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  • Writer's pictureChristian Anderson Smith

Lesson 20- Sell Out Whilst You Can

The Diesel Island Troubadour



  What an awful lot of hipsters there are in the world, nowadays. You know the type, long hair in a top bun, long beard and a checkered shirt. I find them really annoying but I may have been partially responsible for it. Sorry.


  When I was a kid I had never intended to be a musician. I studied for many years to be an actor and that was the plan until playing music came into my life. I realised I could scratch my acting itch and my music itch at the same time. I thought acting was something I could pick up anytime I wanted. And then I kind of forgot about it.


  As discussed in earlier chapters, I had made friends with Amanda Ashed. She was and is an acting and modelling agent. I always knew this but never thought to ask her to represent me; probably because I only acted sporadically, when asked by a friend. I don’t know how it came up but one day we were talking and she suggested I get on her books. I had acting chops so I thought, why not?


  The very first audition I was sent to, I got and for the first year or so, I was batting at about sixty to seventy percent average. More often than not, if I auditioned; I got the job. What I discovered was that no actor in their right mind would grow long hair and a beard as it would limit what parts they could play. So when parts for, ‘man with long hair and a beard’ came up it was usually me up against guys who weren’t actors. They were just guys with long hair and a beard. I could actually act. Since long beards have become fashionable, I have a lot more competition.


  So for about two or three years I was full-time, professional actor/ model with long hair and a beard. The roles I usually got were:


Hillbilly:



Biker:



Or sometimes I was just a guy with red hair:



  I did all sorts of crazy and fun jobs and even had one job that took me all the way to Shanghai, China. I stayed for a week and only ended up working for about two hours. Unfortunately, the part I had filmed ended up on the cutting room floor. This was due to my acting partner in the scene.


  I was playing a busker. They had me dressed in a cowboy hat and matching fringed jacket and guitar. Moments before they were about to start filming they requested, ‘quiet on the set’. In walked a monkey dressed exactly like me. They put him behind a miniature drum kit and his owner tried to prompt him into, ‘playing’ the drums.


Me and Xin Xin, in an underpass I'm Shanghai


  When I was a child I desperately wanted a monkey as a pet but now that I was confronted with the realities of owning a wild animal, I had changed my mind indefinitely. When he got spooked he’d show his long, sharp, terrifying teeth. In broken English, Xin Xin’s (that was the monkey’s name) owner told me not to make any sudden movements as it may scare him and he would attack. They took off his costume to make him less irritable and we did about ten takes with my back to him for every second of filming. I must have been so stiff and I assume the shots were unusable. The next day I flew back to London, having enjoyed my week in Shanghai.


  Another time I was hired to play the drummer in Gin Wigmore’s fictional band in a James Bond/ Heineken commercial. Again, I ended up doing only about two hours work over the course of four days. This was fine as the other members of the band were fellow renaissance men, Ollie Cruse and Babak Gangei. So we had a good hang over a few, long days.


  The day before James Bond, himself arrived on set, we were told it would be an early day and everyone would have to be ready to film as we only had two hours with him. We had also had heard throughout our days that he was making four million pounds (GBP) for his time on set. Since we had a lot of time on our hands, we calculated that Daniel Craig would be making approximately five hundred and fifty six pounds for every second he was on set!


  The big day came and all hands on deck. In walked Daniel Craig, strutting around like he was James Bond or something. We waited silently as they figured out what they were shooting. We were told to stay close but the band weren’t needed right away.


  As we loitered with our instruments in hand, off set, suddenly, Daniel Craig walked by looked right at me. This was my chance to say something so I said, “Mr. Craig. How are you, sir?”


    He looked at us, smiled, played some air guitar and swanned away like he had just made four million pounds. I looked to my friends and said, “You see that, fellas? He just spent a thousand pounds on us!”



  But quite easily the most surreal of acting experiences was when I became the face of an international clothing brand….for real.


   It was on the above mentioned, ‘Red Party’ commercial that I started chatting with one of the producers. I had see him at a Mickey Avalon show, a couple of weeks earlier (I’m very good with faces). The chat continued and at the end of the shoot I had given a copy of my forthcoming video, “Drinkalottawater” to another one of the producers. We kept in touch over next few weeks and I was invited to their office.


