Chapter 1: Building The Fire
I stare at these kids. I stare at these 5 ****ing kids. I sit here, and stare at these revolting radio-faces and I see nothing. Absolutely ****-all. They sit there and stare at me behind my desk. They see a lot. They see their future. They see **** tons of money, they see new cars, they see new houses, and new fantastic everlasting drugs and they see it happening. They see it happening with me. They see it because their music is coming out of my office speakers, which they see me listening to. They see me listening tentatively but I'm not, not at all. There is absolutely no part of me, especially my ears, that is paying attention.
My eyes wander from the ugly bunch to my office walls. My past life. Hanging from my walls are pictures with me and the people I made money with, the people that once listened to my every word. There was k-os, Protest The Hero, Rush, Nelly Furtado, ****, even Shania Twain's picture stared at me in pity. These were the people who were in the business, and at the time of those pictures, I was in the business with.
I looked away in fear, in fear that I might see myself in the reflection of the photos. The reflection of the agent I am today. The agent who has to sit and listen to local bands like the one sitting in front of me, pens already out and waiting to sign any ****ing contract I can give them. I bet their MySpace page would probably look better with something other than indie under their label section.
About 3 years ago this would've never happened.
About 3 years ago I would be in Toronto, or Chicago, or New York, or even L.A. with good, money making clients. Not with my agency though, and especially not with these crater faces.
About 3 years ago I was atop a Toronto-based entertainment agency named CTHA, selling millions of money making records to millions of money spending people. I was travelling all over the world, first class planes, first class women, and first class weed. I was representing the people normal folk beat off to, representing the people filling stadiums. I was around the actors, around the athletes, and most importantly, around the money. I knew how the ****ing game worked, and I knew how to **** the game.
I had clients at all ends of the money making spectrum. I had the lowly jingle ****s: the ones making music for teen friendly pregnancy tests. I had the people who laughed at the jingle ****s but were laughed at by everyone else: the drama queens creating the opuses and preludes for plays. I had the middle men: the ones drenching TV shows with cut-scene bass slaps. But then I had the cream of the litter: the icons filling out the stadiums (also known in agent talk as people who actually made me money). I worked hard for all my people, I truly did, but for the select few actual income creators, I invested my life into. And with one of those clients in particular, I developed a friendship.
His name was Ian Gribble, and his band was The July Road.
I made him. I raised that beautiful ****er out of the dumps of Southern Ontario, where he played at low pay birthday parties and open mic nights, serenading drunken teens and laptop guys with hot lattes and thick rimmed glasses. I rescued him and I found him a band, I found him an image, and I found him a sound. Okay I'll admit, his sound may have been total bull**** and just fat-girl-cry on-Friday-nights-and-eat-ice-cream music, but people loved it. People ran to his **** like he was a clean public toilet. It took me a year to bring this guy into the forefront of music, a couple singles and an album for the kids to pirate, and we ****ing made it. He trusted me like a stripper trusts her pole. I ran his life, and he appreciated it. I had the balls to make the decisions and he had the common sense every once in a while to follow them. He sold out gigs, he walked red carpets, and he made your wives and your girlfriends wet. We painted cities red like planes put out forest fires. We knew the people and we knew the places. He was the definition of a rock star, and I was his agent.
But of course, if my life was still like that, I'd be somewhere in New York cheating on my wife while I gambled away cars and houses. But it isn't, and that's because when my top client Ian Gribble decided to have a couple shots, I didn't stop him. And then after a couple more when my top client Ian Gribble decided driving my $125,000 mazarrati into a concrete divider would be the best next step on his life path, I was too high to take his keys.
I passed out in a dangerous lifestyle.
I woke up in a dismal reality.
I went to the funeral. I apologized to the family. I lost my job. I lost my house. I lost my wife. I lost my daughter. I lost my sons. I moved back home. I drank. I rehabilitated.
And this is where it brings me back to. To my miserable Hamilton office where I listen to amateur local bands like the Larry, Curly, Moe, and the 2 other tools sitting in front of me who are going to waste the last of the money I made in my glory days.
I turned my attention back to the 5 stooges music. It was actually decent. It wasn't exactly progressive rock but it wasn't exactly high-five locker room music either. It was the kind of stuff you'd listen to after you drove home from your first lay, even though it didn't go so well.
It was good, but it wasn't the band I needed. They didn't have the faces, the image, and the sound teenage girls listen to when they need to reassure themselves someone will eventually love them. I would love to sign these dirty rockers, but this isn't what the people want. Yeah, I know somewhere out there there's someone complaining I'm ruining the state of music, but I'm only the one who represents it, not the person buying it and playing it on the radio. It's not my fault the public wants to buy this kind of music. I'm the person trying to make money off the **** you hear, it doesn't mean I like it.
I told the guys to cut it off; it was time to talk business. Alright... guys I'll be honest, I like what you guys are doing. But I need more than this.
One of the members who looked like he could actually sequence words into a sentence spoke up. What do you mean more?
I need to see at least an image change .I mean I can't sell this wake up and try to look like Zakk Wylde without a shower look'! Now listen, I realize you've all got balls, but tattoos and chains won't even get you laid at a Nickleback concert anymore. I said.
He wasn't expecting that, and an increasingly cocky but equally grotesque member shot back. First off guy, you're like the ****ing Kramer of the music industry. You messed up in front of the world and now everyone hates you. Second-
I interrupted him. Oh okay buddy, don't go on a big speech like you're on your MySpace blog.
His voice got even cockier. Kramer, let me finish. Second, we've had offers to make an LP from labels all over Toronto. We only took the 45 minute trip out here to show you our demo because we know a guy near this dump who's got some stinky weed.
