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The discussion below is taken from a thread launched by "captain Russ" on the Synth Zone General Arranger forum.

captain Russ -- Junior 01-09-2004 01:59 PM

We're in one of the few professions where, in many cases, it's OK to drink while working. I did it for over 30 years, six nights a week, at least one old fashion glass with more than an ounce of straight brandy each hour.

I found out that I couldn't do at 45 what I did at 25. The hardest part of quitting was realizing I wasn't nearly as good as I thought I was at 1:00 A.M.

What do you think about drinking while on the job, OK or not?

-- Russ

DonM -- 01-09-2004 02:07 PM

One of the rules I always have followed is to not drink when I'm working. I will have a glass of champagne on New Year's Eve and that's about it. It's hard enough to do what we do sober!
-- DonM

Dnj -- 01-09-2004 02:23 PM

Drinking Liquor is a NO NO on stage. Not only will it impair your playing/singing, you could also end up in Jail on the way home driving late at night!! Years ago, Pot and Drinking was the trend, but today, it's another world out there. I vote NO.

Fran Carango -- 01-09-2004 02:48 PM

Absolutely NOT!!

GlennT -- 01-09-2004 02:57 PM

Not worth it. The risk/reward is as bad as it gets!

Uncle Dave -- 01-09-2004 02:57 PM

Russ, C'mon, be serious about this profession. Drinking at work is dangerous. Just because we work in places that serve booze is no reason to think of it as a "gimmie." Drinking is one of the biggest gripes I have about this business. I realize that people need ways to let off steam, but really now. What other jobs is it "OK" to drink at work? No way. No How. No time.

squeak_D -- 01-09-2004 02:58 PM

Wow, good question! I guess it depends on the environment, and type of gig. I remember years back, when I played guitar and was lead singer for an alternative band, what a great few years that was, we had regular sets at the local bars, and I knew the owners. We not only got money in the pocket, but the band always got drinks on the house. Sometimes, I think we played better when we were drinking. Of course, every so often our other guitar player would have too much and his solos would last 10 minutes.. I would have to toss a pick at him to get him to end it. There were those gigs that were not of the bar environment and to drink was not acceptable.
-- Squeak

travlin'easy -- 01-09-2004 03:44 PM

"I only drink when I'm by myself or with somebody." - Foster Brooks.

In reality, Brooks did not drink at all, but he played a great role. As for drinking on the job --never!
-- Gary

kbrkr -- 01-09-2004 04:03 PM

Our band drinks beer during the breaks, but never on stage. I personally only drink after and during the 3rd set.

matias -- 01-09-2004 05:00 PM

I normally do not drink when I gig, and recognize that it's not good for my voice, but do not see this habit as a "religion." In places where I gig regularly, towards the end of the function, I do not forbid me a drink or two, having always on my mind that I'll have to drive home afterwards.
-- José.

Captain Russ -- 01-09-2004 05:01 PM

Uncle Dave, I am absolutely serious about this profession!

I drank; I now don't! I do know many people who do. I also know many great players who have ruined their careers and lives. You see well-paid working musicians drink on the job every night, including some well-regarded national acts.

I'm not the enemy here! I just asked the question. And, I think it's a serious one!


beachbum -- 01-09-2004 05:11 PM

Of course, you drink on the job. I couldn't get up there unless I had two or three beers first. However, I suffer from panic attacks to begin with. At work, I can't go to a meeting if their are more than five people I don't know and I have to speak. You guys can go on with your no ways and bad Idea and all that. I DJ'd in LA for five years and always had a few beers while doing five nights a week. I'm not talking hard liquor and blabbering like an idiot. I just do it not to be afraid. And I find beer cheaper than a head shrink. $225 an hour so I can not drink while playing??? Local stores got 24-pack miller lite on special for $11.99. Plain and simple, I'm a wuss. Oh, I don’t drive when I drink. That’s what buddies are for.

