Some people hate being on the road. The hours suck, you never get enough sleep, relationships fall apart, your health suffers and you end up eating like a college student in a dorm. I live for the road. I can’t pinpoint the reason why but I can’t imagine not being on tour. About 5 years into my career I did have a chance to give up the road for a position with one of the biggest record labels in the world. A year earlier I had recommended a band I saw open for one of my acts to them. The band exploded and the label that signed them wanted me in their A&R (artists and repertoire) department. After a few interesting phone calls I agreed to meet with them during our upcoming Christmas break. I had 4 days off and I was flying to Los Angeles.
Most of the non-touring music business took a few weeks off during the holidays. This particular label had other plans. There was going to be a restructuring bloodbath come early January and the higher-ups were working through the holidays to get the people they wanted in place.
I arrived at LAX on December 27th and our first meeting was scheduled for that afternoon. I picked up my rental car and took in the sunshine. I had been on the east coast for the last 3 weeks i was glad to shed the jacket and gloves. My first stop was Moby Disc on Ventura. This was long ago enough that your CD collection was your only access to music on the road. Moby Disc was like a second home. I spent hours in scanning their aisles and previewing music in one of their listening stations. What set them apart from most CD shops in the country was this was one place where many who worked at labels came to drop off promo copies so you could sometimes find releases that didn’t see a wide release.
I lost track of time and suddenly time was tight if I wanted to make it to my meeting in time. Back in the rental and I headed a few blocks away to our meeting place. I was not meeting them at their offices since they were doing this on the sly. We chose to meet at The Great Greek on Ventura. This was the first of 3 meetings in 3 days. Day 2 saw us meet for lunch at Poquito Mas in Burbank. The final meeting was at an Italian cafeteria style joint in the valley. I am not even sure it had a name but it was known for amazing food and being owned by a few wise guys who fancied gold teeth.
The meetings were productive, I was seriously considering the chance to be able to sign bands I believed in. I was even enjoying sleeping in the same bed for a few nights in a row, even if it was not my own. I had 3 weeks left on my current tour and was free to start at the end of January.
So what changed everything?
I was invited to a New Year’s Eve party that was being held by an eccentric guitarist in Beverly Hills. I usually avoid parties but I figured it would be a good chance to meet up with a few friends I have not seen in months and to get a feel for the scene. From the moment I walked through the front door I knew this was not going to be a fun night. Our host was sitting on a throne that was set in the middle of a massive foyer. He would greet each arriving guest with a nod of his head as two girls dressed as devils waved at you.
Food, drugs, booze – it was all there laid out on a buffet table that was painted gold. I grabbed a plate of sushi and searched out a few old friends. Conversation was next to impossible because the host had his own music blaring in every room. Through a series of hand gestures and yells a small group of us decided that we might be better off heading to a local hangout to catch up. It would be rude to leave right away so we would to give it another half hour. I continued doing the rounds and went back to the buffet table for a refill. As I was picking a bottle out of the ice bucket I saw that our host was passed out with a bloody syringe still in his arm. Others saw it, too and did not seem to think it was any sort of emergency.
It seemed like the perfect time to get out of there so I rounded up the small group and headed for the front door. As I reached to open it a shot hit the wall 3 feet above my head. I turned around to see our host was now awake and standing on his throne, shotgun in hand. He screamed, “NOBODY LEAVES UNTIL I SAY YOU CAN LEAVE” and then went right back to being unconscious. The party continued partying like he just announced the shrimp were delicious or something equally trivial. I then realized that the road was the life for me.