After lunch, Carynne said my afternoon appointment with my hand guy had been moved to tomorrow for an emergency so we should stop by Artie’s office because he wanted to see us. I didn’t even remember I had an appointment, though I’d kind of assumed.
So we went up to Artie’s office where the secretaries seemed extra fluttery around me. It made me feel a little like they thought I was a bigger deal than I was. I mean, come on, to Wenco I was the artist of a low five-figures instrumental album, not a multiplatinum Grammy winner or something. Maybe it was my freshly blown-out hair.
When we went into Artie’s office, there was another person there who stood up to shake my hand, then sat back down in the chair furthest from the door. A kind of diminutive Asian-looking guy with very short hair and round glasses, wearing a velour v-neck over a collared shirt. Artie introduced him as Andrew Long.
“Drew, please,” he said, taking my hand between both of his so that the handshake was firm but didn’t squeeze my palm in a way that would hurt. He reminded me a little of the guy who’d stitched me up, actually.
Artie had squeezed a third chair in front of his desk in his crowded office, so I took the one in the middle and Carynne sat with her back to the door. “So, I thought you should hear it from me,” he said as he sat behind his own desk. “Tracks is still going strong. It’s on a trajectory to have some evergreen staying power in the instrumental retail space.”
“Does that mean instrumental music played in retail stores?” I asked. “Or sold in them?”
Artie laughed like I’d made a good joke, but it was a serious question. “I mean sold in them. The category isn’t well defined of course, “new age” being something of a misnomer and a catch-all category for instrumental music…” He cringed slightly.
“It’s okay, Artie. I’m fine with it being called ‘new age.'”
He nodded. “Anyway, it’s passed the fifty-thousand mark, and will probably cross a hundred thousand before the year is out, assuming our projections hold. Which means a nice payout at the end of the year.”
“You mean when the check actually comes,” Carynne said with a sweet smile.
Artie waved in surrender as if to say not my department. “We may be slow, but not as slow as some, eh?”
“Not as slow as some,” she agreed. I let her keep doing the talking, while I sort of wondered who Andrew was and why he was here. “That money may come in handy for some legal bills if necessary.”
“Are you going up against BNC?”
“Doesn’t look like it. Looks like we have to sue Daron’s former manager, who is suing BNC, which is holding up money BNC owes us.”
“Ah, the merry go round,” Artie said. “You should be about to get a check on the earnout from last year, though. Christmas numbers are in. Got a big bump.”
“How big a bump?” Carynne asked, glancing at Andrew. I guess it seemed unusual to her to talk numbers in front of a stranger, too.
“Should be about the same size as the advance,” he said. In other words, in the twenty-thousand dollar range. Not bad. “Which is what got us thinking about this coming Christmas and whether you’ll be ready for a followup by then.”
“Followup album?” Carynne asked. “Another one like that one, you mean? You know Daron’s not in playing shape again yet, right?”
Artie nodded. “I know. But I’m under the impression from the demos you sent me previously that there is a lot of music still in the can that could be tapped…?” He looked my direction.
I hadn’t thought about it in like a year. “Um, that’s true. There’s easily another ten to twelve compositions. But they’re only in the demo stage. They need some fleshing out.”
“I believe that is where I come in,” Andrew said. “I’m a producer.”
I couldn’t help it. I sort of shied back from him like he’d said he was a scorpion. Then my rational mind kicked in and I said, “Oh?”
While Andrew eyed me placidly, Artie went on. “He’s a pioneer in digital production. I thought you two might make a good match.”
“I don’t need a producer,” I heard myself say. “Just an engineer. I did most of the production on Tracks myself.” Then I realized how arrogant that sounded. “I mean, I’m not just blowing smoke. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the offer, it’s just, I don’t…need…?”
Andrew cleared his throat and spoke smoothly as I sputtered out. “I know you don’t need me. But I asked Artie if there was any chance to work with you. I’m doing a lot with psychoacoustics in digital spaces and I honestly felt Tracks was doing some of the same, whether that was intentional or unintentional.” His hands moved, criss-crossing in the air with his palms toward the floor. “You were able to create space between sound layers beyond what I expect to hear on a typical instrumental album. I’m not explaining it well. But I think you know what I mean.”
I did. I did know what he meant. It had been so long since I thought about what was going on in Tracks I hadn’t really considered it particularly innovative. “I just tried to make it sound in the world like what it sounded like inside my head.”
“I understand entirely if you have no interest, but I would really, really like to work with you,” Andrew repeated. “I’m based in Boston.”
“At the Media Lab at MIT,” Artie added.
I’d of course heard of the Media Lab. It was a big deal when it was founded in the eighties and was still going strong in the modern culture and technology world in 1992.
“Even if it’s just to let you play around with my equipment,” Andrew went on. My antennas went up when he said that, like I suddenly got interested. Once a gearhead always a gearhead, I guess? He blushed suddenly behind his glasses and looked at the ceiling. “Um, I just realized, you don’t know that we know each other. From E-Music-L.”
“Oh!” I blushed in empathy. “You’re that Drew.”
“And you’re that Daron. I honestly wasn’t sure at first. You post so sporadically. But you mentioned something that cinched it for me, can’t recall exactly.”
E-Music-L was one of the email discussion lists I was on. I’d signed up for it all the way back when I first got the computer, when was that? 1988? That and NM-List. “Yeah, I mostly lurk,” I said. “And when I’m on the road I don’t have a good way to connect. Tell me more about your equipment?”
I swear that didn’t sound dirty when I said it.