How stressful is your work week? How many hours do you put in? When that proverbial clock is punched, isn’t there a part of you that feels at ease, as if you just tossed aside a 300-pound weight off your back? Of course, it’s a feeling everyone races towards week after week. But, here’s something to chew on: What if you couldn’t take that weight off?
That’s essentially the struggle one deals with as a musician, especially in this day and age. With the industry in such a flux, now more than ever, musicians have to keep trending 24/7/365. They’re always writing new material, they rarely step off the road, and they’re endlessly looking for ways to stay ahead of the curve.
Here’s a good example: Starting today, The Flaming Lips will attempt to break the Guinness World Record for Most Concerts in One Day when they play eight shows across Tennessee, Mississippi, and Louisiana. It’s gimmicky, sure, but it’s a feat that’s turning heads and it’s also a bold indication of how far musicians are willing to go. Granted, Wayne Coyne is a madman of epic proportions, but he’s hardly alone.
With that in mind, we’ve put together a Rolodex of certifiably restless figures in the music industry today.
Stress Level: 1.0 out of 10.0
Estimated Blood Pressure: 145/99
Being the human embodiment of the Platonic ideal of “Party” means never, ever stopping. Recently, Andrew W.K.’s seamlessly bounced between instrumental solo piano recordings (as on 2009’s 55 Cadillac), anime covers (2009’s Gundam Rock), and his signature hard-rocking anthems (as on the now 10+ year old I Get Wet). When not sitting down long enough to write, his jobs include performing frenetic live shows, hosting a children’s TV show, and even delivering a talk at the My Little Pony convention (a speech reportedly titled “How to Party Like Pinkie”). The dude is a ball of energy, never taking a breather, yet there’s never a sign of any stress breaking through his party shield. And W.K.’s ready to bring that high impact enthusiasm directly to your brain with his motivational speeches. -Adam Kivel
The Black Keys
Stress Level: 8.2 out of 10.0
Estimated Blood Pressure: 159/99
With their recent megasuccess over the last two years, it’s easy to forget The Black Keys have been one of the hardest working duos around for a decade plus. Their release cycle through seven records has been relentless, yet recent news of an eighth in the works mere months after El Camino hit, itself recorded following canceled tour dates behind Brothers due partially to “exhaustion”, still seems stupefying. Through it all, they maintain a major road presence, headlining festivals across the globe (at the time of writing, they have 13 scheduled appearances left this year, many happening in different countries on the same weekend). Last year, they performed on Saturday Night Live an almost unheard of two times, and appeared with Anthony Bourdain on No Reservations to boot. On top of all that, and despite prior hesitations, they license their music to commercials and TV shows everywhere, suing those who don’t ask permission. These Akron boys have been seen all over these past two years, and it doesn’t look like they’ll become scarce anytime soon. -Ben Kaye
Stress Level: 6.8 out of 10.0
Estimated Blood Pressure: 118/77
BjÃ¶rk’s inclusion has nothing to do with a crazy busy schedule; after two decades as pop’s quirky pixie, she works at her own pace. Still, that pace has made for some truly profound work, starting with the June 2009 release of VoltaÃ¯c, comprised of five separate releases of various Volta-related material. Her most significant work in recent years, and possibly of her entire career, is 2011’s Biophilia. The world’s “first app album”, BjÃ¶rk herself described it as a multimedia collection “encompassing music, apps, Internet, installations, and live shows.” At the very least, she started a trend by readily accepting the iPad as a musical instrument/tool. What she really did, though, was make question the true possibilities of the album concept and reconfigure the interplay between songs and accompanying visuals, which pushed the very boundaries of art itself. If that’s not tireless, then we’ll dress like a swan and honk the night away in Times Square. -Chris Coplan
Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band
Stress Level: 3.0 out of 10.0
Estimated Blood Pressure: 144/97
Earlier this month, Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band clocked in the longest show in their 40 year career. The band’s appearance at Madrid’s Estadio Santiago Bernabéu ran 32 songs and just under four hours, but those sorts of marathons are commonplace for Springsteen and his glorified bar band. Springsteen dropped the intermission from his live act in the late ’70s and never looked back. In recent years, he’s placed less emphasis on storytelling and breaks between songs, making an E Street gig a real workout, an endurance test of sorts, for both fans and the band alike. The length of a standard Springsteen show still remains a central focus of the E Street Band’s mythos, as the group (mostly in their 60s) continue to stretch the limits and definition of how long an arena rock show can and should last in 2012. -Jon Bernstein
Stress Level: 9.7 out of 10.0
Estimated Blood Pressure: 178/108
Since, well, always, Damon Albarn has had a presence in the industry. For the last two years, however, he’s kept his calendar ridiculously mucked up. Following an awe-inspiring year with the Gorillaz in 2010, which included two albums, appearances at Coachella and Glastonbury, and an ensuing tour, everyone thought Blur would be next. They were, but that was only the tip of the iceberg. He’s since returned to Blur – an idea that’s stressful just to think about – and has also assembled new collectives in DRC Music (featuring Dan the Automator) and Rocket Juice and the Moon (this one sports Flea and afrobeat wunderkind Tony Allen). Between all that, he composed music for the English opera Dr Dee and was attached to score the film adaptation of his sister’s book, The Boy in the Oak. More recently, however, he’s collaborated with Portishead’s Beth Gibbons and produced Bobby Womack’s latest LP. Blame it on absolute boredom, but he’s also working on an alleged solo album and set to perform at this year’s Olympic Games with Blur. Um, you can now drop the mic, Albarn. Christ. -Michael Roffman
Stress Level: 0.0 out of 10.0
Estimated Blood Pressure: 118/78
Anyone who lists Tenacious D and Them Crooked Vultures as side projects must be busy. But helping out other musicians seems to be Dave Grohl’s favorite hobby. Never one to limit himself to one particular genre, he’s pounded the skins for everyone from sludge weirdos The Melvins to stoner rockers Queens of the Stone Age to indie folksters such as Cat Power. Just last October, amidst one of the busiest times of his life, Grohl filled in for Cage the Elephant drummer Jared Champion, when Champion’s appendix burst on tour. Outside of music, he’s shared some time on the silver screen, where he’s played Satan and a knock-off version of crazed drummer Animal in last year’s The Muppets. Currently, he’s working on a documentary about Sound City Studios, while he continues to headline various festivals across the globe with his never-ending tour de force, the Foo Fighters. One would think he’d take a break, especially given the band’s incessant activity in 2011 — a documentary, garage tour, and their best album since 1997’s The Colour and the Shape — yet Grohl keeps looking for more things to do, always wearing that excited jack’s grin of his. Did you not see him on Saturday Night Live recently? -Dan Caffrey
Stress Level: 7.1 out of 10.0
Estimated Blood Pressure: 159/92
The restlessness of deadmau5 probably leads back to one thing: his damn mouse mask with the rave-smile on it. How many times do you think he wakes up and looks at himself in the mirror and says, “Why, Joel Zimmerman, why did you pick this sweaty mask to be your thing?” In 2010, Deadmau5 collapsed at a show in DC due to “exhaustion”, which is dubious since he recently just gracefully acquiesced to being simply a “button-pusher”. Still, that doesn’t stop him from putting on a spastic performance when he’s up there, and touring worldwide with sets brimming over two hours — though putting on the mask every time is probably the worst part of his day. -Jeremy Larson