Wednesday, November 17, 2010

I'm Still Here

That's kinda been my stock answer lately when people ask how I'm doing. "I'm still here" or "They haven't killed me yet" or some other much over-used cliche' spoken with disgust, indicating that I'm just barely managing to eek out an existence. WTF?! Six months ago, in my last blog entry I was patting myself on the back for my optimism. Then, poof! Suddenly everything sucks. What the Hell happened?! Well, a lot actually, all at once. Business and personal stumbling blocks, financial woes, health issues with my family and staff. No vacation, no bike trips. All in all a genuinely shitty summer.

And I let it get to me.

Then yesterday, I got a call from someone I've known and loved nearly my whole life with some amazing news. "I'm still here..." she said, with a huge smile in her voice..."and I'm sticking around for a while" her voice now quivering with emotion. I could almost see the tears of elation on her face as I wiped mine away. "All the numbers are perfect, I'm cancer-free. No more chemo, my hair is gonna grow back, I'm gonna live!" She was beaming, literally jumping up and down. The power of prayer, the power of a positive attitude, she is a perfect example of how important those things are.

I am not. I am a whiner. I should be slapped. Bitch-slapped.

I have another friend who, no matter what the situation , when asked how he is always finds a way to answer in the positive. "I couldn't be better"," I am awesome!" "Excellent my friend". Even if people are driving him to drink, he always has something positive to say. He lifts everyone around him up. These two people are is my heros and if I ever grow up I want to be just like them.

Every moment is a gift. Even when life sucks, life is pretty good. I think we all forget that sometimes but let's help each other remember. I still plan to answer the "how ya doin?" question "I'm still here" But I hope to do it now with much more enthusiasm.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Half Full

Well, we're almost done.

A few finishing touches, some clean-up, and as Marna would say, "another gee-gaw or two" and we'll be ready to really show off the new facility. I must admit to being extremely proud of how it's come together. But as much as I appreciate the compliments about how beautiful it looks, how comfortable it is, and how we've managed to update the entire facility while maintaining the homey welcoming vibe, I think the thing that pleases me the most are all the thanks and accolades I get for my optimism.

People just seem to be amazed that in these times someone is willing to take a risk and expand. As Forrest Gump would say in his Alabama drawl, "It seems to give people hope. Now I don't know about that, but..." to be fair, I'm sure that some of these compliments are veiled comments on my sanity. And occasionally, someone is honest enough to ask, "Why the Hell are you investing in Michigan? This place is dead, the pie is gone!" Let's face it, most in our business are simply not in a place where expansion and capital expenditures of this type make a lot of sense. The fact is, neither were we. But it had to be done.

It wasn't just that our place needed a face-lift; the entire audio industry in this town needed one, so we took the leap of faith and went first. If that makes me crazy, so be it. I love my clients, even the ones that are a pain in the ass (and you know who you are) and I have always wanted them and my staff to not only have a place to go to work, but feel at home. It makes for happier people and better results. I also believe that this town still has so much amazing music to offer and that these artists deserve a world-class, comfortable and yes, affordable place to make it. Yup, it's world-class. A great collection of modern and vintage microphones and pre amps, just about every recording, mixing and mastering tool you could ever need, incredible sounding rooms, even a custom designed computerized balanced power unit that controls the flow of electricity in and out of every room perfectly. And if you know our staff, then you already know why people like it here. If you don't, you're in for a treat.

If I sound crazy, then I am. But if it sounds like my glass is half full, it's's overflowing!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

D.I.Y.= D.I.E.

As we continue our build out process I realize how fortunate we are to have such a great group of contractors available to us right here in Metro Detroit. Turner-Brooks, the best stud and dry wall people in the business, Sendak Painting, Eagle Electric, Albaugh Masonry, Richmond Interiors, Interior Environments, Memtech, Brown Mechanical, Michigan Lighting and Chandelier and many others, including our own Marna Hamilton masterfully managing the whole show.

These people are true artists. Masters of their craft. And I would never even think of asking one of them to work for free. After all, one rule that never changes is "you get what you pay for". I am so grateful to all of them, not only for doing a great job at a fair price, but for reminding me of the importance of hiring professionals. It is always the right thing to do.

I've built many studios over the years, but know next to nothing about what a professional builder, carpenter, plumber, electrician, painter, mason, etc. does. And for the most part, these folks know next to nothing about what I do as a professional sound engineer. Good thing too. I don't know about you, but I'm not sticking my hand in the circuit breaker box. Let the electrician do it. He's trained, it's his job to risk his life. And you sure as Hell don't want me as your plumber. Butt crack jokes notwithstanding, it wouldn't be pretty.

Which brings me to my point. With very few exceptions (those companies with enormous checkbooks) "in-house" production facilities don't tend to work out very well. I know, I've worked for them, seen several make the attempt, even been asked by my own clients to help them set one up. Really?! Seriously?! Help you cut me out of the loop? Sure! Love to!! At first glance it seems to make sense, keep that money in the building. But if you actually think it through, you quickly realize that to do it right and actually maintain a reasonable level of quality, it's still a time consuming and pricey proposition.

Sadly, technological advances have put some very powerful software tools into the hands of people that have no idea what to do with them. Sorry to burst your bubble, but over and above the computer and software, in audio it still takes a great microphone, pre-amp, accurate speakers and a properly designed room. In video it still takes a great camera and lens, lighting and proper monitors But more importantly, it takes the trained and experienced eyes and ears of seasoned pros to make things look and sound their very best. Again, I don't know about you, but my clients still expect just that. The very best.

