Thursday, December 8, 2011

How To Single-Handedly Unload A Subwoofer

So here's the situation. You've got a 160 pound package being delivered containing a 12" subwoofer inside of it….and you're on a remote island. Okay, you're home, but you might as well be on a remote island because you're alone and isolated from all who know and love you (or feel otherwise). What's more, you're going to be by yourself for the entire day. So you've got a choice on your hands: wait 12 to 24 hours until you can get a friend or family member to assist you in unloading the subwoofer, or attempt to do it by yourself. If you're like me, you've concluded that waiting is not an option - time waits for no man, and fortune favors the bold.

This is the situation I found myself in this past week. Knowing that others may some day be faced with the same circumstances, I decided to document my efforts so that my fellow man might benefit and learn from my experience.

Now, before I begin, some may be saying to themselves, "why not have the delivery guy simply bring it into the house and assist you"? Well how nice of you to volunteer his services, but he's got a truck full of other packages that need to get to where they're going, and I think we should let the man get through his day so that he can get home to his family at a decent time. And besides, the delivery guy is paid to deliver it to the house, not inside the house. Yes, I could certainly ask him to go above the call of duty and assist me further, but then I would feel obligated to tip him and quite frankly, this Genelec subwoofer was expensive enough as it is.

So…lets start this tutorial. When the FedEx truck arrived, I met it outside with a handtruck and had them offload the package from the truck directly onto it, providing easy transport to the point of entry into the house (in this case, the garage). Note: unless you're training for the upcoming Strong Man Competition, you're going to want this handtruck, so make sure to pick one up in advance of the delivery if you don't currently have one.

Now the sub is on the handtruck inside the garage, and I'm thinking I'll just wheel this fucker right through the door into the house and into the studio. Guess again. Turns out the dimensions of the box versus the dimensions of the hallway are such that there's not enough clearance to make the 90 degree turn required after getting through the door. So I wheel the sub back into the garage.

I decide my best bet is to open it up in the garage, so as to separate the actual subwoofer from it's packaging, thereby lightening the load and reducing the dimensions. A good plan. Now how do I open this box that looks like it was discovered in an ancient tomb by Indiana Jones?

I carefully studied the hieroglyphics for clues. It seemed to indicate the secret to opening it involved a wine glass, umbrella, and rain water. Unable (or unwilling) to figure out the riddle, I utilized a crowbar and forced each metal latch into an upright position, and removed the top of the box. Boom.

Time to take this baby to greener pastures. Not just yet hombre - this bitch still clocks in over 100 pounds on it's own, and while you may be tempted to grab the sub by its plastic covering in the absence of discernible handles, I'm not willing to risk the plastic giving way and my new sub crashing to the floor. And to make matters more complicated, the remaining crate is seriously hindering my ability to get proper leverage - I'm a pretty fit individual, but at a whopping 5 ft 7 inches I don't have the height of a giraffe, so my strength is nullified by the positioning of the situation (I bet there's a jiu jitsu lesson in here somewhere). If I really gave it my all, it's possible I would succeed, but I'm not interested in throwing my back out to prove how strong I am. So unless there's a crane somewhere inside my garage, it's back to the drawing board.

Got it. Position the crate against the base of the doorway / Position the handtruck opposite the doorway inside the house / Tilt the open end of the crate through the doorway, landing with its side on the handtruck / Slide the crate out backwards, leaving the sub perfectly positioned on the handtruck / Boom.

Nice try asshole. Still not enough clearance to make the necessary 90 degree turn. But at this point, the sub has been freed from it's confines, and two silver handles have become visible through the plastic. So I take life by the horns and move this bad boy into the hallway by hand.

Hmmm. You know what, it's heavy, but not torturously so. Let me carry it the rest of the way into the studio. Boom.

For those who might have another 100+ feet to go once inside the house, you might want to bring the handtruck back into the mix. For those that are wondering, "why didn't you just open the crate in the garage, tilt it on it's side to slide the sub out, and walk it into the house to begin with", all I have to say is hindsight is 20/20. But thanks to my noble efforts above, when faced with the same situation, other people now know not to do a single thing that I've suggested.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Ben & Jerry's - How Deep Is The Rabbit Hole?

