Esquire magazine has a strong knack for packing each issue with cynical humor including the following fake obituary by long-time writer A.J. Jacobs. Along with the golden nugget of a quote in The Fatherhood Edition of Esquire magazine comes this hilarious piece of writing…
This golden nugget of a quote comes from the June/July 2012 issue of Esquire magazine (ie. The Fatherhood Edition) in which Olympic Gold Medalist Bruce Jenner aka Chris Jenner’s husband aka Kim Kardashian’s step-father is being profiled by Chris Jones in a piece entitled “The Strange Thing About Bruce Jenner”.
Phil Kline is no technophile. He doesn’t own an iPod, even though he was involved in marketing the shuffle. He doesn’t own a TiVo because he doesn’t watch TV. And forget the Blackberry. In fact, he could almost be a technophobe by today’s standards if it weren’t for pioneering and orchestrating what he calls an “electronic music caroling party.”
At 52, this Manhattanite and experimental composer has the creative energy of a youthful marketing director. After all, he’s successfully repackaged an age-old tradition, Christmas caroling, transforming it into a 40-minute-long walking symphony using stereo systems.
“Ninety percent of the public is at least amazed, if not enthralled, with what they see,” Kline said of bystanders’ reactions. “We have a few motorists who honk a lot.”
“Unsilent Night” is not a parody of door-to-door caroling. Rather, it’s an alternative to traditional holiday singing that has become a cult hit. Hundreds of carolers carry boom boxes and wander together through the city streets while playing tapes of Kline’s avant-garde Christmas score. It’s a 40-minute melding of melodic synth arrangements, but with no thumping bass line. An operatic voice is layered over the ambient music. And because the boom boxes all have varying play speeds, the sound becomes warped, essentially creating an array of swooning sounds.
Kline, a classical music aficionado, had no idea how his opus would turn out. At the time of debuting “Unsilent Night” in New York City 13 years ago, there were only a handful of “carolers” participating. He described his caroling experience as an “acid trip.”
“I didn’t know what it was going to sound like,” Kline recalled. “When I heard the sound, there suddenly was this vapor, this ether – kind of like an invisible carpet of sound that was creeping. It seemed like the sound was coming from everywhere, from out of the sidewalks and the buildings. I had this huge grin on my face. I looked at the other people, and they were grinning, too.”
“Unsilent Night” began as more of an afterthought than an organized effort by Kline to come up with something unique. He first experimented with taped loops at about age 35, when he bought a dozen boom boxes and prerecorded cassette loops from TDK.
“Before then, I didn’t even know that (the TDK cassettes) even existed,” he said. “I was totally amazed when I found that out. I knew about phone answering machine tapes, but these were different. These were just called ‘endless tapes’ – not for phone answering machines.
“One of the first things I did with the boom boxes was play with a large number of equal tape loops. Later that same year, I wrote the first ‘Unsilent Night.’”
Kline’s first cut of the musical score was conceived in 1992. He continuously improved on it until he believed he perfected it in 1999.
His carolers took notice.
Georgetown graduates make trial motions, not hit records.
Tell that to John Alagia, and he’ll laugh out loud, because he’s been the technical mastermind behind nearly a dozen hit singles. In fact, you can dub him the alt-pop answer to hip-hop magnate (and Grammy-winning recording artist) Kanye West.
Both grew up in the Midwest, majored in English, collaborated with A-list musicians, sold millions of records and started their own record label. But the similarities end here.
While West seems to thrive in the spotlight, Alagia, 41, is humble, even self-deprecating, despite being the driving force behind Dave Matthews, John Mayer, Jason Mraz and Lifehouse.
“I was supposed to be a lawyer,” he laughed while on a break at The Village Recorder studio in West L.A. “I was going to take over my father’s law firm – and the grooming began early on – but I couldn’t help but think about the idea of playing music and making music.”
Growing up in rural Kentucky, Alagia had a natural affinity for musical instruments. He played a variety of instruments in bands throughout grade school, high school and college, eventually forming a twosome of his own during the late ’80s called Derryberry & Alagia.
While studying at Georgetown University, he and recording buddy Doug Derryberry (who now performs in Bruce Hornsby’s band) set out to master the art of producing. The two opened for other bands, often forming friendships with them. After shows, Derryberry and Alagia set out to hone their mixing and engineering skills by producing these bands.
“It was something we had to learn, because we didn’t want to go into professional recording studios and spend all our money,” Alagia said. “So we built our own studio, and all the money we made (from selling and recording their friends’ records), we threw back into it.”
By the time the recording duo released its third album, “Reinvigorating the Wheel,” in 1992, Alagia had a chance encounter with Dave Matthews, who was still starting his career.
“I met (him) at a bar, and I couldn’t believe what I was hearing,” Alagia said. “I was a fan right away. He was playing ‘Satellite’ at the time. It was so fresh. I’d never heard the blend of instruments – the fiddle and saxophone. It was a unique sound, and all I could think about was, ‘How can I get this on tape somehow?’
“We started a friendship in 1992, and Dave just started coming to my home studio in Virginia, putting together little ideas. He’d play a whole bunch of things, and we’d try to piece them together.”
