Chapter 13 – Manifesting Aardvark

When I told Kanish that we needed a Distribution deal, I didn’t think in my wildest dreams he would manage to acquire one in less than forty-eight hours’ time. Who would? I mean, it’s absurd. How the fuck does a veritable dilettante walk into a meeting with a Ditty and a prayer and walk out with a Distribution deal?

Of course, the deal that Willy offered includes half of our Publishing, which I wasn’t too happy about. But fuck it. The Ditty isn’t going to make money as I sing it in the car. And it’s certainly not going to go anywhere without airplay. Besides, I would need more than a few screws loose to turn down a deal that featured an eight-figure performance bump.

Just so we’re clear, Willy was starting us off with an Artist’s Distribution deal, which is essentially a straight-up record deal, which is certainly more than adequate given our goals. It’s the eight-figure Label Distribution deal that’s the jewel here. This is what any and every Producer that ever lived covets most. This kind of deal is typically reserved for world-famous Artists and Producers in a position of leverage. It’s a way for a Label to keep their most profitable talent happy, and it’s quite ingenious, when you think about it. The Distributor gives an Artist or Producer a whole boatload of money to fund projects that will make the Distributor, the Artist or the Producer even more boatloads of money.

I was busting.

Normally, when something extraordinary like this goes down in my life, the first person I call is my best friend and fellow Producer, Aardvark. Unfortunately, I’d been trying to reach Aardy for the better part of a month, to no avail. Last we spoke he was heading for India, of all places, and as a result he has been completely off grid. So how does one reach the unreachable Aardvark? Why you Manifest him, of course. That’s right, you Manifest Aardvark.

Quite simply, Manifestation is the act of making things happen. Manifestation can be as simple as asking for what you want. It can be as complex as a state of mind.

Plainly, Kanish had Manifested a Distribution deal, and this was no matter of pure luck. He wasn’t there to meet Willy Show for the thrill of it. He wasn’t there so that he might brag to all of his buddies at home. The kid came into that meeting with a goal, fully prepared to pitch and close a deal. Not only did he program an amazing track, he also turned a veritable nursery rhyme into a well-designed rap. Then, without fear, without hesitation, with no concern for his ego, he pitched the whole thing to one of the most powerful men in Music. And why not? What’s the worst that could happen? He says “no?”

An important component to Manifestation is fearlessness. You can’t be afraid of the results, and you most certainly can’t be scared of the word no. I understand, it’s a brutally intimidating word, but in the Music Business, it’s a syllable that one best become accustomed to. That said, Kanish revealed some real chutzpah with his proposal.

I would have never thought to ask Willy for a Distribution deal, certainly not without having an Artist fully committed to the project. So I had no intention of bringing up the Song, or the Pharcyde, for that matter. Frankly, I know better than to approach Willy for Distribution on anything other than a fully realized track with an Artist attached. But then, that’s the thing about Manifestation. Sometimes “knowing better” just gets in the way.

Manifestation also requires some modicum of faith. I’m not speaking of the usual dogma proselytized by shamans and pontificators who would have us all believe in a meddlesome and micro-managing higher power. That kind of faith makes no sense to me whatsoever. After all, to give credit to a higher power for my own Manifestations would be to shun personal responsibility for it.

And please don’t confuse Manifestation with the power of positive thinking. This is not an exercise meant to help deal with the negative influences of self-doubt. Manifestation is the refusal to leave opportunity purely up to chance. It’s an aggressive stance in which destiny is treated with disdain, and self-accomplishment is given its credit due.

All of that said, there are caveats to Manifestation. That is to say, rules. The primary rule being that you can’t Manifest something you’re not in a position to make happen in the first place.

Suppose I should want to become the president of the United States. This would be a ludicrous goal, seeing as I’m not currently in a position to become the president. I can’t Manifest that. I can, however, Manifest something smaller. Like a run for mayor, which I can then parlay into a run for State Legislature, which I could then Manifest into a successful run for Congress, or governor. If the results of those Manifestations align, then I might one day find myself in a position to Manifest the presidency. Of course, I’d be too old by then. Manifesting is time-consuming business.

