power of my own solo sets will now be thinking "But Mark, we are not all such RACONTEURS as yourself! How can we ever hope to deliver the PEARLS of WISDOM that you always do, except for that time when you seemed to mumble to yourself, giggle, and then to say something extremely CRUDE, almost (but surely not!) as if you were drunkenly begging any girl in the room to�"

Yes yes, whatever. The key thing is you don't really need to say something CLEVER, just SAY something. "Thank you, this is a song about the iniquities of our present railway system" will do, particularly if that's what you ARE going to sing about (hey, it's a good subject, no?). ANYTHING really, as long as it's not a JOKE, that never works and my dears GOD KNOWS I'VE TRIED.

Oh, and always have a setlist too. As we discussed, you don't HAVE to follow it, but the only thing worse than a gap of SILENCE is a gap where you go "Ooh, what shall I do next? What songs do I know? Any request?" following by DEAFENING INDIFFERENCE.

Where And When To Play

Finally, we must consider which audience is going to be lucky enough to bear witness to your Hibbett ENHANCED Rock Power. Here are some RULES which you should apply, although let's be honest, you're not a band so you'll play ANYWHERE that'll have you, but still�
  1. Do NOT under any circumstances agree to the prospect of being "compere" and doing "a few songs between bands." NO. You have prostituted yourself ENOUGH will all of the above, please try and retain some dignity. If you DO agree to this you will be that annoying twat who comes on and shouts at people between the bands, when people are trying to have a chat (remember, they have just seen a BAND, and as we discussed, will now be savouring the chance to hear what the other person was trying to say all the way through). People will PURPOSEFULLY not listen to you, you will HAVE to do some kind of GAG, and even if you do manage to pull the whole think back from the brink of DOOM you will be OFF just as it gets good, and you will have to REPEAT the whole dreadful experience in half an hour anyway. NEVER EVER EVER DO THIS.
  2. Do NOT play as part of an acoustic bill. It will seem GRATE to start with because people will sit very quietly whatever you do and clap loudly. However, you will soon realise they are doing this for EVERY song, and for EVERYBODY WHO PLAYS � yes, even when that oily haired hippy gets up and does the fifteen minute instrumental about his t-shirt, they will still clap EXACTLY the same as they did for you. You will be dragged down to their level, and EVEN WORSE you will be obliged to sit through all the other sets. AVOID.
  3. DO try and get a set BETWEEN two other bands � you will be DIFFERENT and perhaps even INTERESTING in comparison, which is A Good Start.
  4. DO play with Young People's Bands. Their audience do not know the RULES of gigs i.e. they will think that, because they have paid to get in, they HAVE to stay and watch all the bands, even you. They are also particularly willing to be IMPRESSED (especially by all the swearing), and will not be afraid to say it was Quite Good, which is GRATE.
  5. DO NOT be fooled into thinking that going on last is the same as headlining, it ISN'T. It just means that no-one else wants to play then. If you play last everyone will have gone home � HOWEVER if you play first though nobody will be there yet so if at all possible, PLAY IN THE MIDDLE. If you ARE booked to go on last, tell the middle band that you don't mind swapping with them, hey, they're a band, they sounded good in soundcheck, they deserve it. THIS NEVER FAILS and they may even buy you a beer afterwards.
  6. Pre-gig drinks: The rule is NOT Beer/Beer/Beer/Beer/Beer/GIG, no, it should be BEER/Coca Cola (or soft drink of choice)/BEER/coca cola/BEER. You will be pissed enough, but not too pissed, and also Quite ALERT. Trust me, it's a really good idea.
You Are Really Brave

Smashing, the gig is over, you feel a little cheap and dirty (especially after covering "My Heart Will Go On", what WERE you thinking of?) but people listened, cheered, even joined in a bit. Now it is time for the FOLLOW THROUGH. You thought it was all over? NO. What you do after is as important as what you did during. Here are some things that should happen, see if you can collect them all readers!
  1. Somebody will say "You're very brave." They're RIGHT.
  2. Somebody might tell you you are Quite Good � handle this DELICATELY. Saying "No, it was crap" will make THEM feel really stupid and NOT lead them to saying it again. Saying "Yes, I am BLOODY GRATE and a GENIUS am I not?" will also lead them not to say it again, and in fact think you are a tosser. Be POLITE about it kids, say "Thank You" � Mr Manners is the best friend of the solo ARTISTE, and he can sometimes persuade people that you are All Right, and deserving of a FREE BEER.
  3. Similarly, say "Thank You" to the soundman � nobody EVER does this and he will probably CRY with JOY, which is fun enough anyway, but might also lead to him giving you decent sound next time. Maybe.
  4. DO wander round the venue, smiling hopefully. Somebody MIGHT see you and come over and tell you you're very brave, or even that you are Quite Good. More usually you will walk about being LONELY for 10 minutes, and then go and hide in another room, but it's always worth a go.
Instances Where The Above Does Not Apply

All the above is TRUE, everything I say is TRUE, are you calling me a LIAR? There is one instance where it does not apply, however - If you are dead famous. If you are dead famous, people will pay good money just to LOOK at your hideous visage, and will CHEER even if you do do the 20 minute instrumental version of a Suicide album track. Mind you, I bet they'd cheer MORE if you threw in a version of a new song by a Fenland tunesmith with a way with words eh? Especially if you put it on your next bestselling album so he got loads of money, eh? Eh?

That, then, is my GUIDE to being a SOLO ARTISTE. Follow these rules and you too can be as SUCCESFUL and FAMOUS as me� so why not just get a band instead eh?
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