Oh, one more thing. We are not talking about getting drunk and showing up on Cops TV show missing our tank top and trying to pull the jeans to hide our crack. A few beers is all. And as an Elderly guy I see nothing wrong with that. Reflecting on the drinking issue, I don't think I could have taken the West Covina Store from $4,000 a week to $12,000 a week if I was cowering in my shell to afraid to do stuff.

Hey, I live in Texas and these guys are born with a beer between their laps. I'm a lightweight compared to the jazz band boys down on 6th street. You guys remind me of the Baptist preacher who loved to say, "When you open a beer, you hear the hiss of the serpent.”
-- DJ

Scottyee -- 01-09-2004 06:10 PM

I don't drink on the job. I was lucky to learn early on (from older musicians who had to learn the hard way), that drinking on the job in this business will ruin your career quickly. Because alcohol is usually free and abundant all night long, I decided to just say no, and glad I did. I've learned to get and feel high naturally. Over the course of an evening, patron's are frequently buying me drinks, so I always make pre-arrangements with the bar to have the bartender mix mine without the alcohol. Keeps everyone happy. - Scott

Bluezplayer -- 01-09-2004 06:32 PM

Not me. I don't play for a living like some of the guys here, but for the occasions when I do play a show, no drinking for me. It wasn't always that way with me, but you live and learn.
-- AJ

brickboo -- 01-09-2004 06:36 PM

Russ, I hustled 9 ball in the bars and played music three to six nights a week in the old days. I had friends and relatives in Cajun land that drank until they thought they were Clark Gable and flirted with someone's wife. If their husband didn't like it, that was too bad. Some of these folks would turn into Rocky Marciano real quick.

When they drank, people that I thought were pretty cool, all of a sudden looked stupid to me and I felt sorry for them. So I've always been against drinking.

However, trying to start back in music doing a solo gig, I too, like the "Pro" mentions, get real nervous. So I go to the liquor store and get a shot of whiskey and have it with a 7up and it really settles me down. But that is it for me.

Like playing with DonM with my sax, it's no problem. It's only when I'm going to sit at the keyboard and sing solo.

matias -- 01-09-2004 07:09 PM

I'm a bit surprised by how strongly the "NO(s)" underline their answer. The reasons that keep me away from drinking are simply that it degrades my voice and that I must drive back home. I'm also particularly careful about very cold drinks. My throat is quite fragile and doesn't like sudden temperature changes. Apart from this, if I feel comfortable, if the place and people are familiar, I sometimes allow me a drink (always offered by the party host/bar manager) by the end of the act. I never felt like falling into any kind of "temptation," and have never regret it. Do you really feel that (wisely) drinking is that dangerous for you, full time pros?
-- José.

cassp -- 01-09-2004 07:22 PM

As a general rule, I don't drink on stage. I may have a rum and coke during set up, but from then on it's water or soda. My partner likes his beer and swears he only has one during each break and brings one on stage. We're in our 50s and he just can't handle it any more, but does it anyway. I think this is one of the reasons we are playing less and less, employers see what I see, and that's a guy who isn't 100% all night. He's never drunk, just not sharp for that last set.

Dnj -- 01-09-2004 07:43 PM

Many places around here won't even serve any Musicians/DJ's liquor. House Rules! Plus you better have liability coverage on file there too or no gig.

beachbum -- 01-09-2004 07:47 PM

Good thing you're not in Austin, Texas. They'd make you where one of those hard hats with two beers on each side while chanting "Chug!" It's a joke, - DJ

Oh, that's why they got those plastic 32 oz cups at the corner store, complete with lid and straw. Hey, it's just a coke-a cola.

keybplayer -- 01-09-2004 10:50 PM

Having problems at Gigs? Do you find that some days your voice seems dry? I'm not going to go into the normal nag about smoking although you should try to avoid anything that is likely to dry out your voice before a performance, so here are a few tips on what to avoid before and during your show:

