Sometimes, things that look really simple are really complex, but you can’t see it until you break them down into their individual parts. Christian James Hand has devoted his life to helping people understand and appreciate music by peeling back the layers of America’s favorite songs. The famed radio host and music historian sits down with Alex and Bryan to talk about his method, the intricacies of his favorite music, and how his work in the industry relates to autonomous vehicles.

Listen On
Apple
Google
Spotify
iHeart Radio
Share

View Episode Transcript

Episode Transcript

Alex Roy

Hey everyone. This is No Parking, the podcast that cuts through the hype around self-driving technology and artificial intelligence. I’m Alex Roy with my co-host, Bryan Salesky. 

Today, Bryan and I want to talk about work, sort of. You see, in the tech space, Bryan & I are lucky to work with a lot of *different* types of ppl. They’re smart and talented and totally devoted to making self-driving a reality — honestly they’re probably going to change the world some day, but a few of them come at life a little differently than the others. 

Our guest gets that. Christian James Hand is the host of The Session podcast, where he breaks down the greatest songs ever recorded, track by track, while also telling the stories of the musicians, music history, and all the real stuff that went on in the studio.

It’s opinionated, vulgar, and deeply moving, because you learn more about the musicians and their feelings than you’ll ever learn on television. You also learn a lot Christian and what it’s like to have Asperger’s, which makes the shows really unique and personal.

Christian is that rare genius who changes how you experience music you thought you knew.

Let’s dive in, because no one explains Christian James Hand like Christian James Hand.

Christian. Why don’t you try to explain if you can, as simply as possible, what it is you do that Bryan and I saw and loved so much, and why you came on the show?

Christian James Hand

I guess that’s one of my points of pride in it is that in 20 whatever year it is, you can’t reduce what I do to an elevator pitch, which doesn’t help in any way, shape or form other than to allow my arrogance to be satiated. I think the best way to describe it is that I try to get people to re-engage with music that has become musical wallpaper by utilizing the original master recordings, meaning the bass and drums and guitars and vocals, keyboards, and all that, to tell you the story of the song. So therefore, your engagement with it is increased because you’re no longer just hearing three and a half minutes, you’re hearing an entire movie happening where the iceberg of the song is the tip of it. Just the tip is just the music and then everything under the surface is the real meaning, which is the story behind it. So I’ve gained access to these master recordings that allowed me to create a show where I spent two hours of a show, two songs (hour/song) walking you through everything amazing about it.

Bryan Salesky

So when I saw you the first time I saw you do this was with Seger’s “Hollywood Nights”.

Christian James Hand

One of my favorites.

Bryan Salesky

And you introduced it as, well how did you introduce it?

Christian James Hand

I think it’s the, I think it’s the single greatest vocal that I’ve ever heard. I also think it’s one of the coolest origin stories of a song only beaten at this point, now that I’ve done the research by, Warren Zevon’s “Werewolves Of London,” which is a ridiculous origin story that involves so many amazing characters, including Phil Everly of the Everly brothers. So that’s one of the things about “Hollywood Nights” to me is that it is actually one of the most beautiful origin stories of a song ever.

Bryan Salesky

And, and when you played just the vocal track, everything else turned off in the song, what you could hear was Seger at the microphone, Bob Seger, and the strain in his voice, the every breath he was taking. It humanized it in a way that you don’t hear when the rest of it’s all turned on. It’s incredible.

Christian James Hand

It is the only art form where you can actually reverse engineer it. You can’t do the same thing to a painting. You can’t do the same thing to a book. You can’t do the same thing to a movie. The only art form that you can do this too, is music because music is built in such a specific way out of so many different performances and recordings, that even in today’s mish-mash world of recording and fixing things and all that, there are still striations to it. And being able to go in each striation or strata would have a story. And to tell that story means that over the course of five to eight, to 10, to 15, to 100 tracks, each one of those tracks has a tale built into it. So the story becomes, the song becomes infinitely greater in total. And the vocal in “Hollywood Nights” is absolutely breathtaking.

Bryan Salesky

It’s incredible. And I listened to it in a totally different way after having experienced this. And I’ve probably listened to it about 150 times since you did that. And I hear it in so many different, I hear it in a totally different way. I hear elements of the piano.

Christian James Hand

Oh, it’s extraordinary.

Bryan Salesky

Before, I don’t know that I noticed it all that much, to be honest, right. And now, it’s super present.

Christian James Hand

The piano is amazing. Bill Payne’s “organ work” in quotes, on that song is absolutely… Bill Payne of Little Feat. Absolutely, gobsmackingly brilliant. I mean, it is truly, it is a true gospel song that, once you hear the little bits on it, I don’t think it’s possible to deride that track.

Bryan Salesky

There was soul woven into every single piece of that track. It was incredible, but that’s now, so now after having that experience, now we transcend that to all these other songs. And I mean, now I’m listening. I’m really, I’m a much more active listener of music now, trying to understand all the pieces involved.

Alex Roy

But how many songs have you deconstructed this way?

Christian James Hand

I’m up to… I think it’s a little over 400 at this point.

