Chapter 4: Better than This
“15 minutes to showtime.”
The announcement rang loudly in my headphones. I stood up, groaning apprehensively. I’m better than this, I thought. We all are.
We moved into our positions. Jim stood two meters to my right, Rich two meters behind me, and Ralph completed the square behind me and to the right. We all held our arms straight out for calibration. This is asinine, I thought. I looked through the window a few meters in front of us on the wall and saw the four guys in the booth frantically adjusting everything they could. They’re better than this, too, I thought. I wondered what they wanted to do with their lives. I imagine this wasn’t it.
The calibration would take a minute or two. And every time, I thought of everywhere I’d rather be. Back at home, practicing and writing. In a park, experiencing the real world. Anywhere but a goddamn holodeck, watching my dreams die.
The calibration finished, and we moved “offstage”. The show would start in 10 minutes, the voice blared through my headphones again. It couldn’t be helped; the soundcheck was inevitably loud, as always. The Steely Dan gig was probably the quietest one we ever did. Ralph was scratching himself everywhere he could reach; the mo-cap suit made him itch. He was a trooper. Always had been. Back at Berklee, we once performed on the street for six hours straight to raise enough money to record our first album. He was the best drummer I’d ever met. Better than Bonham, better than Tommy Lee, and better than this.
Jim was vocally warming up. Last week’s Hendrix show had been hell on him; poor guy had to fake the guitar solos while I played them just to maintain the illusion. He was a real professional. A real talent.
Five minutes to showtime. You’d think they’d have found a way to make these announcements quieter, seeing as they figured out holographic rock bands.
Rich, of course, was just trying to melt away. He was an actor in addition to his bass talents. Always tried to get in character. This time, he put on all the face makeup and the proper shoes to imitate Nikki Sixx. I don’t blame him; he was the only one who remained sane out of all four of us. How he ever managed to pull off that Who show three months prior I’ll never know. But he was into character already, as his goofy fake California accent showed.
We walked “onstage” and onto the four spots marked on the floor. The curtain would fall in one minute, and “Girls, Girls, Girls” was first up on the list. We had to be ready to launch into it.
Time slowed down. Why am I doing this?, I thought. It’s just part of the process, was the answer. From the record execs, from the rest of the band, even from myself. I had spent 13 years playing guitar to change the world, maybe even the universe. I practiced for countless hours to get the record deal, and when I did, I ended up here, trouncing around as Motley Crue in a room ten feet below the action. I had never met a single fan. I never would at this rate. And they weren’t even my fans; they were fans of Mick Mars, or Jimmy Page, or whoever else I was imitating that night. I didn’t spend my entire life dreaming of being an imitator.
That was the last night I did a mo-cap show. It went well. They always went well. We spent a week preparing for these things, learning every mannerism we could about every member of these bands. We spent as much time researching as we did practicing. And for what? For a paycheck that allowed us to live and do what we loved. But this isn’t what I loved; this was part of the process.
The other three guys left a week later. Turns out you can’t just shove a new guitarist into a band and call it the same thing. They were fed up, too. They were better than that.
We were better than that.
So we hit the road. Started from scratch. Built our way back up. And it worked out. We’ll go into detail later. And sure, it wasn’t as comfortable, but in the end, we did it for the fans. Our fans. Not the fans of a bunch of dead rockstars from 80 years ago.
And to everyone who may be doing mo-cap shows right now as “part of the process”:
You’re better than that.
Drew Schackmann is a contributing writer for Gutai-Pravda Assembly. You can contact him on Twitter.
© 2015; David “Drew” Schackmann, Jr.