  1. Orange or citrus juice and caffeinated drinks -- can affect your throats lubrication.
  2. Milk and other dairy products -- furs up the throat, avoid drinking milk, cream, tea and coffee prior to singing.
  3. Dry Ice machines -- the chemicals used dry up the throat. If the effect is an essential part of the show, use a Fog Machine with cooler (water and glycerin based) or Haze Machine (chemical-based but nontoxic). Both can still affect the voice if inhaled; make sure you have plenty of water to lubricate the throat.
  4. Eating heavy meals prior to a gig -- the food doesn't have time to digest and sits heavily in your stomach. This makes it harder to control breathing, vocal reach and projection.
  5. Smoke-filled environments -- pretty impossible to do if your playing bars and clubs, but do what you can by taking a wander outside for fresh air during the breaks.
  6. Aspirin - can contribute to tinnitus and vocal chord hemorrhage
  7. Excessive loud talking and yelling - can lead to vocal strain
  8. Coughing and clearing your throat - swallow or sip water instead.
  9. Alcohol - although a small drink may help to relax you, alcohol may numb the chords and too much will cause lack of control (vocally and otherwise!!)
  10. Singing out of your range - save the top notes for when you can sing them correctly and don't overreach, or you could end up damaging your voice!

Pace yourself at a gig. Move vocally demanding songs to the middle or end of each set to allow your voice to warm up beforehand (a vocal warm up before the gig is also advisable) and then rest your voice during the breaks.

Treat allergies and infections promptly and rest your voice when ill. Drink plenty of water during the day to keep your body hydrated and voice lubricated, 8 - 9 pints is recommended. (Beer doesn't count!). Keep a bottle of water at the side of the stage!

Best regards,
-- Mike

The Pro -- 01-10-2004 06:21 AM

I used to dread singing -- all those things I had to do to insure my voice was up to par, which rarely happened anyway. Yuck! I gave it up and worked on my chops. No regrets.
I used to never drink at all, but now I regularly have a healthy glass of wine before my last set, as both a reward to myself and a social gesture. And champagne on New Year's Eve. Otherwise, it's ice water all the way (instead of the room-temperature tap water I had to drink when I sang - blecchh).

Uncle Dave -- 01-10-2004 08:16 AM

matias: Do you really feel that (wisely) drinking is that dangerous for you, full time pros?

Personally, I do. I also realize that I may be in the minority here, because I rarely drink at all. I have clients (big $$ people) that demand that the musicians do not eat or drink at their functions. We're hired help, not guests. If you ever work country club circuits in high brow neighborhoods and reach for a snack in a buffet line, you'll find out just what I mean. We're not hired to be part of the party. We're more of a front runner that paces the party. We need that "separation" from the crowd, while at the same time act as ambassador to bring the room "together." It's not easy, and it's harder when you are not playing your "A" game.

Drinking (wisely, or not) takes your game down a notch. I can't afford that.

As for "needing to relax," that's a load of crap. You function during the day at work without the drugs, why is it different at night? Work is work, and drinking on the job is just foolish. At least that's how I see it. I realize that without these "sin products" like booze and tobacco, the music business would be severely affected, but I'm all for the smokeless, daytime venues that have none of the perils of yesterday as a main rule of thumb. Drink if you want to, but please don't try to convince me (or anyone) that you play better because of it. You'd be lying to us all. Confidence doesn't come in a bottle or wrapped in paper.

beachbum: At work I can't go to a meeting if their are more than five people I don't know and I have to speak...

Hey Data Boy, Are you saying that you drink at your job during the day to get through tough meetings?

Dnj -- 01-10-2004 08:57 AM

I think people need to drink on the job because they have no confidence in their abilities to perform. If you have that, you have everything in this business -- that's the key!

beachbum -- 01-10-2004 03:39 PM

This whole thread reminds me of a funny story.

Richard Burton and Peter O'Toole are getting hammered at the local pup, drink after drink. When suddenly, Peter looks at his watch and tells Richard,"I've got something fantastic to show you." So they both leave the pup and walk down to the theatre. Both sit in the back and watch the play. After a few moments Richard says, "What's so fantastic about this." Peter replies, "This is the part where I go on," as he walks up onto the stage and starts acting.

