27. November 2013
A.D. Rowntree In Progress
By Walter Price
In my career I have really never met anyone quite as determined and resilient as A.D. Rowntree. Or as I have always known him, The Duck.
When he and I first met back in 2000 The Duck and his musical partner, Gareth, were still in a fantastic rock band from the UK and had made it over to NYC to try their hands on that side of the world. A band, that will remain unnamed, that had some great popularity on the radio and movie soundtracks.
Gareth had married and spent much of his time doing the proper husband duties while The Duck was out and about opening every possible door available to see that this band, this Rock N’ Roll dream of theirs could catch a second, third or even fourth wave in the music business.
Today is now and we find A.D. pursuing his other ambitions in life, radio and TV. This time in Texas, where all dreams come true. (I threw that last bit in because Texas is awesome.)
You can catch A.D. The Duck on US TV with his, often off color tongue in cheek, green screen, comedy clips-show, King Of The Burbs or you can hear the rocker on the radio at Houston’s 94.5 The Buzz or if you live in Europe, check out his podcast, here.
Rowntree hasn’t gone too far from his musical roots. He is still producing tracks, albeit more old-school than big time studio. (and sometimes with politically incorrect titles) Working up numbers in his kitchen in the wee hours of the morning. And this time around he’s not in it for the big time money or front-page glory, no, he’s doing for a cause.
All the money he generates from selling his A.D. Allstars‘ singles go to help fund Johnny Kicks Cancer. An organization that helps in the fight against childhood leukemia. Now, that is absolutely something we can get behind.
The story that is A.D. Rowntree is a story of a man that has seen, heard and done it all in the music business. Somehow he has made it through the ups and downs with his heart and sense of humor in tact. An artist who is always in progress…
Here is our recent email conversation.
Do I remember right, we first met at a Filter show at Roseland Ballroom? What year was that?
I think it was 2000. Man I know it was Roseland. I’m not sure it was Filter. …I cant remember who the headliner was…but I think Union Underground was on the bill. You told me how disappointed you were that they were from Texas because you thought they sucked. Lol
Well, I’ve been known for my ‘opinions’. At the time we met you were still in a band and doing the music biz hustle. How much do you miss those days?
I don’t really. I had 2 dreams growing up… one was to be in a band, and the other was to be on the radio… I was fortunate enough to do one, and then the other for a living. I’m super fortunate, and I pinch myself every single day.
My band made 2 records. Between album 1 and album 2, all the fun and money was sucked out of the music business by label consolidation and downloading.
On the 1st album we got a million dollars and a tour bus, on the 2nd album it was like ” Here’s a van and a peanut butter sandwich… try not to eat it all at once…how do you plan to pay for gas?”
At the time, I was still a wide eyed punk ass kid and I would have played a pay toilet and used my own money, but the other guys had families and weren’t as gung ho as me about the borderline homeless lifestyle lol.
The guitar player in the band was (and still is ) a monstrously talented musician, so when he got an opportunity to play with the Blue Man Group… it made sense that he bailed. I didn’t really feel like continuing without him, so it made sense to pursue radio…
The things I miss from those days are playing shows every night and writing songs every day. Those are the only things that ever really mattered to me.
For a while I was on the radio while I was on the road in another band, and it more or less killed me. I was doing my radio shows from the road when we were out on little tours, and I realized that I had to make a choice.
The band had two record deals on the table, and when I weighed all the options and pictured my life if I signed one of these deals… best case scenario was to have a couple of hits and wind up in tax debt and wondering what to do with myself a few years later when it was all over… I’d seen it happen to so many bands since I’d gotten into radio. It was a real eye opener to be on the other side of the radio equation and see just how disposable musicians are.
The fact that I was thinking about it in such dispassionate terms made me realize that I shouldn’t be in bands any more. If you’re gonna do it, you need to have such a burning desire to do it that all that kind of stuff doesn’t even factor in…
Now, that you have made the decision to stay with radio, you do have the A.D. Allstars project. So you’re still making music. Tell me about the Allstars.
The A.D. Allstars sounds a lot more grandiose than it actually is. It’s basically me goofing off….for a good cause.
I made a record on my kitchen table on an ancient laptop. The song “King Of The Burbs” was actually the theme song to a TV show I’m on. Once I’d made that, I sort of kept noodling around with songs until I had ten of them. A verse here, a chorus there. It was a very gradual process and was basically my mental chewing gum for 15 minutes at a time between hours of actual work.
It was basically just me scratching a creative itch. Also it was the most fun I’d had making music in ages, because it was the 1st time since I was 16 that I’d written music to please myself without the idea that some record label weasel would be trying to figure out how to make money off of it.
I posted some of it online, and people started asking to buy it. So I put it for sale online, and a couple of weeks later I got my first…
$ ROYALTY CHECK $ !
I was like “Sweet now I can pay half my electricity bill.” Then I thought ‘eh.. this is found money why don’t I just donate it to this childrens cancer charity that I’m involved with? Then I thought…”Hmmm how many of these would I have to sell to make a THOUSAND dollars that I could donate?”
I made a goal of raising a grand in the 1st month through CD and Mp3 sales, and since then it’s gone on to raise a lot more for a great cause. It’s been very rewarding to have created something that allows me to give more than I could ordinarily. That being said… Buy a copy! You can find it on Itunes , Amazon and Cd baby, and 100% of the money made from it goes to www.johnnykickscancer.org .
