Questions and answers



Question: 'Could you first of all enlighten our readers regarding what actually happens at bandskool?

Answer: First and foremost, we run band sessions that are 3 hours long per session. These sessions are a bit like rehearsals but perhaps a bit more intense than your average band rehearsal: with help from professionals, these sessions are used to achieve a number of objectives that are set at the beginning of each term and approved by the individual bands. Each band's objectives - in terms of what they actually wish to achieve with the term - may differ; For instance, a new band may have a different set of objectives to a more established band. New bands tend to want to look at 'covers' whilst more established bands are strongly encouraged to write their own material and create their own sound. However, all the objectives that are set are relevant with the aim of allowing each band to develop whilst ensuring the personal growth of the individual musicians. In many respects, it is all about the development of the individual's musicianship and the band is simply the context in which that happens.

Our sessions are running on Saturdays at present though there is scope to run them on weekday evenings too. Bandskool provides all the resources that are needed for the band sessions. Some bands opt to work a bit on their own whilst others always have a mentor present. The mentor is a bit like a football coach: they are observing the band's rehearsal and use their judgement to know when to interact. Sometimes, the mentor will take control of the whole session whilst other times take a back seat. Of course, it all depends on the band in question. All of these things can be tailored to the band's needs.

Question: Do you organise gigs for your bands?

Answer: Yes, I have personally organised all our previous gigs. The scale of the gig depends on the number of participating bands in any given term. We have done gigs where we have had just 5 bands playing and gigs where there have been 14 bands playing! It all depends on the term. We like the gigs to be as big an event as possible: as well as being a great opportunity for the bands to showcase what they have been working on all term, it is about giving the bands as great an experience they are likely to get on stage. We have had some pretty big gigs with large turnouts - we have used masses of gear, lights, props and PA (Public address) equipment to put on some credible gigs. Other times we have opted for a smaller scale gig. It is the band's that provide us with a budget to put the gig on - more bands means more ticket sales and therefore more money to spend. We have organised our gigs in a number of different venues now - some local to Altrincham whilst others have been in the city centre. Our best gigs so far have been in the city centre at venues like The Academy and Manchester Metropolitan University - home to 'Rock Kitchen' - a rock night club.

During the daytime before the gig, we will organise for all the bands to come to the venue to sound check: this is an opportunity for the band to get to know the stage and the equipment they will be using. It also gives our sound engineer a chance to get things right for each band. Sound checks usually last around 30 - 45 minutes per band. Of course, there is no audience so there's no pressure!

One thing I should stress: our gigs do not involve anyone under secondary school age! In fact, our band sessions are not open to anyone under secondary school age. Well, I am talking strictly about our Rock n Roll bands and our Rock n Roll gigs. I wouldn't feel like including anyone younger than that - the gigs are a bit raucous sometimes and also I have to think of the gig's credibility in the eyes of teenagers everywhere. However, I should add that we are trying to encourage Primary school people to take part in other kinds of ensembles but that hasn't really happened yet!

The audience at our gigs tends to be the families and friends of the bands - it is the people they have sold the tickets to. At these early stages it is highly unlikely that the general populace will be looking to support our bands. In their eyes our gigs are just another 'unsigned night' and so are unlikely to attend no matter how extensively we promote the gig. This is exactly the same for bands that take part in unsigned nights around the city - the promoter would ask them to sell tickets to their friends and if they cannot then the promoter will not be asking then to play! I keep stressing to our bands that they must make the effort to bring people and this is a very important lesson for any band!

Where do we hope to play in the future? I would love to be able to play some of the biggest venues in MANCHESTER. There are ways it can be done and I have certainly considered the options including bringing in some signed bands to boost the audience numbers. Watch this space...

Question: how many bands do you normally have at bandskool?

Answer: it varies from one term to the next: on average I would say 10 bands per term but there is no limit and we would really like to widen the pool! The more musicians we have on board the closer to ideal bands we can approach. as you know, most of the time we are putting the bands together ourselves although there are price discounts for complete bands to join us.

