We are proud to be bringing you the first installment in Chimaira frontman Mark Hunter’s new column for us, called Dear Hunter
Last September, I used Twitter to give my perspective on the music industry and it caused a minor wave. When we went on tour, I felt the impact from bands and fans across the country that were thankful and wanted to pick my brain more. I don’t consider myself an expert by any means. If anything, I’m an ass. I’m the type of guy that prefers to screw things up first, and then learn. It was quite the shock when people came up to me thanking me for all the help.
Even more shocking was finding out that almost a year later some (crazy?) people still want my perspective. I’m thankful Mr. Harris reached out and asked me to write a guest column for GunShyAssassin with cart blanche.
In the future, I intend to write about some of the more esoteric subjects I’m interested in like entheogens, quantum physics, astrotheology, and whatever strange topics that cross my path, but since I’m mainly known for music and music industry-related topics, I figure that’s a good place to start spewing garbage.
Musicians need a back-up plan.
Ten years ago, my band — Chimaira — was slapped in the face with reality when our first album, Pass Out Of Existence, shit the bed. We thought we were going to be a massive band that sold millions, played arenas, and would live the “rockstar” lifestyle forever. The truth was, we sold less than 100,000 albums, headlined clubs to an average of 150 people a night, and our label was about to ask us to take a major pay cut to make the next album.
Looking back, the delusions of grandeur came from ignorance and influence. We had no idea how the music business worked, and we followed advice and the words of those we trusted and paid to guide us. Let’s not forget the old “if it worked for our heroes, it will work for us” fallacy that plagued our camp. While these methods prevailed on many occasions, I can add that having an education in music business would have saved us a lot of headaches, time, and could have prevented some of the more disastrous mistakes we made along the way.
Most bands don’t realize what they are doing is a business. Besides being a group of people that get together to create sound, bands are glorified salesmen. The band itself is a brand, and besides the music, that brand needs to generate income to survive. If the brand isn’t generating the amount of money it needs to survive, then what?
If members of the band are broke, more problems will arise than you will ever be prepared for. You cannot possibly gauge the necessity of what another person constitutes as “enough.” What happens if you have to leave the band for a different path? If it all crumbles, do you have a back-up plan?
Before I was in a band, I was a cook. In high school I opted to have vocational training instead of sit in what I considered to be a prison of a classroom. I went to culinary school, and learned chef training. I slacked off in that class, but, it put me in the field, and at age fifteen, I was cooking.
I spent the next few years of my life working at various types of restaurants, expanding my horizons, and absorbing all of the information I could. By the time I reached eighteen I was managing. When my old friend Jason Hager reached out and asked if I wanted to start a band, I felt I had established a decent back-up plan in case the band didn’t work out. I knew if things fell apart, I could go back and be a cook, or manager, at any restaurant I wanted.
Throughout the years I would use both my managerial and culinary skills on the road, and if I needed extra money, that was there. I also thought it would be wise to learn other aspects of the new field I was in as I saw how far this method got me in the past. While we toured I dabbled in sound, tour managing, stage-managing, production, and worked all the way up to understanding the principles of band management. I learned basic web coding, merchandise, and every other piece of the profession that came my way. My brain has been like a sponge ever since.
I wanted a music industry back-up plan and I am confident that I can walk into any field in the music business from tech to manager, and get hired. (Maybe not graphic design…unless stick figures are acceptable) I also wanted to understand these fields to improve on my own band/brand.
I suggest if you are thinking about starting a band or becoming a professional musician, you should not only consider educating yourself in music business, but also learn other skills and trades that can assist you. Have a back-up plan.
There is no guarantee that being a self-made musician will work out for you, or that it will be the case for the years to come. Try not to put all your eggs into one basket, and understand that nothing lasts forever. We almost had to walk away back then.
Ten years later and Chimaira has sold over a million records worldwide, played arenas, and had a taste of the rockstar lifestyle. But in reality, many of the same truths are still present. Only one of our albums sold over 100,000 copies, our marquee average is still lower than hoped, and here we are, taking major pay cuts due to the state of the industry. And we’re considered one of the “bigger” bands of the genre.