In regards to yesterday’s Manifestation of a Distribution deal, I would argue that I too deserve some credit. It was I, after all, who convinced Kanish that he was Music Mogul material. Granted, I was only telling him that because he had the capital to become one. I had no idea he had talent too. But you have to admit, he’s come a long way in his first two weeks. We both have. I mean, we started this journey as Intern and Mentor. It wasn’t until we came to the Guru–Mogul relationship that things really started to happen. Now look at us. We’re in position for an eight-figure Distribution deal!

This is not to take anything away from Kanish. The kid was making his own breaks, and if you want to get ahead in life, that’s what you do. Frankly, Kanish and I have been Manifesting machines lately. And since Manifesting opportunity begets more opportunity, I was now actively Manifesting my good friend Aardvark. I was in need of his counsel.

It was the middle of the afternoon, and I was taking a much-needed nap in the comfort of my own bed. I hadn’t slept much the night before given our meeting with Willy. And I didn’t dare turn on the news, the din of which would have surely put me to sleep. I really don’t think I could take another news-inspired dream with Senator Crou d’Etat. It kind of freaked me out.

Once again, I was awakened by pounding at my bedroom door. This time it was Kanish.

“Mixie! Mixie! Wake up! Your sidekick is here!” Kanish announced.

“Not this shit again!” I huffed. “Who?”

“Aardvark, of course! Who else could qualify as your sidekick?”

“Aardvark!”

I threw on yesterday’s pants and T-shirt, whipped open my door, and ran at full gallop down the stairs.

I suppose from Kanish’s perspective as a fan of my books, Aardvark would indeed be my sidekick. After all, Aardy has been involved with nearly all of my creative projects to date. He produced The Daily Adventures of Mixerman Audiobook: A Dramatization (which I can guarantee is like no audiobook you’ve ever heard). He produced several hours of supplemental videos for me, which are now available in digital versions of my Zen and the Art Of series of books. Still, as much as I enjoy the term sidekick, when it comes to Aardy, he will always be my Producer.

Showing up unannounced was not at all unusual for Aardy. Had he arrived while Kanish and I were out of town, he would have likely just driven to meet us wherever we were. Such is the unconventional dedication of an Aardvark. In fact, that’s exactly the word I’d use to describe him—unconventional. Followed by nomad, philanthropist, and Renaissance man. All of which make him interesting, which is really the only true prerequisite to being my friend.

Kanish and I ran through the front door, down the sidewalk, under the arboretum, and onto the driveway, directly in front of the wide-open garage. I had indeed Manifested Aardvark!

Aardy sauntered out of the garage with his hands held out wide, as if he were seeking some sort of explanation.

“Habs suck? You can’t just call me?”

Aardy was referring to a Facebook post that I’d made this morning in order to Manifest him. As it turned out, it worked!

Aardy, who is ten years my senior, was wearing his usual skullcap constructed from a red bandana. His curly silver hair flowed out of it to his shoulders. The only time I’d ever seen him without his skullcap is far too scandalous to discuss here. Suffice it to say there are some women in this world that prefer Aardy bald. He wore his favorite Manchester United shirt with the usual pair of khaki shorts, red socks, and white tennis shoes and gave me a great big hug, which was out of character for him, given that he’s from Canada.

“Where’s the Goddess?” Aardy asked in bewilderment.

“Somewhere in the Antarctic Ocean, I believe.”

My girlfriend, known as the Goddess, was in the middle of a grueling 120-day transglobal single-handed yacht race. In other words, she sails alone for thousands of miles at a time, and you have to be pretty fucking badass to do that. The Goddess, however, is a story for another time.