Uncle Dave: Hey Data Boy, Are you saying that you drink at your job during the day to get through tough meetings?

No, My boss knows about my problem and I'm excused from those meetings. Thanks.

-- DJ

captain Russ -- 01-10-2004 03:55 PM

When I started this post, there was another underlying thought that may now be worth exploring. I teach communication research in the communications graduate school at a large state university. Sadly, we have identified a statistically significant correlation between all type of excessive behavior (drinking, drugs, mental illness and more) among people who have excelled in their fields. Obviously, we're not proposing that these life-threatening vices were necessary to succeed. We're just trying to find out why these giants in their fields were so driven to self destruction. Among the benchmark group we are looking at, the addiction level was over three times that of the general population. The problem crosses all types of creative endeavors. Think of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemmingway, Anita O'Day, Chet Baker, Coleman Hawkins, Kieth Whitley (an acquaintance, who died from alcoholic poisoning), Hank William, Bill Avenues (major mental problems.) This depressing list goes on and on.

One idea we're exploring is that most, if not all of the subjects we are looking at were obsessive/compulsive, and were addicted to many things, including excelling in their chosen field.

What do you think?

-- Russ

bruno123 -- 01-11-2004 04:31 AM

I had a bass player in my group; he was also the lead singer. This was early in my career, I did not sing. The bass player was also a close friend. He would drink on the job. It would take him three to four drinks before he had enough courage to get up on stage, he was 6'3" and fairly good looking. Well, he drank and began to fall over his bass. On one job, we were playing on a center platform about four feet high, people all around us. He almost fell off. The jobs (clubs) turned into a circus, there was no love of music, just performing.

I was the leader; I called an end to this kind of conduct. I wanted him out. I called the band to a vote; then they asked me to leave. He was the lead singer and it was him the people wanted. After six months, I got a call from the group, they wanted me back, they could no longer take the abuse and embarrassment. I went back with the group, and started singing all the lead vocals. Now I was the leader who was the lead singer, who did not drink on the job -- and who would never allow one of the musicians on the job to drink on the job.

The bass player passed away at 52.

I had a cordovox player (electric accordion) who I worked with. He placed his drink on the top of his main unit; it contained the amp and sound source. The drink spilled into the unit. The job was over; the cordovox would no longer produce a sound. My 2 cents,

-- John C.

Gunnar Jonny -- 01-11-2004 04:40 AM

No alcohol drinking either when gigging or in other places while we're at work. Period! When not at work, well, that's another story.
-- GJ

Dnj -- 01-11-2004 09:01 AM

We all have choices. I don't judge anyone, I just worry about myself, my health, and my family.
You want to smoke, chew tobacco, drink a lot, die young, go right ahead. "Enjoy yourself, its later then you think!"

3351 -- 01-11-2004 01:33 PM

Well, I lived like a real rock star for a while. My friends compared me to Keith Richards, not only because of my obsession with 52 TELEs, but also because I was never sober. Just about two years ago, I used to kill a 26er of Jack a day plus 4 or 5 Heinekens and, of coarse, wine. It was bad, to say the least. It really started screwing things up at some point, so I quit that shit.
My days of drinking at work or at home are over. Wish I could say the same for my drummer and my bass. They still drink like postal workers (just an expression).
- ED

Dnj -- 01-11-2004 01:50 PM

Ed, way to go! Enjoy life my friend; you only get one!

nedsolaud -- 01-11-2004 03:25 PM

That`s why I like to live in Bavaria! Beer is a Bavarian main food, especially when you have to play 16 days at our (and your) Oktoberfest. And when you take a look at our TV programs, you wonder that we are so sober. But when I sometimes take a look at the problems we have with our keyboards, I would tell the programmers at the companies: "Don`t drink and develop!"

But, seriously, the years where we were drunken, had a lot of fun and a lot of willing girls, are gone. The kind of music we have to do today allows not to be drunken at work. And even if you decide to drink at work, the biggest sin is to drink and drive.

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