In this episode, Dave Archuletta takes us along with him on his adventure from musician and house painter to Executive Director of Joe Goode Performance Group! Hear super fascinating stories that jet across the nation – and the world. It’s a rich conversation that conveys many great bits of wisdom including:
- The Over Time Effect
- Purity of Motive
- Being first
- Maintaining relationships
- And remembering that “No success is too small.”
It’s these very guidelines that have led to Dave working with greats like Bill T. Jones and Daniel Bernard Roumain, who recently used his music at Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Next Wave Festival with rapper Lord Jamar of the legendary hip hop group, Brand Nubian.
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The Road to Executive Director
Anthem: Today I am pleased to introduce you to the current executive director of Joe Goode Performance Group. That is Dave Archuletta. And here is a little bit more about him. Prior to joining Joe Goode Performance Group Dave served as program director for Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company where he built the company’s first education and licensing programs from the ground up. Increased earned income revenue by more than 60%, negotiated major commissioning agreements, and oversaw the company’s US and international tours.
Prior to joining the Bill T. Jones and Arnie Zane Dance Company he was the managerial associate in the dance division of IMG Artists managing the touring and performance operations of major dance companies such as Twyla Tarp, Lyon Opera Ballet, Pilobolus, Miami City Ballet, and more. An honors graduate of UC Berkeley Dave began his career in San Francisco as curatorial performing arts production coordinator at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. Dave is also an independent musician and producer known as Daveytree and has been producing music in the underground scene for over ten years. He plays several instruments including piano, bass, and drums.
Dave is a founding member of the Funk Force Collective and the visionary SF band, Run the Voodoo Down, one of the first live music acts to incorporate turn table-ism as a primary musical instrument featuring DMC world champion DJ Posh Macintosh Kamber (phonetic) on the wheels of steel. He has produced albums for Nidecker Snowboards, LRG Clothing, the Mission Burrito Project, and the Independent Release Noah D and B Ski Soon to Be [phonetic]. In 2009 Breez Deez Treez with rapper Breez Evahflowin was released on Domination Recordings to wide critical acclaim. In October 2011 Dave’s productions will be performed by Daniel Bernard Roumain at BAM’s Next Wave Festival in New York. Welcome Dave Archuletta.
Dave: Thank you. Nice to be here.
Anthem: I mean we’ve just talked in great detail about your bio and I actually want to visit your bio in more detail from the beginning.
Anthem: And for me the beginning would be when I first met you which was some ten or more years ago at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts where we were both very young and I was working event staff and —
Anthem: Yes hustling even back then. Can you tell us a little bit about your journey, your experience at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts and what led you to eventually move to New York?
Dave: Sure. You know my work at Yerba Buena like a lot of things that I’ve done is in a way a result of kind of accidents. I never intended to get into the dance world for example. I studied art and rhetoric at UC Berkeley but I was hustling and I got a job on the install crew setting up shows and the facilities manager you know saw that I was hard worker and told me that there was a job opening and I went for it. And it was just a matter of being open and receptive to different opportunities. I knew you know I didn’t want to do facilities management necessarily for my whole life but I thought maybe this was a foot in the door and step in the right direction working in the arts and working amongst artist and I could deal with that. And one thing lead to another and the next boss, Nancy Martino who was a curator in the performing arts division, she also liked my work ethic I guess. She liked me and suggested after a year or so that I apply to work for her. The next thing you know I was working in the curatorial department coordinating productions for dance companies and being a musician for my whole life, I already had some of the skills that was necessary to over see a production or to handle a coordination of a production. So those skills came in useful and it was interesting example of how just kind of being open to opportunities can open doors for you if you’re willing to step through them I guess.
Anthem: And were those opportunities ones that you purposely sought out because it seems like unless you were there, unless you were Dave Archuletta it would be hard to see how the dots would connect from going from install crew, hanging visual art to being a significant player in the performing arts department.
Life Throws Lots of Opportunities in Front of You
Dave: Yeah it’s not intuitive. I’ve come to believe that life throws lots of opportunities in front of you all the time and it’s up to you to recognize when it’s an opportunity. And they don’t always look like the opportunity you’re looking for and you have to be open still to doing it and to exploring and to moving forward so I was really just not planning on working at Yerba Buena but I was hustling. I was looking for a job. I was working as a freelancer doing house painting, doing construction, working as an artist assistant and I just knew some people who worked on a crew. I asked how did you get on there. And I went for it. Like I said one series of kind of happy accidents after the other but if I hadn’t been willing to try something new I probably wouldn’t have connected those dots from install crew to facility’s technician to curatorial department. A lot of it also had to do with just the people who I was working with. I think that one of the things that I try and do in my professional life and maybe just in my life in general is be as helpful to people as I can. And maybe they picked up on that. I think it’s easy to get stuck into your job or your duties and kind of close yourself in without thinking about – lets see if I can describe this. Your job is not just the duties you know. It’s also your relationships with other people who you come into contact with and I think that’s probably the most significant factor that led me from one dot to the next.
Anthem: You know I actually read in a book recently, the way this one author describes is the difference between love and passion. And he describes love as things that you do, job title or identification maybe as a particular type of artist or your experience or expertise in a particular craft. But he describes passion as the driving force underneath that in that you’re leading with passion, then that’s allowed to transform into other arenas not just a particular skill set.
