"The Session From Hell"
This story is absolutely
true........I'm not proud of it but it was just too
crazy not to share! A recent thread on
got me reminiscing about nightmare gig/session stories
this one fit the bill perfectly. Any names have been
changed to protect the innocent......
I got hired a
few years ago by a buddy to do an album project with
some out-of-town singer who wanted to cut a record in
Nashville. My buddy owns a studio in town and I do
alot of work there. He told me that the guy was a bozo
and he didn't want to deal with him so he quoted him an
exorbitant price thinking he'd balk.......he didn't.
My buddy tells me he'll pay me something crazy like $200
a song plus rehearsals to play a 10-12 song custom
project. Most projects in small studios like that pay
MAYBE $50 a tune. How can I refuse, right? How
sweet is it to pick up a couple of grand for a couple of
days' work? Simple. I'm in. I've done hundreds of
these before so it couldn't be much different.....or so
to rehearse two days then track everything the 3rd day
at Ocean Way Studios here on Music Row in Nashville..
We got to my
buddy's studio, set up and started working. The
"artist" is there talking about this big name guy who's
gonna produce....supposedly engineered a bunch of the
80's era "boy band" records. (I won't name exactly who
but they were part of the first wave and NOT the 90's
N'Sync/Backstreet era.) Not exactly the first guy I'D
think of when looking for a guy to produce a country
project but it's not MY money, right? Whatever.
We spent a
whole day hashing out tunes, arrangements, parts, etc.
with the "artist" telling us what he wanted. The
"producer" isn't there....won't be flying in until the
next day. This should have been an omen.....
The next day
we show up, start getting ready to work and the
"producer" arrives. He's a tall, goofy guy with long,
stringy gray hair, a 2-packs-of-Camels-a-day voice and a
HEAVY Boston/NE accent. The bass player (we'll call
him Joe) and I are sitting in the control room and Joe's
holding his beautiful Yamaha 5-string in his hands.
The "producer" walks in, Joe outstretches his hand to
greet the guy and the guy doesn't shake hands. He
doesn't say "Hello", "Nice to meet you.".....nothing.
The first words out of his mouth are "I only cut
records with a Fender Jazz or a Fender Precision."
He hasn't heard a single note yet and already the bass
sucks. Then he turns to me and says "I only use Remo
Coated Ambassadors, you got em?" I told him "No,
but Fork's is right up the street. I'll run out and
grab a set for you." As I'm walking out the door,
Joe looks at me with a deer-in-the-headlights look that
says "This is gonna be interesting....." Little did
get the gear how this guy wants it and start playing.
Four bars into the first song, the "producer" jumps on
the talkback and says..."What is THAT shit? What are
you guys doing? That sounds like CRAP!" and on and
on. We politely told him that we are just running
things down like the "artist" asked us to do at
rehearsals the day before. He says "That Nashville
shit has got to go. It sucks!" He and the
"artist" start hashing out their ideas and differences
and we start over an hour or so later. All day long,
this bozo is berating us, changing parts every time we
play 8 bars, telling us how bad it sounds, how we
couldn't hang in the "real" studios in New York.....blah
blah blah. We keep our professional poker faces on
and slog thru it.
We take a
break and go to a local joint for some dinner. We're
all sitting at the table listening to this guy run his
mouth about what he's done and who he thinks he is and
so forth when the food comes. The guy apparently
has some false teeth that don't fit well. He pulls out
his partial, LAYS IT ON THE TABLE and digs in, gumming
his food to oblivion, still talking, with food flying
everywhere not encumbered by teeth! Joe and I and
the rest of us are just looking around like the hidden
cameras are SOMEWHERE around and we're about to get
Punk'd. No such luck.
dinner and head back to the studio and the "producer"
realizes he's LEFT HIS TEETH sitting on the table!
We turn around and go back to get them and after a long
search, he finds them. I'm guessing they were
probably in a bus tray by the dishwasher and from what I
can tell about the guy so far, he most certainly didn't
wash them off but just stuck them back in his trap.
But I digress..... Back to the studio again to finish
up for the night and get ready to head to Ocean Way in
I get to the
studio and get everything ready to go early the next
morning. Hit time is 10 a.m. This is my first time
tracking at Ocean Way and I'm anxious to see how things
sound. I'm set up alone out in the middle of the big
room---basically a converted church with vaulted
ceilings and stained glass all around. Beautiful
place. We started getting sounds.....
Now, I have
to admit, the toothless "producer" DID know how to get
an amazing drum sound. My kit sounded positively
THUNDEROUS.......very "Bonham-esque" which was cool but
I found myself wondering why in the world he'd want THAT
on a "country" project? Oh well.......not my call. I
just play drums. He's the producer.....
I played a
little to tape and came in the control room to give it a
listen. The guy put the drums up in the big, wall
mounted studio monitors above the console and just
BLASTED the room. It sounded amazing but I was a bit
puzzled as to why he spent so much time with those
monitors. Nobody uses those things anymore.
Most studios, if they even still HAVE them, rarely turn
them on anymore. Technology is so advanced now that
small NS-10/Genelec-type monitors can handle huge SPL's
and give a super clean and much more accurate
representation of what you're doing. Oh well.....he
proceeded to blast them so loud that he blew the drivers
in both of the horns. Break time again while
someone went on a search around town for new diaphragms
for them. At this point, the staff at Ocean Way are
starting to question the guy's ability and rolling their
eyes along with us. And the clock is ticking.......
