Monday, October 24, 2005

Testimony

Thank God for my strength.  Thank Him for opening my eyes to see through the madness I’ve endured today…

I went for a meeting today, with The One who asked me to sing on his next record.  Ever since he called me the other night, it’s been on my mind.  He spoke about the “benefits” of be being on one of his records – how it would “blow up” and shock the world, basically.  In a way, he’s right.  If we worked together, we could definitely make some magic.  In all honesty, deep down inside, I yearned to record and produce records with them; to be part of their “family.”     Nearly 10 years ago, when I first met him, he seemed to take me under his wing.  He was like my father, in a way.  Because of him, I know the difference between a good idea and a great song.  I know the difference between a good song and a hot record.  (But I digress, as I’m sure you get the point…)

When I learned (thank you Lord) that I was basically being used – under contract with NO rights to my music whatsoever, I got the hell away from there…  It’s funny.  I thought there would be a struggle to get out of my contract, but he didn’t put up a fight whatsoever.  He KNEW he was in control...  And with that, he let me go…  Sent me on my way, with nothing but my name…  But even as he did that, he kept smiling…  I’ll never forget his words to me:  “Go on out there; get your feet wet.  And when you’re ready, come on back…  You’ll always have a home…”  And like that, I was alone.  It happened so fast that nobody really knew I was gone.  Sure, I made my own records.  Sure, I got my “feet wet.”  Sure, my first 8 records of my career are songs that I didn’t own rights to, but I didn’t care.  I was free…  I was free to make BETTER songs – which is exactly what I did.  

When OVUM Recordings approached me to license the song “My House,” I knew as soon as I read the contract:  bitch, you will NOT own this song.  You are signing away your rights forever, and this little advance money we’re giving you is NOTHING compared to the money we’ll make off this song…  But you know what?  I took the deal.  I took it because I knew that my record would be successful – even if I didn’t have much to show for it, besides some fame.  That’s exactly what happened.  My “let-me-tell-you-about-HOUSE MUSIC” speech is one of the most sampled speeches in House music today.  It’s right up there with “In the beginning, there was Jack…”  And no, I’m not saying this out of conceit.  It’s the truth.  When my record hit the Billboard Top 40 Dance chart, I was ecstatic.  Although I was broke as hell, I still felt a sense of pride.  And while I’m grateful that My House went on to become one of my biggest records, I’m still well aware that my contract wasn’t made with my best interests in mind.  (They never are…)  But hey…  I wasn’t bitter.  At least THIS time, I got f*cked with LUBE – metaphorically speaking…

So back to The One…  Years went by, I became more successful, and all of a sudden, here comes “Mister…”  This time it was to remix a song of his – anyone know what it was?  I’m sure you have a clue…  Of course I took the chance and remixed it, to rave reviews.  And yes, the public was shocked (in a good way) that “THEY” were cool enough to work with ME…  So here I am, on the B-side of THEIR record – needless to say, it did wonders for my name, but again, I didn’t own sh*t.  And again, I was okay with it, because at least my eyes were open…  It was a good career move…  (Whoever said I haven’t paid my dues can kiss my ass…  The WHOLE thing…)

Mind you, I was still hurting inside.  The so-called “HOME” I had wasn’t there when I came back.  When I was desperately in need of a distributor for my label, they often turned a deaf ear.  That hurt my feelings…  On occasion, they bought a few copies of my records to sell – but I don’t think I’ve EVER sold more than 20 records at a time to them – maybe not even more than 10.  

When the first Detroit Electronic Music Festival started, I was sure to be one of the performing artists.  After all, my record “DOWN” was one of the biggest records in Detroit at this time…  It would’ve been perfect.  But the festival came and went without me.  Coincidence?  Years went by, and no matter how successful I became, I was still left out of all things Detroit.  The European people had no idea about this madness going on, and I did my best to “keep up appearances.”  Mind you, I still loved HIM…  I still hoped that someday, he’d stop treating me like a bastard child.  I never badmouthed him in public.  When people assumed I was still with THEM, I would politely correct them (sometimes) and tell them that I’m on my own.  People asked me what happened, and I just couldn’t summon the courage to speak about it.  Did I fear that nobody would believe me?  Did I fear that maybe he’d tarnish my name and spoil my career?  (I admit, some of his fans are more like “followers” – like a cult…  It’s almost scary…  To some people, he’s God.  His label is their religion, and how dare this loud-mouthed “Aaron-Carl” kid badmouth their IDOL?)  Was I jealous and bitter because I was banished from the kingdom?  Was I just trying to use HIS name for my own personal gain?  No I wasn’t, by the way…  I just chalked it up to experience, and continued to move on…

