One of the hardest thing about doing what we do is that most of us run our own business. No work means, no income, and there are just sometimes when the phone doesn’t ring. I grew up in an upper middle class family where both of my parents worked regular 9 to 5 jobs. There was always food on the table, and life in general was pretty stable. Why the hell would I choose a career where NOTHING is stable? Something that is completely alien to everything I know about life. A life completely opposite of what I understand and know.
A-HA! We stand before the martyr. The egomaniac with an inferiority complex. Just scratch the surface and you discover a very disturbed person. Someone who actually ENJOYS pain and heartache and is ecstatic over the littlest of morsels of success.
When I graduated from college, I moved to Los Angeles with big dreams. I got a job as a runner at one of the prominent studios in the Valley. I spent the first year in LA getting sandwiches and fulfilling whatever whims a madman rockstar wanted taken care of. I did it with a smile, and truly understood that there were 1000 other people who wanted my shitty job.
I lived on ramen noodles, and worked 20 hours a day, often sleeping the other four on the studio couch, and not going home for weeks. Relationships failed. Work was all consuming. And then…
I got a chance.
I pounced on it, like a jaguar drops in on it’s prey from the tree. With the outer appearance of steel and self confidence, I came across as the most badass recording engineer in Los Angeles. The client was suitably impressed with the way I took the bull by the horns and steered the session towards completion.
You wanna know what was going on inside?
A scared little boy that knew who this was it… This was the moment… This was the one chance…
“Don’t fuck up!”
“OH SHIT! I’m gonna fuck up…”
“I can’t do this… They are gonna find out that I am a complete fraud.”
“I can’t do this… Just run…”
Despite my own attempts to royally screw up, I fooled ‘em. They actually thought that I knew what I was doing.
Because of that one session, I started getting more and more work as a recording engineer, and eventually started producing some projects that got nominated for some Grammy’s. I think, “I am really amazing. I am so awesome. I am getting all the great gigs.”
Then… The phone doesn’t ring. For months it’s silent. What’s wrong? Why aren’t they calling? Did they figure it out? Do they know that I am really full of shit? What the hell am I gonna do?
Heroin addicts call this cycle “chasing the dragon”. Addicts talk about every high being secondary to that first time they tried their drug. Addicts spend a lifetime in the bipolar land of incredible highs and lows.
Thank GOD the phone rang. Jesus, I thought I was gonna have to sell everything…
THIS is the profession and life I have chosen for myself? Only an insane person would make that choice, yet I did.
Why? Because the highs are higher than anything. Sitting next to Michael Landau punching in guitar parts and watching in AWE as he lays ANOTHER incredible track and says “Give me another track, I can play it better.”
Sitting in the recording engineer/producer chair as a hit record is made. And then hearing something on the radio for years after, that you had a part in.
Being the FOH engineer for Guns N Roses when they played for 350,000 people in Rio de Janeiro.
Mixing monitors for Whitney Houston when she sung so amazingly it literally made the hairs on your arms stand up and gave you goose bumps.
Watching Gene Simmons get stuck 30 feet above the stage because his fly gag didn’t work, and he has to play three extra songs after “God of Thunder” from up there. (And, you know, he is terrified of heights).
Seeing 60 grown union stage hand men staring at the floor, not making eye contact with anyone, because the rock star is screaming at the manager and just flung his computer like it was a frisbee.
Mixing FOH for Linkin Park for their very first visit to South Africa for 65,000 at the World Cup soccer stadium.
And on, and on, and on, and on………
We GET to do this job. YES—I am fucking crazy. YES, sometimes gigs are lean. But it’s the highs that keep us going.
I am thankful every day for what I have. I look forward to waking up every day and adding to the list of insane things I have seen. I wouldn’t trade it for the world, and I bet you wouldn’t either.
I leave you with one of my favorite clients…
A man decides after seventy years,
That what he goes there for, is to unlock the door.
While those around him criticize and sleep…
And through a fractal on a breaking wall,
I see you my friend, and touch your face again.
Miracles will happen as we trip.
—– SEAL ———-