Aardy had a perfectly rolled cigarette in his hands, and although I don’t smoke these days, I certainly didn’t mind taking a puff or two when he was in town.

“You met Kanish, of course,” I said as I took a drag off the filterless bat.

“I did,” Aardy replied. “You know, I love Knishes.”

“Most people do,” I said.

“You don’t see Knishes much out here, do you?”

“I wonder why that is?” I said as I passed back the smoke. “Where have you been?”

“I’ve just come back from India, oddly enough. I’m contemplating another Eight-Thousander.”

An Eight-Thousander is a mountain with an elevation of greater than eight thousand meters above sea level. For the Americans out there, that would be nearly five miles. And yes, Aardvark is a mountaineer.

There are fourteen Eight-Thousanders in the world, most of them in the Himalayas. Everest is the most famous of them, given that it has the tallest peak. Statistically speaking, however, it’s one of the safer Eight-Thousanders to climb. In fact, it’s a veritable factory for amateur climbers, and it can’t possibly be considered the prize it once was. Well over three thousand people have reached the top of Everest and lived to tell about it. In contrast, K2, on the border of China and Pakistan, has only been successfully ascended but a few hundred times.

“Which mountain?” I asked.

“Annapurna,” Aardy replied.

“Perhaps it’s time you and I discuss your will and testament.”

While I have some idea of Aardy’s financial situation, it’s murky at best. He doesn’t have to work—this much I know. But he’s not fabulously well to-do, either. He lives rather modestly, and his BMW is the only item of status that he owns—aside from his free-spirited way of life, I suppose. Much of his time is spent in some of the poorer regions of Africa, India, and Asia, where he attempts to divert sustainable water to villages. Much of his charitable work can be dangerous, like the time he found himself facing AK-47s in Tamil Tiger territory in the northern part of Sri Lanka. But that’s his story to tell.

Aardy got out of the Producing game somewhere around the 2008 crash, and I have to say that his timing was impeccable. Now, I wouldn’t go so far as to suggest that Aardy is retired. He still produces records that interest him, and, as I’ve already pointed out, he produces my projects. He also happens to be an author, and there is nothing better for writing than to experience extreme situations. But climbing Annapurna? That was a fool’s mission.

You must understand, I wouldn’t climb an eight-foot rock, let alone a mountain. All of my knowledge regarding climbing comes from Aardy in conjunction with the National Geographic Channel. That said, you don’t have to be a climber to know that some ascensions are far riskier than others. There are nine mountains with a higher elevation than Annapurna, none of them quite so dangerous. Climbers who dare take on Annapurna face a 40 percent chance of death.

“I kid! I kid!” Aardy replied. “I met your lovely chef Annapurna by the Bentley out front, and I had the name on the brain, I suppose.”

Aardy was beaming as he said it, and between the crazy smile plastered on his face and the dripping sarcasm, I knew exactly the subtext: I don’t know what the fuck kind of crazy-ass shit you’ve managed to Manifest here, but I like it!

I let Kanish tell the story, which started on the mountain with the Douchebag driving a Prius, and ended with the Manifestation of a Distribution deal. None of it addressed how Kanish had come here, or the details of our arrangement, and I didn’t bother to interject. I don’t think Aardy really believed any of it, as evidenced by what he said once Kanish had finished.

“Well, that’s quite incredible,” Aardy blurted. “Really. Anyway, Kanish! Do you play darts?”

To the outside observer that may seem like a rather random question, until you see my mix room. You see, the dartboard is placed prominently and directly in front of the mix position. People could actually play darts as I mix were I to ever allow it. As it turns out, I don’t.

The dartboard is well-lit from above with halogen spotlights, and mounted with precision and exactitude on a four-by-four-foot backboard of seasoned wood planks. Below the backstop is a wall of custom-made acoustic panels shrouded tightly in colorful Indian scarves. On each side of the planks are two massive whiteboards, which are used for keeping score, among other things. Darts is serious business around here, particularly when Aardy is around, although it’s not quite what you might expect. You see, Aardy and I don’t throw three darts one at a time toward the board like most people. That’s only good for traditional dart games, like Cricket or 301. We throw four darts, two in each hand, all at the same time. The name of the game? California Beaver.

