Musician Magazine interview 1995

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Sleeping With the Enemy: When Musicians Become Record Executives. Excerpted from Musician Magazine, March 1995. Written by Roy Trakin.

Derek Shulman

Scottish leader of progressive art-rock group Gentle Giant joined PolyGram doing promotion and artist development before moving on to do A&R at Mercury, where he worked with Bon Jovi, Cinderella and Kingdom Come. Later headed Atco Records and most recently has worked as an A&R consultant for Giant Records.

How he gravitated towards business side

"My theory is, careers in the music business have ten-year spans and after that you should move on. When we first started, the bottom line was we wanted to make music. I decided to manage the band myself because we kept getting ripped off. Which, in retrospect, is the worst thing an artist can do, you're not taken seriously as either. With Gentle Giant, we did everything ourselves, just like an indie band does today."

The turning point

"We were on a headlining tour with Gentle Giant and the kids were going crazy. But we just weren't playing that well. I realized it had become like a day job and I had always vowed, since I was in high school. if the music business ever became like a job, I'd quit. At the end of that U.S. tour, we had a meeting, looked at one another and decided to break the band up.

"I had a couple of production deals with labels, but I wasn't sure I wanted to sequester myself behind four dark walls for the rest of my life, either. And then a couple of people from PolyGram I was friendly with called and said, 'Why don't you work for a label?' They suggested I do promotion and artist development and why not? People like Jeff Pollack and Lee Abrams were both radio DJs who were big fans of Gentle Giant. And I got to know these people from the ground up."

How his musical background helps in his current job

"Underneath this music business executive is a revolutionary musician who doesn't want a day job, and who wants to do something a little bit more creatively. I feel I can relate to young bands because I can relate to being on a crappy tour bus as well as doing the big mega-tours. And I can relate to the musical part. Rather than say, 'I don't like this song because I don't like it,' I can say, 'Why don't you try this?,' pick up a guitar and give them a chord change. Whether they laugh at me behind my back, I don't know, but I'm still a musician at heart."