Suffering for Art – or – the Art of Suffering.

Gramps/Tony Lind
Gramps, aka Tony Lind. Photo, as always, by Christopher Anderzon.
I have always been deeply suspicious of the notion that the only ”real” or ”good” or ”important” art is one created out of misery, pain and suffering. That concept always smacked of unchecked ego and inflated self-importance to me.
A lot of unbelievably great art was created out of sheer joy, the pleasure of the creative process and loving inspiration, and is in no way less valid than the art born out of pain and hardship. But for some reason, a lot of people seem to perceive depressed and/or depressing artists as ”honest”, an idea I find dubious at best.

I personally never trust an artist who takes themselves too seriously. They may take their art as seriously as a fucking heart attack, no problem there, but when they allow their sensitive minds, bleeding hearts and fragile little baby souls to demand that you laud them for the suffering they have endured, rather than the quality of the work they produce, fuck it, I’m outta there, faster than a paycheck.
Those ”artists” are often whiny little pricks who should have a therapist rather than an audience. They are often also dismissive of and even indifferent toward their fans, which is a cardinal sin in my book. Like when Morrissey scoffs that he doesn’t perform. ”Seals perform.” Yeah, right. If that’s the case, get off the stage, you have no place there.

When I walk onstage in front of an audience, I feel a huge responsibility to make sure that these people are entertained in some way, and I feel disgusted when I see bands who obviously don’t give a shit. I was raised on artists who know how to put on a show, in their own different ways, and I took those lessons to heart (at the end of this rant I’ve put together some clips of bands who know how to treat an audience). That doesn’t mean that your act has to be all out party animal energy, that’s not what I’m saying, it would be really boring if everyone was like Angus Young all the time, but there should be an effort to communicate with the people who bought their ticket for your show, and the least you can do is to acknowledge them and let them know you appreciate them coming to hear and see you.

Michael Stipe was absolutely right when he sang that everybody hurts. Everybody does, sometimes. And just because you have the creative outlet to vent your pain, which is fantastic and beautiful, that does not mean that you hurt more, better or deeper than anyone else. I love that you have the gift of touching people in a way that allows them to understand their own struggle a little bit better, ease their pain for a moment, or just recognizing that they’re not alone. But that gift does not entitle you to be a primadonna. Art is about sharing, so don’t be so fucking precious about what you do.

A lot of people suffer from depression and anxiety, and I think it is a very positive thing that we as a society are starting to unstigmatize mental health issues, although that process is still way too slow. And in that sense, it is also a very positive thing that people create art about their struggles, to show that not only is it ok to acknowledge that you have this burden in your life, it is essential to do so in order for things to change. But that doesn’t mean that the Suffering Artist should be put on any sort of piedestal. And to perpetuate a lifestyle of misery, as some would at least like to give the impression of doing, just to make ”better” art, is stupid as shit.

/Gramps

What’s on your mind?

Sometimes people come up to me after a show and say, ”You look so happy up there on stage. Your joy is really contagious! What’s going on in your mind when you’re performing? What are you thinking about?”

I am usually quite the brooder. I think a lot about stuff, and some would say I think too much. But not when I am on stage. I don’t think I am ever more ’in the moment’ than I am while playing music in front of an audience, except maybe while fucking.

Yes, obviously I do think about stuff when I play, but it’s like the world outside the venue disappears, and none of the everyday issues matter. My entire focus is on the performance, and the music. The most important advice I can give anyone who wants to play music live is: pay attention! Really be there. I listen to what my bandmates are doing, and I watch their body language for cues and clues as to what they might be doing next. When you’ve played with the same people for a long time this process is almost a telepathic thing, you are not really consciously thinking about it, just reacting.

If The Coffa plays something cool on the bass (which he is very prone to do) I like to be supportive, play something that enhances what he’s playing, or complements it. And it’s the same way with all the guys in the band. You pay attention, you listen, you respond. I don’t think too far ahead, my mind is rarely on the next song, unless there is a segue of some sort that needs to be focused on. If my mind starts to wander too far down the setlist, I find it distracting, and I don’t enjoy it as much.

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The Head, Orren and Gramps – photo: Marcus Landström.

Sometimes even a ”mistake” can lead to a very wonderful musical interaction, and it’s not unusual that songs are altered because of some unique event that took place, everyone thinking ”That was really fucking sweet!” and so we incorporate it into the arrangement. Serendipities like that are what makes live performance so exciting and joyous.

