From the road to home
Mike Anderson’s story of how his music career changed course
New England welcomes many different pastimes: fishing, hiking and boating being some popular options. With its grand lakes and mountains, New England is considered a hotspot for wildlife enthusiasts. But what the rest of America doesn't seem to be noticing is that New England is quite the hotspot for musical talent.
Mike Anderson, 33, currently resides in the lakes region and has just left his job as a technology sales person at Staples in Tilton. The job was only meant to be a temporary solution for paying the bills while Anderson got back on track with his first passion: music production.
"I'm new to the lakes region so [working at Staples] was a good way to get to know the area. ... I have no intention to work retail any further," Anderson said.
Anderson has been playing music in a band since 1999, playing his first show at the age of 16 in a battle of the bands. He became interested in playing music after a tragic accident occurred involving the death of a childhood girlfriend in 1993. He picked up the guitar and taught himself how to play his first song, "Stairway to Heaven."
"After the grieving came the anger, and I started into metal, and progressively got heavier until I started listening to death metal," Anderson said. "It was my outlet, and therapy to keep me 'inline' with the rest of society."
The legendary metal band, Metallica, inspired his first true love of music. Anderson laughed as he described his affection for the band, citing their decline in popularity today, although at the time they were one of the biggest acts around.
As time went on, Anderson became more involved with playing live music. He began playing with a group of friends, who would eventually become his partners on the road as they toured across America. In 2000, Anderson joined his friends and members of metal band, THYK, touring off and on until 2005.
"For me, playing out was war," Anderson said, although not in a negative sense. "We were all friends, but when I hit the stage, it was about business, and my music was my weapon of choice."
As THYK made headway, they began to acquire more of a following, including a crew that would help make things on the road go somewhat smoother. They eventually received representation from Brass Knuckles Management, (later called Hard Core Mafia), out of Massachusetts.
"We would play in front of 10 to 3,000 people depending on the show and location," Anderson said. "Whenever we played locally, the house would normally be packed with 50 to 150 people."
Although Anderson had a passion for his own band, he mentioned that his favorite acts to play with were always the different local bands he would come across.
"It was a brotherhood of support, and the love for metal music [was mutual]," he said.
Along with THYK, Anderson would go on to play live with Nick Groff from The Travel Channel's "Ghost Adventures," as well as select members of Parliament Funkadelic.
Anderson explained how gigging on the road became almost a losing situation, as the Internet made new music more accessible.
"People became less interested in going out in general, and local clubs didn't want to pay bands to play, and would rather pay a deejay, or cover band to just play top 40 hits," Anderson said.
Anderson found himself right in the middle of what was to become known as the evolution of the music industry. It was in with the new, and out with the old, and without local clubs supporting local music there grew a void in the local scene, preventing artists from making as much progress as before. Anderson took notice of this change and realized he too had to move on, which is when he began his new journey as a producer and audio editor.
"I like to relate to an old saying, 'work smarter, not harder,'" Anderson said.
Turning to the very source that took him off the stage and into his home studio, Anderson used the Internet as the basis of his new business. Anderson Audio was born, offering graphic design, voice over work and audio engineering. His customers would hail from all over the country, including a few of his former band mates.
Anderson described the difficulty with his new line of work, specifically working out of a town in New England where the music industry is not as prevalent as out West. Anderson has had to turn down several projects that have come to him for service as they are often not properly prepared, or a lack of financial funds would mean trouble with payment.
"I understand how difficult it is to get going, but these days people are starting to do things themselves, like I actually started out," Anderson said. "The most challenging part is when I am hired to produce an album, or even just a song, and I can't seem to connect with the artist. In the past I have told some artists that they need to go back to the drawing board, or find another producer, because it just feels like a mess. Music is art, so it's very difficult to say to someone who feels like what they are doing is good, that it is actually out of sorts."
Although, his work is not entirely stress-provoking. Anderson spoke about how it is his passion that drives him forward even in the most difficult situations.
"I love when I connect with a project," Anderson said. "There is a spark of energy that seems to get my imagination going. I have a vision, and when it comes to music I can hear things in my head without even actually hearing it. I hear a piece of music and in my mind, I can almost see the people playing the music."
He spoke about his producing techniques, and how he has learned the importance of keeping his distance from an artist's creative energy while still being subjective. He often will ask the artist the intended purpose of the music being recorded or produced. Will it be played on air? On a stage? Is it meant for personal listening?
"Unless I understand what the point is, it's hard to say, 'Yeah that's good,' or, 'I'm not sure you will actually be able to play this live unless you have 13 different people on stage,'" Anderson said.
Anderson feels confident that the drive for music and entertainment is strong in New England. He noted that many successful metal bands have come from the central Massachusetts area, which is coincidentally where Anderson's current musical project, Broken Hell, is based out of.
"I seemed to have lost [my passion] while I worked for other people, and that is not who I am," Anderson said. "I am a very passionate person and full of energy. I am re-focused, and taking on new [projects]. If you truly love something then you never really quit. I am just getting things back in order and focusing on my own projects."
Anderson sees himself continuing his personal musical endeavors while furthering his career as a producer. He wants to continue with a positive attitude, making sure to promote the local music industry in his own unique way.
"Too many people are the instant gratification type," Anderson said. "I must take steps in the right direction whenever possible."
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