We had the good fortune of connecting with Jake Skolnick and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jake, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
I think the music business is inherently risky. When I was at NYU studying about the music industry concert promoters and talent buyers were described by several of my professors as “professional gamblers.” I’ve never been much of a traditional gambler (aside from the occasional family games of poker/blackjack) but somehow I ended up as a talent buyer for 6+ venues in San Diego. Before I made the leap into working for myself full-time I had to take the calculated risk of quitting my minimum wage job and going full force into music. I wasn’t quite making enough money to support myself just on music, but I was running low on time and resources and spreading myself a bit thin the way things were going. I had talked with several friends of mine (and mentors) who had successfully made this jump and they all told me the same thing — namely that you’re never ready 100% to make the switch, and at a certain point you just have to go for it and put all your eggs in the music basket. I’m not 100% sure when the tipping point was exactly for me, but I know I haven’t looked back since I made the jump. Sure there have been some months where I’ve lived well below the poverty line, but there’s thankfully been some better months to make up for the worse ones. Being a business-owner is never all rainbows and lollipops and you will definitely work harder than most people with “normal” jobs. But you will be your own boss in the end and have the freedom to decide where your professional career can go — and that has been worth the risk for me. A crucial example of a risk was on my first European Tour. I went to France on a solo acoustic tour for my pop-punk band The Plastic Revolution. I met BandapArt (then the Mega Volts) as a result of a myspace message. I was looking for potential festivals/shows really anything I could book in France and stumbled upon this event called Festa’Zik which was supposed to be a ska/punk festival in the south of france although I had no idea of the city. It seemed right up my alley seemingly so I found the lineup and messaged everyone involved. The only people to write me back was this young band called Mega Volts. They made me an offer to share the beginning of their set (playing a few songs). They said there’s no money but if you want to come and play a few songs before us we’ll be happy to share our set with you. The festival is outdoor and we will be camping so we can offer you camping outside and maybe we can do something the night before too. Not really having any camping gear with me, and getting 100-200Euro’s/gig already I was uncertain. It sounded like a big risk to go all the way there for a few minutes to play before this band — but the festival looked cool (at least the poster did) — and i didn’t really have anything else offered for those days. My mom actually solidified the deal when she asked me “what’s the worst thing that can happen?” I told her my usual fears of losing my material possessions and or not having any $ and she proceeded to tell me that oftentimes the things we are most afraid of are the most important in our life. Deciding I wasn’t going to let fear get in the way of greatness I committed to the show. It ended up being one of the best experiences of my life, and I gained 4+ brothers and a huge French family because of it. Then guitarist Bastien was working in Montpellier (where my show was the thursday before) and he offered to meet me at the bus station and escort me to Bedarieux (where Mega Volts lived). I met him at the bus station and he paid my fare. We talked about sponsors, Audix/Tsunami and he told me about LAG guitars and then we discussed gear music and other things. Once we arrived to Bedarieux in the center of town his father came and asked me to play a song (which I didn’t realize at the time was an audition). After I played a song for him on the street he invited us to have a coffee at the bar right across the way. I think at that point I passed the test and a very young Fabi (15/16) and Baptiste (14) were all sitting three in the front row of Vlad’s (my french dad) van as they drove up to meet me. I’ll never forget the way they all looked crammed in that row when there was a big van with rows of seats behind them — a crucial difference of French and Americans. French actually like to be close to each other while Americans will always opt to spread out and not be crammed together. Anyways from there I was taken to Baptiste and Vlad’s house. They were packing up the PA and fixing the overhang on their outdoor patio. I was shown to my guest room (Valentin’s room – thanks little buddy for always doing that) where there was a razor and robe and towel laid out for me — to this day some of the best accommodations I’ve ever gotten. And let me tell you after the night I had in montpellier prior that shower was one of the best of my life. I walked out of the shower to Rose (my french mom) demanding I give her my dirty clothes to wash and then I joined the others in the living-room. Bastien was then presented with a one-of-a-kind LAG guitar and he was ecstatic. From there we all went to the center of town and Mega Volts had put together another concert in the town square. There was already a pretty impressive sized stage erected not far from where my cafe audition was held — and we unloaded the car. I helped the band set up the PA and Fabi with his drums. The band asked me to join them for a song (I think it was 7 nation army by white stripes) and then they asked me to stay up for most of their set. I played pulp fiction, and the muse (i think or maybe we just jammed it the next day). I also played solo acoustic at least an hour of TPR stuff (domino, mental health, sex crazed) to quite possibly the largest and most receptive european audience to that point. After my show I walked around and sold more CD’s than I ever had before and all of the people wanted to talk to me (with a few exceptions telling me I sucked in a funny polite way). When the show was over we all went into the bar and drank beer with cherry syrup in it (me 24 and baptiste 14) which i was astounded that he wasn’t carded or anything — another crucial French/American difference… The band apologized to me that there weren’t many people when I was surprised — there were over 100 (to my recollection) and i had sold over 200 euros in merch which already made the trip SUPER worth it for me. It was the beginning of a kinship between me and these “French kids.” The next day was the actual festival Festa’Zik. When we were leaving Baptiste’s house he snuck out the back with a crate full of beer. The boys told me to go into a liquor store and demand a “Biflet” — which was supposed to be the very best alcohol they made in their region. This ended up being the english equivalent to demanding a “cock-slap” to which a very confused proprietor politely declined to me and the boys roared with laughter. I remember yelling at the dogs by Manu’s house and all of us having a grand old time. Anyways, this was my first experience with a legitimate festival. There were well over 1,000 people in front of the main stage when I did my set, and although it was short it was by far a turning point in my musical career. While I had always had some reservations and insecurities about my performance/singing abilities, when I had 1,000 french people actively listening and loving my acoustic set something clicked inside of me and I realized that I was going to be able to “do this.” During Mega Volts set I sang the muse with them and I also drank beers sidestage and enjoyed my new life as a french rockstar. From there we slept in tents in Manu’s parents backyard (walking distance just up the hill) and we stayed up all night and partied and played 21. I remember calling Tommy Kelly (my then bassist of TPR) and regaling him with the tale of the festival and that I was going to sign this band and bring them to America something I’ve done over 5 times now. It was a glorious beginning. My life was changed after Festa’Zik – saturday June 11 2011 — I had managed to entertain around 1000 French people — sell most of merch — have them actually listen and applaud — and if I could do that, I certainly could at least play shitier shows around the world and chase the musical dragon the rest of my life. And in no uncertain terms, that’s what I’ve been doing ever since. If I didn’t take that risk I would not have continued on with TPR and then created QUEL BORDEL. I owe a huge portion of my life to those “French kids” and I will love them and their families forever. It is important to note that this risk goes both ways. Not only did I make a risk coming down there but they took a risk on an American phishing scheme on myspace (which by all rights they thought I was some type of fraud in the beginning). They opened their homes and their hearts to me and for that I am eternally grateful. To this day I don’t know if they know how much of my confidence and subsequent life has been changed by meeting them — but I plan on telling them and letting them read this article. So to them je dis “Gros merci pour tous ma famille Francais. Je vous aimes tres fort!”
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I would take one of our tour itineraries with BandàBordel. We eat at Inn-N-Out Burger. We play music at The Shamrock Irish Pub & Eatery in Murrieta, The Field Irish Pub in the gaslamp, The Holding Company in Ocean Beach. We would party at every band member’s house in QB and end it all with a bonfire on fiesta island.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?