Note – I am slowly going through and cleaning up my folders on our hard drive. I just came across a bunch of old interviews I did with people while I was a journalism student at Columbia College Chicago. These two are from when I was working on the college magazine for two semesters. A friend and I did a piece about working musicians who still had day jobs. There were others that she interviewed, Dylan and Weasel were the ones I interviewed. It was done in the fall of 2000, I think. If you happen to be Dylan Posa or Weasel Walter and you want this taken down, just let me know. I’m putting it here for posterity and nerdy archival reasons.
Dylan Posa – Cheer Accident – Reckless Records
One of the things that helps about working a retail job is the tremendous amount of freedom you have in terms of leaves of absence and so forth. It’s also the lack of real responsibility, as sometimes you really need to not think about anything else. Also, Reckless happens to have a really generous policy on employee purchases, so musicians being music freaks that they are can amass a huge collection of stuff. I happen to also like working, because I don’t really manage my time very well and it imposes a schedule on me. I can’t really face a whole week with nothing set, so it’s nice to know that I have to sandwich song-writing sessions in between day shifts.
What shit jobs have you had in the past. how does yr current one stack up? Which was the best? Most accommodating one for yr rock n roll lifestyle? Any horror stories?
The current situation is by far the best and most accommodating. I think the worst was Blockbuster Video – lots of supervision and very few perks. I think we got free rentals (but only a certain amount a week). We had to be clean-shaven (there was a razor and shaving cream in the bathroom), you couldn’t wear gym shoes, there was a monitor up in the manager’s office where he or she could monitor the cashier’s every step. We were expected to stop thieves ourselves. I’ve never had a temp job, but I imagine those would be even worse. That’s probably better for musicians who are skilled in computer stuff, because they can drop a job in a minute and still pick up something else at any time.
What do you feel it takes to survive as an independent musician in general and in Chicago?
Well, that’s tough for me to say because I happen to like the position I’m in. The record label doesn’t pay my way so I don’t feel beholden in any way to alter what it is that I do for them. So many bands get burned this way, I’m still surprised that bands don’t just do it themselves nowadays. I think in terms of survival, Chicago breeds a sort of incestuous cross-pollination where everybody plays in everybody else’s side-project. That seems to work here.
How hard is it to balance yr passion with yr need to survive?
Not very hard for me, as it turns out. I work pretty slowly anyway, so I like to have something to do. Of course, this could all be justification until my amphetamine addiction becomes affordable.
I think I asked this already but what are yr five favorite songs relating to or that help get you through a shift at work?
Ex-French T-Shirt – Shudder To Think
Now That’s The Barclords – Urge Overkill
Freddy’s Dead – Curtis Mayfield
The Sidewinder – Lee Morgan
Daddy Needs a New Throne – Camberwell Now
Weasel Walter – Flying Luttenbachers – Unemployed at the moment
What kind, and how many shit jobs, have you had in the past while working in music. Were they awful? Good? Beneficial for your music schedule? Traumatizing? Which one was the best?
At this point I see any occupation that doesn’t directly further my creative goals as a waste of my time unless if it pays a substantial amount. I am not independently wealthy and I’ve done what I’ve had to to survive and devote my life to making things. I’ve worked as a record store clerk, a bike messenger, a telemarketer, and other crappy jobs like that in the past 10 years. Those last two jobs were so terrible I wanted to kill someone. Creating music and the various processes that surround it soaks up the majority of my time, although it does not pay well.
How long did it take until you could live off of yr music? How did you feel after you realized you could?
I haven’t had a job in more than 2 years, but I’m going to have to get one soon to level off my growing debt. I have been extremely thankful for the time I had and I didn’t squander it. It’s great to wake up every morning and concentrate on what I want to do. Unfortunately, what I do isn’t at all in style, so the income is extremely sketchy. I’ll probably try computer temping. It’s not worth my time to work at some dumb job for less than 20 bucks an hour at this point… my time is extremely valuable to me and I’d rather starve than have it wasted!
What do you think it takes to survive as a musician in general and as a musician in Chicago? Do you feel you have it?
I am not the average musician. I have focused on creating the kind of art that is has proven to be largely unpopular and uncommercial. I think the thing that it takes to be a well-paid musician anywhere is the ability to conform to the musical roles that fit the demands of what is desired by the paying public. I refuse to do this. I am not interested in
compromising my aesthetics for acceptance. I have the ability to survive as a human being, but I am not making a good living off of my music. I accept this as reality. I do not recommend trying to be a professional musician unless if you’re absolutely sure what you want to do and you are ready to accept the consequences for making that choice. This society has no respect for culture, so most people doing experimental or truly creative music will have to be prepared to starve.
How difficult is it (was it) to balance yr passion for music with your need to survive?
Very difficult. So-called “Musicians” are a dime a dozen – close to worthless, really. The market is saturated with mediocrity and much of this is rewarded because most American consumers are mediocre people and that’s what they relate to. The music business is a conspiracy run by a wealthy and powerful minority who call the shots on what the majority have options to digest. This way they can control it to their advantage. It’s very difficult to fight this.
Is signing to a ‘major’ label an issue for you?
No. My attitude and creative goals do not meet the requirements of pleasing rich guys in suits and making them lots of money. I want to destroy them. That’s why Napster is so important — it takes money out of these parasite’s pockets (much less than would come out of the artist’s pockets). This is why you hear so many industry weasels complaining.
Being on a so-called major label sure doesn’t mean you make any real money per se. These labels are set up to make lots of profit for the suits and hardly any for the artists. A lot of the money is advances that have to be paid back and often can’t be, putting the artist in a position of debt and impasse. You’d be surprised how many “big” artists don’t really have a pot to piss in. Don’t kid yourself about the music business. It’s who you know, half the time.