Aardy lived with me for a spell a few years back, and we would play darts at night. I supposed he was sick of my dominance in traditional darts, and so he invented a game he called California Beaver. At first I wasn’t into the game, but Aardy was persistent, and it wasn’t long before I was finally hooked. We’ve been developing and refining the game ever since.

The rules aren’t written anywhere; they’re mostly in our heads. They’re also constantly changing, which makes for some rather interesting debates. It never gets to fisticuffs or anything, but there have been times when we didn’t speak to one another for the better part of an hour over a Beaver disagreement. Outsiders have accused us of making up rules on the spot, which I certainly wouldn’t put past Aardy. As for myself, I’m far too scrupulous for such chicanery.

There are very specific rules when it comes to tossing your Beaver darts. A player must stand square to the board, toes to the line, and hurl the darts such that they all arrive at virtually the same time. That’s easier said than done, even for someone who plays traditional darts. As far as scoring is concerned, the outer double and the inner triple rings come into play, as do the bulls—all of which can have an exponential effect on the score. As a result, we start the game at 1,001 and count backwards from there.

In order to force skill into the match, there are all sorts of specific combinations that offer game-winning scoring opportunities. Yes, I’m saying that Aardy and I have some modicum of control over the darts such that we can actually call a game-winning shot. Just try to stand square to a board from the line and throw four darts into a desired location. It takes a bit of practice.

Aardy introduced Kanish to the game, and Kanish was instantly enamored with it. He was also in desperate need of some practice, as the darts kept colliding in midair and dropping to the floor.

“This game is fantastic!” Kanish exclaimed. “Why have you not shown this to me?”

“I don’t really play darts when Aardy isn’t around,” I replied.

Aardy picked up the keys to his Beemer and gave me a nod before addressing Kanish once again.

“You keep working on that, Kanish,” Aardy encouraged. “I’m going to take Zerman here to pick up some vodka martini supplies. It seems to me there’s a celebration in order.”

“Yes, yes, yes. I will practice throwing until you return,” Kanish replied. “But before you go . . .”

Kanish stopped momentarily, pulled out a $5,000 wad from his pants, and slipped off three $100 bills.

“We need Medicine.”

To which I pulled out my own wad of $5,000.

“I’ve got it,” I said with a fist-bump and a smile.

Aardy peeled out of the driveway in his black BMW 330ci convertible, as per usual, nearly leaving his bumper behind in the process.

“All right. What the fuck is going on?” Aardy asked.

I dished the whole story, starting with the crazy call from Paneer, followed by the strange inspection by Rajadut, to the near international incident with the Sikhs. I told him about the road trip, including the gala affair at the Woodcocks’, and of course he was absolutely floored by the visual of the Code Shack and the abandoned high-school dormitory. I even explained my crazy, fucked-up goal of transforming Kanish into a Music Mogul, and the way he’d somehow managed to Manifest it. And as if on cue, we found ourselves stuck behind a Prius. So I took the opportunity to sing the newest version of the Ditty.

“I like it! But a Distribution deal?” Aardy questioned.

“Which automatically turns into a Label Distribution deal,” I said. “But only if it’s successful.”

“Define successful.”

“Dude, we only need revenues of five million to kick in that deal.”

“That’s a lot of revenue!”

“Not if your dad’s a Billionaire, it’s not. I mean, if spending $5 million gets us a $90 million Label deal, then why not just purchase the records ourselves?”

“Wait. The Label deal is worth $90 mil?”

“I have no idea. It could be $10 mil, it could be $99 mil. All I know is Willy said eight figures, and there are a great many eight-figure deals that would make it worth our while to purchase five million copies of our own record.”

