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Dealing with a recently drunken band member

Mike H.

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Well, we've been together as a band for a little over a year now (Halloween will be our one-year first gig anniversary). Anyway, we have a FANTASTIC drummer. The problem is that he's begunto drink. We had no problems at all up until around 4 months ago when he got tanked on a gig and we sounded like absolute crap. We didn't know the bar owner was there and when we called to book a gig, we were told that he no longer wanted us to play (specifically the drunk drummer sited as the reason because we sounded like absolute poop). We had another gig where he was good for the first two nights, then the third, he was drinking since the afternoon. We told the barmades he was "cut off". He pouted and by the last set we sounded like our band. Now last Saturday we were playing a wedding dance. Again for the third time he started drinking (and had been drinking) and we sounded like crap at the end. Now we got an email from him today asking "am I fired??????????????????" I replied by telling him what needed to be said and that I will be his drinking partner from here on out and we'll be consuming Coca-Cola and/or water.


The thing I don't get is that he was straight for a long time and now all of a sudden has developed this penchant for drinking before/on gigs. It's just frustrating.

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Not to be cold, but, I would have fired him by now. Drinking at the wrong time is one of the saddest situations for a musician. Where your supposed to be on top of it, and friendly, and make a good impression. My opinion is, get rid of him, get a new drummer, and help him out about whatever is going on so he doesn't think that you are dumping all angles of your friendship. When he straitens up, he'll understand why you did what you did. Meanwhile, you can't babysit him, nor can you suffer so much. Drinking is cool after the gig. For me, I can't do it at all any more. I still do the original thing and I stay till the dead end of the evening and then contend with loading band gear at 3am. Being buzzed and doing that just doesn't work.



Mike Bear




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This may sound cold, but his problem is not yours, and you shouldn't make it yours. He has to straighten his act out himself, and mend the bridges he's burned. If he is bringing your band and being unprofessional, get rid of him.

A co-dependent relationship won't help either of you.

"Start listening to music!".

-Jeremy C

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From your brief description, it looks like you have a closet drinker on your hands. I've dealt with so many in different situations. The problem I see here is that this guy's drinking is causing a problem for your band and for himself. Any time a person who has been asked not to drink at work and drinks anyway has a drinking problem.


Of course you should be compassionate, but condoning or trying to work with an alcoholic will always fail until they get help. You are not the appropriate helper.


Alcoholics divide the world into two types - persecutors and patsies. If you fire him, you're a persecutor and a good reason to drink. If you decide to be a good guy and help him, you're a patsy, and he will drink in spite of you.


I know this sounds harsh and very black and white, but I'm afraid this is how it is. I'm a minister and a counselor and have worked with a lot of 12 steppers. If you attempt to work with him you will only hurt yourself and your band. As far as your relationship is concerned, there is no relationship. He is not your friend, he's never been your friend. Your relationship with him is your relationship with his drinking.


Say goodbye and don't look back.

L Tucker

Nice, nice, very nice.

So many people in the same device.

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Seen this movie many time before. Sorry you have to go through this. It's tough because you can't be a counselor or psych as well as being a friend and co-player. It's brutal. Sometimes the best thing is to move on and get a new drummer.


I dissolved a whole band over this issue. I've given a person the benefit of the doubt and tried to get him help. It hasn't worked out for the better on any of my experiences.


One guy got on with his life but destroyed his creative brain in the process of alcoholism. The other two I won't mention.

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Originally posted by 57pbass:

If your serious about your music and musical career .....getting drunk before or during a show is not a good idea.

Exactly. The funny thing is, he's the one in the band that is the most head-strong musical person and preaches band devotion etc. He would've been fired by now, but in our area drummers are a VERY hard commodity to find. Especially good, solid, drummers like the one we have now (except when drinking of course).


I have yet to see any response from my fellow band members that got the same email. Perhaps tonight.

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We are in the process of firing a drummer that I consider to be the best I've ever played with - when he's sober.


The guitar player and I had a long talk and as much as we love this guy, it's simply not worth putting our professional name at risk. He has been getting worse and it's to the point where you can't call his house after 4 p.m. and expect to carry on a sober conversation no matter what day of the week it is.


He has quit drinking at gigs 3 times now and always goes back within a month or so. Sunday he failed to call or show up to lay tracks on our latest CD. We have a gig Saturday night and I'm wondering if he will show up sober. Not worth it.


I used to drink too. A couple before and during gigs but never to the point where I would embarass my band or myself.


