Welcome to Local Music 'Mericans , where we meet some of the people behind the local music scene -- those who aren't necessarily members of local bands, but the people who make the scene move.
Brian Fiegelman came to DFW from the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia. His friend Scotty Teece (Boys Named Sue) coerced him out this way to partner with him on a record label and a recording studio.
What transpired while the two began to build their own little corner of the recording industry in the middle of our local music scene, was Fiegelman harvesting a lot of side work to make the rent. He ran sound in a handful of Deep Ellum clubs, which he occasionally still does. But what he's known best for, is being one of the main sound guys in the main room at House of Blues. Fiegelman runs sound for most every local act that plays the main room. And, while it's true that a lot of the national touring acts that come through there travel with their own sound guy, Fiegelman is still very much in the center of the action, serving to back up these road-weary travelers.
To him, it's an exciting gig to have, and one with a lot of performance pressure. Hell, maybe second only to the lead vocalist of the band.
A musician himself, in addition to all of the above that he has his hands in, about twice a year he becomes the guitarist for a band called The Doubledowns, which featured, at one time, the late Ace McNeely. If you were at Frankie 45's memorial concert at Club DaDa, you might have seen them step up for a semi-rare appearance.
As you'll see after the jump, his is a terse, pretty interesting story.
At what point in your youngster years did you realize you had transformed into a music/entertainment person, and that it was the path you'd go down?
I can remember in vivid detail sitting at a friends house in Dunwoody, Georgia in 1989 and watching MTV with a friend. Seeing the "Epic" video from Faith No More changed my world. Pretty much from then on I have not wanted to do much other than music or the entertainment business in some way. It's kind of amazing how an event so mundane can change your world forever. I started playing music shortly after and have been playing ever since.
What first sparked your interest in audio engineering, and where did you learn how to become good at it?
I, like most people, started in doing sound by accident. I had always picked up little bits from friends over the years, but had always been a guitar player or a singer. One day, the band I was playing in at the time showed up to play at a bar in Denton where all they had was a small P.A. in a box. Any musician knows this situation. Someone in the band has to run it. I started running our sound and soon after started being the booking agent of this bar, and mixed the bands every night, and also bartended at the bar by the stage. Years later, my friend Scotty Tecce (Boys Named Sue/Kim Lenz/Fabulous Harmonaires) asked me to come out to Dallas to start Crow Records and a recording studio. To make money while we waited for the money to roll in, I took a gig mixing part time at the Darkside Lounge. I eventually became the everyday engineer there and eventually the booking agent -- at least until I got too busy with House of Blues. I will say there's nothing harder than mixing in a loud punk rock bar with equipment held together by duct tape to teach you how to be a better engineer.
So, you started at Darkside. Most if us know you from mixing at the House of Blues, where you and most of your sound guys are like free agents. You gig all over, right? Where else?
Most of the time you will see me at House of Blues, but I am also the sound guy and defacto production manager at La Grange. I also work at Club Dada sometimes, and once in a while at the Doublewide. I especially have a soft spot for La Grange because it is the first sound system I designed and the first time I teamed up with my sound system install partner Jeff Dayton, a fellow HOB'er and sound guy at Doublewide. Since then, Dada let us design and install their new system I am very proud of both sound systems. It's amazing what happens when good club owners like Rob and Stephanie from La Grange, or Josh, Dusty and Phil at Dada let you put in the sound system that needs to be there, even though it's not necessarily the most cost-effective. It really makes a difference to the band, the engineer, and most importantly the audience.
HOB looks like a bitch to mix because of the way it's shaped. It goes straight up in the air. Then again, what the hell do I know? Is it a bitch to make it sound good upstairs and down?
So, now we are at the sound-nerd question! Funny enough, I find that a room like House of Blues is simple to mix, the only key is not to fight the thought of how big it is. It has all the power you could need, is tuned great, and we have a Midas brand console. I honestly think it is the best sounding room in Dallas. No question. I know it's cool to bash them for being the big bad corporate venue, but there is a reason bands want to play there. It sounds great and the production is top notch. The entire department works very hard to keep it that way, especially our production manager Tommy Debaudry. It is the small rooms with bad equipment that are hard, and no I won't mention any clubs by name!
Tell us about the Doubledowns.
So, the Doubledowns started eight years ago when me and my friend Ace McNeely were drinking in a bar talking about how we were going to do this gig with a previous band, since our drummer and bass player were both unavailable. So, we made up a name: Ace and the Doubledowns. We found Rob Schumacher to play drums, Ward Richmond to play bass, and got up on stage without rehearsing. And, from then on we have been playing shows and not taking ourselves too seriously. We made an album called Dirty Slang and Innuendo. It's the record I always wanted to make. It's got so many of my friends on it: Matt Hillyer, Pops Carter, The Fabulous Harmonaires, too many more to name. It was a blast to make. Later, Ward left the band and Eric Neal joined up on bass and we continued playing to no avail for years. In the last few years we played less frequently due to me spending all my time mixing other bands. However, when Ace passed away last year we began playing shows again in a tribute to him. His father "Big Pappa" Russ McNeely has taken Ace's spot in the band.
Then, of course, you all founded the Ace McNeely foundation.
Yes. When Ace passed last year a few friends and family started a foundation in his name to preserve his memory, and we figured the best way to do it would be to start a charity that would raise money to help fund children's music education. I am honestly more proud of this than almost anything else in my life. Most anyone who would read an article about me would probably know him, but for those who don't, he was an amazing musician, guitar player, composer, band leader, and most importantly, friend. We are doing a big show in his honor on August 20th at Club Dada called the Ace-a-thon. I am excited to announce that before the concert we will be having an awesome event for the whole family at Dada. It will feature local musicians doing short clinics about a variety of music and playing subjects all afternoon. Admission is free and there will be free food and discounted adult beverages for the parents. It will be a great event and I hope that everyone will pass on info about both the afternoon fun for the kids and the fundraiser later in the evening. For more info go to acemcneelyfoundation.org. We also have a Facebook fan page.
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Have you ever traveled with acts and mixed? Is there an act in particualr you'd love to hit the road with?
I work with everyone's favorite Dallas duo The O's. I have way more fun touring and mixing them then I do just about any band. It helps that I think they are one of the up and coming bands in Texas, and maybe even the country. I also mix shows occasionally for Here Holy Spain, Grant Jones and the Pistol Grip Lassos, and recently, Rodney Parker and the 50 Peso Reward. My brother David just joined as their drummer. If I could have that "dream gig," it would be with someone like Foo Fighters, a great rock band that doesn't take themselves too seriously.
Where does Brian Fiegelman want to take all this? What's on that dusty horizon for you?
I figure in the next ten years I should be in congress, I say laughingly, but more realistically a production manager somewhere or hopefully able to make a living just mixing The O's.