You know how after paying for groceries, you routinely receive various coupons and/or advertisements? Well, a few weeks ago I received the following….uh, statement….from Ben & Jerry's:

Now, it took me a minute to understand what was going on, but eventually I realized that I had in fact purchased a 14 oz container of chocolate ice cream from Haagen Dazs. Apparently, Ben & Jerry's was so disturbed by my decision, that they were going out of their way to inform me that I had bought a substandard portion of ice cream, as compared to their 16 oz containers.

My jaw fell open…there were so many questions racing through my mind - could this be true? Have I been losing out on 2 oz of ice cream per container every time I bought a non-Ben&Jerry's variety? How many containers has that been over the years? If you added up all the lost servings from consumers across the world, how big would the resulting pile of ice cream be? It was horrifying to think of the lost seas of ice cream, never to be salvaged. And how could I have been so misguided and hoodwinked, as to be blind to this truth for so long?

The severity of the situation was overwhelming. I vowed to get to the bottom of this, even if it meant sacrificing more ice cream for the sake of the cause. No matter how long it took, no matter how far…I would find answers.

Thus began the furious task of researching this issue. My inquiry took me to distant lands, atop ancient glaciers, to the heartlands of ice cream nations across the globe. I consulted with psychologists, experts in the medical community, and even spoke with a lama. When all the data was in hand, and the dust finally settled….5 minutes later….I had my answer:

The grocery store didn't carry chocolate Ben & Jerry's ice cream. (Gasp)

In fact, none of the stores in my area carried a Ben & Jerry's chocolate-only flavor. But how could that be? Nothing was making sense. Surely Ben & Jerry's would make it a point to have stores carry such a basic flavor, wouldn't they? Why would they issue their press release amidst my batch of coupons, if they couldn't offer to match my choice in flavor? Was this just a coincidence, or was it evidence of something far more nefarious? More questions began flooding my brain - too many to ignore. No, this had to be investigated and there was only one man for the job. Rest assured, I will get to the bottom of it….right after I finish this 14 oz container of Haagen Dasz ice cream.

Monday, July 4, 2011

"It's Our Fight" by...Steve Jablonsky???

Since the release of Transformers: Dark Of The Moon, I've been getting inundated with emails from people telling me, "Steve Jablonsky stole your music" and that, "the new Transformers score totally ripped off Mind Heist!" So in an effort to lay the matter to rest, I'm going to break this down once and only once. For those who are unfamiliar with "Mind Heist" or the cue "It's Our Fight" from the Transformers 3 score, listen to the links below to hear what we're talking about (they are already cued up to the relevant sections - a couple of minutes of listening should suffice).

Now, let me start by saying that no one owns a genre or style of composition. Equally, Danny Elfman doesn't have a copyright in pizzicato playing techniques, and Hans Zimmer doesn't own the rights to specific chord progressions or pulsing staccato strings. In the same way, I don't possess the exclusive right to incorporate massive low stabs. So, a piece of music that contains deep low stabs does not constitute copyright infringement of "Mind Heist" (there were deep low stabs before "Mind Heist" and there will be deep low stabs afterwards). But make no mistake, "It's Our Fight" would appear to be a rip-off of "Mind Heist" (at least, much of the 6-minute track would seem to be). Technically speaking, I suppose it's possible that this is a coincidence. I can't factually state that Jablonsky knowingly imitated my song, but when I listen to the above selections, the similarities are certainly extreme.

This much should be obvious to anyone with ears. But for those who don't hear it, don't panic - just stop reading and we thank you for playing. To the rest of you, the following is the sequence of reactions I had to this:

1. Flattery - What an honor to have a major feature film composer be inspired by my work. I've been unknown for the majority of my career, and Steve Jablonsky "borrowing" from me is a testament to the caliber of music I create.

2. Pride - Even with a Hollywood film music budget, live orchestra elements, what I assume was a typical production team (assistants, orchestrators, engineers, etc), and a gifted composer's best attempt at writing my song sideways, the result is a blatant effort that falls short of "Mind Heist". Add to that the fact that I don't have any assistants at all (let alone the army that is customary on a feature film score), nor the privilege of working with a live orchestra…and still, "Mind Heist" beats this rip-off to death like a psychotic serial killer convinced the murder being committed is going to save the planet.