Funny story - I used to play with this guy who just plain ripped up a drum set. He was as solid as they come. But, he would start drinking when he woke up in the morning. He called these things Pink Ladys and they consisted of cheap vodka and Pepto Bismal. How's that for hardcore. Anyway, he finally lost everything and got himself some help (AA) and sobered up and now he can't keep time. I feel bad for him but also it cracks me up when I think about it.


Cheers to you for trying though. I would be curious to know why drummers are such freaks in general.

"He is to music what Stevie Wonder is to photography." getz76


I have nothing nice to say so . . .


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Mike, I hate to say it, but he needs to go..... enabling him will only make matters worse. No one will be able to help him until he admits he has a problem, and the rest of you in the band are not responsible for him.

Your band 's reputation is already beginning to suffer, and if he's allowed to continue, you'll be lucky to get a free gig in the park.

Firing him may be a wake-up call to him, or he may start drinking more, and blaming everyone else for his situation. Either way, its not your problem or fault, its his. He needs professional help, which none of you are probably qualified to give.

Find a new drummer and save your band.



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Another way to approach it is to fill up his time between the souncheck and the gig - go sight seeing or plan a good meal out (with no booze) for the whole band - don't even talk about the music.


Whenever one of us is feeling bored we always rally round and find something to do - even if it's walking the streets of the town and getting to know the locals (met a lovely lingerie shop owner in Tnubridge Wells the other day) - and generally keep the friendship going. We don't feel the need to drink between that time - if we fancy one on stage, that's when we can start.


The other thing to do is tell him he has to drive himself to the gigs - so he can't drink and drive home (if he's not a complete clutz) - get him to love the music or respect the booze more.

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The other thing to do is tell him he has to drive himself to the gigs - so he can't drink and drive home (if he's not a complete clutz) - get him to love the music or respect the booze more.
I have a feeling he may already be driving himself to the gigs....


Give him an ulimatum...no more drinking on the gigs or you'll replace him.


It'll force him to do one of two things: Get sober or get good enough that he can play well no matter how plastered he is. Hopefully it'll be the former...

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some excellent replies.


Most people go through some incident with drink or drugs where the buzz feels new and enjoyable and you tend to lean that way to have fun or cut loose.


If he's a good friend (and those are hard to come by) try to help, but you should also put the band on equal ground. If he can't stay sober for the gigs its time to stop gigging together. You only have lost one gig so far, it could be time to cut your loses.

Check out my work in progress.
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My band's former guitarist::


Talent (phrasing, counter-melodies, encyclopedic knowledge of theory) for days...BUT had equipment that's worth less than a live mic at a Britney concert... bad temper... we booted him


My band's current guitarist::


Good equipment. Gave the proverbial 'deer in the headlights' when I asked him to play a Cm.


Last week, this new six-stringer fell flat on his face in practice, cracking the headstock of his axe, because he thought it would be cool to go on a drinking binge before practice.


His kerplop was 45 minutes into our session. It takes me 1.5 hours to get to practice. I drove 3.0 hours round trip to watch this a## not hold his liquor.


I'm not a happy camper right now.

"Women and rhythm section first" -- JFP
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Tell him the only alcohol he can have is whatever he can suck through his nose. :D

Let your speech be better than silence, or be silent.


For those who believe, no explanation is necessary. For those who do not, none will suffice.



"Rendirme? Que se rinda su abuela, *#@!^$"

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You don't want to loose him, but you don't want to play with a drunk...


Tell him.


Don't waste his and your time listening to his excuses. People who drink the way you describe will lie and manipulate as much as they can (takes one to know one). Tell him you love his playing but not when he's drinking. So... you can't drink while or before you play or...


...you can't play with us.


One or the other. Look for a replacement first.

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As someone who doesn't mind musicians that get a buzz, if they can handle it...


These folks are right. If the band is losing gigs because of a drunken drummer, he's got to go. Period. Because it IS about being professional, and if one member of the band ain't then the entire band is perceived that way.


The best way to support him right now is to let him hit bottom nice and hard. It could make him wake up....


Originally posted by Edendude:

I'm with Mike...

A gig is a professional situation. There's no room for drunks on the payroll. It's already been demonstrated to you that this guy's behavior has a negative effect on your band's bottom line.

Time for a new drummer, and there's no shortage of those out there.

I used to think I was Libertarian. Until I saw their platform; now I know I'm no more Libertarian than I am RepubliCrat or neoCON or Liberal or Socialist.


This ain't no track meet; this is football.

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