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What musicians do when they're not on stage

The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side. -- Hunter S. Thompson

Hunter Thompson's never been one for understatement, but the above quote might have erred on the side of caution. Part of that underside is the need for a day job when the music one hears in his or her head isn't readily available to others, either through distribution or label problems, an indie rock sensibility, or the inability to sing in key. To that end, Creative Loafing recently asked some Charlotte-area artists how they make it moneywise on a musician's ransom. Here are those that responded.

Questions asked:

1. Band and instrument?

2. Where do you work, and what do you do?

3. When you're flat broke, what do you do for fun?

4. Where's the last place you paid for a meal, and what did you eat?

5. What's the most embarrassing, interesting or unusual thing you've done for money?

And the responses (some edited, as the answer to #3 was apparently "respond in full to e-mails"):

Dave Brown

1. Status Flow, lead vocalist

2. Technician at a major regional telecommunications company

3. Video games and such

4. Stockyard Cafe -- cheeseburger

5. Sperm bank. Any more questions? (Their manager's answer to the same question, however, was going on tour with Sunny Ledfurd.)

Woody Mitchell

1. The Stragglers/Loafer's Glory, guitar and vocals

2. Copy editor/music writer, Charlotte Observer

3. Fire up my home studio and write/record a song

4. Providence Sundries -- crab fajitas

5. Tobacco sharecropping in the mountains ('78-'79)

David Walen

1. The Interstellars, saxophone and flute

2. I'm half way between unemployed and self-employed. I went to architecture school, and right now it's better to be small, so small you don't work for anyone.

3. Right now that's kind of constant, so the best question is, when I'm bored, how do I have fun with nothing? I like to go for walks, with no goal, and go to old factories that are being remodeled and walk around.

4. The Penguin is where I can walk in and they go ahead and start cooking my veggie burger and fries, with a sweet tea to sip on while I wait!

5. Designed a Family Dime store in a strip mall for C.L. Helt, the "spyingest" firm around.

Chris Starks

1. Karma, singer/guitarist

2. Jiffy Lube, manager

3. Playstation, write music on my acoustic, sleep

4. Red Lobster (gift certificates from work; think the leftover amount was like 10 bucks)

5. Sang angry chick rock on my acoustic at a coffee shop (I'm not angry, or a chick, nor do I drink coffee)

Andy Cauble

1. Black Lagoon, guitar

2. The Penguin Drive-in; sell burgers, empty ashtrays and get people drunk!

3. Walk the dogs and play the guitar

4. Gus' Sir Beef -- a vegetable plate with greens, mashed potatoes (no gravy), beet salad and squash

5. Sold make-up at Fifi Mahony's!

Robbie Smith

1. Shiver, lead guitar

2. Estimator at Charlotte Misc. Steel

3. Break lawn chairs

4. McDonalds -- #2 with no onions and a Coke to drink

5. Beat a wild goat with a bamboo stick

Tony Diaz

1. Blakrayn, percussionist

2. Flight Attendant for USAirways

3. Write, play video games

4. Mert's Heart & Soul -- fried chicken with rice, greens, mac and cheese.

5. Dressed up as a chicken for a restaurant

Mike Shannon

1. 4th Ward, vocals/guitar

2. Manage a direct mail (advertising) company

3. Write songs about being flat broke

4. BLT at Jordan's (they forgot the mayo)

5. Last year, the band played outside, uptown on Trade Street at rush hour to kick off the gallery crawl. Every time a bus passed, you mostly heard the bus; on the other hand, the fire engines totally took over. It was always a mystery where we'd all be in the song when the sound returned. Yet the homeless seemed to enjoy the set.

Mark Lynch

1. Les Dirt Clods and The Goldenrods, bass

2. Studioworks -- I sell recording equipment and media

3. You're kidding, right? I'm a rock star. I'm never "flat broke"

4. Anzi's Pizza & Pasta -- linguini with garlic and olive oil

5. I've done all kinds of things I'm not proud of, like selling my plasma, selling family portraits door to door. I was also the porno buyer for a large video store on the West Coast.

Jay Garrigan

1. Poprocket, singer/guitarist

2. I work at The Avenue Group; I'm a Communications Consultant.

3. I don't think I've ever had fun when I was flat broke; not having enough money to eat or pay bills tends to throw me into depression. My friends have tried to cheer me up by taking me out for drinks, but I just end up feeling guilty because I couldn't pay for them. For "fun," I'd try to find permanent jobs. I'd obsess over thoughts, such as -- if I'm so damn creative, talented and smart, why can't I make any money or find a good job? This fun would quickly turn from anxiety to frustration to desperation. On the lighter side of things, I will say that I did learn some creative ways to prepare Ramen noodles.

4. Jack's on 7th -- veggie burger on a bagel.

5. Embarrassing: I collected unemployment. I also sold my plasma twice a week until both my arms were sore and bruised. I loaded trucks for a year with a bunch of guys with the longest mullets I've ever seen. I've done other temporary mind-numbing factory-production type work. I did all of these things with a Master's degree in English. Unusual: I taught 12th grade AP English for a year.

Scott McCloud 1. Scott McCloud Group (formally known as Hipshack) as well as Cookie, Everybody, Scott Jeffrey's Band, the Mighty Mighty Men, sax and keys.

2. I perform in clubs, restaurants, shows, colleges, private parties, corporate functions, sporting events, anyone will pay me to play, etc...

3. Practice, write, produce, mix original music, watch Frasier, jam with other broke musicians

4. Showmars -- fried shrimp dinner

5. I played a Christmas party at a Bait and Tackle Shop

Jeff Williams

1. Jeff Williams (ex-Lodestar, ex-Eleventeen, future gogoPilot), semi-retired songwriter, guitars, vocals, etc.

2. Crosland Properties, manage and maintain income-based (affordable) housing community. Not the coolest job in the world, but at least I'm helping out families who need a safe, clean, affordable place to live. Better than driving a bunch of petty, smelly drunks around from town to town and playing to 15 people every night, anyway (not that I'm bitter!).

3. Go play an open mic night! Sometimes, if they like you enough, someone will buy you a beer! Also, driving around the West Side, Tank Town, Mt. Holly, as well as other places on the outskirts of Charlotte. Helps me realize I haven't got it so bad, after all. Watching planes take off and land at the airport. Sitting on the patio at Caribou on East Boulevard, sipping a cup of coffee, people watching.

4. Buffet Dynasty on Hwy. 51 near Independence Boulevard. The decor is gaudy, but you can get decent sushi (Rusan quality, anyway), seaweed salad, shrimp, prime rib, duck, and above-par Chinese food for $6.95 on Saturday afternoon. They also have ice cream, a good salad bar, and great soups. No MSG that I can tell, either. Hands down, the best Chinese buffet in town... and when you're broke, hung over and hungry, nothing beats the Chinese buffet!

5. Have to take the fifth on that one on grounds that I may incriminate myself. *

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