I was listening tonight to Amanda Marshall's debut album again... man, I love the way "Let It Rain" and "Dark Horse" sound, wonderful mixes with nothing standing in the way of the songs. You've spoken at length in the other threads about bringing your best to the table, not cutting corners and feeling at the end of the day that you've done your best. My question has to do with where that passion comes from - is it professional pride in being good at what you do, or is it a chasing of your "muse" that fuels it? How much of that passion comes from things completely outside of the music and your "work"?
Man, these questions I’ve been getting this month make me think hard. Unfortunately for me, it’s not a quick answer. Grab a beer or skip to another thread, there’s a little bit of a setup to get to my point.
I loved being a musician and being a drummer. I also loved the feeling I got from performing in front of an audience and how special it was when the band was having a good night. It became clear to me, after being on the road for a year, depending on five other people for my success was not in the cards. I wanted to be responsible for my own success or failure. The hardest part of leaving the band was my love playing music and the addictive high of an audience applauding after a song. The easiest part of leaving was the road life and the dead end I was heading in.
I had been recording my band’s rehearsals and club dates on a two track for a year or so and I got pretty good at getting a balance the other members didn’t bitch about. When I broke the band up, I considered pursuing engineering. But my greatest fear was giving up that addictive high from playing an instrument and performing.
I got a job at Mediasound, a recording studio in New York City. Once I was there, it didn’t take long to figure out that I could still achieve the feeling of performing when mixing a song, the only problem being the lack of an audience to provide me the instant gratification. So, instead of being the musician, I could be the puppeteer playing the faders with each one or group representing a musician. I could be a conductor and interpret the dynamics and feel of a written piece of music. I could make it a performance, enjoy the moment and get the gratification by feeling like I was playing the song. The audience approval was no longer necessary. I just needed to get the console to feel like second nature, like an instrument. It had to be an easier instrument than learning drums since it only took two hands to play. So that was my mindset as I began my new career, transfer my addiction from one instrument to another.
As it turned out, recording and mixing wasn’t as easy as learning to play drums. Let me put it this way, I wasn’t the brightest bulb in the house. There were concepts and missing links that escaped me for a long, long time.
Inspiration was another motivator for me. I think growing up at Mediasound and assisting guys like Bongovi, Christie, Clearmountain, Delugg, Diamond, Goldberg and Jorgensen inspired me a lot. I mention them in particular because I learned great things from each of them, not all being technical.
Pride of being a Mediasound engineer goes a long way. I remember doing my first session outside of Media. It was in California and I was mixing Odyssey. I remember feeling the tremendous pride representing the studio and I just knew I would do a great job. The attitude never wavered.
My dad was an industrial designer. Watching him do tediously detailed work at the drafting table, with incredible focus for hours on end, came into use years later when I was able to mix 14 to 16 hours nonstop. He designed logos, annual reports and packaging for Winchester, among others. He often asked me to pick which one I thought, of the three designs he was presenting, would be chosen. He also loved to paint watercolors, so overall he was a really creative guy.
I grew up hearing stories from my mother and grandmother about my great, great Uncle, Jules Verne. He was a famous French novelist and storyteller that predicted future inventions in his stories. Not bad to have in my bloodline, might come in handy.
So what drove me to do my very best? It all came down to one thing, fear of failure. Fear of not being able to be as good as those I respected around me, not coming up with something that showed I was a descendent of a very inventive family member. Maybe it was all that but why I cared in the first place, I’ll never know.
Thank you for taking the time to share your story. It deeply resonates with me. Your father sounds like a great man, and Jules Verne !?! What a crowd of witnesses peering over your shoulder! Might I suggest that they are encouraging you on, that from my limited perspective I imagine their shouts of "Well done!" with arms raised high...
I'm not trying to be maudlin, it's just that having become a grandpa last year, I can accutely feel the threads connecting me to the past and future. There is the stuff of deep substance in there waiting to be discovered.
I truely appreciate your candor. Oh, and tonight I'll hoist a Scottish Cream Ale. To that which drives us onward!