It is with profound sadness that I write about the sudden passing of Starsapien friend and studio engineer Jeffrey Pine.
Jeffrey was one of the most beloved sound guys I’ve ever known--a true champion for musical quality and perfection--and he made every moment in the Durham studio memorable and rewarding.
His dedication and talent added so much to our music, and you can hear his ineffable contribution in every song.
He was too modest to say it, but he was a genuine master of the craft and taught us the value of patience, practice and having a good time. Like the tree he’s named after, we leaned against him, and he propped us up with his solid and reliable presence.
The scruffy guitarist from Hoover Road, NC, was big-hearted, easy going and never shied away from laughing at himself. The band used to tease him that he didn’t own a single piece of clothing with a button, snap, zipper, or lace. Often in the studio he’d be barefoot (much to the chagrin of the studio manager). Even outside I never saw him wear anything but flip-flops or bedroom slippers.
I remember--fondly--the time he wore the same Sublime t-shirt every day for a week. “You gonna change that shirt, Jeffrey?” we joshed him endlessly. That was Jeffrey, basketball shorts and an old, musky tee, doing things his way--a true original. Seriously though, by the end of the week the studio was beginning to smell like a YMCA locker room. Oh Jeffrey, we will miss your incorrigible quirks.
I have so many precious memories of Jeffrey... like how he always used to say, “Alright, guys, I’m outtie 5000,” whenever he was leaving for the day. He wouldn’t say it once and awhile, but every time. Every time. I believe there’s a concept in comedy where if you say the same joke more than once it’s no longer funny, but if you keep saying it and keep saying it and keep saying it, then it starts to be funny again. I think, perhaps, he was going for that. I’m not sure though.
I mean, to be honest, comedy wasn’t Jeffrey’s strong suit. He was a little slow to get the joke sometimes, and I don’t mean that as a put down, I’m just saying he could be a little obtuse. Maybe obtuse isn’t the right word, but you know what I mean. Regardless, we all loved the old crank and will miss him dearly.
Another thing I remember about Jeffrey is the stories he used to tell whenever there was lull in the studio. He liked to talk about the time he was an extra in the movie The Lawnmower Man, or the day he hit Huey Lewis in the groin with a roll of gaffer’s tape, or about his friend who left a Stradivarius violin on the roof of his car and drove off, or that idiotic story about the dog named Bentley that ran away from home and then someone else adopted it and--coincidently--also named it Bentley. “That dog was just destined to be named Bentley,” he used to ponder wryly. Yep, we heard all these stories so many times I could recite them verbatim.
And now that I think of it, “stories” is maybe not the right word for these pointless rambles. A “story” usually implies some kind of interest on the part of the listener, or, at the very least, a reason for existing. No, these were more like anecdotes lacking narrative form, and they generally trailed off without any denouement. Let’s face it, Jeffrey Pine was no O. Henry. I say this in jest, of course--Jeffrey, your memory (and driveling anecdotes) will live on forever, my friend.
You know, there was one thing Jeffrey used to do that would really upset me, and I’m speaking in a semi-sarcastic tone--obviously--but he had this habit of always backing up into a parking space. Like, if we were running in to grab lunch at a restaurant, he would take the extra time to put his SUV in reverse and back into the space. As if he were going to rob the Panda Express and wanted to ensure a speedy getaway. “Why are you backing in?” we, I, the world, would implore; but if there was any reason, Jeffrey was unwilling or unable to verbalize it. He also had some inane phobia about using the drive-thru window.
While we’re on the topic of driving, this reminds me of something else he always used to do.
So, the Durham studio has a small parking lot, and it is not uncommon for it to fill up, especially on the weekends. However, there is some street parking right in front of the studio that is free all day and there is enough space for two cars to fit comfortably.
Jeffrey--our dear departed--would park his car right in the middle of that space, thereby preventing a second car from parking either in front or behind him.
Now folks, that’s the move of a first-class, card-carrying A-hole--and I don’t mean to throw shade on a man who just passed away--but seriously, Jeffrey, were you oblivious or legitimately worried that someone was going to park too close and scratch the bumper of your 2007 Honda Element?
Dear reader, disregard my faux outrage--I’m simply using these trivial observations to paint a portrait of a three-dimensional man, full of contradictions and, well, exasperating qualities. Obviously, these grumblings do not diminish how grief-stricken I am and how much I wish he were still with us.
All that being said, I wouldn’t say Jeffrey and I were good friends. I mean, we got along fine, but I would never invite the slob to my wedding.
Slob--that’s not fair! Sure, he was disheveled. And he had horrible halitosis--but you can’t blame him for that. Although, eating Panda Express everyday probably didn’t help. Yes, I’m not making this up, he ate Panda Express every day. Don’t ask me why. I never saw him eat anything else. Sadly, the moron would still be alive if it wasn’t for his unnatural addiction to cheap Kung Pao chicken and his penchant for backing into parking spaces--but I’ll get to that in a minute.
What I really wanted to say is, well...can I be perfectly honest with you?
You see, Jeffrey wasn’t a great sound engineer. I’d argue he wasn’t even a good sound engineer. I mean, sure, he could set up microphones and run cable. He could hit the record button, of course, but it doesn’t take a degree from Berklee College to do that. When it came to things like live mixing and EQ he was totally incompetent.