Like an exponential curve, Alagia’s producer stint took off. The Dave Matthews Band’s “Remember Two Things” (1993), which Alagia produced, went platinum (1 million copies sold). That was followed by “Under the Table & Dreaming” (1994), which was certified six-times platinum and included the hit songs “Ants Marching” and “Satellite.” By 1996, it was same old, same old. Again, DMB went six-times platinum with another album, “Crash.” Five more albums went double platinum soon thereafter.
‘Filipino-Mexican rap label” may induce eyebrow raising, followed by a genuine look of befuddlement. But four local twentysomethings are determined to break hip-hop conventions through their South Psycho Cide Productions, an independent record label, based in Spring Valley.
With EMI, Warner Bros., BMG, Sony and Universal dominating the recording industry, launching a profitable indie label is a daunting task. Yet there are a handful of labels that have reaped huge success after starting out small.
There’s Roc-A-Fella (Kanye West, Teairra Marí), which has now been acquired by Island Def Jam, part of Universal; Aftermath (50 Cent, Eve), a joint venture with Interscope, which is also a subsidiary of Universal; and Bad Boy (Diddy, B5), which has recently merged with Warner Bros. Their net worth combined is reportedly in excess of $60 million.
By comparison, South Psycho Cide Production’s $25,000 operating budget is pocket change. But despite the five-figure capital, Charles Quimiro, the label’s 26-year-old CEO, has passion and support.
“The whole family supports (SPC Productions),” said the young entrepreneur. “They say, ‘Stick to what you’re doing, even though it takes time.’ They know that I have a vision and a focus. And as the years go by, things will start happening. That’s the key. Just keep on what you’re doing.”
Quimiro wouldn’t be the kind of guy to star in “The Apprentice,” because he’s all thugged out. At 5-foot-7 and a buck ninety, he’s got a shaved head, wears a Chargers jersey with baggy jeans and has a swagger that suggests he’s about to pounce on you. His bandmates – and part-time SPC employees – are Julius Macalanda, 27, Joe Macalanda, 24, and Nick Pizana, 27. They’re all goofballs, really, with enthusiastic smiles that stretch ear-to-ear when they talk about music.
Julius Macalanda, 27, raps to a track for the SDMA-nominated rap group South Psycho Cide. The Spring Valley-based SPC label launched in 2000.
“It started out break dancing, pulling out the cardboard in my back yard,” Pizana, then 15, recalled. “My mom thought we were having seizures. Then, (Charles) got us a karaoke machine, and we’d make beats on the little keyboard.”
Added Joe: “Culturally and musically, we were already all listening to hip-hop and doing the graffiti and doing the break-dancing. And when we met each other, it was like, ‘Oh, we’re all into the same thing.’ ”
Coincidentally, all four members of SPC Productions, which was initially formed in 2000 to promote its own rap group, South Psycho Cide, are half-Filipino and half-Mexican as well. Being biracial and having grown up in street-tough National City essentially helped them develop a thick skin.
“It wasn’t really a struggle for us, because we had friends and family that love each other,” Joe said, “so if you had a problem, there would be someone within that circle that could help you out. Nobody leaves you out to dry and says, ‘I ain’t gonna help that fool.’ Everybody just comes together and says, ‘Well, what can we do?’ ”
It’s this familial bond that’s the backbone of the record label. That and hard work.
When musicians flaunt their favorite pair of jeans in a TV spot, you know they’ve made it. Until that time, however, they’re usually struggling to book shows, make this month’s rent or car payments and balance rehearsal time with a day job.
Consider this: A live show only brings in $300 per band member. And that’s on a good night. It’s a huge challenge to find profitable venues. (Coffee shops typically don’t pay very well.) And if spinning records isn’t your forte, then a secondary source of income becomes essential. This is reality.
But there are benefits, of course, like being a venue’s VIP, which means skipping the cover charge and getting free drinks – or at least getting a big discount on your tab. It’s a constant ego massage. After all, not anybody can spin the ones and twos or break into a heavy guitar riff.
And while most musicians don’t have a retirement plan, many have developed flexible work schedules that allow them to go on tour at a moment’s notice. Above all, they earn bragging rights of saying that they play music for a living (nobody said you can’t have more than one living). Here’s how four local musicians get by.
Band name: Reeve Oliver
Web site: www.reeveoliver.com
Music genre: Alternative rock
Day job: SeaWorld dolphin show host
Sean O’Donnell of Reeve Oliver (pronounced Revolver) is one of the more established local musicians. His band recently struck a deal with Capitol Records.
Still, when he’s not touring, he’s earning extra cash by playing with dolphins. That is, he warms up the SeaWorld crowd as they enter the dolphin show. “I don’t know any other place that would just let you pick up after a couple of weeks (of touring),” he said. “It’s kind of an ideal job for a guy in a band.”
It’s his primary source of income, since going out on the road in his three-piece band typically pays him $100, sometimes less.
“We’re not making a lot of money (playing gigs),” he said, “but we make a lot of money on merchandise (including CDs). If we didn’t have that, we wouldn’t be able to do anything.”
