The History of mjk
This history (and the rest of the site for that matter) is a work in progress. Let me begin by saying that I am the rightful owner of mjk.com, which was stolen from me by Network “Solutions” a company with which I have had nothing but problems. When I say “stolen” I specifically mean that I paid for the renewal by check in 1999, and they cashed my check, then gave the domain to someone else on the basis of non-payment. Anyway, on with the history….
The history of the mjk project begins in the year 1990 as a idea called “Project Mega” at EVS/Fleetwood Studios, with an iconic recording session at Longview Farms Studios in Spring of the following year. mjk, Danny Brown and Robert Ellis laid down tracks on 3 songs which would be released later along with several other songs. Shortly thereafter, Gerry Simon of EVS/Fleetwood Studios in Revere, MA, became the project’s benefactor and allowed us to record all subsequent sessions in his studio. Without Gerry Simon, there would never have been an mjk project in the first place. Our organization is deeply indebted to Gerry Simon. There are numerous other individuals who have helped the mjk project in many ways. We shall always be indebted to them.
The first two songs from that first session at Longview were entitled “Maybe You’ll See” and “Woman.” These songs were completed and mixed at Longview and were later released on cassette tape as a single. In those days we didn’t worry so much about trademarks, and in retrospect we should have trademarked the terms which we pioneered, such as “Reverse Cassingle” which was the name given to our cassette release because it featured a reverse order A and B side, so one could simply reverse the cassette player to hear the same song over and over. Later “Maybe You’ll See” would get a makeover with Tony Vaughn playing bass, and a new guitar solo by mjk, before being re-mixed at Squid Hell studio and re-released on a 1995 CD entitled “Classic Reminder.”
Classic Reminder, 1995, DXer Records
Previous to 1995, we had spent a few years trying to obtain a recording contract from one of the major record companies, but those years were tumultuous and uncertain and it was very difficult to obtain recognition with the kind of music we were doing (which is now called “Classic Rock”). We had formed our own recording and publishing companies, which were self-financed, but my medical problems severely interfered with progress. We struggled with financing until we finally were able to release a CD in 1995 on our own label, DXer Records. The title of the CD was accidental, as Danny Brown and I had been discussing the theme of the record on the phone, and he misunderstood what I said. We were doing a very classic pop/rock genre record and I thought that “Classically Minded” would be a good title because that literally was our mindset while recording. Danny however, heard “Classic Reminder” and without delay Danny implemented that name at the record company and I never knew what happened until I saw the first printing of the CD! We had a good laugh at the studio, listening to the first pressing, and decided to let it remain so named.
Classic Reminder served us well, with a single entited “Gotta Keep Dancin” which peaked at 37 spins per week on the US radio stations that played it. Nothing is as easy as it seems though, and we had difficulties getting “Gotta Keep Dancin” played. Remember, in 1995, hip-hop and rap ruled the airways, and anything that challenged that format was viewed as un-hip at that time. Many music directors told us that the song was just too heavy and didn’t fit with their format well. But the new stations that played the record, spun it to death and loved every play. I found out during this time that many music directors thought I was a young black man, when in fact I was a 38 year old white male, in sort of a Buddy Holly deja-vu! “Gotta Keep Dancin” was in fact, I believe, a new form of pop music at that time, one which combined the elements of dance with hard rock. We took what was essentially a hip-hop sounding drum beat, and overlaid it with searing hot guitars and a very daring vocal track (particularly the ending!). That really set the mjk sound apart from the rest of the crowd. But still, we couldn’t get any major labels interested in even distributing our records. During that time I endured extreme pain due to a back injury and played shows wearing a tightly wrapped back brace.
Pop Til’ You Drop, 1997
Having written several new songs, we recorded 4 of them at Fleetwood and subsequently mixed them in New York with our good friend David Dachinger. The 4 songs were then mastered at Sony in NYC, by the great Vlado Meller (in fact, Vlado had to take a break from mastering our tunes to work on the Barbara Streisand/ Celine Dion album). The Sony mastered versions are the ones available on the Home page of this site, and are:
- How Could I Ever Let You Go
- Gotta Keep Dancin
- What Went Wrong
- The Things I Should Have Said
The songs were supposed to be released as a 4-song EP but that never happened. By 1997 our finances had reached a critical level (critically low) and frankly, after several years of medical issues I found it difficult to continue. Talent and success are completely unrelated and the sooner that young artists learn that crucial fact, the better! Back in those days, independent record labels did not have the tools available to challenge the major labels, like they do today. It’s possible these days to sell records online and do live-streaming PPV shows completely under your own control and independent of any major label. in 1997 we couldn’t get any traction, so it was time to do something else.
In 1997 I decided to concentrate on manufacturing engineering and just let the music business go on it’s merry way without me. I also was involved in broadcast engineering in the greater Boston area. By 2002 I had become known in the manufacturing industry and this eventually lead to my going to Taiwan to oversee some manufacturing operations there. Given my background in the Chinese language, this was a fun opportunity for me.
The 21st Century
I got married in Taiwan in 2007 to an amazing woman. She started a company called Asian Castings Consortium and together with her background and mine we have run this family business. It was easy to forget the music business and all the idiotic things that went along with just trying to record and release my own music.
In the meantime, the DAW Revolution happened and I completely missed that. I have written about this on my studio website and so I’m not going to go into too much detail here. But needless to say, when I decided to start recording again I wasn’t going to mix with a mouse and a keyboard! I also wasn’t very keen on using plugins either. All those years of recording, I used a console and analog tape and except for using Protools one time to edit a single, I never saw a single waveform of anything I did. So as you might guess, my studio has (not one, but 2) mixing consoles. I am currently busy finishing up several songs for a new release. Regarding that, let me talk about why it’s taking so long….
I’m happy to say that I’m picking up some mixing and Mastering jobs. I always enjoy those because it polishes my skills. I’ve written some technical articles on the studio website about upgrading to a Dante audio network. Along the way I’ve been continuously upgrading my studio since I began the project in late 2018. As things progressed, it became apparent that quite a bit of the tracks I had recorded early on should really be done over. So in some cases I’ve recorded the same song several times. Also, instead of just concentrating on a single song, I’ve spread out the workload among several new compositions that I am growing up together, so now they are all very close the same point along the development path. This has resulted in all of the songs having benefited from upgrades and of course, improved engineering techniques, experience and capability gained in the process. At this point, I am making an assessment of the songs I have in-progress and I will pick one to press forward and onto completion and release. I have distribution channels in place and I am also entertaining (as ironic as this sounds) the possibility of working with a small label.
To be continued….