This one is going to be long and in-depth – it is something that is causing me a great deal of distress at the moment and I simply don’t know what to do. I feel like a rabbit in the headlights. I’m hoping the process of writing it all down here will help put everything into perspective as I really can’t ignore this situation any more.
The studio band I’ve been in for the last 12 years (let’s call it Pork Pie) , has always been the one thing in my life that made me happy and kept me relatively sane. We record everything at my flat in my little studio (which is actually more of a walk-in wardrobe). Our recording sessions are always great fun & immensely enjoyable. The two of us (me and let’s call him ‘Frank’) would, at a leisurely pace start laying a song down & work through until the early hours, drink copious amounts of beer or wine, occasionally accompanied by recreational drugs. We’ve made 2 albums and there was a 5 song EP somewhere in between them. Not really very much to show for 12 years but that’s pretty irrelevant as it’s not something we make any money from – it is something I consider a ‘serious hobby’ and something I have always loved doing.
Including the EP, we have 3 CD’s to our name, the most recent being completed just before Christmas (2010) so it is very new. The whole of last year was spent waiting around for a professional engineer/producer friend (let’s call him ‘Pete’) to find the time to polish up all the songs to make them sound as professional as possible before pressing the CD. He promised it would be finished in March 2010. He actually finished in December. Had it been just a favour and freely given time, then that would have been fair enough. Pete had engineered all the demos from the previous band (let’s call the previous band ‘Concrete Boots’), and had engineered/co-produced both previous CD’s for Pork Pie – he and Frank (& actually two other members of Concrete Boots) had all gone to one of the top universities in the country together – so there was a lot of history and Pete had always been involved with our recordings – I almost considered him the 3rd member of Pork Pie.
When Frank first approached Pete about producing the new album (probably back in September 2009), Pete told him he would want paying for his services which I wasn’t too happy about. Frank felt that it was fair we pay Pete something for his time and mentioned the sum of £1000. After I finished choking I said that he had to be f***ing joking.
Long story short, I said that I couldn’t afford to pay £500, and more to the point, wasn’t prepared to pay that much money to Pete who I felt was good… but not that good. We always used his because he was Frank’s uni mate, but if we were going to pay someone, I felt we could find someone better. Ultimately I refused to pay for Pete’s services but was happy to split all the other costs. Frank ended up paying Pete £1000. Pete then proceeded to take 9 months to do what he had said would take 3 weeks. His excuse was that he had other paid work commitments… he seemed to forget the fact that we were a paid work commitment as well as his friends – I never quite understood his reasoning but I let it pass.
I should also mention that during this 9 month production process, I had to give my feedback on each thing that Pete had been working on. I knew from previous experience that because he is the ‘professional’ and I just a lowly musician, he never really takes very kindly to any form of criticism. So I spent 9 months dancing around his ego, treading on eggshells, getting totally pissed off which his procrastination and wanting actually to tell him to pull his f***ing finger out and get on with it. But I didn’t do that – I remained charming and tactful at all times. There was one time in about October when he called me to chat about one of the tracks he had just completed and there were a few issues about the mix that I really wasn’t very happy with – he had interpreted one of my violin parts incorrectly and so it just didn’t sound right. During this phone call he pulled the ‘I’m a professional and so I think I probably know what works better than you’ routine. I bit back my anger but stood my ground – he started getting really stroppy with me – raising his voice etc. The only thing I could think of to do to dissipate his apparent fury, was to just come straight out and ask him why he was getting so rude and angry and to point out that yes he had more professional experience, but I had written and played the damned parts and so I will have them how I damned well want them (I put it a lot more tactfully than that but that was the jist).
The production of the songs was finally finished and I sent the master off to get the CD’s printed up, having asked a friend of mine to come up with the artwork for us (which I might add he did for free). I took delivery of the finished CD’s on Christmas Eve.
During the Christmas break, I spoke to Frank on the phone who wanted to have a meeting on 8th January with Pete, myself and the guitarist of the previous band who had actually started off being in Pork Pie originally before he went off to live abroad for a few years (let’s call him John), as he was living in London again, working in marketing/design kinda area and had a lot of ideas how we could push the album out there. Great – I was really happy for other people to get involved in this as me and Frank have always historically been crap at it. It had also been discussed that John was going to rejoin Pork Pie again.
