Three Reasons "Band Suicide" is Bad Writing:
- It's Truthiness. The full title of the piece is "Band Suicide: Why so many Houston music groups self-destruct right on the brink of having it made." You get the impression you're going to read about at least a few groups of close musicians, probably friends, and how their common dream fell apart. What you get is the story of one Houston player trying to make a come back by fabricating a band made up of players that aren't from Houston. Your expert witness is also a fabricator. Tom Bunch is a promoter and spin artist (read that negatively if you want). Ultimately the article is a fabrication. It's an opinion piece passed off as news (and I believe it was printed in the News section of the Press not the Music section). Lomax shapes this story to what he wants to say about the "Houston Scene" without giving any credible examples or even a good reason for doing it. Sure, there might be a story in Hagaa's aggressive attempt to make something happen for himself but in truth the story just doesn't have the angle Lomax presents.
- It lacks historical accuracy or authority. Like him or not, Tom Bunch is a polarizing figure in the Houston music business. To pass him off simply as the "real deal" is naive. To put in his quote that Sprawl was "just okay" is amateur. I blame Lomax for that because Tom Bunch may have said it but Lomax doesn't back the quote up with anything. It's just kind of plugged in there like a bullying punch in the gut. It doesn't have any meaning other than to be hurtful. The history behind it is that Nick Cooper of Sprawl was essentially a rival of Tom Bunch if not a bonafide enemy. In the 90's both Nick and Tom could pack a house in Houston any day of the week. Sprawl consistently sold out places like Fitzgerald where they could pull in over a thousand kids even on a week night. But Nick's scene was organic and decidedly DIY. Bunch opened the vacuous obviously money driven Vatican. The editor of the fourth largest city's leading alternative press shouldn't present such a one-sided case and casually slight the biggest act on the Houston scene in the time Lomax is referring to. Sprawl was also highly involved in the scene not just for their own good. Sprawl was committed to the bands they liked around town and they liked a diverse bunch not just funk. The players are still in the community doing good things too.
- It lacks expertise. So one argument people have been using against the Lomax piece is that his idea of "making it" is distasteful. Well let's assume for a minute that we all believe in Lomax's idea of "making it" which he implies is the Big Time-LA Style-Major Label-U2 idea. Okay fine and your argument is that the Houston scene screws people's chance of making it. Where has Lomax been for the past ten years or so? You don't have to be the music editor for the largest alternative press in the fourth largest city in the country to know that the industry is in crisis. You just have to read Business Week. Arena rock is now a form of corporate executive entertainment, and musicians are better educated to steer away from the illusion of a major label deal. Major labels don't even sign acts unless they've worked hard on the indie circuit, touring and what not and made it clear that they are a bread winner. In that way Tom Bunch has it right. He said he wouldn't work with Hagaa until he actually had a band. Lomax should have gotten a clue right there that his angle was wack.
So I didn't want to make it personal and why should I? The Houston Press was always nice to me. de Schmog won lots of awards and got good press from HP and Public News. But if I did make it personal I might remind everyone that John Nova Lomax is the grandson the most influential collector of "local music" in the world. Allen Lomax dedicated his life to capturing the essence of place through sound. His grandson is telling Houston kids to seek their advice from an LA Music Industry Webzine. What is JNL's mission in life? If you ask me, he has Cameron Crowe fantasies.
So why is it important?
I spent ten years in the Houston music scene. Throughout that time I always heard lamenting about the lack of a scene and whatever. I remained a staunch defender as did the Sprawl guys and most everybody who was actually doing something. The biggest fault I always saw in the scene, if you want to call it that, was that the press would fall into this trap. At the Houston Press specifically, they would continually hire these freelance writers who hated Houston, knew nothing about it and were just using the job as a stepping stone. When de Schmog went out on the road I started seeing that this is a culture that can actually be changed and it can start with the way you tell the story. A good music editor would find importance in the fact that he is writing about a specific place and respect that place. For better or worse s/he should present the best of the culture as what it is in that place and time; respect his audience's intelligence and desire to be a part of a culture, not lectured to or pitied. What Houston got is a damaging senseless article. What it deserves is a good music editor.