As a recording studio owner it astounds me how many bands and artists I see around town and abroad that simply can't execute their material in a convincing manner. A band's suck factor can be influenced by a multitude of transgressions but for the purpose of this article let's focus on the playing. The two fundamental components of executing live performances effectively are personal practice and full band rehearsals.
On the personal practice side of the equation, it always baffles me when meeting a band member that never practices outside of rehearsals. The expectation of course is that the player's technique is so unbelievably developed that any time spent playing their damned instrument outside of rehearsal would simply be a waste of time. This train of thought is obviously laced with mortal levels of idiocy as even the finest players in the world set aside rigorous practice schedules.
So... if your bass player "doesn't have the time" to woodshed technique on his own AT LEAST an hour a day, can his ass and move on to the next drooling luddite in line. If your drummer is "too busy" to sit and painstakingly battle paradiddles at 60 bpm , he's a shit- bird, ditch his whiny ass and find a killer. Point being here is that the success of the band rests on every member of the group being able to slay their own instrument. Weak links should be snuffed out as soon as possible with extreme prejudice. No room for weak ass motha...
Now to touch on the full band side of things. (Deep breathe) .
There seems to exist a fairly ubiquitous notion within the band community that rehearsals are meant to run a band or artist's entire set list straight through. On occasion running a song a second or third time. If your band is struggling to break out AND falls into this ideological camp you are not an assassin but rather a child with a squirt gun. Stay in your mom's basement, where you belong.
Unfortunately, band rehearsals are not meant to make you feel all warm and tingly inside. They are intended to be gauntlets of the highest brutality during which the band, as a collective unit, continuously and savagely scrutinizes their own performance. "You're too loud!", "We were dragging.", "What notes are you singing in the bridge harmonies?" are all conversation starters that are rarely touched on in most rehearsals.
So now that we have identified our two fundamental sources of agony, let's devise our battle strategy to lay them to waste.
1. Learn the ways of the master
I don't give a damn what fancy music school you went to, I don't care about the killer rig you still can't seem to get good tone out of, and I certainly don't care about how your girlfriend thinks you're already "like the sickest bassist in town". Take all of that great "I got a trophy too" bullshit and shove it. All that matters to me is that you are continuously striving to improve your technique. The moment you think you've made it in this industry is the moment you have failed. To overcome this self aggrandizing behavior all a future assassin need do is find a local, established assassin and take lessons. Laying the pride to the side and taking advice from your superiors will firmly plant you on a path to a prosperous career in musical murder.
2. Establish The Law, punish the heretics
Playing in a band is messy business. Late nights, no money, balancing "real life" with your grand artistic vision, the shit ain't easy! That being said, expectations for each member of the band should be codified in stone and bound by blood oath. Which days (with an "s") of the week are band rehearsals scheduled? How many tardy passes does someone get before they're cut? By keeping everyone in your band on the same page, you ensure that all involved parties are pulling their weight and contributing to the group. There is nothing worse than going to a show and seeing a band that has 2 members killing it and 3 members looking and sounding like duds. Do yourself a favor and sever their jugulars without remorse.
3. Elect your lead assassin
Each band has a leader. This person is typically writing the material and is also the most proficient player in your line up. Worship them. Let them drive rehearsals, quit noodling when they're trying to have an intelligent discussion about parts, play a supportive role. If you find yourself in the lead position, command the attention of the group. Can you imagine what would have happened if a sax player in Buddy Rich's big band was talking while he was rehearsing the band? Goodnight! You owe it yourself and your band mates to keep the train rolling. If a section of a song sucks don't be afraid to hit it again and again, slow it down, isolate individual parts if necessary. If someone complains, show them the door, they will fold when it comes time to unleash your band's vicious aural assault.
4. Show no mercy
A true assassin comes to the gig prepared and ready to spare no one. This means a variety of things need to take place before and during the show. First, all weapons must be thoroughly inspected to ensure maximum kill efficiency. Check stings, sticks, heads, picks, set ups, tunings, and vocal health. Second, solidify your connection with your strategic allies. Buy the sound guy a beer, figure out set times with other bands in advance, make sure your merch person has what they need. Third, be swift. Make sure your pedal rig and your drummer's kit are ready to roll the second the stage becomes available. Help the other band load out so you can load in faster. When you're done with your set, get out of the way! Fourth, get the best damn sound check you can. Chances are if you've made friends with the sound person he/she/they will be more willing to tweak your monitor before you start blasting through your set. Last, give the stage and your audience every shred of focus and energy your body can muster. If you don't leave the stage dripping sweat, you haven't done your job, start at step one and try again.
Follow these steps and I assure you your kill accuracy will increase ten fold and the blood trail left in your band's wake will start to turn heads. Don't follow them and join the mass grave of "has beens" that came before you.