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Chez Stock: The Girl With The Audio Tattoo(s)

The life and times of a dynamic front of house engineer/tour manager

I remember meeting Chez Stock for the first time. The first thing I noticed were the tattoos across her fingers spelling out “COMP” and “GATE.” I made a comment along the lines of “nice digital inserts” (I pun involuntarily) and, in spite of that, we had a nice conversation.

Growing up in a small city in Alaska, Stock had no concept of the business of entertainment; radio and record stores were the only exposure she had. In high school, she volunteered at local radio stations and, for a time, had an overnight on-air shift at an alternative station in Anchorage.

When looking at college options, she came across the Art Institute of Seattle’s Audio Production program, noting, “I had no idea that I could go to school and learn to record a band or manage an artist.”

Following the stint in radio, Stock began assisting her then-roommate at a bar show: “I helped him stack the PA, wired the stage, and then got booted out of the club because I was under 21. I came back later to help with load-out.”

Soon after she found herself at an all-ages venue in Seattle, mixing a bill of punk bands with no sound checks. “We barely got a line check,” she recalls. “I remember wiring up the stage, and looking at my Mackie 1202 [mixer] and wondering how this was going to work. I’d just gotten to front of house and the Clash was playing on the house music. All of the sudden the band just started playing and I started grabbing faders, trying to get the screamy vocals over the roar of the instruments.

“Then the band ended the song and the venue was filled with the sounds of ‘London Calling’ before I could turn it off. Ah, the days of all-ages volunteer gigs where no one cared,” she adds with a laugh.

Building Blocks

Stock plying her trade on a Midas analog console. (Credit: Phil Garfinkel)

Eventually Stock landed at Carlson Audio in Seattle, first serving as a freelance tech before moving up to full-time shop employee and then production manager. Although she wanted to get into a touring schedule, her efforts were more needed at the shop.

That changed when Carlson Audio landed got a short tour with Zappa Plays Zappa; just three dates in Seattle, Vancouver, and Portland. But the timing worked out so that she could do the tour and still handle the production manager role at the shop.

“On the tour, my position was stage patcher,” she notes. “What that actually ended up meaning was I would show up early and pull power, then would help set up monitor world and run the stage patch. I also ended up being the liaison between the stage and the recording truck.”

Starting out on stage gave her the initial thought that she’d end up on the monitor side of things, but after a couple of tours as a front of house tech, she realized she was more at home in front of the band.

“There’s no greater feeling than turning out an amazing show, especially when the PA is less than adequate. On a huge rig, it feels even greater,” she says. “Being a FOH tech taught me how to treat and tame a room; when it’s a difficult room, I may gripe a bit but it makes the eventual success that much sweeter.”

The world of professional audio has long been male-dominated, and while that’s gradually changing, it continues to present challenges. “It can be summed up in one word: misogyny, sometimes internalized, sometimes overt,” she states. “I could tell you some horrifying stories but I don’t think that’s what you want here. There are still serious challenges being a woman working in the touring business in 2018, which is sad to say.

“When I was audio crew chief on an arena tour, I was often one of the first people in the room each day, marking off points and shooting the room. I would have my hard hat on, gloves on, tool belt out, and, invariably, a stage hand would ask me if I needed directions to the production office or the merch area. I know back of house roadies have hard jobs that take a lot of skill, but the assumption that I, as a woman, am just doing a clerical (or more ‘stereotypical woman’s’) job is infuriating.”

At this point in her career, she specifically chooses to work with mostly female artists and bands: “Often we’ll have one or two dudes on the tour as well, and no matter how assertive I am with introducing myself to the house sound guy as the tour manager and FOH engineer, they turn to the male drummer or guitar player and start asking them questions about my input list or monitors. I’ve had to dismiss house sound guys that were so over-the-top aggressive and sexist that I didn’t feel safe in the venue.

“Thankfully, now that I’m 35 years old, I’m not afraid to advocate for myself and I simply do not take grief from anyone,” she continues. “I don’t necessarily rise above, but I don’t necessarily always engage, either.”

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