Rat Skates is a filmmaker, writer and musician. He is most widely known as a pioneer of D.I.Y. Musicians, director of music documentaries and his contributions to the thrash metal genre as the founding drummer of Overkill. In the past few years, Rat has appeared in and directed a number of music documentaries such as Born in the Basement and Get Thrashed.
This film features a coalition of Recording Artists who struggle with the egos and fears of young musicians to save them from the fatal mistakes of stardom.
We discussed how fear affects a musician. From the young musician being headstrong about moving forward, to becoming very cautious once they have achieved something, to being fearful about losing the success and respect they have just recently acquired. How a musician must compromise on balancing personal happiness with career happiness and alludes to what kind of sacrifices must be made in order to continue moving on as a musician.
"We want to be the biggest band in the world" is the battle cry from the young musicians in this film. When asked how they will do it, the overwhelming response: "We just copy what the bigger bands are doing."
“Bigger bands” - mostly broke and suicidal. Signing with a major label the goal, understanding the contract optional. Paying to play at any price, kids wait in line to follow. The media's amplification of glory and dismissal of reality creates a dangerous dream, and the nightmare of undefined stardom continues to crash and burn into the cemetery where Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, and other gifted young artists now rest.
The internet has changed the recording industry, but what has not changed? Was it the powerless addiction for the artist to share his creativity that fed the industry monster to begin with? Will their roster of fears remain the vulnerability that kills them?
Afflicted with a stardom-obsessed diet and fed by the media controlled menu, the young artist races faster than ever to be seen though the window of disposable talent with reckless abandon. If fame and fortune is "the dream," then why are artists suicidal when they live it? Will the happiness machines of drugs and alcohol maintain eternal partnerships with the celebrity addicted ego? Is art itself now a permanent tenant to the landlord of capital?
This film highlights a celebrity roster of "dream survivors" who shine the spotlight of reality away from the stage. Can they save their young followers from the dangers that await, or will the light at the end of the tunnel be just another train wreck?
Not a varsity quarterback or honors student; fitting somewhere in the middle but also not fitting anywhere. Magnetized by the power and fueled by the rebellion, music finds him. Self esteem filled by his guitar, he bonds only with the few who “understand" in the garage of lost souls. He has found a family, identity and a purpose. He has something he must say, and dreams of the day when the world will hear him. Struggling between the rules and his feelings, he starts putting substances in his young body as he looks for answers.
He is chosen out of millions. Men in suits with expensive vocabularies bring him a stack of documents, a pen, and extend a handshake. Without putting a toe in, he dives headfirst into the dark, cold unknown waters of the music business. The tides of reality rise up on him fast, waves of hyper-scheduling pummel him. He is trapped by the rip currents of his public demands. His dream, his fans, his stardom depends solely on his brilliance and meeting a deadline. Calculating quarterly profits, his industry enablers relax safely on the shore, watching him gasp for air.
His heart and his works lay naked; both praised and condemned. Autograph seekers and flashbulbs pop everywhere, but he feels empty and alone. A bottle of gin eases his morning shakes. He thinks back to his garage friends and their dream. Unable to understand his own feelings and completely powerless, he puts the only reliable thing he knows to his lips again. A muted young voice calls her father’s name. Slowly opening the door within the silence, her father is laying face down motionless and cold. Pills and bottles on his nightstand, gold records on his walls.
We all know the names: Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Michael Jackson. Their stories are the same as countless young artists. The unresolved collision of art, money, fear and success is now at epidemic levels. 96% of artists live with unrecognized A.D.D, O.C.D, Aspergers or depression, and they journey down a path completely lost - no map, no directions. Used as disposable talent in the media controlled trend window, our young artists today are truly confused, scared and alone. This film highlights a celebrity roster of "dream survivors" who turn the spotlight away from the stage and shine it on reality. From garage to Grammy, they traveled the path and survived. They can save the young artist from crashing, but will they follow directions?
Varsity quarterbacks have coaches. What does the artist have?
Pt 1 The young artist dysfunction: Fans +Signing =success
Before you began production on Welcome to the Dream, what was the absolute top of the hill number one most important issue that you thought had to be brought up in your movie?
The absolute most important thing is fear. Fear is sort of the rudder of all things underneath. It’s sort of an umbrella - meaning that when musicians are very young, they’re fearless and they go into everything without any second thought to the consequences of their decisions. I myself having experienced that, I understand that you are just so anxious to get into the business and learn about it. Ultimately it’s fear you hang onto. You’re fearless at first and you become fearful later as your career moves on. If you want to change your style a little bit how will your fans react to that? What about your record contract? It’s not a good contract? Signing a recording contract is this must-do thing. You’re fearful that if you don’t sign it, you may pass up an opportunity. Is that good or bad? Fear really commands a musician and it has been that way for a long time. So to answer your question, it’s fear.
In your film, what would you say was the hardest subject to address with the musicians you interviewed?
The hardest thing that everyone had a little bit of difficulty talking about is sort of within that fear category. That was actually personal happiness integrated with career happiness. People want to be happy in life at what they do. All the musicians that I have ever spoken with have had to at some point re-think their definition of happiness in the career of being a professional touring recording artist because it is a lot different than what people think once they get there. It’s exhilarating and it’s also terrible (laughs) at the same time. There’s a lot of things that are incredibly hard to deal with. It’s the kind of thing where you have fear. I’m one of the guys that said I’m not happy, and I can’t see myself ever being happy. I love music, I love writing, I love playing, I love everything about the art of music. But everything else that is going to go along with that for me to sustain a career, I can’t do that. I could always play music but I just don’t think I’m going to be able to do it professionally if this is what I am going to have to do, this is the amount of time I have to spend on the road and this is how much of my life tour itinerary is going to consume. Personal happiness is really a tough thing because like me, we all dream of getting to this place and once we get there, are you really happy? It’s a tough thing and a lot of people have a tough time coming to terms with whether they are really happy. That’s a tough thing.
In the next installment: Pt 2 Role Models Following the Path of Mistakes and Complacency
The importance of the DIY business model for bands and what they need to do to avoid being victimized is explained in an in-depth manner. Bands are paying $200 or more to perform at VFW and American Legion Halls in which the bands pay an exorbitant amount of money only to have their shows not promoted. Recommendations to avoid victimization include a number of bands getting together and putting on shows at small venue and running the concerts themselves or with the aid of their parents and more!
Rat is helping musicians to survive the collision of art, money, ego, success and fear. Find out more about his projects: