Hustle The Most Episode 12: Transitions
Can you remember a time in your life when you had a conversation with someone that changed everything for you. I don’t mean like a someone died or I’m pregnant conversation but a conversation that just blows your mind. I have a been pretty fortunate enough to have a few of these conversations in my life and I walk away from the conversation just rethinking any path or plan that i may have had in my life.
Right after I finished high school I had this plan to go to community college for 2 years to get the basics out of the way and save some money before heading to a 4 year school. Around this time I left the hardware store that I was working at to work at RPS which was Roadway Package System. While I was working there the company was actually bought out by FedEx. I don’t remember how I found out about this job but I remember that I was stoked because they started out at like $9.00 an hour and this was $3.00 more than I was making at the hardware store. Here is the kicker to get to my new found fortune, I would have to drive 30 miles away through lots of construction and lots of traffic. It definitely wasn’t a deal breaker for me. It actually got better because once I actually started I found a few other dudes to car pool with so this helped cut down on the gas side of things.
I remember my first day actually walking into that place for again another orientation. I basically sat through 3 hours of videos what go through things like ethics, some HR stuff and then a lot on workplace safety. This place was pretty dangerous lots of stairs and moving belts and lifting heavy stuff. These safety videos are all pretty stark and heartless but the thing that they probably emphasised the most was to never walk on the moving belt. Over and over again it was don’t walk on the belt, never walk on a moving belt, if the belt is moving never walk on it. This was the safety message over and over and over again. So I finished with my videos and ask the girl at the desk to grab the boss for me. His name was Jim. I was like can you grab Jim for me? She was like I’ll just take you out there. When we walked out there we walked through the warehouse to the far side where all the packages were flowing into the trailers. We walked up the stairs and there was an angled belt that went up next the stairs with packages on it. Once we got up the stairs there was a long belt with 3 other belts parting off of it that went into 3 different trailers. We walked up the stairs and Jim was sitting standing on the far side of the farthest belt. She said ok he’s over there. And I said how to I get over there. She was like “just walk on the belt”. I just laughed and was like, I jumped on the belt and walked over to where he was standing.
I worked at that location for about a year or so. Working there was awesome.Eventually I recruited a handful of friends to work there and we kind of took over. At the end there were probably like 7 or 8 of us working there that were all friends from the Flint area.
Around this time I was still going to community college and playing shows with my band Spit. I had just finished up my second year at Mott Community College so I was looking kind of toward the future. I applied at Eastern Michigan University and was accepted so I was headed to the love city of Ypsilanti to go to school.
Ya know people say “life’s all about the journey” I think it sounds pretty cliche’ but I think there is some truth to it. Sometimes you have to take a leap of faith and follow your heart and follow your dreams. We talked earlier about those conversations that change the game. So my band Spit was playing at show at this club in Westland MI called Pharrohs. This was a club that a lot of hardcore and punk bands were playing at at the time and we were playing there with the band Earthmover. We talked about Earthmover in a few earlier episodes they were a bigger band from Detroit that people were super stoked on. We looked up to them a lot because they were older and way more established then we were. Spit was kind of on our way out I think some of the other dudes were kind of over playing Hardcore and wanted to do something a little different. Anyway we were at this show and 2 of the dudes came to ask me to talk and we walked over next to this pool table and they started telling me that they had all these shows coming up and potential tours and maybe going to europe to play shows and their current drummer was bowing out. I guess they all talked and thought that I was the only guy that they knew that could take over the duties and do it justice.
What an amazing feeling.
A great band that I looked up to now asked me to join up and be one of them. My whole path and perspective was just kind of blown up. I came back to out merch table and they guys from SPIT were like, “what did they want” and I said that they asked me to be their drummer. They asked me to drum from Earthmover and I told them I would do it and their reaction was actually awesome. They were all super stoked for me and not one of them was like what about Spit. Like I said I think that Spit had ran its course.
I started practicing with Earthmover a few weeks later and I did double duty until we were done playing Spit shows. I started playing shows with Earthmover that summer and we were playing out all over the place. We did shows in Detroit, Chicago, Dayton, Buffalo and a bunch of other places. These were just weekend shows. We would drive out play a show and drive home. At the end of that summer we did our first real tour.
We did an east coast tour with this amazing band from North Carolina called Catharsis.
They were this kind of no gods no masters holy terror type band that were just total rippers.
Let me tell you real quick what being in a touring hardcore punk band is all about. It’s all about waiting. I remember my Dad telling me once how he wished he could go on the road with me for a while. And I said
“Dad you would hate it”.
He was like why you get to go to all these places and see the world I said yeah that’s true. But here’s what I really get to do. We drive our van and trailer, or bus or whatever to the show and we get there at like say 9 am and we wait until someone gets there so we can load in so that happens maybe at like noon or maybe 5 it kind of depends on the tour and the size of the tour what how the club operates. So we get in the club and load in our gear then we wait to sound check then we maybe go eat or just kind of explore around town as we are waiting for the doors to open. Then we wait for our time slot then we play maybe like 30-55 minutes then break down our gear and load out and wait for the show to end. The show ends then we head to either a hotel or a friends house or if we have a far away show the next day then we get in a drive or ride to the next show and do it all over again the next day. Don’t get me wrong it’s fun and it’s excited but it’s not for everyone. Once I walked through it with my dad he was like no way I’d go crazy doing all that waiting.
Being in a touring band is tough because it’s a lot of people in a small space that are together for extremely long periods of time. You live with these people day in and day. Sometimes it’s amazing and other times it’s tough and often you experience all of the possible emotions in the same day.
Even though I was doing Earthmover and we were touring a little we were still not a full time band. We all had jobs and a few of us were still in school. I still ended up moving down Ypsilanti to go to college at Eastern Michigan.
