Category Archives: Politics

ho how ya’ll doin?

There is a politeness thing I saw when in New Orleans many years ago, mixing our record at Danny Lanois’s. This is what happened – I would be walking down the street, a stranger would pass me and simultaneously they would say “Hi how ya’ll doin’?
 
I totally knew this was bullshit and appropriately checked my wallet and didn’t respond, kept walking like nothing happened. After 4 or 5 of these encounters and I put it together – these people were taught to do this when they pass strangers. At first I thought how phony but later I got excited, before you knew it I was trying to beat the next stranger to the punch line.
 
Unexpected American gift. Compensation for their border guards. Since that time, back in Canada I’ve tried it out, lots. Sometimes people act just like I did, looking at me like they know I’m up to something. Some smile politely. Some naturally say hello back like it was an ordinary exchange.
 
But all that is simply to say, similar to the greeting between strangers, that when you are making music with someone new, you feel out whether you have common ground or not.

it’s my nature

There is an old story, sufi story I think, about a frog that gives a scorpion a ride on its back, to cross a body of water, but not until the scorpion assures the frog it won’t hurt it. Once they arrive the scorpion stings the frog and while dying the frog asks why did you do that and the scorpion says, I can’t help it, it’s my nature.
 
I’ve recorded more than one singer songwriter who didn’t understand time or how to reliably play in time. I’m not very interested in explaining time to someone who doesn’t get it, plus they can’t instantly fix themselves. Trying to get them to follow a metronome or click track, if they can, also distracts from them being present with their lyrics, which, for me, is much more important. Makes more sense for me to be the one adjusting to their sense of time, plus I don’t mind the musicianship challenge.
 
Some musicians understand right away and accommodate. Others get pissed off and pontificate about how they are so much better than this and they would never have left any part of a recording with any time questions, pushing or pulling. They can’t stop their own complaining even though I hired them, they can’t help it. Doesn’t occur to them I won’t be calling them again.

win win

I played SXSW in 1993 and after that was offered a publishing deal. It was (in theory) worth the average cost of a Toronto house – if everything worked out. If everything worked out means there were clauses that stipulated various sums of money would be awarded if certain conditions were realized. For instance if anything cracked the billboard top 100 then $75,000 would be released, other threads like that.
 
Most troubling for me was the duration – my life plus 50 years. Not unusual in American publishing deals, so said lawyers and artists I then knew. In Europe the durations for such deals were less. Imagine that, everything you write and everything you might write, is now be pre-owned by someone else. Imagine you want to write critically about the man ….but the man already gets a 50% commission on whatever it is you are saying. Another clause said $25,000 released upon signing the deal. Hard to turn down a whack of money when you don’t have a whack of money in the bank.
 
My lawyer was not quick to get everything together and after a month they resigned the offer. My lawyer felt like it was his fault. I didn’t care, I was immobilized the entire month, wondering if I could live with myself if I did it. So now the decision was made, ok by me. During the next couple years, anytime I needed that lawyer for anything at all, he never charged me because he felt like he had owed me. It was win win.