Posted by: performanceproduction | July 20, 2011

Retrospective

I’ve been thinking a lot about my career recently, mostly brought on by a discussion I had with a young lad who is working for us this summer. He’s in college, in a recording program (actually a pretty decent one – I don’t know what kinda job placement they have, but I know the dude who runs it, and he’s damn near a legend in the industry – especially in the circles I used to run in back when I was doing that shit). He nonchalantly asked me if I went to school for this.

Well….yes and no.

I owe this whole goddamn mess to my high school Physics teacher in a way, Sandy Mac (not her real name, but that’s really what we called her). She’s the one that got me obsessed with physics. I applied to three colleges with the intention of starting my way onto a career in astrophysics. I was going to be the next Stephen Hawking – only I can walk! One of those schools, a tiny private college which actually HAD an Astrophysics major sent me a letter that flat out said I would need too much financial aid, so they were going to wait list me. Another I applied to, a state school but one with a highly regarded engineering and science reputation offered me too little financial aid for what I was going to need. So I picked my third option, which I applied to only as a fallback. Good thing I did, because I was going to need it.

By the way, the financial aid dude at the good engineering state school told me if I had applied to certain other ones, with my grades and SAT’s I would have probably recieved a free ride. Fuckers.

Anyway, once I got there, I still loved Physics but realised that I fucking LOATHE Chemistry. So I switched my major to History (after a LOT of cajoling by one of my History professors who was totally in love with me), and added a Music minor. Now, this school didn’t HAVE a Music major, and really only had a few music classes – all of which I took in my two years there. That’s when it hit me. I was going to become an ethnomusicologist (specifically the music of the Central Americas. I used to be able to tell the difference just by hearing them between a marimba made in Mexico vs one made in Nicaragua). So, I transferred to a different state school, one with a very well known music program.

It was here that I discovered the existence of recording programs. I thought that was really cool sounded, so I checked it out. Officially unrelated, but mostly made up of the recording students, was a “live sound club” on campus. I jumped into that immediately. I didn’t know shit, but it seemed fun.

It was my second gig that sealed my fate. It was a comedian and a band outdoors in a big tent. We loaded in, did the band, and then the comedian started. The weather started getting shitty. Suddenly, we were in the middle of a thunderstorm. No big deal, we’re under a tent, right? Then the power goes out. We start loading out in the dark. Then the tent starts collapsing. Mad rush ensues. I’m barking orders left and right because noone else would step up and take charge. We get loaded out and I head home to bed. Yeah right. I was running so high on the adrenaline rush and the realisation that I was made to do this.

I jumped wholehog into that live sound club, while assisting senior recording students in the studios. I skipped classes, skipped sleep…I mixed, edited, cut tape, fixed things, learned as much as I could. My grades suffered. I was given notice that I was to be booted out after that year. So I wrote a letter pleading my case, and was given a conditional semester in return. I came back even more gung-ho about live sound than recording, and started focussing more and more on that, when I wasn’t going on several day long benders. I was never drunk for a gig, but when I wasn’t gigging, I was drunk or on my way there. I eventually stopped doing that (and didn’t touch a drink for a few years), but got the official kick out. I never told any of the people in the live sound club that I had been booted, so I stayed on there for a whole ‘nother year running that.

That summer, I got a job with a local production company. I was 22. I had first mixed a live event a year and half before that (2 AG, 2 Vox, and shitting my pants in terror), and now I was getting paid to do it. There was a LOT to learn about reality, it turns out. I had a ridiculous summer, and the bossman of that company was shocked to find out that the next spring that I wanted to come back. And I did come back, totally in charge and running hard (or so I thought at the time – in retrospect I probably still sucked).

I never worked a job in another industry again, and I don’t imagine I ever will.

This is my home now:

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