A bump in the road, or the beginning of the end?

For the beginning of this saga, go here and read my wife’s account and my subsequent comments. What follows is my epicly long account. I’ll be surprised if anyone actually gets to the end. I’m sure I still left out tons of stuff as it’s all very in depth and complex, but here’s the basics of it all.
The musical project I’ve been working on with a collaborator and friend just about self destructed in a huge ball of flame worthy of a theatrical film.
My partner came over to bring me his latest song to listen to. He mentioned he was thinking of maybe cutting a couple of the songs we had already finished, and replacing them with some of the newer songs that he thought were better. I disagreed with this tactic because that would delay the release of the album even longer. As it stands we wanted to get about 3 more songs, but if we cut some of the already finished songs, then that means we now need 4 or 5 more songs. This eventually led to the airing of many complaints on his part about my participation in this project.
Now a little back story. The way we generally work is that he cranks out what I call “song skeletons”. He writes songs amazingly fast. He lays down the basic chords and vocals, I then take it and add the “skin” to our skeleton. I add parts, dynamics, leads, guitars, bass, and little creative parts that take the song to another level (in my purely immodest opinion). If you ever listen to one of his demos, then listen to our finished product, I think my contributions can not be trivialized. His songs are great all on their own, but I think it’s the combination of both of us that takes into another realm. I’m extremely proud of the incredible music we’ve made.
Another of the ways in which I think we compliment each other well is that he cranks out loads of really great songs, and I think I’m really good and picking out the especially “cream of the crop, goes to eleven” gems from all the good stuff to choose from. This leads to some contention because he, almost inevitably, thinks that his latest batch are the best. Every time he cranks out some new songs, they become his favorites.
The first problem to be addressed here is that this album is taking forever to finish. He blames me, because I take forever to put my parts on a song, while in the meantime he cranks out 10 more songs. I will fully admit that I could work harder and get more done. I don’t deny it. It is true. My lazy nature is one of my greatest enemies. However the problem lies in that he refuses to accept any responsibility for it. I bring up specific examples of times when he’s said he would do this or that and call me back, and then doesn’t call back for weeks, or says he’ll get me this CD, or we’ll get together this week, etc., and then just doesn’t follow through. He of course denies all of this blindly and chooses to have a very selective memory, basically acting as if I fabricate all this or like I’m not remembering events correctly. The fact is that, yes, I could crank out tunes like mad if all I did was play the basic chords and not really venture any further, but I spend about 4 hours per song composing bass parts, leads, and cool guitar parts to really do the great song writing justice, compliment the composition and create something above and beyond the norm. This is why I like to determine which song we definitely want to tackle next, and make sure it’s a “keeper” before we really fully produce it. Once we have fully produced something, I get really attached to it because we’ve both put so much of our heart and souls into it. I find it kind of funny that I become more attached to our songs than the guy who initially wrote it. For him it’s all about newer and fresher things, and he easily loses interest and discards the old creations.
This also had to do with my argument about cutting songs. On the one hand we’re both frustrated that it’s taking so long, but on the other hand if decide to cut some songs in lieu of newer ones then we’ve just pushed the finish line even further away.
Now onto the song selection process. As this album has been going along, we have constantly discussed which songs to cut next, which to cull from the demos he’s made, etc. This is another fact which he denies and says “we never discuss these things”. The 12 songs we already finished (when I say finished I mean songs that we have both laid down parts on and are therefore beyond the solo demos he’s laid down himself) were culled from a larger group of about 20, yet he seems to not remember that, and thinks we just cut the first songs that came along and therefore we should consider replacing some with some of the “newer, stronger” songs. My argument was that these were already selected because they were some of the best and strongest songs, and therefore should be put out. We can always use the new songs for another album, but if we cut any of the old songs, they are effectively put into the trash can since I seriously doubt we would ever come back to them for a future album when there’s new stuff being cranked out all the time. I say put out these 12 AND the best of the other 20, instead of replace perfectly great songs with some of the other 20. This all goes back to him always liking his new stuff best. A prime example of this is that his first 2 albums have some of his best stuff ever, in my opinion, but he generally doesn’t really think that much of them any more. This circular logic could go on forever, in that we could constantly replace old songs with “better” ones until we die and never put out an album. His retort is that we could have had an album a year ago if we’d just cranked the songs out, to which my reply is, yes, but it wouldn’t be nearly as good since we have come up with some kick ass songs that wouldn’t have been written yet. So you can see it’s a fine line of figuring out how long to cull “the best” and when to call it a finished album.
He also expressed resentment at the fact that I have time for all this “acting stuff”, appearing in silly little projects that no one will ever see, but yet producer songs so slowly, when it would be just as easy for someone else to wonder why I’m doing this “silly little music stuff that no one will ever hear” too. Now of course, I don’t believe that, but it’s all about viewpoints. He’s not into anything but music, so to him it’s all frivolous, yet I’m sure others would see musical pursuits as just as frivolous. Needless to say, I find neither frivolous. Of course he doesn’t even take into consideration how I have to pass by a lot of things I want to do because I have a normal job and because I want to spend time making this project happen. Apparently, if I don’t spend 100% of my free time devoted to music, then I’m just not interested or dedicated.
Now one big problem is that when he gets mad, or hurt, he gets totally defensive and refuses to even listen to the other side. He is totally in the right and everyone else is to blame. He also gets very self-righteous and says some very nasty things. At one point, he said maybe we should let Jess listen to everything and see what hooks her, and then later after Jess could no longer ignore the baseless accusations and circular illogical arguments and therefore started speaking her mind, he pulls out the “John an Yoko” card.
Then there’s the money issue. Early on, he was instrumental in helping us out. He was beyond generous, and one of the best friends you could ever have. However, last night he repeatedly touted his “good will”, claimed he was “the best friend I have in this town” and told me how I might be able to “learn a thing or two about song writing” from him. I think I know as much about song writing as he does. Quantity has nothing to do with quality, and I can and have written songs every bit as good as anything he’s written (which is a lot of really great songs). He also repeatedly mentioned how he’d been such a great guy when I “went back on my word” regarding some money he lent me which was patently false. I pride myself on being very honorable and loyal so this blow hurt the worst. One day I needed $520 to pay rent. He was going to pay me $200 for sessions I had done, and then lend me another $350, which I said I would pay back the next day when I got paid for a jingle. The next day I found that bills coming out of my account had cause me to not have the $350, so I called him and said I was going to borrow it from my aunt to pay him back as I’d promised. He then insisted that I could just work it off doing recording sessions and not to worry about it. Last night he then says he was just being nice. He repeatedly brings up the money I owed him and how he’s bankrolling this album etc. Jess and I both insist on paying him back whatever we still owe him immediately then, to which he repeatedly refuses.
Eventually, after feeling ganged up on, he tells Jess that this is between me and him, and not me, him, and Jess. Jess indicated that if that is how he feels, maybe he shouldn’t come over to OUR house and have a blazing argument in our living room. He storms out. I chase him down and insist we settle this financial matter right now. He says don’t worry about it, I don’t owe him anything. I repeatedly insist on giving him whatever I owe him, he repeatedly refuses and says forget about it, I don’t owe anything. We talk some more about the whole situation and each of our feelings on it, and the fact that we each consider each other like family. Eventually we come to an amicable conclusion.
However, there is definitely scar tissue from this blow up. I’m not sure that I can go on with this nagging knowledge that he assumes no responsibility at all for dropping the ball from time to time, and that I am totally responsible for the lack of progress. He disrespected my talent, my wife, my contributions, and me and though I know it was out of anger, the words cannot be taken back. Especially since I know that his words were based on his own feelings even they were exaggerated by defensiveness.
I think that the parts I add to the songs are as much an integral part of the final creation as his songwriting, but I know he would totally disagree with that. If the roles were reversed, I would give him co-songwriting credit, but I’ve known all along that he does not feel that way, and sees my contributions as cool creative additions, as opposed to integral parts of the whole. I’ve never addressed this because I know how he feels, and I can live with that, because the songs we create kick ass, and I’m not going to quibble over credit or ego, at the expense of cool music. He writes the music and the words and the melody, and while I fell my parts are equally important to the whole, I don’t think him being credited as the sole writer is necessarily wrong. In fact that’s probably how the industry would do it I imagine, but to me it’s more about personal loyalty. Hell, I still credit some old band mates with writing credits on songs that they just added guitar parts, or bass parts to or whatever. I’m all about the team, and unfortunately I know I’m in the minority in that aspect and that it will almost always lead to me being screwed over in some way, but that’s okay. I’m still going to do what I think is right regardless of what other people do.
I want this album to happen. I want this band to come together and kick the music scene in the ass. Whether it can recover from the damage done last night remains to be seen. There is definitely still discussions to be had and bridges to repair. There’s still a lot of raw nerves, and tension in the air. I do know that our relationship is forever changed. I will never go to him for any kind of help again, regardless of whether or not our professional relationship (and more importantly, our friendship) recovers from this nasty exchange, because I do not want that held over me as a weapon any time he gets pissed at me. I’m more than willing to admit my faults and do my part, but I am not willing to be the only one who does so. I just hope that this doesn’t turn into the greatest album that never was.


