Introducing the latest addition to the team of folks up front, Raymond! Although his position is in the “administrative” genre, Raymond comes to us with a long, perhaps complicated, yet most certainly passionate, relationship with music – sound familiar? After all, what would a relationship be without a little turmoil.
I’m excited for this interview, since I actually don’t know a whole lot about your upbringing! You’re from Castro Valley?
Yeah, born and raised! I’ve been in Castro my whole life.
Nice! I feel like we don’t always get to have locals here in the Bay Area. Now I know that you’re here on the administrative staff, but I also know that you’re into music. Did you do music as a child, or is it something you started recently?
I tried saxophone when I was in fourth grade. And I didn’t want to practice at all. I got very upset, and I quit immediately. I didn’t touch any instruments for a long time. I tried singing, and I was in choir through elementary middle school. I picked up guitar when I was 16 in high school, and that one stuck. I started playing bass soon after, and found that I liked that more. After high school, I started playing the drums, which is mostly what I play now.
How long were you playing guitar before you tried bass?
Probably about seven or eight months. In my high school guitar class I met a guy who lived in the area and was a really good bass player. He totally opened up my mind to actually playing music and being more technical.
Guitar class in high school? Or do you mean you did lessons in high school?
Yeah, it was a class with the school called beginning guitar. And they just handed you some printouts of tabs and told you to play them. I was not learning anything! And I didn’t know how to hold the guitar right or anything like that. This guy was in it just for an easy A, and he took it upon himself to teach me how to play. One day he mentioned that he played bass more than guitar. And I was like, “Oh, how can I do that?”
Do you remember what got you interested in music again, after quitting saxophone?
All of my all my friends were in hardcore bands and metal bands in high school, and I wanted to participate, but everybody already had vocalist. I just decided that if I wanted to be in a band, I’d have to learn guitar. I liked writing songs, and I wanted to be on stage and perform. That’s really what drew me to it – the I love of going to shows and seeing bands!
Right on, a social thing. Your friends were starting to go to shows, and you went along with them?
Yeah, I didn’t have a car. I was subject to wherever they wanted to go – it was a lot of local hardcore shows, and pop punk. Mostly punk shows. I was really into metal, but none of my friends liked that in high school.
What were some favorite venues?
Really tiny, dinky little venues! It closed down. but the Red House over in Walnut Creek was where we went to the most. There’d be between 15 and 35 people in the audience most nights. It was usually someone playing on a Wednesday starting at 9pm, or something like that.
So how long did it take until you were up on stage playing one of those kinds of gigs?
The first time I ever played on stage was actually after high school, when I was in community college.
Was that at Diablo Valley College?
Yeah. I started a band with a few of my friends from high school. We did a big house show, but mostly just a weekly practice. We wrote a few songs and I was trying to record them, but I didn’t know what I was doing. I did a lot of performing when I was in Steve Sage’s Class.
When you went into college, did you initially kind of start with a trajectory towards music? Or were you just trying out fun music classes?
I was just doing General Ed. I decided to take music because I had lost my motivation in school, I didn’t like any of my classes. Music is something I kept coming back to, because it just stays entertaining and enjoyable for me. I liked the performance classes. But I think my favorite was the production stuff.
How did you first get interested in the recording side of things?
I did a little messing around at home with a USB microphone and my terrible laptop. I was trying to record my band in Audacity. I figured we should have some songs recorded that I could show people, It didn’t work very well!
I started playing bass for a friend of mine’s band, and he did all the recording himself – it looked really cool! One day I had a big free time slot between my classes, so I just walked over to the music building. They had a production class that was open, so I just signed up for it on the first day of school in my third semester, or something like that. It was, “Intro to Recording Music.”
I took it on a whim, and then it turned into my favorite class!
What do you remember about that class, and about recording that really grabbed you?
