The TATE world has been turned upside down in the last three days. (For all of you who don’t know the acronym, it stands for The Airborne Toxic Event.”) I think it’s safe to say it’s been “blowin’ up” after an uncomfortable interview ended with a thirty second conversation confirming the beloved bassist Noah Harmon would not be returning. This was confirmed by Mr. Harmon on his Instagram with the note “I got fired. 7 years. 0 regrets.”
There has been much speculation around the interwebs about the why. If you’re interested in the gory details (aka rampant speculation) Google it. I’m sure you’ll find something. If you want an informed, rational response from a die hard fan, go here. If you want my take, which is based only on my opinion and sometime flawed thinking, stick around.
I was drawn to the question of why it was such a big deal. It’s no secret I’m a fan of the band and was quite smittened by the bassist the last time I saw them live. There was an “awwww” moment when I heard and then I went along my merry way. No tears, no emotional pleas begging for the answers, no freak outs. I had the brief thought they could’ve told their fans in another way and maybe even before selling tickets to their fall tour. But meh, it wasn’t that big of a deal. Or so I thought. Then I watched other fans. They’ve been distraught. Fan friends turning on fan friends. Lines have been drawn. Team TATE/Team Harmon. The shit got realz.
I think it’s because we don’t want to see this music world as a job. That’s right, it’s a J-O-B. People get paid to show up and produce a product. If they can’t, then a replacement needs to be found. Just because they rock some jeggings like nobody’s business, smile a million dollar set of choppers, and can create music to make your insides melt doesn’t mean they are immune to the job’s requirements.
Sure it’s not romantic. Who wants to believe artists are doing it for the money? If it’s a product made from passion how can they be driven by marketing plans, selling projections, and strategies to increase their fan base? Because if they want to keep doing it, they have to be worried about how to pay for the gas in the tour bus. Our attention spans are limited these days. If something new doesn’t come out to grab our fleeting attention and fickle $7.99 on Itunes, they can be yesterday’s news before they know it.
The lead singer Mikel doesn’t help matters by being the poster boy for smokin’ hot, tortured writer. He romanticizes his process about locking himself in a room for days to write away like it’s a sickness he has to work through. His bachelor status only compounds he’s giving everything for his art instead of allowing himself a real lady-friend relationship. He doesn’t release details about being a calculated and driven business man with hit records on his mind. He keeps up the appearance he gives it his all because he loves the fans and a great rock show. And that may true. He may feel the way of the artist down to his very soul. However, he may also be the savvy business man who understands the best profit margin is touring to sell merchandise.
In Seattle, while in a lemon drop induced state, I asked Daren if they talked with their fans after shows as a marketing tool. Yanno, was there some agreement about putting in face-time because it created loyal fans? He looked a little annoyed with the question and said*, “No. We just didn’t want to be rock star assholes.” I don’t disagree they feel that way, but I also think the bigger picture has to be taken into consideration. Social media and the traditional music industry decline requires musicians to be more participatory in their rock n’ roll job. It’s not about showing up for gigs, hittin’ it with groupies, and hiding back on the tour bus to repeat it the next day. We fans want more. We want a piece of them. We demand it. As witnessed by our entitlement to the band break up details.
I’ve been on both sides of the firing fence. It’s not fun from either view. I’ve given blood, sweat, and tears for a job who let me go because I was no longer a good fit. I’ve also said good-bye to good people who couldn’t grow where my company was going. I’ve lost some great friendships and found better parts of me because of the process. It sucks. We hurt. Then Heal. And we move on.
In the end, even though being the bassist has deep meaning to us as fans, it’s not a hobby for Mr. Harmon or any other musician. They have the same pressures as we do in our jobs, to deliver a certain performance or run the risk of their company (or band) outgrowing them. Although they dance around stage looking cool while I chill behind a cubicle wall trying to make a difference to my customers, we have the same responsibilities. We choose to work our job knowing it pays the bills to support the life we want to live. When the job starts to take more than we can give, someone is going to get hurt.
*Always take my quotes with a grain of salt from shows. I’m never sober.