The only thing weirder than getting all of your shit stolen is getting it back. Well, minus the dirty clothes, shoes, and time invested.
1.18.14 – In Guadalajara, Mexico, my ability to tolerate living this questionable lifestyle was put to the test when we got robbed in a “secure” parking lot. It was a typical story. We were in a guarded, gated parking lot and those are the very circumstances that allowed us to be had by someone most certainly on the inside. Among the passports, money, laptops, ipods, were two things that were very important to me: My guitars. Like most cases, every bit of this was an inside, well done job.
The way I choose to live my life is a little outside of the box compared to most. I don’t own a bunch of things that are of no use to me. Even when the gear is job related, if I don’t have a use for it, it gets sold off or given away to help the only cause. Just like my job, these tools are multi faceted.
The relationship a musician has with an instrument is a little deeper than say one with a designer suit or even something useful like a vehicle. They are tools that get the job done as well as trophies that represent accomplishments. Most notably, they were provided by people that cared about having others hear what I was playing. One of these people unfortunately passed away a little more than a year ago, which is something else that added an unforeseen, sentimental value that I was not quite aware of.
The truth is that I never expected to see these instruments again. After a huge amount of detail I could go into – like getting back into the states, buying an entire new wardrobe to only have united air lose my luggage thus showing up to NAMM ready to perform in smelly stage clothes I had on for days – all the way to having to pull off obtaining a new passport in the middle of a day full of demonstrations in those clothes in LA – the threat of not being able to return home to Canada if I did not absolutely luck out and find the greatest help. I would’ve been fist fucked by life and not able to return home for a long time. Getting over the frustration, borrowing instruments from locals to play while in turn preventing the promoter and the band from sinking into thousands of dollars of debt..
Needless to say, anyone that travels internationally for a living is quite used to the situations I just listed. It’s always “Oh shit my passport..” or “Great.. there goes my luggage, pedal board, as well as any hope for being on time to my obligation” You get to a point where you ALMOST say “This shit is not worth it – time to call it a day”
A couple of weeks into the US tour directly proceeding this bullshit extravaganza, I was informed that a random local had info on the guitars. It turns out his “friend” had a pawn shop that bought the guitars off of the thieves. (Translation: this guy stole my shit and was now trying to sell it back to me ) Brad Lawson from Chimaira’s management started talking to this person with a goal of confirming the guitars were in his possession. He agreed to send photos or serials, but as soon as it got to that point, he would vanish. This would happen over and over again for a couple of weeks. It was being made clear that there should be no cops involved. He was told that the authorities would not be involved, and must have hit the wrong button on Google Translate, because that was it. He vanished for good. Done deal.
After making it home, It was then that I realized just how fucking stupid this whole thing is. I was sick and tired of the roller coaster of possibilities. I got the middle man’s info, befriended him on Facebook and sent him a straight forward message – he responded immediately and the process started all over.
For the next two or three weeks for about 4 or so hours a day, It was back and forth between this guy, management, PRS A&R, and an intense use of Google Translate. It was a stand off – the guy would send me a message, I’d translate it, make sense of it, then spend a lot of time being careful as to how I would respond because this guy was a sketch bag. Somewhere along the way, he finally sent photos of the guitars. It seemed like he was trying to keep doing this to solicit a bribe, but I think the translation barrier made it difficult. Finally, after some convincing, the bandit sent a phone number and requested someone that spoke Spanish. Luckily Monica Franco, a part of Ricochet Management, was there to translate.
Fast forwarding through more detail, Monica informed me that the person’s friend said “These guitars have his name on them. They could be worth thousands of dollars” It was then that we arrived at a whole new level of bullshit. They wanted me to name what I was willing to pay for these guitars.
I was close to telling them to take the guitars and burn them because I’d rather wipe my fucking ass with hundred dollar bills than reward their behavior. These people were acting as if this was “help” or that they were doing me a huge favor. To me, this was just admitting guilt. This dude couldn’t get rid of the guitars for more than what he payed for them.
Luckily, Monica convinced these bandits into the most sensible option – we would reimburse the “friend” for the amount of money he supposedly payed for the guitars. (Translation: soliciting a bribe)
So, at that point – it seemed as though we were going to pay the ransom and get the guitars back, but who is the most trustworthy person that is street smart enough to make the transaction happen?
Enter PRS international. We then began working out the details as we were carefully trying to get the bandit to play ball with a new cast of characters and not disappear again. PRS International agreed to help and we were now making progress, until they dropped off for unknown reasons. At this point, I immediately started building an alternate plan in case this one fell through. The only person that was capable and trust worthy was the promoter that brought us down to play the shows. His name is Seth Barron. If the initial game plan fell through, he was our only shot. I’m sure the people at PRS international felt that we were having them walk into a death trap, which is understandable. Contact was made with Seth who was nowhere near Guadalajara, but had people that could make the transaction happen sooner or later.
The clock was ticking, and while this was being worked out between all parties involved, my job was to buy time with the online bandit, who at this point was pissed and getting tired of waiting. I guess he thought since I’m American, I could just fly over the beautiful country of Mexico, propelled by my ass as it shits money throughout the sky whilst keeping me in motion by way of trajectory. I’m in a Grammy award winning band and all I really have to do is just sell a hubcap off of my Bentley to pay for what ever figure they see fit.
As a matter of fact, I’m known for upgrading countries from third world to civilized. What? You don’t watch national geographic or subscribe to Forbes Magazine?
Pardon my sarcasm.
There wound up being a communication gap, and PRS International did not get our emails, which explained why there a huge halt in progress with correspondence. I then find out that they already had someone en route with the ransom money and all things wound up coming together at the last minute. They were not getting our emails with photos and serials for whatever reason. Problem solved.
The bandit informed me that if the transaction was not made by 1:00 the following day, the deal would be off.
Everything wound up coming together. Seth was in contact with PRS, PRS International, the sketchy informant, everyone. He managed to smooth things out between all parties and things wound up working out. Shortly after 1:00, I got a text claiming that the ransom was payed, the transaction went through, I was all set. The guitars were safe and on the way.
I could keep writing about this, but you get the point. I’m skipping so many details, just know – the shit was exhausting, insulting, and flat out annoying. To call it intense and monotonous would be an understatement as well.
I have no reason to curse people I don’t know, or to reward the behavior of a person posing as the good guy. We have too many of those types in our lives already. This post is really an extended ramble followed by a very sincere thank you. I would like to thank the following people for helping me as well as putting up with my mouth during all of this. This was certainly a test that had me contemplating playing questionable places for the rest of my life which is part of the gig. Having these people deal with this burden with me; of something that may not even be there, in a situation that may be a complete scam… it just shows beyond a shadow of a doubt that there are people behind me that defy the norm in the music business – which is people that are only around to mount you and just suck the wind out of your sails.
So here’s to it. Thank you to the following people:
I will now be retiring these guitars from most touring situations. Every time I play them, it will be a reminder that there are people out there that actually care. They break the norm and make life much more tolerable.
Thanks for the read.
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