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Day jobs: Linz Hamilton (Vodun) – musician and electrician

As part of a new series looking at day jobs for creatives, we speak to the NZ guitarist about the merits of his side-career as a contract electrician

It can be really difficult to make a living from creative work alone. As I discussed previously with DJ/new music guru Shell Zenner, sometimes the only course is to work a day job and try to build things to a point where you can go full-time.

It is a balancing act, but done well, this approach can result in you doing more than one job you enjoy, while also easing some of the financial pressure and helping you gain some complementary skills.

Linz Hamilton (pictured top of the page, left) grew up in New Zealand and came to the UK to make his way in music. On arriving, one of the first shows he caught featured the band Vodun – a voodoo rock trio that meld big, Sabbath-y metal riffs with the powerful soul-style vocals of singer Chantal Brown (ex-Invasion, Chrome Hoof and Do Me Bad Things). As fate would have it, just few years later, he wound-up joining the group.

“It really works with the lifestyle of touring. If you’ve got a break, you can go and do a three month contract”

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When he’s not occupying his role as a neon voodoo spirit, though, Linz covers his bills by working as a contract electrician. It’s a line he got into due to the foresight of his school career’s office.

“A friend of mine went to the career’s department and said, ‘I want to be a musician and play in bands’,” explains Linz. “They said to him, ‘Go and do electronics, because at least then if your gear breaks, you’ll be able to fix it.’ He went on to be a painter and I took his advice and trained to be an electrician!”

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Trading up

Perhaps my views are outdated, but I can’t imagine a UK equivalent being so practically-minded. Either way, it appears to have been good advice.

“It’s been really handy for me to have a trade,” says Linz. “It’s meant that I could go, ‘OK, I’m going to uproot from New Zealand, get a job, be educated, do contracting.’ It really works with the lifestyle of touring. If you’ve got a break, you can go and do a three month contract, or jump on a site for a week or so.”

Music is one of the riskier career paths and Linz says the idea of finding a complementary day job had long factored in his thinking.

“I was endorsed by my neighbour in NZ who used to make handmade guitars for me and he said, ‘Never forget that you will need a job.’ It’s not the 70s anymore where the big labels will fund you the whole way. You’ve got to love it and want to love it and you’ll have to pay your way a little bit.”

Fanning the flames

As predicted by the Linz’s school career’s advisor, the career choice has had other benefits for his music, too. Not just in understanding signal path and tone.

“It really paid off at a show in Madrid,” adds Linz. “I had to stop and resolve an electrical fire so the support band could finish their set and we could play ours!”

“It’s not the 70s… You’ve got to love it and want to love it and you’ll have to pay your way a little bit”

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The other benefit of becoming an electrician is that a lot of the training can be done via a paid apprenticeship position. However, if wires aren’t your thing, Linz has one other suggestion…

“As a little side note,” adds Linz. “Chan [vocals] would also recommend cheffing/kitchen work, as she has been working for a charity Made Up Kitchen over the lockdown/pandemic, cooking donated food into a different daily menu for those in need over this crisis. She is really enjoying the ability to still be creative and giving back to the community.”

For Linz’s part though, he says he’d happily recommend electrician work for touring musicians and he’s glad he took the tip given to his friend. As Linz jokes: “It has been the best advice I never got!”

If you want more information on apprenticeships, check out the City & Guilds website. To keep up-to-date with all things Vodun

Linz Hamilton (pictured left) works a day job as an electrician when not touring
Vodun (Linz Hamilton pictured left)

Short Cuts is Creative Money’s series of quick tips, tricks and thoughts about saving or making money in the creative industries.

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Opinion Short Cuts

Short Cuts: “Sometimes you have to work”

Every one in a creative career has to do other work at some point. So why do we act like this is some kind of failure?

Sometimes you have to work. This is something that has stuck with me from the recent How I Make It Work interview with Stephen Mallinder.

Mallinder’s innovations with Cabaret Voltaire and continuing contribution to electronic music (via the likes of Wrangler and Creep Show) have proven to be hugely influential. He has played all over the world, received great critical acclaim and sold a significant amount of records. He is, by almost every criteria, a very successful musician and yet as you’ll see in the piece, he has nonetheless operated in a huge variety of (mostly enjoyable) roles in order to sustain himself throughout his three decades in the music industry.

