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The Journey of an Attempt Pt. 4: Metal Corps.

Now I’m going to back track from where I left off the last time and talk about the band I was in during my eleventh grade year. This band started maybe around late September and it was one that took a moderate amount of effort to start, as most bands do. One of my friends that I’ve known since 9th grade was originally supposed to be a guitar player for the new band that I was planning on starting after the whole Death Rising thing fell through. He told me about this other kid who played guitar and was supposedly pretty good. This is another person who I met in 9th grade, we'll call him Earl, but I didn’t have any classes with Earl after that so I didn’t really have much contact with him since then. I stopped him at his locker after lunch one day and said that I heard he played guitar and was apparently pretty good at it. I told him I wanted to start a band and needed one more guitar player. He agreed and asked if I had a bassist. I told him that I didn’t and that I was still searching for one and that there were almost none to be found. He said he had a friend who could play bass and he would get in contact with him. I, of course, had to ask him if this kid was a smoker or a thug or anything else my parents would disapprove of because since practices were held at my place they didn’t want some thug that even I have never met walking in and being…well, a thug. He said no and that the kid doesn’t do anything like that so I gave him the green light to get in contact with the kid and see if he can do it. Within a day the kid, who we'll call Darrel, was on board and I had a full band ready to go. The practice was two weeks away and I told them to come in with ideas for covers.

I was worried still that this kid might not be as good a kid as the lead guitarist said he was. Maybe he was falsely vouching for him just so he can have his buddy there. I could not have been more wrong. This kid was awesome. He had manners and he was actually a fun person to be around (of course there’s the whole bassist to drummer bond). Once we got set up we waited about 20 minutes and still no second guitarist. At this point everyone is confused and he messages back after we text him and he says that something came up and he couldn’t make it to practice. No big deal, just one missed practice, we had everyone else there so I felt like that was a success in itself. We eventually decide that Darrel was going to be the singer and he wasn’t too bad. He was like a mix of Ivan Moody (Five Finger Death Punch) and Rick DeJesus (Adelita’s Way). So we were good to go in that aspect and decided that the next practice be in another two weeks just to give us more time to practice the stuff we tentatively decided on playing. Another two weeks go by and it is practice day again. Unlike my last band these kids were able to make time for practice in a more reliable manner. Unfortunately, we were still pretty young yet and no one had their driver’s license so my dad had to drop them off after each practice which I was so thankful that he did that because I really wanted to get somewhere with this band and that was a big help in being able to do that. At least they were able to get a ride there, kind of an even trade off meet halfway kind of thing. So everyone gets set up and I ask, once again, where the other guitarist is. Earl said he went over to his house, saw him through the window, and the kid hid so it would seem like he wasn’t home. Of course, the attempt at hiding was a complete failure because he was seen through the window. We decided that we whoever saw him first would ask him about skipping practices that following Monday. Earl saw him first and asked him and he said that the kid didn’t want to be in the band. I talked to him later and came to find out that he didn’t feel like he was ready to be in a band because his guitar teacher said he still couldn’t play by ear yet. So he, of course, backed out and now we were down one person. We needed a rhythm guitar player, but we continued to practice the songs so that when we did find the person to fill the gap we would have the songs down and all that would be left to get done is for the new kid to learn his parts.

After a while I found that missing person. I started talking to this kid at an Astronomy Club Christmas Party. Within two hours I found out the kid played guitar and that he would be cool with joining a band. He was self-taught and other than that I didn’t know much else, I was that desperate for a rhythm guitarist that the first person I could get was good enough unless they proved to completely sucked. What I didn’t know is that he only had been playing for one month, had terrible attention span problems, and was also insanely hyper a lot of the time. Now the one month thing was the biggest worry once I heard that because this was before Rocksmith where learning guitar for a month means you can play some simple things. One month’s time before the invention of that game meant that he might be able to play something if you walk him through step by step which was a big problem due to the attention span issue. Surprisingly this kid, let's go with Terry for this one, was able to learn things pretty fast. All he’d have to do is just calm down and focus and he would be good for most if not all of the practice. And yes, I did get a bit of questioning about if I knew he had only been playing for a month or so. I actually found a bit of fun telling the rest of the band I didn’t have a clue in the slightest and getting to watch their reactions.

After a few months of the band's creation, we had gotten a new rhythm guitarist and before we got him we had the logo, the name, and a growing list of cover songs. Except that when we practiced a cover song we would have a computer hooked up to one of the amps or to computer speakers so we could play along to whatever song we were practicing. We did not have any of the songs memorized by any means. The covers were primarily chosen by Earl and Darrel. Darrel actually made some pretty cool choices and was actually willing to hear my thoughts on each one and consider my ideas for cover songs. Earl on the other hand was not so willing to compromise. He would not be so apt to hear my choices for covers and was very pushy about getting his ideas picked.