Years later, I decided to break the silence and ask HIM to remix one of MY records for a change.  I sent him the tune; he fell in love with it.  We both smiled at the idea of being on the same project again…  Nice.  (Maybe this was the start of our reconciliation?)  Mind you, I knew what the f*ck I was doing.  I made sure that I still owned my rights to this song!  But more importantly, I had to prove a point to myself.  I had to prove that unless it was in HIS best interest, he would NOT support this record.  Sure enough, when the record was released, they bought 20 of them.  Shortly thereafter, they returned most of the records to me.  Apparently, there was a “defect” in the record which caused it to skip.  Mind you, I took this record to Ron Murphy, who inspected it personally.  He said that while the record “might” skip on some “old” players, I should have no problem…  

Needless to say, I repressed the record – which meant that I’d have to pay for an entirely new mastering session, new plates, new labels, etc…  Oh…  And I also changed some of the mixes on the A-side – the “defective” side.  Well, the new and “improved” record came…  I think he bought 10 copies, at best.  What a damn shame…  Poor public – the public doesn’t know or care about the drama between record labels…  They want the MUSIC.  And if the music isn’t available, they can’t buy it.  Well, now you know WHY my music wasn’t available for more people…  I was up to my ears in DRAMA – drama that I didn’t ask for.  Dr. Dre said it best during an interview…  “Buy it and bump it…”  I like that line…  It speaks volumes!

One day, The One tried to offer me a contract – he wanted me back “in the family…”  By this time in my career, I’d already made a good name for myself.  I was touring on my own, and quite regularly.  I made my money, sold my records, got my publishing in order (thank you KH!) and life was good – WITHOUT him…  But I never got over that feeling of “family.”  I wanted it so bad…  

It’s really funny, you know…  I could go without speaking to The One for years, but I still felt his presence in everything I did.  Every time I released a record, I thought to myself, “he sees this…”  Every time I perform somewhere, I know he hears about it.  As weird as it sounds, I often HOPED he was watching me, so he can see how much I’ve grown.  Maybe he’d even be proud…  So when he offered me the contract, I thought – okay…  This time, he’s finally coming around…  

I was wrong.  Mind you, he gave me all rights to every one of my old songs – with the exception of my biggest record to date, “Down.”  He wasn’t letting go of “Down” for any reason.  But damn…  Records like “Crucified,” “Make Me Happy,” “Shine,” – I was so happy to have these rights back…  But the songs are all old.  They’ve run their course…  Personally, I’ve moved on.  What the hell was I gonna do with these tunes?  (But I took them anyway, because they’re MINE!)

But why not Down?  The record is nearly 10 years old…  True, it’s a classic.  True, it still gets played on the radio – just like it did back in the day…  Truth is, as long as DOWN is making money, the label is gonna milk it.  They’ll re-release it until the public gets sick of it.  To date, it hasn’t happened.  So I guess THAT’S why I won’t get the rights back…  

But about this contract, long story short, it was quite similar to the bullsh*t I first signed…  I had no publishing…  I had no ownership…  The songs were licensed in perpetuity – that means forever (and that’s a mighty long time!)…  This time, however, I dared to open my mouth.  I dared to voice my opinion…  I dared to ASK for what I wanted – which wasn’t too much at all!  Now that I think about it, during this particular meeting, The One wasn’t even there.  So I was left to voice my opinions to a “representative…”  (Talk about a proverbial slap in the face!)  The last I heard from them, they were making a new contract for me to sign – one that better fit my specifications…  And I never heard from them again…  Until the other night, when HE called me.

