Before talent, before that oft-desired rock star aura and before the all-important stage presence, there is perhaps one key quality that you should look for in finding a new band member above all others; reliability.
*NOTE: This is a post from my archives, originally written and published in 2010*
Sure, your kick-ass new lead guitarist may be able to crank out spine-tingling solos on demand and command the stage like the all-consuming Golden God of Rock ‘n’ Roll, but if he’s frequently late to rehearsals and gigs, or constantly turns up stoned, drunk or otherwise unable to do whatever is needed of him, is it really worth keeping the guy around?
This is hardly the easiest question in the world to answer, especially when such problems aren’t always obvious from the get-go. Indeed, there’s always the possibility that Mr. Rock Star only starts causing problems six months after you’ve brought him on board.
And whilst this may just be a phase, or something you’ll simply need to deal with at the time, quite often it can be spot someone who is going to cause you problems before they’ve even had the chance to plug a guitar in or tighten a snare.
Many experienced bands suggest spending time with potential new-recruits outside of the practice room, maybe going for drinks, to a gig, or anywhere you can chat and get to know one another and seeing if you’ll get on; kind of like a date only with the added bonus that you probably won’t need to buy flowers.
In doing this, you can find out much more than simply what music he likes and if his sense of humor is the same as yours; you can also find out if he’s likely to be a reliable, productive member of your music-making team or if he’s likely to become a complete nightmare who’s more of a hindrance than a help.
Ask if he’s played in any bands before, and if so, why he left? Was it simply that he wanted to play punk rock whilst everyone else was leaning towards a black-metal sound, or was there something more to it? A clash of egos perhaps? Huge arguments? Your potential new member was going through something of a tumultuous time in his life and couldn’t handle the pressures of being in a band?
If it’s the latter, then are such personal problems likely to affect his time with your group?
If you know his previous band(s), or can find them online or through your local scene, you could always talk to them about what he was like during his time with them. OK, getting character references from his former jamming buddies like the guy’s applying for a job can seen somewhat sneaky, but hey, you only want what’s best for your band, right?
Furthermore, what’s the New Guy like when you meet up for a night on the town? Does he show-up on time? Does he get completely wasted and either causes fights, embarrasses the life out of himself or both? Does he spend half the night popping pills or outside getting stoned?
These are all things to consider when looking for a reliable new band mate. Nobody’s saying the guy has to be a saint; being in a band is supposed to fun after all and, what’s more, we all have our flaws.
Yet if those flaws are likely to cause problems as you attempt to steer your band towards success, is it really worth taking on board someone who’s unreliable and who does more harm than good simply because he’s good on the six-string?