UNIQUE NEW FEATURE - Artist Diary - Jul 31, 2006
"After the show, I walked right onto Limp Bizkit's tour bus (didn't knock or anything). Wes Borland was sitting right there and I handed him 2 CD's and said "this is the dopest music you'll find"Launching HitQuarters' Artist Diary series, rap rock hopefulls Architexts' Ben Mallon unveils a band's road to a major record deal, warts and all.
Mallon reveals candid details about cheating his way to Limp Bizkit's tour bus, contemplating punching Fred Durst for extra notoriety, partying with Dennis Rodman, band practicing in front of mirrors, inviting all of LA's A&R's for a showcase then losing the PA truck in traffic, and much more.
Written by Ben Mallon, Architexts
Architexts began several years ago as a six-piece rock/rap group. Our sound at the time was very reminiscent of Linkin Park. We had been experimenting with combining rap and rock elements together long before rock/rap was even considered as a musical genre. We’re talking the pre-Linkin Park, Limp Bizkit era.
We tracked our first full-length album ‘Unearthed’ at Smart Studios, owned and operated by super producer Butch Vig (Nirvana, Garbage). At that time Butch’s band Garbage was recording ‘Version 2.0’. Our singer, Michal Ashby lived in Madison where the studio is located. Our engineer was Mike Zerkil, who also worked on the Garbage album.
We had the chance to meet Butch and Shirley Manson during our recording sessions. Our music had impressed them both and they gave us a lot of advice about the music biz. She told us to be very careful when dealing with contracts, choosing managers etc.
The best advice she gave us was to always stay true to our sound and don't let anyone stand in our way. At the time, I didn't think too much of it. It was later on that I realized she was right on the money.
Once ‘Unearthed’ was completed, we promoted the album heavily through extensive touring across the Midwest, solid radio play in select markets, press reviews etc. Our popularity quickly soared and we established a following throughout the Midwest. One particular song called ‘1314’ started to receive regular rotation at 94.1 WJJO - the best rock station in Madison.
The station manager was very tight with Chuck Toller, the promoter from First Artists who books all the national acts. Soon we were getting all the opening slots for numerous national acts that came through Madison. Architexts was rockin’ shows with everyone from Buckcherry, Powerman 5000, Gravity Kills, Soil and Filter to Das Efx, Onyx and yes… Vanilla Ice .
One day Chuck Toller calls and we have a formal sit down meeting regarding his interest in managing the band. We looked over his contract and in the most polite way said no thanks. We just didn't feel the contract was in our best interest, the percentages were just too high.
I even called the lead singer from Mudvayne (the band Chuck manages) for a reference. He had good things to say about him but I just wasn't convinced. From the moment we turned Chuck down, the phone stopped ringing and we were no longer asked to play First Artists (Chuck's company) shows. That's when I started to realize how things can get shady in this biz.
During this time our lead singer, Michal Ashby, was being recruited by Jeff Blue. Jeff was the manager of an up-and-coming band from LA. That LA band was unsigned at the time and was constantly sending our singer demo tracks and offers to join them in LA.
We sent the CD out to everyone listed in a store-bought A&R directory but I don't think Jeff was working A&R at the time. I also had a few radio DJ's from a couple of big stations give me names and numbers of people to call.
We listened to the LA band’s music and we found it to be almost identical to our current sound. Our singer politely declined their offers. That band was Linkin Park, and Jeff Blue landed himself an A&R job at Warner Brothers.
Shortly afterwards I managed to get a demo to Fred Durst. I felt that if I could just get our music in the right hands everything would fall into place. I heard about how Korn hooked Limp Bizkit up. One day I showed up at a Limp Bizkit show about 4 hours too early. I had just got off work (suit, tie, briefcase and trenchcoat).
I walked right up to security and told them I received a call from Peter Katsis from The Firm (Bizkit's management). I told them that Peter had called me and told me to get our CD to Fred before the show. They let me in. They were eating dinner at the time so I left the CD package with the tour manager.
After the show I went out by the tour buses, walked right though a crowd and onto Bizkit's tour bus (didn't knock or anything). Wes Borland was sitting right there in front of me and I handed him 2 CD's and said "this is the dopest music you'll find".
Fred eventually handed the demo off to Jason Flom, A&R for Atlantic/Lava at the time (I really don't think this is true but it's what he told me). Jason immediately contacted me and signed us to a development deal with Atlantic Records.
Shortly after the deal, I later met Fred and explained that the deal with Atlantic was only a demo deal that we signed because Jason actually took the time to call me. How was I supposed to know that Fred was interested?
Fred told me that if I could have gotten out of the Atlantic deal he would have signed us like that (snapping his fingers). He then went on to tell me how he's the man at Interscope now, etc. Then he started to get all bitchy, saying I stabbed him in the back by signing with Atlantic.
Right then and there I thought to myself - if I kick Fred's ass right now I would get more publicity for Architexts than I could possibly imagine. Unfortunately, the body guard standing next to him was absolutely huge…
Then, Joey Guyette who worked for Steve Hutton (Uppercut Management), who was Kid Rock's manager at the time, wanted to manage us. We had a meeting with Joey and reviewed his management offer.
It was a good deal but he was a bit unproven so he helped us out in order to prove himself. Joey hooked us up with a tight home studio owned by D’Arcy Wretzky, bassist for the Smashing Pumpkins, where we recorded the demo for Atlantic.
We never ended up signing with Joey, though we travelled from Milwaukee to Michigan every weekend for two months to complete the recordings. Our engineer at the time was Steve Spaperi who had worked with Ministry. We mixed the recording in Chicago where we brushed elbows with R. Kelly who was recording in same studio.
Once the demo was sent back to Jason Flom, he discovered that a recent artist he had signed was blowing up all over the U.S. – Kid Rock. Jason wanted to see us live so he booked us as an opener for Kid Rock at the House of Blues in Chicago.
The whole Atlantic deal just amazes me. Here Jason Flom asks us to open for Kid Rock in Chicago – sold out, 1500 people, and we absolutely rocked the house. We partied like crazy with Kid Rock and Joe C afterwards and I come to find out Jason never made the show.
We later showcased in L.A. Jason sends this guy from N.Y. to catch the showcase. The guy tells us he has to leave to catch a plane and never catches one second of our show.
Architexts continued to perform all across the Midwest. We were invited to perform in Indiana at The VH1 Best Unsigned Bands Show. With approximately 800 people in attendance, VH1 had chosen 5 bands from across the US to perform. The show was taped.
Architexts was then contacted by the booking agent from a club called Illusions in Chicago. The club was owned by Dennis Rodman. An Architexts fan worked as a waitress there and managed to get our CD to Rodman. The club had already booked a band but Eric (our MC) and I were put on his guest list for a special ‘invite only’ 30th birthday party for Dennis.
At the party we met Rodman along with numerous sports stars - Cecil Fielder, Keith Hernandez, Jim Edmonds, Ron Harper; Carmen Electra and John Popper from Blues Traveler. This was a true brush with stardom which only fueled our fire to land a deal.
Soon after, Architexts landed a song in the movie ‘Better Luck Tomorrow’ (2002). The movie won best independent film at the Sundance Film Festival. Architexts did the title track and was featured in the commercial trailer. We landed the film after a fan in LA pitched our music to the producer.
By this time the market was becoming flooded with rock/rap bands. Linkin Park, Limp Bizkit and Kid Rock were leading the way but numerous bands tried to follow in their footsteps. Jeff Blue & Linkin Park still loved our music and eventually contacted us to open for them in Minneapolis. Architexts went on to rock yet another sold out show but again no one from Warner Brothers made the trip.
After the show, we had the opportunity to hang out with Linkin Park and talk music. The very next night Linkin Park performed in Madison where they put us on a special backstage all-access pass. I’ve got to say that Chester Bennington, the lead singer, is one of the coolest, most down to earth people I’ve met in this biz.
A number of labels were still interested in Architexts. Monte Conner, A&R at Roadrunner, called me once a month for about a year for updates. He gave us great advice on how to improve our live show. We began taping all of our live shows and critiquing them. We picked up the intensity during practice, even played in front of mirrors.
In 2001, our hard work began to pay off as we got an offer from an Indie Label called Machine Made Records. With an offer pending, we decided to rock a showcase in LA to give labels one last chance before we would sign.
We spent 3 days in LA. I had the first two booked solid with meetings with every major label out there. On day 3 we had the showcase booked in the afternoon. That morning Eric and I had a few more meetings before the show.
The rest of the guys had to rent a truck and pick up the equipment. This was our first experience with LA traffic and it just so happens there was a bad accident on the highway. Needless to say our equipment arrived 45 minutes after the showcase was supposed to start. Eric and I were there with no equipment and every A&R guy we met with showed up. 90% of the A&R guys left before we even took the stage.
Despite the delay, the show went on. Those who stayed were mostly producers and managers. One manager was Steve Smith, manager of Live who worked for Kurfirst/Blackwell Entertainment. He instantly loved the group and brought us to Beverly Hills to meet Gary Kurfirst (best known as the manager for the Ramones). While in Gary’s house, Steve pitched us to Gary and we had a management offer.
At this time we still had ties to Butch Vig. Butch hooked us up with his personal attorney Bill Berrol - a well known music attorney in LA, who looked over the deal. The deal basically guaranteed us a major record deal in the next 6 months or we were out of the contract. Steve Smith was convinced he could land a deal. We decided to ink the deal and pass on the Indie label.
Shortly after inking the deal we recorded a few new tracks to shop with our existing material. At this time we found ourselves writing songs ‘for the labels’ and somewhat altering our sound. Meanwhile, Steve Smith left the management company. We didn’t like the direction things were going so we waited out the 6 months and were able to break free from the contract.
This was the real turning point for Architexts. We made a few lineup changes and decided to go back to bangin’ phat-ass beats. Eric and I took it upon ourselves to put out some bangin’ tracks with no label influence. We wanted it to be absolutely groundbreaking and nothing like the watered-down sounds of hiphop today.
I put together a small home studio and quickly went to work. We collaborated with DJ NuStylz (current DJ for Digital Underground). I also recruited DJ King IXL - the 2004 US national battle DJ champion. A year later we released an entirely new demo - straight bangin’ ass sh**.
Within weeks of the recording, a buzz began to develop. I hooked up with a guy from LA named Luke Eddins. He shops music to TV and movie producers. He loved our music and had already landed us two movies when he called me up one day and said “you won't believe this but Steven Spielberg hand-selected one of your tracks to be in his movie!”
I get a contract mailed to me, everything’s legit, Luke takes 50% of the gross and the rest is history. So in 2005, we landed the track ‘Nobody Move’ in ‘War of the Worlds’ starring Tom Cruise. DJ King IXL inked endorsement deals with Nike and Roland.
Labels began calling soon afterwards. We received calls from Sire Records, Island Def Jam, Interscope etc. I was also contacted by Othman Mukhlis from Jamdown UK and offered an adm. deal through Abood Publishing. I’ve also spoken to Bobby Bessone, tour manager for Lil John & Ying Yang Twins.
One of the coolest calls that recently came in was from Walter Leaphart, manager of Public Enemy. Walter told me that he and Chuck D were bumpin’ the Architexts in Chuck’s truck and they love the tracks. Walter stated that Public Enemy would be interested in performing together and Walter expressed interest in being our manager.
At this very moment we are working on a full-length album, expected to be completed no later than November 2006. We have acquired professional representation through Davis, Shapiro, Lewit, Montone and Hayes, a well established law firm in NY. Their attorney, Lou Takacs, discovered us through HitQuarters. The firm represents major artists such as Missy E, Kanye West, Mike Jones, Paul Wall, Usher etc.
They are ecstatic about shopping our new material. We feel our full length will give a label a solid representation of our sound and music direction. We’re putting the best hiphop band in the world right in front of these labels.
We’re talking a world class DJ breaking off some dope ass cuts, an MC that commands the stage, live bass and guitar with slick grooves and beats that will leave ya stuck in a neckbrace. For the labels looking ta add a phat ground breakin hiphop act - here it is.
Every Rage Against The Machine/Linkin Park fan will buy this album. But there is a uniqueness to the fact we're bringing bangin’ programmed beats with a national caliber DJ blazin’ cuts.
We’re not all about the heavy guitars and screaming vocals but about tight grooves with live guitar and bass. The hip hop heads will love this album because it's all about the beats, cuts, dope rhymes - everything that hip hop isn't today.
There is a void for a true, live bangin’ hiphop group. We're the group every kid out there making beats wants to be. We are trend setting, not the norm. I heard these comments from Craig Winkler, A&R at Sire Records earlier this year. We’re not a group that needs development - we’re ready to roll now.
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