A to Z of Making It, Influenced, Music, My Stories, Unsung Heroes

Dues To Pay

Don Brautigam didn’t get the Metallica “Master Of Puppets” or the Motley Crue “Dr Feelgood” cover design gig because he just graduated from drawing school or he had the digital tools at home to create art. Brautigam had spent 15 years doing book covers, sci-fi art and album covers for over artists. He got recognition for his Stephen King book cover design in 1980. He was paying his dues every single day.

Twisted Sister didn’t just write a multi-platinum album out of the blue. It was a long hard road, with some great live moments and record label rejection. While they had the US Tri-State scene covered, to the rest of the world they were unknown. As far as the person in Australia was concerned, they laboured in obscurity. But they kept on doing the great work for a lot of years before most people heard them.

Dream Theater’s “Images And Words” was seven years in the making from when the band got together in 85. All of those choices made in the past led to this album. And once you add the years of individual practice and listening before Dream Theater formed, you can see that “Images and Words” didn’t just write itself.

John Sykes didn’t just come out of the blue and join Whitesnake and then go on to co-write one of the best albums from 1987. His journey involved local bands in the UK, then Tygers of Pang Tang, Thin Lizzy and finally Whitesnake. David Coverdale started off with local bands in the UK, then Deep Purple and finally Whitesnake. The accumulation of years paying their dues led to a perfect synergy/chemistry which resulted in the 1987 album.

Recently I got into the instrumental music of Andy James. A great melodic guitarist and what a shredder. When you look at his past, you can see a high work ethic, writing, recording, touring, doing transcriptions, magazine work, sessions and what not. I am sure, many nights/months passed labouring in obscurity, but he kept on doing great work, years before most people realised and recognised his work.

Hate em or love em, but Five Finger Death Punch is no accident. They are a good example that it takes years, over a decade to find the right formula that works, to keep on working on the music, the message in the lyrics and taking chances. The band members themselves have roots that go back to the early 90’s.

The past is the forerunner to the future and any success that might follow. That rocket ship to success that MTV sold everyone, no longer exists. No one will ever be as big as they’d dreamed they’d be. If an artist is lucky, they will have established a following that pays their bills.

And today, the past is even more important. We live in an era where people don’t realize how hard it is to rise above the noise and connect with people. We do it socially, but artistically it’s difficult. And our past stories and experiences are there to build connections. The right or wrong choices we made in the past, shape who we are today.

But the world moves so fast.

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A to Z of Making It, Copyright, Music, My Stories

Persistence, Timing, Diversification and playing to your core audience

I am reading the recent issue of Guitar World and I come across a question where Mick Jones from Foreigner is asked how it was to work with Mutt Lange? For those that don’t know Mutt Lange produced the Foreigner 4 album in 1981.

Mutt had really wanted to do our second album [1978’s Double Vision], I believe. But he didn’t seem quite ready at the time. So we did the next one [1979’s Head Games] with Roy Thomas Baker.

So Lange goes away and he proves himself to Foreigner. He takes on AC/DC and produces Highway to Hell in 1979 (their American breakthrough album) and Back in Black in 1980 (their first with Brian Johnson and their biggest album in regards to sales to date). He also produced For Those About To Rock We Salute You in 1981.

He didn’t just give up. In between the period between 1977 and 1981, apart from AC/DC, he also produced albums for artists like City Boy, Clover, Supercharge, The Boomtown Rats, The Rumour, Savoy Brown, Michael Stanley Band, Outlaws, Deaf School, The Records and Broken Home. He is paying his dues, getting the stats on his side, just so that he can work with a band that he wants to work with.

… then Mutt was kind of knocking on the door again. I must say, he was quite enthusiastic.

Then he gets the gig to do Foreigner4 which came out in 1981. Persistence. Paying your dues. Credentials. Hard work. Timing. They all play important parts in the recipe for success.

Mutt’s persistence to hard work, made him turn over a lot of records as a producer. A lot of those records made a large impression with the public.
Mutt’s timing was off when he first approached Foreigner in 1978. It wasn’t off in 1981. This time around he also had the credentials to back himself. For a producer, your credentials are the works that you produced, for an artist, your credentials is the music that you make.

He was the first producer I worked with who really challenged me. He was not only very insightful with the songs and in helping to bring them to fruition but he was also really great at achieving sounds.

The real rock stars hated to get challenged. The “songs are their children” is a common cliché that so many of them would say. Mutt Lange didn’t give a shit about that. He wanted perfection. He wanted greatness. He wanted to be involved in something that would last forever.

