Zen of Recording

Soft Landings

Schwinn Hornet

Most people don’t know this (and why would they?), but I hold the Eureka Road (Spring Valley) record for Highest Jump Ever. I think there were only seven of us in attendance on that fateful day in 1974, but you could locate Billy Decker, Joey LaGalley, Danny Privet, Danny and Chris Applehans, and Garden Way Bob, they would surely provide testament to this amazing feat, probably with the same slack-jawed, open-mouthed, wide-eyed amazement they displayed while bearing witness to it.

We were all your typical street rat motocross bicyclists, tearing through the neighborhood with truly reckless abandon in our quest to jump over or off anything that would hold the weight of us long enough to “get some air,” do a cross-up and perform a half circle “power slide” to wrap up the performance.

Some of us had newer, lighter, fancier bikes that were designed for such shenanigans at the dawn of the motocross bike era. Others had improved or repurposed theirs with various accessories that enabled them to keep in stride with the others as they nimbly hopped curbs, popped wheelies for seemingly impossible distances or traversed the halls and staircases of our nearby schools.

Not me. When I was 14, I received my first brand-new bike for my birthday, but every one of its several predecessors were built by me. I mean, I didn’t weld steel together or anything. No, I searched through fields, canyons, and vacant lots and found whatever could be viably pieced together with the scattered parts I had discovered previously, eventually molding them into a working model and learning from these projects along the way. I saved whatever money I could scrape together from collecting used bottles and Chilly Willy seals to purchase “finishing touches” like seats, handgrips, tires, chains, or reflectors. I had been doing this for a few years since I was about nine years old. My stepdad had plenty of tools in the garage and anything I needed to know more about, I just went (walked) to the library and checked out a book or two with the information I’d need. Eventually I became accomplished enough to even true the spokes on my wheels, which is the bicyclist’s equivalent to tuning a piano.

One day, while hiking through the canyons of what would eventually become Rancho San Diego, I spied a red glint near the pepper trees that lined the crawdad-populated creek that ran though there. I made my way across the shallow banks and discovered a discarded bicycle frame in really good condition. It was a 1957 24″ Schwinn Hornet, with the original paint and fenders, but no pedals, seat or handlebars and though the tires were useless, the wheels were in exceptionally good condition, as were the frame and forks. Thinking back, there was really no way it couldn’t have been: the thing was an indestructible (I tried, believe me), with a monstrous tank that weighed a good 40 pounds or so, but it seemed all the more heavy carrying it the 2-1/2 miles back to where I lived. I grinned the whole way.

Once there, I quickly removed the fenders, cleaned it up and surveyed what tasks lay ahead toward its rehabilitation and subsequent reinvention. Over the coming days I would repaint it fire engine red, replace and oil the chain, fit it with motocross handlebars and remove and install a new Bendix brake in the rear wheel. After installing the non-slip bear-trap pedals, it took another month for the special knobby tires and the coup de gras: a spongy, dual spring seat that could absorb the impact of all manner of mayhem a 12-year-old boy could wreak upon this glorious behemoth and the ground beneath it.

The following weeks were filled with high-speed chases and a litany of acrobatic endeavors that in many cases were not as fulfilling for me as for my friends. You see, motocross bikes had 20″ wheels and weighed a lot less, so the “air time” experienced by everyone else was longer, higher, and farther.

One day, the neighbor across the street decided to build a carport between his house and the street. He was a real estate developer and had his crew bring a bunch of equipment and materials over to do the job. What they constructed was about 40 feet long and 20 feet wide and seven feet higher than the street below, with a driveway that led up to it. There was a steep embankment at the far side of the driveway and one corner of the carport led down to street level at about a 30 degree angle. Pardon me if that’s difficult to picture but essentially, this was a steep ramp that could launch a bicycle airborne and out into the newly created carport, which had a fresh layer of sandy gravel over the new asphalt.

And so it began.

Our street had a slight incline from the crossroad about 150 yards away, which meant you could get a good head of steam going, hit that carport corner and launch yourself for a good 15-20 feet, land smoothly, and power slide to a stop. We did that for about an hour and had the time of our lives, but here’s the thing about daredevils: The dare always escalates. There’s always more that one can try to do.

The previously mentioned cross street was a T-intersection at Calavo Drive, so it seemed a natural starting point. However, across Calavo was a long, very steep driveway of about 80 yards. It belonged to a house that we were scared of. None of us ever went up it. Not even a little. Ever.

This day was different.

Only three of us had the courage to even go up that driveway, much less hurtle down, cross a street, and hit that ramp 230 yards away. Chris Applehans went first. He furiously pedaled down the driveway and across the street and finally coasted on his approach. Lacking the courage (or having the good sense not to), he aborted his run with a “Duuuuuuude!” that suggested his young life may have indeed flashed before him.