This was a total weird and kind of blind experience for me. This was my first time moving away from home, getting an apartment. I was enrolled in the marketing program at Eastern but I never met with anyone. I just registered for classes that I thought were under the marketing umbrella and I had no solid plan. I was pretty much flying solo on this one, I mean my dad was around but he wasn’t really involved in my college experience. He didn’t really have much interest in helping to guide me through that experience. I remember telling him that I was going to go to college and he was like how are you going to afford that opposed to how can I help. I figured it out for the most part but it wasn’t easy.
So there was a lot of transition happening in my life. I had a somewhat new band, moved into my first apartment, with a new roommate and now going to new a school. I transferred from the Pontiac FedEx location to the Detroit location so I also had a new job with all new people.
It’s funny looking back at it because it was just a lot of firsts happening all at once. The job was fine I was familiar with that, school although it was a little different and new, the band was familiar territory. I think the thing that was the most different was I lived on my own but with a roommate.
I had met a dude named Phil a year or so earlier that was a piercer and he made and sold body jewelry. The first time I met him Earthmover and Spit were playing a house show at the Earthmover house. Which was in Brighmoor at like Telegraph and 5 mile in a pretty sketchy part of town.
At the time I had my ears stretched to like 6 gauge with some crappy makeshift earrings in my ears because body jewelry was pretty new to the world and it was super expensive and kind of hard to find. Anyway he sets up this table going into the living room with a bunch of Captive Bead Rings on it and he hand writes the prices and they are extremely cheap. My friend Joe Harris was down at the show with us and we both looked at eachother and we were both super stoked. I think I bought 2 rings from him for like $24 bucks. That night when we got home Joe and I were trying to put them in my ears. So real quick this was actually awful and awesome at the same time.
So Captive Bead Rings are basically pieces of the Steel that are bent and formed into about a ¾ ring and a hematite bead is placed in the middle. Seems easy enough except the bead usually sits in between the ring which means that you have actually pull apart the steel ring and place the bead in the middle and then the pressure will hold it in. They actually make tools for this called snap ring pliers they are basically pliers that go in instead of out. But when you come home and 3 in the morning from the rock show and you want to put your new earrings you have to improvise. We tried using pliers to open the ring to get the bead out but that wasn’t happening so we moved to plan B which should have been to wait until morning and go to the hardware store and get the right tool. But plan B was all about leverage, we needed more leverage. I remembering having the bead in my hand and I had Joe had a pair of pliers with 2 pieces of a drum stand. I had each end of the handle of the pliers inside of this drum stand and this gave us enough leverage to open the rings. We got the bead out and then we used this same set up to put the bead in my ring once it was in my ear. I remember this being sketchy and there being a few slip ups and thought I was going to rip my ear right off. It was pretty gross and there was a little blood here and there but eventually it all worked out.
Anyway the guy that sold me the Jewelry at the house show was called Vegan Phil. He was actually a painting major at Eastern. He had a few different piercing studios in his house that I had taken a few friends to him to get stuff done so we kind of became friends. Phil is still one of my good friends today but in the early days I didn’t always understand him. He was an artsy kid and that was definitely something that I didn’t understand. If know Phil and I you have probably heard about our first day of school together.
My first day at Eastern he came out of his bedroom and I was sitting on the couch eating some cereal and he was like hey do want to walk to school together? We lived probably a half mile from campus and it was nice out so we were gonna walk. So we went into our rooms to get ready for school and I put on what I think is pretty normal clothes. I had on jeans and a t-shirt and a hat. I had my backpack on and I was ready to go. This dude comes out with this outfit on that just floored me. Dude was wearing 1 white airwalk shoe, 1 silver airwalk shoe, a pair of cutoff brown cargo shorts with paint all over them, a dyed purple vneck T-shirt with a patch on it, a cut off T-Shirt sleeve for a headband and to top it off he was wearing a suitcoat. I remember being like “what are you doing with this outfit on?” He said “walking to school” I was like “hahaha not with me you’re not” we did walk to school and it was fine but I will tell you that do this day he still dresses that way and I have to applaud him for knowing who he was and is and just owns it like it’s nobody’s business.
It’s funny if you fast forward a handful of years he ended up being a tenured professor at at art and design school in Grand Rapids where i enrolled and for a BFA in industrial design and he was my professor for a handful of classes. It was pretty awesome!
I feel like I could tell tour stories and Phil and Wes stories for days but I think we will have to save them for another time. Let’s jump into what I learned from these crazy experiences.
What I learned:
I learned that even today people will travel and change career paths for just the smallest amount of money. Now granted I was only 18 but $3.00 more an hour was totally worth driving 30 miles away knowing full well that I couldn’t make that money where I was living in Flint. I think that there are lot of reason why people move industries. Money, Culture, commute distance, work load. I think the older you get and the more years you have under your belt that equation changes based on what’s happening on your life.
I learned that you sometimes have to take a leap and do something that may be out of your comfort zone to get where you want to be. I said yes to joining a band that I liked on the spur of the moment. I had no idea the places that it would take me and the doors that it would open for me. It was like I said yes and then I just had to figure everything else out along the way. If you don’t take the chance you will never know what could have been. I am sure that there have been opportunities that you missed out on because you just decided to say no or you over thought the potential outcomes. Either way sometimes you have to just go for it.
I think the last thing that I want to touch on is how I dealt with all these transitions as once. There is always a common thread in every story. For me it was doing everything at once, splitting my time and trying to do everything. I didn’t spend a lot of time sitting and thinking, I spent all my time doing. Playing in the band, going to school, working full time, playing shows on the weekends. I guess even back then I was trying to Hustle The Most.