Monday, June 6, 2011

Living The Dream..... Or Something.

I just spoke with an dear old friend.  She said she was proud of me for following my career dreams and taking the risks to do so.  Funny thing was, I hadn’t realized that I had been taking risks.  That got me thinking.....

Grandmaster Flash.  The.Best.Ever.
Music and entertainment have always played a major role in my life.  I started playing instruments way back in 4th grade, beginning with the Cello.  Beautiful sounding instrument if played properly.  I continued on through high school and also during my short stint in the college world. I met a neighborhood friend one night during college.  He was a DeeJay.  He showed me a few things about how that all worked, and I began to play records at the bar where he worked 1 night a week.  My tenure as a nightclub DeeJay spanned nearly a decade.  I made a very decent living, and had the opportunity to work at some of the best nightclubs in town.  During the crazy, self indulgent decade that was the 80’s, it was quite a memorable ride. I wish I could describe it well....  I grew tired of carrying around my milk crates full of records(when I finally sold them years later, there were 18 of them!) and set out to find the next logical step.  For me, it was becoming an audio engineer.

Did you know there are schools dedicated to becoming an audio engineer?  Wait a minute, you kids don’t even know what that is..... An audio engineer is the guy who makes the band sound good.  He’s the guy in the studio twisting all those knobs on the recording console, and placing mics on the drums and in front of all the amplifiers.  He’s often the guy who runs sound at your favorite live venue every time they have a band.  We travel in vans and buses all over the world with any band that will pay us.  We’re a mix between soldiers of fortune and audio whores.  We don’t really care if your band is good, we just want to work and make money.  It HELPS if your band is good, because then we will talk with you and hang out with you after the show, and not call you morons, and tell you that your band sucks major ass, and that my 6 year old daughter could play that solo better than you, ya douche.

Yes, I know what all the knobs do.
But risks?  I hadn’t thought about that.... In fact there are quite a few risks that we take while chasing after the elusive brass ring.  I spent time wondering if I would ever be able to really make a serious living at it.  In the beginning, you often are working for next to nothing, and are juggling two and sometimes three jobs to pay the bills.  Living with roommates, because you couldn’t possibly afford a place of your own.  Working all day, then running to the club to run sound for a local band that needs your expertise, loading out the band gear by yourself because the band needs to be hitting on the last few bar flies that remain, grab your cash, go home, throw down some Kraft Mac and Cheese, sleep, and do it all over again, ad nauseum.  Sometimes, you might not have many gigs at all.  I recall one December that I worked 5 shows.  5 days of work before Christmas.  It was a lean holiday for me and my family.  But you can’t give up because you’re so close to getting another tour.

I’ve got a pal that works for a very popular band.  He tours internationally with them.  When they are not on the road doing performances, they fly him home from where ever they finish their tour.  He gets half his regular salary per week while at home.  I was not so fortunate, as I worked for much smaller groups.  When the tour is over, you’re unemployed, unless you’ve got something lined up.  If you were able to save any money you made on the tour, you’ve got a little buffer until you can find temporary work, or a part time job.  It was a roller coaster ride, both emotionally and financially. Many still hold out hope that another tour will come.  For me, I had to walk away.  I toured regularly for ten years.  I’ve had the great fortune to do shows in 42 states, Canada and Mexico. Seeing this great country through the window of a van was tremendous.  I did what I set out to do, and gained a pretty good reputation as being a hard working guy who would go the extra mile for your band.  I still hear from old band members to this day, and love staying in touch with them.

The risks were high. Your friends at home, their lives keep moving forward while your gone.  Friends fade away, as their lives go on. Family knows they cannot count on you to be home for every holiday, as who knows where in North America I might be at the time.  Will I have enough money to pay rent for two months before the next leg of the tour starts?

I chose to find a regular job, hang up my guns and spurs, and leave the touring to the younger set.  It’s fun to reminisce about all those fun and crazy and screwed up moments the world of rock and roll brings.  And for fun, I get to run sound for some old local musician friends of mine. They will play at a dive bar every now and again.  These days, it’s just for fun, and I enjoy visiting an old part of my career path.  Sometimes I’ll even smash a glass.  To be a rock star. Or something like that.


  1. Ahh the good old days...sigh...
    Sucks when you have to grow up and make reasonable responsible decisions when that means giving up your fun and/or passion but it sounds like you had a hell of a ride and a whole lot of stories to hotel stories...that I like..a lot...

  2. The growing up part was a natural progression. It was time. But what a great ride! I have nothing to show for it, save the memories and laughter shared with many, and tears shared with a few. Worth it.