I currently work full time for a company that makes staging and sets for road shows and corporate events. Primarily that involves being in my workshop making stuff out of metal on a 9-5 basis (well 8-5 really), but I’m normally out on site at least a couple of times a month putting a set up. This normally involves me hanging about in very swanky old buildings in the heart of London at ungodly times of the morning.
I’m lucky to have a boss who’s very flexible though – there’s a lot of give and take in a job like mine. Obviously I’m being asked to work outside of my normal hours sometimes, and so he doesn’t mind if I want to use my overtime for a few hours off to head up to a gig or something – As long as I meet my deadlines! Whilst he might turn his nose up at Botch blasting out of the workshop at full volume, he likes stuff like Led Zep and Black Sabbath so we get to have a chat about music sometimes, and he takes an interest in what’s going on with Caretaker.
I’ve been doing this job for about 5 years now, but before that I was working for the Criminal Records Bureau in a job that basically involved me staring at two computer screens all day. I did that for a couple of years, but being in a job like that just dulled my brain. I’ve always been a creative kind of guy, and I’d much rather see something that I’ve physically made at the end of the day, rather than an empty In-tray.
Occasionally at a gig, you’ll be chatting to someone who’s really surprised when they hear you have a day job… That you drove three hours straight from work to play a 30 minute set, that might just see you get paid enough to cover your petrol, before driving three hours back so you can get a few hours sleep, before another full day at work Believe it or not, Post-stoner Prog-core (said with tongue firmly in cheek) don’t pay the bills! Caretaker has always been a labour of love, and I honestly believe that that’s why we’ve been going for so long; it’s what we do for fun, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I work in the music industry as a photographer, journalist and band manager, amongst other things. I’m not IN a band but I often feel like I might as well be because the journey is very similar, from the people we might meet to the difficulties, aspirations, dreams and accomplishments along the way. I’ve spent quite a lot of time with bands, on tour, at shows, in studios, during down time, and have seen every aspect of that life, from the normal people those musicians are to the heralded rock stars that they might become whilst performing.
I guess the most significant difference between me and many musicians, besides the fact I can’t play a guitar or the drums (no matter how much I wish I could), is that photography does pay some of my bills. Or at very least part funds it. It isn’t enough to live comfortably on or anything though. My ‘day job’ is working in a primary school as a Teaching Assistant, in the fairly quiet, small Dorset town I live in. It’s a job I’ve been doing for 14 years, since my children first started school. I was really lucky to get the job as being a trained secretary I had no experience at all in working with children. I just wanted something convenient at the time but I’ve grown to love my job over the years and I’ve become quite adept at teaching maths and Art to 7 year olds. It’s hard to make the break and leave it totally as I love it as equally.
It is a little strange sometimes though leading two such utterly removed lives. They’re so different that when I try to compare them I just keep seeing the image of the tattooed girl, next to the image of her as a doctor. While of course my fellow TA’s and the teaching staff all know what I do outside of this job relatively few other people in the town do, despite it being a very close knit community. And I think some of them would be quite surprised to find out. Occasionally a conversation might strike up with someone who doesn’t know, and I tell them what I do and wait for the ‘really?’ look, but the truth is that most people I know here probably wouldn’t really understand it or even begin to imagine what it’s like. And I quite like that.
What is strange though is getting an email from an ex pupil of the school, who I taught, asking to meet up at a show at the uni he now goes to. He was a bit older when I taught him and he told me I’d inspired him to like the music he now does, which is pretty awesome. We had a good chat and hung out for a while. And it didn’t feel nearly as weird as I thought it would be to meet him, and to buy him a drink.
I’m not even gonna sugar coat it - balancing a band and a day job is one of the hardest things to do if you’re serious enough about your band.
I’ve been in this band since we started 4 months ago and we only played our first show last night, but even that was hard to get round to due to my work.
At work, it’s impossible to get time off, as you can’t just put in a holiday request when you feel like it. There has to be enough people in to cover the shift before you can even think about that.
I work for an out sourcing company so they get paid per person, per hour on shift, and if there’s not enough people to cover, you’re not getting time off - simple.
It’s hard to swap shifts too, I mean, who wants to work until 10pm on a Friday night? NOT ME. I wanna be gigging.
That was hard enough so I’m sure there’s more to come, however with my old band I actually ended up leaving my job to go on tour / practice and record etc - I was 18, do I wanna be stuck in a call center or do I wanna be on tour, living in a van and playing football in a random field and spending the nights hanging out with people all over the UK?
Clearly, the latter.
3 weeks off in the summer of 2010 was not permitted by my work place, not even unpaid leave.
