Tuesday, November 13, 2007

How to Catch 10 Colds in One Year: Work in a Nashville Studio

Stoker has a cold. Again. Last night I asked him if his manager/boss noticed that Stoker was sick and Stoker said he didn't think so, and anyway, his boss is sick too. And then I belted Stoker. Knocked him flat on his back.

Just kidding. But I did swat him on the kidney, because it's my way and because I was so mad at the absolute moronic behavior of these ridiculous workaholics I'm surrounded by. Since coming to Nashville, Stoker has been sick with a cold about five times. We've been here a year and a half. Before that we were in Mesa for about 9 months and Stoker didn't get sick once, and before that we dated for about 9 months and I don't recall him being sick then. He was like a horse. Horses never get sick, right?

Then we come to Nashville and all hell breaks lose. Have you been to Nashville? Next to Sin City, Nashville is the second most happening town for the devil. The devil hangs out here. It's his crib, or whatever the kids call it these days (that's only funny if you know the real Nicole, I'm only 29, so young!). Nashville, or Nashvegas, as it is called in some circles, is Sin City 2. Hello! What's-your-name Frank-something-or-other, hint hint, second graphic novel Sin City 2, set in a rainy, autumny Nashville. Former Bell South tower, great lines! Great contrast, Gateway bridge!

Anyway, once here, hell broke loose. It was 60-70 hours a week at the job. 8 am to 2 am. How many hours is that? 9…10…11…15…18! It wasn't that drastic EVERY day, by any means. But there were several days where Stoker was at work from 8 until 1, 2, 3 in the morning, and on the days it wasn't that late he was still there 12 hours or more. And he wasn't getting paid. It was an internship. Magical words. Ship and intern. Meant to be together. More powerful in the modern world than relationship.

Currently a typical workweek for Stoker is 60-70 hours a week. The days have no structure. He doesn't really get a lunch. He's always at that studio, which is no bigger than a closet. (Only the BIG studios are bigger than a closet. Most studios in Nashville are not the big studios. The small studios are where it's at. Sad fact: most big studios are going out of business.)

And his boss is a great guy, an amazing businessman and I like him very much. But I question the wisdom in going to work sick, ESPECIALLY when your workspace is the size of a kitchen pantry and it's guaranteed that there will be more than five people shoved into that space. On a busy day, there are several engineers, anywhere from 5-12 musicians, the client -- who might bring an entourage --, the staff members who comprise 3-5 bodies, and the interns, who make up 2-3 of the bodies breathing the infected air.

Because Stoker is ALWAYS run down, he is GUARANTEED to catch whatever is brought into the studio by the warm, viral human vector. The vector I'm blaming this round is his boss. I've never been able to blame him before. One time the staff guys kept the same cold going round and round. I think Bob brought it in (Bob's gone now so I can tell you his name). Then the other dude got it. Then Stoker got it. Then Bob got it again, and so on.
It doesn't help matters that Stoker can't really call in sick. It's not a job where you've got back-ups. You can't call in sick. There are no safety nets. They don't even have insurance. It's like a flipping SWEAT SHOP.

I love Stoker's job. I admire his tenacity. I'm amazed that he's persevered and forged a path for himself. It really kills me to see him succeed. But there are times when I'm convinced the engineers have gotten a raw deal. The session players have a union and there are rules the studios have to follow about scheduling. If the players choose to work outside the rules, that's their right. The songwriters have a union, too, which protects their rights. The faces of the music, the stars, don't need a union because they're sort of the pets of the label. Their biggest problem is looking good. And let's face it, it would be embarrassing to have a union for celebrities.*

But the success of all of these groups rest on the skill of the engineer. And the engineer earns a pittance and gets walked on by the producers and the songwriters. The session players have their union, so they know that the producer won't be making them work past 10 pm, or whenever. But after the players are gone, the engineer keeps plugging away until the songwriter or the producer lets them go.

I'm not sure why no one has started a union for the engineers of Nashville. Probably because the machine would stop working if the producers and the songwriters couldn't squeeze every penny out of that day rate they're paying. It's pathetic, really. The most outrageous thing is the gall of some of the songwriters who buy a Protools rig so that they don't have to book studio time, and then they call an engineer to ask for help! It's like deciding to do your own dentistry and then calling the dentist because you don't know how to fix a cavity. What the hell?!

Most engineers have the grace to help out, but they're really biting their tongue. What they're most likely thinking is, "Hey, man, you're taking the food out of my mouth, yet you want me to chew it for you? Here's a little sugar to make it go down sweet." Add a few expletives. It's all political, right?

Anyway, I guess the point is, Stoker has his dream job and that's why he deals with the crap. I'm the one on the sideline watching him succeed, but I also have to watch him take the hits and it sucks. I want to help out. I just can't, Grasshopper. He has to do it himself and if he wants something to change, like going to work with a cold, he has to instigate that change. I just hope that I don’t catch his cold.

*In no way do I claim this as fact. This is information I've gleaned from being here in Nashville. For all I know the celebrities could have a union. And for all I know engineers don't feel like they're getting a raw deal. I don't represent anyone but myself, not even Stoker, who loves what he does.


Jodie K said...

Runny nose aside, you're married to a musician, and that’s hot ;)

Aries327 said...

True, true. And it's really endearing when he has a cold. For some reason.

Nathan Marx said...

I feel for you guys. The working long hours really sucks. Stoker is my hero! I know a little about working long hours. I don't work those kinda of hours all the time but it always seems to happen at the worse times. I was stuck at work pulling an 18 hour shift on our aniversary. Lucky we had already decided to do something on a different day but it still sucks. Anji was really cool about it. I sent her flowers and she picked her self out a gift but that is no substitute.

With the work ethic that Stoker has he is going to go places Nik. Oh ya, uhhh, I guess I agree that he is one sexy musical beast.

Aries327 said...

Nathan -- you don't have to agree that he's a sexy musical beast. Ha ha.

Anyway, I'm glad Anji was cool about your 18 hour shift. I'm sure she realized she could get herself a bigger, more expensive present because you were bringing home more dough. I know Anji. That's waht she's thinking.

baughtronic said...

Cure: Raw food and oregano extract.

And I know noses.

Aries327 said...

You FOOL. I knew about oregano extract before you.

Bwah ha ha ha ha.

Holy crap, I can't believe I have a mistake in my previous comment. I'm so embarrassed. Now who's the fool?