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Split Personality: Keeping The Human Interaction Side Of The Job In Mind

Considering our reactions and responses when the inner show monster comes to life.

By M. Erik Matlock January 3, 2018

First impressions are important. They set the stage for future interactions, and sometimes your first impression is the only one you get.

With that in mind, it wasn’t until recently that I realized my demeanor as an audio professional had been very similar to the main character in the story of “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.” The mild-mannered Jekyll was organized, meticulous, personable and presentable, while Hyde was obsessed, intense and fairly dangerous if you crossed him.

Specifically, when recently going back through some of my previous articles about various tours and projects, I could clearly see how I switched between those roles, depending on where we were in production. During planning, bidding, and interacting with the talent as well as those with the “deep pockets” who were paying the bills, the good doctor presided.

Meanwhile, an hour until doors, while scrambling to piece together local gear from the Stone Age on a fly date, some poor kid finally walks in with my wireless microphones… That guy met Hyde, a bloodthirsty beast with no higher purpose in life than to survive the next two hours of insanity and make sure the boss was still smiling when the final checks were cut.

In one of those articles, I referenced my “3-Second Rule,” something I figured out during my first year of hired-gun sound tech life. In case you haven’t (yet) read that one, here’s how my game was played…

I worked monitors for countless state fairs, music festivals, and barbecued pig munching events with performers that regularly provoked phrases like, “Really? He’s still alive?” We called it the has-been/wannabe tour. Lots of old timers who were one-hit wonders, and youngsters who barely knew which end of the mic to sing into.

Regardless of whether they were popular before color television or of questionable driving age, they all got the exact same pitch when I emerged from my lair of analog darkness: “Hey guys, I’m Erik, your monitor engineer. How do you normally handle your sound check?”

If that question wasn’t answered with some type of directions in three seconds, I would then tell them how we were going to do sound check. Not arrogantly, but to coach them into the world of amplification, where we speak in a complex language of numbers, abbreviations, and cryptic hand gestures.

I recently resurrected the old Jekyll and Hyde persona (much more of the latter, unfortunately) while assisting my kid’s high school theatre group with a hodgepodge of old wireless mics. Actually, they were in a lot better shape than most gear at public schools, it was just that they’d been tweaked and tuned by 17 generations of juveniles.

My arrival was delayed so I didn’t get into the building until about 15 minutes to doors, and I pretty much went into Mr. Hyde mode immediately. No casual banter. No introductions. Just a maniac insistently requesting body packs and silence.

From my perspective, the show was about to go on, while these youngsters were more interested in Tweeting about the grouchy sound person rather than listening to him. I could see the clock ticking and hear microscopic feedback demons gathering in the lighting truss. There was no time for status updates.

The kids had a different perspective. When my daughter came home from school, she informed me that they were all terrified of me. My intensity, without introduction, didn’t gather new apprentices. I blew the opportunity to be the awesome audio dude, simply by forgetting all about the human interaction side.

The 3-Second Rule gave me the opportunity to constructively interact with the talent. The Dr. Jekyll personality saw beyond a cashed check and focused on my long-term audio career. In Hyde mode, I worked the game plan with intensity. Many great relationships started only because they met Jekyll long before Hyde.

The reality is that it would be wonderful if Hyde wasn’t necessary at so many gigs. Unfortunately that persona is very often the one who actually makes the show happen. Still, it’s best to avoid barking at unsuspecting talent and techs.


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 a number of years as a church production staff member and Media Director, and as an author for several leading industry publications before joining the PSW team.

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