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Twelve Angry Men
The New FBI are not ready to make nice with club owners
Pre-sell your own damn tickets! Saxophonist Paul Maslak of rock/soul big band the New FBI doesn’t mince words when it comes to pay-to-play venues.
What are the New FBI?
The New FBI is a group of professionals who have decided they want to play for themselves rather than club owners. Because we’re older, we draw on our roots, which are horn bands from the ’70s and ’80s. Our band members range from 24 years old to the mid-50s.
What does it mean to say a band play for themselves rather than club owners?
Thirty years ago, club owners wanted you to play material that was dance music, Top 40 and on AM radio. You didn’t do that, you didn’t work. We decided when we put this together that we wanted to play the horn-driven music of Tower of Power; Blood, Sweat & Tears; and Cold Blood. We didn’t care if it worked or not. We just wanted to play this music. It’s a group of professionals in fields other than music. It’s the only way you can do a band like this. If you’re in music to make money, you’re not going to be in a big band. The pie’s still the same size; it just gets chopped up a lot smaller. We have no desire to make our living doing this.
So around half of the band are horn players?
Without a horn section, we’re just like everybody else. The band’s focus is music that highlights the horn parts, not horn parts written as an afterthought to embellish a song to sell to the public. It’s sort of a cross between soul, big band and rock, if that makes any sense.
How many people are currently in the band?
Today it’s 12. It varies. It’s been as high as 13 and as low as 11. We’ve been through a lot of musicians. The people who want to play this music are generally educated musicians. They’re not garage-band musicians. They’ve got to be able to read music. We throw a lot at new members. One thing we don’t do is original material. We all have day jobs and families, and original material is a lot of extra work.
What are the logistical issues for a band that big?
We’ve established a day of the week that we rehearse—every Monday night. We aren’t sports fans, so it doesn’t bother us. We don’t have any roadies. It makes it tough when we have to show up with our own sound system. We get there early. A two-hour gig is really an eight-hour gig.
Your website said you’re available for private events and weddings. Have you done many of those?
We’ve done a few events—Christmas parties last year. Sometimes it’s a turn-off for people having a wedding. They want to go up and request a song. You can do that with a four-piece band. They can figure it out. An 11- or 12-piece band can’t figure it out really quick. It’s more of a concert. We’ve done a couple of weddings, but I really don’t want a bride to be disappointed if she hires us. I don’t try to oversell the band. I don’t want people to hire us if we’re not what they want. It’s an important day for people.
Are there any other considerations for a private event that differ from a regular gig?
Yeah—you got any money? In the past, we’ve done back yards. We will never do that again unless you’re Hugh Hefner. We haven’t had much success with that. There are always too many people overindulging. We’re a family band. You can bring your kids to see us. We like that because they’ll see some real music.
Any final thoughts?
We didn’t delve into how club owners have completely ruined live music in Orange County with this pay-to-play crap. I got out of the business for 20 years and came back a couple of years ago to find that it’s all changed. Clubs don’t promote themselves anymore. They want the bands to do that for them. Criminy, we’ve got enough to do. I think they’re killing themselves. Bands don’t have time to do all that stuff, especially the good ones. The United States of America is a service-oriented place, and if you provide a good service, people will come back. They’ll only sell tickets for a certain amount of time. People will go to their clubs and see crap and never go back.