It was about the beginning of April and we finally hear about the event we have been waiting for all year, the annual talent show. This year I actually had a band, and we were actually able to play some covers well enough that we may be able to do one or two for the talent show. We settled on Monster by Skillet and thought we had it down pretty well. But, as usual, a huge monkey wrench gets thrown into the plans that I have thought out so carefully (or at least so I think). The most popular band in school was at the auditions (there is a great story about me and this band that will be coming up in a future chapter/post). I don’t know why I thought they wouldn’t be there but they were. They utterly destroyed their audition with absolutely no problems whatsoever. The singer actually sang out loud enough to be heard over everyone else and he was in tune, probably because he was in chorus and wasn’t an amateur singer like our singer was. Which is not a dig in any means and I’m an amateur drummer so I don’t have much room to talk. Then one or two acts later it was our turn to audition. I watched the first few seconds of a quick self-made video of the drum track for Monster that I recorded off of Rock Band 2 and I was ready to go (I only used this DLC maybe once or twice and primarily bought the song so I could record it to video on my iPod and watch it when I wanted refresher on it). I didn’t count the band in because the Earl was the person who started the song with the intro riff. From where my part started till we were told to stop playing I barely payed attention to my surroundings. I noticed that Earl did something weird with his stance and a few people let out a few laughs because of it, the teacher in charge of auditions leaned in to hear Darrel at one point, and Terry looked mildly calm. All of these things had me worried of course. I found out later that Earl was actually balancing on one leg because the strap came off one of the pegs of his guitar and he had to keep one leg up so he wouldn’t drop his guitar. I was impressed not just because he was able to play like that for so long but because he was able to make that adjustment so quickly and without missing a beat. The teacher leaned in because she couldn’t hear Darrel sing because we had no mic system and he was nervous about singing out. Terry was actually really hyper and just calmed himself down enough to be able to play the song. We were told to stop about a minute in to the song and we were told that we got in. We realized that, most likely, if someone tries out they make it in. I asked if my band could go first on the night of the show because we would have time to set things up and it kind of takes a while because of my kit being 11 pieces. We were allowed to go on first and my band was not happy about that at all. I told them that it’s like giving a speech in class, would you rather set the bar, not have to match anyone before you, get it done and out of the way, and maybe get easier judging because of all that, or be lost among the many people in the middle of the whole thing and have to match someone or have to worry about being spectacular to get noticed, or even risk going last which would put pressure on us to be really good. They saw my point and didn’t really give me much guff after that. Immediately after everyone got their stuff packed up I got a splitting headache due to the massive stress that got lifted off my shoulders and my mind. I was so worried about all the stuff that could go wrong and that we might not be good enough to make the cut, but apparently we were. We probably were just good enough to get in but hey, a win’s a win, no matter how close it is.

The night of the talent show finally came and I was fine up until about 7th period (the last class) that day when I realized “Wait, I never played a percussion instrument live before. I’ve only ever played a violin live and I was able to hide within a ton of other people playing the same thing. Shit, I am so screwed.” I practiced the song almost non-stop for weeks, listened to it every day at least 5-10 times a day, and I was still worried about my first ever performance where people can actually hear me. We got there and everyone else was nervous but I surprisingly got real calm real quick. My cousin helped me set my drums up and everything seemed to be going smoothly till Earl said “my friend should be here any minute to set up the sound system.” I could have torn him apart with my drum sticks somehow, someway, right then and there. Set up a sound system? Really?! Our school may not have much in the music department but dammit we got an amazing sound system even if the district did try and get rid of our music department. I tried to tell him that we didn’t need his friends sound system and that we can just use the school’s which is already hooked up, ready to go, and is probably more reliable. Both Earl and Darrel said that the sound system that is being brought in is so much better. I knew what the school’s sound system was like so I knew what to compare this sound system that was “better than the high school’s.” They wheeled in this brown and black, wooden and plastic sound system. Now when I see this combination of colors and materials the first thing I think is “Oh god this thing is from the 1970’s.” I looked at this thing and it looked like maybe it had been better than the school’s sound system back in its hay-day and the school had a system that wasn’t as good as what it has today. In other words, this thing was better than what the school had in the seventies. So I walked over to this thing, shook my head, and started preparing for the worst. Even back then I knew enough about audio and audio production to know we were S.O.L.

