Remember, these retro posts are reposts of entries that stood out to me. They were written in the context of preparing for my first trip to Alaska in 2011. Technology and cultural references are a decade old and may seem justifiably dated.
This is Part Two of what turned out to be a three part series on my years playing drums in a band called Code Blue.
The tracks for 508 Park were cut and we waited for the recording engineer to work his magic with the mix down. That process included adjusting various levels, emphasizing this, minimizing that; whatever it took to make us sound better while maintaining our goal of not overproducing the record. I thought the recording process was tenuous, but this was a mind numbing process. The five of us all had opinions to offer on how the finished product should sound. Most of us were concerned with achieving a well-balanced sound and our input was along those lines. I was primarily focused on the CD packaging and wanted to ensure everyone’s opinion and creative input were represented. Jim’s input was consistently “I wanna hear more me”. Once the mix down was complete, I delivered the master recording and artwork to the shop which would mass produce the CD for us. I had been a PC geek for years and had some experience with graphics, but I was not prepared for the requirements that a four-color production would entail. I learned fast and was happy with the final product. The disc itself had a reflective image of the front of the 508 Park building. It was a nice, professional touch for a low budget release. The next obstacle was getting writing credits right. It’s funny how when we were writing the tunes, everyone had input and the spirit of sharing and collaboration was high. But once a name was to be assigned in the form of a writing credit, Jim’s ego had some competition. I didn’t write anything, so I could care less other than I wanted the liner notes to be accurate.
I had read horror stories about bands being screwed over by record companies, former members, competing bands, etc. and ultimately losing the rights to their own material. I wasn’t worried about a record company as much as I was worried about Jim. We decided to copyright the CD and formed an equally-owned legal business entity. I had already trademarked the name Code Blue as a musical body, an action which would prove to be fortuitous. Code Blue was a common band name, but none of the other Code Blues out there seemed to have any more notoriety than we did. Still, it wasn’t uncommon for me to receive an email from some other like-named band from Austin or Houston demanding that we cease and desist using their name with threats of legal action if we didn’t. They would usually cite the fact that they’ve been around longer or some other bullshit. I usually just ignored them, but if they persisted and threw out the legal card, I would reply to them with a scanned copy of my copyright and trademark with a recommendation that they back off or my lawyers would be contacting them. Lawyers? We ain’t got no stinkin’ lawyers. But it always worked nonetheless. My feeling was they play where they are, we play here, and neither of us are likely to ever cross paths, so just go play your music and leave us alone.
All of us (except for maybe Jim) saw the band for what it really was; a creative outlet; a hobby that paid (sometimes). When it didn’t feed our wallets, it almost always fed our egos. However, Jim wanted to be a rock star and would do anything to get there. Code Blue was a stepping stone for him and he made no bones about it. The rest of us never felt threatened by this for two reasons. We saw the musical talent around us and recognized that there were some monster players out there with amazing talent that dwarfed us by comparison. If those guys never “made it”, we never would. We also knew that to a certain degree, we had brand recognition and could have another singer on board in a heartbeat if push came to shove.
|Ken, aka Mr. Do It All|
Having a real CD gave us a little more clout when it came to booking gigs and I always included clips from the tracks on the demo disk which was part of our promo pack. I knew the booking manager wouldn’t listen to any song entirely, so I picked the best parts of the best tracks and included them along with some live recordings to prove we really had people who liked us. Code Blue was working as often as we wanted. We weren’t getting rich by any means, but we were having a great time and I was able to sock away my share of the pay to buy more gear. I became a gear junkie. My drum kit never grew. I played a 1974 Ludwig kit, usually just four shells and two cymbals. I learned early on that the noise I could make with more drums and cymbals was negligible compared to the effort it took to haul, set up and tear down the larger kit. Besides, having fewer pieces made me more creative with the ones I had and I felt it made me a better drummer. I was into the PA gear and I owned everything the band had. Unfortunately, I was also the only one who knew how to set up and configure it all. This was probably for the best because I had a system. Every cable was coiled into its own zip lock bag. and was packed into a specified case. Every microphone had its own foam rubber storage spot in the trunks that hauled the gear. I even had a network diagram illustrating how and where every cable plugged into every piece of equipment. Anyone who knew me personally was shocked at how neat I was with my gear because I was then, and still now, am a slob in most every other part of my life. Nobody else in the band seemed to understand vocal compressors, feedback eliminators, and crossovers, so I did it all.
|Me & a Rare Beer Shot|
|Dennis & Stu|
The rest of us met up in the parking lot and collectively spoke aloud what we had all already decided. Jim was out. We had gigs booked the next weekend and we needed a singer quicker than quick. It was 3:00am and we were emotionally and physically beat. We decided to get some sleep and discuss it the next day. The next morning, Jim sent me an apologetic email. In it, he wrote that he was willing to stay with the band, but added “you have no right to threaten my life, man. You don’t get to do that.” I chuckled as I forwarded it to the other guys. The four of us got together that afternoon on the phone to be sure we were all still on the same page after some much needed sleep. Ken, as the elder statesman of the band and the one Jim respected the most, volunteered to make the call to Jim. It's a good thing nobody changed their mind because I had already edited Jim out of the web page completely.
|Jim's Typical Pose|
There were more pressing issues at hand. We had a gig at the largest biker bar in Denton in six days and we needed a lead singer.
To be continued.