He was just unbelievably dedicated to the process…to the point where I think we kept Def Leppard waiting six or nine months because Mutt was still working with us on 4.

Def Leppard waited for him. Why? They knew. They knew that this guy was special. They knew he was the person that would be able to capture their pop leanings and merge them with their rock and blues influences. All of that pales, compared to what they really needed. Def Leppard needed a song writing partner. Look at the history that they created.

Def Leppard – High ‘N’ Dry, 1981
Def Leppard – Pyromania, 1983
Def Leppard – Hysteria, 1987
Def Leppard – Adrenalize, 1992

Mutt really set a standard with Def Leppard. I called it the layers standard. Others call it the over dubs or over producing standard. Others call it multi-tracking. The fans loved it. They wanted the big vocals, the arena rock chorus’s layered in harmonies. Once Hysteria exploded every other band released albums in the same layered style. Suddenly every hard rock band was doing the Bon Jovi and Def Leppard thing. Kiss went all pop metal with Crazy Nights and Hot In The Shade. Whitesnake did it with Slip Of The Tongue. However, there was one band that was doing things their own way. That one band is called Guns N Roses. I digress.

Once you become successful, it doesnt mean you stop. Mutt Lange didn’t. He kept on going.

Song writing for other artists became a new income stream for him from the eighties onwards. As an artist, if all you do is just write music and perform it live, you are limiting yourself to that income stream. However, if you write songs for other artist, you have an additional income stream. If you produce for up and coming bands, sharing your expertise and knowledge, then you have another income stream. If you are a guitar player, become a guitar teacher on time off from recording and touring. That is another income stream. Suddenly, you have a years’ worth of work. Yes it is hard work. It was never meant to be easy.

Look at the following list of people that keep on working hard;

Jordan Rudess from Dream Theater. He plays keyboards in Dream Theater, he is a solo musician, he is an instructor and he is an app developer.

Claudio Sanchez from Coheed and Cambria. He is the founder, singer, guitarist and main songwriter for Coheed and Cambria. He also has a side project called Prize Fighter Inferno. He has written novels and comics. He appears at Comic Conventions. He has just signed a production agreement for The Amory Wars story to be turned into a movie or movies. He is also an app game developer.

Corey Taylor is another. The recent House of Gold and Bones releases by Stone Sour have seen that concept story turned into a graphic novel and comic book, as well as a production deal to turn it into a movie. Apart from Stone Sour, Corey still tours with Slipknot. He is also a novelist.

Nikki Sixx is the leader of Motley Crue. He does Sixx A.M as another band. He does photography and his work is being exhibited on line. He has penned two autobiographies (The Dirt and The Heroin Diaries), as well as a picture book/biography for This is Gonna Hurt. He uses social media to build connections with fans. Finally, he is overseeing the long overdue Motley Crue movie. There is also the SixxSense “radio” gig and a range of other outlets like clothing and accessories.

Phil X is currently fill in guitarist for Bon Jovi. He is a session musician. He is a fill in guitarist .He is a solo artist. He is a band member. He is a guitar teacher. Five different income streams. He endorses different product lines of gear.

Kevin Churko is a producer, sound engineer, masterer, mixer and a songwriter. While his production credits involve the hard rock and metal genre, I bet a lot of people didn’t know that he was involved with Britney Spears when he started off. Yep that is right. In 2000 he was the Digital Editing and Programming guru on Britney’s Oops!… I Did It Again album. He had that same job title for The Corrs, Shania Twain and Celine Dion albums that followed between 2000 and 2003.

From 2003 onwards, he then started getting appointments as an Engineer and a mixer. He had those titles for Shania Twain and Ozzy Osbourne albums.

Then from 2006 and onwards he started getting producing appointments.

Churko built up a credentialed name for himself between 1999 and 2006. Since then he has done I Don’t Wanna Stop, Black Rain and Scream by Ozzy Osbourne. Apart from being the Producer, he was also the Engineer, the Mixer and Composer.

He has filled the same role for In This Moment, Hinder, Beggars and Thieves, Emerson Drive, Five Finger Death Punch, Otherwise, Kobra and The Lotus and Rob Zombie.

The point in all of this. Success in music is not just about writing a song and watching it sell. You need to earn your success. You need to pay your dues. You need to live and experience life. You need to be patient. You need to persevere. The bottom line; don’t quit.

And remember: still play to your core audience. That is what all of the above artists are doing. They are keeping their core audience satisfied.

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