(Or: How To Build An Audio Engineer Without Actually Trying)
My legal name is Daniel, but I go by Danny to almost all of my friends. This is my website. If you love it, great! Toss me a few bucks on Patreon every month, would you?
If you don’t love it, DON’T TELL ANYBODY!
I would tell you that “the trouble” began for me around middle-school, but that wouldn’t be accurate. The trouble began much earlier, when I exhibited a kind of fascination about how things worked. This wasn’t the sort of situation where I would break any object I came across in order to root around in its guts. I wasn’t that kind of kid. I did like to read, however, and I was lucky to be parented by a couple of folks who owned a series of TIME Life books on scientific topics. They were publishing masterpieces: Relatively short, well focused sandwiches of knowledge with beautiful pictures and (what must have been incredibly expensive) illustrations that had juicy captions.
NOW you can fast-forward to middle-school where I was discovering things like video games and music, and also the hardware that made them possible. I don’t fault today’s folks for having less of a handle on how everything comes together. HDMI connections that self-negotiate are a great idea. At the same time, though, you had to comprehend what all your signals were and where they were supposed to go – or, rather, if you did then you could do more things that you wanted. There were plenty of folks who could follow a hookup diagram by rote and make things happen on their TV, but I liked to have a better handle on “why.” As such, I could do things like get a Super Nintendo wired into my Dad’s stereo, and folks, I can tell you that F-Zero is even better when it’s LOUD and BOOMING.
Middle-school and early high-school is where I started doing vexing things like trading a friend for more stereo equipment (especially speakers), and trying to figure out how it all went together.
Of course, high-school is also when I discovered live-production for the theater, and pro-audio along with it. It was all the best kind of magic: Practical, instantly rewarding but also given to long-term payoff, as well as being learnable and logical. Things happened for a reason and you could discover that reason. Plus, live-production of all kinds is insanely fun. You get to weave the magic in real-time for real people. It was during those years that I also managed to talk Mom into procuring an electric guitar for me. None of us knew it at the time, but electric guitar (with all of the sonic manipulation that attends it) is one of THE gateway drugs for sound.
I suppose it wasn’t really a surprise that I should find myself at The Conservatory of Recording Arts and Sciences after a few years and misadventures. At first, I thought that the recording studio was the place for me. I started out truly relishing the controlled environment, the “shaping of all that is” which is modern recording. After further winding roads and mishaps, though, it became clear to me that live-music was much more fun. Live audio is intense and ephemeral, whereas I now find studio work to be a generally dull slog through minutiae – and not only that, but a world that’s oversaturated with practitioners who can all basically get the work done.
In my mind, live-audio is far more demanding and far more rewarding. It’s also more of an exclusive club, because fewer people are crazy enough to get into it and fewer people can actually do it competently.
Aside from the “here and there” work that inevitably becomes a part of a live-sound career, I’ve also gotten mixed up with a few different venues. There was the Main Street Coffee House in downtown Salt Lake City, where I would deploy the first full PA that I owned. It’s also where I would mix a Jars of Clay side-gig by accident. I then moved on to New Song Underground, a place that I dreamed up and ran for a while. After that was Fats Grill, which was arguably the best audio gig I’ve had so far and really cemented a lot of my skills and viewpoints.
As of now, I’m back in the “have gear, will mix bands for money” camp. Of course, if another venue comes calling I might just take the plunge.
We’ll see, won’t we?
Danny Maland, 2017-09-04 15:26 MDT