Anthem: So maybe that’s —
It’s How You Approach Even The Smallest Details
Dave: Yeah, no I definitely agree. It’s how you come across to other people. It’s how you approach even the smallest of details that you might do that aren’t even necessarily your official job duties you know. And I think hard work always comes down to a big part of it as well even if I’m an artist or a musician and I have a job to dig a ditch, I’m going to dig the ditch the best way that I can and with passion.
Anthem: Yeah, truly. I often talk about excellence you know. And even if it’s not the most admirable job or task you have to perform it with excellence because you’re always representing yourself at the end of the day. That’s definitely worth noting. How then did you transition from San Francisco, what was the driving force for you to move to New York?
Dave: Well I had been in the Bay area for about ten years and my wife who was just my girlfriend at the time, she’s a visual artist and she graduated from the Art Institute and got representation by a New York gallery. So we started making some trips over to New York and I kind of fell in love with the city. I fell in love with the challenge it represented to me. It was just so frenetic and there was so much going on and it’s so competitive. And I feel like at that time in my life I was looking to challenge myself and I wanted to push myself and I didn’t feel it in San Francisco so much at the time, at that point in my life. So I’m always willing to try something new and I think that had a lot to do with the decision just like let’s go for it. Let’s move to New York and see what happens.
Anthem: So was it the classic tale? You went there, you maybe had a place to land but you didn’t have an exact plan, one of those type of situations?
Dave: Totally, totally. No plan. I mean we had, well we had a plan but no as they say no survive — the first step, you know the first approach.
Anthem: It always changes.
Dave: It always changes and you have to be willing to do things on the fly and be creative in every aspect.
Anthem: Okay, so you were curatorial performing arts production coordinator and then you land in New York and then what are you?
Dave: Nothing. I landed in New York, I cashed out what little I had saved in the 401K plan from Yerba Buena. We found an apartment in Washington Heights so we had at least a place to land but there is no job. It was a pretty tough job market.
Anthem: Did you go back to freelancing then?
Dave: Well it was tough because I didn’t have the connections and relationships in New York that I have in the Bay area. I was able to freelance in the Bay area because over time I had built relationships with lots of people in the construction, the trades and in the arts and so I was able to work with those people. I didn’t have that in New York so it was really tough. And it could have all gone bad, really and I think if I had decided that I wasn’t going to do it because I didn’t have a plan, none of the great stuff that happened in my life would have happened.
Eventually at the very last possible minute when I thought this is just not going to work. We’re not going to be able to pay any rent here. I’m never going to find a job. You know I applied for like 30 jobs or something without even getting an interview, I applied for this job at IMG Artists and I did what you’re not supposed to do which is I walked my resume there. I thought that the reason that I wasn’t getting hired might have been the fact that I’m in New York with millions of people looking for a job and everybody’s sending it in the mail or on the internet and at this time a lot of job listings were actually still asking you to send in paper resumes and stuff so I thought with a million people who are looking for the same job, potentially applying for the same job, if I’m down at the bottom of the stack, I’m never going to get noticed and so I actually walked in and a lot of places say you’re not supposed to do this, but it worked out in the moment and I think I might have got on the top of the pile this time and I got called in for an interview.
Anthem: And who did you speak with when you walked it in?
Dave: Well interestingly enough I spoke, well I spoke with a security guard.
Dave: And it wasn’t about meeting someone and having some relationship it was more just about being first. And getting on top of the pile, and I know this now that I’ve, you know the roles been reversed and I’ve had the opportunity to interview people for jobs that you know where I might be hiring some but with so many people looking for work it’s unfortunate to say if you find the candidate you’re looking for in that first 30 resumes you might not be so motivated to read all the rest. I think that’s probably why I got the interview. I was just first.
Anthem: That’s amazing. And that’s because you didn’t mail it in. You attribute it to that?
Dave: I do, absolutely yeah, interestingly enough.
Dave: But that’s not why I got the job. That’s just how I got the interview.
Anthem: Right, so first things first.
Dave: The other important lesson for me was when I did get the interview and I was speaking with my soon to be boss Nancy Gabriel the director of the dance division, she turns out knew Nancy Martino who had hired me at Yerba Buena. And so I contacted Nancy Martino at Yerba Buena and I said, “I’m applying for this job. Can you put in a good word for me?” And she did. And I think that is the reason I was hired. So the reason I got the interview is because I got on top of the pile but a lot of the reason that I was hired beside my interview maybe and you know some experience, you know obviously it had to do something with that, but I think a lot of it had had to do with the relationship that I had with Nancy Martino and the personal recommendation. And every job I’ve got every since then has always had some personal connection. And I think it’s not a radical thing to say. I think if you’re looking for a job that’s one of the things that you’ll find it’s not enough just to send in resumes, cold emails and what not. The best way to find a job is to leverage the relationships that you have with people because that’s how most jobs are gotten.
Anthem: Yeah and there are a lot of elements at play here so there are relationships which means no matter how a job situation goes, you always have to leave amicably.
Anthem: You have to keep in touch.
Anthem: It also speaks to taking imitative and not being ordinary if you want an extraordinary result. You walked your resume in which a lot of people maybe, they even thought of it but they didn’t initiate it. So there’s something to be said for going above and beyond even in that respect. And I don’t really have a comment on that except to point it out because a lot of people think it’s just one thing that’s going to help them out when maybe it’s a series of tactics at play.
