$UCCE$$ Stories - Titans of Industry

Jul 18, 2006 at 4:21 pm

High on music

Andy High,
WFPK-FM audio engineer
(Photo by Kelly Mackey)

In the mid-1980s, while working at Taxi’s Pizza in the Highlands, Andy High visited a recording studio. He was smitten. The sight of the boards and other gizmos fed his dream of working in music — he’d taken guitar lessons since age 9. He got to work, earning an associate’s degree in electronic engineering and getting hired at Falk Recording Studio.

Andy High
Andy High
He’s now living his dream. For the past 12 years he’s worked as an audio engineer at local public radio stations, often bringing live performances to listeners. He’s recorded and edited jazz, classical and contemporary music shows, including installments of the “Lonesome Pine Special” and “Live from the Twice Told Coffee House.”
Since WFPK-FM began “Live Lunch” in August 2000, High has helped musicians set up for the show. (He also was part of the team that selected and set up the equipment in the Public Radio Partnership’s high-tech performance studio, where “Live Lunch” takes place Fridays at noon.)

A diverse list of artists — danny flanigan, Juggernaut Jug Band and The Children, to name a few — have released recordings of performances that High helped engineer.

Over the years, he’s continued to learn about technology, and about how to get good sound from the shows that show off Louisville’s collective musical talent. “We have a wonderful and diverse music scene,” he says, citing Scott Carney & Heavy Friends as a recent favorite “Live Lunch” performance.
High is also working on another lifelong dream. He’s begun construction on a recording studio near his home in Lanesville, where he lives with his wife and six-year-old son. — Elizabeth Kramer

Mission control, ready for launch

•Jason Czaja,
audio supervisor, Actors Theatre of Louisville  
(photo by Jason Czaja)

Jason Czaja, 30, has one of those jobs so interesting, challenging and multi-faceted that a brief write-up can’t do it justice. That said, I did recently talk to him about his official job description — “audio supervisor” for Actors Theatre of Louisville. That means he works with any and all aspects of sound and music as it pertains to live theater.

Jason Czaja
Jason Czaja
Actors produces about 20 plays per season (six to eight during The Humana Festival of New Plays), and each is totally different. The theater sound systems of 2006 are largely computer-based and incredibly complex, and require a mystical dual mindset, he says, of “total-mathy-technician” and “intuitive-understanding-artist,” an awareness of the subtleties of the music and sound design as they score scenes onstage.

Add managing a staff … heading up film and video projects …  wrangling the archives of decades of previous shows ...  recording sessions for new music and voice elements in plays …  handling all those cool headsets and other things the technical staff planted all around the stage uses to communicate (snippets like “fly the tombstones for Act Three of ‘A Christmas Carol’ in and get Dracula’s blood pack ready!”) … and you start to get an idea.

Czaja has headed the sound department for the last five years, and I’ve been lucky to watch him and his amazing crew at work. If you can picture a S.W.A.T. team dedicated to fixing audio problems, hanging from rafters on ropes, flashlights in their teeth and soldering irons and tools ready for any issue that arises (but they all have, like, TOOL T-shirts on), well, that’s sort of close. —Jason Noble

Sound advice

•Salena Filichia,
   sound engineer, the Rudyard Kipling
(Photo by Kelly Mackey)   

On most evenings at the sleepy Old Louisville music shack known as the Rudyard Kipling, Salena Filichia can be seen giving her hobby a run for its money. At a mere five-foot-two, she’s been manning (or womanning) the soundboard for nearly three months, a part-time job she acquired simply by hanging out at the Rud, meeting the right people and being in the right spot at the right time. She started out filling in for the veteran sound guys, and now has carved out a semi-regular schedule — running sound for local and national acts on nights when her two bands (Venus Trap and Ponty’s Camper) don’t have gigs.