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For those of us who earn the majority of our living from creative activities, it can be easy to think that engaging with ‘other work’ is a kind of failure. That if you do, you’ve somehow cocked it up – you had it and it got away. Hearing Stephen’s succinct point that “sometimes you have to work” was liberating, in this respect.

Thinking that you’re a ‘creative’ or nothing is, ironically, likely to hasten your permanent exit from a creative industry

Last week, DJ/presenter Shell Zenner discussed how important it is to diversify and to have multiple skillsets. The longer you want to sustain yourself in the creative industries, the more important this becomes. Likewise, it’s perhaps equally important to accept that there will be times when things are off-the-boil with your ‘main’ activity and you might just want, or need, to try something different.

The binary thinking that you’re a ‘creative’ or nothing is, ironically, likely to hasten your permanent exit from a creative industry – either due to the financial pressures of operating solely on the ‘starving artist’ axis, or because doing the same work becomes so unsatisfying that you become disillusioned with the whole thing.

Primary path

Mallinder talks instead about dedication to a ‘primary path’ – from which you will periodically meander and return. He discusses this in terms of making music, but it could be any creative practice that you consider your ‘core’ activity. Our conversation made me realise that the longer you are in an industry, the more likely it is that you will diverge from that primary path and that at some point this becomes not just acceptable, but entirely necessary.

Inspiration and opportunities tend to come in waves – bills do not…

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You need to learn new things, to question what you do and push yourself in order to develop your creative practice. Otherwise, it just gets stale. Doing different work, whether developing a new skillset in your existing industry, taking a role outside of it, or doing something like teaching, can therefore be really beneficial not just to your finances, but also to the way you think about your ‘primary path’.

Sometimes you will have to do certain jobs simply to keep the lights on – and they won’t always feel beneficial. Inspiration and opportunities tend to come in waves, after all – bills do not. What matters is understanding that you can, and likely will, come back to that primary path – that there are multiple ways to be creative and to make that your life. Sometimes you will have to ‘work’ then, but that is no failure.

Short Cuts is Creative Money’s series of quick tips, tricks and thoughts about saving or making money in the creative industries.

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Photo by Mindspace Studio on Unsplash

How can we help you?

What issues are you facing? What questions do you have about managing your money in the creative industries? What would be most helpful to you?

We don’t have all the answers, but maybe we can find someone that does.

Send your questions and suggestions to creativemoneycontact@gmail.com.
We want to hear from you.

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Short Cuts

Short Cuts: “What’s it going to leave behind?” Rich Robinson on creation vs service

Rich Robinson, the songwriter behind the Black Crowes and Magpie Salute, offers his thoughts on the line between creativity and commerce

“When you get signed, you have to quickly make a decision: do you want to be an artist or an entertainer?

“Bankers have taken over the music industry. They’ve done it for the last 25 years. These people have zero talent, but they’re the ones telling artists how to make records that sell. That’s all it comes down to, you know? ‘I can make you a lot of money if you do these things: dumb your music down, shorten it…’

Focussing on making money like that turns it into a service industry. It’s like, ‘How do you want your hamburger?’ ‘How do you want your coffee?’

“There has to be a broader scope in creation. And that goes for architecture, film, music, literature. Any kind of creative endeavour.”

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“Instead of the creative element, we have to ask, ‘What’s it for?’ Is it for the sale of a toaster oven? Or is it a little more important than that? I see that it needs to be more important than that. It’s art and creation where people can actually have a friend. A song that you connect with can bring you solace and peace and validation. That’s the ceiling. That’s what everyone wants. That’s what we’re looking for.

“There has to be a broader scope in creation. And that goes for architecture, film, music, literature. Any kind of creative endeavour. What’s it going to leave behind? Is it something that future generations maybe could benefit from? Instead of just cynically writing these bullshit pop hits that no one will fucking care about in 10 years because they’re not saying anything.

“To me, a song like ‘It’s Alright, Ma. I’m Only Bleeding’, which is a Bob Dylan song, is more relevant now than it’s ever been. Look at a Bob Marley song and what he went through in his life and how those songs resonate stronger now than they ever did – and that’s what I’m talking about. That to me is what’s the most important.”

As told to Matt Parker in June 2018.

Rich Robinson (interviewed) and brother Chris, of The Black Crowes
Rich Robinson, pictured left. Credit: Josh Cheuse

Short Cuts is Creative Money’s series of quick tips, tricks and thoughts about saving or making money in the creative industries.