Dave: Right, sure. And that’s a good point too about burning bridges. That’s something, it’s just my personal philosophy, no matter how awkwardly something can end or turn out, I really think it’s very important to maintain as much sense of being a bigger person as you can. Like even if someone wrongs you, you got to be able to walk away from it and forgive and forget. Don’t hold any grudges because you know it is, it’s a long life and it’s a long process and it all adds up.
Anthem: It does, it does certainly. Can you tell me about the tough decision that you had to face when you interviewed for managerial associate at the dance division of IMG Artists?
To Be or Not To Be An Artist, That is The Interview Question
Dave: Yeah sure. That was, well it was also another lesson that’s proved to be very valuable to me in my personal life and my personal career. One of the things that I did when I went to New York and I was looking for a job, again I had tapped Nancy Martino who had hired me at Yerba Buena and asked if there was anybody I might speak with you know for advise. And she suggested I speak with John Tomlinson who is the executive director of Paul Taylor Dance Company at the time. And so I called him up and he’s a pretty tough New Yorker guy. He’s got that classic New York attitude, all business and really quick and very direct. And he took my call which was awesome and it was probably again because I said that Nancy Martino suggest that I speak with him and he has a lot of respect for her. But when he got on the phone with me one of the first things he asked was are you an artist and I said well actually yeah, you know I’m a musician and a producer. And he said well you should know just straight up I don’t hire artist and so that shut the door right there on that job opportunity. I was like okay obviously I’m not getting a job here for this guy, but you know he did me the favor of explaining why. And it’s kind of a lesson that’s stuck with me ever since. The reason he didn’t hire artist was he had too many experiences where there would be a conflict between what the person he hired wants to do for their own artistic career and the person they were hired to work for who is the artist.
Anthem: Would you mind explaining what those conflicts might be? I mean because from an artist in defense of the artist one might say well wouldn’t an artist really know the field well and understand the culture and the work ethic required? Wouldn’t and artist be a perfect candidate in that respect?
Dave: Absolutely, yeah.
Anthem: So can you talk to us about what the — where are those conflicts? What did he mean exactly?
Dave: Sure, right. I can tell you that but I have to tell you that I’m also not sure that he’s 100% correct because I do think that artist working for artist have something very unique to contribute that’s very powerful and that’s something I’ve actually managed to tap. But going back to the question, when you’re working for an artist, an established artist, someone say like Paul Taylor who has you know put in 50 years into this company. They’ve worked it from the ground up and they’ve built an organization that is all about supporting that art. It’s really important when you’re in a roll where you can have an effect on things to be 100% for them. To really, everything that you do should be in their interest even if it’s something that you don’t necessarily, that doesn’t even appeal to you.
Anthem: For instance?
Dave: For instance, well you know as artist we have our own aesthetics and we have our own points of views so if I’m in a situation or say there’s two composers who want to work with this chorographer, and this is just a hypothetical situation but it is related to experiences I’ve actually had. Say there’s two musicians who when to work with the choreographer. Well I might like, for my personal aesthetic, but from an intellectual point of view and from a professional point of view I might know some how intellectually this other musician, this other composer is really a better fit for the artist and I need to be able to make a decision not based on my own aesthetics but based on what I perceive to be the aesthetics of the artist I’m supporting —
Dave: — and not project my own aesthetics on to it. I think it’s really important because when you’re working with an artist and you’re supporting what they do, they have to have trust and confidence in you that they don’t have to look behind that there’s some other layers to the reasons you’re telling them to do something because a lot of times when you’re working for an artist in an operational capacity, like an administrative capacity you need to persuade the artist to do things that might not readily be apparent to them. And in order to persuade them effectively they need to have your trust. And in order to have your trust, they need to know that every decision you’re making is to support their vision and it’s not going to be, sorry to use the work contaminated by your own aesthetics.
Anthem: Right, leave your baggage at the door if you’re going to be in that type of role.
Dave: Sure and then there’s another aspect to this situation as well. Take this hypothetical situation from another angle, you’ve got two composers who want to work with this choreographer and one of them can offer you something. You know maybe one of them, by getting them a gig maybe you know scratch my back I’ll scratch yours kind of thing.
Dave: They can get you something and that’s another place where it can be dangerous in John Tomlinson’s mind perhaps to have someone in a position of responsibility where they might be making decision that is more about their own career and their own success than it is necessarily about the artist who they’re working for to support.
Anthem: That’s deep. That is because when one normally thinks about networking and building relationships, that seems to be something that a lot of people take for granted that of course you would hire someone you like. Like isn’t that the way it goes? And a lot of people really take that for granted from every level of management and it’s interesting to hear you talk about purposely hiring somebody that would have purely objective opinion on things that would do things not for the sake of developing their own personal professional contacts but in pure support of the companies mission.
Dave: I think a lot of people in our jobs no matter what level job it is, we like to take pride in our work too so it seems counter intuitive in a way that you know maybe I think that this musician is a better musician but I can’t have any kind of pride in my own point of view if I know that this other artist who I’m working for might be better served by someone else. You have to be able to step out of my own aesthetic.
Anthem: Yeah and that takes a type of real professional maturity.
Dave: I guess so, yeah.