The meeting happened with the 4 of us, John had a few interesting pointers and ideas for moving forward (but to be honest I was a little disappointed it all seemed a little ‘theoretical’ rather than a firm plan). Pete also reminded us of his role as a professional engineer and had a couple of other ideas. They were all fine, I was happy with whatever anyone thought really. As I had set Pork Pie up on various websites over the years, I needed a little clarification about what exactly I needed to do during the meeting, as it was all new to me and I didn’t really understand some of the things that were being suggested, but by the end of the meeting I felt happy that all was good. I went home and got on with all the things I had to do. There were a couple of things that I wanted Frank and John’s opinion on before I went ahead, so emailed them 2 or 3 times with questions/suggestions. I was slightly surprised that Frank either didn’t respond at all to my emails, or they would be 2 or 3 word replies. I also didn’t feel that there was a great deal coming back from John who I thought was supposed to be leading the process. After a while, I started to feel that nobody else was actually doing anything at all and to be honest I had better things to be doing with my time, so I just stopped.
It should be mentioned at this point as background to this story, that Frank hooked himself up with a girlfriend about 3-4 years ago (let’s call her Yoko). Over those 3-4 years, the amount of time he would spend at mine during our recording weekends diminished and the regularity of those weekends also diminished. Fair enough he wanted to spend more time with his girlfriend and actually this was never something that turned into a problem between us. I thought it was a shame, as I did like our sessions, but hey that’s life. Just before last Christmas (2010), a few days before the CD’s were delivered, I met Frank & Yoko for a drink in the West End, and Frank broke the news to me that they were getting married in a years time. I was honestly delighted for them and said as much, but I was a little concerned (and pissed off) that they were planning on having the ceremony in the week between Christmas & New Year which quite frankly is the worst possible, most difficult week for me because I always travel to either my brothers or my sisters house for Christmas, then I always leave them and drive straight down to Cornwall/Devon with a friend/friends for a week over New Year to flop and recharge the batteries – I have done this for the last 10 years. I realise that when someone breaks their happy news about getting married, my first thought really shouldn’t be about me, but for fucks sake how selfish is that? To have your wedding at the one time of year that everyone either goes away on holiday or arranges to spend some time with their family.
I managed to hide my irritation, and ‘jokingly’ said; “well that’s totally screwed my Christmas & New Year then cheers for that”. Ha ha bloody ha. He then dropped into the conversation that he wanted me and John to form a wedding band… err excuse me? I would rather eat my own… well never mind, but I can’t think of anything I would want to do less than be a performing monkey at Franks wedding – I gave up all that nonsense many many years ago and I do not miss it.
Cut to January 8th at the meeting, with Frank & myself and John & Pete. Frank makes another announcement to us all, that he and Yoko have now set a date for the wedding… 29th Dec 2011… the final nail in the coffin for my annual trip to the West country – I had just been thinking that if the wedding was on the 27th then I could still just about make everything work out – a royal pain in the arse, but possible. 28th not great but still just about doable. But no, they choose the 29th. I couldn’t stop myself from ‘jokingly’ calling him a f***ing c*** … oh dear let’s face it there’s a time & a place for reactions like that, and that was neither the time nor the place. However it came flying out of my mouth before I could stop it and honestly? Really truthfully? I meant it. Supremely inconsiderate of him and a supremely selfish, self-centred reaction from me. What can I say? I can’t help how I feel about it… but I really should have hidden it a bit better.
The rest of January passed by, as did February and nothing seemed to be happening. I had stopped what I was doing because of the seeming lack of interest from Frank (in particular) but also John & Pete. In the meeting they had been talking the talk, but in reality nothing had happened. By the beginning of March I had had enough and emailed Frank to try and arrange a drink so we could chat & I could air my concerns. I got the impression that he couldn’t really be bothered – he mentioned he was looking for a new flat at the moment and really didn’t have time for much else and suggested 22nd March – which was about 3 weeks away. 3 weeks?! I was thinking more like in the next couple of days. So we set the date, in the process pissing me off even more, so I decided not to contact him again out of interest to see if he would re-confirm. He didn’t and nor did I and the drink never happened.
A couple of days after arranging the drink though, Frank rather bizarrely emailed over 3 new songs he’d written & recorded very roughly – which I should mention, is not how we have worked before – everything has always been done in the studio with both of us there. I think he hoped I would just crack on and record them all by myself, so he could come along at some later date after all the hard work was done and stick some vocals over them… really not how we work and not how I am prepared to work at all. He obviously had enough time on his hands to spend several hours writing songs and recording demos, but couldn’t even take a little time out to meet me for a couple of hours for a drink. It started to feel like it was all falling apart and I was beginning to feel pretty miserable about the whole thing. And angry. Rightly or wrongly, I felt like he was being a self-centred little shit, expecting me to just fit in around his life and fall in with whatever was most convenient for him.
