Reflecting on my days in the music business….
Many of you that read this blog and that know me probably have no idea that I spent many years of my life working in the music business. Music is my passion. I love all styles of music as long as it’s real and done well. My career started when I was about 15 years old and started playing bass guitar in my high school band Shockhead. After we lost that signer and got a new one we changed the band name to Soul Drain. As Soul Drain we started getting around the Midwest playing shows in Kansas City, Chicago, Minneapolis, all over Iowa etc… we had some great moments opening for bands like X, Love Battery, and Roger Manning.
After I quit playing in the band I went to the business side of things. I started Bull Productions about 1993 a year after I graduated high school. I started booking tours for bands around the Midwest and then the country. The first band I started working with was my good friends the Rathbones and Thom Wright the singer is still one of my best friends. From there things spawned the word got out and bands from all over the country approached me as I built up a solid roster of artists. I booked tours and worked with bands like; House of Large Sizes, Frogpond, Peeshy, Wood, Marlee MacLeod, Matt Wilson, The Hangups, The Honeydogs, Sylvain Sylvain (of The New York Dolls), Splitsville, Love Nut, The Nodding Begonias, Dave Zollo, Tim Easton, Huffamoose, The Melismatics, Suede Chain, Dylan Hicks, and many others I just can’t recall right now. Record labels would pay me to book tours for their baby bands while we were trying to break them so I worked with labels like Interscope records doing this. The agency went on for years and I trained in a few people into the business like Craig Grossman who now has Green Room Booking here in MPLS and even worked a lot with Sonia the head talent buyer at First avenue now.
Besides my agency and booking tours for bands I promoted concerts in Des Moines and later in Minneapolis at First Avenue. In Des Moines I started booking shows into a club called Z International that was about the size of the Fine Line in Minneapolis. I put on shows like Sonia Dada and regional local acts. I worked with Drake University one year and we brought 311 into town and I paid them a whopping $7500 back then. During my days of promoting concerts I started working with a local sound company and honing my craft and an engineer. I worked with a lot of artists over the years mixing sound. I’ve done front of house for people like Jewel, Joan Jett, and many of the bands I booked and managed. I’ve done monitors for people like Buddy Guy, Night Ranger, Edwin McCain, and the list goes on….
About 1996 I moved to Minneapolis and moved my office into the Twin Tone records building. I came north with nothing except what fit in my car which all went into my office. I shared space with Doug Myren a lawyer who worked with Husker Du and a bunch of Blues artists like Lamont Cranston. I had many crazy funny moments hanging with Grant Hart during these days (drummer of Husker Du) and rock guitar heroes like Jimmy Coup. A larger space opened up after a couple years and I moved across the hall in the same building. Bull Productions was the premier booking agency in Minneapolis and I was having a blast. Traveling to New York and speaking on panels at CMJ music festival, trips to Austin Texas for SXSW and a lot of time out west in LA. As my agency grew steam I was offered jobs to move to San Francisco and join larger agency’s or to Chicago to work with larger management firms. But I was young and stubborn and turned them all down to stay in Minneapolis and do my own thing. I even turned down booking tours for this little band at the time called Train. (big mistake I guess) but that was how I rolled it was not about money to me it was about the art. And I needed to be passionate about the band I needed to believe in them or I would not work with them. So yeah I passed up a lot of cash of working with bands like Train because I thought they sucked!
In the late 1990’s I got a job with Columbia records as an AR scout. I had a blast with this job going out scouting new bands to sign to the label. Going out on labels expense accounts hanging in their big offices in NYC and flying around to see unsigned bands play in small clubs. During this time I met a lot of label connections and publishing connections people that are still my friends and I love dearly. I was pretty tight with the Chicago ASCAP reps who all went on to get great jobs as AR people with large publishing companies. And one of the best parts of the Columbia records gig besides all the free CD’s I got. Was working with my dear friend Dawn Debias who I just think the world of!
Then my years of working at First Avenue as a talent buyer getting to work with my long time friend and legend of the business Steve McClellan; I love Steve to pieces and the man has done more for music in the city of Minneapolis than anyone else! My years at First Avenue I brought in acts like Junior Brown, Ramstein, Dropkick Murphy’s, and even dabbled in some country music which failed huge!
I miss my days in the music business very much and who knows maybe I’ll get back into it someday? I will never trade these days for anything as they fill me with so many great moments. My best friends in the world are people I worked with back in those days and still hang with. The band Wood because of them I live in Minneapolis and they are like my brothers! The beauty of so many of the people in music I aligned myself with and built friendships with is that they are still in the business and they are still there for you even if you don’t have anything you can offer them in the business. I can still call them up go have a drink with them get on a guest list and even get a free disc of one of their artists to check out. I’ve connected a lot of people in the music business over the years. Bands with labels or agents, clubs with agents etc… I love the friendships I keep with bands like The Melismatics and Todd Beeson and how when they work on new records they email me rough mixes and tracks to check out and give my feedback on them. It’s that artistic stuff I just love hearing that raw demo and thinking hey maybe add this or tweak this and that song will rip! All the years of playing golf and basketball with these duds; I was part of a really fun weekly basketball game with guys like John Munson (Semisonic) and Marc Pearlman (The Jayhawks), writer Jim Walsh, and my office mate Doug Myren. I also played a lot of golf back in those days with all of them and my friends out in Cali who worked for labels like Andy Olyphant and Damon Booth. I could roll into a city like Atlanta GA see that 311 was playing make one phone call and I was into the show for free. Then I remember being at the Masquerade in Atlanta with a bunch of friends to see the Ramones play after the Ramones I walked into the club and an indie rock band I liked called Velocity Girl was playing and guess what I knew the soundman so of course I disappeared for awhile back stage hanging with the band and my buddy who was mixing sound and tour manager for them. It’s just how it was back then where ever I went I knew someone and it was just a happy moment when we saw each other.
And of course just like business or anything in life you can get burned and I got burned a few times in the business which made me kind of go into retirement but hey it’s all good and I learned from it.
So long live the rock n roll! Hope you enjoyed my little stroll through history and a little back ground on something that I’m very passionate about.