Anthem: Really because that would be tough I can imagine for a lot of people to do too, put their own opinions aside in that respect. What did you decide then after having heard this and realizing that this was a standard for high-level arts professionals? What conclusions did you arrive at for yourself being in New York, being jobless and trying to work things out?
Dave: Well it was pretty disappointing because I had, not to change the subject but I had just come to a slightly bigger personal realization about my own interest in music because I studied art as well. So leading up to this point I had been doing art and music almost equally.
Anthem: Visual art.
Dave: Visual art, and you know painting. And it was my wife who helped me focus on music because there’s only so many things that you can focus on and still do them with excellence.
Dave: And of course my grandmother always told me don’t be a jack of all trades, master of none. And so I’ve tried to take this advice in my life and be as focused on things as possible and there’s many opportunities in life where you are given opportunity to try something different. You know and there’s areas — there’s times when you can spread yourself too thin. I mean you should be open opportunities but you should try and focus on doing a few things really well rather than doing lots of things you know adequately.
Dave: So it was kind of disappointing because I had just come to this conclusion that I was going to focus more on music and here I’m being told if you want to get a job here, it can’t be about your music at all. But his advice was valuable to me in my interview at IMG Artist because one of the things they asked is where do I see myself five years from now? And so I had to come up with an answer that was true to myself but also was showing them that I’m committed to the position. I’m committed to working for their artists. And I think if I recall correctly you know I saw myself in five years as a producer maybe with my own record label. You know the record label didn’t happen but I consider myself a producer now because I’ve had a lot of work in the meantime as a producer. So yeah, it was disappointing, but it’s continued to come up in my professional life and has actually been very valuable advice.
Anthem: So was that a different, when you said producer that was more appropriate answer for them to hear than to say I want to be an artist?
Dave: Yeah because a producer in general makes the vision of the artist a reality. And so that’s what, also this was IMG Artist is an international talent agency and they work booking artist and finding gigs for artists and so I think that was more about being on their side of the fence rather than being on the artist’s side of the fence. I think if I had said I saw myself as a professional musician in five years, it would be obvious that I’m not the right person for the job because either this person is trying to get their foot in the door so they can further their own career as an artist which is kind of like a disingenuous way of going for a job or they’re just simply not interested in this work. They’d be more interested in something else.
Anthem: That’s fascinating because I normally tell folks that until you can get paid to make your own art, you might as well get paid to mind art. So I always tell folks who are artists a great way to develop professional skills is just to get into the field even if you’re not the primary, even if it’s not your own art you’re getting paid for.
Dave: Right, sure.
Anthem: So it speaks to that but in a sense you’re saying — it’s interesting to hear you say that it’s disingenuous. And would you say that was true mainly for, again I want to distinguish between high-level producers and entry level jobs because I mean at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, everybody was an artist. I mean the curator was an artist. All the program directors were artists. I can’ think of anyone that wasn’t an artist.
Dave: Sure. Yeah, well what you’re hitting on is that there is, this advice that was given to me is not 100% correct. I do believe that there is a valuable place for artist working in the arts, obviously. I think if you have a job where you can bring your own perspective to bear in a way that is effective then why not. Of course it makes sense that someone that knows what it’s like to be an artist works for an artist. I think it’s more about an internal separation you have to make. And I think you’re right, artists should take opportunities to work in the arts, but not for an immediate result.
Purity of Motive
Dave: Well there’s many layers to this. One layer is that we all have to pay bills and we have to do work that we feel is valuable. So working in the arts and supporting arts if you’re an artists, that’s something that you can feel you’re contributing and you’re making a difference, it’s meaningful to you and I think that’s really important any job you do. But when you’re actually doing that job I think it’s important that you do it well and the best way to do it is to, if you’re working to support an artist is to support that artist in the fullest and put everything that is about you aside. And I believe that if you do that, my wife calls that purity of motive. If you do that, good things will come from it. And they might not be immediate, but they will come.
Anthem: That’s a great way of putting it, purity of motive because often time I’ll often, I tell people we live in an intention universe and it’s really all about where you’re coming from, what you really need to do. So that’s a very poetic way of putting it, purity of motive. I might have to borrow that at some point.
Dave: Which is not to say don’t take advantage of opportunities, absolutely. It’s just like a way of internally categorizing things for yourself so that you’re able to separate it. And I think it’s important to be able to separate your personal life from your work life as well. So maybe that has something to do with it too.
Working With Bill T. Jones
Anthem: Right, right. And what can we do now to fast forward us to your time at Bill T. Jones? Because talk about living legends, right? What was that experience like and how did you elevate to that point because now we’re following you step by step going through these little phases and they seem to have this cumulative effective. And what was that like finally arriving in that?
Dave: Well it was neat because I feel like it was meant to be in a way because working at Yerba Buena I was kind of working from the institutions perspective. Working at IMG Artist, I kind of got a perspective on the commercial side and on the booking side. And then going to work for Bill T. Jones it was working directly on the artist’s side and so I feel like part of my journey has been to experience what the industry itself is like from different angles and get a kind of insider’s perspective. And yes that’s valuable to me as an artist as well. The Bill T. Jones job again, that was one that happened through relationships because we’re managing Bill T. Jones at IMG Artist.
