Wednesday, 19 January 2011

You Are Worth More Than You Earn

For the first time in a very long time, I am now in full-time employment.

It's not that I've been idle for the past seven years, it's just that my sources of income have been myriad and I've been living a hand-to-mouth existence, much like everyone else. I've slept on hundreds of couches, passed out on many a floor and covered many miles in the back of various bands to sweat and scream my balls off to a handful of disinterested midweek drinkers. This is the first time I've been happy at home, in a space that I can call my own and share with a beautiful, kind-hearted, supportive and loving woman. Now I have the employment and income to support dreams of progress.

I am no longer defined by my 'moichness'.

The past year has been a rollercoaster; there is absolutely nothing that is the same now as it was a year ago. Cliche though it may be, "a lot can happen in a year" ranks highly up there as one of the most insightful and true. As I move even deeper into my late twenties, I find myself asking the 'big' questions with greater frequency. I'm clearly never going to be a stadium-humping, continent-straddling rock'n'roll star. It's almost like those early Oasis songs lied to me. I'm perfectly at ease with this realisation but it does make one think "why in the hell am I doing this?" sometimes.

We've been running the Make-That-A-Take collective for around six years now and I think, in it's own modest way, we've achieved quite a lot. I couldn't put a number on the amount of shows that we've done, much like I couldn't put a figure on the amount of Guinness that has been poured down my neck at punk shows over the past decade. We put on shows because we love it and clearly there are very few other people putting on the kind of shows that we want to go to in our area. I guess a lot of it is borne from the thought "if we don't do it, who the fuck else is going to?". It's been like that since we were boys. As a teenager, there was no chance that any of the local pubs were going to put us on based on our youth, let alone the fact that we were a noisy punk rock band. So, with very few options, we put on our first gig at a birthday party in a guide hut. Yes, it was a musical abomination and we played the same songs three times consecutively, but to us it was the doing that was important. I'd like to think that somewhere deep in my heart of hearts, I still maintain that boy-ish defiant 'can-do' enthusiasm, despite the fact I'm a cynical late-twenty-something stuck in a town that I was dubious about moving to in the first place.

I have much to be thankful for.

I was having a smoke and a cup of tea with an old friend the other day and he asked me why I bother to continue to write and record songs, play and put on shows and generally stay involved with the music scene when it was apparent that I am "never going to make it". I think it depends on how you define success. Yes, we'd all very much love to make music and tour full time, to never have to worry about working hard to pay our bills and to live a decadent rock star lifestyle. However, once you can get past your ego, you've got to realise that that is never going to happen. It's not about crushing dreams, it's about being realistic and trying to maximise your own efforts to make yourself happy. At the level most of us are at (us being the Scottish underground music scene), we have to realise that most of our interests and tastes are niche. It's not like we've got millions of fans hanging off our every word. We exist within our own community, however small and hidden, and it is up to us to get involved and make the most of what we have. Of course we want more people to be aware of what we are up to, we all want our shows to be busier and we all want to make some money somewhere along the way, but that's why you work. Anyone trying to make a living from the DIY scene is delusional beyond belief, unless you are constantly ripping off and/or exploiting the scene. At a DIY level, especially in Scotland, to expect large-scale financial recompense is not only naive but also rather insulting.

I think we are worth more than the money that we make.

I work because I have to pay rent, pay my bills and keep us fed. I love the work that I do and feel that although it is very challenging, it is also very rewarding. As has been said many times before, working hard avoids hard work. Work pays for what I want in life. I am a man of simple pleasures; a good meal, a good show, a good book, a good beer, cuddles. Work, music, love.

I don't want the scene to be a chore; I have no interest in career-orientated punk rock. By all means, bands should horse on and make music videos, record overly-polished demos that they can never replicate live, enter ridiculous corporate-sponsored national battle of the bands competitions and talk about nothing else other than themselves and their aspirations all they wish; just don't expect me to be particularly interested. Also, don't come to me looking for favours when you've done nothing but disappoint me in the past. The DIY scene is small but active. Word gets around.

I have no interest in safe, NME-friendly government-approved rock'n'roll.

Now I'm off to work...

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