Alex Roy

And how much time? I mean, I want to say how much time goes into deconstructing each song, but you’ve heard these songs, you know, the history of the song, but from the point where you make the decision that I’m going to deconstruct this song and make a show out of it, how much labor, how many man hours of labor are required?

Christian James Hand

I should lie and say it’s a week, but it’s actually a couple hours. Because one of the things is that, you know, Greta Thunberg, the superwoman of autistic people, or super person to be non-gender specific, has said it, that her Asperger’s is a superpower. And I’ve come to accept mine as a superpower as well. In that, you know, I am a voracious consumer of trivia and factoids about music. The number one thing I watch is music documentaries, the number one books that I read are music autobiographies, or how this got made, or the story of this band. So I just sort of accumulated a lot of really, really useless information up until the last four years when suddenly it became very usable and minable. The stupid pretentious answer is that I’ve been preparing all my life, but the reality of it is that each song is only a couple of hours because the songs themselves, I don’t have to do the hard work on. But I do listen to every single track, start to finish, a number of times to find the nuances. So if you have a five minute song and you got 10 tracks, you’re listening to that song, probably two hours of prep on that. And then going on the interwebs and going down a billion rabbit holes and finding trivia and stories. Wikipedia is an amazing source. A woman who came to one of our shows actually sent the segment to Stevie Nicks. And she said, it’s great. I love it. Every single fact was wrong. Stevie, fix your Wikipedia. It’s a public resource.

Alex Roy

If I may just interrupt for a second, for those who may not have grasped, what happens. You buy a ticket, you go to a show, Christian shows up, there’s a podium or desk with a laptop, there’s a projector and a stereo, and then plays the individual files of the song and tells the story of the song and the writers of the song,

Bryan Salesky

Including the album artwork, the story, you mentioned the origin story for “Hollywood nights”.

Christian James Hand

It’s contextualizing because I think that is one of the things that has been lost in most of the experiences that we have now is that there’s no context, right. You know, the internet has robbed us of context. So to be able to apply context to a song in such a glorious way is, you know, it’s a singular experience, as I said, in the art field. You can look at a painting and somebody can tell you, “Oh, Monet was whacked out on absinthe and painted this about a chick that he loved,” and it changes the painting, but you can’t reverse engineer it. You can’t take the brush strokes out. And over the course of this, you can take the brush strokes out and you can reduce the song to ultimately one drum track and then build it out from there. And as you add the pieces, you know, one of the things that I didn’t realize was happening was as you add the pieces, I’m actually teaching the average listener in quotes, a very rudimentary EQ, which you can then apply moving forward to other pieces of music. Like the amount of people that hit me up say “Dude, I can pick a baseline out now, look, I could never do that before.” So I teach, I didn’t realize that that would happen because as an engineer and as an autistic person, I was already capable of doing that from a very young age. I was always able to like pinpoint an instrument and be able to listen to it, travel through the song and sing it. And to be able to teach people that skill is amazing because it’s transferrable to all of the other music that’s ever been, that they’ve ever experienced and all the new music that they’re going to experience moving forward. I’m currently pitching this thing as a TV show, which if you want to really make your life miserable, get into a room with a bunch of TV executives. Those people, you know, it’s difficult. Absence of vision seems to be, you know, it’s everywhere.

Bryan Salesky

They’re pattern matching. They’re looking for what fits into the, into the mold that they know will be successful.

Christian James Hand

What’s the mandate. These executives look at me and they’re like, what’s the point of the thing? You know, the pretentious answer, which I believe is that I’m trying to save music one song at a time.

Bryan Salesky

There’s a couple of things that you commented on when we were in New York city and we saw this last summer. Okay. It’s the first time that I’d seen one of your shows. You were making a number of points about number one, an artists like Seger would never have made it in the world we live in today. It doesn’t have the right look. It just doesn’t fit into the mold of what executives are looking for now. Can you help explain that a little more?

Christian James Hand

Yeah.

Bryan Salesky

Well maybe I got it wrong.

Christian James Hand

You did have it right. I think that one of the things that’s interesting about democratization of music because of the interweb is that people who don’t fit the mold anymore actually can make it. So, you know, the fact that Ed Sheeran can fill a stadium of 30,000 people with himself and a looping pedal is extraordinary. That couldn’t have happened in the 1980s and 1990’s and in the early 2000’s. Bob Seger and these other people wouldn’t have had the careers that they’ve had because not even like beyond looking the part, they also didn’t have records that immediately had traction and became part of the musical zeitgeist. Bruce Springsteen is five, six records into his career before he hits it. These people would have been dropped at any point by the major labels. The major labels are losing their stranglehold, which I think does allow for very individual perspectives and views and what people look like. I think that it’s way more forgiven, but I also think that we’ll, we will never see, you know, that’s why I focus on ’69 to ’89 is that we will never see this ever again in culture. And I will make that brash, broad statement and mean it. I do not think we’ll ever see massive, worldwide artists of that nature ever again, who are working in that way. I mean, Seger builds two bands. He takes the Muscle Shoals dudes and creates the R&B band for the record. And then he takes his rock band, which is The Silver Bullet Band, and those guys just get to do the rock songs. You’d never be allowed to do that anymore. The money wouldn’t be spent, you couldn’t have two studios running concurrently. You couldn’t be doing all that work. And the studios are slowly closing down because I mean, there’s the myth that’s just really annoying about this Billie Eilish record being done in her bedroom. It wasn’t done in her bedroom. It was tracked in her bedroom. It was then mixed and mastered by engineers and mixing engineers who are scientists and geniuses at work. So you can track anything.