Dave: Yeah and interestingly enough IMG Artist had gone through a — they had split off from the main IMG World Incorporation when the founder passed away. And they got a lot more flexible with the idea of their employees going to work for an artist. In the past when I was first hired, I actually had to sign a non-competition agreement saying that I would not go to work for any of the artist that they represent within a three year period after leaving the company. And again some of that built in structure to prevent people from taking advantage of their position. So I was lucky that I was able to go work for Bill, but he’s an intense guy and it was one of the most amazing experiences working for him because it again pushed me. And interestingly enough as well if I was kind of more a more aggressive person and a maybe had different experiences I might had said this guy, he could use one of my beats, like I really just, I could really like — I should show him my beats. I should show him what I do. I should show him some of my CDs I made. And because I think of some of the advice that I had gotten and my experience at IMG Artist I thought you know what, I’m not going to do any of that. It’s going to be all about what works for them. What is the best thing I can do for them as an artist, for this musician as a musician, for Bill T. Jones as a choreographer?
And interestingly enough some of my philosophy which we were talking about earlier about the overtime effect, It’s kind of — my actions have been vindicated in a way because five years later or six or seven years later maybe it is now, I’m actually working with one of these people and producing music for them. And it wasn’t something that I — I didn’t even really intentionally want it to happen. He came to me. He came to me years later and I think a lot of that has, I believe a lot of that has to do with the fact that I was there for him when he needed me to be a really sincere sounding board and giving him professional advice in a different capacity. And also as part of my personality that I have an operational and a creative part of me, a lot of people might have that. Some artists are you know I’m just all creative. I’m also have an operational kind of interest and I’m very observant and with working with lots of artists I have watched their careerism and seen what works for them. So I would try and impart as good of advice as I could to some of these of artist who work for Bill T. Jones.
The Over Time Effect
Anthem: So you were over there working for Bill T. Jones and you were tasked to find talented music artist for him to work with. You come into contact with some of them that you would maybe secretly in your head want to pitch to, but because you’re a classy guy, you won’t because that’s not part of your job description. And now you’re saying — what would you say would be the span of time between that era of you meeting these artists and now you having the opportunity to work with them? How much time had passed?
Dave: I’d — five to seven years.
Anthem: Five to seven years.
Anthem: And speak to us in more detail about the over time effect because that really speaks to us real phenomenal sense of patience and almost, if I could say so faith.
Dave: Absolutely, faith is a huge part of being an artist to me. And not religious faith but faith that if I continue to be diligent and to work on my craft, whatever art it is for me, it’s music, if I continue to produce that music and to approach things with that purity of motive that it will work out over time. And I think the reason that it worked out, you know I could have pitched myself and tried for the quick fix.
Anthem: What do you think would have happened?
Dave: They probably would have lost trust in my, they would have lost trust in me for the actual position I was hired for. Because they would have thought everything I was trying to tell them they should do was somehow based on something that could give me a leg up.
Dave: And so what happens I think if you are able to support an artist and really help them along, eventually overtime you’ll get a relationship with them. And as you get to learn more about each other inevitable it will come out, what do you do? Oh you know — oh you’re interested in what I do. That was something that didn’t happen very often but it would happen eventually and you know I would have the opportunity to say you know actually I make beats and you know yeah I’ve got a website and here it is if you want to check it out. And years later he came to me for some production stuff. And I think, like I said that’s kind of a vindication of this idea of the overtime effect. The other thing about the overtime effect is that it’s not — I don’t think it’s just like — most artists don’t have, they’re not rock stars. Just like any other industry when you’re acting or a musician or a visual artist, there are stars in the industry and they have rapid rises. And that’s a difficult thing to watch for so many people because most artist struggle for a long time and a good many never get recognition until they’re gone.
Dave: And it’s also, depending on the artistic field, it’s something where even if you are recognized when you’re living, it might not happen until you’re in your 50s or 60s.
Anthem: Which is scary.
Dave: It is scary because you know then I’m thinking wow, well I want to retire but you know what artist, I don’t think you can retire. It’s a life long commitment.
Anthem: It is definitely a life long commitment but I also feel like because it can take that long, it’s important to find the little successes because it’s human nature to prioritize the event over the process and if you can enjoy your process and recognize that there are little fun events along the way that you are succeeding. That you are making your benchmarks, your personal benchmarks, then you are in some ways accomplishing as much as the big artists.
No Success is Too Small
Dave: Absolutely you are. Absolutely because it’s cumulative, the effect is cumulative which means no success is too small.
Anthem: Yeah, I like that.
Dave: Don’t turn down a job just because it doesn’t take you there or don’t turn down a gig because it doesn’t take you there rapidly where you want to go. But you know at the same time don’t put too much faith into oh, you know what I have this show coming up. And I’m going to sell everything and this is just going to do it all. And if that doesn’t happen, I mean you have to be prepared for the fact. And it might not happen. But you know what, having a show was a little success. And then you keep doing it. And you have another show, and another show, and another show that has accumulative effect and where you’re going to look back and you’re going to say wow I accomplished a lot. I have a lot to show for myself.
Anthem: And that will be reflected in your work ethic, your sense of discipline, you sense of maturity. It’ll be reflected in your resume.
Anthem: And I feel like your biography speaks to that because again it would have been ten, twelve years ago it would have been impossible to connect the dots between you hanging artwork and being where you are now. So it speaks to a sense of rigor. I actually attended a conference recently where they said, some speaker said you have to make a decision between rigor and rigor mortis. And you’re like you’ve got to be disciplined or you’re just going to be dead.