I know this is a terrible thing to say about a guy who just kicked the bucket, but I want to set the record straight. I don’t want him to be wrongfully immortalized as some genius engineer and, God help us, muse. The last thing I want is to live in a future where people are bemoaning, “Starsapien just isn’t as good since Pine died”--oh no, I don’t want that crap!
Jeffrey Pine was no musical savant. And, if I can really take the gloves off here, I think our songs would have turned out much, much better with anyone other than Jeffrey.
Listen, I know these are harsh words--cruel even--and you’re probably saying to yourself, “Jesus, the grave is still fresh and this guy’s pissing all over it. What’s his problem anyway?” That’s a fair question, now allow me to respond.
About five years ago, November 12th, to be exact--I still get acid reflux thinking back on it--Jeffrey recorded one of our studio sessions with the phase inverted on all the channels. If you don’t know what that means, basically everything sounded like shit! This putz really didn’t notice that everything he was recording was unusable until after we were finished. This is a man with “Sound Engineer” on his business card. What the ever-loving hell?
I’m not convinced he even knew the difference between dynamic and condenser microphones, but I don’t want to get into the weeds here, because I can see you’re rolling your eyes. “Nobody cares about this stuff,” you’re thinking, “and besides, everyone makes mistakes, right?” True, but I’m not done yet.
In addition to all his amateur, college radio bungling, he was always late to the studio. I don’t mean five or ten minutes--oh no--I’m talking forty minutes to an hour. It was as if he lived in another time zone! Now, if you tried to raise this issue with him, he’d turn scarlet and come at you with a salvo of surly excuses, each one firing from his mouth like a noxious cannonball--would it have killed the guy to buy some breath mints?
“Go ahead, tell us what you really think?” you’re probably asking. More than likely, you’ve written me off as some bitter, wannabe musician with a string of petty grudges.
Petty grudges? To that I would say--the sum is equal to its parts. I could lie to you folks, tell you Jeffrey was an amazing friend / colleague / whatever, but what good would that do? Isn’t it better to get it all off my chest and let the jury decide?
Please, allow me to continue. I haven’t even brought up the fact that the deceased was named after a tree, and he didn’t even know it.
“Hi, Jeffrey Pine, glad to meet ya,” he would introduce himself with a greasy handshake. Sometimes people on the receiving end of that handshake would say, “Hah, like the tree?” To this, our recently interred would respond with either a blank stare or an earnest, “I don’t know, dude.”
Did his parents name him Jeffrey Pine on purpose, or maybe they didn’t even know--this is the quality of genetic stock we’re dealing with. Imagine being named Mr. Syrup and naming your daughter Maple? Do a little research, people--this is a human being, not a hamster.
“What are you talking about? Let the man rest in peace!”--I can hear you screaming at me. Easy for you to say. You didn’t have to dodge his breath for six years while hovering over his shoulder in the studio, making sure he didn’t have phantom power engaged on dynamic microphones. Don’t get me started on all the times I was forced to watch him shovel honey sesame pork into his face. Which brings me to his untimely demise.
Okay, before I go any further, I humbly apologize to Jeffrey’s friends and family (if there are any) that might take offense to any of the things I’ve written above. Or what I’m about to write.
Some of you might be asking, how did he die anyway? He wasn’t that old. That’s true, the coroner’s report read fifty-five. Was it a heart attack? Stroke?
It was a freak accident, and maybe this isn’t the right forum for such gruesome details, but if you’ve been with me this far you might as well get the whole, honest truth.
You see, those beloved flip-flops he always wore offered no traction against the slick pool of teriyaki sauce in the Panda Express parking lot. He slipped and hit his head on the curb--BANG--dead instantly! It was a Tuesday afternoon stained with blood and fried rice. Perhaps if he’d parked like a normal person none of this would have happened.
More philosophical people will acknowledge that it’s perfectly fitting for a man who tried so little in life, to consequently try so little in death.
Indeed--the dumbass was out like a light switch. No long, drawn-out illness. No debilitating six months of chemotherapy where you watch your hair fall out; then years of choking down expensive medications that shrink your balls. None of those awkward emails to peers informing them that you’re embarking on a new, spiritual “journey.” End-of-life arrangements, organ donor designation... Oh no, none of that pain and misery for Mister Lucky--good, ol’ Jeffrey Michael Pine.
This lazy son-of-a-bitch stumbled upon a free, express ticket to the great hereafter. I bet he’s up there right now boring Johnny Cash and Hank Williams with that stupid “Bentley the Dog” anecdote. And those guys are probably wondering, who let this turd in?
When I think of the last years of my father’s life--that once vigorous Appalachian livestock dealer, reduced to being pushed around in a wheelchair, a tube stuck up every orifice, so frail and weak he couldn’t chew yogurt without mandible assistance--I’m tortured by the cosmic injustice.
Perhaps this is too much information, but a cardiologist once told my father that the slightest tremor of an erection could induce an aortic collapse--think about that for a minute! The only trouble Jeffrey Pine had was grabbing enough soy sauce packets on his way out.
“What the hell is wrong with you!?!”--you’re yelling at me so loud the neighbors can hear. “You’re a sick individual--you need help!”
Well, SCREW YOU! I don’t have to explain myself to you. I’m entitled to my opinions. I didn’t want to write this damn thing anyway. Nobody did. I just drew the short straw. I hated Jeffrey Pine. He was a total dick. Now he’s dead. And I’m okay with that.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got better things to do.
-- Anonymous Starsapien personnel