It was a hot Spring day in Redondo Beach today. A rarity. And it meant that the San Fernando Valley had to be baking like a Tandoori clay pot. Which is precisely why I live by the beach and not in the Valley.
I took a moment to watch the termites vacate a hole in my once-solid-wood garage door. One termite after another appeared at the mouth of the small opening and then took flight to nowhere in particular. Admittedly, I couldn’t track the little fuckers very far. For whatever reason, the termites absolutely freak whenever the hot inland Santa Ana winds blow into Redondo Beach—an unusual event for the time of year, but certainly not unprecedented. Perhaps the heat would help to make Kanish Kanish feel right at home.
Oh, don’t be surprised by that sentiment. I realize I was quite annoyed with Kanish for his inability to pick up the Skype and introduce himself, but you must remember, regardless of his über-upper-class upbringing, he’s only twenty-one years old. I really can’t expect him to know everything, can I? Why would he need me? And seeing as Producing is largely an exercise in communication skills, it makes sense that this would be Lesson One in our journey together. Always Skype ahead.
Kanish was scheduled to land at LAX at 1:30 p.m., which is precisely the time I received a text from Rajadut updating me on his status.
Rajadut: Kanish landed. Security to arrive imminently.
I don’t expect that I should have taken that text literally, but for whatever reason, I strolled out the front door as if a security officer was about to pull up—flashing yellow lights and all.
Normally, there would be a line of cars parked in front of the house, but today was street-sweeping day, which people take quite seriously around here. All sorts of crap accumulates along the curbs over the course of a week, and if the street sweeper doesn’t suck it up, then it goes directly into the ocean. The Bay is polluted enough as it is.
People were out and about, and there was considerably more activity than I’d ever seen in my sleepy neighborhood. Dog walkers were walking dogs. Meter readers were reading meters. Mail ladies delivering mail. Neighbors cramming cars into driveways. None of which would be worth mentioning were it not for the pitch-black Hummer stretch limousine that pulled up just as I opened the door.
I realize in some neighborhoods, a Hummer limousine would stir up all sorts of excitement. And while I’m sure that some of my neighbors would have happily pelted the behemoth with rotten eggs, it wasn’t the Hummer in and of itself that caused the ruckus. No, that would be the four badass Indian motherfuckers, clad in collarless, beaded Sherwani jackets and donning bright-orange turbans, who flew out of the Hummer and scurried to strategic positions all around the house. These were not glorified mall cops, or off-duty sheriffs, or oversized lunkheads. These were Sikhs—martial arts experts from India.
Now, if you’re wondering how I might have known that, I happened to watch a BBC documentary the other week called Who Are the Sikhs? According to the BBC, Sikhs prefer to wear loose garb, as this provides them tremendous mobility for purposes of killing the enemy with their bare hands and feet. And while it would be unusual for a Sikh to don such restricting garb, it’s the orange turbans that are the dead giveaway.
The Sikhs were fanned out around the house, which is perched on a hill on a corner lot, and I should probably take a moment to describe the property to you. The structure is split so that the garage is under one half of the house, and the second floor is above the other half, forming three levels in total. From the garage (sometimes referred to as my mix room), you can walk up a path, under an arboretum to the sidewalk in front of the house. Or you can walk the other direction up the stairs to a large wraparound deck on the backside of the house, where there is a sliding glass door into the dining room. Once you’re inside, the living room is on the left above the garage, and the kitchen straight ahead. The hall just before the kitchen leads to the foyer, where you can exit out the front doors, enter the spare bedroom to the right, or catch the stairs to the second floor.
Clearly, Rajadut had come the day before in order to determine the points of entry. The Sikhs had stationed themselves strategically around the property such that there was really no way into the house without them killing you. One of the Sikhs stood sentry by the garage, and while I was thankful to have a permanent guard on my studio, the neighbors were beginning to take pictures with their phones. One rubbernecker even tried to get in a selfie.
The last thing I needed was the city up my ass about an illegal business out of my house. And despite the fact that these types of zoning laws are archaic given the Internet, that doesn’t change the fact that the city could shut me down. I addressed my concerns to Sikh Number One, who was guarding the front door.
“You guys can’t be out here,” I whispered to the Sikh. “And that can’t stay there,” I said as I pointed toward the Hummer.
There was even more debris than usual in front of the house, and I most certainly wanted it cleaned. If the Hummer remained, the street sweeper would have to go around it, and that would leave all sorts of crap in front of the house for another week, and that wouldn’t do at all.