Dave: Right, right, sure.
Anthem: You know it’s one or the other. And so that’s fantastic. And now you’ve just moved back to San Francisco and you are again making another step forward in your career in a new role of executive director of Joe Goode Performance Group. How is that transition been? Or has it been a transition? Does it even feel like a transition because it feels like every thing has been leading to this point?
New York to San Francisco by Way of Berlin
Dave: It is in a way it feel like I’m picking up where I left off at Bill T. Jones. A lot of the things I was doing as program director. I’m coming into a new company in San Francisco that is in similar stages of growth to the last company I worked with so that’s very interesting. So I was able to bring of the experience and some of the things I learned from my previous job, seeing what works and what doesn’t to this company. And it’s very exciting because there’s a lot of potential with Joe Goode Performance Group right now. You know they’ve been around for 25 years and just got this new facility and new venue and that’s a really big thing for a dance company. Most dance companies and choreographers really struggled their whole existence and they never have a space of their own. But it wasn’t a seamless transition because I spent a year living in Berlin in between New York and coming to California. And that year, that was a strange detour because again my wife was an artist. She was offered gallery representation in Berlin. There was an artist in Berlin who knows me and had been trying to get me to work for him for a long time and you know offered me some part time consulting work for him.
Anthem: In what capacity? Consulting for?
Dave: Consulting — well he’s a Dutch sculpture and he gets some large public commissions. He knew nothing about computers. He knew nothing about websites and marketing himself and sending e-blasts and things like. Video, he wanted to make videos, so I had some of these skills and he hired me to basically make promotional videos for him and documentation and websites, presentations, handling a lot of the business side of his art operations. But the reason I accepted the position and gave up this very rewarding and challenging job with Bill T. Jones had to do with the fact that one of the artist who I support the most is my wife. And I’m talking supporting in a spiritual kind of you know emotional way because she’s a different kind of artist than I am. She’s one of those artists who she’s managed to dedicate herself full time to art as much as possible and she has lots of different little hustles that she does and I respect that a lot. And I wanted her to have this opportunity to have a show and I was willing to leave what I had in New York and try something new. And it was an opportunity for me to actually focus on music for the first time in many, many years where my full time job all of a sudden wasn’t a full time job. I had a part time job that was enough to pay the rent, and Berlin is very cheap cost of living. So 20 hours a week was enough for us to have a decent life there and in that time I dedicated myself as much as I could to producing new music and I released this CD with Breez Evahflowin and it was a great experience being able to focus so much on being actually an artist. Like remind myself wow, you know I actually am an artist as well. It’s not just what I do between the hours of midnight and 3 a.m.
So the other thing that happened with that though was that I came to really kind of miss some of the people that I was working with in the dance industry. And I realized you know what, I’m not a dancer. I didn’t have a dance background but all of sudden now I do. All of sudden you know after seven or eight years working, now I realize I’ve got this experience and these are people I love and I respect and I feel very rewarded supporting them and working them. And dancers are some of the hardest working people you’ve ever met. They make so many sacrifices. Almost more than any other artist because of the physical nature of what they do and it’s just a short life span. I respect that immensely. And I realize that there’s a lot of people who dedicated their lives to supporting this and I like them as people. And I started to realize that I could actually do this and be happy with my life even if this just was all I did in my life. So you know maybe that’s a little bit different than someone who’s so driven as an artist that they know that it’s all they have to do. But I get to work with a lot of people like that too. So that’s rewarding. So anyway coming back from Berlin to California, I came back with a renewed interest, a renewed passion for picking up where I left off. And it was as a result of having a break from it.
How has participating in the administrative side benefited you as an artist?
Anthem: Yeah. How has participating in the administrative side of art affected or benefited you as an artist? A lot of artist, again focus just on their art and I wonder if they miss out on crucial professional development opportunities because they’ve never participated in being a producer. And how do you feel like that has affected your journey?
Dave: Well it’s informed me a lot, seeing what it’s like to be on the other side. Seeing what it’s like to be the agent who has to pick from all the musicians who are you know want to have their music heard. Or seeing what it’s like to be an artist who’s well established and has lots of people clamoring to try and be a part of what they do. It’s been very valuable to me but it’s also not necessarily right for everybody. I think it’s very individual. It has to do, in my mind, a lot with what type of artist you are. One thing that I was thinking is that one of the ways you really know that you are an artist is that if you stop doing it, you start to get really cranky and you start to feel like things aren’t right. And there’s only one thing that can cure that and it’s going back to your process. It’s going back to making your music or painting or something. I feel that I recognize that in myself a lot because I started to sideline a lot of the art. And I would only do it when I had those little spare moments and I realized when I would start feeling down that oh you know the reason why I’m really bummed right is that I have not played any music like in two weeks and I’m starting to Jones for it and I need it.
Anthem: I know that feeling.
Anthem: I know that feeling.