Bryan Salesky

They engineered a Grammy-award-winning song.

Christian James Hand

She also wasn’t an overnight success. If you look at her career, she was shepherded through the label and actually…

Bryan Salesky

She is 17 there’s only so many…shepherding happened awfully fast. She was signed at like 14. Yeah. Okay. All right, there you go.

Christian James Hand

She wasn’t signed a week before they took a really early young talent and did the right thing, which was to responsibly shepherd her. But the point is, is that you can make things in your bedroom now that you couldn’t make in your bedroom even 10, 20 years ago, it would have been impossible.

Bryan Salesky

All right. Now, the second thing I want to dig into is that I want to get your take on is all the software and digital tools and all this stuff that we have now to be able to make music, is it taking the soul out of music?

Christian James Hand

No, I think that what’s, you know, it’s, it’s the same with anything you could give a number of people, a hammer, but how they would kill somebody with that hammer would be individual to that person. And some could do it artistically. Some people could do it just a quick smack with a pink ball-peen hammer and you’re dead. Other people could really take care with it. So I think the tools are tools that everybody could use. The difference is that I think where we are falling short is that it used to be like, I did a little thing for some kids at a college yesterday. And I showed them “I Heard It Through The Grapevine,” which was the equivalent of showing them cave drawings. And they have no idea what they’re like, I can’t even make like a California raisins joke. They don’t even get that. So, but the thing with that record is that all of the people that were brought into play on that record were monsters, planet-smashing geniuses of their instrument, James Jamison, single greatest bass player, probably in all of music. Really good. And that’s the thing that’s lost because now it’s a keyboardist who programs who thinks that he knows everything. So you’re not applying genius level on each of the tracks. You’re applying a couple of people who know how to make a thing that makes a lot of money and they’re rudimentary, and sometimes they’re not that expansive. There are incredible single person artists like Flying Lotus.

Bryan Salesky

And that’s the difference of then and now is, is you’re talking a group of superstars.

Christian James Hand

A group of superstars, yeah.

Bryan Salesky

There’s an entire orchestra in the “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” that you don’t even necessarily realize until you really, really listened to it.

Christian James Hand

Well, you’re coming to my show. And then the other thing is that you’ve got engineers who are geniuses, producers who are geniuses, the people that designed the rooms were geniuses, the people designed the gear are geniuses. You know, I have producer friends who’ve made records who refuse to work on an MCI desk because it doesn’t sound like music. And you’re like, look, a bunch of circuitry and soldering points don’t sound musical to you? Well, no, they don’t because the guys that built MCI desks heard music in a certain way. Some people play a certain kind of guitar. So the instruments themselves were also part of it. But so were the pieces of gear that these guys were using.

Bryan Salesky

Explain for people that don’t know, what’s an MCI desk?

Christian James Hand

Is so MCI is just a manufacturer of desks. It’s like MCI, Neve, API, SSL and each of these desks brought something different to the world. And there were, you know, mixers and engineers and producers who refuse to work on certain manufacturers desks, because the way that they brought electrical impulses in, and then spat them back out again, didn’t sound like music to them. It’s extraordinary. So you had people that were specifically picking rooms. Like we have one down here on sunset strip called Sunset Sound and Prince who built a world class planet-smashing studio in Minnesota, facility in Minnesota, would fly to LA to use Studio 3 I think it was, of Sunset Sound only for his vocals and guitar.

Bryan Salesky

Because it had that sound. It had a signature sound.

Christian James Hand

They actually put a red phone into the studio and he would just pick the red phone up and just go tape needs to be flipped and then hang up. And then the guy, the engineer, would have to would have to come and flip the reel, cause that was the only thing he wasn’t going to do. He’d do everything else. “I’m not touching my own tapes.” So everything else was him solo in a studio except for flipping the tapes over. That’s the thing is that that room specifically had a sound because of the desk, because of the shape of the room, because of the way that the acoustic tile had been hung. I mean, it’s that specific, it’s that wonderful and rich. And that is one of the things we are definitely losing in this day and age because the economies of scale don’t allow for it.

Bryan Salesky

So…

Christian James Hand

Should cars drive themselves? I mean, that’s the question.

Alex Roy

Of course cars should drive themselves in all the places that people suck at driving them, and there are bad consequences that harm everyone else. But if you want to drive a car somewhere where there’s no other people and you want to do it enjoyably, why shouldn’t you be able to do that?

Bryan Salesky

I will say this. I’m not interested in soaking in someone else’s driving style when they want to go, when they want to go 40 miles an hour faster. Yeah.