I hated the place anyway, so I ended up just going and then leaving when I got back afterwards before they sacked me for 3 weeks worth of no show.
Then the same happened with the next place I was at, no time off or shift swapping for a 2 week stint in Austria and Italy then the UK, so I ended up getting a weeks holiday after showing them air line tickets and reinforcing the fact that I was going anyway.
It is hard balancing a job, band and relationships with friends / family / partners etc cause when the band has to come first everyone else comes second.
You don’t go out on a night cause you’ve got practice or miss something for a gig, or have to miss gigs just to go into work, so it’s a constant balancing act between them.
I’ve heard loads of cases where relationships have fallen apart because you’re away on tour or away for a night or two, and the trust issues that are all too common crop up “You’re shagging groupies” or something - it’s draining sometimes, but to answer the question, yes it is 100% worth the hassle, effort and arguments when you’re playing and people sing / dance along and get involved, or when someone says ‘You were great’ or ‘I have your CD and this is my favourite song’.
I won’t bore you with the cliche’s or anything.
It’s usually only people in bands who UNDERSTAND what goes into being in a serious band, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s a majority of people in bands who read this blog or people who want to be in a band.
To be fair, who isn’t these days?
I’m all for it - music for the masses.
There are four of us, all working on relatively low rungs in the employment ladder. I’m casual member of staff at a local arts centre, which is wonderfully flexible and good in a lot of ways. It’s not, however, a career. People have only so much time, effort and money, and after you’ve spent most of it on practices, gigs and recording, there’s little left to use pursuing work or study.
Of course this is a choice we make freely and no sympathy is required or expected. Still, as people in our mid-twenties who left student-dom behind a few years ago, we’ve found that people’s expectations of us change. Friends get graduate jobs, flats and respectable pay packets. They have lofty ambitions within their field that all of a sudden don’t seem out of reach. I, on the other hand, explain that I want to be in a punk band. People ask if you’re “signed”, or how much money you make from gigs. I say that the lucrative record deal is basically a myth, and nobody makes any money from DIY gigs. It’s not a career - but I don’t need it to be.
Perhaps we fly down the motorway in that small early evening gap between finishing work and going on stage; 100mph for 150 straight minutes in the pouring rain, feeling genuinely worried for our safety but even more scared of missing our 25 minute set. The venue isn’t really a venue at all, it’s a pub without real microphones or stands - we fashion our own from sellotape and the radio mics they use for bingo. Later we fall to sleep on somebody’s cold wooden floor.
The point is that this stuff isn’t a means to an end. It’s simply what I want to do, and I find it as rewarding as any “proper” job could be. It can just get tough to talk to people who can’t see it that way. Without quantifiable achievements, you can’t justify yourself as a person of worth. Unfortunately it’s something that’s only going to get more difficult as time goes by.
Thom Edward or Mr Egerton (if you are between the ages of 4 and 11).
I am the singer/guitarist in Kill Chaos. I’ve been playing in bands for many years, all ably supported by my working life.
Bands are expensive beasts at our level, good recording isn’t free, fuel for vans/cars, rehearsal studio money all adds up.
I work as a salesperson, selling billboards to businesses. This keeps my kids (yes, they’re expensive too!) in shoes and food and me in guitar strings, guitars, sanity, whatever.
The expensive nature of touring means that Kill Chaos don’t do it as often as we’d want, preferring to invest our measley incomes into recording to have some sort of legacy. Time was though, that we did in the region of 70 dates in a year, whilst holding down full time jobs at a local newspaper (Darren) and E-on (Gavin) - surviving on whatever holidays we could get and the goodwill of our managers.
Would I have it any other way? Well, yes. It’d be a whole lot easier to invest time in your band when the day job is your band. However, we realise that only the very few are fortunate enough to have this priveledge. And it is a priveledge too, so don’t moan about it, eh?
There’s a bit of snobby attitude from some areas of the musical community towards ‘day jobbers’, somehow thinking that those who work in bars or don’t work at all are more worthy because they’re suffering more. I disagree. You do what you need to to survive physically, emotionally and musically.
Let me start off by commending Andy on starting this page [I don’t deserve it - Andy]. It’s inevitable that some smart-alecky internet dude is going to show up and explain how this is nothing more than a “bitch-circle” for obscure musicians who drool all over themselves while explaining how much it sucks to be a grindcore god by night and a tampon sample distributor by day. If I wasn’t in a band myself, I’d probably be that dude.
Personally, I like this place because I know all the people who are going to contribute, wear stain-ridden band t-shirts under their casual day-to-day clothes, have circles under their eyes, wreak of tobacco and yet are waiting like little kids for the workday to end so they can go write, rehearse, do a show or hand out flyers. Just like Superman did before he got reviewed by Pitchfork and got signed.
