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One of the things I've always felt was absolutely essential as a recording engineer is knowing how to keep your mouth shut. Do engineers see artists at their worst occasionally? Sure... but it's not our job to tell the world about it, is it?

 

Apparently Glenn Berger thinks differently about the matter.

 

http://www.msn.com/en-us/music/celebrity/paul-simon-depicted-as-insensitive-callous-in-new-book/ar-AAi1wVX?li=BBnb7Kz

 

But his book seems to be getting some good reviews from readers.

 

https://www.amazon.com/Never-Say-No-Rock-Star/dp/1943156085

 

He's apparently no longer engineering, he's a psychologist now, so the traditional incentive for keeping quiet is no longer there. Typically, those who spill the beans about what they saw and heard during a session have a hard time finding future work... and IMHO, that's the way it should be. If an artist doesn't feel that they're among friends, and that they can't let down their guard and let themselves function at that bare and vulnerable level, they're going to have a hard time creating. It doesn't mean we condone it when they're jerks, but again, is it the engineer's place to tell the world about an artist's flaws and failings?

 

What do you think?

 

 

 

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I dunno, Phil, to me, silence is the same as acceptance, the enemy of correction.

If you let someone slide because they are famous, is that right? I don't think so.

Being an artist does not give one license to be an @$$.

Sidemen, too, get crapped on all the time by 'artists', and because it is the nature of their gig to need the good will of producers and artists, many just suck it up...which is the same as condoning it.

 

I hear it so often 'don't gig with that guy/gal, they'll treat you like crap...so I don't; but as I have no first hand experience, I do not pass that information on.

The answer is to call these 'artists' out on being that way when it happens. Walk off the gig, and let everyone know why.

It isn't right that they feel they deserve special treatment that allows them to abuse other people.

No one has that right.

I won't take it from anyone, and if that hurts my ability to work, so be it, as there is no price I can put on my self-respect.

And I don't care if idiots like that bad-mouth me, I say consider the source. I want to work with people who are professional.

 

Edited by daddymack
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I have no problem with saying something discreet to people who might be affected, but public airing of dirty laundry says more about the person airing it than the person who dirtied the laundry.

 

But I generally prefer to keep things positive. If I get good service from an employee at a company, I'll write a note to their supervisor. I seldom complain if I get bad service because I've come to accept that :) I figure it's more productive to reward the good guys. So in that respect, if you work with an artist who's really great, might as well spread that far and wide in the hope that it will encourage others to emulate that kind of behavior.

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And that is the flip side that gets overlooked...I have worked with a number of very gracious people both in the music, TV, radio and film biz over the years and will always gladly sing their praises. Sadly, at my age, most of those people are gone now...you, Anderton, are one of those, btw :wave:

 

I agree about broadcasting the bad behavior, as again, it doesn't do anything positive, really, for either party. But I will say something to the offending party.

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If abuse is part of the career it follows that venting is part of retirement. If loose lips is more trouble than money, I imagine they'll deal with it. The deal breaker for me is crappy material. How anyone can sit quietly through a lifetime of lousy tunes that will never take off is unfathomable.

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The deal breaker for me is crappy material. How anyone can sit quietly through a lifetime of lousy tunes that will never take off is unfathomable.

 

 

Most engineers have had to do exactly that... at least to some degree. You don't always get to choose the material you record - that's a production / producer's function, not the engineer's... but even if you can (maybe you're serving as both producer and engineer - a not uncommon scenario), no one gets it right 100% of the time. You think something is one of the weaker songs when you're working on pre-production, and the thing unexpectedly grows into a monster right in front of your ears as you're working on it in the studio... or it turns out "okay", but winds up being the track the public likes most of all. Hey, it happens - a lot!

 

At the end of the day, it's the artist's record, and you're there to help facilitate their vision, not your own - especially as the engineer.

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If abuse is part of the career it follows that venting is part of retirement.

 

I am not saying that abuse should be tolerated or excused, but some occasional "snappishness" or moodiness from an artist in that kind of high pressure environment is to be expected to a degree. There are studio stories I could tell that I will take with me to my grave. IMHO, those things were said and done in private, in an environment that is supposed to be safe and secure for artists (you can't do your best work if you're preoccupied watching your back, physically or metaphorically) and conducive to creativity, and IMHO I would be breaking a confidence by sharing them without permission from all the parties present.

 

Maybe that's a antiquated attitude, but it's the one I have. :0

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Phil...the expression 'HOSTILE WORK ENVIRONMENT' keeps ringing in my ears...no one, I don't care if it was the second coming of Sinatra, has the right to abuse their co-workers for the sake of their art. Tolerating it is the same as condoning it, and continues the cycle of abuse. It is really no different than sexual harassment. You need to open your eyes to the realities.

That same environment that should be 'safe and secure' for the artist, should be 'safe and secure' for EVERYONE working on the project. Session players, engineers, go-fers, etc. should not have to watching their backs either.

Edited by daddymack
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Daddymack, let's start by defining what sorts of activities are and are not indicative of a hostile working environment in terms of studios... would you say someone telling the engineer to "turn down the f-ing bass" in their cans to be hostile? Can you give us some examples so we know where you'd draw the line?

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No, asking something like that is not really professional nor polite, though, but I could let it go...once. If the person made it personal: 'hey, engineer, turn the f-ing bass down, you ********!', that would be over the line, IMHO.