Christian James Hand

Just trying to navigate to Le Brea from my apartment, which took almost 15 minutes. If I’d taken a Lime scooter, I would have been here in like two and a half.

Alex Roy

That would be analogous to saying there are a lot of places where you get into an elevator. Why does elevator music exist? Because they want to put music in an elevator, but they don’t want to pay for real music. Is that the explanation?

Christian James Hand

So now you can, because we have these streaming services that, you know, just spit out regular hits, but that was the reason that Musac was invented was because you didn’t want to play the public license to be able to play these songs in a public forum. So you just had a cheaper version of it constructed that would be, you know, easily palpable. So the Queen’s composers, one of my favorite little anecdotes, the Queen’s composer and UK has the legal right to walk into any building that he’s in a demand that the music is turned off because it’s disrespectful to the music, which it is.

Alex Roy

Well back up the Queen, as in the Queen of England.

Christian James Hand

The Queen of England has her own composer. Whose job it is to just, “I want a song, make it sound red, and be about maths.” And he has to write a song that sounds red in is about birds. Like when he presents it. And she’s like, “Oh, it’s lovely, now give me a purple one about the dogs.” So he has the legal right, like if he’s in a restaurant in England he can demand that the music is turned off and they have to, and he’ll do it in a shopping mall. And he said, it’s very, very interesting to watch what happens to human beings when suddenly the only thing that they have is the sound of their own humanity. When you lift that burble out, what do you have left? Just the echoes of us shuffling and talking. And it becomes very, very strange, which is one of the reasons that I decided to do what I’m doing is that music has been that devalued. It is literally just this thing that burbles in the back all the time. I mean, you walk into a shopping mall and Tilly’s will have one song and Victoria’s Secret willd have another, an Abercrombie and Fitch will have another.

Christian James Hand

So all you have is this catastrophic melange of tones. None of those songs are identified. None of those artists are identified. And we just immediately think that this doesn’t matter, that this thing that we’re hearing this ambient noise, which is the most powerful art form human beings have ever created, is simply just there to stop us from hearing our own thoughts.

Bryan Salesky

What who is your favorite artists? Modern artists.

Christian James Hand

Phil Collins. Yeah. Phil Collins is my musical hero.

Bryan Salesky

So expand, why?

Christian James Hand

Phil Collins was the first person, when I was coming up and I was a wee lad, my dad pretty early on, I think cottoned on to the fact that if you put the, he had these yellow, I’m pretty sure the Sennheiser might be AKGs, but he had these yellow spongy headphones. think he worked out pretty quickly that if you put those onto me and then put a needle on the record, he could get at least 90 minutes of me shut up. So he would routinely sit me down in front of records. There were two that were foundational, three that were foundational. One was the soundtrack to a movie called, Bugsy Malone, majority of the songs, if not all the songs penned by Andy Williams, true genius, epic movie. If you haven’t seen it, you should. It’s brilliant. And then Tubular Bells by Mike Oldfield, which is the singular recording achievement in all of music, as far as I’m concerned. I like to make big brash statements. And then the third would be Phil Collins, Face Value. And the first time that “In The Air Tonight” exploded, it’s track one of Face Value, the first time that that drum fill occurred, which is probably I’m eight years old, my musical DNA coalesced around that moment.

Alex Roy

Are you a fan of Judas Priest?

Christian James Hand

Yeah, I am.

Alex Roy

I remember like 10 years ago, I guess, I don’t want to say they ran out of ideas because they only ever had one idea and it was very good. Very good. I love, I love Judas Priest and I met Rob Halford in an elevator once and he was lovely. And then around, I don’t know what year it was, they decided that they would go back. They would pull a full spinal tap and they would, they came out with an album Nostradamus. Are you familiar with this album?

Christian James Hand

No.

Alex Roy

Well, what do you think it’s about?

Christian James Hand

It’s about the end of the world…

Alex Roy

Well, actually it’s, it’s a musical biography of Nostradamus. And, I say this with love for these people, it’s the laziest album come out of a multi-platinum band, a band that does not need the money. And they could have just retired. It was so gratuitous. But to make it even worse, I guess they didn’t hire like an album artist. Someone in the band has a grandson who just like, is just shy of puberty and that child got to do the cover to the album cover. And it’s the face of Nostradamus, so you can look it up.

Christian James Hand

I have to, I feel compelled at this point.

Alex Roy

And the Nostradamus title track is the chorus is literally, “Nostradamus. He’s the man.” Now what I’m getting at here is you say, there’s no room left for like real creation. And, and there’s all these automated like melody analysis software. And these guys in Sweden with these, I hate to use the word AI because it’s so vague and broad, who are just automating and creation of top 40 hits.