I am also aware of the audience, and the way they respond to the show. Often when you are on stage with bright lights in your eyes, it can be difficult to pick out faces in the crowd, but you can usually see a few, and I try to pay attention to them, and if possible make eye contact every once in a while. To me, a live performance is about communicating with the audience in every possible way, and I really dislike it when artists act as if the people in front of them don’t exist. I want the people who paid for a ticket to the show to go home thinking they really experienced something cool on a personal level, and acknowledging their presence by looking them in the eye is a very effective way of achieving that.

Also, I try to be transparent in my reactions to what’s going on. A lot of time funny shit happens on stage that the audience might not even be aware of, but I’ll laugh out loud, and they will understand that something happened, even if they are not sure exactly what, and they will sense that they just witnessed something spontaneous and special. It’s little details like that that make their experience special and your performance memorable.

So, in essence, the question ”What are you thinking about onstage?” can be answered with: ”Nothing. And everything.”

/Gramps

Recommended listening:
Henry Rollins – gig mishaps
Rush – The Big Money (live)
Frank Zappa – Tinsel Town Rebellion
The Band – Ophelia

Passion

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Gramps. Photo by Birgitta Haller. Or was it Christopher Anderzon? 

Today, I will expose one of my main character flaws. At least, it seems to be a flaw whenever I read a book or an article about how to succeed in life, in work, in love, in anything.

As a musician, and as a person overall, I am deeply motivated by passion in everything I do. When I am passionate about something, I thrust myself into it with everything I’ve got.
On the flip side, it’s very hard to get me to do anything that I don’t feel passionate about. I’m not a very goal-oriented individual, I’m not a strategist, I’m not an entrepreneur, and I never consider ”smart career moves” or maneuver Machiavellian schemes to advance myself. I don’t make five- or ten-year-plans for my life. I can hardly make a ten-hour-plan and stick with it, for fuck’s sake!
For me, without passion, there is no ambition. None.

But when I get fired up about something, or someone, I am fiercely dedicated. Always in the moment, but applying myself as if that moment has no end. For a guy who’s been playing music for 30 years, I haven’t been in all that many bands, but the ones that I’ve been in that I was passionate about, I’ve stayed with for a long time, in some cases more than 20 years.
I’ll invest time, money and effort into endeavors without any guarantee of reward, payback or success. This is a big part of being a musician in today’s climate anyway, you certainly don’t make a lot of money, but you spend lots and lots of it just to keep at it, recordings, gear, travel and whatnot.

Like the almighty Rush (and their drummer/lyricist Neil Peart) put it in the brilliant song ’Bravado’; ”If love remains, though everything is lost, we will pay the price, but we will not count the cost.”

That line pretty much sums up the way I’ve lived my life so far. As long as the love was there, as long as the passion was there (love and passion are not the same thing, but they work very well together), I didn’t quit, even if in hindsight I can see that sometimes perhaps I should have.

It’s a bit like the orchestra on board the Titanic, who kept grinding away at ’Nearer, my God, to Thee’ as the ship went down in the cold, dark waters of the Atlantic. At some point you start to realize that it is futile, but you stay with it, because what else can you do? You decided to board this ship, so now you go down with it.

On the other hand, when that labor of love does come to fruition, when your passion gets its reward, it’s oooooh, so fucking sweet! When that happens, being driven by passion does not seem like such a flaw after all, because the payoff is not just a box to be checked on your massively detailed ten-year-plan clipboard, it is a piece of your bleeding heart being healed, a dream coming to life and a climax for the soul. It’s really that good!

/Gramps

Recommended listening:

Rush – Bravado
Mavis Staples – Eyes on the prize
Van Halen – When it’s love
Rush – Mission
Peter Gabriel – Passion
King Crimson – One time
Tom Petty – I won’t back down
Metallica – Nothing else matters
Drive-By Truckers – Danko/Manuel

The Purjocopter Concept

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Tony Lind, aka Gramps.

My bass player friend Mats, who I play with every now and then, once made a remark regarding my faiblesse for cymbals (I often tend to bring quite a few to any kind of gig). He asked, cheekily: ”How many cymbals does a drummer really need?” I answered: ”Exactly as many cymbals as the stage size allows.” After a moment’s pause he said: ”That’s really a perfect answer.” And I’d have to agree.

All kidding aside, I really do enjoy having a rather elaborate setup, not just with cymbals, but the overall drum kit. I never truly arrived at any definite setup that I felt was the ultimate one for me, I like to keep changing it around, moving pieces, and adding new ones.

Billy Momo_Marcus Landström
Billy Momo – photo: Marcus Landström.