“Dude. Eight figures?”

I can assure you that the word dude is not normally in the day-to-day cadence of my friend Aardvark. This was a direct result of my influence.

“Eight fucking figures!” I exclaimed. “You can bet your ass I’m going to do whatever I need to to make that shit happen. You know?”

“I would imagine so.”

Aardy drove to BevMo!, where we picked up four bottles of Crystal Head vodka and five jars of pimiento-stuffed martini olives. He then drove me to the Dispensary, where I picked up an ounce of Medicine before we returned home. Kanish was still working hard at his Beaver technique.

“It looks as though you’ve coughed up some Hairy Beaver there, Kanish,” Aardy pointed out.

“What is this this you are saying? Hairy Beaver?”

“You have a dart off the grid, and that’s Hairy, so no score for you on that toss.”

“That doesn’t score?”

“All the darts have to be on the grid to score,” Aardy said.

I went upstairs to make us all some vodka martinis as Aardy and Kanish played Beaver. Annapurna was in the kitchen preparing us all a veggie-tray snack with some kind of clever curry-flavored dip. She brought the platter down to the boys. I returned with three perfect martinis.

“Cheers!” Aardy toasted. “Congratulations on your big score, boys.”

We all clinked glasses, and took a swig of martini.

“Oh,” Aardy said. “Oh my. That’s some Spinalblifia there.”

“Spinal what?” Kanish asked.

“Spinalblifia. It’s the sensation you get from a perfect Mixerman martini.”

Spinalblifia is also a totally made-up word, but then, all words are made up. Aardy took another sip of his martini, and then launched into a summation of events.

“So, let me see if I’ve got this straight. Mixerman, you wrote a hook—a chorus lyric. Kanish here wrote the beat and made some alterations to the lyric. And without even a demo, you have been offered Distribution for one song as Artists.”

“Producers,” I interjected.

“Call me crazy, but I think it would be best if we just stuck with the term Artists for now. I think it’s going to get quite confusing if we don’t adhere to the old model when referring to Artists and Producers.”

“Fair enough.”

“So, if you hit the five-million mark in revenues for your song, you trigger an eight-figure Distribution deal, at which point you can sign more Artists. Does that about sum it up?”

“It does, indeed,” I replied.

“I see. So you’re partners in this?”

This was a good question. Kanish didn’t write the Song. He improved the Song, which is what the Producer’s job is. He didn’t hardly change the words at all; he just kind of mixed them up a little. He did, however, program the beat, and as I’ve already pointed out, in hip-hop, that’s half the Songwriting.

“Clearly, you don’t have an answer to the question of partnership, so let’s move on to the next one. Who is the Artist?”

“Mixerman is the Artist,” Kanish volunteered.

“But I thought the Pharcyde were the ones rapping,” Aardy questioned.

“They are,” I replied. “I guess we’re all the Artist, then.”

“Yes, yes, yes. I am also the Artist, as are the Pharcyde,” Kanish said.

“Right,” Aardy continued. “So, you’re all the Artist, all six of you. That’s interesting. And are the Pharcyde also going to be Songwriters?

“They’re going to want to write their own rap, so yes,” I replied.

“And what percentage are they going to get for that?”

“I don’t know. We haven’t spoken to them yet.”

“What do you figure you’re going to offer them?”

“I guess half,” I said.

“Half of the Writer’s share? Willy is already taking the Publisher’s share, right? So, if you divide fifty by half, that’s twenty-five percent for you guys, and twenty-five percent for the Pharcyde. That gives you and Kanish twelve point five percent each, and it gives the four Pharcyde members six point seventy-five percent each.”

“That sounds about right,” I replied.

“What happens if they want an even piece? There are four of them and two of

you.”

“Well, I don’t know about Kanish, but I certainly wouldn’t be interested in that.”

“I can tell you I would vehdy much not be interested in that either,” Kanish concurred.