His big brother Danny was not going to let this moment and its eternal fraternal bragging rights go unclaimed, so fiercely he embarked at an even faster pace. As he neared the ramp, he slowed slightly, stood up on his pedals and just said “Ohhhhhhhhhh…,” using his exceptional height to survey the entirety of the carport as he passed it.

“What?” I shouted, knowing full well that it meant this guy who was never afraid of anything was going to take a pass as well. The six boys pushed their bikes up the driveway and lined up along the embankment looking down at the street. Then they looked up where I stood, one foot on the pedal and the other on the ground. There was silence. At least there was where I waited. I’m pretty sure they were speaking under their breath to each other in a mixture of mortal dread and anxious anticipation.

I listened for cars and heard none. I knew this was my moment. I stepped on my pedals and started pumping furiously with everything I had in my scrawny, not-yet-pubescent body. What gravity didn’t provide via the extra weight my bike offered, the added torque of a 24-inch wheel base did. A runaway train was coming and there would be no stopping it.

Hindsight tells me I was probably going a good 35-40 miles per hour when I hit that ramp and lifted off like Apollo 11, straight up into the dusky sky. My memory is one of those cool slow-motion ones like you see in the movies, when something significant is happening: I looked down from my bird’s eye view of the world and saw them all lined up below me and in complete and total awe…not of me, but of the spectacle of my arcing presence 15 to 17 foot-high overhead, half in disbelief and half wondering HOW I’M GOING TO LAND.

I hadn’t really considered that to this point, but I had been learning of Newton’s various principles and theorems in school: what went up was surely coming down soon…hard.

Well, back to the basics. I dropped my rear wheel down and made sure I was straight. I looked ahead to see how much space I had left to land, and subsequently stopped. Houston, all systems are go…

Remember that thing about the sandy gravel? Well…

My rear tire touched down perfectly. Just as it did, it began to slide outward from underneath me.

I suddenly flashed to that Evel Knievel jump at Caesars Palace, where he broke, like, over 40 bones.

Oh, shit.

I hit the ground (helmet free, kids) and slid like 10 feet to the end of the pavement.

That hurt. A lot.

I didn’t care.

It was the single most amazing thing I had ever experienced to that point, in my almost brief life.

Yes, there was celebratory ruckus and for like a week, I was the man.

I will never forget the horrific road rash that resulted though. From my right ankle all that way up to my right shoulder blade, I was a strawberry mess. It took a seeming eternity to heal and needless to say, peeling my clothes off at the end of each day had me reliving that defeat more than the victory. Still, as people, kids and artists engaged in what we love, we go big, or we go home. I did both.

The job of a record producer is to see the sand and take it into account. To protect the client as you spur them on, even dare them to achieve the maximum heights you know lie within them.

When I watch a sporting event, I am rarely invested in the perseverance of any particular team. Maybe it’s weird, but it’s the excellence of the players, managers and coaches displayed regardless of affiliation that I revel in. To facilitate that sort of accomplishment is what I believe to be the noblest of efforts.

San Diego Industry Award to the San Diego Troubadour

No one does that better or more tirelessly than the editor of this magazine, Liz Abbott.

She didn’t ask for this job. Rather, she inherited it from the friends with whom she had helped establish. When they passed, it was widely assumed that the San Diego Troubadour would leave with them. But she saw what an impact it had on the San Diego music scene and the hundreds of artists who have benefited from the existence of such a supportive hub as the publication had become. She and her husband, Kent, picked up the pieces of their fallen comrades’ efforts and built it into an even stronger, more supportive voice for the under-appreciated, though just as deserving artists you see covered here on a monthly basis, without fail.

As I write this, Liz is being recognized with a San Diego Music Industry Award for her support and efforts on behalf of San Diego’s music artists. I can tell you that no one is as deserving, or probably as embarrassed by this as she is [ed. note: I’m from the Midwest. What can I say? We are very modest and don’t like to draw attention to ourselves, but thank you, Sven! xo]. This is the stuff true heroes are made of and she is the truest hero I know.

God bless you, Liz, just as you have blessed all of us lo, these many years with the sweetest outpouring of love and support that any of us could have dreamed of, much expected to receive.

Sorry my column was late, as usual.

I love you.

—Sven

Sven-Erik Seaholm is recording, producing, and writing his way to you soon. He will perform at Geza Keller’s Nothing to Lose CD Release Party (which he recorded) on Saturday, September 11, at the Aztec Brewery in Vista, California. An outdoor event, for a safe but rockin’ time!

 

 

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