JUMPING DARKNESS PARADE WITH EYAL LEVI: CRACK IS WHACK
Disclaimer – This piece is written in the present tense even though the events are long gone.
I want to share with you guys a story that took place over a year ago. It’s about what could happen to ANYONE who has a little success and handles it completely wrong. I’m sure that if you think long and hard enough you’ll be able to name at least two people who you’ve seen fuck up a good thing.
Have you ever known anyone who achieved a next-to-impossible dream? Ever known someone who then ruined it so hard that they were degraded to living out of their car addicted to crack? In my line of work, it’s not uncommon to come across people who have fucked up with drugs to the point of having to quit their careers. It’s also not uncommon to know recovered junkies. It is uncommon to see a trainwreck of a human being quite like I saw today. After all these years of being around professional fuck-ups, I have to say that today’s spectacle has made it into my top five all time “Man He Done Fucked Up” list. It takes a special case, a work of art, so to speak, to make it to the top five. So here goes…
Three days ago one of my fellow cohorts here at Audiohammer asked me if I could fit in this multiplatinum producer he knows ASAP for an emergency session in my drum room. Apparently this guy had studio time booked elsewhere and for whatever reason things fell through and he needed to get this band he was working on recorded immediately. I have a project in the studio right now and had to move some things around, but I made it work.
The deal we made was simple. I was renting them my space for their usage. My involvement besides providing the location and equipment was that I would hang out at the start of the session to make sure everything was running smoothly, and then I would peace out and let them do their thing. Sounds easy enough, right?
11 AM – I am in my control room waiting for the band and producer to show up. I send Producer a text, which reads, “Call or text when you arrive. I’m playing guitar so may not hear you at the door.” I receive a response an hour later (which is an hour late) that reads “I can feel your heartbeat through my shirt.” Followed by “you know only love” and “for god’s sake dear.” By the time those texts had arrived, the band — with angry parents in tow — were at my place for the better part of an hour.
Did I say “angry parents”? Yes I did. Because this band’s average age is sixteen, and the parents were pissed off that this super producer they were spending who knows what ridiculous amount of money on was AWOL and left no instructions on how to proceed.
When you’re working as an engineer under a producer, it’s a good practice to know what they want you to do before doing anything. It’s their vision you are hired to achieve. Hence my dilemma: get the band going in hopes that this dude would eventually show up and be cool with what we did, or just wait? And besides that, I wasn’t even hired to work on this session! They were just here to rent my place. I decided on “fuck it” and just got to work setting up.
2 PM – Producer shows up. He shakes my hands. Says hi to everyone. Walks over to the couch in the drum room and goes to sleep. And not just a catnap. This was an “I’ve been up all night and i’ts no joke” kind of post binge sleep. If it weren’t for the loud ass snoring we would have thought that he was dead. The fact that he was five feet from the drumset that we were playing on and yet remained comatose worried us a little. We tried moving him and he just slumped. For a moment, we thought he was dead. Eventually, with some water on the face, he woke up. We asked him if he liked how the mics were positioned, to which he replied:
“IT’S ALL FUCKING WRONG.”
That is exactly why I didn’t want to get started without him there. So I asked him what he wanted changed. He responded with some “move this here,” a little “move that there,” some “raise this an inch,” and touch of “angle this,” until fifteen minutes later, when he decided that I should put everything back to how I originally had it because he figured it would sound great and I knew what I was doing. The whole time that he was instructing me on where to reposition the microphones, he was slurring his speech badly. He also had a hard time finishing sentences.
So we’re all setup. The drummer is getting impatient. He is ready to track. The producer says we’re ready to go. Commends me on the job I did setting up the mics. Then out of nowhere he decides to go visit Jason Suecof (who lives across the street from me). Instead of tracking, he just up and left. Walked over there, leaving us with our dicks in our hands. We ended up deciding to just start without him.
An hour and one song later the producer returns. He says it sounds great. We want to get going on a second song. I offer him the captain’s chair since it’s HIS session. He sits down and I try to give him a basic rundown on how to operate my rig. Simple things like, “This button turns on these speakers, this button turns on the sub.” His response was, “Hey man do you have a boom box? They’re killer. You can get one for seventy bucks at Wal-Mart. By the way, I ran out of gas. Do you have a gas can? I’ve got to take care of that.” Since I have a lawnmower, I have a gas can. I gave it to him. Big mistake. Instead of tracking the next song, he decided it was more important to disappear again and go fill up his car.
So we began on the next song. An hour and a second song later, Producer returns. He is DRENCHED in sweat. I know Florida is hot, but he looked like he had just gone swimming with his clothes on. Apparently two guys who are staying with me were driving down the road and found him wandering aimlessly in the wrong direction. They gave him a ride. Halfway to the destination, he elected to just jump out of the vehicle mid-ride.
Okay so onto song three. Or so we thought. When he returned, he returned without his “iPhone.” He was very distraught about this. He NEEDED his “iPhone.” He went into my living room on a mission to find it. He started ripping cushions off couches. Knocked over a lamp, knocked over some artwork, and was basically acting like a complete and total lunatic. He never found his “iPhone” near my couches. Note this location.
Once he realized that he wasn’t finding his “iPhone,” he decided to actually do some work. He let me engineer and he produced one track. Incredibly enough, it came out fucking GREAT!!!! I learned so much. I’m incredibly thankful for this experience. After we finished the song at 6 p.m., he told us he had to clear his head. He grabbed me, told me he trusted me, and wandered off into the evening.
Once again, with our dicks in our hands, we decided to just go ahead and record. One hour later, we were done. The drums sounded killer. Dude may have been insane, but at least we did our jobs. I wasn’t hired to engineer, but what the fuck was I going to do? Leave them hanging?
So we start tearing down the kit, and while I’m in there, I noticed a white powder on the floor. I look closer, and there are some rocks in the powder. All of us gathered around and noticed that this was straight up crack rock. We took pics. Laughed about it. Cleaned it up and flushed it down the toilet. I have the pics. I can send them.
Thirty minutes later, we’re all packed up. The band leaves. I get paid for the room rental, not the production work, but whatever. I didn’t want to argue for a few hundred more dollars. I was beat and just wanted this project out of my life. Let me just mention that the person who paid me was the mom of the fifteen year old guitar player. She also paid the rest of the band. Apparently they’re on salary.
So my guys and me were laughing about the day and just kind of shell-shocked over the whole thing. We decided to just chill out. Two hours later, Mr. Producer just walks in. He smelled like gasoline and was covered in sweat. He was completely distraught that the session was over. He couldn’t understand that the band had left. He thanked me and went on his way…
So what do you think the moral of this story is?