With Billy Momo, I have taken this concept to a new level (for me), when I started my work-in-progress, The Purjocopter. In the early days of the band, there were quite a lot of Hiphop-influenced beats on the recordings, some played, some programmed, and the challenge for me was to try to recreate the feel of those beats live, not always by playing them exactly the same way, but to interpret the recorded version in a way that would translate well in the live situation.
I tried many different kinds of setups in the beginning, acoustic, electronic, and combinations thereof. But after a while, I decided that it would be a much more satisfying thing for me to have an acoustic kit (so that I wouldn’t have to rely on great monitors to hear myself), but to still try and have many different sounds, as if I had a sample library, and have many of those sound sources not being strictly a classic rock’n’roll-style drum set. I began by replacing pretty much all the regular crash cymbals with different effects such as chinas, EFXs, splashes, bells, and all kinds of ding-dongs and bang-booms. I also added some more snare type sounds with very different pitches (for instance, if you listen to the song ’Swim’, I played that on a 10” TAMA Mini Tymp snare, cranked way up, to get an almost drum machine kind of sound, which The Head beefed up a little more by triggering a sample on top).
And then there were various percussion instruments added, as well as roto-toms, an 18” hihat, and much more, in combination with the typical meat-and-potatoes kinds of drum sounds.

What this does is allow for me to keep some of the quirkier beats from the albums and do them justice live, even if they’re not truly identical. And also, I enjoy improvising a lot with all those different sound sources at my disposal. If you’ve ever seen us perform songs like ’All we were’ or ’Billy Slomo’ live, you know what I mean. It also allows me to be a bit orchestral when I solo.

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Gramps (drums). Photo: Niklas Månsson.

Now, I don’t want to give you the idea that this was a concept that I came up with on my own in a vacuum, hell no! The Purjocopter was influenced by many of my drum heroes, probably starting with Neil Peart’s expansive kit with Rush, but also guys like Terry Bozzio, Michael Blair, David Van Tieghem, Tony Oxley, but more than anyone else, Bill Bruford. His different setups (and the ways in which he used them) with King Crimson were endlessly fascinating to me, and I can tell you that the Thrak album with Bill and Pat Mastellotto on double drums was life changing for me. If you can get hold of a copy of the November ’95 issue of Modern Drummer magazine, and you read the article on Bill and Pat, and you look at their setups from the Thrak tour, that’s pretty much where the main inspiration for The Purjocopter came from, I think.

So, the next time you see Billy Momo perform a full blown set with all of our own gear on a stage that allows for it, you will probably see quite a lot of drums up there. And now you know that it’s not just for show, although a big drum kit is probably among the most beautiful things you could see, next only to… well, it’s a pretty sight, let’s leave it at that.

/Gramps

Circadian rhythm and the creative mind

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Tony The Drummer. Photo: Christopher Anderzon. 

Up until very recently, Orren would refuse to acknowledge jet lag as a real phenomenon. I’m just gonna leave that there.

Most people whom I would consider artistically creative, tend to thrive at night. I know, it sounds like a terribly clichéd stereotype, but I really think it is true for the most part. The outside world slows down, gets quiet, and that’s when the fun begins. The creative juices start to flow, as the drudgery of daytime existence grinds to a standstill.
I mean, I can be productive during the daytime, in an assembly line kind of way, I suppose, but my creative thoughts lie fairly dormant throughout the day. All that sweet, exciting stuff tends to come out when I get to turn on the colored lights and the smoke machine at Club Purjo, put on some amazing music and read a book that blows your hair back, to paraphrase Will Hunting.

All those great existential conversations with a close friend, or for that matter, a new acquaintance you’re just learning to know and find endlessly fascinating, where you take the plunge into the deep end and then just drift away on a stream of consciousness where concepts are shared, dreams are born and new galaxies of the mind are discovered, how many of those have you had during a lunch meeting in a crowded restaurant? I personally can’t think of one, but then, my memory does get more selective with each year, it seems, so maybe I’m mistaken. But I know with absolute certainty that I have had most of them late at night.

I sometimes go into a state that feels like a shark in a feeding frenzy, when I have an urge to learn about something, and I will look up every documentary or article on that topic I can find online, search my bookshelves, and sit at the kitchen table with my laptop and a pile of books all night, and just gorge myself on all the cool shit amazing individuals have said or done. But rarely do I have these urges while the sun is up and people move around me like sneaky predators trying to suck the marrow out of my life and eat my soul. Nope, that good shit only hits when nothing’s up but the rent, dammit.

When it comes to writing music, most of my inspiration comes out of moments like those described above. A sea of thoughts and emotions will ever so slowly boil down into a savory broth of an idea, which will eventually find its home in a piece of music. This is my creative process. So, while I’m no vampire, I am nocturnal in the sense that I need those late nights of exploration and meditation to feel alive.

