Mike Jewell was considered a bad kid. He was the Jim Morrison of the 4th grade, he just didn’t seem to care about rules. Not the way I did. Mike and I had a brief run. I think he tortured animals and played with fire. He showed me a magazine he referred to as “O-U-I.” It was stashed in a well in the middle of his yard. One night three of us slept on top of a trailer, gazing at the stars. He taught me how to shoplift, then said he’d tell my mom if I didn’t keep stealing. I decided to just tell my mom and cut out the middleman.
What he wanted me to steal were screws and nails to build another tree fort.
When I overhauled my studio website last year, I had ideas about the process of record making, production, all the advice I could think of to write down and post in the pages. I even wrote a special section on the hazards of getting hung up on “important details” in the studio, with hopes that I might be immune to the same pitfalls. Since the day I switched over from ADAT machines to a Digital Audio Workstation, I saw the change in the way we work in the studio. I was a latecomer to the thing we call Pro Tools, leaving linear tape in 2003. I work mostly in Cubase, which is the German equivalent, as far as what it does. Pro Tools is the commonly-known name, like Kleenex or Tylenol. I've used most of the DAWs, in search for the best, and while I have my favorite, it’s all basically the same idea. A DAW emulates what we did with tape machines and mixing boards, as in, “Do you actually know what every one of those knobs does?” I miss hearing that.
I wanted to get out of San Francisco in 1990, having left my girlfriend, my band, and now hanging out with Paul Collins, who was planning a long drive, relocating to New York. He’d just split with his wife, and was heading home after a long time living in Spain. We packed our guitars, not much else, and took the southern route.
We sweated to a swamp cooler in Tempe before going out to see the Gin Blossoms. We opened for Jimmy Dale Gilmore and Butch Hancock at Threadgill’s in Austin, I sang my silly “Shakin’ Rice” for a very polite dinner crowd facing the stage, munching on fried okra. When Paul got up with the East Side Blues Band to sing “Kansas City” at TC's Lounge, the bandleader said, “Hey, just make sure you don’t swing your arms around and take out a trumpet player.” Thanksgiving in Houston was a feast with two turkeys and a crown roast. We actually did sing for our supper, before I was accused of stealing a camera. We finagled a cafe gig in Athens, GA for a couple hours, including dinner and drinks, before someone in the kitchen finally said, “Wait, no one arranged for any music tonight...who are you guys?”
I got a message on my machine from Stacy Martin. She had recommended me as a likely candidate when someone was casting a movie and needed a “Lord Byron” type. Acting? Never. Movies? Nope. Get me an audition!
I met with the film’s director, Lynn Hershman Leeson. I gave Ms. Hershman an overview of what I do, the recent enhanced CD Big White Lies with interactive liner notes, sound and videos (not unlike a web page now), to which she said, “I did interactive in the ‘70s.” I began to wonder why I was still there, since she knew I was not an actor. We talked for awhile, and she decided to have me read for the part of Nick. He was the boyfriend of Emmy, a computer and genetics buff using dial-up Internet and a Macintosh II to travel time and space with "undying information waves" to reach Countess Ada Lovelace (Tilda Swinton), who was a real-life 19th-century English mathematician. It’s an interesting idea; I’ve always had difficulty following the story.
Chris von Sneidern is a musical artist living in San Francisco.