Christian James Hand

Yes. And if I may, it was actually done prior to that. So there was a guy by the name of Bill Drummond, who was like one of my musical heroes who, along with another, I forget his name, Keith Cliff, either way along, somebody is yelling at their computer right now, along with another guy created a thing called the KLF, which was a musical act in the U.K. So he was originally the manager for Echo and the Bunnymen. And then he became a member of the KLF and then the KLF burnt a million pounds. So basically the KLF was created solely so they could see if they could get to the number one slot using performance art. And they did, they were like six number one hits. It was actually like these guys are legitimately brilliant genius artists. And their goal was to see if they could game the system. Was there like a physical algorithm, before algorithms existed in that sense, that would allow them to be able to generate hits and they did. And then they wrote a little book that you can’t find anywhere that they printed up like a hundred copies of, which was the secret sauce on how you write a number one hit.

Christian James Hand

Do you remember that song that was written using every single one of the golden rules in the book that Drummond and his partner wrote on how you generate a number one hit. So the algorithm had already been sort of like suss. Then I saw a TV show where they were talking to Sting, Chad Kroeger and another big artist who have all written huge number ones. And each of them said, at a certain point, you just realize how you do it. And then you can just repeat the act over and over and over and over. But in a way that you can get to the number one slot, like there are, there are statistical things, musically that you can hit on. Melodies, you have to keep it in certain chord progressions and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. So there were all these methodologies that have existed for a while. And now, yes, they’ve computerized it. And then you have Max Martin and these other dudes who’ve like honed it to like a thin rail of expertise.

Bryan Salesky

So where do you think we have the most improvisation happening?

Christian James Hand

Jazz.

Bryan Salesky

It’s gotta be happening, so where is it? Tell me where to go. Tell me where to go to escape the formulaic.

Christian James Hand

Honestly, I think the genre that is breaking more boundaries is hip hop, right? Hip hop is breaking Sonic boundaries. It’s creating…

Bryan Salesky

I mean, it sort of always did.

Christian James Hand

It always did because, you know, originally the idea of like cutting and pasting and sampling and all that, and then the record labels realized that they can make a boatload of cash off of that. So they made that prohibitively expensive, which then made beat makers become really vital. I would urge everyone if you, especially, if you’re a hip hop fan to watch the Hip Hop Evolution series on Netflix, uh, which is amazing and so well executed because it really does plot the whole thing so you can see, and then I just watched this episode, or this season has a whole thing on the Neptunes and the Neptunes, Pharrell and Chad, are absolutely… It was a groundbreaking way to create beats using all the little clicks and pops and all that, and so much space. And I mean, what’s the grinding like listen to “Grinding” and man, I mean, “Grinding” is and the “Whisper Song”. “Whisper Song” is incredible. Ying Yang Twins. Flying Lotus with his work with Kendrick. Like all of these guys are they’re really pushing the form in a way that no other music really is because EDM has a certain level of, you got to go through, unless you’re just reducing it to one sample so we can take that and make a hit out of it. I’ll get publishing. Um, so I think honestly like the, the, the fertile ground right now is hip hop. I think it’s really doing, it’s pushing because it has to, because it’s constant, it’s, it’s, it’s a marketing exercise unto itself. It’s a whole, it’s Mehta the way that hip hop works.

Alex Roy

Yeah. And the successful artists are really franchises at this point. Right.

Christian James Hand

You have, the big ones are like Jigga and those guys, but the people behind the scenes are where the boundaries are being pushed. I mean, look at Rick Rubin’s work with him. I mean, the records that they made together, Jesus Christmas cakes. So I think that that to me is like where the, where the true art is now being pushed. It’s not being pushed in the rock world, unfortunately.

Bryan Salesky

And you know, the other, the other thing that I think happens in the hip hop world, that’s, that’s positive is the collaborations that happen. You don’t see that level of like everybody coming together and then working with each other’s material and putting it together in new ways. To me, that’s, that’s what I love watching DJ Khaled. That’s kind of his thing, right? He likes, I don’t know if Jay-Z was the CEO of hip hop, it seems like there’s a changing of the guard happening to Khaled where he’s trying to facilitate and bring all these artists together.

Christian James Hand

You know, each generation has their version of that. I think that, you know, Khaled has done a, a really, really good job of marketing Khaled. I would love to be able to, I’d love to find out what he actually does. I’d love to know how much of that is him and how much of it is just a team of dudes, and he’s like, “Holy sh*t, I’ll say my name over that track.”

Bryan Salesky

Let’s be fair. He makes sure that they shine, the people he brings together, right. He’s a facilitator, he’s a facilitator. Now look at a guy like Pitbull. I silenced him. I silenced it. He’s international. Mr. 305.

Christian James Hand

Oh yeah. You know, I get it. I think that’s why Kendrick to me is a much more potent and powerful force. Like Kendrick to me is doing something that, you know, when you can get the, I can’t wait for him to put a record out where he brags about getting a Pulitzer, because nobody else can say that, but he’s really pushing the form. Max Martin was an another version of Khaled where he hit the sweet spot. And then you can just keep repeating that sweet spot. You know, like he has a team of producers the same way that Max Martin had a team of producers, the way that Dr. Luke had a team of producers and they sort of stamp themselves onto all of their work. They have clearly a brilliant mind that works in a way that knows exactly what series of blips and blurps are going to get human beings to go, “Dude, turn that up really loud,” which is really all rock and roll is about.

