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.

A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories

C.C. DeVille Guitar World – September 1989 and Persistence (Quitters Never Win and Winners Never Quit)

GW – What was the best piece of advice ever given to you as a guitar player?
“Be your own man,” which carries into every aspect of life. Listen to other people, but realize your opinion counts as well. There’s always someone to tell you how bad you are, but not always someone to tell you how good you are. So you have to depend on yourself not to quit. In the words of Body By Jake Steinfeld, “Quitters never win and winners never quit.” Remember, rock n roll was invented for people who can’t play regular music.

Learn from others, but never forget who you are.  Don’t let the haters win.  As pointed out by C.C. there will always be someone there to tell you how bad you are.  C.C. is a perfect example.  The Shrapnel Guitarist Elite dished him.  Why? It’s because he made to multi platinum status and they didn’t.  Rock N Roll was always meant for the outcasts, the ones that where not professional and did not practice 15 hours a day.

GW – What would you like your epitaph to read?
My epitaph would read: “Here lies the music worlds best kept secret.” When I go to bed at night I’m very hurt that people consider us a joke band. We concentrate on writing good pop songs, so I have to be careful not to overplay. I guess one of these days I’ll have to sink to the level of playing a “jack off” solo featuring hammer on pyrotechnics and flying whammy bars. Ain’t Nothing But A Good Time is a brilliant summer song with a good solo. It fits the song very well. That’s what I’m preoccupied with, rather than showing off.

It’s okay to show emotion, to feel hurt when people dish on you.  That is expected behaviour.  Pretending to be fine is fake behaviour.  The gospel is above, CONCENTRATE on writing good songs, play for the song, not for the hype.

GW – Pick the C.C. DeVille “Dead or Alive Dream Band” excluding members of Poison?
John Bonham on drums, obviously. Paul McCartney on bass, because he’d help me write some great songs. I’d live to hear Paul Rogers on vocals and Max Middleton from the old Jeff Beck Group on keys. Jeez, what a weird combination of people. You probably couldn’t even get a jam going, but somehow mentally it works for me.  T
o tell you the truth, I quit thinking about ultimate bands because synergy in rock is a strange thing. Superhero bands like Blind Faith and Asia never seem to work out. On the other hand you can put together several average musicians and create something special.  Hell we did our first album in 12 days!  It was raw, but there was a chemistry that people seemed to like, and that’s all that matters.

David Coverdale has played with a lot of musicians, but when John Sykes came into the picture, they created hard rock, blues rock / metal history with the Whitesnake 1987 album.  Coverdale then wrote Slip of The Tongue with Adrian Vanderberg and got Steve Vai to play it, however he never got the same magic, and within 18 months Whitesnake was no more.   That synergy is like lightning in a bottle.  The Beatles where four average musicians that created something special, Sabbath was the same, Deep Purple and the list goes on.  Ritchie Blackmore found that synergy again with Rainbow, however once Dio left it was all downhill from there.  You never know with whom you will have chemistry with.

A to Z of Making It, Music

Persistence Part 2

There is a recent Dear Guitar Hero article with Tommy Thayer in the Guitar World, May 2013 issue.  The interview was conducted by Brad Angle.

QUESTION: Is it true that you did manual labor tasks at Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley’s houses before becoming a member of Kiss? (Tony Ratoni)

ANSWER: Those are kind of urban myths.  Sure, I started working for those guys part time in the late Eighties, an my credo was that I’d do whatever needed to be done.  And a lot of times when you’re in those situations you do all kinds of things.  I think, somehow, through all the speculation on the internet, people started saying that i did all these strange jobs.  But nothing was strange.  I was just a go-getter that would do whatever task was at hand, which is normal if you wanna get somewhere in your life.  I’m proof that persistence works.  

So all you wannabe artists, are you prepared to persevere.  If you want to be rich, take up banking or get involved technology.  Hell, tech heads are the new rock stars.  They are the cool ones, the ones that people want to hang with as they are rolling in the cash.  If you want to be somebody in music, you need to persevere.  Tommy Thayer was a go-getter for Kiss.  Gene Simmons signed his band Black and Blue and produced two mediocre albums.  He even took one of the Black N Blue songs he co-wrote and called it Domino on Revenge with only himself as the writer.  Tommy Thayer then played the tribute circuit in a Kiss cover band.  This is a period now that is spanning from 84 to 2000.  In 2002 he made his debut as the new Spaceman for Kiss.  He didn’t quit.  He kept on making connections.  He kept at it.

There is a comment on the Persistence and the Meaning of making it post, where Robakers mentioned the persistence of Lars Ulrich in getting Metallica off the ground.  This is so true.  Everyone seems to forget that part of Lars.  He was once a kid, that built connections around the NWOBM music that he was interested in.  He surrounded himself with like minded people.  Eventually one of those people started a label.  Then they where doing a compilation album.  The rest is history.

These days, everyone remembers Lars as the guy that sued his own fans when Napster came on the scene.  That is because, Lars wanted to be part of the corporate elite.  Lars wanted to hang with the rich because he thought it was cool and the rich wanted to hang with Lars as they thought it was cool to hang with a rock star.  Instead of Lars being the stiff middle finger hero to his fans against the corporations, he became one of them.