I sat in the
control room watching the "artist" noodle on the
Steinway in the booth next to the control room. He
had a lip full of tobacco and was spitting on the floor
in between his knees onto the imported Persian rug under
the piano. Seriously. No cup, just a big puddle
of brown spit by the sustain pedal. Unreal.
brought in some bagels while we waited and Mr.
Snagglepuss yanked his recently re-acquired teeth out
and set them on the edge of the console. He rolled
the chair over to a rack to adjust something and when he
did, he knocked them off onto the floor. When he
rolled back to the console......CRACK!! The chair
wheels rolled RIGHT over them and shot plastic and
little fake teeth all over the room! Joe and I were
about to explode with laughter but managed to keep it
together. I only had a FEW drops of coffee come out
my nose and managed to clean up before anyone noticed.
By this point
it's around 6 pm and we haven't recorded a single
started tracking and managed to get a take or two.
Mr. Gums-A-Lot never quite got the concept of the
talkback volume control. I'd play something and he'd
call from the control room and tell me why it sucked.
Over and over. Every time he clicked the button a
huge, loud "POP" would hammer my ears and I could hear a
mouse fart in the room with them. I was beginning to
get really pissed but managed to keep my temper. I
asked him several times to turn it down a little because
it was killing me but he apparently wasn't listening.
Joe was cutting bass in the room with them and he was
facing me thru the window. He had a legal pad and had
drawn a big dollar sign on it and would hold it up to
the glass so only I could see it when the guy was
chewing my ass. Thank you, Joe.
couple of hours of this, the guy was STILL not able to
figure out how to control the talkback. I was
pissed. I was seething. I was ready to kill him.
And then it happened......
He pushed the
button and spiked my brain yet again, then told me I was
playing like shit. I answered....."Okay, man.
We'll try it again but I I gotta say something.......if
you don't turn that fucking talkback down, I'm gonna
come in there and knock the REST OF YOUR FUCKING TEETH
OUT!!!!!!!" Oh boy. HERE we GO!
It was ON at
that point. I threw my cans on the floor and headed
into the control room. He was yelling at me, I was
yelling at him, everyone was trying to get between us
and I was fully prepared to beat the living snot out of
him right then and there. Total chaos. Everyone
managed to keep us just far enough apart that SOMEONE
didn't start bleeding......a whole lot. He tried to
get at me with the cliché..."You'll never work in
this....." and before he could finish I cut him off....
"What? This town? I LIVE here! I'll be working
here when you're long gone, pal! If you think you're
gonna come in here from up North and act like an asshole
and rule me or this town, you've lost what's left of
your simple mind. I don't care if your driveway is
PAVED with gold plaques, I don't take this shit from
ANYBODY!" I lost it. I admit it. And I'm not
proud of it. As I said before, that is NOT how I do
business. I was embarrassed that I lost my cool but
enough is friggin' ENOUGH!
We managed to
cool off and I said to him..."Look man, I'm obviously
not the guy for this thing so why don't you guys just
pay me for what I've done so far--two rehearsals and two
tracks--and I'll pack it up and let you guys get someone
else in here. I tried my best to be a professional but
I'm not the right guy for this. You need someone
else." He refused. So it's 12 hours into it and
we've got 10 tunes to go. I went back out to the kit
and sat down and told myself...." Okay, you said your
piece and you're tired and ready to go. If he wants
tracks, give him tracks so far up his ass he'll choke on
them." And that's what I did from then on. It
seemed to work because he got off MY ass and started in
on Joe. I watched it unfold until I saw Joe take his
bass off and get in the guy's face himself. Thru the
glass I see Joe's gesturing wildly and OBVIOUSLY coming
unglued now too. I waited for the fists to fly.
Joe calmed down, sat back down and glared at me thru the
glass as if to say "If YOU don't kill him, I'M going
to!" I think his dollar sign had long been
crumpled up and thrown out by this point.
By 5 a.m. the
next morning, we had FINALLY gotten it done and I headed
home but not without him first haggling with me over the
money and me too tired to argue anymore. I got my
check for less than what I was supposed to
get---ESPECIALLY considering the bullshit I had to go
thru to GET it but I was done. I went home and
slept for 12 hours.
After all the
money spent, drama and bullshit the "artist" paid WAY
too much for a CD that he is probably STILL trying to
unload from the stage of his club gigs in Kentucky.
the session that day is a working pro in town still and
none of us have seen Mr. Gums since then. Thank
heaven for poetic justice.
bass part-time at a local college. He called me a few
weeks later and said he was in a class with some guys
and they were talking about dealing with unreasonable
people and being a pro no matter what. He said one
of his students said "I heard about this session once
at Ocean Way....." and proceeded to run down everything
I just described! The kids were shocked and amused
to find out it was in fact NOT a tall tale, it was all
true and that their teacher was one of the players
involved! We still get a kick out of it to this day.
If I check voice mail and hear "I only cut records
with Remo Coated Ambassadors and a Fender bass...." I
know it's Joe without having to look at the call log!
Oh well....things turned out okay and I'll always have
the memory to reflect on. I've had a few difficult
sessions since but I can always think "Well at least
this isn't as bad as that ONE day!".
say there's a bit of good in everything
no matter how bad it seems at the moment. It's