Friday, October 2, 2009

Personal Reflections, In The Form of a Job Interview

I signed up an AES Convention next week. The Audio Engineering Society, pretty much why I went to college. I figure I'm going to end up talking to an employer, and they'll ask me what my 'goals' are. At this point in my life, I don't even know what I would say to that. I moved to New York on a whim, and I definitely don't plan to stay for a while. I don't want to lie to them just to get a job, since I don't really need the money. I guess I would just honestly tell them my motivations, hoping for some kind of wisdom and direction. It might go something like this:

I think a lot about getting a serious job, one that I am motivated to do. I'm just terrified about the prospect of long-term commitment. I can't imagine rooting myself into a company right now. There's too many places to see and different environments to live in. I need a long-term personal project that can travel with me. Something I can work on constantly and be motivated to pour my heart into. I've had a few of those feelings throughout my life, and it's hard to pinpoint them, and what makes each one exciting.

The first and most obvious would be music. The reason I switched from chemical engineering in college to electrical engineering was based around music. I needed to know the science and technology behind music. Hell, I needed to know EVERYTHING about music. I learned to read music. I learned to play the saxophone, drums, guitar, and keyboard. I know major and minor scales and intervals. I know jazz and blues progressions. I can conduct a marching band in a few different time signatures. I learned to identify frequencies of notes. I can manipulate sine waves with Fourier Transforms. I learned how to fabricate sounds using resistors and chips. I can build a lowpass filter using equations. I can run a sound board for a live band. I know how to wire a stage. I know how a Shure SM57 microphone differs from a Neumann U87 microphone. I know how to record in ProTools and Logic Pro. I pretty much studied music composition, music performance, electrical engineering, sound design, audio recording, and live sound. The problem is, I didn't study any one area extensively. I got a sprinkling of everything.

So when do I really get excited about music? I can't say wiring a stage and running sound is very much fun. Playing the drums is a damn good time, especially when I can just beat the shit out of them and throw things into the crowd like I used to do. I've never had a more thrilling experience than playing drums in a band. It's the performance, the audience, the intensity, and the emotion all rolled into one. In high school, I was in the drama club. I had an obsession with performance. Even in college, every party I threw was sort of related to a performance. Setting the scene for an audience, themes, moods. I fucking loved it. In high school, every live show was different. We adamantly put on the best show we possibly could every single time. But at that time, playing in a band seemed like something that was done in high school, and then you “grew up.” Since that point, I haven't experienced that level of motivation and commitment to anything. I think this is part of the problem.

Okay, let's say playing live music isn't going to happen for the moment. Where else can I throw my energy? I'd say living at Death By Audio helped my trickle of interest in circuit-building into a formidable stream of activity. I'm building things I really only dreamed of before: amps, drum triggers, sequencers, oscillators. In college, these seemed very much out of reach. Something you created when you had years of experience in electronics. Seeing this self-built, self-taught collective of musicians run this business and design their own successful pedals is surreal. It's the perfect gasoline for the fire. I've just got to channel this random cloud of ideas into a freight train of action and I'll start pumping out creations. Of course, this doesn't really generate any money and it's more of a personal hobby than a profession.

What about math? I freaking LOVED math in high school. Physics, chemistry, calculus, bring it on. The challenge involved with math was what I needed. Puzzles that constantly needed solving. I got really excited about math. I'd say it was the mental equivalent of the physicality of drumming. I think I realized the difference between a theoretical school subject and the real world application of it during my second year of college. I had been balancing organic chemistry equations with glee for a year before I had to sit in a lab and use the actual chemicals. I realized there is no profession that just lets you solve math equations all day. You actually have to have some sort of real world application. So who gives a shit.

I'm a compulsive writer. I can find sparks of flair in my writing, especially if it's about a passionate subject. I can sincerely write my feelings with conviction and excitement. When I try to force things, however, it turns out really cheesy. Combined with this Kerouac-ian tendency to log my life's events, I've developed a sort of vague idea that I'm going to write a novel. Will it be about Wilkes-Barre? Will it be about New York? Maybe I'll just keep writing these essays and vignettes until I can publish my autobiography in a 1000 page tome.

I guess if I could get a job making lists I'd be content. I'll do that shit regardless. Top 20 albums of the year. Top 10 Quentin Tarantino movies. Top 5 sandwiches at the corner deli. I can't think of a single career where this is useful. Neither is my ability to memorize lists of up to 200 items. A professional list maker doesn't sound very exciting anyway. This is more of a bad habit than a useful trade.

I think a lot about the point of life and what people should be motivated to do. Growing up, I used to think it was about having lots of money or becoming famous. Then I thought it should be to just do something that makes you happy. Then I thought you should do something that makes other people happy. Then I thought I should try to change the world. Then I thought I should try to reach a deeper spiritual level within myself. Now I don't know what to think. The one thing I know is, I don't want to do nothing. I don't want to live a life of television watching or video game playing. I want to live my own life, not be entertained by someone else's. I'd rather produce than consume. I think a majority of our generation need to step up and renounce the lazy lifestyle we've drifted into. We have such vast knowledge and access to information that the possibilities are endless. It's an exciting time to be alive, and I'd rather spend it working toward a motivated goal than doing a repetitive, monotonous task.

That said, where do I stand? Maybe it's just more logical to not work with a company. With other creative musicians or electrical engineers, I feel like I could create something amazing. Will you provide me with an outlet to work on my passions? Will I have a reason to wake up in the morning, excited to come to the office and get started on a project? Will I go in early and stay late, just because I'd rather be working there than socializing? If the answer to any of these is 'no,' then maybe I wouldn't be a good fit for your company.


  1. sounds like you should have worked for some sort of audio wing of Bell Labs several decades ago. i'm not sure if this sort of environment exists now, perhaps outside of the core of google engineers.

    tell you what. let's talk a bit about pedals/effects. i have good reverb, delay, loop, and overdrive pedals, plus some other basic stuff (tuning, volume, line selector). to be honest, i want something different. i'm not really sure what. maybe we should talk? i know you, and i know when you're into something, you're fucking good. and really, when i read this, i think "kleeb needs to start his own custom audio equipment company." but you probably need practice/experience before you're charging coldplay in the upper four figures to make them a custom pedal. i can tell you that i cannot be the guy you write about on your website when you say "eric myers, from the blah blah blah band, fucking RELIES on kleeb audio." you could, but in all likelihood, no one will know me for my music. personally, i have not even had to resign myself to that, i've actually realized that's how i want it. no pressure, but just what i need, when i need it. but i digress. anyway, point is, i can't be the name you ride off of, but maybe i can give you some practice? it's been a while since i've seen a pedal that i really think is worth the money i'd want to spend on it. since you and i have played together, i've bought a boss rc-20 and an electro-harmonix holy grail plus, and after this, nothing i've seen really has made me think it's worth the money for me, a "young professional" who just wants to make noise in his basement. i could maybe afford to spend a couple hundred bucks on a pedal that really got me excited. if you want to talk about making me something, you know how to get in touch with me. if not....i'll wait a couple years until i'm some richass lawyer with money to burn and just buy three or so items from death by audio.

  2. Hey that's a great idea. I want people with low expectations to test out some stuff. Here's what is going on in that aspect right now:

    I'm cutting back on my job to work from home and produce audio stuff. Oliver is going on tour and loaned me his PCB board fabrication laptop. My first board is going to be a 10-step arpeggiator. I think the minimum number of boards I can fabricate is 4, so you're more than welcome to have one.

    After that, I'm going to start on other things, just shoot me ideas. This one is not guitar based, just a synth, but I've got to start somewhere. What do you think?