Thanks for this place.
You’re giving me a chance to come clean, as it has been hanging on my mind especially since Walter abruptly left the building.
Many moons ago, I played Walter on another forum.
Allow me to rewind a bit. I am a touring and recording session musician. In the early 2000’s, I stumbled upon a post from a guy who anonymously blogged about recording an album for a band who’d been at the center of a bidding war between major record labels. It was called “The daily adventures of Mixerman” and caused quite a stir amongst musos and industry insiders. It was a fascinating insight into the recording process and the industry as it was then; it was also hilarious.
I found out the guy (Mixerman) was hosting a forum and soon found myself signing up and enjoying the vibe there. These were folks who were all about recording and music. Many a passionate hobbyist but also (as I would find out) a bunch of pros with Grammys on their mantelpiece, gold records hanging on the wall or a permanent “all access” backstage pass tattooed on their chest. Pretty much everyone would sign up with an alias, which allowed us to vent and share how we survived a current recording or tour without actually naming names. Newcomers and pros alike would suffer merciless witty roasts and thoroughly enjoy it.
Over time I got in touch with some of the mods and admins and ended up helping out with their yearly online music collaboration competition. We were early birds in this: 15-20 teams, spread across the globe and as many timezones would have to write, record and produce a song together over the course of a couple months, exchanging audio tracks over the “internot” as we called it. The quality was astonishingly good; over the years and after 10 editions there was an impressive catalog of over a hundred tunes which made the cut.
We were all about music, recording and the industry but we also were a bunch of merry pranksters. During online music collaboration season, we’d sneak into a given team’s ftp folder, download a vocal track, pitch it ever so slightly out of tune and replace it back on their ftp. We’d take a drum track and transform an effortless groove into a sad rhythmic hiccup. The guy who would have to mix the track would be wondering how this drum track from a big pro could ever be such an abysmal failure. And there would be much rejoicing from us behind the curtains.
Mixerman’s growing fame and the online music competition brought more eyeballs to the forum, and we ended up having about 10000 members.
As the community grew, the need for some more hands-on moderation became apparent. I’d become an admin by then. We discussed how to approach this, trying to keep the signal to noise ratio as low as possible so that the info shared on the forum would still be of value, as opposed to what we saw happening elsewhere in other fora’s I can’t mention here. *
We discussed at length how to do this efficiently while keeping our very particular vibe alive. So in addition to our great mods, we started to use “sock puppets” whenever we needed to make a point (or stir some sh.t).
For instance, we created a character called “the Colonel”, a blatant reincarnation of Colonel Tom Parker. Whenever someone would cluelessly complain about the state of the industry, the Colonel would come waltzing in and put up a post complaining about how "a man can’t make a decent living and skim 50% of the top of the talent’s income anymore". The pros would come in and share their real-life stories but the sock puppets allowed to inject a bit of levity into the discussions.
So, one day, in need of another sock puppet, I summoned a character named “Studiotan” who’d sport a picture of Walter as his avatar. Studiotan’s opening post explained how he’d been a “lurker” but was intrigued by our little community. Within minutes, someone on the forum sent Studiotan a PM (private message): “Dude, don’t use your picture as an avatar, that’s too obvious. Thrilled to have you here.”
Dear me. Hook, line and sinker. Studiotan thanked the guy and quickly changed his avatar to a hawaiian girl playing the ukulele (as if that would be less obvious). The same guy who sent the message to Studiotan/Walter sent a message to the mods: “Walter is in the house!!!”. It quickly simmered upwards to the admins. I immediately kept my fellow admins in the loop but we decided to not share the info with the mods, just to see how we could spin this.
Now, let me re-assure you. Over the course of 5 or 6 years, Studiotan/Walter appeared maybe 5 or 6 times. His comments would be minimal. He’d reply “Hilarious.” to someone who posted a weird and completely useless microphone placement technique. Or he’d make a semi-hidden self-deprecatory comment when someone would mention Steely Dan. The main reason for the few and short appearances was that there was no way I could ever match the man’s wit. And English is not my native language. But the fact that a bunch of people on a forum (including some of our mods) would believe they were sharing a small spot of cyberspace with Walter was too good to let go.
I went as far as having Studiotan sign up for one of our online music competitions because he thought it would “give him a vacation from having to hang out with the other dude.” Of course, due to touring or recording commitments his contribution would never materialize.
Ours was a special forum. A pretty decent group (in the vicinity of 30 folks) would fly across the globe and meet up in real life once a year for a week-long party in some remote place in Canuckistan. We weren’t able to do it every year, but some of these guys are my very good friends to this day. Invariably during these gatherings someone would wonder if we’d heard anything new from Studiotan, and they would still be amazed that His Witty Greatness would mingle amongst us mere mortals. Not wanting to disappoint them, I kept the truth hidden from most.
The times, they are a-changing, and Facebook came and changed how people connected on the net. The forum lost its appeal and the discussions moved over to FB. Finally, last year, we pulled the curtain on the forum. It has always impressed me that the mere mention of the presence of Walter would command such respect from musicians and recordists. I would have loved to come clean and tell him about our little prank. When he left for the next dimension last year I was sad and regretted I’d never been able to let him know he was able to have this huge influence on people without even being there.
Nah, what I am saying. I’m sure he knew.
Thanks for giving me the opportunity. Feel free to wipe, discard, erase and re-record as needed.
(attached pic: a sad Photoshop effort showing one of our admins supposedly meeting up with W before a SD performance in our neck of the woods in Europe).