Clearly the Sikh understood me, because he raised his hand and waved off the Hummer, which immediately pulled away. I guess there was still a driver in it.
“I was kind of hoping you guys would go with the Hummer.”
The Sikh was unresponsive to my complaint, and the crowd of onlookers was growing at an alarming rate. Rather than get into it with a martial arts expert, I sent Rajadut a distress signal in the form of a text.
The mail lady slammed down her truck’s rear accordion gate, which startled Sikh Number One into a defensive pose, revealing a holstered weapon tucked under his jacket. A handgun, to be more precise. A Glock. Without thinking, I grabbed the Sikh by the shoulders and pushed him into the house as I violently kicked the front door shut. In retrospect, the maneuver was kinda dumbly brave. I mean, forget about the gun, this guy could kill me with his pinky finger.
“Listen. Unless you want an International incident, you all need to get in the house right fucking now. Kanish isn’t even here yet, so you don’t need to be outside. You understand?”
The Sikh opened the front door and yelled out a command in what I assume was Hindi. Within a moment, all of the Sikhs were in the house and accounted for. I took a moment to perform some damage control.
“Sorry everyone!” I announced. “We’re just rehearsing for a film. Nothing to worry about,” I said with a nervous laugh.
Being that we were in greater Los Angeles, this was credible enough to break up the impromptu block party. I returned to the kitchen, where the Sikhs were now rummaging through my cabinets and refrigerator, which frankly, I found somewhat rude.
“Rajadut already checked the house for weapons.” I sighed.
One of the Sikhs was sorting through the cartons of expired takeout food, which he began to toss into the trash. As forward as that was, he was kind of doing me a favor. I eat takeout on a nearly daily basis, and I can’t stand leftovers. To make matters worse, I have a difficult time throwing food away.
Frankly, I’m not so sure it’s the leftovers that I can’t stand as much as it is preparing them. I mean, the whole point of ordering food, is to eat something good without dirtying the dishes. And since I don’t keep a microwave in my home, I require pots and pans in order to reheat food. I mean, I may as well have just cooked a meal for myself. Were I not so atrocious at it, perhaps I would have.
Another Sikh pulled out some instant ramen noodle snacks, which were likely well past their “best before” date, although I have a hard time believing they couldn’t be eaten safely a hundred years from now. A third Sikh was heating up some water in my teapot. These guys sure did make themselves right at home.
The front door slammed shut, and the Sikhs snapped immediately into attack mode, as did I, until we all realized it was just Rajadut coming into the house as if he owned the fucking place. Frankly, they all acted like they owned the place. I addressed Rajadut without hesitation.
“Dude. We can’t have the fucking Indian Secret Service surrounding my house—and packing, no less.”
“I am not Dude, and these are not Secret Service, nor are they Pakis!”
“Not Pakis! Pack-ing. As in carrying guns,” I explained. “We have to keep everything low-key here. We’re in the middle of a residential neighborhood, and no offense, but guys with orange turbans surrounding the house are going to freak everybody the fuck out, which is going to cause me problems.”
I’d barely finished my admonishment when problems began pounding on the door.
All four Sikhs immediately drew their weapons.
“Holy shit!” I hissed at Rajadut. “Tell them to put those fucking things away! And keep them back here while I take care of this shit show.”
I opened the front door to find three Redondo Beach police officers on my stoop and two more on the sidewalk. To make matters worse, their hands were on their holsters. Rajadut’s Mercedes was parked in front of the house, and there were three squad cars haphazardly surrounding it—blocking the road from traffic and street sweepers alike.
“We have a report of some unusual activity here, sir. Are you the owner of the house?” the ranking officer asked.
Before I could even reply, Rajadut was gently pushing me aside with the back of his hand.
“Good day, officers. My name is Rajadut Dadut,” he said, sounding slightly more British than Indian at that moment. “I am here conducting some official business, and I’m afraid my security detail has, well, freaked some people out, as you might say. Here are my credentials.”
Rajadut handed over a document with the words diplomatic passport emblazoned across the front of it. It actually said that, right on the passport. Diplomatic! He then handed the officer a blue identification card with the words department of state featured prominently upon it.
“As you can see, I am an Indian Diplomat, and I am here with the full approval of the US government. You can have your commander call the number on the back to verify, of course.”
This motherfucker actually had diplomatic immunity! I thought that was just in the movies. The ranking officer stared at the document, flipping it several times. Clearly unsure of what to do, he excused himself to his squad car. The other two officers remained awkwardly on my porch. Rajadut returned to the kitchen, and the Sikhs were now freely wandering into the dining room, fully visible from the front door.