Alex Roy

Going back for a second. Earlier, you said that there’d never be a place for a Bob Seger again. And then, we talked about artificial intelligence and automation of music, but you’re, you’re telling me there’s no such thing as a talented young artist breaking out again. Is that not possible? Is it all the construction and the people who’ve written to the pipeline?

Christian James Hand

No, I think that there will. I think that there’s, I mean, there’s a Billie Eilish is a great example. You can’t take anything away from her. The only thing that I take away from that story is the mythologizing of it. I think if you just let it be what it was, it’s awesome. And she’s fantastic. I have very little love for imagine dragons, but that lead singer and what he’s doing and how he’s working, you know, getting people to understand trans issues and all that stuff. So there are, there are artists that are going to be able to come up, but I don’t think that you’re going to get worldwide swings of music like a Nirvana again. I don’t think you’ll get that ever again. I think we saw the last of those. I think that the, you know, now what you’ll get is siloed blips where things come up, but you’re not going to get a whole, a whole universe changing where fashion…you gotta remember like Kmart had a grunge line.

Alex Roy

Yeah. That was the end. What was that?

Christian James Hand

Yeah. It’s like alternative becomes malternatives and you end up in this, these massive global shifts in music that then grow a bunch of other things. And ultimately, I don’t think that that’s going to happen because of the way that music is absorbed.

Alex Roy

Do you consider yourself a Luddite?

Christian James Hand

Yes.

Alex Roy

Are you opposed to new technologies improving things we already do to enjoy?

Christian James Hand

No. No.

Alex Roy

How do you feel about new music formats?

Christian James Hand

I’m one of these people who talks tons of sh*t about something and then gets it and then falls in love with it and then talks about it all the time, and proselytizes about it endlessly. They had to drag me kicking and screaming from tape to Pro Tools. And then once I got to Pro Tools, I was like, ah, it’s a musical Lego, love it. I’m doing this forever. And now Pro Tools on me have a very intense relationship.

Alex Roy

So does music have to be on vinyl?

Christian James Hand

No. I think the music, my only codicil with music consumption is that I would prefer that people do it right. Get yourself if you don’t want to splash out on a decent system for your house, because you’re so knows boxes, the best thing, thing, get yourself a decent pair of headphones. That’s it. If that’s the way you consume music, make it the best version of that, that you can get. So, uh,

Alex Roy

Wow. That, that really threw me for a loop.

Bryan Salesky

Oh my God. Alex is stymied. I’ve never seen this happen before. Can we get back to cars, transportation, and culture.

Alex Roy

Let’s just cut the chase here.

Bryan Salesky

Would you get in an autonomous vehicle?

Christian James Hand

Here’s my question with the autonomous car situation.

Bryan Salesky

Let’s get into it.

Christian James Hand

I think the marketing of autonomous cars and the concept of it should switch from being autonomous cars to being car trains so that people can really understand what it would be like in a world of autonomous cars. Because the thing with autonomous cars that’s going to be great is that you’re not going to have to have six feet between you and the car behind you in front of you. You could have like a foot off of the bumpers and it would look more like a train and people…

Bryan Salesky

You’re after efficiency for efficiency.

Christian James Hand

Full-on like, it would be so much quicker for me to get from my house to here. If the car was not impeded by other cars and the stupidity of the other drivers. But to me like isn’t the stumbling block of the car, the autonomous car, is if I’m driving along and there’s a school bus full of kids over here, and there’s a mother and a daughter walking on the side of it.

Alex Roy

Everybody asks this question.

Christian James Hand

What algorithm decides chance?

Bryan Salesky

So when was the last time you got into that sort of predicament as a driver? Do you drive you drive, right?

Christian James Hand

I do. I drive a lot.

Bryan Salesky

You have to, you live in LA, so it’s impossible. Okay. Uh, when was the last time you had to make a choice like that?

Christian James Hand

I didn’t, but I will say that I did have, I have had accidents where the other side of the accident could have been way gnarlier than the one that chance allowed me to experience.

Bryan Salesky

I got it. So the thing we have to remember is that for the car to be in a position where it has to make a choice like that, there was likely a number of bad decisions that proceeded it. And so the key is to keep it out of those predicaments in the first place. Correct. Okay. That means, that means making sure that it has sufficient space around other things and avoiding those. That’s that’s the key.

Alex Roy

I was going to ask that a different way. I always say that my answer, and this is before I met Bryan, is most people, if they were confronted with such a moral dilemma, lack the actual driving skill to execute on the moral choice, they think they’d have time to make. So a machine okay, can be programmed to not enter a scenario, a no-win scenario like that. By just driving slower by, by making all these choices that humans fail to make every day.

Christian James Hand

Yeah, no because the thing is that you don’t, that’s a very human, so you’re actually, what’s brilliant about that is that you are, you’re thinking it through algorithmically, whereas I’m thinking it through emotionally. So the emotional reaction is to just pinpoint a specific time when everything goes sideways, but the algorithmic way to look at it that you actually reverse engineer the cataclysm and work out how you don’t get to cataclysm.

