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“….the therapy is working. We’re still a band.”

On April 17th covering ,

The band Machine Head has gone public with its rather sensibly making use of Oakland therapist Suzanne Slyman to help with the working relationship between frontman Robb Flynn and bassist Adam Duce.

The remarkable thing about this is that it’s not done more often. In any normal business, using a consultant or mediator is an absolutely ordinary thing. If there is a personality conflict that threatens the operations of Apple or Nextel (to pick a couple of serious companies at random) you can bet they will avail themselves of consultation and help — perhaps from this guy. They can’t afford not to — the stakes are so high.

So why aren’t musicians given more support with the crucial task of working together? I recently discussed this with my colleague Deb Mashock, who works with bands in the Pacific Northwest.

It’s a symptom of our not taking musicians seriously as people who make important contributions to our culture. Even the groundbreaking film Some Kind of Monster makes the therapist/coach Phil Towle into a sort of comic villain despite the band crediting him with saving Metallica. This expresses the essential contempt the filmmakers had for Metallica’s acknowledgement that they are human beings who need help. The filmmakers could not show this contempt toward the band, so they used Towle as a foil.

This exposes something unhealthy about the place musicians have in our world. There is a toxic mixture of idealization and envy — musicians aren’t supposed to need help with their organizations the way normal people do — and if they seek to get paid for their work they are at risk for fan backlash. We’re disappointed if they concern themselves with mundane things like health insurance or job security. We retaliate if they show themselves as human.

Hats off to Robb Flynn and Adam Duce for realizing that they didn’t want the group to dissolve and being willing to do what’s necessary. This takes — dare I say it — maturity? And I’m glad they found someone to help them. Apparently Slyman is a normal competent therapist. Thanks to her for her good work.

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