Salena Filichia
Salena Filichia
The biggest perk, Salena says, is obviously getting exposure to so many bands she otherwise may have never come out to see. In fact, Salena, 27, hardly ever considers it an actual job — “It’s not working, it’s networking,” she says, adding that she sometimes prefers the behind-the-scenes tinkering to the business aspect that buries some bands. “Rock ’n’ roll music shouldn’t be a business,” she says. “I don’t mind working with the band members and bar staff, it’s the business people that get in the way sometimes.”

One of her biggest challenges is finding the right sound for a space like the Rud, with its wooden beams and brick walls: “It’s nice to know I can help make bands sound better in such a difficult venue.” It’s also nice to know people can turn their hobby into lucrative opportunities. —Sara Havens

Bob your head

•Korrey Mattingly,
  beatmaker; CEO, Head Bobbin’ Entertainment  
  (Photo by Stephen George)

Korrey Mattingly
Korrey Mattingly
When he walks into LEO headquarters, I’m slightly surprised at how much Korrey Mattingly resembles a college student. He’s carrying a backpack slipped over one shoulder, dressed in clean clothes with clean lines. A gold Jesus chain drops from around his neck to just over his clavicle. I get the distinct impression, right away, that Mattingly is one of those mildly eccentric artists whose focus is so intense and sincere all the time that he literally doesn’t pay attention to what he’s wearing, just as long as it doesn’t draw undue consideration.

The 29-year-old husband and father of four is the president, founder, vocalist, producer, engineer and general business mind behind Head Bobbin’ Entertainment, a nine-year-old company with the appropriately brash slogan “Take the world by storm,” for which he is also primary beatmaker. (If you’re not up on the lingo, the beatmaker is the essential player in hip-hop who writes the music — or beats — behind an artist’s raps and lyrics.)

“My love is music,” he says across the Formica table. “I wanna just wake up and make music. I just hear music all the time.”

This last part is something that’s often said by musicians, and there is a fundamental truth to it for some, particularly those like Mattingly, who can sit behind and soundboard or computer and translate the mind-tunes into that which all of us can hear.

Korrey Mattingly
Korrey Mattingly
makes the song what it is — making you move,” he says. And so, bob your head.     —Stephen George

All you need is a copier

(Photo by Kelly Mackey)

You’ve formed a band, you’ve written some songs, you’re ready for the next step: playing live in front of an audience. How do you spread the word?

Well, back in the day, you would find an image you liked (band photo, quirky/weird photo swiped from a magazine or book, original art), scrawl down the relevant information like date, time, venue and cover charge, and then head to the nearest copy shop. And more often than not, that copy shop was a Kinko’s.

(Federal Express bought Kinko’s in February 2004 and the stores are now known as “FedEx Kinko’s Office and Print Center,” which is awkward and ugly, and nobody calls it that anyway except employees, so I’m calling it Kinko’s ‘cause I’m old school that way, motherfucker.)

So you trundle down to Kinko’s and you’d print as many flyers as you deem necessary — usually enough to hang up in coffee shops, record stores and other assorted locations where those who might be receptive to your musical endeavors likely congregate. And you might also affix your flyers to telephone poles and on parked cars, although that carries the risk of tickets, fines and/or a beating at the hands of enraged motorists. If you were clever (and could afford the higher cost), you’d take advantage of the Kinko’s colored paper to make your flyer stand out.

But nowadays, bands don’t rely on flyers as heavily as they once did — today they have the My Space pages and the podcasting with the MP3s and the Internets and all that jazz, and the simple handbill has taken a backseat. It’s a pity. —Jay Ditzer

Welcome to the Salon

•Suki Anderson,
    (Photo by Kelly Mackey)

Suki Anderson wears many hats: singer, DJ, business manager for the Jazz Factory … and now she’s got the bookings and promotion for Late-Night Salon, which is the name given over to the eclectic events that Jazz Factory hosts at 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights. This differs from the position of the typical publicist (“Instead of promoting a band, I’m promoting an evening,” she says. “Selling two bands every weekend is more fun”).