Bryan Salesky

That’s right. So the average reaction time for an attentive human driver is actually around a second, second and a half, right? At most speeds, that’s a lot of distance traveled that reaction times cut drastically with the self-driving car. The other thing that’s important to note is a lot of people don’t realize, because driver training is terrible in this country, it’s really bad. But a lot of people don’t realize that to get the full braking authority out of your car, you actually have to quite literally stand on the brake. The computer knows how to execute the full braking authority, if that’s what’s required by simply sending a command, it’s a message, right?

Christian James Hand

My mom got her driver’s license in the UK. First of all, I don’t know if it’s still the same in the UK when I was coming up and my mom was coming up, your driver’s license dictated as to whether you were legally allowed to drive an automatic or a stick shift. If you got the driving test on a stick shift, you could drive everything. If you’ve got it on an automatic, you were not legally allowed to drive a stick shift.

Alex Roy

In France, for many years, you’d have to have a sticker in the back of your car showing how fast you were allowed to drive highway… like a 90 kilometer per hour sticker. In France in like the eighties, then it was 120. You had a 90 sticker and a 120. [inaudible]

Christian James Hand

Well, in England, they have the L Plate, which is a learner, the little red L in a white thing that you have to legally have on your car to show people that you’re a new driver. But my mom, when she did her hill start in a stick shift, or what do we call it in England? Isn’t not standard, whatever we call it. She had it so that the instructor got out of the car on the hill and put a matchbook behind the rear wheels, got back in and said, if you roll over the matchbook, you fail instantly. So you have to be able to do your hill start with zero rollback to the point where you couldn’t crush the matchbook.

Alex Roy

People should be retested and vision tests and all this stuff.

Christian James Hand

Well, my driving test in Maryland in the DMV parking lot, and then drove off of that and got on 95 and drove to New York to go to college. Completely ill-prepared. And I’d done driving lessons. Like my dad had demanded that I took driving lessons in a five-speed and the whole, which was weird because the guy had a steering wheel on his side and three pedals. But nonetheless, I then left the parking lot and was now driving a thing I could kill people with at 75 miles an hour. It was a Renault Encore.

Alex Roy

In Europe that was the Renault 11.

Christian James Hand

As I got onto the highway, my dad, I demanded my dad was like, you’ve got $2,000 to spend on a car. And I was like, great. I want a 1985 Honda, two door Civic. Like the little silver…

Alex Roy

And it said CVCC on the back.

Christian James Hand

Yeah. 150,000 miles out of the thing. And it would fire a gun into the engine block. So my dad decides what he’s going to do is he’s going to double my budget and he’s going to buy a Renault Encore that I then got onto I-95 and it refused to go into fifth gear, immediately. I drove in fourth for the rest of the time I owned it.

Alex Roy

I was talking to our friend, Matt Farah, we all know Matt Farah. He had these great one-liners about car names. And he was like, “Why is it that so many cars are named for places where you would never be seen in one?” Like the Chevy Monte-Carlo. You can never take that car to Monte-Carlo. And like the Renault Encore. Well, encore means never again.

Bryan Salesky

The Telluride… there you go.

Christian James Hand

The Encore was atrocious. And then I bought with my own money… I bought like a 19, my first car I bought myself with a 1987 Honda Civic CRX that had 129,000 miles on it when I bought it. And it still got sixty to the gallon driving from New York to DC.

Bryan Salesky

And that was young. That was early in its life.

Christian James Hand

It was amazing. But no, I would completely get into an autonomous car because one of the things that pisses me off is, and this is bog standard response I’m sure, is the amount of cell phone usage when people are driving.

Bryan Salesky

Driving is the distraction.

Christian James Hand

That’s a very good point.

Bryan Salesky

Humans have no interest. Like there was a guy driving, an Escalade on a very narrow two lane street on our way here. And he was bobbing all over the place. At one point he was straddling both lanes. He almost ran into a white pickup truck taking a left turn in front of him. It was nuts. And so we were like, man, we got to… Alex, get up to there. The two idiots that we are. Hey, speed up closer, get closer. We want to see who’s in there. Cause I want to, because I want to go stare him down. So we go look and we give him the look of death. We tell you, he couldn’t see us because he was too busy. He had his head buried in his lap. I don’t even know how he was driving. It was incredible.

Christian James Hand

So if you want to get somebody who’s using their phone, I don’t have a brother. I have a sister. So I pull up next to them. When I see somebody on their phone, I pull up next to them and indicate to roll the window down. And I just look at them and I go, just so you know, my brother was killed by somebody in their car on their cell phone. Immediately like, guilt will wash over them. The blood will drain out of their face and they’ll put their phone down. Even for just a minute. They’ll cry. I don’t have a brother. He wasn’t killed by anybody in a car. But I tell you what if, what if you, if you have brothers say, it’s a sister, just to make it a sibling that you don’t have.

Bryan Salesky

So that that’ll buy you good behavior for 24 hours.

Christian James Hand

You get 24 hours out of them. And in that 24 hours, they probably might’ve saved umpteen lives, but at least you got that out of it. And you get to look at somebody and make them feel really, really bad about the fact that they were…

Alex Roy

Next week on No Parking, Christian James Hand just discusses his family planning tips.

