I’ve been saying this a lot lately but I stand behind it – every future career musician should play in a hardcore band in high school. That’s not just because I love Ceremony and enjoy listening to bands that worship them, but because hardcore teaches you a lot, and is going to teach you lessons that set you up for future success in the music industry. Many of our heroes, even the mainstream ones like Fall Out Boy, Rage Against The Machine and The Eagles Of Death Metal had originally made a name for themselves in different hardcore bands – and I don’t think it would be out of place to say that those hardcore ideals went on to inform their careers.
The thing about hardcore is that it teaches you to do this only for the love. It forces you to have low standards and expect nothing. You learn that even having three kids at your show is a wonderfully empowering thing. On the underground level all hardcore really is, is making music for your close friends. While some of these bands have professional ambitions by and large the main motivation seems to be to just get the rage out. I don’t think that there are a lot of young hardcore frontmen out there trying to be HR from Bad Brains when they grow up. Instead they know that this is just a part of their lives that adds to their personalities and experiences – but there are rarely real career aspirations at hand here.
That’s the point though – if you go into this rock and roll thing with career aspirations it almost certainly isn’t going to work out. You need to be willing to pay your dues and grind it out for years with no real expectation of even covering your costs. Hardcore teaches you to drive six hours to play a show to fifteen people and be happy because one of the kids decided to sing along to your most recognizable song. This is important. This shows us that it’s the small things that make the music worthwhile. People in music too often expect the world handed to them on a platter – sometimes you just need to grin and bear it.
In a world where margins continue to shrink and fewer people than ever are able to make money off of music it’s sometimes good to back and visit a place where there never were margins to begin with. Hardcore has a certain primal appeal because it reflects a time in our lives when nothing mattered outside of being loud, depressed and angry – and fundamentally – being loud, depressed and angry has been the source of an entire generation of music. Hardcore changes you, not musically necessarily, but certainly spiritually. I mean – just watch videos of Zach De La Rocha performing with Inside Out after joining Rage Against The Machine. He could have been playing stadiums exclusively but he decided to go back on a club tour in order to support a cause he believed in. If that’s not true to the spirit of hardcore, and indicative of how the music can alter you, I don’t know what is.
Now I’m not even trying to argue for the supremacy of hardcore. I simply have found over my years of hanging out with big name musicians that a lot of them can trace their origins in live music to loud basement shows with a bunch of their friends. It’s a common thread that unites the highest and lowest levels of musicians. It shows us that despite everything, a band like Minor Threat can remain hugely influential. Before people learned to play, before they decided to make money, most of your musical heroes were just out of place alternative kids in high schools that didn’t meet their needs. So instead of whining about it like their modern compeers they got up off their feet and learned to love it loud.
I know that this ‘no expectations’ story is also the inception of many a great hardcore band and we need to consider that. Remember that when I say these bands have no expectations I’m not saying they are lazy. Oftentimes hardcore bands are among the hardest working bands out there, going deep into their own pockets to fund their passion with the bitter realization that in all likelihood they are only going to lose money. After all – they drive all over the country to play empty shows in tiny VFW halls. But guess what? That helps to build a global community and a work ethic that isn’t going to be dissuaded at the first sign of strife.
Ultimately – hardcore is not going anywhere – it’s going to stay a constant in the music world whether you like it or not. It provides absolution to the masses and also allows countless industry figures their introduction to the scene. This is a place where even from a young age you can have an impact and kids understand that. In a world where youth are constantly marketed to it’s the thing that isn’t marketing to them that they are going to gravitate towards – in other words – hardcore is only going to grow. As for now – if you’re young and want to do this, get out, listen to Ceremony and get ready to get your butt whipped – it’s good for you.