In the Beginning there was this and the beginning this is.
Year sixteen as front of house sound engineer for the Red Hot Chili Peppers. For those unfamiliar with the pro sound world, that means I control/mix the sound that the audience hears at their live concerts. A monitor engineer is the human that controls the sound that the band hears.
I also do other things. My work related passion lies with the company I started with some friends when I was 17, Rat Sound. I love to design/create things like speakers, solve problems, analyze complex systems and fix or improve them. Away from that and in conjunction with it, over the past 16 years I have joined the Red Hot Chili Peppers on nearly every show they have performed. I missed one Australian tour when I was hospitalized with spinal meningitis and another short trip when I had a 2 week overlap mixing Rage Against the Machine, I never did that again.
Over the years I have worked for many bands, 100's would be an understatement. I cannot remember how many tours or all the cities I have been to. Though I can remember mixing Blink 182 when they grew from clubs to arenas, Offspring on from Smash through Ixnay albums, tech'ing on a magical tour with Fugazi, setting PA and monitors for three Black Flag tours, two Sonic Youth album runs (Goo and Dirty), a miserable trip with Danzig/Soundgarden (Soundgarden was all good), L7 and quite a few years of traveling with Pearl Jam, whom I love like second family.
I never wanted to be a sound engineer. I learned to mix sound in order to test the speaker system designs and to operate the sound systems Rat Sound rented out. We could not afford to pay someone else anyway. By some round about way, I ended up with this this gig.
In the late 80's, Peppers were one of those bands that would always hire us Rats whenever they could. It was Mark, Robbie, Cathy and Chris Grayson. Chris was their FOH engineer from the beginning of the band. He would always hire us for sound and we would always bring too much gear, regardless of what we got paid. We referred him gigs with other bands and Rat eventually ended up hiring Chris to help with other Rat shows.
The call came from Mark Johnson that they were firing Chris and they want me to mix them, I refused. I could not take my friend Chris's job. When Mark told me that if I don't do it they were going to hire someone else, I agreed to cover for Chris till he got his life in order. Chris was having some issues as he had been a no-show on a Rat gig the week before and we were unable to reach him. After leaving a message on his machine, I reluctantly agreed. I have a PA company, I am not an engineer by trade, I will fill in and when he resurfaces, all will be patched up soon.
I never spoke to Chris again.
Chris was murdered in a drug deal while I was in Hawaii with Peppers doing a show at Pink's Garage. So here I am sixteen years later and still covering the gig for him.
We are currently embarking on a world tour supporting their the 5th album since I started and to be honest, if it was any other band on earth, I would not have agreed to go. The thought of tour no longer thrills me and yet, the thought of not joining this beautiful and eccentric group of life long friends is beyond comprehension.
There are two parts to this adventure for me. First is the rock show, diving in and creating something sonically unique and special. The challenge of great sound in bad sounding venues. The sensation of being the conduit that connects the artistry of the band in the the most intense method possible to those that bask in the experience. Secondly, my life. My own passions and desire to come home with more than a secondhand experience of building someone else's dream. Something with a bit more substance than a wad o cash, some frequent flier miles, a sad heart from missing loved ones, ringing ears and the distant memory of screaming fans. The key to happiness is merging the two.
Each tour I try and do something personally new and special, something that I can look back on with a smile. Once it was learning to weld and I had a 225 amp MIG welder sent to my hotel room on By the Way tour
and I made an electric go-cart with the help of Scott, Nick and Tim and I was determined to finish before the tour leg ended
For this tour my project is to share the experiences of being a modern day rock and roll gypsy, glorified carney and/or living the dream job of world travel, celebrities and music, however you wish to look at it. I will do my best to show the warts and beauty of the adventures and bring whomever wishes to join, along for the ride.
Hey dave rat.
awesome life story. i havent read a good one in a long while.
cant wait to read the blog about the day of getting hallowen costumes for the crew and RHCP.
see ya again.
the runner from columbus, OH.
dont forget your bags.