Sunday, November 20, 2005

Creative Differences

(Originally Posted Nov 20th, 2005)

Among the many events that have happened to Beatnik Turtle in the last few months, the most significant is that our bass player, Mike, has decided to leave the band. Dealing with this is part of why you'll find a gap in the blog entires for a time.

Mike had been playing with us for over 8 years, and he's a fantastic bassist, a great guy, and funny as well. These kind of splits are always difficult, but we promised to take you backstage, and so we will talk about it here, in the blog.

The primary reasons that Mike is leaving, as told by him, have to do with creative differences. Some of them are with the direction of the band, the music that we play, and other aspects of the group. There were also differences of opinion with other band members. Although it got thorny at the end of this, he had been going in a different creative direction for some time with other bands that he has been playing with. After 8 years, he said that he had a good run, and was ready to do other work.

We all wish him the absolute best in what he's working on next, and we hope that he finds great success. Mike is someone who just loves to play music. He is especially happy to play live music, and his other groups do a lot of that which is just perfect for him. We are going to miss him a LOT.

This is far from the first time that a member has left Beatnik Turtle. The interesting part is not that we've lost people, but that we are a band that has been together for over 8 years in spite of losing people. It would have been nearly impossible to keep a band together for that long with the same members, especially for people that do not do this for a living. On top of this, we're a large group, with a new norm of 9 members.

When the other members of Beatnik Turtle found out about this, our reaction was to be pretty bummed. Then it was to wish him well. After some time passed to let it sink in, we do what most bands do in this kind of circumstance. We looked at each other and asked: "Do we want to continue?" The answer was: "Yes!" So we are in the process of finding another bassist at this point.

In the meantime, we can't play live, but we can do work in the studio. Fortunately, we just finished a process over the last three weeks of upgrading to a computer system rather than the older component-based system that we had been using. We will use session bassists that we know for recording, which is our focus lately, and continue to make our music. Because we were going to have a recording focus in the next year, we can press forward for next year, although it is a hard loss.

This has happened too recently for us to have a perspective on this particular event. We hope to have one of those posts much later, after we find another bassist and see how this changes our band. We can tell you what happened in the past as we've lost people, and some advice that others have given us that has came in handy, which we are keeping in mind as we deal with this change.

A number of years ago, after we had been playing for 5 years, Beatnik Turtle was losing a key member of the band, who was newly married, and had his first child on the way. This took up both his time, and his attentions. He was a member of the rhythm section, and we couldn't play out live or do much without him, and he was not able to offer us much time to rehearse or record music, but did not want to leave the band. He was also one of the original members, and was a person that gave us a distinctive sound. The band was grinding to a halt, and we didn't know how it could continue. We couldn't imagine finding someone to replace him.

We had recently been making some new friends who were in theater, and when they heard of our plight, they were casual about it. "Find someone new," they said, "and it will be better than before."

We were skeptical. Theater was different than music, we told them. Bands play the same songs for years, and part of the sound was based on the people. Theater has a run of a show, and then you move on to something else. You can always get someone else, or even put together an entirely new crew. Bands need to know each other and react to each other, and only get that after playing with each other for a long time, sometimes for years. And we'd been playing with this individual for 5 years.

We eventually lost this band member, and even lost another one who was not a rhythm section member because of the difficulties. While it was a traumatic time, we put out an ad, auditioned, and the first one that answered turned out to be a fantastic musician and a great guy to get along with. He proved our theater friends right. It was better than before because of the energy that came with getting a new member. And we also got reinterpretations of our music, which you don't realize is becoming stale until someone new gets to work with it. Our new band member turned out to be a quick study, and we were able to play out in a matter of months. We will always miss the original band member, and certainly some things don't sound the same. But when a project like a band continues, it does get better, because it continues to grow.

We're now in a different place than we were before when this happened to us. We're more willing to move on, and avoid being paralyzed. Partly because we have weathered this kind of thing before, and partly because we are VERY excited about the projects that are coming up in the near future. We're looking forward to auditioning new bassists, and are looking forward to how we're going to be changing this time.