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Shaman's Q&A:

QUESTION:

I am lead singer of a small and young band. I have no problem writing songs when I have a subject or some kind of conflict in my life to write them about, but I haven't had anything lately. Any suggestions? Also, my band has no name! If you have any insight on this I will appreciate this greatly. And if it helps any, we're a rock band that's like a mix of Powerman 5000 and KoRn.

Thank you,

--Wes

ANSWER:

Wes,

There are a couple things you can try that might work for your situation. Its important to remember that thinking about writers block by default, keeps you in writers block. Because it causes you anxiety about writing in general. Like the train is leaving and you're trying to catch up with it. Give into it. Think of it as an oportunity to expand. By doing this in reality, you will return.

Here are a few things that may help you:

1.) Try studying a different kind of music. Think of it as an open mind test. Try to understand what people are attracted to that you just don't see in that music; but other people seem to see. Try to figure out why that works. Sometimes doing this helps you refind inspiration in your own kind.

2.) If you only get inspiration when theres conflict. Do an excersise for yourself. Aim to write a song in the exact opposite tone you normally write. For example, if you normally write a song about whats wrong about the government, write one about whats right about the government. You should find that excersise fairly challenging. Then after working with that for a while, try changing the tone, but not the message of what you usually write. For example, if you normally write about whats wrong with the governement, try to write a song about whats right with the people. You're saying the same thing but from a different perspective.

3.) Remember too that many times when we get writers block, its because we've worked ourselves into an editing and pessimistic corner about our own material. When this happens you have to break out by finding a way to rediscover the excitement you find in writing. Some tiems these excersises help, sometimes other ones help. Something will work though. Just keep trying new things, and get involved in new things or old things forgotten. Discovery and learning always breeds excitement with creation.

4.) Read my next article. I will be writing about using and discovering our own obsessions so that we can tap into them during a song.

As far as the band name, how people find them is broad and vast. You could go just for sound (like many people); you could just open a dictionary and create something random (like many people); you can create a name with well thought out poetic meaning that also sounds good (like a few people). Either way is noble. You have to pick something that you could stand hearing again and again. That name will be the calling card of your music. It shouldn't be something that you'll get sick of hearing.

A few examples: "Alice in Chains" when I first heard that name, I thought, what a dark name. It perfectly described their sound, to me. Then I thought where did they get it? Were they making an allusion to Alice Cooper? (Was something that I considered.) Then I heard Cantrell in an interview. It had something to do with a ficticious transvestite name that they invented. (Now whether he was joking or not is another story.) Most people pick a name because it sounds good, then find a meaning for it later. Or theres Metallica (a name made up to describe their music.)

REM has nothing to do with their music. Soundgarden is a place/art-piece in Seattle. Prince. Duran Duran is a movie character. Veruca Salt is as well. Start trying to find reasons for the bands you love and you'll get the idea.

Hope I answered your questions. Feel free to write back for more clarity. Good luck, Wes.

--Shaman Sean

REPLY FROM WES:

Thank you very much! You answered most of my questions, but, I'm thinking of ordering a book that helps you write songs and gives you ideas. Tell me, do you think this will help, or do you think that I should go with your advice until it kicks in then do my own thing. Also, about the band name, we've had many ideas but every time one of us comes up with something, someone else in our band has something to say about it, whether it's Gus, Owen, Dustin, or even me, we just can't seem to decide.

Thank you,

-- Wes

SHAMAN SEAN'S ANSWER:

I guess, eventually a couple people won't care as much when you suggest a name,... and voila.

As many democratic bands that I've been in; I must say that the best working bands I've been in have either had one or two people at the helm. Usually then, there's some natural consistency built into the entire band. The consistency is important. Its also important that those two people (or one person) looks out for the well-being of the band; and its important for the other members to be more open to the direction of those peoples vision, and not screw it up. The other members plans will be ruined if their band lacks consistency.

Take my relationship with my drummer for example, I'm the principal songwriter of the band; I'm also the front person. I make sure that I have open ears to the other members input. (ie Id rather err on the side of asking "are you positive?" too much.) And the fact that my drummer trusts me because I'm open and I care about his happieness in the band. So I usually have a direction for everything, and its up to them to share any major disagreements only. And I regard major disagreements very seriously.

In fact, my default answer is to automatically go with them. But then repost my opinion about it to see if I can change their mind. If I can't then I can't. But by default, I want them to know that I will side with them. Then its up to them to rethink what they are saying and reevaluate how it will affect things. If they don't change, then they don't need to restate because I have already sided with them by default.

And I'm honest about it, not passive-agressive. In return they usually hear out what I have to say in defense, and in many cases they see the point. Really though, the whole thing is just about mutual respect for roles and being comfortable with yourself.

What has the potential to screw up everything is the addition of a bad-witch. Bad-witches and all their baggage can be quite convincing to other members of the band. They can convince you that up is down and vice versa. So we (me and the drummer) are very careful as to who we decide is going to play with us. We both have a good-witch relationship going on.

It's very important for bands to have a stable way to communicate. I think thats why many of the greats knew each other as children; they had some time to establish communication and trust a bit before the music began.

Just a little closing thought I guess. Good luck with the muse.

--Shaman Sean

REPLY FROM WES:

Thanks again! even though we weren't comunicating that badly, we did get in a pretty bad argument over the name. But it's all better, we get along great now, and we still remain nameless. thats not that bad either though, one day we will find a name that is perfect, and, as you said, voila! and by the way, i know exactly what you mean, i'm front man and song writer also and it's pretty much me and my bassist that keep our band going music wise and it's me and my drummer that keep us going friendship wise. thanks, you've helped me a whole lot over the past two days and i've even half way writen a new song, thank you!

Sincerely,
--Wes

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