I made an obnoxious laugh. There's no way you've got offers yet, unless you count your Dad and his fat friends who probably want to pretend they're producers and record their kid's band.
Another good one Kramer! No, it's not my ****ing Dad. We've had offers from Echo, The Williams Group, Eclipse Records, and even your old joint, CTHA. He said, with his fellow gnomes adding in insults.
I stopped dead when I heard the old agency. Everything that happened during the final days of my employment flashed through my mind. I regained control. I always thought they were way above me, dealing with the huge clients that I used to represent. How could these butter faces get any attention from a company like that? This could mean that they believe these pugs could be big. I didn't think I'd see a career client for a long time, but it seemed now I had their potential client right in my office. However, there was also the possibility that he was bluffing.
Prove it Ronald Weasley. I said, studying his pug mug for any sign of hesitation.
Kramer, suddenly changing your mind, hm? Well, we've been on the phone with a guy named Pete Hedden several times, and he's licking his chops. Said the Seinfeld fan.
Pete Hedden. Pete ****ing Hedden! The douche bag who tried to steal my clients, my job, and even my wife. He was an agent before I rose up in the company, and when Ian Gribble and I found the jackpot, he had the male equivalent of permanent menstruation. He didn't like how after half the amount of time he worked there I had already tripled his results. I wanted him in the ground. I had to do this right. I had a chance to get back at the company that fired me for experiencing the death of my friend. I had a chance to steal their client and watch them **** their pants more than a protective mother when her son dates a girl with legs. But I had to approach this in a way that wouldn't cost me more money than necessary.
I turned my ambition back to the conversation and spoke. Alright you group of pugs, let's cut the ****. I ****ing hate CTHA, and I ****ing hate this office. But I've been around, and I know that what they're offering you can't hold much water. I'm not going to offer you much more.
Well then why should we listen to a word you have to say, Jerry Seinfeld's neighbour? The Seinfeld fan really didn't have any other jokes.
I stood up and pointed to him. Because pie face, what you don't get in money will be made up for in the fact that I've got jack **** in terms of other clients and I want to burn that ****ing company to the ground. I punched my desk in exclamation. The band shifted several times to look at each other. Not bad Kramer...but you know how it is; we've got other offers, so we'll get back to you.
I turned my back to them and sat down. I rubbed my eyes and said Well ****ing fantastic George Costanza, I just hope you guys can email better then you can dress yourselves. Now leave me that demo and get the **** on out of here before I realize how much of a mistake this was.
They left, and I turned in my chair to face the window. I took a long sip from my coffee, forgetting it was spiked. I had to turn away from the window. The one thing I hated the most about this office, was that on a clear day just like today, I could see the Toronto skyline.
I walked up to the small town house. As I went to knock on the door I saw through the window that the house was already packed. I let myself in, and was bombarded with the same music that I heard a week ago from my office speakers. As I made my way down the hall, I passed loose women and guys who spent too much time picking out their v-neck t-shirts. I made my way into the kitchen where people were gathered around the table, watching either beer pong or flip cup, I couldn't keep track of that high school **** anymore. I opened up the fridge and was face to face with hundreds of light beers. ****. As I shut the refrigerator and made my way to the basement, a particularly tight v-neck t-shirt spoke up.
Bro that's my carling, where you going with it? He yelled from the table.
I stopped at the stairs and turned around. Is it a problem guy?
Yeah bro it's a ****ing problem, you're stealing my brew-skies, give it back. Everyone at the table stopped, staring at me with drunken concentration.
Relax banana republic, I don't even want this ****. I threw him a five dollar bill. Use it to buy some better beer next time you cheap ****, oh, and some new clothes too.
I continued down the stairs, hearing the drinking games behind me continue. The v-neck asked a guy wearing an equally tight polo, What's wrong with my clothes?
I made my way to the basement, and found the brown bag worthy band in the corner, talking to some brown bag worthy women.
The member who had obviously saw his first Seinfeld episode recently spoke first. Kramer! What's going on? Do you want a beer?
Costanza! I'm fine, although I almost got punched upstairs. I managed to fake a smile while the terrible beer ran down my throat.
One of the pug's groupies, who was wrapped up in the arms of the Jerry Seinfeld admirer, spoke Who's this dinosaur Shawn?
Seinfeld explained. "He's this asshole agent named Dan, who wants us to sign to his agency, even though he wishes we were prettier so he could try to mount us.
I cracked a smile and said Very flattering Shawn, I see you managed to pull yourself away from Seinfeld reruns to dress in your kinky leather outfit. Now, let's get down to it so I can leave this sweet sixteen. We've been emailing back and forth, I've sent you the terms, how much money you'll make, and who you'll be working with, what's the decision?
Shawn took a swig of his beer, unravelled himself from the cow in his arms, and spoke. Well man we're almost there. We like the deal and we like how you're kind of an asshole and fun to rip on, and that Phil Hedden guy from CTHA is kind of a prick. We've been ignoring his calls all day. He finished off his beer, wiped his mouth, and slowly smiled. But there's one thing left you need to do for us, before we sign.
Confused, I said What else could you possibly deserve?
Shawn laughed, hesitated, and then pointed to the rest of the band. Now I know you only want to make out with me...but you have to learn the other guy's names.
I smiled, the deal was done. I started to walk up the basement stairs and yelled back Not sure if it's worth it Shawn, send me an email tomorrow and we'll arrange a meeting to sign papers and make name tags.
Laughing, he shouted Yah, **** yourself Kramer!