Well, I really I respond a lot to other people’s feedback. Whenever I had to record and produce something in class, and people would really like it, I would want to make 10 more of those! I picked up on the positive feedback and what I thought people liked. I got excited by that! Then once I learned how to do the program, it got to be a lot more fun. I could start recording other people, and it no longer felt completely isolated.
It’s funny because, to me, there’s also there’s this stereotype of the hermit sound engineer. But for you, it’s all about the social side of it. Playing live music, you don’t really get to share work and comment on it openly in the same way.
Yeah, I love doing critiques of our work and presenting. It’s got a lot of potential to really teach you more than just the textbook could because there are real, live people listening to your music and commenting on it.
So you did just the one class then, and went off on your own? Or did you do more at DVC?
I did the Intro to Production class, and then there was an advanced production. I also took one that was all live studio recording with ProTools. And DVC also has the analog studio that is underneath the library. That was the best class! You actually have a console, and I kind of learned how to do the whole process, more mic-ing techniques, and how to coach performers and stuff like that. We had to write our own song for it! I did guitar, drums and vocals and my friends had bass. That was a really nice learning experience. I feel like that class and then the radio class at Humboldt has taught me the most about recording.
Let’s definitely talk about the radio class! That sounds interesting.
Doing the radio was really cool! We get a new local band every week, and we got to talk them through the process of being in the studio, then we’d record them and broadcast it. I had my own radio show as well, where I could just play whatever music I wanted. Sometimes we would talk about music.
Wow how did how did that happen? How did you get your own show?
You have to take a prerequisite that taught you how to use the radio room and the booth, and how to record in Adobe Audition. You have one class, and then you can have your own radio show! It’s basically a club, and then you can do anything on your radio show, once a week. I only found out about it my last semester of school. If I would have known going in, I would have done it every semester!
What was the class like? Were there a lot of people?
The whole radio class had 50 people, but the the group of us that did the live bands was about 4. My job was setting up all the microphones.
Let’s talk more about your show!
My roommate and I co-hosted a midnight to 2am variety, music, (sometimes political) talk show, and then I had my own every Saturday from 10 to 11pm. That one I just played metal. Basically, the only rules are no swearing, and no calls to action, which means you can’t tell someone to do something explicitly. Other than that, they give you a key card, and you show up at the time that your radio station or your radio show is you write your name on the roll sheet, and then you just do whatever you want for an hour. So some people would just yell into the microphone, or I saw a guy play his bass into the into the radio broadcaster. But yeah, my mine was a more straightforward show. If it was after 10, you didn’t have to censor the language, which is why I needed a night time slot. It’s really hard to find clean, radio-ready. extreme metal music.
Now this wasn’t too long ago that you finished Humbolt, right?
Yes, Spring 2019. I got my diploma in the mail just a couple weeks ago. When I moved back, I was looking around at sound or music jobs, while also working at the Grand Lake Theater. Monica thought I might like this job!
Congrats! Let’s close out with one memorable story from the Humboldt radio days. I’m sure there’s a good one!
Well, one time we tried to put on a concert of bands that played at our show. One of our guys was an Ex-Marine and got us the Arcada Veteran’s Hall as a venue. It was a huge process! We unofficially announced the show like four months in advance. It was just a booking disaster after booking disaster, dealing with band of super-flakey college kids. I was supposed to help set up the show, but I was a couple hours away with my History class. Everything was a mess, and we actually ended up just getting shut down by the cops at 11pm anyway! It was the loudest show I have ever been to. I actually walked home got earplugs and came back, just because it was horribly loud. And I just made me so mad, because maybe if I was there I could have helped it NOT get shut down!
What a bummer! Did some of the bands not get to play?
I think it was just like the last two. They all went to a place called “The Fortress” in Arcada though . It’s just some artist’s house that they’ve turned into a music venue. Basically everyone yells, “After party at The Fortress, we’re going to see the last two bands there.” And a bunch of people just walked like 10 or 11 blocks to that. I had to stay and clean everything up though, because I was part of the program.
Aww! And there you have it folks. If it’s too loud…turn it down.