Suki Anderson
Suki Anderson
Anderson considers Ray Rizzo — her bandmate in a.m. Sunday — the person from whom she learned most about promotions. But she quickly adds, “I wouldn’t do everything I saw him try.” Right now she’s got her eye on “reaching people from restaurants around town. Advertising to service-industry people. I want to use postcards — I’ll take them around directly,” she says, indicating that the cards are presently taking up the back seat of her car.

Having been in town for about a decade (she grew up in the Cincinnati suburbs, then went to Earlham College in Indiana), Anderson sees this as an advantageous time to expand Jazz Factory’s offerings. “Louisville’s standard of living allows for free time, and there’s not a lot of competition if you want to do something different.” Among the upcoming shows: Aug. 18-19 constitutes a two-part CD release party by local ensemble Liberation Prophecy. Why two nights? “It’s different from having a release party and then not playing in town again for a month. On Friday night, the band brings their friends. Then on Saturday night, the friends bring their friends.” —T.E. Lyons

Too tough to die

•Brandon Skipworth,
      co-founder, Noise Pollution Records  
   (Photo by Kelly Mackey)

Brandon Skipworth and business partner Nathan Smallwood.
Brandon Skipworth and business partner Nathan Smallwood.
Brandon Skipworth is co-founder and partner (with Nathan Smallwood) of the Noise Pollution record label. It’s not the first time they’ve shared such duties: “From 1994 to ’97 we had the Shakin’ Sheila label. It included Month of Sundays — an early Jim James
Brandon Skipworth and business partner Nathan Smallwood.
Brandon Skipworth and business partner Nathan Smallwood.
band.” Whatever the name, Skipworth says that the success of his label is that it’s still here, with old friends who’ve stuck it out.

“I love coming up with wild ideas, then making them real. It isn’t about money — most of our projects, we’re lucky to break even. But I want to give a home to bands that otherwise wouldn’t be heard.”

His take on the Louisville music scene over years that have now stretched into decades: “For a long time,

Brandon Skipworth and business partner Nathan Smallwood.
Brandon Skipworth and business partner Nathan Smallwood.
was an island unto itself, y’know? For years, bands traded members. On the one hand, it made things a bit … I don’t want to say ‘inbred’. ... But on the other hand, that kind of isolation let the scene develop on its own. So, people were stuck — but they worked it out within themselves to develop different sounds.”

Skipworth seems surprised that he and Smallwood consider their label to be in a productive period after both became fathers. They’re not chasing new acts at clubs so much now — instead, each has found a new favorite among local unsigned bands on MySpace (Skipworth’s is The Teeth). Upcoming Noise Pollution projects include a split 7-inch vinyl from Lucky Pineapple and VRKTM, to be given out at an Aug. 12 release show at St. John’s Center on East Market Street; and a compilation of original Louisville punks (covering roughly 1978-83), due in October. —T.E. Lyons

Parallel careers

•Lucky Ray,
     rapper; CEO, Highball Entertainment  
   (Photos courtesy of Lucky Ray)

Lucky Ray
Lucky Ray

Do I want a career in the music industry or architecture? That’s what Antwain “Lucky Ray” Porter asked himself when he was in junior high. Just so you know the answer, Lucky Ray started his record label — Highball Entertainment, Inc. — last year. He’s “hustlin’ 24/7, 365, and 366 on leap year” to be successful.

Lucky Ray
Lucky Ray

Lucky Ray credits both his Louisville street background and his college education for where he is now. In college, Lucky Ray said, he made money in real estate and invested it in the music industry. He said he has worked the last 10 years with artists like Master P and learned the industry. It was that experience that prompted him to start Highball.

As the President/CEO of Highball, Lucky Ray said his normal workday is what you’d expect. “I get on the phone, attend meetings, the same day as any other businessman on a Monday morning. Wall Street is open!”

