How Music Ruined My Life
How Music Almost Ruined My Life
How a Label Ruined My Life
How a Label Scam Almost Cost Me My Career
Never Trust a Guy Named ’Sully’
I had just quit college to pursue my music career full time, and I found out the label who was about to send me on tour in Europe was a total scam. I was to be the first artist of the now-defunct Call to Arms label. The gigs that I had lined up, opening for Enduser and Submerged soon dissolved. The European tour completely evaporated. The label owner, Sully, had ceased operations and had stopped responding to my emails and Myspace messages. Then I found out he had told my good friend Hannah he had cancer — which turned out not to be true. I later heard he’d completely disavowed electronic music, sold all of his vinyls, and had been deported back to England — turned out he’d been staying in America on an expired student visa… How could this happen? This was the setback that nearly destroyed my music career before it had even begun.
Before any of that, I was just a normal kid who played in bands, listened to punk and metal, played video games, went to rock shows, and occasionally messed around making little tunes on my computer. When I got to college, I immediately was attracted to the musical kids in my dorm, and I showed them some of my little 2-minute sketch songs, full of bleeps and bloops. “Whoa, that’s totally sick” one friend said. Looking back, I honestly don’t think it was, but for whatever reason people kept encouraging me to make more songs.
I soon became addicted to writing songs on my computer, and I’d often stay home instead of going out to party just to finish a song. I’d be making music when I probably should have been studying, or should have been chasing girls. Only a few months later I had written my first real track, entitled ’Soundtrack I Wrote to the Beat’ after the Dr. Dre vocal I had sampled in the song. The song ended up becoming somewhat of a hit on Myspace and Music.Download.com where it received thousands of downloads and was literally at the top of the electronic charts for years. It even charted above A Guy Called Gerald — who was a much more well known artist than me. You can say it was luck, and it definitely was.
Due to this luck, I’d attracted the interest of several local labels. I worked with Xorsix Records, who was more of a goth/industrial label (not really my scene) and when I was only 18 they booked me at my first real show at the bar ‘Gotham Citi’ in New Haven. It was more widely known as a gay bar than a hip electronic club, but I wasn’t complaining. The promoter had to sneak me and my friends in the back door since we weren’t old enough to drink yet. This was also during that awkward time when computers weren’t seen on music stages yet, so I definitely got some funny looks with my tower and CRT monitor. No one really danced, they just stared at me. Even so, the people I talked to all said they enjoyed the music, so I took it as a huge win.
This was all developing nicely, but my interest in school was declining… Meanwhile, I’d been approached by another label, called ‘Call to Arms’. The label owner Sully talked a good game and presented himself as an ambitious, business minded guy who really believed in what I was doing. When we met he took me out to lunch at an actual restaurant. Naively I figured, ‘Would he have done that if he wasn’t really serious about this record label?’
As promises of tours, opening for big acts, and big paychecks loomed, my work on music increased and my attendance in class decreased. I had my own show on the college radio station. It didn’t seem like I was learning anything of value in my classes anyway, so why was I still going? Why didn’t I just go all-in on this music thing? Meanwhile, my grades had further slipped, I was partying all the time, and I didn’t even bother showing up at my final exams.
It had only been a few months after I’d left school that it all came crashing down. All those opportunities vanished before my eyes. I felt like music had ruined my life. Had I had gone all-in on music based on false promises, lies and deception? Depressed and defeated, I ended up getting a job delivering pizza and not really doing much music at all. I’d lost all forward momentum and I wasn’t even sure the music thing was for me.
After a few years of that, I’d had enough. I was going to move to New York City and make something of myself, whatever that was, and even if I failed, I could say I tried. This was around the same time that EDM was becoming a buzzword, and there was a huge influx of new, interesting sounds into the dance music world. People were combining all of the influences of rock and metal that I’d grown up with, with new weird sounds that no one had heard before. This magical music was to be known as dubstep.
I started learning how to make the dubstep sound, and started producing dubstep remixes and original songs. And the scene in New York was vibrant. I remember I used to go on Craigslist and type in dubstep and see what came up. Truth be told, a lot of opportunities arose from that. Connections I made, friends I found, groups of collaborators, many of which I still continually work with to this day.
And I just kept going and going. I was always passionate to make music, but now I was truly a part of a living, breathing scene. I started playing shows, entering and winning remix contests, working with new artists, and releasing original music that made it to the Beatport.com top charts. I started incorporating live guitar, a live vocalist, and visuals into my shows, and people started to notice. People started going absolutely crazy at my shows, dancing, cheering, moshing.
And I did it all without a label after all, just putting myself out there and hoping others would like what I was doing. And since you are one of those people, I really want to thank you. Even if you just heard my music for the first time today, you’re a part of this story now. And who knows what crazy setbacks I will have in the future, but as long as there are people listening to the music and coming to my shows, I’ll still be doing my thing.