Booze, blood, and plasma balls: band rituals for inspiring creativity


Being meaningfully creative on a regular basis is hard. Duh. Not being creative when you really want to be is even worse; art failure is heart failure, as they say. Perhaps this is why artists, musicians, writers, and, OK, humans create rituals designed to unleash that very special thing we know is in us somewhere. That beautiful noise that has no sound or that image that knows no words is curled up tight in the hideout at the backs of our brains while we wish it would just reveal itself in a communicable form. Summoning the rock gods to inspire the music within us can be quite the task—after talking to several bands, it seems the roads to creativity may involve rituals that range from the scientific to the wildly superstitious.

It's rumored that Billy Corgan had a rule that his banddudes were not allowed to have sex on the day of a show, and for good reason—letting go of that load means lower energy levels for guys. Women, on the other hand, have reported feeling more energized and creative postorgasm. A certain Chicago musician inspires lyrics by jumping up and down for hours while listening to mixes through headphones, thus inducing the production of endorphins, which boost creativity. "It is conducive to vivid image creation," he says. Similarly, my song ideas come to me while I'm walking and nowhere near my instruments. That makes sense, I guess—the scientists say that your brain chemistry changes after you walk two miles.

On the superstitious tip, there was a period of time when my band wholeheartedly believed we needed to bring a plasma ball with us everywhere we went . . . on tour, to the studio, to the show, wherever. Yes, it was an extra thing to load and most of the time we forgot to plug it in, but for some reason, just knowing it was there brought us comfort and apparently instilled some sense of confidence. During one recording session, we went as far as to declare this horse the one to show us the light:


Some people have a ritual of eating cantaloupes before a show. A Chicago band you know and love has a rule of no music and no talking in the van, no matter how long the ride . . . I would imagine that a tour starts to feel a lot like a silence retreat. An anonymous person in a sorta famous band requires a bottle of Patron in the rider; it's understood that person will drink it in its entirety with no intention of sharing. (Hey man, do what you gotta do.) And while one of my bands has a custom of drinking a beer and doing a shot of Jameson together before every rehearsal, some bands embrace more intricate practices of invoking the creativity spirits—last week, a black-metal band wrote Fan Landers with an interesting dilemma. Times are tough when blood-sacrificing rituals are thwarted by the newly vegan, but Jessica Hopper offers some sage advice. Bookmark this one should your band ever face such spiritual differences or if you simply need to stare long and hard into a blazing flame.

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