where’d godspeed go?

Godspeed disappeared.

Ride came out with a fury, and Tommy sent me a really nice letter.  Then came Beavis and Butthead and the video for “Houston Street,” and the European tour with Black Sabbath.  Word came down of another tour with Dio, and then the compilation track with Bruce Dickinson on vocals.

This monster band, these guys from Jersey, had just spent time with three of the biggest icons in heavy metal (although I never found out if Bruce Dickinson was actually present during the “Sabbath, Bloody Sabbath” recording sessions – maybe if Tommy is still reading, he’ll chime in and let us know how that all went).

Then, suddenly, they were gone.  Nobody knew what the fuck happened to them.  Would there be a second single?  A new video?  Maybe another album?

No idea.

At work, I enjoyed telling people that we worked with a band who was on tour with Black Sabbath.  People at my dayjob had actually head of Black Sabbath.  They were all sort of mystified by the indie rock thing – they picked on me a bit for it, but they also asked a lot of questions.  And I noticed that as much ragging as I got, I was always the first guy they came to when they heard a new band.

“Hey Al, have you ever heard Smashing Pumpkins?”

“Sure.”

“What do you think of them?”

“I think they suck.”

or

“Hey Al, have you heard the new Nine Inch Nails song?”

“Yep.”

“What do you think?”

“I think it’s the worst piece of shit I’ve ever heard.”

That’s generally how it went.

I was working my ass off every day, trying to learn how to do a Product Manager’s job so that I could actually be promoted to that position, so that I could earn that $60,000 salary that my boss told me a Product Manager made.  We were frantically trying to build up a product line so that we would be ready to start taking orders and shipping large quantities to mass retail in June.

It was a pretty insane pace.

Essentially, we would identify a phone that we wanted to support, and use our contacts to get three samples.  The first two samples would get shipped off to our battery manufacturers in China, who would take the phone and battery apart and reverse-engineer them, then produce a temporary mold and create a handful of actual, working batteries.  Then, they would ship those batteries to our engineering lab, so that we could test them and make sure that A) they fit the phone properly, B) the color of the plastic matched the phone, and C) they met our technical specifications.

The third sample would be shipped to our leather case manufacturer in Los Angeles, who would use the phone to create a leather case for it.  Once he finished, he would ship the phone back to me – and then I would ship it to our electronic company in China, so they could make a cigarette lighter adaptor for it.  

Those manufacturers would ship me back the products to test for fit and function.  Once we approved them, we would place an order.

Then, we would take the sample products we received from the manufacturer, and send them out to be photographed.  The photos would then be incorporated into packaging designs – cardboard “blister cards,” thin, folding cartons, and large, corrugated boxes, depending on the different configurations and brand names.  

After the photos were taken, the sample products would be given to our packaging guy, who would use them to make form-fitted, injection-molded clamshell packaging to go around the “blister card.”  All our products went into sonic or RF-sealed packaging, which deterred theft, or into full-color, printed boxes, which were upscale-looking.

For every phone we supported, we had two different batteries (a high capacity and a standard capacity), a cigarette lighter adaptor, a “battery eliminator,” a leather case, a battery charger, a “Value Pack” (which was a leather case and a battery eliminator), and a “Starter Kit” (which was a spare battery, leather case, and cigarette lighter adaptor).  Eight products under two different brand names, for a grand total of sixteen products for every phone we supported.

Then, if the phone came in different colors, we needed to produce batteries and battery eliminators in all the different colors.

Then, we made hands-free kits for each phone.  And spare antennae, car mounts, and various kinds of plug-in adaptors.

Before I knew it, I was working on product specifications, packaging design, engineering testing, catalog descriptions, and print ads for nearly a thousand different products.  And each day, my boss would throw me a new curve ball, by telling me about a new customer that needed the product a different way, or a new phone we needed to support.  And when I told him it would take 30-45 days to get things changed, he would scream and pout, yelling “Fine!  Let’s just shut the doors, then!  Go out of business!”

He had access to the Motion Picture Academy because someone close to him was an Oscar-winning director.  So each year, he received all the “screening copies” of that year’s award nominees.  He’d bring them into the office and loan them to me (and everyone else, but I got first dibs).  Sandy and I watched every 1993 Oscar nominee for free, from the privacy of our own home.

One day, he walked into my office and, point blank, said “Come to my house for dinner this weekend.”  So Sandy and I drove into Manhattan and went out to a restaurant (can’t recall which), and to the New York Cheesecake Factory for dessert.  On the way back, we stopped and looked at pachinko machines (he collected them), and then went up to his apartment, where I got to hold the Oscar.

An Oscar is really fucking heavy, by the way.

Eventually work got so insane that I rebelled.  I walked into my boss’ office, sat down, and said “I can’t do this pace anymore.  You go a thousand miles an hour, all day long.  You’re here at 5AM and you go till 7PM, and you expect me to keep the same kind of pace.  You yell and scream all day, you expect things to be done within minutes of asking, and you give me no help whatsoever.”

He looked up and asked “So, what do you want?”

I said “I want an assistant.”

“Okay,” he said.  “Hire one.”

So I did.

A few weeks later, he came into my office and asked if I knew anyone who understood the cellular industry and spoke Spanish.  He wanted someone who could work with the people in the factory, to get orders built and shipped more quickly.  Up until then, I was working with the factory every day, but since they were all Cuban and Dominican, there was definitely a language barrier.  I tried my best to recall my high school Spanish while I was in the factory, but most of the time, we didn’t understand each other.  

It just so happened that I did know someone who fit that description, so we hired him.

~ by Al on April 23, 2009.

4 Responses to “where’d godspeed go?”

  1. Hey, Al. What’s a battery eliminator?

    • They don’t make them anymore, I don’t think.

      There were two ways you could use a portable phone in your car. A cigarette lighter adapter (we called them “Power Cords”), which plugs right into your phone, charges the battery and delivers power to the phone.

      A “Battery Eliminator” is a power cord, but at the end of it is a plastic casing in the shape of your battery. You take the battery off the phone, and slide the battery eliminator in its place.

      They were necessary when phones used Nickel-Cadmium batteries, since Ni-Cd was subject to “memory effect,” which caused the batteries to lose their effectiveness if you charged them before their existing charge was all the way depleted. Now that most phones use Lithium-Ion batteries, or Nickel-Metal-Hydride batteries, they don’t have as much of a problem with memory effect. Hence, the Battery Eliminator has gone the way of the dodo.

      Probably more than you wanted to know, but hey.

  2. (although I never found out if Bruce Dickinson was actually present during the “Sabbath, Bloody Sabbath” recording sessions – maybe if Tommy is still reading, he’ll chime in and let us know how that all went

    Nope, never met the guy!!!

    the tracks were sent to him in England and he did his thing and that was that….

    as for what happened to us, its a loooooooooong and sad tale really but egos, money, drugs and other issues had appeared and destroyed whatever it was we were. something like that was never destined to last anyway…

  3. That’s a shame, Tommy. The band was really good.

    At the same time, your new band (which also features Rob from Godspeed, for you folks following along) is good in a different way, heavy as hell.

    I’ll stick this in a post somewhere at some point, but those of you who are following the story should check out Solace, at http://www.myspace.com/solacedoom. Tommy’s website, which is much more of a musiciologist’s sort of site, can be found by clicking on “The Devil’s Music” on the links from this blog.

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