Bob Ezrin GEMS speech
[Note: You can watch the video and read along simultaneously. If you're German, you may want to check out the German translation.]
Bob Ezrin: "This is about art. This is about the stuff we make. It's about the things that we love to do. And we have to remember that, we really need to remember that. We really, actually, have to think about ... not to put this down, but we have to think about what our motivation was for coming here in the first place.
What are we doing here? Did we come here because we wanted to find out how to become a star? Did we come here because we want to make a bunch of money, and we're not making it, and we and want to know how? Did we come here because, you know, we're looking for a way to crack the business, get into the business, do you want to be in the business? If that's why we're here, we're all fucked. [laughter]
Because the business happened after the art. This is something that -- you know, I have to remind myself this everyday, actually, so it's not like, you know, I'm some kind of guru and I'm peeing on you guys. This is something we all need to remember. But we get caught up in the world, we get caught up in the world around us, and the world around us is a commercial world. And it's a world full of acquisitiveness, and greed, and insecurity.
Everybody wants to know, kind of, where the next check is coming from, how am I going to make a million, what am I going to do? And that kind of overwhelms what started us off in the first place, what was the impetus for us to even be in this room in the first place. And that was at some point in our lives, usually very early on, a fire was ignited inside. And it was ignited by, sometimes, a relative that we adored and we wanted to emulate. Sometimes by something that we saw. In my case, it was kind of both of those things.
I'm going to forget the speech I wrote. Screw it.
In my case, it was both of those things. My grandfather was a linotype operator in Toronto. How many Canadians do we have here? Yo. How 'bout them Leafs, eh? Yeah.
My grandfather was a linotype operator in Toronto, and a frustrated vaudevillian. A song and dance man, in his heart. In his heart, he was Gene Kelly, or Fred Estaire, or somebody like that. He was a good dancer, he was a real hoofer. He sang ... his version of Old Man River was the most beautiful, heartfelt, warm version I've ever heard.
So when I was tiny, when I was like a year and a half old, he started teaching me song and dance routines. And the two of us would be like ... I would be like his little shadow. He was bald, I was bald. [laughter] We'd do our little routines, you know, we did! "Me and my shadow...." He took me, taught me these things that I loved, and we'd perform for the family. The family would applaud, and I would go, "Yeah! I like that. That feels good."
But I loved the sound of his voice. I just loved singing with him. I just loved the feeling, the, the kind of overwhelming atmosphere that it creates, everything else disappeared around me. I didn't hear the birds, I didn't notice anything that was going on on television, my mother was in another room. Nothing counted, just the sound of the two voices. My little voice singing along with his. And then, one day when I was four and half years old, he took me to the movies to see Charlton Heston in The Greatest Show on Earth, which was a circus movie and the year was 1954. So, in 1954, we went to see The Greatest Show on Earth, and we sat in this big, dark room, with these wonderful speakers, and this big screen, and I was watching people doing amazing tricks on the screen. And my grandfather was singing to me, like quietly while we were sitting there. And something happened. Something just went 'poof,' and I just changed cellularly, at that particular moment, and became completely addicted to the idea of being on stage. It's what I wanted to do. I wanted to be in showbiz.
I didn't want to be in the 'biz,' I didn't know what the 'biz' part meant. I wanted to be in the show. That's what I wanted, I wanted to be in the show. I wanted to sing. I wanted to dance. My little brothers and I used to do song and dance routines; my parents would teach us that. I had two little brothers who were twins. They were cute as buttons. They were redheads, I was dark, so one on either side. We wore little striped jackets and little straw hats. We would do all the standards in two part harmony, and we'd dance. And we'd do it for the family and everybody would applaud. And I loved it, I loved it.
And that was the spark. It started four and half ... well, it started at one and a half. It just became a part of me, to the point where I did not choose to be in entertainment, it just chose me. I mean, that was it. I was done, like toast. And I had no choice but to create, to do stuff. To sing, to dance, to perform.
One day, I started taking piano lessons, and I sat down with this huge piece of wood and thumped away. Now, this was not my first exposure. My mother was a concert pianist, so I used to actually lie underneath the piano and listen to her play, and just imagine and dream. And listen to classical records, I loved classical records. Apparently when I was one year old, I had my own record player, and I knew what records were what, and I used to put them on and listen to them, so I knew the songs.
So I would lie under the piano, so my mother ... but when I got to the piano, when I could literally start to play, and I found notes, I started, like, plunking out stuff and I liked the way it sounded, and I would remember the stuff I plunked out, and I'd go back the next day and plunk it out again. And that was songwriting. I began to write songs. And I loved it! I just loved it! And that became a part of my cellular makeup.
And two years later, my Uncle Sid, who was a lawyer in Toronto, and a bachelor, so he had lots of money, because any of you who have children know the difference, you know. So, you know, he was a bachelor, and he lived with my grandparents, he lived with my grandparents until he was 50. How's that, huh?
Talk about ... you know, rent free! So, Uncle Sid had a sports car, and Uncle Sid had the first stereo system in Toronto, and he had the largest privately owned record collection in Canada. So, I used to go down to the basement in my grandparents house with Uncle Sid, and I would listen to stereo, and he played for me an album called "Spike Jones in Spooktacular Stereo" the band that plays for fun.
And it was the first time that I heard stuff move from speaker to speaker. You know, it was going, "Do do do do do do do do." It was when stereo first came out, and people could do that, so they did, you know? Everything was bells and whistles, but I fell in love with the sound of that. And he had tape machines. He had lots of tape machines.
In fact, Uncle Sid's best friend was a dentist from San Franciso named Wally Hider. The two of them used to go to these conferences, and they used to take their portable ampex machines, which were not portable at all, they were the size of this table. And they'd drag them onto the field, they'd have long wires going all the way back to the power and stuff, and they'd record the Newport Jazz Festival and things like that.
And Uncle Sid owned a jazz club in Toronto, and then a folk club. Anyway, playing in Uncle Sid's basement, I got to play around with turntables, and tape machines, and he had microphones, and he had headphones, you know, strange shortwave radios, all this stuff. I got the smell and the feel of that, and became absolutely addicted to it. The smell of tape. That changed me cellularly, as well.
Anyway, a lot of this stuff happened. I could go on for an hour and tell you all of the things, the wonderful, sort of, coincidences, or confluence of influences that happened to me as a kid that made it impossible for me to do anything else but create things. It's what I do. I make stuff. I have to, and I don't care if anybody pays me or not, I just have to do it. So, even when people are not writing checks, I'm home making stuff. How many of you are like that? How many of you are at home making stuff? How many people will only do it when somebody writes a check? Nobody would admit right, but some people .... But anyway, I have to. I have to make stuff. I have to try, I have to try to be good, and I have to create, and I have to think up new ideas. It's not something I'm conscious of, it's not like I'm going downstairs and saying, "God, I've got to ... I've got to have an idea today." I just wake up and I've got an idea. I wake up and there's a new concept for a TV show, or a new concept for a song, or something that I'd like to see on stage, and I just have to do it. I have to.
When I get that thing, then I start going out looking for other people who want to play, too. Because ultimately, the things that I want to make, I'm making not just for myself, but for ... to please other people. Maybe that's just because of the way that I'm brought up."