letdowns.

The Mommyheads swung through New York, and had recorded some songs at a studio somewhere in Connecticut (I think).

I couldn’t wait to hear the tracks, and during a phone call with Adam, I asked when I would get to hear them.

“They’re being mixed right now,” he said. “We’re putting out another CD.”

I was quiet.  I wanted to put out that CD.

“We wanted something a little harder-driving than Flying Suit, a little more representative of what we sound like today.”

“Who’s going to put it out?” I asked.  “Simple Machines?”

“No,” he said, “It’s going to come out on a small label that’s run by some friends of ours.  They haven’t put out anything you’ve heard of, I don’t think.  Philistines, Jr.  Ever hear of them?”

“No,” I said.  “Why wouldn’t you put it out on Dromedary?  Are you not happy with how we’re working together?”

“Oh, we’re thrilled with how we’re working together.  But we wanted to get something else out pretty quick, and we wanted to do it with a different label.  Nothing personal.”

I took it so totally personal.  We were chugging along, selling more copies of Flying Suit than everything else we had released put together, getting shitloads of press, and it stung to hear that the band was going to put out their next record on another label.

“It’s going to be a full-length,” he continued.  “It’s got a lot more of the jammy type of music we’ve been playing live.  I think you’re going to like it.”

“I know I’m going to like it,” I said.

I loved these guys, and I loved the band.  I was not about to let myself get too disappointed with it, as I had vowed that I was never going to have another blowup with one of our bands.  In my mind, the artists should be allowed to do whatever they want, and if “whatever they want” meant having releases on multiple labels, that was fine.  I had gone past the point where I wanted bands “locked up” in contracts; I wanted Dromedary to be the most artist-friendly indie label it could possibly be, and I also realized that successful releases on other labels could only increase the profile of the band and help my own sales.  Still, it was disappointing to me.

That night, I sat back and took stock of everything.  Heading into September, we had planned on a cuppa joe release on the 15th, a Mommyheads release on October 15th, and a Footstone release on November 15th.  We anticipated a Gapeseed seven-inch and a Toast full-length, the Schoolhouse Pop compilation, and a Dots Will Echo CD.

By mid-November, the cuppa joe and Mommyheads releases were out, but the Footstone CD was nowhere to be found.  Gapeseed was working on a new CD with Silver Girl.  Toast was on hiatus while Mike toured with Kittywinder.  Schoolhouse Pop was dead.

Mentally, I had started to replace some of those “missing” releases.  I had hoped that a Mommyheads CD would be possible, but now I could see that wasn’t going to happen.

I turned my sights to John S Hall, hoping to release a CD from his new band, The Body Has A Head.

John had sent me a cassette of their first recordings, and it was absolutely fantastic.  It was driven by odd instrumentation – cello backed with heavy, groovy drums; or noisy electric guitar paired up with a cello playing the bass.  And above it was Hall’s quirky, intellectual, witty poetry.  It would have been a great record for us to put out, immediately elevating Dromedary to the same place that Schoolhouse Pop would have.

John and I talked about it on the phone, but it became very clear that he had greater things in mind than Dromedary Records for his new band.  And it was tough to blame him.  Just a couple of years prior, “Detachable Penis” was all over MTV, and King Missile had finished a run of three or four really well-done records.  They were college radio sweethearts.  It was a long drop from that to Dromedary Records.

To make matters worse, he was not really interested in a Cheap Trick tribute record.

Suddenly, we had gone from being overloaded with new records to having nothing to put out.

I began sifting through the bands that were going to be a part of the Schoolhouse record, to try and see if there was any possibility of doing a full-length CD with them.

American Standard had signed with Another Planet Records and was ready to put out a full-length CD.

Poole had signed with SpinArt.

All About Chad, another Silver Girl band that we had been talking with, signed with Melting Hopefuls’ new label.

Chocolate USA was already signed with Bar/None, and Julian, the singer who I had spoken with about doing a seven-inch, had seemingly disappeared; I couldn’t get in touch with him.

In the period of just a month or so, we had gone from an embarrassment of riches to having no concrete plans to do anything.

I knew that Lippy was eventually going to be complete.  However, as was typical Footstone, they had already written a whole crop of new songs and were hardly playing any of the songs from Lippy at their shows anymore.  I also knew that cuppa joe was planning on going into the studio to record a new crop of songs, and I felt that it would be easy to release those on Dromedary.

There was, however, a wrinkle.

Steve, the band’s drummer, was also an outstanding visual artist (still is).  When we did the art for nurture, steve had given us all the original artwork.  I, in turn, had given it to Rich so that he could produce the screens on his equipment at work.

The first strike against us was how horrific the final art turned out.  I knew that steve was disappointed with it, and as much as cuppa joe’s music was really all about doug’s songwriting, the band’s visual elements were all about steve’s artwork.  The CD sounded great but looked awful, and I knew steve was unhappy about it.