3. Outrage - Someone is selling a "Mind Heist" impostor on iTunes as part of the contents of the Transformers 3 score…a film whose composer received a sizable fee to deliver original music, and a film with major studio backing and PR (which ultimately drives soundtrack sales), and whose eventual physical CD release will have label distribution. What is wrong with this picture? I'm an independent artist, with no record label or studio backing. My albums don't go platinum, and I don't make anywhere near the money of a successful feature film composer. Now to be fair, I'm not interested in selling my soul to make a dollar, and being independent has been a conscious decision on my part, one which I have never regretted for a second. But being an independent artist is not a license to be taken advantage of and exploited…and guess what Steve, I don't work for you - if you need my help composing a score, give me a call and ask for it. But how dare you steal from me and then profit from it.

4. Pity - Ripping off temp music is an unfortunate reality found in many aspects of the music business. Equally unfortunate is that so many composers and artists lack both originality and the integrity necessary to refuse to become leeches. In the case of Transformers 3, I have no idea if a directive to rip off "Mind Heist" was issued by someone. Maybe my song was temped in by the director or producers and forcibly shoved on Jablonsky, and maybe Jablonsky even protested the instruction to rip it off…or maybe Jablonsky just thought "hey, Mind Heist would sound really good here, lets just copy that and change a couple of notes". Either way, Steve - I feel sorry for you.

At the end of the day, there is nothing wrong with being influenced by another artist or composer, and in truth, such influence is unavoidable. When it comes to any creative endeavor, one's environment and the extent of their exposure to other creative works influences their own creativity. But there is a line between influence and plagiarism, and as to whether "It's Our Fight" crossed it, I pose the question to Jablonsky - what says you Steve?

All I can say is, if stealing someone else's music becomes necessary to make a paycheck, then making music is no longer for me. And if my evolution as an artist should get to a point where I am incapable of thinking for myself, and becoming a parasite is the only means through which I can create worthwhile music, then my existence as an artist will have come to an end. I'm not interested in being anyone other than me. But Steve, you should check out my new album "The Way" - it might prove useful in your future scores!

Friday, April 8, 2011

SoundWorks Collection Interviews Me

So a while back, I get an email from Michael Coleman, founder and producer of SoundWorks Collection. He asks me if I would be open to the idea of a video story about my work.

I'm thinking to myself: "that's kind of cool that this guy wants to interview me on camera…he probably runs some sort of local cable access show…I hope the production value isn't too painful." Then I went to and saw sound profiles for films like The Fighter and Black Swan, and interviews with accredited composers, sound designers and mixers, directors, etc.

Now I'm thinking: "maybe Michael's email was intended for a different artist, but somehow the email address got screwed up…?"

Hmmm. I better go back and re-read that email. Let me see here…he's saying, "Ever since purchasing your "Empty Room" CD I have been amazed by your unique approach to music composing."

Nope, he meant to send this email to me. Wow.

"Hi Michael…I'm honored you would even be inclined to include me among the roster of the SoundWorks series…obviously I haven't scored a feature film, television series, or video game…but if you're interested in interviewing an artist who hasn't sold millions of albums, exists in somewhat obscurity, occasionally writes music that gets used in film trailers but exists on the outside of that industry, then I'm totally down for it."

A few weeks later, the SoundWorks team arrived in Lake Carmel. Three guys appeared with cameras and lights - Michael Coleman, the man, the myth, the legend; Brandon Vedder, the cool DP with a mysterious past and the wisdom of ancients; and Logan Grime, a man so dangerous with a camera he travels under a pseudonym in LA.

The team entered my studio. Once their eyes adjusted to the blinding light shining off my immaculately polished formica desk, they got right to work. Cameras, lights, action. We spoke that day like men that haven't spoken in ages. This is to say, we spoke like strangers. But the more we spoke, the closer we became…and by the time they left, we were a family torn apart.

That is the story of how this interview came to be. For those who missed it, check it out below. And for those in need of a production company to make their studios look cooler than they actually are, and edit their conversation in a way that makes them sound like they might actually know what they're talking about, get in touch with Michael Coleman. But don't be upset if you can't get a hold of him - he's most likely working his magic elsewhere at the moment.

SoundWorks Collection: Composer Zack Hemsey from Michael Coleman on Vimeo.