“Who are the towel-heads?” one cop inquired.
“Really?” I replied with marked disdain.
Redondo Beach has a generally well regarded police force. But anytime you have a unit of more than hundred cops, you can be sure to have the occasional bad apple. Apparently, one of those apples had managed to roll up onto my front stoop.
“Fucking Muslims,” he sputtered.
“Excuse me. They’re Sikhs from the Punjab region of India,” I scolded. “And Sikhism is a religion. So they’re not Muslim, not that it should really matter. It’s also their ethnicity, and those are turbans, not towels. What the fuck is wrong with you?”
Rajadut was now standing beside me, glowing with pleasant surprise that I knew so much about Sikhs. The ranking officer returned with Rajadut’s documents, which he handed back to him.
“Thank you, Mr. Dadut. Please enjoy your time in Redondo Beach.”
The three officers jumped into their squad cars and peeled away. Rajadut and I returned to the dining room, where the Sikhs were now fully enjoying my stash of ramen noodles.
“There’s no fucking way these guys can stay here,” I insisted to Rajadut.
“As impressed as I am with your knowledge of Sikhs, until I get word from Paneer himself, they shall remain.”
Rajadut had barely finished his rebuke when the Sikhs inexplicably leaped out of their chairs once again. Their jumpiness was really beginning to unnerve me. I too went into a defensive stance until I’d realized the Sikhs weren’t in full battle array. Rather, they were standing at attention. What the fuck?
“Hey, hey, hey! It’s a beautiful day in Los Angelay!”
A young Indian lad walked up to me with his arms spread wide. He immediately wrapped them around my body in a full bear hug, pinning my arms to my sides in the process. And although he was shorter than me (who isn’t), the young stranger was by no means small, neither in stature nor in personality.
“Mixerman! My dreams have come true!” the strange lad announced as he released me from his embrace and turned his attention to Rajadut. “Raj, did you meet Mixerman? This is the greatest mixer and Producer in the world.”
I was so taken aback—this was so not what I was expecting—I was so flummoxed by it all, that even having received pictures of him on the Internet, I still had to ask the question.
“Who else!” he shouted with confidence.
Kanish exuded charisma and was about a million times more charming than his father. Frankly, he looked like your typical Major Label executive, what with his perfectly pressed Levi’s 550 jeans, leather Gucci slides, Armani button-down shirt, mirrored Porsche sunglasses, and diamond-encrusted Breitling watch, which popped brilliantly off his rich brown skin.
“You and I need to talk,” I barked. “Come with me.”
“Yeah!” Kanish said as he clapped his hands together in excitement. “We’re going to get right into it. I love it! Work me, baby. Work me!” Kanish practically danced as he walked.
I made my way out the front door, and Kanish continued to perform his little dance step as he scatted. There was now a Bentley parked behind the Mercedes. Inside the Bentley was an older Indian couple waiting patiently in the front seats as they stared straight ahead.
“A Bentley?” I inquired dryly.
“You like that? Eat my dust, Rick Rubin!”
“Rick has a Rolls-Royce,” I corrected.
“They both come with drivers, do they not?”
Despite the fact that Kanish got the car model wrong, this did make me chuckle. Rick Rubin has been the most successful record Producer in the business for my entire career. He is currently the president of Sony Records, and Rick has had a Rolls-Royce—and a driver—since I moved to LA in 1991. Sometimes I’ll see Rick driving his Rolls himself, and while I always wave when I see him, he never seems to recognize me, despite my having recorded for him on several occasions.
“Are you taking me to your studio?” Kanish said, smiling. “I have been dreaming for weeks of the moment that I would first enter your room. Oh, I cannot believe this. I am in absolute heaven. Please. I am dying. Take me there.”
I led Kanish down the path under the arboretum to the driveway, and lifted the heavy wood garage door to reveal my room in all its glory.
“Fantastic! It’s better than I’d imagined!” Kanish exclaimed. “I love it! The place where all the magic happens. And I am going to work here? Pinch me.”
Kanish was so overly effusive and happy, it was ridiculous. It was also infectious. He immediately seated himself in my mix chair and started toying with my Slate Raven MTX—a production desk with a 46-inch touch-screen monitor that is handy for mixing records. Before I knew it, Kanish had Pandora playing from my system.
“So many beautiful colors in this room of yours. And the music sounds fantastic in here!”
