This Op-Ed originally ran in AP 279. To buy a back issue, head here.
ALL TIME LOW guitarist/court jester JACK BARAKAT has never been shy about speaking his mind—although what usually comes out of his mouth is of the potty-humor variety. When Barakat reached out to AP about writing an Op-Ed, we were concerned we’d have to use more black bars on this article than there was available ink. Luckily, his “rock star reality check,” as he likes to call it, turned out profanity-free and is a genuinely interesting perspective on the current state of the classic rock ’n’ roll lifestyle—which, according to Barakat, is on life support.
As I revved the engine of the Ducati motorcycle between my legs and checked my aim down the hallway of the Beverly Hills Hotel—obviously to make sure I caused as much damage as possible—the last thing I thought to myself as I let go of the hand brake was, “I hope I didn’t give the front desk my personal credit card.” Okay, fine, that never happened… But could you imagine if it did?
I first approached Alternative Press a couple of months ago about writing a piece for this magazine. I’ve been an avid reader of AP for many years, and it’s been a dream come true for our band to be featured in it so many times. Initially, I wanted to write about the state of the present-day music industry, but considering the mess it’s in, that didn’t sound like much fun. After traveling around the world and interacting with people of all professions, I have realized that almost everyone has wanted to be a “rock star” at some point in their life. The most interesting thing about this notion is the response when I ask them why. The most common answer is, “The girls and the parties, man!” With this in mind, I decided to spend my 800 words clearing up misconceptions about the music industry, touring and “band life” in general.
Now I’m not saying I know everything about the subject, but my band All Time Low have been at it for a while. We’ve seen a lot, smelled a lot, touched a lot and tasted a lot. So let’s start with the basics: sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll—or should I say iPhones, Bud Light and backing tracks. It’s not that sex and drugs don’t exist in the industry anymore, but they are definitely not as common as they used to be. If you ask me, the internet is to blame for the death of this rock ’n’ roll cliché. These days, a more common backstage scene is one of innocence: band members sipping vodka-Red Bulls while creeping their Twitter @replies. I know, I know, exciting stuff. The internet has created a place where people cannot just talk about what happens backstage or on the tour bus, but they can also prove it with very public pictures. People tend to become a lot more cautious when their name and reputations are at stake.
The day of the rock star is dead. These days, instead of wanting to hear (and dream) about oiled-up hotel-orgy stories, fans would much rather meet the band and get their T-shirt signed. And drugs? One of the reasons why drugs were so popular in music back in the day is because band members literally had nothing else to do. I am currently sitting in a field in Germany listening to Incubus play while I type this on an iPad loaded with over 40 games, movies and other nifty apps. We have been in this field for 15 hours, and if the internet didn’t exist, I’d probably be doing drugs too, simply out of pure boredom. (I guess it’s a good thing listening to Incubus already makes you feel like you’re on acid. Ha!)
While thinking about the so-called rock ’n’ roll life, I like to think back to the crazy stories that spanned the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s. Whether it was Jim Morrison whipping his junk out onstage in Miami, Led Zeppelin driving motorcycles down the corridors of the Chateau Marmont, Ozzy Osbourne snorting ants with Mötley Crüe or Mick Jagger eating a Mars Bar out of a girl’s crotch (but hey, we’re all guilty of that one), it all makes me wonder what the biographers from our era of music will say. I can see the pull quote now: “It was a hot summer night in Hamburg, as the fans waited outside the popular German hotel lobby. A then-23-year-old Alex Gaskarth stared intently at his computer screen, frustration hanging in the air as he struggled to inch his way towards beating his high score on the then-popular computer game Diablo 3.”
Look, I’m not saying bands still don’t have their crazy fun sometimes. Hell, I remember being woken up the morning after a crazy night in Pittsburgh as our tour manager was trying to speak very calmly on the phone to a rather livid hotel owner—apparently the night before, we had gotten too inebriated in our hotel room. I’ll spare the incriminating details for now, but let’s just say the night ended with our lead singer running out of the hotel ass-naked, with a flat-screen TV he had stolen from the room. “Rock star moments” still do happen, but unfortunately for the future biographers of the music world, they are few and far between.
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