Learning The Trade: Prepared To Survive

It’s a tough business with a wide variety of offenses waiting for you...

By M. Erik Matlock June 6, 2014

This article is provided by The Art Of The Soundcheck.

I worked with a guy in my early days as a tech who we referred to as “the little Nazi.” He was an arrogant, obnoxious, argumentative, know-it-all pain in the butt. He aggravated us and went out of his way to make life difficult. He criticized me and singled me out. He got irritated with me over stuff that absolutely was not a big deal.

He also did more to prepare me for working as a tech than anyone.

About four years into my life as a tech, I ended up with a group of other young ones. We had a few older guys getting us up to speed on some studio work. Most of the older guys were easy going types. They enjoyed their work and didn’t mind telling stories and hanging out with us. Not this guy.

He was all business.

After one session, I had to zero out the mixer and get the room ready for the next client. He walks in behind me and does an inspection. The room was perfect. It looked like it was ready for a photo shoot. He wanders around and finds one auxiliary knob on the mixer that wasn’t completely at zero.

A 32-channel board with 8 aux sends per channel. It has almost 400 moving parts, knobs and faders. He finds one that’s slightly up and reams me over it.

Naturally, I wanted to argue and get offended. That’s what immature and arrogant youngsters do, right? We defend ourselves and justify our actions. We try to protect ourselves by reacting to the assault. Occasionally, we find insulting names to attach to these people who are trying to teach us things.

“How is that a big enough deal to blow up about?” My actual question.

“Do you know what that aux is routed to? Do you know what unwanted effect might show up in the next clients project? Are you willing to gamble with wasting studio time and losing a client over something that stupid? Are you going to do things the way I tell you or not? If you aren’t willing to do things properly and thoroughly, then you have no business working in the studio.” His response.

It took me a few days to get my head on straight. He wasn’t trying to upset me, he was trying to provoke me. He was pushing me to take this work seriously. He was preparing me for the high-dollar clients and studios that don’t tolerate stupidity. When there’s money at stake, there aren’t many acceptable excuses.

My days with the little Nazi were torturous. But once I figured out what he was doing, it got easier. It became a game. He played his part, I played mine. He gives an assignment or challenge, I make it happen. He critiques my work, I smirk when he can’t find a problem. He teaches, I learn. That game prepared me for a career.

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About M. Erik

M. Erik Matlock
M. Erik Matlock

Senior Editor, ProSoundWeb
Erik worked in a wide range of roles in pro audio for more than 20 years in a dynamic career that encompasses system design and engineering in the live, install and recording markets. He also spent several years as a production staff member and team leader for the largest non-denominational church in central Georgia, and served as an author for several leading industry publications before joining the PSW team.


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