Kanish was referring to the Indian tapestries and Turkish rugs that covered every square inch of my room. And while it’s true that it does sound fantastic in there, I’m not sure it could be judged accurately with the garage door wide open. In general, it’s easier to mix when you have some modicum of isolation from the noisy outside world. Kanish stopped the music and leaned back in my chair in order to take it all in.
“If I become only one tenth as good as you by the end of my career, I shall be happy.” Kanish sighed dramatically.
The kid really did know just the right things to say, and I was already warm to him, but we had a problem. Four of them.
“Okay, Kanish, I appreciate the sentiment. Really, I do,” I encouraged. “But I want you to come outside here, and I want you to take a look around and tell me what you see.”
Kanish eagerly followed me past my truck to the end of the driveway, took in a big breath of air, and then announced, “I see the ocean vehdy, vehdy close by!”
“What else do you see?”
“I see palm trees, without coconuts or figs! I see many, many cars all on one side of the street.”
At that moment, the street sweeper made the deafeningly loud slow turn onto my street. The Bentley driver had the good sense to drive away. Rajadut’s Mercedes, however, remained.
Kanish didn’t seem to notice the street sweeper as it made its wide detour around the Mercedes. Nor did he notice the enforcement car following it, nor the guy who got out of the enforcement car to write a parking ticket and place it underneath the wiper blade. I suppose with diplomatic immunity that ticket would never get paid, which only made it all the more annoying to me. Someone should be punished for that. Meanwhile, Kanish was still naming off everything that he could see from the end of my driveway.
“I see houses and yards . . .” Kanish continued.
“Right, okay, now we’re getting somewhere. Now, what do those houses and yards represent?”
Kanish considered this for a moment. He was taking it all very seriously and was beginning to repeat my question to himself, “What do these represent?” Without warning, he gave up.
“I’m sorry. I do not know. Please tell me the answer.”
“It’s a neighborhood.”
“Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes! I see what you’re saying now! You live in the Hood!”
“Is this Compton? Am I in danger at this moment?”
Kanish was smiling broadly at the prospect that he was somehow in danger.
“No, Kanish. This isn’t the hood. It’s a place where people kind of expect peace and quiet, and won’t really stand for Sikh sentries with Glocks. You know what I’m saying here?”
“You are certain this is not the hood?” Kanish questioned in disappointment.
“This is definitely not the hood, and unless there’s some threat that I’m unaware of, you’re really not in any danger here. So I’m afraid the Sikhs are going to have to go.”
“Yes, yes, yes. Send them on their way!”
“I’ve tried. Rajadut won’t listen to me,” I said.
“Of course he will!”
Kanish called for Rajadut, who was unabashedly eavesdropping with the four Sikhs just above our position at the top of the deck. None of them looked as though they were very sure of what to do with themselves—that is, until Rajadut bolted down the stairs to face me.
“Um. The Sikhs have to go,” I said slightly unsure of whether this was what my Assistant expected from me.
Rajadut looked toward Kanish and then back to the Sikhs. At the snap of his finger the four of them flew down the stairs and followed Rajadut up the path, under the arboretum, and into his Mercedes. And just like that, they were gone.
“Are you happy?” Kanish asked. “You must be vehdy, vehdy, happy all of the time. I will not stand for a surly boss!”
The Bentley returned and parked in the spot the Mercedes had vacated.
“Now, what else can I do for you? My wish is your command.”
I had half a mind to ask for a million more wishes, but then thought better of it.
It was at this point that I sat young Kanish down and explained to him the gig. He clearly didn’t have a care in the world, and while his jubilant manner was endearing, I had to make sure we set some ground rules. I had no idea who the couple was in the Bentley, but the whole elderly-Indian-entourage thing just wasn’t going to work.
“Very well!” Kanish agreed. “We shall play small ball, just as you say.” Kanish stood up abruptly and walked toward the front of the house where the Bentley was parked. “I will send my driver and chef away.”
“Wait. Did you say chef?”
“Oh, not just any chef, my friend. She is a master chef, capable of tastes beyond nirvana.”
“Well, maybe a chef would be good to have around. . . .”
Perhaps I’d been a bit hasty when I said “no entourage.” We certainly didn’t need security, but a driver and a chef? That just seemed . . . well . . . efficient.
It was settled. The chef and driver would stay at the Crown Royale Hotel, and Kanish would remain with me at the house. And whereas his first big lesson was supposed to be one in communication, that didn’t seem to be so much of an issue anymore. He communicates just fine. It’s the timeliness of his communication that I don’t prefer.
Besides, there was really only one thing on my mind. I was going to have a chef and a driver for the year.
Eat my dust, Rick Rubin!