It was hard to describe the offices of Fire Brand Records. Such a cluttered collection of rooms, things and people were quite overwhelming to Paul as he attempted to navigate this labyrinth, and find Matthew Cooper's office.
The receptionist on the ground floor had directed him to the third, where Cooper supposedly reigned supreme. Her explanation of the building layout had been brief and simple. The fifth floor, at the very top of the building, housed the management. There they held their meetings, did all the staffing admin work and produced their albums. Then, from the fourth floor down to the first, one producer ran each floor. Unfortunately, this meant that each floor mirrored the differing personalities of its manager, and they were very different people. Recording rooms, technical support areas, offices and editing suites were all over the place.
The ground floor was mostly admin work. However, a large section doubled as a music shop, where the company sold their music at discounted prices. For this very reason, everybody in the city knew where Fire Brand Records made their sound. Some days, you could hear the music drifting out from the rehearsal rooms, but only if they were playing very loud.
Paul was avoiding the rooms with loud music coming out of them, but whenever he turned a corner he could hear another in the distance. His allocated meeting time was three 'o' clock. This maze of rooms had thwarted his attempt to be early. More confusing was that nobody seemed to be using the corridors at all. In fact, apart from the noise coming out of the rooms, the place seemed entirely deserted. Still, it did not feel empty; it felt like the busiest place he had ever been.
He was ten minutes late when he finally arrived at a wooden door with a golden plaque upon it. The plaque was a simple one. It read 'Matthew Cooper, Senior Producer.' Just beneath that was another piece of writing, that merely read 'Come In.' Tired of walking around the entire floor looking for this place, Paul marched straight in.
"Oh," came a soft, female voice, "are you his three 'o' clock?"
Paul was greeted by the welcoming sound of Cooper's secretary. She was a small woman who wore spectacles over her eyes. Her hair was long, blonde and tied back behind her head. Her hands were one on top of the other on the table, and she was looking him over very intently.
He entered the room, closing the door behind him, and came to the desk she was sat behind. Her eyes followed his every motion as he came towards her. It was a little unnerving.
"My name's Paul Taylor," he addressed her. "I have an appointment to see Matthew Cooper at three."
"Three 'o' clock has been and gone Mr. Taylor," she answered smoothly. "Luckily for you, he decided to wait for you. Go on in."
Seemingly done with him, the secretary returned to her paperwork. A little confused, Paul directed himself to the only other door in the room, and, with only a glance back at the woman behind the desk, he opened the door.
The room was large, with many open windows. It was as cluttered as the floor of the building itself. His plain wooden desk not only held paper, but CDs, drinks, take-away food and numerous toys. The floor was littered with small rugs, cushions and bean bags in varying bright colours. The sounds and smells of outside flooded into the room.
Not far from the door stood Matthew Cooper, holding a book and pacing back and forth. The soft floor muffled his footsteps.
Paul closed the door behind him, drawing Cooper's attention. Surprisingly, Cooper's face broke into a wide smile at the sight of Paul. He closed his book without looking at it again, and places it upon a pile of letters on the desk.
"Paul Taylor," he stated, coming towards Paul and clasping his hand. "Here to sing some lyrics for me? Did you get my CD?"
"Yes," Paul answered, thinking of the unfinished disc he had received in the mail. He opened his mouth to continue, but Cooper beat him to it at frightening speed.
"Great, well let's go and record then. Have you had a look around yet? Come on, we'll have a look and get started."
There was no question of time or other engagements. Cooped led without looking back, and Paul, for fear of falling behind, followed as fast as he could. Cooper set a blistering pace as he went out into the corridor and straight through another door, into a recording studio. Here, a single, female singer stood in the booth, singing from a sheet of music she held before her. However, this did not seem to be their destination. Instead, Cooper simply crossed the room to another door and went through that.
The chance of a tour was quickly forgotten about as they continued to march through rooms, studios and editing suites. The reason the corridors were so empty quickly become apparent. On the rare occasions that Cooper led him into a corridor, they were only there very briefly before they were back to nagivating the maze of rooms. Along the way, many people greeted Cooper as he passed them by. Despite the time, it was as though the producer had so far seen little to none of his staff.
Finally, when Cooper opened a door to an unlit room, they stopped walking. Cooper flicked on the light, illuminating the studio, the booth, and all of the equipment. In a pile in a corner sat a collection of cardboard boxes with polystyrene spilling out of them.
"This will do nicely, don't you think?" Cooper queried, smiling benevolently at the still utterly perplexed Paul.
"Yes," Paul answered, not sure what else he could possibly say.
They moved to set up the equipment quickly, with Paul taking instruction from Cooper as to what buttons to push. As he worked, Paul could not help but consider just how expensive the machinery before him was. A little worried, he followed Cooper's instructions to the letter.
"Right," began Cooper, clasping his hands together and taking a seat behind the desk, "we should get started, I'm sure you have plenty of things to be getting on with. You have your lines?"
From his pocket, Paul withdrew a piece of paper and unfolded it. Worried he would not remember his lyrics due to nerves, he had written out every line expected of him.
Seeing this, and before Paul could answer the question, Cooper simply continued. "Great," he said. "Now in you get, you're not the only one who has more plans than this today."
Realising how busy this man must be, Paul leapt at his command and hurried into the booth. Outside, Cooper began to set up music and effects. They were only recording four lines to go over a track by another band. They were a metal band who just needed a different voice on one track of the album. Having listened to the track, Paul thought he could see why Cooper might have chosen him.
Cooper cued him in, but Paul knew his place. He loved this band. To have heard their work ahead of time had been quite an honour. The very idea of being on one of their tracks was even more thrilling. He had practiced mercilessly to get this right. He had only four lines, but he put his heart into them.
He was therefore rather annoyed when Cooper asked him to do them again. Confused, and a little upset, Paul sang his lines again, trying to make them sound different to the previous recording.
However, it seemed that Cooper was still not satisfied. Together, he and Paul went through the same lyrics another three times. Each time, Cooper directed him to make subtle differences. Sometimes, Paul was told exactly what differences Cooper was looking for. At other times, he was left to work it out for himself.
After the fifth time through, Cooper declared himself content, and Paul came out of the booth to have his hand shaken yet again.
"We'll see what the band think first and then go from there," Cooper stated, releasing Paul's hand as he did so. "In fact, I'll take it straight to them right now. Don't forget your coat," he added, pointing to the chair which he had just vacated.
A little flummoxed, Paul leaned to one side to look around Cooper at the coat hung on the back of the chair. He knew full well that he hadn't brought a coat with him.
"That's not mine," he said. Far from surprised, Cooper's expression did not even falter momentarily.
"Isn't it?" he replied, still talking as fast as ever. "Oh well, if somebody needs it they can come back for it. Come on Paul, there's still plenty to do. Get the lights will you?"
Paul nodded his confirmation, but Cooper had already turned away, obviously quite confident of Paul's response. Ejecting his flash disc and stowing it safely in his pocket, he began to leave the room. Concerned that he might have been forgotten about, Paul hurried after him, flicking off the lights as he went.
Back in the corridor, Cooper turned to acknowledge Paul again. "Well that's us all done," he announced with a contagious smile. "I'll go and see what the band think, then call you about the money, okay? It's been great fun working with you."
And with that, walking backwards through an open door, he was gone. Left utterly dumbfounded, Paul was hit by the sudden realisation that he was back in the corridors with absolutely no idea where he was.