Unlike normal business jobs, however, Lucky Ray’s work doesn’t end at 5. “I work all hours. Late at night, at 3 in the morning, I’ll work on the MySpace page. I may have a meeting at 9 in the mor

ning about real estate. The name of the game is hustle and no sleep. That’s how you make your money.”
In addition to being president/CEO of Highball, Lucky Ray also raps for it: I … made it up there with the big names. I still have work to do and I’m still hungry. So guard your plate! —Michael Lichvar

Time for your tune-up

•Gist’s Lonnie Ragan  
(Photo by Anthony Bowman)  

Lonnie Ragan
Lonnie Ragan

When asked, Lonnie Ragan is reluctant to give an official title. Finally, with the help of a few co-workers in the shop, it’s decided that he is Restoration Supervisor. Basically, this means the 69-year-old Ragan has been working with pianos at Gist Piano Center for many years now, and he knows how everything in the shop should go.

Lonnie Ragan of Gist Piano Center is a sort of Dr. Dolittle for pianos. He’s restoring this piano nearly singlehandedly.
Lonnie Ragan of Gist Piano Center is a sort of Dr. Dolittle for pianos. He’s restoring this piano nearly singlehandedly.
As Ragan provides a tour, we move from one station to another, each another step in the long and incredibly detailed process of piano restoration. He shows me one piano that suffered a botched previous restoration. When he explains that the original restorers had unnecessarily drilled out the holes for the tuning pins, there’s sadness in his voice.

“We don’t know why anybody would do that,” he says, shaking his head. I am struck with the image of Ragan as a sort of Dr. Dolittle for pianos. He speaks their language. He understands them, and feels sympathy when they’ve been treated poorly. There is a sense of compassion and tenderness in the way he talks about various projects, and it’s clear he has a great deal of pride in his work.

Right before I leave, I think to ask Ragan if he plays piano as well, and it comes as no surprise when he says he not only plays for fun on his own, but also performs regularly at Captain’s Quarters, the Jazz Factory and at his church. Clearly, it takes a pianist to truly know a piano. —Anthony Bowman

Accidental road dog

•Tyler Trotter,
   sound man/guitar tech/driver/roadie/tour manager for Caliornia Guitar Trio  
  (Photo by Cary Stemle)

Tyler Trotter
Tyler Trotter
Documents inadvertently left in plain sight invariably cause trouble, but for Tyler Trotter, the oversight was serendipitous.

Trotter, 27, has long been active in Louisville music (he plays in the bands The Children and Strike City). In the 1990s, he studied sound engineering at Full Sail in Orlando, then came home and started booking shows at the Rudyard Kipling. As luck would have it, his first act was the California Guitar Trio, who soon made Louisville a regular tour stop.

In 2003 they were here, and Trotter’s parents put them up — in Tyler’s old bedroom. He’d left a resume laying around. The band saw it and invited him on the road to run sound. He soon became a full-fledged member of the road team — sound man/guitar tech/driver/roadie/tour manager.

The trio — Bert Lams (Belgium), Hideyo Moreya (Japan) and Paul Richards (United States) — isn’t your typical rock outfit. Inspired by Robert Fripp and King Crimson, they’re solely instrumental, playing in a specialized tuning (developed by Fripp) and in a style involving the circular movement of notes — literally, they pass solos around.

They’re more of a performance band, which means they’re not doing those club shows where the headliner goes on at midnight. But even a minimalist road life is grueling. Tour legs generally last three to eight weeks; the band and Trotter fly in from their respective cities, rent a minivan and get to work.

Trotter enjoys the job immensely, but there are challenges: He must save his earnings to live on through the year (he also plays music and DJs when he’s home) and he has no health insurance.

What’s next? “That’s a good question,” he says, adding that the band’s audiences are growing and he doesn’t think the 15-year-old band has peaked yet. “I can see them getting bigger.” —Cary Stemle