Relevant Elephant is the name of my band and if you want to see what we are about click on the Relevant Elephant page above – I have many stories to tell about my times with the bands I have performed with, but today I am going to tell you about how I became the singer/rapper/front-man of a band for the first time after never having sang or been involved in a band ever before.
I was working in a night-club at the time, had been for a couple of years (long story as to how I became a nightclub manager, another day maybe), when I received a phone call whilst I was out of the office (probably at the bar replenishing my glass of Smirnoff and coke, my preferred tipple at the time) and a colleague took a message on my behalf. The message said ‘Ring Neal, tomorrow morning before 9am’. Firstly, I didn’t know anyone called Neal; secondly, I worked until 4am at the earliest and sometimes I might be up until 6am winding down after a busy night. There was no way I was phoning someone before 9am in the morning unless it was before I was going to bed. So I phoned the number left with the message immediately.
‘Ring, ring’, nothing, ‘ring, ring’, still nothing; I’m contemplating putting the phone down as a flash of guilt racks me, it is the middle of the night. ‘Ring, ri…Hello, Scotia Hotel’, my ear and brain had already started to switch off and disengage when suddenly they were called back in to action, I was caught off guard, I had just made my mind up to put the phone down but my hand and arm had not yet reacted to my brain’s decision, ‘Oh, hi, hello’ I said, slightly confused as to why I had rung a hotel, ‘Err, I am so sorry to call this late, this must be a wrong number, I’ve been left a message to ring someone called Neal’, ‘Neal’s not in until the morning, you’ll need to ring back then’, a silent pause, broken only by me saying ‘oh, okay, thanks’. I put the phone down more puzzled than ever. Who was Neal? Where was the Scotia Hotel? Why was a bloke called Neal from the Scotia Hotel, ringing me at work? I was intrigued and if this mysterious Neal had wanted to pique the interest of a curious mind, he had succeeded. When I got home I listened to some relaxing music and made the decision to set my alarm so I could give this ‘Neal’ fella a ring and find out what ‘it’ was all about.
So I call him a few hours later, a little bleary eyed, and the first thing I ask him is who is he and what does he want to talk to me about? It turns out that we do kind of know each-other, he is a friend of a friend, lives near me and we have been out to the same pubs, night clubs and walked home together as a group (drunk) in the middle of the night on more than one occasion. So what is he wanting to talk to me about? The conversation went something like this…
‘We would like you to be the singer in our band!’
‘What? I can’t sing!’
‘That’s okay the previous singer couldn’t sing either.’
‘We thought that you had the right attitude and you seem like a really nice fella.’
Well flattery get’s you everywhere with me, so I was not only intrigued I was more than flattered to be asked, no not even to be asked, I was flattered to be thought of as someone worth asking and to be thought of as a ‘really nice fella’ was just the icing on the cake. So against my better judgement I agree to meet the band for an audition rehearsal, we agree a few songs that are played in my night-club (like ‘Touch Me I’m Sick’ by Mudhoney, ‘Kool Thing’ by Sonic Youth, a Red Hot Chili Peppers song I can’t remember) that I thought I knew very well and that the band can play for me to sing along with; and in just a few days time I am stood in-front of four strangers, brandishing musical instruments and playing songs that sound familiar but are completely alien to me.
Maybe it was the awful smelling microphone (prawn cocktail flavoured crisps), the dark, damp, dreary surroundings of the rehearsal studios (an old archway under a disused railway track) or just the mind numbing terror I am feeling at the realisation that I don’t know what I am doing, I can’t sing, I have never sung (well apart from at school in the choir) and it is terrible, I am terrible; a combination of not being able to remember the lyrics, start on time or in key, sing out loud or loud enough; I am shaking with both fear and embarrassment, this is truly terrible and perversely I loved it!
We persevere, eventually performing a song in its entirety from start to finish with no mistakes, no key issues, in tune and in time – the song? Oh well it was errr, do I have to tell you? Okay, don’t judge, but considering my nerves and the extreme situation that I was in, it was err, ‘Happy Birthday to You’, you know, the song people sing to you when you blow out the candles on your cake, not the Stevie Wonder version, not even the Beatles version.
I was so disappointed in myself, I was terrible, I said thank you but no-thank-you to the guys, I wandered off home, leaving my music career behind in a much worse state than it had started, even before it had begun. How embarrassing, at least it was only seen by four complete strangers.
When I got home, there was a message flashing on my home phone, it was Neal, saying that they thought I had incredible guts to get up and sing with them for the first time, that my attitude and approach was exactly what they were looking for and that amongst all the mistakes and issues (tuning, timing and delivery), they thought there was something there worth working with!
I was shocked and surprised but yet again flattered and it worked its magic again, I resolved myself to try to get better and two rehearsals later I had learnt three Relevant Elephant songs (as long as I had the lyric sheet in-front of me) and I was informed that we had a gig, a big gig, in less than a fortnight!! I thought I had never been as nervous as I was at that very first audition/rehearsal, well that was the case, that is until I stood on stage for the very first time.