I was reading an interview by Richard Barbieri (Porcupine Tree Keyboardist) and he was talking a lot about this topic, about how democratic a band should be, how the band handle the collaborations, handle different opinions, insights and all that stuff. I have to say that Richard is a member of Porcupine Tree and a solo artist as well and he described both situations.
However all this reading made my mind even more clear on this and made me think more about what kind of direction I will take to make music and play it live. Being in a band? Being a solo artist and write everything and just "hire" musicians to play it live? I mean, there's a lot into this topic and can be deceiving and confusing, but I think that this is the way. Bands broke up, making decisions with other people could get very tricky and complicated, there could be lots of creative discrepancies, disagreements in what direction the band should take and not to mention the difficulty to please everyone's ambition and have them get their "space" into the band. I think is a matter of the people and the musicians really, the members all have understanding in the style of music the band have? Do they come from the same background? Do they have the same goals and motivations? Do they have all the same level of musicianship? Do they all play more than one instrument?, all this questions come to mind and I think then Why Porcupine Tree, Opeth, King Crimson are "bands" and not solo works by its leaders: Steven Wilson, Mikael and Fripp?
Steven Wilson, for example, began a solo career not so long ago, so, why he is still in this band Porcupine Tree? And the reason is that for the artist is a different thing, it is like "Ok, I want to do this that go out of the main direction of the band, so I'm going to release a solo record to do it” so this concept made clear the idea that, if you are in a band you stay in the direction of the band and if you want to play another type of music, then go ahead and do your thing. I mean, if you are in a punk rock band for example, stay to that, and if you are the bass player of that band be the best bass punk player available and ad to the band your best sounding punk-type bass lines ever, now, if you want to play death metal because you just heard an death metal band that inspired you? Go ahead write your stuff and go solo, because the band you’re in is labeled as punk rock. Your bandmates will probably kill you if you present the idea of making the next band record a death metal album!
Now, in progressive world is more complicated than that, is not that simple, progressive music is so vast, eccentric, eclectic and hard to define, that tends to change overtime even in the same progressive band or sound, take for example the same prog band “Dream Theater” their album “Images and Words” is not the same as their “Train of Thought” are they? I mean, there are both great progressive albums but with a completely different direction, that’s all. This in prog music is rather normal, but can get confusing sometimes, I mean you can have a prog band influenced in the prog music of the 70’s but it can be maybe folk oriented, or more psychedelic oriented, or more jazzy, or even symphonic, you know is difficult to define rather to be more epic, or songwriting oriented etc. It is normal that prog music tends to experimentation and the band sound changes overtime with each record, and this can be called like the “evolution” of the band sound getting better or not, it depends, this “changes” could happen because the fans, the musical context, band agreements, outside producers, management, etc etc.
If I want to create and found a band I know that I could not fall in love with the line-up, If one member swap out look for a replacement and keep going, that’s it, look band like YES and King Crimson, line-ups changing almost on every record, this helps to ad variety maybe but it lacks its initial foundation of sound really, I mean look at bands like Led Zeppelin, Page created that band and never suffered a replacement because he said that if one of those guys where out, he rather disband everything than keep it alive, you know, he felt in love with the line-up and lucky for him he never suffered from the lost member.
But I think the important thing here is to set a style, the big picture so the band gets “labeled” in some way to have a big reference on what the band musically could deliver to the listener, and to place everybody in a band in a mind set to play their instrument in the best way and add to the overall music.
So, in a band contest everything is different that the solo artist approach and for me I haven’t yet decided which way to go really, I’m still working on that, right now it’s all trial and error and see how things can work better for me musically, and I think the key is gather committed, responsible and good musicians with a great attitude, vision and vast musicality, which is very, very difficult.