We were the first to go on stage and my cousin came through like he always does and had one camera set up in the back of the auditorium and my parents had the other. This was going to be my first performance and I wanted to make sure I could relive it again when I wanted to, even if this performance might be the worst first performance in history. I was all revved up and ready to knock this performance out of the park, Darrel was worried about it because he never sang in front of that many people before, Earl was worried because he wanted things to go right, and Terry was pretty chill about it. So we get announced and I just hit full rock star mode. I am happy to be alive and to be on stage performing for this many people. We walk on stage and I’m the barefoot drummer who looks like he’s done this a thousand times. I can’t play with shoes or even socks on for some reason. It’s like there’s too much weight on my feet and I can’t do double bass drumming as fast as I can if I’m in bare feet. I see later in the video that I was the only one who looked like I was ready to be there. Everyone else was either giving small waves and even smaller smiles and looking so nervous they might as well be walking the last steps of the last mile to the electric chair, which is what Earl and Darrel were doing, or they were not even looking at the crowd like the rhythm guitarist was doing. I think part of why I was so happy wasn’t just because I trying to let the crowd know “We did practice this so don’t hate us if we screw up really bad.” I think I was just so happy to finally be up on stage with a band that I put together that I couldn’t hold back the excitement. I sit behind the drum kit and the Darrel gives the introduction, looks over to me once he finishes it up, and I give a count-off that was probably so wrong it wasn’t even funny. I probably did it faster than the count of the song itself but who really pays attention to the count-off anyway. Earl does the intro and everything is going great till I start playing. Once I start playing I can barely hear anyone else. I can barely hear Earl but what I mainly needed to hear was the words of the song. I follow the vocals because that’s how I know where I’m at in a song. I hear the first two words and then nothing after that. I am now officially in panic mode. I hid it as best as I could but I was extremely panicked because now I am going to be thrown off for the entire song. I do my best to hear when we change from one section of the song to another but I wasn’t really able to guess at it well. We get to the outro chorus and I let loose with all the fills and the added elements that I planned on adding to the song. The biggest element was a super fast double bass part where I kept the tempo the same but played double bass as fast as I could. I threw in fills when I knew that I could/should, and ended with the rest of the band. It was terrible and I knew it was because of how I would either come out of a section to early or too late and it was just a mess. After the performance, and we get our gear moved off stage I hear what I wanted to hear. The sentences “I think the mic cut out like a few words into the song but then it kind of came back.” “I couldn’t hear you at all for most of the first verse.” I knew they made a mistake in using the sound system from 1972 (before my parents were even married or even met), Earl and Darrel probably secretly knew they made a mistake. Everyone knew it was a mistake to bring that system in and I was at peace because of it. We placed in the bronze category and most likely we were the lowest scoring bronze winners. Probably the most insulting thing that came out of this whole thing was that on someone made a meme about our performance saying “Starts a grunge band, doesn’t know how to play any of the instruments.” Before I go any further, in my opinion it is insulting to call a Hard Rock and Heavy Metal band a grunge band. Not that grunge is bad but it is a bad misclassification that should not be done. To be honest I wish I would have printed that meme out because it would give me a good laugh considering I can play all those instruments now. So to whoever made that meme, if this ever gets back to you, thank you.

