To paraphrase that old BASF commercial: I don’t just make stuff… I make stuff better.
Over 40 years in theater, music, filmmaking, writing, talk radio and work as an entrepreneur– you name it, I’ve made it, tweaked it, sold it, improved it, kept it afloat, made the dreams real.
As a young creative, I wrote music, banged endlessly on the piano, wrote stories, and screenplays, sang and acted in shows. I won some prestigious awards for songwriting and music performance in High School and, despite my dreams of filmmaking and acting, I almost accidentally joined Chaz, an R&B, falsetto-singer soul and funk band which charted in 1982 with the single I Want To Talk To You. That led to a stint in Wild Cherry, formerly of Play That Funky Music fame. Both offered great experiences and a taste of the “big time” but both also came with valuable lessons about the foibles of the music business, dealing with creatives, and the downsides of serious drug addiction and organized crime in those worlds.
I moved westward, began working as a record producer and engineer, became a record label, owned the legendary boutique studio Velvet Recording in Boulder, Colorado. I produced/recorded dozens of records, started successful bands like the anti-art garage band you bastard. and spent a few years making my own solo record. On top of that, at SXSW music festival in 1997, I saw a 15 minute set in the basement of Stubb’s barbeque that were just about the best 15 minutes ever… the guy’s name was Dan Bern. When I returned to Boulder, I mentioned how great this guy was that I’d seen… someone I told skeptically offered, “you mean the same guy who’s playing at the 5 seat Acoustic Coffee in Nederland tomorrow?” I said yes, told everyone I know to come see this guy… exactly one did. During the fabulous show, Dan and his bassist all-too-desperately inquired among the crowd for cute girls who might let them sleep on their, ahem, floor. When none jumped at the chance and the musicians looked downtrodden, I offered a couch and a floor in our tiny 1 bedroom with two of us and a dog. They reluctantly accepted.
In the morning they got up to leave and head towards the next town and the next show– only to find a surprise snowstorm had dumped, no kidding, 3 feet of snow in late March. They were stuck and worried about how they’d get to the next gig… until they got a call telling them that the next venue’s roof had collapsed from the snow. True story. They stayed with us three days and I ended up being Dan’s bandleader, manager, confidant, and record producer for most of the next 6 years. Among the 20 or so records we made together was a two year journey and accompanying madness/joy called New American Language. It was expected to be something of a critical success and more or less a milestone achievement. We planned the tour to start in sync with the release date: Tuesday September 11, 2001. Yep. The record is a great listen, we played a very memorable sold out show at Irving Plaza in NYC shortly after 9/11 but music touring and record making were never the same after that.
One day, I was working on some mixes while Orange County/Zero Effect director and hollywood royalty Jake Kazdan visited the studio and I told him of my dreams of writing and directing films and how I’d gotten on a long, interesting detour through music. He pointed out that most directors really know what they’re doing and that, with my skills herding the creative cats of the music world, that I could just show up and pretend and people would just go on working around me.
A couple of years later, I saw the writing on the wall with the music business and recording world, and sold my studio, packed up, and dove into hollywood.
They took one look at me and said, “Hey, you know which end of the microphone works!” and thus came my second accidental creative career, working as a sound mixer for film. Before I knew it, I was busy as hell and learning the process of filmmaking from everyone else’s mistakes, near disasters, and, occasionally, successes.
One of the film experiences I had involved a month and a half essentially living in a desert town of meth lab houses and sand front yards. This inspired my first short film– an infomercial for a new educational toy, My FIrst Meth Lab. I also filmed a wonderful interview with actor Brad Hunt (Desert Golf) while we played a memorable round of golf at a course made almost entirely of un-landscaped sandy desert. (In one of the great tragedies of my life, the videotape was stolen, along with the master recordings of two of my own records, the manuscript of a book I’d been writing about my first year in LA, and a couple of screenplays.)
Later, I wrote/shot a few comedy shorts
edited feature/co-writer My Favorite Movie