Deadbeats & Deloreans
Before I became disenchanted with the music scene, I worked as a studio musician at Prescription Studios in Hackensack. I sold away my legal right to any future royalty payments for 80 bucks per song. Like most session drummers, my ability to do this was directly hindered by the session drummer’s arch enemy, the synthesizer.
If a musician was talented enough to program a synthesized drum beat, they would find my 80 dollar fee totally unnecessary. Fortunately for me, most of the people who came in to our dark, windowless, hole-in-the-wall at the far end of the McDonald’s parking lot were completely oblivious to all technical aspects of music. This meant I was frequently forced to translate some of the vaguest musical direction possible. You have no idea how frustrating it is to spend hours on end being yelled at because you can’t properly interpret what some acid casualty means by “play a ba-da-ba-da beat.” As if that weren’t confusing enough already, there were always heavy opium fumes leaking out from the sound booth and filling up the studio, making coherent conversation a damn near impossibility.
When your boss is frequently getting wasted, your work hours become more and more negotiable. He’d stumble out of his office and ask me if I was still on for working Saturday night, and knowing full well that he’d already booked me for that time slot, I’d respond with “no, was I supposed to? You never said anything about that.” Then, feeling embarrassed, he would apologize and tell me that he must have been confused, and from there I’d offer to swing by on Sunday, for which he’d thank me as if I were doing him a favor.
That scenario took place quite often, in one form or another, and although I probably should have felt bad about taking advantage of a drug fiend like that, the trouble I gave him seemed like the least of his worries. Feeding his addiction had caused his business to take a financial plunge into the toilet, which in turn left the studio in desperate need of cash. In the end, my boss had to sell his Delorean to save his sinking business.
He would always tell me though how much he loved racing that car over the studio’s P.A. system while I hooked up the drum microphones, tested the sound levels, and took care of all the other recording necessities he’d neglected. He described his Delorean exploits to me in great detail, making sure to mention how many “ricers” he made eat his dust. Unfortunately, having never actually seen him take part in any of these races, I couldn’t help but feel a bit skeptical that a guy who had trouble cleaning the Cheetos out of his hair could outrace anyone, let alone a custom Japanese race car in a gas guzzling anachronism barely capable of 88 miles per.
The decision to sell the car was a big one for him, and it just might have been the first time I ever saw any emotional expression in his almost perpetually dazed face. He didn’t have a wife, kids, or any real sort of family, and working so long and unsuccessfully at Prescription Studios had basically robbed him of an attachment to his job in any sense other than as a means of income; that car was all he really loved. He cared for it as if it were the child he never had, and when a problem as tiny as the radio not getting proper reception would arise, he’d postpone any recording sessions we needed to do that day to drive up to some Delorean specialist’s garage in Long Island. He’d book a hotel room there and stay until the repairs were finished, going to the garage every day to visit his car. Sometimes, he’d even call to tell me that I didn’t have to come in to work that week.
Instabilities in my work schedule like these meant that my paychecks wouldn’t be coming half as frequently as they once were (which wasn’t even all that frequently to begin with); suddenly, my empty pockets made a steady job at some kind of big chain store sound more and more enticing. But as I quickly learned, it’s hard to get legitimate employment from a respectable enterprise with shaggy hair and torn jeans.
So, there I was stuck going down with this sinking ship of a studio watching my boss squirm under the increasing financial pressure being put on him. In retrospect, there’s a certain humor in the whole debacle: just as John Delorean had turned to selling drugs to help keep his beloved car company afloat financially, my boss had turned to selling his beloved Delorean to help keep his drug habit from running his studio into the ground.
And just like the hundreds of major investors in the Delorean auto company during the 80s, I had no other choice but to hang on for the ride.
Editor’s note: We’re proud to welcome Ilan Moskowitz as a new writer. Thanks Ilan!