Our Drummer Wants to Sing…or He’ll Quit


Are you a musician? Is your group having issues? Ask Fan Landers! Critic Jessica Hopper has played in and managed bands, toured internationally, booked shows, produced records, worked as a publicist and is the author of The Girls’ Guide to Rocking, a how-to for teen ladies. She is here to help you stop doing it wrong. Send your problems to her — confidentiality is assured, unless you want to use your drama as a ticket to Internet microfame.

Hi Fan,
We have an excellent drummer (most of the time, that is… he has tempo issues sometimes, but that’s another question), who insists on singing. And it is agreed amongst the rest of the band that he’s truly horrible at singing. We have received an ultimatum from him, that unless he sings a certain percentage of songs, we can find another drummer. What would you advise?

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Dear Anonymous,
Seeing as your skinsman is the ultimatum type being totally straight with him about his abilities (or perhaps, rather, the lack of them) might just be a deal breaker. Issuing an ultimatum is his way of getting what he wants, or maybe he feels like no one is hearing him out–or maybe he has no idea how unreasonable his request is and just thinks you all are being stubborn. With an “or else” in place already there is no room for negotiation, so I am going to suggest other measures.

Before I give you your solution, I want to make clear that I think being direct is always best even when it’s difficult; being passive aggressive and pulling power moves will break up a band and is shitty to be on either end of. That said, my solution involves a discursive route along those lines and a show or two.

When you are on stage it’s all vibes and perception and moments. What really happened is malleable, rearranged by audience reaction or the bartender or the opening band’s compliments. Anyone in a band knows, there is no truth like the truth of the board tape–no more ungenerous version of a show. I think this is where you gotta go with this one. Sometimes giving someone what they want most is the greatest punishment rather than the reward they believe it to be.

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Let him do his percentage of songs. First show with those songs, have the sound engineer run a recording off the board–and listen to it together, as a band, as soon as possible after the show so as to right size the fantasy of what his voice sounds like. Perhaps he will make excuses about first show jitters or whatnot, but then and there is the place to confront him with the proof of his pitchy pudding. If his drumming was a shitty as his singing, there is no way it would be acceptable. Give him an ultimatum perhaps: If he wants to live his dream of being Karen Carpenter he needs to work on it solo or find another band because you will not be hostage to his mewling.

Good luck,

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