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Work With You?

I’m often asked “what makes you decide to work with an artist, singer, musician,etc.?”

Here’s some of what I look for:

Passion - it takes a ton of it, and even more than that.

Energy - you can’t teach enthusiasm, energy and drive…

Competitors - I love artists who want to win. They want to blow people’s minds with their work, their recordings, their performances. Even more than that, they want to do the same to their peers. The great stars don’t play nice…they have an edge. They want to be headliners, not supporting acts. They want the lead, the 16 bars, the front of the stage, the camera on them..all eyes on them.

I want to be around artists that are a challenge. The artists who are never too tired for another take, another show, another interview.

I want to be around artists with HUGE egos, HUGE personalities, HUGE visions, Dreamers!

thursday on soundcloud chrza …


I’ve gone back and forth with regards to posting this. These are my notes, which I read almost verbatim, for what I guess would be called a eulogy. For friends and family who couldn’t be there…

(thank everyone for being here to honor my mom and support our family)

You all know her by different names and in different ways, depending on how you were connected:
Joyce, Joyce Sutch, Joycie, Joyce Duino, Aunt Joyce, Aunt Joycie, Cousin Joyce Grandma, and Mom.

My sister Stacy and I were blessed with two great parents, Tony and Joyce. They were married for 50 years…this year. They both gave us everything they could. My mom, with a fulltime job at home, dealing with us, and my Dad, out in the workplace until he came home to do the same.

We ate dinner every night as a family. Same seating arrangement, like clockwork. I know now that it was real work, and effort, but she never made us feel that way.

Now it seems like a magic act.

We always had clean clothes for school, always had a home cooked breakfast, lunch and dinner. It was like living in a hotel, with room service, laundry service, a tutor, a nurse, a therapist, and a friend

The mornings I remember back in Milltown were a blur of rapid conversation that my sister and mom would have every morning before we left for school…Stacy would be talking, Mom would be mostly listening, they were a perfect morning wakeup team.

She loved taking us to visit our grandparents or aunts, uncles, cousins… or to the beach or the pool or shopping for school clothes.
I can still remember hearing her tell me that she signed me up for guitar lessons 35 years ago.
Anything I threw her way was ok. “I’m gonna let my hair grow” (ok) “ I’m moving to NYC to be a record producer” (ok)  “ I’ve started painting” (ok)…you name it, she was always a source of support and encouragement.

I remember her helping my sister on her wedding day…
And how much she loved her grandchildren…Charles, Graham and Andrew
I remember how excited she and my dad were when I picked them up in NYC after seeing Jersey Boys.

My mom and dad were together nearly every day of the past 50 years, literally.
In 2008 Joyce even had a part in saving my dad’s life by giving him cpr after he had a heart attack.

My dad has been there for her also, every day, every doctors appointment, every surgery, every moment, no question. And the fun stuff too..the art shows, the craft shopping, the christmas mornings, the picnics, the bowling, the bocce…

As most of you know, Joyce loved art. She loved to paint, draw, sketch, make crafts and arrangements. Over the past several years she was part of a group of artists who would meet on Mondays and Fridays…she loved it, and all her new artist friends.

She was a natural creative. She could decorate a dollhouse, make a costume, paint a picture, arrange flowers, make a quilt, you name it. She could dance, ice skate, talk with funny accents, feed a baby, and always knew some hidden back road to get you somewhere you needed to go to(we called it JPS)…She was fun and she made everything look easy.

Without exaggeration, our Joyce was amazing. A great wife and partner, a great mom, a great sister, a grandmother, and a great friend. There are at least 3 people in this room that would call Joyce their best friend…my dad, my sister, and me.


If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream — and not make dreams your master;
If you can think — and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ‘em up with worn-out tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings — nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run —
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And — which is more — you’ll be a Man, my son!

Rudyard Kipling

1 Reason Record labels, Publishers and Movie Studios are awesome


In today’s world of “indie”, “self-published” and “crowd funded” projects there is usually the luxury of making the art on one’s own schedule. No record label exec is pushing for a release date, no publisher telling you when the novel has to be handed in, no movie mogul demanding you finish the edits and get the film done. You have as much time as you want. And you take it. 

You tweak, and revise, and tweak again, etc., etc. etc….and by the time you might be ready to launch…no one is waiting. You spent so much time on the tweak, you forgot the audience, the customer, and fan…the good news is, you can go back and redo a whole bunch of stuff…because all your wasting is your own time.

And it’s awesome if you don’t value your time, right?

Write down a deadline, or release date..put it on your website, your blog, your twitter, anywhere you can think of. And meet the deadline.

“The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups.
All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality.
His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the “quantity” group: 50 pounds of pots rated an “A”, 40 pounds a “B”, and so on.
Those being graded on “quality”, however, needed to produce only one pot — albeit a perfect one — to get an “A”.
Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity.
It seems that while the “quantity” group was busily churning out piles of work-and learning from their mistakes — the “quality” group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.”

Artists who can’t get out of their own way…or everyone else’s

Oh yeah, one of my favorite topics.

Over the years, and like I’ve said before, 1000’s of songs, I’ve noticed some trends. Some great ones, some that will test your last nerve. The nerve burner I’m talking about today is the phenomenom of the artist who can’t finish a project. They just can’t help themselves. Just when they should leave the studio, ship the record, and move on to creating some new art, they go back in to the studio and proceed to suck every bit of life and energy out of the project. Sometimes it’s is a producer, a mixer or an A&R guy(to be fair).

