QOTW: The early days in WZ by M Tragedy666
Wow! It’s been a while since we did one of these.
Sit back and enjoy this fantastic Question of the Week from ZombieHead Inc member M Tragedy666 about the early days of White Zombie and how bands have to market themselves to gain promotion.
Question: Hi Rob. I read one of your recent interviews and it inspired a question. I hope to hear your take in this… But, how did it happen for you? The transition from local band to a signed act that is opening for Pantera and on huge festivals touring the world? I know it takes hard work and there is no short cuts…but I was wondering if a scout for the label happened to see you and liked what they saw? Which means there was a bit of luck involved. Or did you guys just build your fanbase on a local level till you were headlining all the local clubs and it just kept getting bigger and bigger until it exploded?
I don’t know if the local scene is anything like it used to be in the late 80’s, but it’s pretty shitty now. You work your ass off promoting and trying to write cool songs. No one cares. Some people show up. Other times it’s nearly empty rooms. Occasionally, you’ll get a good crowd that really digs it and might buy some merch. But with all the time and energy and failures, the band starts to fight within itself. Even if you heart is really in it, it’s hard to find like minded individuals that will help you take it to the next level. It seems as though some people need to be constantly rewarded, to prove to themselves that they are headed in the right direction. If they just work and work all the time, without seeing much increase in popularity and without any reminders that it is even worth it (as it is very expensive being in a project), band mates begin to get discouraged. It’s hard to keep it together. And they inevitably end up quitting. I’ve went through countless of band members and can’t help but feel that it would have been much more successful if everyone just stuck to it and didnt’ quit on me. So much wasted time trying to find new people and re-teaching the same old songs when you could be writing all new songs and moving forward. All the set backs get very frusterating.
So my questions, I suppose, deal with how you rose from local to national? I imagine you started the same way..playing to people that didn’t really care. At what point did they start caring? After you were already signed? Or was there a ton of people that really dug WZ in the early days? I think some of it is psychological. All it takes is a couple people in the audience who are really into it and it inspires others to headbang and get into it as well. It’s like a cause and effect. When did you first start noticing kids at the shows knowing all the words to the songs?
And one final question: If you had it to do all over again. If you were 19, just starting your first band, do you think it would go down the same way? What do you imagine yourself doing differently, if anything, in this day and age with how music has evolved throughout the years? Do you think you could pull it off again?
It seems harder than ever to gain any success in the music biz these days. There are many contributing factors such as internet downloads, increasing sub-genre’s of music taking away from the over all statistic of music fans (ex. my theory is that there was a time when there was just hard rock or soft rock. that expanded into never ending battles of “what is metal”, etc… hair metal, speed, black death, industrial, grunge, yada yada. It split the core fan base into smaller sections), and also the fact that there is just more stuff to do these days. Kids dont’ go outside anymore, because they are too busy indoors playing video games, etc.. So it seems less people care about music, especially newer music. They just stick to what they have become accustomed to, and thats it. But the curious thing that I wonder is…why did these people pay to even go in the show, if they were just going to stand there and look bored? Why did they leave their house?
Well thank you for your time. Sorry for the long detailed rant message. and in a Tim Curry Home Alone 2 voice, “Have a lovely day!”
Answer from Rob: Hmmmmmm? That is quite a question. I will try and hit most of the points you asked. First I will say that I think it has always been the same struggle to gain a nation audience. The tools for getting your music out have changed but the basic process is the same. In fact I think it would be easier to gain a foot hold the business today than it was back in 1985 when White Zombie started. All we had to promote with was black and white flyers and a couple hundred 7″ records ,now you can just stick a video on Youtube and reach the whole world instantly. But really what separates the people who “make it” and the people who don’t is always the same thing …”brains” and “hard work”. First off most bands I see have nothing to sell and by that I mean that they are usually a bunch of mismatched guys with no stage presence who just play music. Big fucking deal. Young bands often have huge egos and say stupid shit like, “fuck man, we don’t need an image. Our music does the talking”. If you think like this then enjoy playing to nobody for the rest of time. You have to look at yourself and say, “why would anyone give a shit that we are alive?”. Then do something about it. I can always tell when I see a band if they have what it takes to get ahead. They immediately jump out because they are making the extra effort to be noticed. You mentioned Pantera, when White Zombie first played with them nobody knew who they where yet. It was a club show and hardly anybody was there, but you could see that both bands had the same fire. Both bands were totally different but had the drive. From that small club show to both bands co-headlining arenas together was only a few years, but the change in both acts was huge.
As Apollo Creed says, EYE OF THE TIGER!
It is a tough business and the people who do it well make it look easy so I think folks get confused and think it is easy. Even once you get there, it is hard to stay there. You always have to be thinking “how can I make this better.” If you just keep doing the same thing with no success at all then maybe you need to rethink what you are doing.I see bands all the time and think to myself, “fuck it is so obvious. If they did this and then did that they would be a million times better.”
As far as changing band members, well as far as I can see that never ends. It is a pain in the ass, but it happens. Mostly for the best. WHite Zombie was constantly changing bands members and my band now seems to change as soon as I think it is stable. Just deal with it and move on.
I could ramble on forever but the main thing is WORK HARDER THAN EVERYONE ELSE and DON”T FUCKING QUIT. It is really that simple.