  I went for coffee and great chat with their main man, Pablo. He was super-kind and helpful to me. I was trying to sell a few songs for ads and he had some helpful advice, was really kind and seemed to genuinely like what I was doing.


  Fast forward to a few more weeks later; I was sitting in our warehouse home when I received a call from Amanda.


  “So I’ve just received a call from the people at Diesel. They’ve asked for you specifically to go to Colombia for their new  campaign.” She said, puzzled, as she had not put me forward this job.


  “Oh.” I said. “When?”


  “This Tuesday. I’ll find out some more information and get back in touch.”


  There was a lot of back and forth because at first, they didn’t want to pay me. It was one of those, ‘it’ll be good promotion for you’, offers. One of many problems with this sort of, ‘opportunity’ is an agent’s percentage of zero is zero so they’d have to do better. And after some negotiation from Amanda, they did.


  The other thing that happened was once they’d signed off on my acting fee, they suggested I, ‘just write a few songs for them while I was down there.’


  So then I had to rope in my friend, Roxanne Oldham to act as a publisher of sorts. After speaking to this agency creative, working on behalf of Diesel, she got frustrated by her. She called and asked, “what exactly is it that you want? I can’t talk to this woman any more.”


  What I wanted was to do the job but not get totally ripped off. So the deal Roxanne worked out was that if I wrote a song for them, they could use it once for a very, very reasonable fee but each time they’d use it, the fee would double, in perpetuity.


  Before this was signed off I received a call from the, ‘creative’ at the ad agency. Bypassing any agents was a very unprofessional thing for her to do but I had a chat, anyway. She was wondering why they should have to pay for a song more than once if they wanted to carry on using it more than once?

  

  After trying to be polite and explain intellectual properties and whatnot , I got frustrated and asked, “Okay. Have you ever heard of a song called….. I don’t know….. ‘Thriller?’”


  “Yes, I’ve heard of a song called, ‘Thriller.’” She said, not appreciating my condescension.


  “Well you can’t just pay for that to use once and then just carry on using it for free after that. You’d have to pay if you want to use it again.” I explained.


  “Fine. I guess we’ll just find someone in South America to do it.” And she hung up.


  They didn’t find someone in South America to do it because that Monday, I was on a three-flight, twenty-two hour journey to the beautiful jungles of Santa Marta.


  It turned out that the head of this entire operation was Pablo from the Vodafone job. He had big plans for me in this campaign but had nothing to do with the negotiations, as it was sub-contracted out to other company. His involvement made me feel a whole lot better about going into this job and put my mind at ease.


  I arrived in Santa Marta and was immediately driven out to The National Park where there was a full crew and about twenty models, whom I’d spend the next week with. Nowadays, the models might have long hair and beards but twelve years ago, this was not the case. I looked a lot different than the rest of them. However, I discovered that I was the same wardrobe size as ab average model.


  I was told to go to wardrobe and asked to be dressed for my part. The French wardrobe head looked me up and down, and proclaimed that my outfit was, ‘parfait’, not realising that I had not changed out of my tight t-shirt and cheap jeans since the day before. This was the first time I realised that though my style different, I could wear confidently. Or as more than one stylist has told me, I know how to, ‘wear a schmatta.’


  It was a wild week, which included waking up to thousands of frogs chirruping in the morning, torrential storms that ran on time every day, late night drinking sessions with gorgeous models and of course, filming on the stunning beaches and cliffs of Santa Marta.


  In the end, Pablo and I wrote six different versions of The Diesel Island Sing-Along:



   They only used this version of the song though I’m not sure why. Maybe they’d only ever planned to use one version, maybe the deal Roxanne was too expensive or maybe they just didn’t like the song.


  One thing they did use was my telling of the Diesel Island History, which, along with a picture of me was promoted throughout the world and was the first thing one would see when they visited Diesel’s website. For the next year or so, I was the face of Diesel.



  I’ve done a lot of noteworthy things in my life and my involvement with Diesel was easily one of the most surreal and fun. I often wonder what the people I went to high school, who'd tease me about the way I dressed with would have to say about it?


  To this day, no stranger has ever recognised me as The Diesel Troubadour which I have to admit; is disappointing. When I see someone wearing a Diesel t-shirt I often have to stop myself from saying, “do you know who I am?”

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