My brick mason says "If you want a straight wall, ya gotta start with a straight brick". Amen! Unless you can really afford all the right gear, the proper facilities and, of course, the payroll and benefits for a trained and experienced staff, you're going to end up with people that wear too many hats and soon they begin to look ridiculous. Not just because they're running around with all those hats on their head, but because things will slip through the cracks and the quality of the work will suffer.

Cheaper, cheaper and cheaper is about to come back and bite all of us in the ass. Unless, of course, we recognize that it takes more than software and a computer to make great spots. It takes true artists. Masters of their craft. Leave the plumbing to the plumber and never let him do your electrical. Leave the recording, mixing, mastering, shooting, editing and graphics to us, the post community. We've made you look brilliant for a long time. With things the way they are, now is really not the time to start looking bad.

The Mound

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

It's About @#$%ing Time!

Yup, after all the talk, all the planning, all the waiting…the new RMS Sound Studios has finally broken ground. I feel so…dusty. Actually, all the dust is currently contained in the new space. 3,200 square feet previously occupied by Classic Country Antiques (Betty has moved her operation just up the street) now an empty box, but soon to contain 2 new, extra large control rooms each with a roomy voice-over booth, a big ole live tracking room and, yes, a new restroom. (I know how much everyone liked the old ones, so we’ll bear that in mind as we decorate). I’ll tell you later about all the state-of-the-art this and world-class that. For now, I’m just happy to be moving forward. Strange and exciting times here in Birmingham. Stay tuned.

The Mound

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Stop and Smell the Roses

Most that know me know that I tell lots of funny stories. Well, some people think they're funny. This one is true. Take from it what you will.

You have probably heard of St. Therese of Lisieux aka "The Little Flower". It's said that when one asks for her help in prayer that they or the person they are praying for will, as an acknowledgment that the prayers have been heard, in some way come in contact with roses. St. Therese has been quoted as saying...

"I will let fall a shower of roses. I will spend my heaven, doing good on earth."

In the winter of 1991 I thought my life sucked. I had had my first heart attack two years earlier, my business was going nowhere, we we're broke, my marriage was shaky, my infant son was not well, throwing up everything he ate, and so far, it had been a cold winter. Seeing all this, my mother-in-law, without my or my wife's knowledge, began a nine day long prayer, called a novena, to St. Therese on our behalf. Remember, no one other than my mother-in-law is aware that this prayer has begun. On Jackie's birthday, Dec 30th I sent her flowers...a dozen red roses. My aunt Laura also sent her flowers...a dozen white roses. This is where it gets interesting. Several days later, a winter storm dumped about 6 to 10 inches snow on the ground. I was trudging through it to the shed in our backyard to get a snow shovel when I smelled them. So sweet and strong I stopped dead in my tracks to see every one of the rose bushes we had planted the previous spring in full bloom! The red, pink, a peach colors of the petals and the green of the leaves a shocking contrast to the pure white of the snow that surrounded them. I called Jackie out of the house and we both just stood there in amazement. It is without a doubt one of the most surreal things I have ever seen. When Jackie called her mom to tell her, she responded flatly "I'm not surprised, I've been saying a novena to St. Therese for you guys". Did it work? Well, we'll be married 20 years in October. RMS is expanding again after more than 20 years in business. My Son? A senior at Shrine of the Little Flower High School (yeah, same saint) and doing just fine thank you. And I became Catholic a year later in 1992, (I think my mother-in-law sneaked that prayer in) and we are parishioners at the National Shrine of the Little Flower in Royal Oak. And the story goes on...

A few weeks ago, Jackie passed a kidney stone (ouch). She had several tests that also revealed a 3.5 cm mass on her kidney. Without telling me or anyone else she began the novena. On Friday, before the dreaded appointment with the surgeon, she received 4 dozen beautiful roses from my staff (thanks ever so much, guys). The prognosis? Excellent. While about 80 percent of these tumors are malignant, this one was caught early, is small enough to be removed using robotics and very small incisions. No chemo, no radiation and she gets to keep her kidney. As I say, take from it what you will. Thank you, St. Therese.

The Mound

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Everything Is Gonna Be Okay

A dear friend of mine calls me every so often and says, "Tell me everything is gonna be okay".
I remind him that everything is cyclical, clients come and go, relationships come and go and that, ultimately, things work themselves out. Easy enough to say but for some, especially now, believing it is another matter. I'm sure my friend asks me for this occasional reminder because it gives him comfort. But it's temporary. Stress builds, situations change and the universe seems to pile it on, to the point where he needs another reminder. Just about the time I get the call, things for him seem to quiet down, work comes in, checks come in and I'm again proven right. See...cyclical.

I know that for many of us times have never been tougher or scarier. But it can't last forever. It can and will get better. Jobs will come back, the economy will improve, our industry will grow and this town, this state will recover.

Now, you may be saying "Mound, please remove your enormous head from your ass and look around!" And if you are saying this, I know who you are.

Everything is gonna be okay.

The Mound

No problem

I do not believe there is such a thing as a "mid-life crisis". And even if there is, I'm not having one.

Of course, I've been told that I do exhibit all of the classic symptoms. The motorcycle, the tattoos (got a new one on Sunday), the earrings, the goatee. The whole "biker" vibe. To me, these are just fun transportation and decoration. To some, they are outward signs that there is something wrong with me. There isn't. Yes, I'll be 50 in October and I suppose that does qualify as "middle age", but that isn't a crisis. In fact, it's anything but! I've managed to survive half a century on this planet and I feel pretty blessed to have made it that long. I've had multiple "close calls" and sometimes lived a little too close to the edge, but for reasons unknown to me, I'm still here. Every day, every moment is a gift to be enjoyed. So that's what I'm doing. It's only a crisis if there's a problem. Other than the beard being itchy, my ears being hairy, tattoos being painful and life being too problem.