No, that is not a payment!
When I first started in Chicago as a drummer, I wanted to explore the blues scene. It was a fascinating thing, really. The Chicago Blues was so popular I had heard of it in my little city of France.
So, fresh out of Berklee College of Music, I started doing some jam sessions.
For those who don’t know, this is how it goes.
You go to a blues club on a jam night. All you need it a pair of sticks. You leave your name to the bouncer and what instrument you play. You take a comfortable seat, this will take time.
Eventually, you end up on stage with people who know, or not, how to play their instrument. You deal with whatever fate throws at you, and, if you do all right, a band leader comes talk to you right after you’re done.
Such things happened all the time.
So, one day, someone approaches me. He has a band, he needs a drummer. Very well! Oh, but wait, he also has a few gigs lined up (A gig is a concert) Now, I’m interested!
So, we talk about the basics: money, rehearsals, wishes and dreams. Everything is settle pretty quickly, the guy seems to know what he’s doing.
We play our first gig. No problem. Second, same. But then we play in a dive of a dive bar. The atmosphere is thick with lies and rotten destinies. Everybody looks like they’re up to no good.
I set up my drums. We play for 6 drunks and a bar owner half asleep at the door.
In between sets, the band leader tells me that we will not be paid. Nope, not a dime! The bar owner doesn’t want to pay. But, continues the band leader, I shouldn’t despair: he will give me a gram of cocaine and, if I want, I can sell it and recoup my loss!
Now, we are on wow! territory. That’s where nothing makes sense. At least not to me.
I refused. I left. At the time, my only drug were the Marlboro I smoke. The grey packs. The light ones. I didn’t want nothing to do with anything else. I left in a hurry. Packed up quickly and left. I refrained myself from punching the bar owner in the face when he told me: “You weren’t that good”. I didn’t think he was that good either.
I never played again for this band leader. I do not know what happened to him. But I know and controlled what happened to me. And that’s the point.