I do my best to remain positive, and still think this is one of the best jobs in the world. Regardless, if the initial dreams and expectations weren’t met and were insane to begin with, I’ve learned a plethora of knowledge and information that will help me for the rest of my life. I also understand that the business needs to be reinvented, and have implemented new techniques to revitalize what became tainted.
Out on the road, I encounter musicians that are broke as a joke and don’t know what the hell to do about it. They rely on their managers and labels to handle everything. This is not the only method. I’ve been in that position before, it sucks, and I refuse to let myself slip into it again. Become aware of exactly what it is you are doing, and take action for yourself. You have one shot at this — why put it solely in the hands of another?
It would be advantageous for not only musicians, but the general population to pick up a book, learn new crafts, and realize there is not only one path to one dream, but there are multiple paths to multiple dreams.
The music industry has changed as drastically as our world. Some feel it’s for the worse, I haven’t formed an opinion. I started a mission fourteen years ago to bring a diverse blend of heavy metal music to the masses while continually reinventing and changing the way that was done. I’m still on that mission and plan to be for a while. I am always learning more for my back-up plan, and will continually aim to better my craft. Hopefully you can and will, too.
Thanks for reading and again, I’m no expert. I’m just a dude that makes as many mistakes as victories with hopes to inspire you to do the same. Don’t follow my path.
Till the next time, smoke acid.
Goal: Feed band and crew healthy, tasty, meal for under $20 with only a few bare essentials. Be able to cook in small space.
“THE MOST INTERESTING CHICKEN IN THE WORLD”
Recipe by Mark Hunter and Sean Z. (@seanszscreams)
You will need:
1 large crock-pot
1 cutting board
1 tablespoon of butter (we use “green” when possible)
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 half large onion
4 celery stalks
1 container of chicken broth
1 half lemon
4 lbs of chicken breast
Salt, pepper, cayenne pepper
1 bottle of Dos Equis Amber — this is what makes it the most interesting, duh.
Step one: Wash your fucking hands. You are on the road. There is never adequate soap in venues, half of the time there isn’t toilet paper — you are a fucking disease-infested troll. Wash your hands. You should sing the entire birthday song while doing it. Then they are clean enough. Wash the celery and the chicken, too.
Turn the crock-pot on high, as in Cheech. Let your (special) butter melt with the garlic while you cut the onion and celery into tiny pieces. That’s called dicing. Put the onions and celery in the pot.
Season the chicken with salt, pepper, and cayenne — but don’t over do it. You don’t want to bite into the shit and it tastes like a salt lick for deer. Squeeze the lemon all over the chicken.
Wash your hands again as you just touched chicken. I swear I can’t be shaking band dude hands anymore after what I’ve witnessed. If we’re bringing food into the mix, please be responsible.
Pour half the container of broth over the chicken and veggies. Take a sip of the beer, pour the rest in until liquid covers the chicken. Drink the rest of the Dos Equis and picture yourself as that meme.
Put the lid on it, and let it cook for 4 hours and 20 minutes. Stir when you feel like it.
After the time is up, test the chicken with a fork; if it shreds with ease like Derek Roddy playing double bass at 240bpm, you’re in business.
If not, let it cook until the chicken looks like a victim on a Cannibal Corpse shirt. You want it falling apart. I realize the Corpse analogy might get you thinking about blood. You do not want to see blood with your chicken. This might mean you forgot to plug the crock-pot in.
If done correctly the bus, bandwagon, backstage, or van will smell unbearable and the audience might get a whiff, too. Prepare for face eating zombies.
We find eating like this saves a lot of money, prevents us from having too large of hog tits, and grows us closer as a family.
While I realize this isn’t what I’d call gourmet, it’s more than suitable for band dudes. And, it’s better than the bullshit catering you get. You can combine even the worst buyouts and eat well.
If yours turns out bad, you probably did something wrong and I take no responsibility. Feel free to add, or delete any item and tell your straight edge band mates the alcohol will cook off. Up to you to remind them about the butter.
Special thanks to John Heavens for the graphic and his help with naming the column.
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