6 Responses

  1. Annika says:

    I know that you said credit isn’t that important to you, but I think you absolutely should be getting it. May I suggest something like “Music and Lyrics by [his name], additional music by Heath Allyn”? He might not go for it, but it is fair and accurate and still gives him primary credit.

  2. Jess says:

    I am grr, hear me roar.
    We just established that we are in complete agreement on this issue, but I thought that it would bear repeating.
    (P.S. See my new WD sig.)

  3. Mom/Kathie says:

    Good thing this got “somewhat” settled. I didn’t want to have to come to Austin and get all “ghetto” on his ass.
    I love you, Mom

  4. Anonymous says:

    Sigh. I hope this doesn’t screw up your dreams for the band, as it sounds as though there is so much potential there.
    I am rather perplexed by the way this guy refuses to take back the money you owe him, just so he can hold it over your head during arguments. This appears to be a major control issue and you should get that money back to him pronto so that it is no longer in the equation. Preferably on a day when he’s chilled; you can then say (if he asks) that you’re having a good period financially and want to get things tidy. If he objects to that, it’s definitely a control thing and you should make him justify that decision/insist that he either take it or write off the debt, never to be mentioned again. Because this all sounds well dodgy to me [/can’t resist offering two cents]
    And ditto what Annika said about credit, if you’re not getting any. You deserve some!

  5. Simon says:

    I’m still going to do what I think is right regardless of what other people do.
    That’s exactly the course I would take.

  6. Nathan says:

    This guy does sound like a complete ass. Damn man just give me a holla next time and I’ll grab my bat & come over =).

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