Dave: But art is absolutely a career that you can make work for you and you can have some level of comfort in life. But the one thing, no matter how you do it, whether it’s going to be I’m going to have a full time job with doing my art on the side or I’m going to have a full time art job with doing little gigs here and there, either way you have to work ass off. That’s the one common denominator. And you’re going to have to continue to produce all the time. And I knew that if I didn’t continue to produce for example, I wouldn’t be an artist anymore, not just because I needed for my own sanity, but because I also believe that the work is what drives your success as an artist. If you want to be a professional artist, you need to focus as much as you can on work and marketing and networking and all that is a really important component of it, but it cannot take the place of actually practicing, continuing to improve.
Anthem: Right. You can’t be marketing something and then not have actually stuff to market.
Dave: Sure, that’s right.
Anthem: I mean some people are like that which I think is often funny when I run into folks who are all marketing but no delivery.
Dave: All hat and no cattle.
Anthem: Yeah. Weird right?
Dave: But you know it’s not their fault because there’s a lot of advice given out there that you know, you have to do this or you have to do that if you want to make it. And it just depends on what kind of make it you want it to be.
Anthem: That’s a very important point, which is why I always tell people you have to define success for yourself. And for me personally, I define it as a momentum rather than a moment.
Dave: Yeah I like that. I like that a lot.
Anthem: Yeah, because like you said it’s an over time effect. It’s about keeping it cumulative and yeah, being in it for the long haul. And in finding that incarnation, even if it’s unexpected, like your whole entire journey seems pretty unexpected.
Dave: Right, right and I think a lot of it is just being receptive to those opportunities that come in front of you. You know be willing to go for them.
Anthem: And what can you tell us now about your new role as executive director at Joe Goode? What are some interesting things that are happening at the company as far as upcoming projects or things that I think whenever someone starts a new job position, well speaking for myself definitely I always think about what kind of contribution I will like to make while I am in this role. And what has that been for you?
Dave: Well like I said it’s a pretty exciting time for the company because of this new studio space at Theater Artaud or Project Artaud which is one of the oldest lived work communities in the nation. It’s down there in the Mission Creek Area on 17th and Alabama. And this is a dance studio that, it’s really neat because I got to bring to the table some of the skills that I had acquired during my life because there’s a lot of renovations for example going on and I actually had worked in the trade while I was going through college and when I was out of college. And I was admittedly, even when I was working in New York, I would occasionally go do a house painting gig just because that’s what you have to do sometimes. You got to keep hustling. But I was able to bring some of that experience to there in the renovations and I had some of the relationships already existing with contractors who I was able to give to. I love giving work to people.
Anthem: That’s amazing.
Dave: That’s another thing that I found, whatever job that I have, it’s so rewarding to hook someone else up with work and I really feel that it’s kind of karma that comes back for you. And I just love that I was able to hire some of the guys who used to hire me for painting to come in and paint the place. But on a more big picture level, this is an example I think of where you were asking earlier of what can your own experience as an artist, how can that actually benefit your position in administrative capacity or in operational capacity? And for me this studio represents a great potential for the company because so many dance companies I’ve observed in working with them have the body separated from the brain. They have to rent studio space on one side of town and they’ve got their little office in the other. And when you bring it together it’s like you become a whole person. And so I feel like what I want to do is try and encourage that as much as possible. And that’s the contribution I want to make to this company right now is to provide an environment where Joe feels that he’s got as much creative opportunities as possible. And by being kind of like the whole person, by having an administrative office that is really working for that and is working in concert for the dancers and with the creative people and in the same space, I think that they can really provide that environment. And with that environment comes more creative production and like I said earlier creative production is going to be the most important thing that drives the success of an artist. Just producing, producing, producing.
Anthem: Right, that’s fantastic. That’s a very unique kind of insight and contribution to make in that new role. Let’s now go back to that you’re in a position to hire people. Would you, I mean you’ve already said that you might not agree to the same exact rule about hiring artists. What would be your rule in that regard if you are in a position to hire people to expand the administrative side of the company?
Dave: Well I both take and reject the advice that I was given.
Anthem: Where would you draw the line though? There’s got to be a place where you’re like okay this would be too much and this would be okay as far as hiring an up and coming artist.
Dave: I just believe in being really direct with a person and asking them and the same I think it’s really valuable to bring an artist perspective, but I need to ask you what’s going to be more important to you. And will you be able to set that aside and focus only on supporting the artist that we’re all working for because I feel like that shouldn’t be a really hard thing for artist to do because we should cherish the fact that other artists have something to contribute besides us. And we’re all stronger when we have stronger artists around us. And so I look for a kind of non-competitive attitude. Like an idea that yes actually helping someone be the best artist they can, will help me in my own growth. It’ll help us all as artist. And so that’s probably what I would look for the most but I actually have a little check box where I consider it an asset if someone comes from that arts background. So I’m not quite as cut and dry as the guy who gave me the advice.
Anthem: That’s great. I really do feel like I could agree with that in a big way that the more you help somebody the more you’re helping the entire ecology and it ultimately benefits you anyways. And that’s very refreshing to hear, the whole non-competitive aspect.
Dave: I think that’s a real key to being a successful artist in general, even if — take aside this whole idea that you know you might have a part job or you might have a full time job, to what degree do you do art? You take that all aside and you say what doe it take to be a successful artist in general? If you look at it as a long-term process as a accumulative effect, and if you take that long view and all those little bits add up to something great, it’s important to, like you’re saying the non-competitive attitude, don’t be afraid to help someone else be successful. That, again, that’s part of that purity of motive that I have faith that it will come back to you as a reward ten fold. And I mean I’ve been doing this since the very beginning just for myself, this is part of my philosophy and when I was art school, my friends and I would go to the penny studios late at night to work. We would trade art with each other just in case one of us got famous and we all had a little investment in everyone else. And it’s really too easy to think if I help this person it’s going to come at some expense to me. It doesn’t. It doesn’t cost you anything to help someone else out.
