a graphic designer.

“I want to be a graphic designer,” Rich said.

I sat there and listened, trying to figure out the most diplomatic way of saying that you couldn’t just do that.

“I like designing things,” he continued.  “I want to do corporate identity systems – logos, business cards, letterhead, that sort of thing.”

“You’ve never done logo design before,” I stammered.

“I designed your logo,” he reasoned.  He was right.  “I designed the Indier Than Thou! logo.  I designed the Binky Graphics logo, and the Binky Media logo.  I designed the Aural Scents logo and the Surprise! logo.”

“But none of those were actual businesses,” I said. “Most graphic designers who work for ad agencies have gone to college and received their degree in graphic design.  They can pick up a pencil and draw something.  They know all the basic design principles.  Look at a guy like Ray.  He’s a graphic designer.  He’s been doing it for years.  He went to college for it.”

Rich was amazing.  He’d go from one idea to the next, spending a few weeks on something and then moving on to the next thing.  I was still pissed he’d abandoned Indier Than Thou!, something I was more and more convinced that he started just to prove Frank wrong about something.

He wanted to be a politician, a publisher, a corporate honcho, a printer, a musician, a recording engineer, and now a graphic designer.  I expected him to tell me he wanted to be a cowboy, a fireman, and a baseball player.

“I’m going to start working on a portfolio,” he said.  “Maybe you could take a look at it when I’m done?”

“Sure, I’ll look at it,” I said.  “If you wanted, you could actually do some graphic design work for me.”

“Like what?” he asked.

“Like getting me my silkscreens for the cuppa joe CD, for one.  But you could also design the ad for the nurture CD.  I usually advertise multiple titles on a single ad, but for nurture I also want to have a quarter-page ad, just for that CD.  Something cleaner than what we’ve done in the past.”

I enjoyed designing goofy, punk-rock-looking ads with the Xerox machine and Scotch tape.  But I was starting to see other labels doing cleaner ads, advertising a single title, and they looked good.

I was also up to my ears in planning, and knew that once I had my silkscreened CD jackets, I was going to have to assemble 500 more CDs, get them shrinkwrapped, and ship them all over the place.  I wasn’t going to have time to design an ad.  So I’d let the graphic designer do it.

Rich had all but abandoned his car at this point.  I picked him up for work every morning, and fought the traffic to drive him home every afternoon.  I’d make the ride at 5:30 every night, through Elmwood Park to Lodi, heading out Route 46 East towards New York right at the worst time of day.  If we went out somewhere, I picked him up at his apartment.  I always paid for gas. I resented it, but I enjoyed his company so much that I decided to just let it lie.  No point in starting an argument.

During this period, we were mostly just waiting for the cuppa joe CD to work its way through the manufacturing process, waiting for Rich to give us the screens so that we could start silkscreening, and waiting for the other bands to decide what they wanted to release.  Lots of waiting.

I spoke to Ray a few times, and he told me about some of their own trials as they were manufacturing their record.  The new label was affiliated with a larger label that made its bread and butter in the world music genre.  They had a full-time artist on staff, and that person laid out the liner notes of their CD, much to Ray’s disliking.  So he laid out the entire thing all over again, which ruffled some feathers.

Then, when they mastered the recording, he insisted on being present for it.  Something went wrong during the process.  The entire first shipment of CDs was missing the left (or right, I don’t remember) channel.  It was like a mono recording, all the music only came out of one speaker.  There was debate over whether or not to just release the CD as-is, which is what the label wanted, given the expense of re-pressing.  Ultimately, if I remember, the band had to restructure their deal with the label to accommodate for repressing the entire first run of CDs.

I wanted to tell him that’s what test pressings were for, but I didn’t bother.  That was one of those things that, no matter how upset you are with somebody, you can’t really gloat about; a mistake like that could happen to anybody.  So I just did what I usually did whenever they had a crisis: I sat on the phone, listened, offered helpful suggestions, spoke in soothing tones.  It was just like old times.

Evidently the problem was resolved to everybody’s satisfaction, because eventually I got a postcard in the mail, inviting me to their record release party.  Under ACME.  I was, frankly, shocked to get the invitation.

“We’re not going, right?” Sandy asked.

It didn’t take me long to come up with an answer to that question.  “No, we have to go.  They invited us; that’s an olive branch.  We’ll just go, say congratulations, stick around for their set, and leave.”

“We’re going to have to meet him,” she said, referring to the owner of their new label.


“I won’t be friendly.”

“Maybe you won’t have to meet him,” I reasoned.  “I’m sure Rich will go.  Matt will go.  You’ll have people to hang around with.  I’ll eat the sandwich and you can have fun.”

“It won’t be fun.”

~ by Al on April 25, 2009.

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