The next day was when I realized this band might either need major fixing up, or for a certain member to not be in it. Which person it was that had to leave was still to be decided but I could make a guess about who it was with confidence, because he stirred up a bit of trouble that I really did not want to have to handle. One of the worst/best ways for a person to get me to not like them is to make me have to deal with unneeded bullshit (i.e. be a drama queen). The day after, THE VERY DAY AFTER the talent show, Earl put on the band’s Facebook page something along the lines of “Talent show went well. Drums were a little fast though.” Now I know there weren’t too many people who followed that page while it was up but it was the fact that he had no need to single me out in that way, but he did it anyway. Of course I can’t call him and ask him about it because of bad service with calls where I live and I wouldn’t be able to talk to him about this till Monday and it is only Saturday and you don’t let something like this go till then, so I did the next best thing and texted him. Of course he did not own up to it at all and never apologized for it and on Monday he says he did. He referenced one of the texts he sent as an apology but it didn’t even have 25% of the remorse that it should have had. I confront him in school about this and before I go any further let me explain why this was such a big deal. I asked him to be in the band. He didn’t ask me to be in his. Then he has the nerve to single me out like he did on a mistake that could have been avoided if he listened to me about the sound system. And to top it all off he denies that he did anything wrong, refused to apologize, then he said that he did. Also, be mature about it and apologize to me in person. Don’t try to avoid it because that shows A.) You’re wrong, B.) You know you’re wrong about the situation and C.) You can’t admit to any of it. All of those things are other ways to easily get on my bad side. So when I confront him about it he of course tries to get around the whole thing like he has been. After a while, I start getting a little more irritated than I should and the Darrel pulls me off to the side and tells me “Look, he’s got a problem with being able to apologize. The way he sees it, he gave you a full apology.” I of course call bullshit on it and say he needs to own up to his mistakes. But I realize that what little of an apology I got is all I was going to get and at the end of this he says “We’re good?” I told him we were but he needs to think a little more in depth the next time he says anything about any of the other band mates. Because things can be taken the wrong way or misworded and cause another problem. What was crazy about this incident was you could see who would side with who, Terry was loyal to me because I got him into this band and Earl and Darrel have been friends for years so they would of course stick with each other, although Darrel told me even he thought Earl was wrong for doing that. The band almost got split into two separate bands because it was that bad of an incident. After that we were good for about a month and then he does it again. Not the same kind of offense as he did before but he said something that REALLY didn’t sit well with the band. This time it pissed everyone off. What happened was we were talking about if we ever get far enough that we can actually get a show booked and we got to talking about who we would invite. The common answer was of course to invite the girlfriends because they can make for the best cheerleaders. And he says, and I am not making this up, something along the lines of “I don’t want girlfriends to attend any live shows. If they do they need to sit in the back of the venue.” We all immediately got on his shit for that one. He doesn’t have the right to tell our girlfriends what to do because they are people who can make their own decisions. If they want to sit in the front they can. If they want to sit somewhere else they can. It is their choice and this kid really over stepped his boundaries this time. At first we were mildly irked by it but as time went on that remark latched on and wouldn’t let go. Darrel, Terry, and I agreed that we need to sit him down and talk about what he said and that if anything like that happens again that we are done. He will be out of the band and we will find someone else. We had this talk after practice one day and it was very foretelling, none of us knew it yet though. What was so foretelling about this whole thing was the fact that the Darrel, Terry, and I were sitting on the couch on one side of the room and he was sitting on the shorter couch across my living room. It showed a clear divide in the band.

Anyway, remember how I was in that class called AP Theory and Harmony? Then you might also remember how I said about writing an original composition. Well I wrote it and I was so proud of it. It sucked, but it was my terrible song. I wrote it and that showed that I can improve and write something better. I wrote an instrumental piece for a rock band; lead and rhythm guitars, bass, and drums. I had the band that could perform it so I told them we can get another easy to book gig but we just have to pass an audition that is a lot harder than the one for the talent show. They were cool with it of course and I handed them their parts. We practiced that thing till we were sick of it which wasn’t long at all, and then we practiced it more. We got to the day of the audition and it was in the morning before school so we were just barely awake but setting up the gear kind of got us a little bit hyped. We got everything set up, waited till it was our turn, and all the while I’m praying that it goes well. I had my sheet music that I learned to read by some miracle all on one stand so I didn’t have to flip any pages. It was our turn and I gave them a correct count-off and things were going pretty good from what I could tell. I even had a drum solo, which to no surprise at all Earl complained about. I told him, “The guitar doesn’t have to get all the glory, and maybe when you learn to write music you can put in whatever you want. Till then if I want to put in a drum solo in the song I wrote then I’m going to do it. Hate to be so blunt with you but that’s just how it is. The assignment says that this has to be completely original and written only by me and it is.” He didn’t raise much fuss after that. We got to that drum solo and I freaking nailed it! I only hit one wrong cymbal and that was the only mistake I made in that solo. I don’t think I messed up anything too blatant other than that for the rest of the song. I even got a compliment and it was this exact wording: “I didn’t know you could go all ham on those drums like that.” That was probably the best compliment I got on my drumming up to that point in my life and still is one of the best ones. Unfortunately, my awesome, face melting, double bass filled drum solo wasn’t enough to get that performance. The song wasn’t that good so I understood. A big and blaring red flag did come out of this whole thing though, when I got my original music score back the teacher wrote on the grading page “Needs more practice.” I knew she had to be talking about the people who performed it needed to practice it more. I know I practiced it a bunch and I don’t know how much the other guys practiced, but I had a feeling that maybe I could get into another band that was better, or at least try out for one (more foreshadowing).

After a while Earl really pissed us all off again. And to be honest, I think it was so bad that I blocked it out of my mind because I don’t even remember what he did. I just know that he might have tried to actually apologize but it was so bad that none of us even accepted the apology. We then did an evil thing back to him and we said we were all done. The band was done, he deleted any trace of its existence, and the rest of us started our own band without him. That was the evil part. So that was the end of Metal Corp., and the beginning of Full of Regret.

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Metal Corps. is done, finished, a freaking memory and three of us are really happy about it. The three of us that are happy about the demise are those of us who are forming a new band together. It’s D

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