I'm talking about the jerks who go off on tirades...I know you've seen that; and the ones who get physical [usually due to a bad combination of attitude, ego, drugs/alcohol and innate hostility with some insecurity added], who kick over cymbal stands, knock over amps, throw microphones, pound on the glass panel to teh control room or the vocal booth...or are just verbally abusive...which can be just a matter of passive-aggressive verbalization, personal insults, or screaming at people 'you are ruining my session, you **************...there are plenty of potential scenarios, any of which I would go to the producer and say 'I'm done, and I still expect to get paid my minimum.'

Sadly I have walked out because of several of these issues over the past 20 + years, and usually they are not major players, but wannabes. Life is far too short to put up with any kind of unprofessional behavior, and abuse is totally beyond the pale.

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so exactly what were you referring to? Because the type of behavior referenced in the article you linked to about Paul Simon is classic passive-aggressive behavior, and a definite form of abuse...certainly way beyond 'snappishness' and 'moodiness'.

Edited by daddymack
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Its not just what is said. An engineer is trusted with what's being recorded.

I have hundreds of masters recorded with various musicians and they don't get shared with others without permission.

I wouldn't want my work showing up on some bootleg CD and vice versa.

 

Of course all those players have pretty much the same material as I do except for allot of the raw stuff that was trimmed away from their copies for obvious reasons. There have been a few cases, like what happened recently to my buddies collection or recording. A natural disaster occurred with a tornado did a suck job on all their music stuff including instruments, gear and recordings.

 

I'm in the process of making copies of allot of the stuff we did together over a 20 year span which is a monumental task.

Its a good thing I had all that stuff archived or it would have been completely lost. Of course the opposite could have just as easily happened and even though the people I performed with have got copies, many have drifted off and gone their own ways. I'm not sure I could get more then 10% back because so much of it was my own personal recordings.

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The problem with these types of stories is we don't know context, and they are snapshots. Based on the link it seems the engineer was taking about mid-70s Paul Simon...people can change a lot in 40 years as well as not change in 40 years. In any event, the only reason I can think of for writing a book like that is to make money. And the only reason it makes money is because a lot of people would like to hear that the supposed demigods of this world have feet of clay so they don't feel so bad about themselves.

 

There are different ways to spin things, too. In the Karen Carpenter episode referenced in the link, he could either write it as "Paul Simon is a jerk," or as a cautionary tale of how some people react to negativity.

 

My take is that a lot of artists are creative geniuses because art provides an outlet for extraordinary emotions they can't exorcise in other ways. Their demons are on display in their art. Leave the demons in their personal lives alone.

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I made it my terms to not be anywhere near the "artist" when laying down tracks. AFAIC, the only art I recognize is the engineer's take on the work. I really enjoy listening to this one guy who can not only explain what he's looking for, his gesticulations alone are danged near payment in kind. It doesn't take me long to conjure up what he's looking for after that. Anyway, my time has a value to it beyond the wallet and if I feel I'm in the company of right people on a right project and all are in the pocket, that's a bonus for me. Moreover, the experience of that kind of venture brings everyone up and I don't even care if the "artist" likes or dislikes the mix-down. Otherwise, it's a happenstance job for a 2nd income stream whereas with my primary income, from the technical field of aircraft repair where the airplanes don't talk back, I'm often in better company by contrast.

 

I'm already an ornery person who prefers solitude if company means compromising what I think is correct just to keep the peace. Screw that. I don't need to stroke an ego to survive, or get by, so when I see precious people prancing their egos in front of me they get a very quick glimpse of my heels. My respect lies with those who do have to suffer that to eat.

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I dunno, Phil, to me, silence is the same as acceptance, the enemy of correction.

If you let someone slide because they are famous, is that right? I don't think so.

Being an artist does not give one license to be an @$$.

Sidemen, too, get crapped on all the time by 'artists', and because it is the nature of their gig to need the good will of producers and artists, many just suck it up...which is the same as condoning it.

 

I hear it so often 'don't gig with that guy/gal, they'll treat you like crap...so I don't; but as I have no first hand experience, I do not pass that information on.

The answer is to call these 'artists' out on being that way when it happens. Walk off the gig, and let everyone know why.

It isn't right that they feel they deserve special treatment that allows them to abuse other people.

No one has that right.

I won't take it from anyone, and if that hurts my ability to work, so be it, as there is no price I can put on my self-respect.

And I don't care if idiots like that bad-mouth me, I say consider the source. I want to work with people who are professional.

 

calling someone out when they're being a jerk is very different to keeping silent and then many years later writing a book slagging them off... particularly when you're no longer part of the industry, so it can't adversely affect your career

 

seems like a tacky money grab to me

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1. I don't think the book's going to change much -- Paul Simon has been a legendary jerk for some time (see: "Fisher, Carrie; multiple interviews").

 

2. Yes, indeed, he's cashing in. Not sure how 'wrong' that is. What I do know is that most folks know when violating confidence could hurt someone -- or when failing to do so can hurt someone. And they usually try to do the right thing, within a cultural context.

 

3. Meh.

 

4. Are we discussing whether it's ok to be a jerk in the studio, or whether it's ok to write a book about someone else being a jerk in the studio?

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