(Side note if I had known the music was going to be used to make money for a children’s cancer charity.. there would be significantly less “f” and “c ” bombs on the songs.)
I’m getting ready to finish up a new collection of songs (nobody calls ’em albums anymore lol) and the proceeds from that will also go to charity… maybe Johnny Kicks cancer, maybe something different… my two big causes are animals and children. They can’t help themselves the way we can. I’m doing some research on that now…
Something that I love about the A.D. Allstars thing is that it’s allowed me to play live again. I got sick of dealing with musicians in general. They don’t tend to be the most reliable bunch in the world, and with this …. it’s all sample based old school hip hop. It’s my stab at making music like the kind I grew up on with a very obvious nod to the Beastie Boys, Bloodhound Gang and the like… which means all I need to go play a show is a mic and a DJ. It’s very low maintenance and the shows tend to be crazy. it’s good times.
I understand your animosity towards ‘what could have been’, but I also see your clear happiness in rediscovering your love of music making of your youth and wanting to help those in need at the same time. Have you thought about taking your history to the masses and help educate the up and coming do the right thing for the right reason in this business?
There’s no real animosity.( I mayyyyy regret not punching a few people when I had the chance lol….) I view my time in bands dealing with major labels the way most people view college: “Whoah that was STUPID but we had a LOT of fun and learned a thing or two!”
I feel very fortunate to have done what I did. I got to make a record and tour before a lot of the fun got sucked out of the business of making records and touring. I had a couple of hit songs, played some amazing shows, got a foot in the door at radio, and I made some great enduring friendships.
I do feel AWFUL for bands coming up now. It’s a whole different way more desperate sucky game. When I was playing shows, when it came to promotion…..we had an e mail database and that was it. We barely ever used it though. We grew our fan base by playing a great show. Word of mouth would look after the rest. All you had to do was show up, kick ass on stage, people would buy CDs, tell their friends, and the next time we played that venue the crowd would double.
We played The Garage in London 4 times. The 1st time we played it… there were about a hundred people there… the last time we played it…there were a thousand. We did that without begging people to come to our shows online, without the help of radio airplay, without flyering, without ANY of the crutches musicians need to pull a crowd now. We were just good… so word got around…
Now bands have to struggle to GIVE music away. There’s so much begging for your attention online. The internet has been the best AND worst thing to happen to music.
It’s really made it tough for younger bands to get a foothold and make a living. Billy Corgan said something to the effect of “For a musician to have their talent noticed now, they have to be willing to set themselves on fire on youtube.” He’s pretty much right.
The upside to digital technology is that you can make and release an album on a 4 year old laptop with a free program for a teeny tiny fraction of what it would have cost back in the day.
The problem is… the gatekeepers of digital distribution and promotion, Google, Spotify, Facebook , Twitter, Pandora etc have a business model of monetizing other peoples content and giving little to nothing back to the artist or the creator of that content.
There’s this notion that band can hit it big by going viral. The truth is most of the digital content you see going “viral” has a massive, pre-calculated, expensive, push behind it. Even if you do catch lightning in a bottle and take the interwebs by storm, you don’t make money off of it.
It’s become an incredibly tough world for a musician to live in, and that’s why sites like yours are so important! They offer a leg up to guys with guitars trying to earn a crust!
So yeah… I’ve no animosity toward my experience as a musician, but I feel a great deal of animosity toward what that experience has become for others.
As far as educating up and comers, I kind of ended up doing that unintentionally. I work on the most listened to rock station in the country (this month) and every single Sunday for the last 3 years, bands showcase live for airplay on my show.
Some of them are ready, some of them aren’t. All of them want advice about how to get to the next level, and its part of my job to give it to them. The ones that listen and act on that advice usually see results.
I’ve gotten a couple bands signed in the last year, and I just found out another one has an offer on the table… What happens after the ink dries out is of my hands, but it’s nice to see good things happen to hard working musicians and think that I helped in some small way…
What is the one thing the world should know about you that they probably don’t already know?
Um According to the folks at Premier and Clear channel I’m being “Groomed to be the poster child for the next generation of talk radio superstar… “Groomed” is a fancy way of saying I’m not being paid much.
Over the years what was the funkiest, strangest or flat-out worse venue or show experience you’ve been lucky enough to live through?
There was one show we played at a venue…pretty sure it was in Pennsylvania…. it was a GREAT show… but the venue was adjoined to another club next door.
The two venues shared a common area, management office, and a dressing room.
That particular night some Chippendale style male stripping review was performing in the club next door… and we had to share a backstage area with a bunch of greased up muscle dude strippers.
After the show they were hanging with housewives backstage and they were charging them to take pictures, sit on their laps, etc.
I guess some woman didn’t pay after groping a dancer because I have the image of some fake tanned oiled up body builder guy in a g-string screaming at his manager that “Nobody rubs MY buns for free!”
In your opinion, what is the dumbest trend in music right now?
The dumbest trend in music these days? Anybody trying to sound like anybody else. One of the few good things about the state of the music industry at the moment is that there’s never been a more level playing field, and there’s never been a better time to find your OWN voice and go with it.
You used to have to have a major label and a smash hit of a song that fit into a “format.” No one knows what the hell their format is at the moment.
My station jumps from Metallica to Modest Mouse to Volbeat to Capital Cities and back again. So stop chasing a “hit” and write what’s real to you. In some ways people’s minds have NEVER been more open….
A.D., thanks for chatting us up today man. It has been a blast catching up with you again.
No, no…Thank You!
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