Fun With Torture
Practical jokes to drive your bandmates crazy
Sure, playing music is fun, but do you know
what far exceeds the joys of a live performance?
Punishing your band-mates. Here
are a few tried and true practical jokes which
will mean big laughs for you and frustration,
self-loathing, and perhaps tears and/or loss
of employment for your friends with whom
you share the stage. Remember, the secret
to comedy is timing. Play these right and
you will enjoy legendary status; blow the
delivery and your only legacy will be shame.
1) THE FUZZ BUZZ
Materials: One fuzz pedal, two 15” guitar
cables, a guitar amp with an effects loop,
one hapless victim.
The set up: Stealthily hook a fuzz pedal
up to the effects loop of the victim’s amp.
Place the fuzz pedal by your pedalboard
and turn it all the way up. When you are
half way into your second song, surreptitiously
stomp on the fuzz, leaving it on for
no more than two seconds and watch the
panic and annoyance on the victim’s face.
Repeat throughout the night.
A friend of mine, Bob Whitmer, inflicted great
emotional and physical pain on a guitar player
in his band throughout an entire hour set with
this gag. After the sneaky wiring setup, Bob
engaged the fuzz ten minutes into the set,
unleashing an immediate cacophony of feedback.
The victim turned around and smacked
his amp a few times, then Bob turned off
the fuzz. The victim surmised that a wire or
tube was loose and all it needed was a good
pounding. Five minutes later Bob engages
the fuzz again, the victim beats his amp again;
this time Bob waits twenty seconds, allowing
the amp to takes its lumps, before he turns off
the fuzz. This continues for the entire set, with
each session of feedback growing in length
and intensity while amp abuse increases in
ferociousness. Regrettably, the set was only
an hour long and during the break the dupe
found the lines running in and out of his effect
loop. The stress induced from Bob’s genius
prank probably took a few years off the life
of both the amp and the guitar player while
simultaneously torturing the audience with
earsplitting feedback and therefore ranks as
one of the most brilliant bits of performance
art I’ve ever witnessed.
2) THE KEYBOARD CLAMINATOR
Keyboard players lean toward anal retention,
maybe because they grew up with mommy
taking them to music lesson. Here’s a devilish
deceit that will torture your uptight
schoolmarm of a keyboardist.
Materials: Strong transparent tape
(Scotch Tape) and one persnickety
keyboardist working with a keyboard,
not a conventional piano.
The set up: During soundcheck, ask to have
keys spread around the stage mix so they
are fairly omnipresent in the monitor mix,
not so loud as to arise suspicion but loud
enough to make any clams obvious. After
soundcheck, sneak over to the keyboardist’s
rig and tape the C above middle C to the
parallel B key. Apply the tape generously
underneath the keys so as not to be seen
or felt. When the keyboardist hits that C/B
cluster for the first time, look over at him
with a friendly it-happens-to-the-best-of-us
smile. When he hits it again, smile and shrug
your shoulders in a forgiving manner. The
next time, hopefully during a piano driven
ballad, give him a WTF? glare. Escalate to
full on, unforgiving rage. When the ruse
comes to light, go Clinton on him: deny,
deny, deny. Remain smug and unforgiving
and watch the formerly condescending keyboardist
crumble. Oh, how the mighty fall.
3) THE POWER POWDER
Materials: Hard hitting, Neanderthal drummer,
dark stage, one bottle of baby powder.
The set up: After soundcheck, sneak onto
the dark stage shortly before the show
starts. Gingerly pour half a bottle of baby
powder onto the snare head. Make it even
so that it becomes indistinguishable from
the white drum head. This prank works best
with a new, white head. You may consider
giving your drummer a new white snare
head for Christmas both as a kind gesture
and a cunning set up for his undoing.
When it’s time to play, occupy the drummer
with a conversation right up until the last
free second, forcing both of you to rush to
the stage. Perform this with military precision
so he arrives behind his kit seconds
before the first downbeat. Ideally, your set
should start with a drum-heavy rocker. When
he smacks that snare for the first time a
mushroom cloud of baby powder will engulf
the entire kit. If he’s a dedicated musician,
he will continue to play through the gagging
thick fog of white, sending out more white
bombs of powder every two and four beats.
Bonus points if it’s a high profile gig with a
mandatory black dress code.
An imaginative lark well-executed will get
people slapping their knees, giggling and
buying you drinks for the rest of your life—
it’s the currency of late night hysterics. Pull
off these beauties and enjoy your new status
as the funniest person in the room. One
small disclaimer: it may not be a good idea
to inflict these jokes on anybody who lacks
a sense of humor and is bigger than you. If
you decide to go this dangerous route, keep
your operation clandestine, like a man who
steals a Van Gogh, locks it in a hidden room
within his house and enjoys it alone with a
nice red wine.