“And who is the Producer?” Aardy asked.

“I am the Producer,” Kanish said. “And the Mogul.”

“Me too,” I replied.

“You’re a Mogul as well, Zerman?”

“Well, yeah. I’m helping to run this organization, right?”

“And what about the Pharcyde?”

“They’ll want to be Producers too, I would imagine.”

“They most certainly are not Moguls!” Kanish exclaimed.

“I see,” Aardy began. “So Kanish is the Mogul, the Producer, the Artist, and the Songwriter. Mixerman is the Mogul, the Producer, the Artist, and the Songwriter. And the Pharcyde are the Producers, the Artists, and the Songwriters. Is that right?”

“Correct,” Kanish replied.

“Well, it’s pretty clear to me what’s going on here,” Aardy concluded.

“What’s that?” I asked.

“You have too many hats.”

“Too many hats?” Kanish questioned.

“That’s right. And you need help. What you need is a manager.”

Aardy went straight into his pitch.

“First, I don’t think it makes a lot of sense to approach the Pharcyde on this. They’re a bit long in the tooth.”

Of course, I’m older than the Pharcyde by just a little, so what does that make me?

“You need an injection of youth into this project. And you want to find a rapper who won’t cost you a fortune in Publishing. The Pharcyde will likely insist on at least half the Publishing, possibly more.”

“But the Pharcyde are famous,” Kanish argued.

“When was the last time you bought a Pharcyde record?” Aardy asked.

Neither of us seemed to have an answer for that.

“Even if I were to agree with you that the Pharcyde was the best choice here, you guys need someone to take care of all the details. There’s going to be contracts, and lawyers, and other Labels to contend with—as many as four—one for each of the Pharcyde. And then, you also need to form a Corporation, and before you do that, you have to sit down and hammer out an agreement stating who is doing what and how the revenue is going to be split. At the moment, it seems like you guys are all things in this venture, but the details have to be very clearly spelled out before you enter into an eight-figure deal as partners.”

Aardy was right as usual, and the more we discussed it, the more complicated it all became.

“You two are the Creators, and you need someone taking care of the business,” Aardy pointed out. “Here’s what I would propose. I think you should let me manage you.”

“And may I ask you,” Kanish started, “how much this would be costing us?”

“A modest fifteen percent.”

I was good with that, but then, I trust Aardy with my life. Kanish, on the other hand, who has already revealed himself to be rather shrewd, stopped throwing darts to consider the offer briefly, then rendered his decision.

“Here is what I have to say to this. For my part, and I cannot speak for Mixerman here, I will happily agree to this arrangement for the Douchebag Song. If you do a vehdy good job, then I would wish to discuss your involvement in the Label Distribution deal at that time. Does this sound reasonable?”

“I’m good with that,” I echoed.

“Excellent,” Aardy proclaimed. “I’d say it’s time for another martini!”

“First, you need an advance,” I said.

I pulled out the $5K wad from my front pocket and chucked it over to Aardy.

“There’s your first ten percent,”

Kanish threw him his wad as well.

“There’s another ten percent. We’ll take the change now, thank you vehdy much.”

Aardy placed the wads on top of the Raven MTX, stepped to the dart pitch, held up four darts and began to offer his own commentary in the customary British accent.

“Aardvark lines up his shot. Yes, he’ll be shooting two bulls to end the game, folks. It’s a bold decision, one that only a champion the likes of Aardvark would make, but then, that’s why he’s known as the Father of Modern Beaver.”

The darts flew through the air in a dangerously tight pattern. The two top darts landed simultaneously in the red bull, the other two in the smallest part of the 19.

“Lights out, Beaver!” Aardy exclaimed as he ran down the street with his arms held high in victory.

“Are you ready for today’s lesson, Kanish?”

“Vehdy much so!”

“Ask and you shall receive.”

Mixerman

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Chapter 14 – MC Skanky O, Yo!