The date we were supposed to meet for a drink (22nd March) came and went & I was feeling increasingly down about the whole situation. Then I get an email from Frank which started:
“Ok – we were supposed to meet up last week I think – we need a chat but I’ve got a lot going on right now at home (completing on flat – trying to buy another) and at work….”
“Basically the January meeting was a bit of a disaster – <Pete> and <John> walked away feeling they hadn’t really been listened to and, even for a contrary old sod like you, the whole reaction to my wedding announcement was a bit much (does anyone really ever deserve the C word for less than murder?)
Anyway I’ll get over it because I like you.”
Then he talked a little about what he had supposedly been doing with the album, and about the reactions from a few people etc. Then he continued:
“Got no response to rough ideas I sent (the demos he had emailed to me), but I do think me demoing stuff like this might be a much more efficient way for us to move forward with <Pork Pie> – especially if you want <John> involved. I have something like 8 new songs and will send them all on if you want – I don’t know how far you have got with Logic (computer recording software I’m trying to teach myself) but maybe you can start without us?? Not sure how much time I can devote to recording over next couple of months but do feel our best work might still be ahead of us…
Well I lost it. Obviously the nuances and history are missing here for you to fully understand, but to me I had just been slapped in the face and this was more than I could deal with. I started typing a response but forced myself to sleep on it so I could try and remove some of the emotion from the reply. But I had to say what I was thinking and how I felt.
About 3 days later my very long reply was finished and I finally sent it after having made about 1000 revisions to it. I splurged everything out as calmly and as honestly as possible. Here is my reply – be warned… it is long!
“We were actually supposed to have a recording session on 12th Feb and yes we were supposed to meet for a drink on the 22nd.
I’m shocked and genuinely upset to hear that <John> and <Pete> walked away from the January meeting feeling like that. Did you agree with them? I don’t know what more I can do to make myself appear compliant – it seems everyone assumes that I will react a certain way and even when I don’t, I get accused of it anyway. I did listen, and I agreed to go along with everything they suggested even though a lot of it felt totally alien to me and the way I had always done things in the past. I didn’t really understand a lot of it, so I asked questions to try and understand what they were suggesting – this was obviously misconstrued as me being ‘difficult’ or unwilling to listen. I really don’t know what to say to you <Frank>, but I’m sick to death of being labelled ‘contrary’. Am I not allowed to offer an opinion or ask a question without being accused of being difficult every time? If that really is how I came across in the meeting in January, then I’m sorry, but it would seem that none of you know me as well as you seem to think you do. To be honest I don’t know which hurts more.
Well, after receiving that bombshell from you, let me tell you how I felt after the meeting. Dazed and confused and not knowing what the fuck i was supposed to be doing. I felt that <John> and <Pete> came in, talked it up, offered all this great advise to do things which were totally beyond my capability or understanding, which involved completely changing everything I had spent hours, days, weeks of my life setting up & putting into place and, for the record, I was completely happy to go along with every single one of their suggestions if they were prepared to lead the way. Then they left the meeting, went back to their own lives and seemingly didn’t give any of it another moments thought. You then went to ground and either didn’t bother replying to my emails or engage in any discussion.
So there I was, ready, waiting for this big push – the grand plan as laid out in the meeting by the marketing guru <John> and industry expert <Pete> – I had done what was asked of me, which was to remove all the songs from the various websites and set up the facebook page and point everything towards that, and what happens? Nothing that’s what. As far as I could see, none of you had done anything at all since the meeting, whereas I had spent the equivalent of 2-3 days working on all the various websites, removing songs, updating, setting up the facebook page, pointing everything towards that – as per the suggestions that I apparently hadn’t listened to in the meeting in January. It felt like I had just been left to do everything by myself, but this time I was expected to dance to someone else’s tune without any guidance from them.
As usual, I haven’t received any reaction at all to the album from my friends & family, in fact only a couple of people have even acknowledged its existence. Not great for the self-esteem. None of the journalists have followed up, and I haven’t heard anything from <Jacob> (not important who this is). So I have been spending my days in the knowledge that nobody gives a shit. Now I have the added knowledge that you, <John> and <Pete> apparently just see me as negative and difficult. How rewarding.
