By Ben Hochstein
I was the Music Supervisor on the VMAs this year, and part of my job was to shape the house band segments with Travis Barker and DJ AM. I worked closely with the guys and their team for a few very intense weeks leading up to the show.
When I heard about the plane crash that killed four people and seriously wounded Travis and AM, I felt like I was punched in the stomach. I wish them both a speedy recovery and my condolences go out to the families of those killed. I want to share with you a bit of my brief but enjoyable experience working with the guys on the VMAs.
When I first heard about the project and thought of all the possible egos involved, I must admit I was a little worried — but I couldn’t have been more wrong. Travis and AM turned out to be two of the most down-to-earth, intelligent, and hard-working people I have ever met in the music industry. Their creativity and excitement really drove this project and made it the huge success seen on show night.
Travis and AM figured out how to make collaborations with Katy Perry, the Ting Tings, Lupe Fiasco, and LL Cool J work with little rehearsal time. We only rehearsed the LL Cool J performance once! Not to mention their incredible individual moments. I wish people could have seen them combine the theme from “Hawaii 5-0” with “Jockin’ Jay-Z” during one commercial break.
Finally, I want to relate a quick story about Travis’s assistant “Lil” Chris Baker, who was tragically killed in the crash. We were almost out of rehearsal time and struggling to make the final song timings gel. Lil Chris pulled out his ancient-looking Sidekick, battered and chipped. It turned out the Sidekick had a stopwatch function with a back light screen, allowing us to see on the darkened stage. Chris stood by as our human timer and saved the day. DJ AM affectionately called him “timebox” for the rest of the show. I only knew him for short time, but Lil Chris was really cool and a joy to be around.
If you’d like more information on the memorial funds set up to benefit Chris Baker’s and Charles Still’s families, visit the Famous Stars and Straps Web site.