Anthem: I agree with that, hugely.
Dave: And do things for free too, don’t be afraid to do things for free. That’s the other thing.
Anthem: I agree with that too. I often tell people doing things for free is a great way to build track record and ultimately the experience benefits you. It’s like a work out. It’s like building your professional, development muscles.
Dave: Yeah, and no success is too small because say someone might offer me an opportunity to put a beat on something, but they don’t have any money. I’m not going to say no to that opportunity because I’m not getting money.
Anthem: And let’s take it back to the painting gigs, like imagine if you were too good to want to participate in that field, you wouldn’t of had that expertise going into the new space as an executive director to look at the space and recognize it’s physical potential.
Dave: Yeah, that’s a good point.
Artistic Philosophy Vindicated
Anthem: So it’s all connected and that is a great tip to take away is no success is too small. And going back to purity of motive, the over time effect, the cumulative effect of all this sort of generosity and discipline, can you tell us now about what’s happening this October with BAM’s Next Wave Festival?
Dave: Well that’s a totally unexpected wonderful thing that happened. This guy, Daniel Bernard Roumain who was the musical director of Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company at the time and someone who I had to give as much advice to as I could from my operational program director capacity, he contacted me out of the blue and he recalled that I had done some production and he had seen my MySpace with some tracks on it or something at some point. He’s doing a piece called “Symphony for the Dance Floor” and he’s a classical composure who’s very influenced by hip-hop and he’s been trying to integrate hip-hop into his point of view in many different ways. And so this latest incarnation is a performance he’s going to do at the BAM Next Wave Festival in October and he asked me to sample some of his own compositions and to create beats for them that he will then solo over or maybe have some singers or maybe some MCs into a concert performance. And it was just a great and wonderful opportunity out of the blue and it came at a time that I was so busy trying to pay the bills I was like, how am I going to do this? But I stayed up all night working every weekend, everyday. I mean that’s the thing, you have to be ready to do that as on the side. You have to be ready to do that. Because the opportunities don’t always come at a convenient time, but they won’t be there if you try and wait for them to come at a convenient time, they won’t be there.
Dave: They come and they disappear.
Anthem: I had someone tell me once gifts don’t always show up in pretty packaging.
Dave: That’s right, absolutely. That’s a good way to put it. So I knew I had to do this. And one of the things that I’ve really prided myself on as a composure, producer person is no matter what I have going on, if someone asks me to, if I’m working with them on an artistic level, I want to deliver quickly and consistently and most important I want to deliver what I promise. If they say they need it in three weeks and I say yeah I can get it in three weeks, I’m going to do whatever it takes to get it in three weeks.
Anthem: That’s great.
Dave: And so I think he realized oh wow Dave got back to me with some productions and well I need more. I’m going to ask him for more. So he asked me for more and now I think I’ve got four or five tracks that he’s doing and he’s going to be performing them at BAM and I just heard an example of something in process where he got an MC by the name of Lord Jamar from Brand Nubian. It’s just a very well known hip-hop group if you’re into them.
Dave: He’s rapping on my beat. I’m like wow, I couldn’t have asked for anything more amazing than that.
Anthem: That is amazing. That is amazing being a Brand Nubian fan myself. That’s incredible, that’s awesome. I’m super stoked for you. Where can folks find out more about your own work, about this upcoming show, and to learn more about Joe Goode Performance Group?
Dave: Well Joe Goode Performance Group is www.joegoode.org J-O-E-G-O-O-D-E. And we’re going to be launching a series of really creative performance experiments there over the next couple of months, really making use of the fact that we have a studio. Joe’s actually sending out Facebook notes and email notes to all of our fans asking them to contribute some of their own experiences for this new piece that he’s working on where he wants to incorporate their experiences and ideas. That’s really exciting and new and I feel like generating a lot of neat, creative stuff. My music can be found by searching for Daveytree, D-A-V-E-Y-T-R-E-E. I’m on lots of different sites but MySpace is probably one of the easiest addresses to give, it’s myspace.com/daveytree. And I’ve got sample of my music up on there.
Anthem: And then what about BAM’s Next Wave Festival? How do we make sure that people attend this event?
Dave: Well it’s October 21 through 22. And it’s at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in New York. I think it’s bam.org but you might search Brooklyn Academy. And the Next Wave Festival is a festival that’s been happening for many years there. Every so often they showcase composures, cutting edge music and what not. I’m going to try and go out there. I feel like I really need to go out there. Again it’s one of those opportunities who might I meet, who might I see? And also just the rewarding feeling of being in the audience and seeing someone perform my music at BAM, but of course I don’t know if I’m going to make it. I don’t know if I can afford a ticket. It never ends, but I’m going to figure out a way to do it.
Anthem: Awesome. Well that is the right attitude and it’s the one that’s been carrying you this whole time. Thank you for being on the show and congratulations on all your success.
Dave: Thanks, pleasure to be here.
Anthem: Appreciate it.