While sometimes a really successful(commercially and critically) artist(a superstar) will fall down this slippery slope, 99 out of 100 times it is the struggling, aspiring artist who feels the need to mindf*ck the shit of things. And this continues the cycle. It’s always the producer, or the engineer, or the drummer or the mixer who just hasn’t satisfied their “vision”…uhhh that’s because you’ve drained every last bit of their creativity and expertise. It’s that simple. If you started working with someone because of who they are, and what they do…let them be who they are, and let them do what they do.

Go read LINCHPIN by Seth Godin and get a hint on how to “ship”. It is what real artists do…they ship, and then they go make more.

The Coach, The Guru, The Expert, The TEACHER…

I’ve touched on this subject before in a previous entry but now for a little more on this slippery slope.

Over the years, alright, decades, of making music, recording artists, producing artists and performing with them, I’ve heard more than a few times the question “Do you know any good ______ teachers or good ______ coaches?” Usually these questions come from an artist who has not yet attained any commercial success. They are at the beginning of the journey, or sometimes quite a ways into it.
Unless they are lacking some physical technique that could help them not injure themselves I never recommend going to one of these “coaches”. If they are lacking some technique that could help them survive a tour or a long run of recording sessions, I’m all for going to get some advice. This could be for any artist; guitarist, drummer, vocalist, etc.
Why do I try to talk them out of the “coach”? It’s complicated, yet simple. The coach is usually(and I’m not generalizing) a frustrated artist, who failed in their own quest, that’s right, they failed. Plain and simple, they failed. Then, they made a choice to live out their frustrations with other artists who they can then try to convince that they “should have been”…Do you really think the failed artist wants the aspiring artist to surpass them? Really? Do you think the coach wants the artist to have 1 session with them and “get it”? Never to return and pay the weekly stipend? Uh..No.
I’ve seen some amazing acts of nerve by these gurus; The broadway vocal coach who coaches a rapper-The guitar instructor who could never get along with a producer or engineer explaining how to interract in the studio…The drum instructor who insists that technique is everything-I could go on and on.
Some very successful artists that I’ve worked with over the years have someone they go to every once in a while for some feedback. But in the end, they are very self-aware, very capable of evaluating their own work.
Trusting your work takes confidence, hard effort and being honest with yourself. If you’re still hacking away at your craft and you really believe in yourself, stay away from the guru who could very well sabotage your quest just to provide themselves with an income and also keep you down.

Random Rants of a Record Producer

Finishing up a long, long weekend of mixing and overdubs..overdubs come first. As a producer I put a major emphasis on the bass, particularly in pop music. As a bass player, I want to bludgeon the record producer(me). My thumb is killing me…but I got the parts done. As this blog tumbles along(get it) I’m going to cover some topics that are on my mind, as that’s part of this whole thing. right?

I’m going to write about some records I’ve worked on, some recently, some a good while ago..Hip Hop is getting old friends!

I’m going to go to some uncomfortable areas for some of you artists and musicians. I have some strong feelings on the “mentor” and “guru”, for that matter, anyone who gives “lessons”…guitar, vocal, engineering, etc. They’re all punks…for the most part, and I’ll explain in some detail.


tony black


You can do it, if you focus.

The plan was to go to a good friend’s super luxury, state-of-the-art studio in NYC and record acoustic guitars on 4 songs.
And do it in 2 hours. 120 minutes.

Just some math for those interested:
4 songs @ 4:00 = 16 minutes
6 tracks per song(3 parts, double tracked), full length of song;
6 tracks X 16 minutes = 96 minutes of recorded guitars.
Lets approximate 5 minutes between songs for changeover of tracks, turning page on chord charts, checking tuning. That’s 15 minutes.
96 mins recording + 15 mins changeover = 111 mins.
That leaves 9 minutes leftover for a punch-in or 2…That’s it.

We did it.


Preproduction and FOCUS.
We knew what the parts were because we worked them out in a room that cost almost nothing the night BEFORE the session. We made decisions and choices BEFORE we got to the studio. We ate BEFORE we got to the studio. We made cue mixes in preproduction. And we FOCUSED. No TV, No texting, No B.S.

Then, we ate and drank like fools…at a bar.

Because you had to ask:

So, why does mixing a song take hours and hours?

Maybe your mix engineer is slow.

Could be some other reasons…

If the song has a ton of tracks(and a ton means different things to different artists and producers) then the time can really start to add up. For example, let’s say you have a pop song with about 40 tracks of instruments and vocals, and it’s 4 minutes long. Just to listen through each track and make sure there aren’t any bad edits, bad notes, wrong notes in a chord, timing problems, etc…it will take 4x40=160 minutes of listening. That doesn’t account for fixing anything. Then, you might start editing, adjusting eq, adjusting balance(volumes), panning, effects, compression, maybe you get the picture.

Or maybe your mix guy/gal is slow…or milking the clock…or both…or eats alot, or talks on the phone while mixing, or texts, gets too high or has no idea what he’s doing.

Because you had to ask: Be an outlier(see M. Gladwell). Put the time in and then go work with other outliers. Don’t waste your time or theirs. If you haven’t put the time in….BEG them to work with you, and prove you’re on your way. Find them. Even better are the 50k hour outliers, we’re here. But we don’t F around. Good Luck.