Ok – the wedding. Honestly? I’m of course absolutely delighted for you and <Yoko> and I hope you have a long and happy life together. Honestly? I’m sorry but the truth is that I am really, truly, deeply fucked off that you’ve scheduled it between Christmas & New Year. This is an incredibly unpleasant and stressful time of year for me and the reason I go to Cornwall for a week over New Year every year, is because the alternative would probably be to go to the doctor and go on anti-depressants. It’s a very big deal for me. So, I’m sorry if you didn’t like my reaction, but I can’t help how I feel – I do think you have acted rather selfishly in scheduling it for this time of year; the one time of year that most people make plans to visit their family or go on holiday. Of course I don’t expect you to change your wedding plans because they don’t suit me, but conversely don’t expect me to be happy about it when I am not. I can’t magically change how I feel about that, but I am sorry if I upset you. I also had no idea you found the ‘c’ word so offensive – as I thought you knew, I use it flippantly all the time as do most people I know, therefore it is no big deal to me and it certainly didn’t mean what you took from it. We’ll put that one down to my inferior education.
For the record, I do like the new songs particularly the 2nd & 3rd ones, but let’s not be under any illusion that things are the same any more. Your life has moved on and you rarely have any time to spare. I don’t however, really want to spend my weekends by myself, putting in all the leg work on all future songs for you to come along and slap a vocal down when you can spare a moment. I don’t think I can work like that. Also, regarding <John> – I don’t want him (to rejoin Pork Pie after a 10 year absence) – I thought you did. I embraced him as I thought that was what you wanted & I didn’t have a problem with that. Now though, after hearing how he felt after the meeting, I can’t help thinking that perhaps it wouldn’t be such a good idea after all – you all seem to view me as some kind of monster & have obviously discussed it…. what you’ve just told me about the meeting in January very much suggests that, and it doesn’t make me feel good… I’m sick of being perceived as the bad guy all the time, I’m sick of having to defend my actions, opinions and my very character to people who should know me better. It seems that no matter how hard I try, I can never shake the stigma you guys seem to have attached to me. I spent nearly the whole of last year treading on eggshells around <Pete> while he repeatedly dicked us around and then got stroppy, precious, rude and aggressive with me on the phone, yet somehow I still end up being the one singled out for the bad behaviour. My self-esteem is already at rock bottom, the very last thing I need is to be made to feel even worse by people I considered friends.
I love you dearly <Frank> and I always will, but in light of everything, I think you would be better off continuing without me. I am obviously considered a destructive force and I can’t live with that. The truth is, I’m in a very dark place. Life is very bad for me at the moment and it has been for some time. It is currently just getting worse and now the one thing that used to keep me sane and happy, is making me miserable and angry and I just don’t have the strength to deal with any of this any more, or to keep taking these knocks. I can’t even think straight any more. So forgive me dear <Frankie>, but for now I feel I must walk away completely, lick my wounds and try to somehow pull myself out of the bleakness – I fear it will be a long and difficult battle this time.
I’ll give you all the rest of the CD’s whenever you want, and supply any usernames & passwords that you or <John> needs for the various websites. You needn’t run any future decisions past me – I give you absolute autonomy with my blessing & love.
Look after yourself <Frankie> & good luck with everything. I’m sorry.”
So there it was – by the time I had finished writing the email, I had not only said absolutely everything that I felt, but I also decided I’d had enough and basically told him I quit. I hadn’t intended to quit when I started the email, but I think laying it all down like that just made me realise that I’d had enough. I had the distinct impression that Frank, John & Pete had discussed my ‘bad behaviour’ and I was starting to feel paranoid. Pork Pie was supposed to make me feel happy not paranoid.
Have I done the right thing? I still don’t know. Have I just overreacted and blown everything out of all proportion? Am I the one in the wrong here? Do I really want to end Pork Pie after 12 years? Do I really want to burn bridges with Frank (& John & even Pete)? Does it have to all be so… final? The fact is, this all happened at the worst possible time for me – just as I was on a very low ebb and feeling shitty about most aspects of my life. But on the other hand a lot of my ‘complaints’ are justified, things have changed and I don’t really like where we’ve ended up, so perhaps it really is time to close the book on Pork Pie. Arrgh! I don’t know.
Frank did reply to my email on 1st April, and all credit to him it says all the right things from someone who is supposed to be a good friend:
I’m far more worried about you than <Pork Pie> CDs
You must be in a very dark place indeed to feel like you want to burn bridges like this – I think you should park any decisions about music and focus hard on getting yourself out of there. I’m in no way dismissing the fact that you might feel you need to make some drastic changes in your life – if you need ANY help or support now you know I would do my very best to provide it.
