Time to Kill

“I know it sounds lame, but I actually did come down here [to San Diego] seven years ago to follow my dreams of grandeur,” says Ambient Bob, bass player for the Vulgar Herd.

What was the dream? “To be a rock star,” he confesses. “Met a lot of great people, did a lot of great things, and it all fell through. I didn’t play the kind of music I liked then, in hopes of getting rich quick. Ended up taking a lucrative yet brief stint in the mortgage business. We all know about that one. The way I see it now is…I may as well like what I do.”

“Loud and unapologetic” is how the Vulgar Herd describe themselves, “a cross between groove, 7/8, metal, funk…” A blogger at dirtbagsdelight.wordpress.com, discussing a show at the Ken Club, called the band an “odd mixture of Pretzel Logic–era Steely Dan and Europe, of all bands.”

The Vulgar Herd is a five-piece. Trash Arch (guitar) and Ambient Bob provided answers — Theo (keys), Chris (guitar), and Vaughn (percussion) remained quiet.


Thrash Arch: “My electric is an Epiphone 335 DOT semi-hollow body that is relatively new. I bought it a few years ago. Because it’s semi-hollow, it really picks up a lot of sustain, and I swear it’s getting a warmer and warmer tone the older it gets. The wood just picks up so much ambient vibe because it’s hollow — it’s like playing an acoustic but with more guts. It’s kinda cool to think that most of that guitar’s sound is really just the empty space between the front and back.”

Ambient Bob: “At the ripe age of 21, after a dismal settlement with Wal-Mart at the cost of my back, I walked into Guitar Center. I had frequented the place for a couple of months prior in expectation of a settlement. They had a fretless, five-string Music Man Stingray at the very top of their bass room. Just like Wayne [Wayne’s World], I knew it would be mine…‘oh yes, it would be mine.’ After I got paid I had $2000 to invest in a guitar — $800 less than the guitar’s list price. I walked up to the first person I saw and acted like I could afford to buy the entire store. I had them get the ladder, grab my axe. I told them that I wanted the Boss GTB-6 effects pedal, a hard case, a mike, a mike stand, and all the cables to make me show-worthy. He asked if I wanted to play the guitar before buying it. I arrogantly said ‘no.’ The gentleman rang me up and said that the total was going to be $3900. I had my $2K in cash and pulled it out. I said, ‘I’ve got this to spend; I’m getting more money next week. I know you make commission. Give me your business card, and I will make sure you get the amp I buy next week.’ Essentially I got everything for what I brought in and have never since walked into that store.”


Ambient Bob: “Anticipating the other bands that are on the bill and the soundman’s perception of what we are supposed to sound like. Not to say that either is the problem, but sometimes we have been stuck with bands in different genres than what our style is. Also when the soundman thinks that our mix should be one way, finds out that our emphasis lies somewhere else, and does a lot of live mixing. A great soundman is crucial, as is getting on, or making, a bill that fits within the same genre. We have played at Humphrey’s a couple of times, had a great time, but I don’t know — if I were on vacation, in my elder years, would I want to hear a bunch of progressive-type music?”

Thrash Arch: “Not getting drunk before we go on.”


Ambient Bob: “Best: Riverside, playing at a costume party where we represented the future. Every band had a specific timeline that they represented. There was a band called Hobo Jazz that definitely lived up to the old rail-hobo mentality…whether we really are the future is yet to be told. Worst show would have to be at Scolari’s Office. We set up really early and had some time to kill. Arch lives in Encinitas, so I figured I would be hospitable and have him over for ‘a’ drink before the show. Two bottles of cheap wine and a couple shots of Jim Beam, we stroll back to Scolari’s — we don’t remember the rest of the show.”


Thrash Arch: “I saw a solo cellist perform with the San Diego Symphony last year at the Embarcadero, and seeing a girl put that much passion into an instrument was sexy as hell.”


Thrash Arch: “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did.” — Mark Twain.

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Jeez, so "Ambient Bob" admits - even brags - about ripping off the Guitar Center clerk, who he KNEW worked on commission?!?!? For almost $2000????!!!!! Nice.

Anyone and everyone thinking about trusting Ambient Bob with ANYthing more valuable than a lit match, please make note. And, if you ever see him coming your way, padlock your belongings.....

Jay, I agree & disagree. While hosing the poor underpaid Guitar Center vulture shows no scruples, anyone who has been to the store knows that the gear is severely over priced.

If given the opportunity to get something you wanted (whatever it may be) at about 50% off, would you take advantage of it? I would!!!

Thief or not, I'd say he drove a hard bargain and out sold the sales person.

(I still don't know if I would trust him even with a lit match!)

As a former Guitar Center employee back in the late 80s (something I cringe at admitting, but hey I was in a band and needed a job) I can attest that since they buy in bulk, the company pays 30-40% of the so called "list price." In the backroom, where salesmen pretend to "go up to bat" for you, there is The Book, that allegedly states what they paid for an item, that the manager shows the salesmen and says, "You have to get them up to where we make grift!"

And then there in The Real Book (which I imagine by now is an electonic file) for management eyes only, that shows what they REALLY paid for it, which is most likely not the real price from Corporate, as they never tell their managers the truth anyway. The manager will say, "Tell the guy I yelled at you, threatened to fire you, that you got on your knees and begged for XXX price." You become the custumer's good buddy so he/she will feel bad that you are getting yelled and, and they will pay a certain price.

So let's say GC paid 40% of that $3900 list price...GC still made money...that salesman would never have sold the stuff for $2K without a manager's sign-off and some "grift" made...and commission there (at least in the 80s) was a joke. One did not get a commission until one exceeded a certain dollar value of sales, beyond the base min. wage pay, which hardly any of them do. You have to sell quite a bit of high-end name brand guitars, drum sets, or synthesizers to get there. And management, when I was there, was always looking for ways to get out of paying commission, as they were pressured to by Corporate. The only time I made any commission was during Xmas when there was a staff shortage, and I was working every department on the floor.

And customers pulled that same line on me all the time, "I'll be back and do you well with an excellent sale," etc. The guy was just bargaining a good deal, not ripping anyone off. Trust me when I say GC management would have never approved the sale unless profit was made.

Anyone who pays list price for musical instruments is a fool. Stores like GC are set up for haggling; most people in the U.S. do not know how to haggle a price so simply pay "list" (and what list is that, the one they make up) because they happen to have a new credit card and are excited -- I mean, when someone offered to pay list price, I never told them, "Gee, you can have this for 40% less..." I rang 'em up. With a smile. And a, "Thank you for shopping here, come back soon!"

Disclaimer - Opinions are mine only and the GC I worked at, on El Cajon and 68th, no longer exists there.

Hmmm, okay. Then this info indicates I may have been unfair to describe what Bob did to the Guitar Center clerk as "ripping off." In light of Mikeh's post, and after re-reading Bob's own quotes, I take back what I said about not trusting Bob with property. It appears only his WORD cannot be trusted, as he lied to the clerk about bringing him the amp business. So Bob may not be a thief after all - only an admitted liar (I don't consider lying to be "bargaining"). Ensuing trust issues are best left to those thinking about trusting Ambient Bob ------

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