So I’m at the meeting…  He was there with another “representative” – one that I hadn’t seen in nearly 10 years.  As soon as I sat down, The One proceeded to tell me that I wasn’t getting ANY publishing…  I could get 1/3 writer’s share of the royalties (but we ALL know where the REAL money is made, don’t we?) – by the way, I have to WRITE the verses (according to his ideas, of course), and sing them…  I basically just sat there in disbelief, listening to him…  (You want me to do WHAT?!)  

Somehow, the topic of this year’s Fuse-In festival came up.  I mentioned “you guys MISSED my show.”  The representative had no clue when I even performed (no surprise), and The One replied to me “well, who do you think even GOT you to perform this year?”  Hiding my frustration, I laughed and said “yes, I knew you had something to do with that…”  (And all the other years where I didn’t have a chance at performing at ALL!)

Not only was I supposed to co-write the song, with no publishing, 1/3 or the writer’s credits and the “possibility of an AC remix in the future” – and promises of joining THEM on stage to sing this song…  I was supposed to get up and do this RIGHT NOW.  I sat there in my chair, frozen…  The One left the room, leaving me and the Representative in the room alone…  At that moment, my eyes were WIDE open.  And I began to smile…  

“What’s wrong?” he asked.  I replied, “He knows exactly what he’s doing…  And so do you…”  (Thinking to myself, “…and so do I.”)  You could tell from the air in the room; they were talking about me way before I got there.  Probably making bets on how much I would whine; knowing I would have some type of attitude.  Maybe even hoping I’d spill my guts out to the Representative, knowing all the time it would get back to The One.  (I’ve learned long ago that you can’t trust ANYONE…)  I wouldn’t even be surprised if there were hidden cameras in the room, monitoring my every move and word.  

God truly opened my eyes this day!  I discovered that these people don’t care about me.  They don’t give a f*ck about me.  Never mind the fact that I just released my OWN album…  They didn’t even KNOW about the album, it seems!  (And yes, I brought copies for The One and the Representative – I knew there’d be one…)  I couldn’t take the bad vibes anymore…  My cell phone rang just then…  It was Mel, with a message from my mother.  Thank God for small miracles, because on that note, I had a legitimate excuse for getting the f*ck out of there.  

I half-heartedly said I’d be back tomorrow, but I think I’m just gonna do them like they do me.  I’ll disappear.  I drove home listening to “Liberation (Free).”  I KNEW I wrote that song for a reason, and words have never rung truer…  For the first time in a long time, I feel free.

Before I left, I wrote a small note to The One, asking him “what does it take to get DOWN back?”  But honestly, praise God, I don’t WANT the song anymore.  Yes, I wrote it.  YES, I deserve it.  But I refuse to sell my soul for it.  I’ll have bigger records than DOWN… As of this writing, I’ve moved on from that song.  Let the dogs have it.  Take it to the grave, I don’t care.  THEY DO NOT, nor will they ever have the BEST OF ME!  When their empire falls – and it WILL fall, I will rise.  Was I being predictive when I said “from the ashes to the clouds, I emerge…?”  


Thank God for guiding me through the process of making and releasing Detrevolution.  I’m in control.  I’m releasing songs that I own.  And while some people may think this is just another album, think again.  This is SO ME…  OOOH, does “Liberation (Free)” speak directly from my SOUL!  I wrote that song for THIS moment in my life…  THIS day…  

“…even though you’ve left me on my own, I’m so far from alone…”

Hallelujah.    

AC

5 comments:

Tim said...

You are never alone and WILL never be alone. Things happen for a reason and for that, I entered your life and all of the most recent people have entered it as well. Keep your head up always and stand proud. "The ONE," can't do anything to you anymore and will never be able to touch you... and you know it.

Virgo Remix said...

Baaaybeee, YOU. ARE. FREE. Enjoy that fact. It may come with a lot more work but it also comes with a greater PAYOFF!

Love U
T.

Laurent Chambon said...

that's quite a victory indeed!
;o)

Anonymous said...

tu il hast ritorna al punto di partenza

Anonymous said...

tu il hast ritorna al punto di partenza!