I started playing when I was 10 years old. In my teens I was sneaking off to see shows, got in my first band (the one that I’m playing in now) with my brother and our guitarist both of whom are 10 years older than me. Then, nobody thought we’d try and do something for real. None of us understood what “real” exactly meant either, so we were just writing and rehearsing.
High-school ended and everything became really surreal. I got accepted in the Sofia University Hungarian program and almost instantly I was faced with choosing between real life responsibilities and music. I had to choose between my first national tour ever or studying for my finals. It’s needless to say that I never learned Hungarian with all the travelling and touring but I learned where you can get the cheapest fast-food in most big Bulgarian cities. Which still counts, right?!!
The thing about the band I was playing with at the time (mindown) was that they were from another city which is about 3 hours by train from where I live. So I travelled each weekend, we would rehearse for 8-10 hours for two days in a row and then I’d return home with the shit beaten out of me. Most of the time I was carrying my cymbals and my snare drum with me because I was playing in a couple of other bands in Sofia as well.
A friend of mine from the Hungarian group said something that has stuck with me ever since – “Fuck music before it fucks you up.” Mind you, this colorful language was used by a 5 ft tall, blond, ex-violinist girl.
After that I took some decisions, spent a couple of years going around the university, looking for disciplines which were interesting but never got hooked. So, it was “off to the job market with my drummer butt”. I had one previous job at a small call center and gave some drumming lessons from time to time but I needed something stable.
The job market in Bulgaria is not very tolerant to people with no qualification but if the people who hold the business like you, they hire you. So, my first steady job was as an English teacher at а kindergarten. I repeat, I had no qualification except my English language skills. So I started teaching groups of kids ranging from 3 to 7 year olds. I remember I hated playing the kids songs from the CD which came with the textbooks so I had learned the songs on guitar and started doing that. The response was huge. I was doing a “show” and teaching at the same time. It was awesome but just like with music, education doesn’t pay very well either, so I quit.
After that I started washing windows at a company called “JND” which stood for “Jesus Never Dies”. Yep, hardcore Christians washing windows and me in my Slayer t-shirt. That’s basically all you need to imagine.That job paid better but it was still not enough to sustain a living so I got a job through a friend of mine at another call center. This job came complete with all of the corporate bullshit you can imagine – total lack of privacy, super-extra-hard work and a boss that can’t spell “I”.
One year in that hell hole and I started to look for a job in advertising even though I had stated numerous times that I wouldn’t be caught dead “perpetuating the lie”. Thanks to a friend of mine and a couple of things I had written, I got a job at an advertising agency as a copywriter. And this is what I do now.
We’re currently planning our first micro-European tour that we’re going to do it over the weekends because everybody has day-to-day responsibilities. We’re far from taking the decision of quitting our day jobs because when you start taking care of a family or а home priorities just change. We’re all really grateful for having the opportunity to do what we want to do even though we might not be playing live as much as we want to but there’s so much a band can do besides touring that we don’t feel crippled by that.
It just gives us more time to write and record stuff, develop as songwriters and musicians which is our ultimate goal in a long-term plan. I don’t think we’d stop doing it just because we have other responsibilities.
The Famous Class
I’m a Supply Teachers Assistant in a school for 4-11 year olds who
suffer from ADHD and Autism. I Also run Londons Biggest Rock night, Face
The school job pretty much entails breaking up fights, avoiding flying
scissors/forks and calming down kids. The club is my main job which is
on every first Friday of the month.
Is it worth it? The club definitely is worth it. We started it 3 years
ago mainly because all the clubs where playing metal and not giving
pop punk a chance. So we thought fuck it, lets make a club based
around the genre. You’ve gotta do your bit to keep the scene alive!
The school is only 6 days a month. It gives you a good sense of well
being after a days work. For example, even getting a non verbal kid to
ask for something can make your day. You can obtain quite a few
injuries, which can be cause problems in the band. Especially when my
fingers where slammed in a door and i lost 2 finger nails. Not fun
trying to play a guitar like that. One guy at the school even lost a
whole finger! At least the school is only a 10min drive away and the
hours are great! School holidays forever!
Ben “TF” Taylor
We recorded our EP “Let It Show” in two parts, several months apart. The first half was recorded when I was still at the web design firm, which was nice as it meant it was pretty much a holiday. The second half was recorded after I’d gone self employed, which meant that while the rest of the guys were kicking back and relaxing, I was sitting there with my MacBook working solidly, trying to get work finished on time.