This week its less of a Harry’s Soapbox and more just Harry’s Soap Opera… Cue the Eastenders’ Duh, Duh, Duh-Duh, Duh Duh-Duh-Duhhh.
By Harry Paterson
So here’s the thing; writing about music rarely wins you any gold stars. Not that any of us do it for gold stars, of course. No, cold hard cash and bread on the table is usually a more significant driver. For the most part, though, music journalists do what we do for the same reason as the bands about which we write get up on stage and play; love of the music. Pure and simple.
And while sometimes criticism can be hard to take, generally, any negative reviews tend to be at least constructive in one way or another. Only very occasionally does an act earn a serious shoeing. Writers, though, like anyone else, are human. Sometimes the critical faculties and the professionally objective approach vanish and a red mist descends, usually resulting in some unfortunate musicians getting on the receiving end of a vicious slating. For me these are few and far between. I’m usually conscious that these poor sods have put their heart and soul into their music and even if it aint up to much, the effort, commitment and sheer hard work deserves at least some sort of acknowledgment.
I say usually…
Recently I reviewed an E.P. by an Irish act called Dirty Diamonds. I hammered it mercilessly. Given that the review is for a magazine that has not yet hit the stands (Powerplay, due out on September 27th, if you’re interested) it would be bad form to publish it here. I did, though, share it with some friends on my personal Facebook page and, I suppose inevitably, word got back to the band in question.
Now there were several interesting things that then occurred. Firstly, my own reaction; did I bottle it? Backtrack and try and laugh it off? Nah. No chance. That would’ve been cowardly and unbecoming someone who places a certain premium on his integrity and credibility. I can’t lie, though, and tell you that when the drummer of the band, Jonathon Ryan, emailed me specifically asking for a copy of the review while sending me a Facebook friend’s request, I didn’t have brief moment of trepidation. I’ll be honest; had that review been about me rather than written by me, I reckon I’d have fancied giving the writer a slap.
The interesting thing, though, was the band’s reaction and that of their fans. Here’s what Jonathon Ryan had to say…
“Harry mate, That’s fucking Hilarious, fair play to ya, I enjoyed every second of that, ya miserable bastard! Funny as fuck, that my friend will be on the Inlay of the Album for sure! Which of course I will be sure to send you a copy of when it comes out so you can slate it again no doubt. Suffice it to say that I do not take it at all personally and would love to be friends on here should it so please you”.
What can you say to that? The press release accompanying the band’s disc was probably savaged even more than the disc itself and about that Ryan went on to say…
“And yes mate, you nailed us good but to be fair all your points are spot on, I should know as I wrote all the lyrics and all the music and the press release was written by a mate who actually is pretty high up in The Sun, which I’m sure is another publication you are not too fond of! Thanks again, it’s great to get some recognition, even if it is utterly hilarious!”
A Sun journalist, eh? Well, clearly my instincts are still pretty good, then…
But the best was yet to come. The band stuck the review up on their Facebook page and I mentally braced myself for the fan backlash, which was not long coming. Among some of the more imaginative more hilarious observations were these…
“What I read: “I am a cunt and would probably find fault with Megan Fox if she came into my bedroom fully naked and gagging for it, oh and I have no penis” Whereupon my editor at Bass Guitar Magazine, Joel McIver, supportively and helpfully popped up and enquired, “Is this true Harry? You have no penis?”
It went on…
“He sounds like he’s got some sand in his vagina.” And so on and so on. The band then went on to promise the immediate addition to their merchandise line of some ‘Harry The Bastard’ T-shirts with Ryan insisting he and I share some beers when he next gets over to the UK. A suggestion I enthusiastically welcomed. The point, then, of all this is that Ryan, as well as cannily understanding that there is no such thing as bad publicity and that the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about, impressed the hell out of me.
As I wrote, responding to the side-splitting barrage of invective, “I can’t recall the last time I’ve laughed so hard. Seriously. Not only has the band now soared in my estimation due to their exemplary dignity and good humour following what was, let’s face it, a pretty ruthless shoeing, but how cool are their fans?
If I have to get slagged then I’ll take the quality of wit shown here every day and all night long. ‘sand in his vagina’ still makes me LOL and Gary Watt [one of the thread’s contributors] has demonstrated an approach that were the rest of humanity to share we wouldn’t have Palestinians massacred in the Gaza Strip and people like Sophie Lancaster murdered simply for being different.
Without sounding pretentious, I’ve had an object lesson in the best that human relations have to offer. Dirty Diamonds and every contributor to this thread is a credit not only to the rock and metal community but to human beings everywhere.
Now I just need to try and be less of a po-faced miserable bastard!
Gary’s comments were, “Brilliant – this is what raises rock music above the dross that infects the rest of the country – no matter what its a family/community, that always bond together over useless toss for a bloody good laugh, understand how to take something bad and just run with it, and most importantly, turn it into an opportunity for a gig, where everyone can get shit-faced, and make a twat of themselves playing air guitar – no matter how good or shite the music is. It’s all about doing what we love, and having fun. Kudos to all involved.”
So the object lesson here, all you aspiring musos is this; get a bad review and you can sulk, sneer, stamp your feet and behave as badly as you feel the reviewer has or you can take Ryan and Dirty Diamonds approach which is to laugh, dish a bit back in good humour, keep your dignity and earn yourself nothing but unqualified admiration and respect from your fans, people who have never even heard of you previously and, not least, Harry The Bastard.
Please check out http://www.dirtydiamonds.ie/ give ‘em a ‘like’ on their Facebook page and let’s see if we can’t get these lads over here for a couple of shows. They deserve it.