We have all caught people in ridiculous lies. Sometimes the lies are immediately obvious. Other times we find out later when we aren’t in the liar’s presence. As skeptics, we usually fact check claims that sound suspect. But what happens if it’s a personal claim someone has made and we’re not totally sure it’s a lie? We usually don’t want to ask too many prying questions, as it may seem rude or insensitive. After all, many things that may seem far-fetched have truly happened. And getting he said/she said stories from the person’s friends and family isn’t always a reliable way to find the truth. But every time I look in a certain folder on my computer, I’m reminded of a particular time when I was able to discern that someone was lying.
Several years ago, I decided to invest in equipment and software to record my own music demos from home. I had a lot to learn, and I still do, as I previously went to professional studios. I was doing a lot of searching and reading, comparing gear and software. I spent hours looking up information online and would then go into an instrument store to see it in person and to talk about it with knowledgeable employees. I will call this music instrument retail chain Synth Shop for the sake of this blog post. My main go-to guy for production questions had the day off (turns out he was in jail, but that’s not the point), so I was referred to Mike*.
I’ve visited Synth Shop numerous times. Most of the staff I’ve interacted with are very knowledgeable, helpful, and friendly, but there are some less reputable employees that just seem concerned with commission. Mike seemed cool at first and he knew his stuff, so I thought he was one of the good ones.
I told Mike that my top contender for a digital audio workstation was Logic Pro, which was packaged as part of Logic Studio at the time. He explained to me that he was a big-time producer and had worked with major label artists. He told me that, even though most well-known producers at that time were all about ProTools, it was just the name brand that made it seem better and that Logic Studio had more to offer at a better price. We sat down in front of the Mac Pro in the Recording & Pro Audio section. He showed me some helpful things in the program to illustrate his point. His tips were legitimate and I was glad for his help. I then asked him why such a top producer worked at Synth Shop. I know there’s nothing wrong with working there and some well-established artists are employed at various locations, but he made it sound like his schedule was unable to accommodate being there. He explained that SS had sought him out and he kept turning them down, but they eventually worked out a good situation for him because they really wanted him there. He said he only worked there a handful of days per year and that I was lucky to have caught him on one of his rare shifts there. He said that he ultimately decided to work at a store because he wanted to interact with the people and he wanted to do more to help other musicians and share his knowledge. He sounded like a good guy.
After he was finished sharing his knowledge of Logic Studio, we started getting into a conversation about our musical tastes. He brought up the band Shiny Toy Guns and I said that I liked them. He then said, “Oh, that’s cool. I actually recorded them” and talked about how great it was to produce their last album. He then went back to the computer and opened a file. It was for the song “Le Disko”. Some artists make their tracks available for artists to remix, but these weren’t aiff tracks pasted in. I could see tracks in their original formats with the effects on there and everything. He then singled out certain tracks and explained how and why he put certain effects on them and how it made the song stronger and then compared what it would’ve sounded like had he not done that.
He then told me that he worked on a remix for The Roots and he opened up a file similar to the Shiny Toy Guns one. We talked some more and I bought a few items. He then gave me his business card. Since I didn’t have a smartphone to look up his name on-the-spot back then, I googled his name when I got home. I couldn’t really find much on him. I figured a producer working with major label artists would have Google results, but I also realized that some of the behind-the-scenes people don’t get as much attention as they probably should. I then looked up the credits to the Shiny Toy Guns album. His name was nowhere to be found.
I went back to Synth Shop to buy more stuff a few weeks later and I guess I caught him on a rare day again. I asked him why his name wasn’t in the credits. He then said that I misunderstood him. He was their live sound technician when they were on tour; he didn’t actually record their CD. He was given all their original files because he’d have to throw some tracks into the mix during their live performances. I said I didn’t believe him, but he replied, “Why would I have the original file with the original tracks? That kind of thing is limited to a select few people”.
Not long after that, I did buy Logic Studio. After the installation was finished, I noticed it came with some example files from major label artists that recorded with Logic. And, what do you know, Shiny Toy Guns’ “Le Disko” was one of the songs. It came with Logic Pro 8! Anyone with the program had the file with the tracks. It wasn’t available exclusively to people who worked with them, as is the case with most artists’ songs. He tried to fool me. And then I saw that song by The Roots was also included.
I thought maybe this guy was just trolling me, but I told one of my friends who worked there in a different department to be skeptical of Mike’s stories. He told me Mike was telling the truth and also mentioned how Mike even had the files of artists to back up his claims. I told him what I found out and he couldn’t believe it. My friend is pretty good at catching people in lies and even he didn’t know about this. He didn’t mention this to him, as these situations can be tricky when dealing with co-workers, but at least he was aware to be cautious.
Several weeks later, I went back to buy some more gear. I ran into Mike again. As I was checking out with another employee, he asked if I had decided on recording software to use. I replied, “I did. I have Logic. And I have the ‘Le Disko’ files”. The look on his face was priceless as I walked out the door to my car.
*Name changed because I threw away his business card and don’t remember it.