A flight from California to New Jersey sure gives you a lot of time to think. A lot. So, here are my thoughts upon arriving back home after spending a few days in the entertainment capital of our country; Los Angeles.
There is no doubt that the music business is a hard business. It’s arbitrary, finicky, and sometimes simply unpredictable–both good and bad. Additionally, arrogance, jealously, and ego are sometimes added to the mix. To round out the rough landscape we have to add a sluggish economy. The sum of all this is a difficult and unforgiving terrain which can be problematic for an artist and his or her career to navigate. Despite that however, what I learned this past week was that the news is not all bad. In fact, my couple of days in Los Angeles gave me reason for hope and although music and entertainment are indeed tough businesses I believe that perhaps, just perhaps, we can make some changes that will make our musical community a little better for all of us, one step at a time.
Here are the several reasons that convinced me that there is hope.
First would have to be DW Drums and its founder, Don Lombardi.
Fred has known Don for years and he has always told me what a wonderful person Don is. I can now understand that. We will be doing a feature on Don’s career (both as a player and manufacturer) and I think you will find it interesting; I sure did. The feature’s theme is to explore Don himself. Don is quick to share information and knowledge and he is adamant about making things better for all drummers, not just ones who are well known. A soft spoken man, Don is a drummer’s drummer. He knows what drummers think but more importantly, he knows what they need. Thus, I can now understand why DW Drums are so good; they are designed to cater directly to the drummer and his or her’s needs and not just what is the cheapest or the easiest to manufacture. Don, in my opinion, is an important pillar in our musical community. His personality is engaging and he always seems willing to help. We need more people like him.
I also have to mention Elizabeth Lang at DW. Elizabeth was instrumental in setting up our interview and I cannot think of many who would make a better representation for their organization than Elizabeth. She is professional from top to bottom.
My second reason for hope is Steve Schaeffer. Steve, a very well known Hollywood studio and session drummer who has played on more than 1,000 feature films and movie soundtracks as well as multiple Grammy shows, was as down to earth as you can get. Besides being so talented Steve is a tremendous source of history and knowledge about the music business. Anyone studying under him should simply listen and absorb what he has to say. I am excited about this feature we are doing about Steve because he has a lot to say and I think you will be intrigued. Additionally, his resume is staggering. However, beyond all that Steve was as humble and approachable as you can get. That’s important for our community and for our youth. I really liked Steve for who he is and I am thankful to have met him. His interview was fascinating.
My third reason for hope comes from two individuals by the name of Chris and Steve Duddy.
Chris is a well known cinematographer with an impressive resume. Along with his brother, Steve, the brothers Duddy are spearheading the effort to produce a documentary about the Porcaro family entitled Porcaro: A Band Of Brothers. (As a lot of you know, Chris has already finished and will soon be releasing another documentary on Duff McKagan, the former bass player for Guns N’ Roses). Chris and Steve are unassuming people who are on a mission and they are relentless in their pursuit of it. If I say so myself, this is a mission that should be accomplished and I sincerely hope that it is. Carrying themselves with class and dignity, the Duddy brothers were welcoming and engaging. I can only wish Chris and Steve the best in their pursuit in creating this documentary. Readers of this blog know we support the making of it and please look for our upcoming and updated feature on the status of Porcaro: A Band Of Brothers.
Okay, as to my fourth reason for hope I will readily admit I am biased. Raul Pineda is one of my favorite drummers and I am apparently not alone in having this opinion. So, heading into a sit down with this man I was ready for something special. However, what I was not prepared for was Raul and Nydia’s (his wife) overwhelming hospitality. To say that they opened their home up for us to film Raul is an understatement. They made us feel at home in their home. Raul gives me hope because he embodies fortitude, integrity, and humility. It’s a refreshing quality for a musician of his caliber. I can’t wait to see how his career continues to grow. I think you will enjoy our feature on Raul and I thank him and Nydia for being so hospitable.
My fifth reason for hope was admittedly the sleeper of my stay in Los Angeles. SIR-Los Angeles (Studio Instrument Rentals) was an interesting visit and admittedly, I did not know what to expect going in. I knew SIR attracted national acts for rehearsals but I did not really understand their operation or just what goes on there beyond that. However, boy was I blown away. I don’t want to give away here (ahead of our feature on SIR) what Fred and I discovered. Instead, I want to simply recognize Garon Eltzroth (pictured below) who was our most amazing tour guide. He went out of his way to help us experience what SIR employees experience on a daily basis.
(Memo to SIR: Keep this guy and promote him; he’s a great interface on your behalf with the public). I also want to recognize Scott Aguero and Chris Hansen in the drum section. All three of these gentlemen were very accommodating and in terms of a supporting cast they do a great job. As a performer I would feel very confident having these guys behind me.