Or, maybe it’s just the booze talking? I don’t know, and I don’t give a shit. I’m gonna stay up late tonight. Turn on that smoke machine, baby! Let’s rock! (Tony Lind, aka ‘Gramps’)

The post gig blues

Tony Lind, aka Gramps
It’s a phenomenon I’ve been well acquainted with for my entire adult life, but never had an actual explanation for. I guess it’s a chemical reaction in the body. I call it the post-gig blues. I know many other musicians who deal with the same thing, although they probably have other names for it. It’s a strong sense of melancholy that sets in an hour or two after I’ve played a concert. And typically, the better the show was, the stronger the backlash is. And when it sets in, there is just no way to go to sleep until it wears off, no matter how physically exhausted I might be. I just have to ride it out. That is usually done by listening to music, having a couple of Jack Donald’s, or watching documentaries. After a few hours of this, I’ll eventually feel my mellow return, and I’m able to go to sleep. The only thing that really works as a quick fix for the post-gig blues is sex, and I suppose this might be one reason why musicians through the ages have sought company after performances, be it groupies, girl/boyfriends, livestock, or whatever.

I’m so used to this by now, that I’ll actually factor in this process when I make plans for the following day. I know that if I return home at 3:00 a.m., it’s highly unlikely that the post-gig blues will have worn off before 5:00 a.m. at the earliest, and so I’ll need to sleep in a bit to recover.

So, here’s my question: Is there anyone out there who can explain exactly what is going on during the post-gig blues in scientific terms? Not guessing or speculating, but someone who actually knows? Would you please share this knowledge with me? Inquistitive autodidact wants to know. (Tony Lind, aka Gramps)

Best 10 seconds of my life

Photo: Christopher Anderzon.
Tony Lind, aka Gramps.

The best ten seconds of my life (while still having my pants on) are the ten seconds right before my foot steps onto the stage. It’s been like that as long as I can remember.

Many performers are terrified of getting onstage, even though the audience would never be able to tell. I know a lot of famous, brilliant and seasoned artists who cry backstage before a show, some even throw up. Full blown panic attacks, baby. I never understood why someone would subject themselves to that, over and over again, and pursue it as their path in life. Even if the feeling lifts once you get into the performance, I would still not think it was worth it. No fuckin’ way.
I never had this problem. To me, the stage is my home, it is my element, it is the place where I am most comfortable.

Is that because I am an Extrovert? A narcissistic exhibitionist? No. In fact, if you know me somewhat well, you know that I am a pretty classic Introvert, uncomfortable in social settings like parties where my only function is to mingle and make small talk. I hate that. I try to be as invisible as possible, merge with the wallpaper, quickly drink myself into what the mighty Pink Floyd would call ’comfortable numbness’, and get the hell out of Dodge as soon as I can. But point me to an imaginary square on the floor, and tell me that’s the stage, and I will get on there and own that room like it’s my bitch.

I’m pretty good at hanging out with my true friends, at least in smaller settings, but even then I usually need a lot of recovery time afterwards (and not just for the hangover). Human interaction is draining, even when it is good. But the stage is different.
There is definitely an interaction going on between performer and audience, but when I am on that stage, I control the environment. I never fake onstage, what you see is totally me, but it is the part of me that I feel good about showing you. I truly feel that I can do no wrong up there, even if I make a mistake, miss a cue, hit a flat note, or whatever. I just embrace it, move on. Most of the time those things only help the performance anyway. The audience get to experience a very real, human moment, and that’s usually an endearing event, that will make them feel closer to you. So it’s a win-win deal; if I play everything perfect, it’s cool, if I don’t, that’s cool too.

During a performance, my communication skills transform completely from how I am in private. I enjoy connecting with members in the audience, making eye contact (which I am very uncomfortable with otherwise), enjoying the emotional exchange of those little moments. I am confident, assertive and playful. I often laugh out loud onstage. It’s just an expression of the joy I am feeling, and also, there is usually something funny going on anyway, even if it isn’t always obvious to the audience.

But then, the show ends. The music is over. And I switch off my ’stage mode’. I’m sure some people have been a little confused when they approach me after a show, thinking they’ll be talking to this barely contained bolt of lightning, an affable socialite. No can do. I always try to be friendly and I don’t want to be rude, but that guy you saw onstage 30 minutes ago is dead tired now, and now all that is left is the other part of him, one you didn’t see before. Sorry to disappoint.

That hour on stage is an hour of being in tune with your purpose. Which is why the ten seconds right before showtime are the best of my life (while still having my pants on). (Tony Lind, aka ‘Gramps’, drums)