How This Death Metal Bassist Works His Day Job From The Road
It’s common knowledge these days that touring is the only way most bands make any money. With physical sales lower than ever and band sponsorships a rarity, playing shows and selling merch is how most musicians make a living from their dream. But what about those artists who want to make music but aren’t willing to give up the career they’ve built?
Now, in a recent interview with Spotify, death metal bassist Steve Musgrave explains how he juggles both a professional career and a life touring with one of the most brutal bands around. Steve plays bass for Tomb Mold, an up-and-coming death metal act whose new album Planetary Clairvoyance has made waves in the underground for its lurching, oozing tones. But most of the time, Steve is Vice President of Operations and Sales at Rightsleeve, a promotional merchandise company. His day job actually stems from his experience making merch for bands back in the day.
“I got into doing this because I wanted to make shirts for a band I was in like fifteen years ago, so I taught myself how to make shirts,” Steve tells Spotify. ” I started hanging out at a studio and learned how to screenprint there. Then, I was living in Toronto and got a job in an industrial screenprinting shop. I had a lot of friends that played in bands, so I started printing shirts for my friends’ bands and their friends’ bands. I was running my own little music merch company on the side. I was tired all the time and my knees hurt, and I smelled like paint thinner, so I wanted to stop actually printing. I saw this company that did kind of the same thing I was already doing, but they were a distributor.”
Above: Tomb Mold playing Saint Vitus Bar. Photo: Andrew Notsch
Given the popularity Tomb Mold has seen of late, one might assume that Steve has a hard time choosing between giving up music or enraging his supervisor. But apparently, the conflicts that occur between his day and night gigs don’t cost him that much sleep.
“It’s weird to call them conflicts,” he says. “There’s definitely stuff I’ve said “no” to in the band because of my work. I’m in a really cool company that values what their employees do outside of work. They’re a very performance-driven company, so there’s a lot of leeway to be able to explore personal stuff if you’re productive and you’re accomplishing what you’re supposed to. I’ve done more with the band than I probably would be able to do with a lot of other jobs.”
Meanwhile, it’s not as though going on the road is vacation for the bassist. “If something really serious came up for work and they needed me, I’d totally be able to do something for it. But if we’re playing something in town and we have to drive all day Friday, I’m working-ish on Friday. I’m checking my email and responding to things, talking to people on my team.”
Planetary Clairvoyance continues to see Tomb Mold rising in the ranks of the death metal underground. But though he loves playing death metal, Steve isn’t ready to sacrifice his main gig at its altar.
“I’m happy to say, maybe obnoxiously so, that I’m not in a spot where just I’m waiting for the band to take off so I can quit my stupid job that I hate and live my dream life,” he says. “I like my job a lot. Getting me to leave it would be very hard. It means a lot to me, and I’ve spent a lot of time building what I’m doing there. My high school yearbook thing that somebody else wrote about me mentioned me making my own punk shirts when I was like 14. It’s what I’ve been doing my whole life, so it’s super-important to me. I want to do both things with my life.”
Tomb Mold’s Planetary Clairvoyance is out now on 20 Buck Spin, and available for purchase.
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