My sixth reason for hope is phenom guitarist Jeff Kollman.
I will say this about Jeff; if I was starting a band or needed a sub in a pinch he would be my first call on guitar….period. Jeff is a human jukebox. Tell him the sound and what you want to hear and he will play it. I also was very impressed with Jeff’s knowledge of drummers and their role and value to a band. Granted, Jeff plays with one of the best in the business in Chad Smith, nevertheless, I just found that Jeff is so in tune with what being in a band means; from all angles. That’s an important lesson for many musicians to learn because in my mind being able to play with a band is infinitely more valuable than being able to solo and it’s easy to get lost in the latter to the detriment of the former. Jeff is also so diverse that I cannot imagine any band that he could not play with. Following with my theme here, Jeff was very hospitable and giving of his time. He also brought out his guitars and weaved in and out of sounds and genres like nobody’s business. Jeff doesn’t necessarily need a band to be entertaining; he can do that on his own. Look for our feature on this talented musician; it’s special.
My seventh reason for hope is Tom Croucier. I met Tom through Fred and the two are childhood friends. The fact that people can remain friends for that long is appealing to me however, beyond that Tom is one of the easiest people to talk to….about anything. Combine that with excellent musicianship, a proven track record, and, a fantastic voice and it’s a pleasurable experience to spend time with him. Indeed, Tom is just a nice guy…..period. I really enjoyed our Podcast about the state of the music industry and I have a funny feeling that even after our upcoming feature on Tom is out that that will not be the last time you will hear from him on Beato’s Blog.
My eighth reason for hope is Roy Burns and Aquarian drumheads. I will simply say this as to Roy or “Mr. Burns”; he is such a treasure and resource to our musical community. I thoroughly enjoyed speaking with Roy and his knowledge, experience, and insights are really something. Historic actually. I think you will thoroughly enjoy our interview with Mr. Burns in our upcoming feature.
Beyond Roy’s time and insights however, I also want to recognize the very accommodating staff at Aquarian and that starts with Chris Brady. Chris went out of his way to make us feel welcome and relevant and for that both Fred and I are thankful. Very. I was overwhelmed with Chris’ willingness to display and explain their products in response to issues I had encountered as a drummer with sound control. That was above the call of duty in my opinion. in the end, both Mr. Burns and his co-owner Ron Marquez were very engaging and considerate. Rounding out the fantastic Aquarian staff were Gabe Diaz and Jesus Estrada who greeted us the second we walked in. Aquarian, you are as professional as it gets but then again, with Roy and Ron at the helm that’s not really surprising.
Last but certainly not least, my ninth and final reason for hope is my partner and friend Fred Beato.
Fred’s generosity and willingness to help others cannot be understated. I have seen him help so many and I have no doubt that this character trait will continue on. He has been more than gracious in taking time away from his business at Beato Bags to ensure that we constantly develop and produce quality interviews and features here on Beato’s Blog. Fred, I salute you as well and these features would not have been possible without you.
So, all in all, here’s what I think. I get it. Music has always been a rough business. in fact, it still is. Moreover, the digital age–in my opinion–has made our work harder and eliminated many opportunities. Thus, although technology was touted as a lifeboat it seems to have turned into a boat anchor in many instances. That coupled with the ever difficult and inherent nature of the business itself (which was aptly summarized by none other than David Lee Roth who once said: “Here today, gone later today”), that makes music and a viable career daunting adversaries. Nevertheless, despite the sobering reality of that statement I believe there is hope. The foregoing list of wonderful people helped confirm to me that that hope exists and that it is alive and well. In fact, I saw it for myself in Los Angeles earlier this week.
Furthermore, I know that the list of wonderful people described above is not exhaustive; there are more of them. Many more. (Editor’s note; Chicago’s Tris Imboden is one who immediately comes to mind). So that then raises the question; where do we go from here? What do we do to fix our industry and make it better for all? In response, I have to admit I don’t have the answer to that question. Greater minds and the music community as a whole will need to answer that. However, I do know one thing; divisive tactics and selfish interests will not help. I also know that to better our industry we must all work together. Most importantly, I know that with the people like the ones I mentioned here that we have the tools to do the job. No matter what intentions or designs you have in mind, without the tools to implement your thoughts and plans you will be unable to finish the job. Likewise, if you have the tools to finish the job you are more than half way there as you now have the means to reach an end.
It is now up to the music community itself to devise that end game as to how we can make our industry better; for everyone. The good news is that we have the tools or the ability to do so. However, the jury is still out as to whether we will exercise that ability as a whole. So long as there is hope–as evidenced by these fine folks mentioned in this blog–we have a chance. I suggest we take it.
Thank you again to all the foregoing wonderful people. You made our week very productive and memorable and for that, both Fred and I thank you.