He works at SeaWorld three to four days a week during the off-season. He doesn’t have a retirement plan, but he does get some health care coverage, free passes to the zoo and the occasional double take whenever folks leave the show.
“What’s really weird is when I get recognized at the show, as I’m saying ‘bye’ to people,” O’Donnell said. “People are like, ‘Hey, Reeve Oliver?’ and I’m like, ‘Yeah, but don’t tell anyone, because I’m wearing this costume.’ So that’s pretty funny.”
Lavelle Dupree Carter
Stage name: DJ Lavelle
Web site: www.lsdjs.com
Music genre: House
Location: Mission Beach
Day job: Aubergine club promoter/resident DJ
Lavelle Dupree Carter is in the fortunate position where what he does during the day feeds what he does at night. As resident deejay for downtown’s upscale nightclub Aubergine, Carter spends most of his day honing his skills, mixing and producing records in his Mission Beach home.
But while he doesn’t earn six figures like superstar DJ Tiesto, he admits that local deejays can break big spinning two turntables, as opposed to inching up the managerial ladder at a corporate firm.
“There’s a misconception that, being a deejay, you don’t really do much besides work the weekends,” he said. “Getting the gigs (beyond Aubergine), promoting the gigs, making new contacts, keeping the fan base stimulated – those are the things that happen Monday through Friday during the day, and those are the most important and hardest things to do.”
And what’s his payoff? A weekend gig with partner DJ Scooter can earn him up to $1,000. If he’s spinning alone, he’ll max out at $700. Although Aubergine doesn’t provide him with a 401k or health insurance, he enjoys a different kind of fringe benefits: free cover, free drinks and free promotion.
“I live at the beach, my car works, I get to set my own hours, and I love it,” he boasted. But, he said, “I can’t let the success go to my head. I know, at any point in time, it could be over.”
Somewhere in New York, Unwritten Law’s manager is booking a bunch of press junkets. An interview with the once Poway-based band has to be scheduled nearly two weeks in advance because the group has appearances slated for Fuse, MTV and “The Tonight Show.” After having been thrown back into the limelight following a two-year hiatus, drummer Tony Palermo still seems dazed from the media blitz.
In all fairness, the stunting news of Unwritten Law having jumped labels five times and nearly broken up leaves Palermo completely startled. After all, bands such as Fenix TX, Finch and Orgy, which have shared similar moves in the recording business, were once on-the-up before they burned out. Palermo, on the other hand, doesn’t like to take credit for keeping the band together and churning out Here’s To The Mourning, the band’s fifth studio release.
Much has changed with UL. Virtually everyone’s new to the quartet except vocalist Scott Russo and guitarist Rob Brewer. Even the sound has evolved, with the replacement of acoustic renditions in favor of electronic ear candy.
“Every record is different from the one before,” Palermo said. “When we played the first couple times together, it was cool not playing the same songs. The set that we do live is pretty diverse – you got your reggae songs, punk songs and rock songs.”
Despite this seeming reincarnation, UL is already fending off criticism, citing an undeniably successful recording history and a chart-moving single, “Save Me.”
“We didn’t want to come out with the poppy, typical ‘They wrote this for radio’ stuff,” Palermo said. “We thought there were some heavier tracks to slam people with. But it worked out that way; it’s getting a lot of feedback as far as people relating to it.”
Coming up with additional tracks wasn’t a stroll in the park either because Palermo wasn’t part of the permanent lineup yet. Former drummer Wade Youman, who rocked the SoCal scene with the band during the early 1990s, dropped last year. Palermo said Brooks Wackerman of Bad Religion initially called him to play with UL, since the band was shy of a drummer and needed one stat.
“It helped me knowing (Unwritten Law) and the material, because it was just easier for practice sessions,” Palermo said, referring back to when his former band opened for UL.
The rest of the album became a product of introspection.
“Before I jumped in, there were only a few songs that were written, and everybody was sort of like, ‘What’re we doing?’” he said. “They weren’t sure if they were going to continue, and Scott was just ready to call it quits.”
Essentially, the band poured its soul into the new album and, eventually, surfaced with “She Says,” a strong contender for the likes of “Up All Night.”
“It was a family relationship that went sour,” Palermo said about Russo’s inspiration for the lyrics. “It’s about his dad and his stepmom. Basically, the chorus says, ‘She said she doesn’t love you anymore.’ When he was younger, he heard that being said in an argument, and it pretty much stayed with him. It’s sort of an angry song, but it’s also something he lived through.”
Upon completion of the album, however, UL encountered another conflict. While playing a cancer benefit show as a promotional tactic, the band was taped on an episode of MTV’s “My Super Sweet 16,” a television series that featured two teenaged San Diegan girls’ over-the-top birthday celebration.
“On the show, it was weird,” Palermo said. “It looked like we just did it for the money. People were writing into our Web site and complaining about ‘those rich b**ches.’
“I just hope that, in the future, we don’t make ourselves vulnerable and get criticized for doing weird, cheesy things like that. It’s good exposure but, at the same time, you still have some integrity to uphold.”
Now he’s talking show biz.