Question: have any recognisable bands come from bandskool?

Answer: earlier I mentioned how it might be better to look at the individual musician rather than the band they happen to be working with. The chances are that bands will not stay together for any length of time - whether within bandskool or outside of bandskool. This is the same in real life too. So, I tend to look at individuals and assess their future potential than the band's prospects. We have certainly had individuals come to bandskool that I think could do great things in the future. However, it is still too early to see any real evidence of that. But also remember, bandskool is not directly about helping bands to make it - in the sense that they become recognised, commercially successful, famous, rich etc. It is more about personal development and if your band starts going places then great - that is good too!

Note that some of our bands are out there doing stuff: such as Clown Shoes, Big Mo, Zulu and Paralysis - this last band really seem to be getting into gear because they are playing all over the place. When it comes to young bands - around the age of 14/15/16 - it really helps if their families get involved and can drive them to gigs, keep them organised etc. When the bands are older they should be able to do most of that for themselves.

Question: have any bands recorded cd's?

Answer: we provide a recording service - we have used studios around MANCHESTER and have a good relationship with the MANCHESTER SCHOOL OF SOUND RECORDING. When a band records with us they can be assured a quality team - engineer and producer. But we only record once a band is ready to do so: their songs must be fully realized and they must be able to perform it well. We aim to make the best recordings we can. We have done eps before and I have a collection of past recordings that I could do something with. Actually, we are hoping to put together a compilation cd in 2009 to showcase and this will be given to radio stations and the rest of the media to comment upon.

Question: what could bandskool offer young bands that they would't get if they tried to make it on their own

Answer: The aim is to always be able to offer something to every band that passes through our door no matter what stage they are at or how long they have been with us. We must match their current stage of development as a band and as individual musicians. The choice of mentor is crucial to this process as much as anything else. I think there are a number of advantages we can offer to bands:

1. we can help to put a band together in the first place. Most musicians come to us because they want to be in a band. We take their information and use it to match them with other suitable musicians. The wider the pool the closer to the ideal we can approach. If there is nothing suitable then we don't offer someone a place - we keep them on file. We can also help to fill vacancies within bands on the proviso that they are joining us of course! So, to sum this point up: we can take the headache and heartache out of finding the right musicians to work with. Please note that musicians can transfer to other bands each new term although we try to encourage bands to stay together!

2. We help bands to be organised. Bands are notoriously bad at organising themselves - working to objectives and ensuring that their rehearsals are construtive. Thousands of bands the world over are wasting time in rehearsals even as we speak. Nothing gets done and rehearsals become a huge, huge source of frustration and personal dissatisfaction. Sometimes it is because there is a lack of leadership skills within the bands; or there could be some politics within the band that gets in the way; or it could simply be that the individuals within the bands have no idea how to organise themselves or to achieve objectives. Our great claim is that we can help bands to acheive far more than they are likely to achieve on their own.

3. All bands need an independent and objective voice: our mentors can be many things to our bands - a source of inspiration, a motivator, a teacher/educator and an adjudicator. Sometimes the politcs within bands gets in the way and it helps to have another individual present that is not actually in the bands to sort of disagreements etc.

4. Our gigs and recordings aim to be the best out there. Sure, bands can get their own gigs and perhaps even do their own recordings. But let's talk about quality here. It is one of our selling points!

5. Part of a community: by joining bandskool you are joining a community of musicians that can learn from each other - by taking part in the same gigs and seeing each other at bandskool every week. Bands can visit other bands during rehearsals to see what they are up to. You don't get that if you are stuck in your dad's garage back at home!

6. Help in raising the band's profile: often we use bands as part of our coverage in the media. We have every interest in seeing our bands mentioned in the media as it helps to raise our profile.

7. Bandskool has connections to players within the music industry such as promoters, managers, agents, venues and record companies. We are always happy to help bands make the right connections if they are ready to take the next step.

Question: how can people learn more about bandskool?

Answer: visit . Also they can contact us through the website if they wish to discuss things.