The second strike against us was much more critical.

Before we moved from Lodi, steve had called me and asked me to package up the original artwork and send it back to him.  Then, we moved.  After packing, moving, and unpacking, I had simply forgotten that steve even asked me for it.  Then, on top of that, we released nurture, with Flying Suit right behind it, and both records took off.  Since I thought there was a chance we were going to have to re-press nurture, I asked Rich if he would turn the artwork into full-color films, so that a second pressing of nurture would look much better than the first.  He took the artwork to his office again and made films, and then once again, I had forgotten about it.

Eventually, steve left me a voice mail – a very polite one – asking me to please return his original artwork.

So I called Rich and asked him for it.

“Okay,” he said.  But not much more than that.

When a couple of weeks had gone by, I asked him for it again.

“Yeah, I know, I have to get that to you,” he said.

What was strange about this was that Rich worked right across the street from me.  We had lunch together once a week or so, and I still saw him every few days.

One day, I called him at work.

“Hey, can I run over and pick up that artwork?” I asked.

“You know, I do this shit for free for you,” he responded.

“Right, I know,” I said.  “But I’ve kinda been asking you for that artwork for a while.”

“This is my job,” he said.  “I get paid to work here.  I can’t just do Dromedary stuff all day long.”  He sounded angry.

“Rich, I’m not asking you to do anything.  I can come over and get it.  I’ll meet you right in the lobby.  You don’t need to do anything but hand me the artwork.”

“I can’t just take breaks in the middle of the day,” he said.  Rich was the king of workplace sabotage, he took breaks all day long.

“You lost the artwork, didn’t you?” I asked.

“It’s here somewhere,” he said.  “I just don’t have time to look for it.”

“You fucking lost it.  You fucking lost steve’s original art.  What the hell am I going to tell him?  It was one-of-a-kind.

“I’ll find it when I have time to look.  I don’t care what you tell him.  Next time, tell him to do his own films, I’m not doing this anymore.”

I had no idea what that was all about.  But I also didn’t know what to tell steve.  I certainly wasn’t about to call doug and start talking with him about doing another record while his partner wanted to kill me for losing his artwork.

It definitely seemed as if I was running into a series of disappointments, one after the other.

It wasn’t long before I got home from work one day and was greeted by a voice mail from steve.  It said something to the effect of “Al, I’ve asked you half a dozen times to return my artwork, and I don’t want to ask you again.  Please return my artwork today.”

I didn’t know what to do.  I didn’t have the art.  I seemingly couldn’t get the art.

That night I called Rich at home.

“Dude, you’ve got to help me here,” I said.  “steve has called me a whole bunch of times.  He is pissed, and I can’t say that I blame him.  It’s his art.  It’s not even like it’s a copy of his art, it’s the original.  I know you’re busy.  I know you have to look for it.  I will pick you up at home tomorrow and drive you into work early, if I have to.  I don’t want to piss off another band, and wreck another set of friendships.”

“You’ve got to stop being friends with Dromedary bands,” he said.  “These are business relationships.  If you weren’t friends with your bands, half the problems you’ve had would never have happened.”

“You don’t really mean that,” I said.  “The relationships we have with our bands are the most important thing about this company.”

“Yeah, that served you really well with “Allnighter,” he said.”

I didn’t say anything.  I just sat there on the phone, soaking that in.

“I’ll find it tomorrow,” he said.

The next morning, Rich showed up in my office with the art.  “Here,” he said, handing it to me.

I thanked him, and he turned around and walked out without saying a word.  I packed it up and sent it to steve.

Later that afternoon, Rich called me.

“I’m sorry I was such a jerk about that,” he said, “but I’m really having a hard time doing personal stuff at work.  It’s hard enough for me to work on my portfolio.  I can’t work on Dromedary artwork anymore.  That’s got to be the last time.”

~ by Al on July 1, 2009.

3 Responses to “letdowns.”

  1. Wow – strange to read this from the other side. Thanks for saying I was patient, but I’m sure I could have been more so. If it makes you feel any better, I wasn’t holding onto any hard feelings at all over the past 15 years. And wow, what a memory you’ve got for this stuff – did you have it documented, or are you just really strong pulling the memories from the early 90’s. I’m impressed either way.

    Just think, if we did this today, or even five or so years later, I’d probably have worked in Photoshop and would have just sent you a CD (or maybe a ZIP disk) with the files – problem averted.

    Don’t stop being friends with bands. Friend: good.

  2. Steve, first, it’s GREAT to have made contact with you again – I’m so glad I found you, and that you found the blog.

    Second, umm, I’m sorry the art came out so bad. 🙂

    -Al

  3. It is great to re-connect again. Why can’t we all skip our twenties and do like, two thirties?

    All is forgiven. I have a friend just like Rich – it all sounds so familiar, these inevitable collisions.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

 
%d bloggers like this: