One of my favorite bands in the early aughts was Creeper Lagoon. I saw them live several times, and they were always amazing. They put out two great albums and then seemed to disappear. Then a few years ago I saw their singer, Ian Sefchick, on the cover of Mix Magazine as part of an article about Capitol Studios (Tape Op #114). Last year, Creeper Lagoon held a reunion show at Noise Pop in San Francisco and I connected with Ian. We later met up at the famous Capitol Records tower, where he works as a mastering engineer. He also makes really great compressors in his garage in Burbank, under the name Magic Death Eye!
How did you go from Creeper Lagoon to end up mastering at Capitol? I was always a fan of your band, and then it seemed like you guys sort of disappeared.
Well, I'll try to make it short. Creeper kind of fell apart. It was that stereotypical thing of everybody hating each other. Narcissistic craziness and drugs. Me and Sharky [Laguana] couldn't get along. The final straw was when we in were in London. I was at the end of my rope from touring nonstop for over a year. We were in the hotel restaurant and I said, "I quit... for real this time." Sharky brought a napkin up to my hotel room and said, "Fine. I get the band van, you get the Pro Tools rig, and we're done." I said, "Fine." I signed the napkin and flew home the next day. That was it.
And now he runs a van rental company, and you work with Pro Tools!
Exactly. Well, at the time it was a good deal because that was back when a Pro Tools rig was still worth a good amount of money. It was probably a $15,000 setup that DreamWorks had bought us. And yeah, Sharky literally used that van to start his van rental business [Bandago]. He was parking it on a street in San Francisco and trying to keep it alive. He eventually found an investor, and he's doing really well now. It was really cool when we had the reunion to have our lives reconnect with our families. We hadn't talked the whole time before that. Anyway, I slummed around in San Francisco for a while, and I kind of lost my mind. I moved to L.A. because I needed a new start. San Francisco was full of dangerous familiarity. I couch surfed around L.A. for a while and slowly got my head screwed on straight. I started another band for a while called On The Speakers. We toured with some cool bands like Built To Spill, French Kicks, and Ben Kweller. We even played a show with Death Cab [For Cutie]. To be honest, I was getting tired of the whole thing. I was touring sober at that time, and it really felt like a day job. At around the same time, I met my wife who lived in Alabama. We started seeing each other, and she eventually moved to L.A. We lived together and unexpectedly got pregnant. At that point I was like, "Well, time to get a real job!" It was a sign. The universe wanted me to grow up. After getting turned down at Guitar Center – they said I didn't have enough experience [laughs] – I ended up working at an electronics junkyard in Sun Valley called Apex. I worked there for five or so years. This is where I developed some deeper electronics skills. A lot of the guys who came in there were studio techs. I already had electronics experience from building tube guitar amps as a teenager, so it was an easy transition to building and working with recording gear. At Apex we had an abundance of vintage tubes and transformers. I could build whatever I wanted and I had guys to help me. That got me deeper into the gear building and gave me my tech chops. Meanwhile, I'd started jamming with a guy who was an intern here at Capitol Studios. One day he called me up and said, "Hey, they're looking for a tech at Capitol, and I just recommended you." I came in for an interview, showed the head tech some of what I'd been working on, and got the job. In L.A., it's always about knowing somebody. Once I started working here, it was pretty natural because I'd already been in the studio environment for many, many years. It was cool because all of a sudden I was working on the other side. I'd see these rock dudes come in; in sessions, stressing out and being narcissistic. I was like, "Been there, done that." I had a great couple of years working with Jon Brion [Tape Op #18] and...