I will call you in the next couple of weeks x
I didn’t respond as I’m still trying to work out actually what I really want to do. Then on the 10th April I received a message from John seemingly oblivious to everything that had happened:
Hope all good. You may know this already, but: we need to put together a band for The Wedding.
I’m afraid it looks like I am your Number 2… sorry! I’ll do what I need to do to get up to speed, but… we need to put a band together for the wedding in December.
<Frank> and <Yoko> are going to pick a dozen songs and we have 8 months to rehearse and get it together for “the big day”.
I’m all yours for a rehearsal schedule – once we have the songs. <John’s girlfriend> is up for taking vocals on a couple, and <Frank> wants to do a couple, and <Yoko> wants to do Proud Mary. Other than that, it’s you and me! Nice… 🙂
Give me a call when you feel like it – <John’s phone number> – and we’ll fix dates so that you can start teaching me how to do this again!
So there I am contemplating the demise of the band (and all the reasons!) and I get an email about putting a band together for the fucking wedding. I didn’t respond to that email either. Reading between the lines here what John is saying here is: “You sort the band thing out and put all the hard work in and I’ll just turn up when I have to”.
Then 5 days later on 15th April I received the latest email from Frank who for some reason has spent time ‘remastering’ some of our previous band Concrete Boots songs:
Hope yr alright and enjoy/approve of what I’ve done with these.
You need to let me know about the wedding – I will not be offended if you decide you need to be away but was very much hoping you’d be around to help us sing and play something at the reception – let us know….
Now there are a few things to my mind wrong with this latest email. Reading between the lines and knowing Frank as I do, he has fiddled about with long dead Concrete Boots songs to try and reignite my interest in music – he used Concrete Boots songs because of course John is playing the guitar in these so he’s trying to make me feel like it’s going to be ‘just like old times again’. A cheap psychological tactic that didn’t work. The next thing wrong, is that my last, very long email explained everything that was going on in my head at the moment. Indeed his reply instructed me to ‘park any decisions about music and focus hard on getting yourself out of there’ which was a really nice thing for him to say. Now suddenly I need to let him know about the wedding. Unwelcome pressure. Then the next thing that is wrong: “I will not be offended if you decide you need to be away…” he is referring to me wanting to go away to the West Country instead of going to the wedding, but he is somewhat missing the point – none of this is really about my holiday to the West Country – it’s a far broader issue and he doesn’t seem to recognise that.
So that was 6 days ago and again I haven’t replied. Radio silence from me. The only reason I haven’t replied is because I don’t know what to say. I know I don’t want to spend the next 8 months putting a band together for Frank’s wedding. I would rather go to the wedding as a guest. But this is a one-time request from Frank and I would feel horribly guilty for the rest of my life if I didn’t do it. Then that makes me feel really angry that I’m being put in this position and round and round and round I go. Just thinking about it now is making me feel anxious and stressed.
So what is all this about? What is going on? Well let’s try and list the issues:
1. I’m pissed off he’s arranged his wedding at a really bad time of year for me.
2. I’m pissed off because of the way they all obviously felt after the January meeting and I got the impression that they’d had a conversation about me behind my back. I also feel very misunderstood.
3. I’m pissed off because he wants me to put a band together for his wedding when he knows damned well how I feel about playing live, and doubly pissed off because I feel like I have to do it, or face a lifetime of guilt for refusing.
4. I’m pissed off because he doesn’t make nearly as much time for Pork Pie as he used to and now he is trying to change the way we work so he basically has to do the minimum of work and spend the minimum amount of his time doing it, while leaving me to do all the grunt work by myself.
I wanted to try and throw a couple of positives in there to try and balance it out, but there are no positives that I can see at the moment. So do I burn the bridges? Turn my back? Walk away? That’s what I think I want to do, but I’m beginning to spot a pattern… I always walk away when the going gets tough. It doesn’t really feel like the right thing to do but I just can’t see another option.
What do I do? I can’t ignore Frank for ever. I need to make a decision but I am incapable of doing so. I have to reply to him but I have absolutely no idea what to say. It’s like a lead weight on my shoulders and I’m sinking in the mud. Do I do the selfish thing and say no to the wedding band thing and release the unbearable pressure I’m feeling, or do I do the unselfish, decent thing for a friend and do something I really don’t want to because it’s the right and decent thing to do? I DON’T KNOW.
Well reader, If you’ve actually managed to get to the end of this post without losing interest, falling asleep or wanting to kill yourself, I’d love to hear your opinion as I am spinning in ever decreasing circles…