Bryan Salesky

There’s cars, culture, music. They go together. Now in a world with an autonomous vehicle, what is your ideal experience, given that you can completely now in the future remake the interior of a vehicle? Totally re-imagine it? What does it look like for Christian?

Christian James Hand

A shrine to Prince. I want purple. I wanna be able to change the interior of it. I want to be… I want to be able to go to Ikea. I-key-car. I want to go to I-key-car and be able to be like, “Oh, I’m thinking I’m going to change the whole interior to blue, put like a sick system in it.” Because you can do like house level cool systems. Like it could be Macintosh, which would be amazing, like a Macintosh blue lit interior with the blue lights and all that shit. It’s basically a room that moves. I’m buying that 110%.

Bryan Salesky

You’re probably not the only one.

Alex Roy

Right? Well, it’s great. When we have a guest that allows me not to have to speak.

Christian James Hand

This is the least amount you’ve spoken on an episode?

Bryan Salesky

Perhaps, perhaps it may be.

Alex Roy

Guys we’re running out of time here. Is there anything else you want to ask Mr. Hand?

Bryan Salesky

I guess, you know, you had mentioned earlier that you are autistic. If you don’t want to talk about that’s fine.

Christian James Hand

No that’s fine. I’ll talk about it. I think it’s important.

Bryan Salesky

Exactly. So we, we actually are looking at putting in place a neurodiverse hiring program, because I have friends who are at different levels of the spectrum, in that. Yeah, exactly. So what, what is something that you wish people knew? If they have somebody who says, “Hey, I’m autistic,” what are some things that people need to know and need to understand?

Christian James Hand

The news flash from most people about — especially for me, considering that what I do for a living — is how horribly uncomfortable I am at all times. And I think that human discomfort is something that everybody has. But I think one of the issues with autistic people, especially the higher up on the spectrum you are, is that the level of self-awareness is actually almost… you’re aware of your internal, because you spend so much time internal that you’re aware of your internal monologue and your internal world, as much as you are the outside. So you are aware of how uncomfortable you are. Whereas most people aren’t aware of how uncomfortable they are. They’ll walk into a room and be like, man, I’m just in trouble. It’s like, no, I’m actually uncomfortable talking to people on the phone. Texting to me is like, was created by an autistic person who was just like, wow, this is packets of information where I can just send and it gets the mission done.

Bryan Salesky

But yet, you can do a show in front of hundreds of people. So how did you, I mean, that’s an inspiration to some people who…

Christian James Hand

I’m also throwing up in the bushes beforehand.

Bryan Salesky

Okay. So you gotta get yourself mentally prepared and in the zone for it. Is there a process you go through other than throwing up?

Christian James Hand

I pray. You know, and I actually get down on an, on a knee. I don’t do it when there are people who can watch me, but I will drop my head down and actually say a prayer. And I say the… it’s the second. So there’s two prayers in alcoholics anonymous. There’s the short version that you can put on a fridge magnet. And then there’s the long version, which is, “God I offer myself to The, to do with me as thy will, relieve me of the bondage of self that I may better do thy will, that through my strength, I could show others the power and the glory of Your love. Amen.” And that is my prayer and that centers me. And I don’t believe in God in any of the religious terms. I believe it in a Burning Man way, which annoys me to no end. My own spiritual nature makes me hate me. That to me is like the moment when, and then I just ask for a great show and that’s all I can do is to just step on stage and then hope for the best. And sometimes, you know, I walk away from it and it’s atrocious. And other times I walk away from it and it’s amazing, but that is the way that I get myself centered before I walk out. And it’s actually easier for me to talk to 200 people than it is for me to talk to two, because this is way more exhausting and nerve-wracking. Two hundred people, especially when all you’re doing is just talking at people for two hours is actually pretty easy. Having conversations with people is very difficult. And I think that I actually, this is a ludicrous way to start a sentence, but I was dating Scary Spice for a while.

Bryan Salesky

Well, I didn’t know to ask about that. That wasn’t in our research, Alex.

Christian James Hand

So that happened, it’s not on my Wikipedia page, but she had a friend over. And when her friend came over, I sort of went really internally and got sort of a little bit overwhelmed because the person was also a somewhat overwhelming person. So when I left, she looked at me, she was like, “So what was going on with that? You weren’t yourself at all.” And I was like, no, I have Asperger’s and blah, blah. She was like, can we meet about it? So I said, yeah, so she grabbed her laptop and she put it down. And we went on a couple of pages that I know, and she looked at me and she said, “This sounds like the loneliest place ever.” And that to me was the only person who had ever really understood how genuinely lonely autistic people are. And Asperger’s people — Aspys — which annoys me, that they call themselves, it’s as annoying as neuro-typicals, but that I would love people to understand how, how really lonely the experience of being autistic and Asperger’s is because the separation from your tribe is total. And I have to struggle a great deal to not constantly feel lonely, even in a crowd of people.

And I know that everybody does. And I’m certainly not saying that my experience or autistic people or Asperger’s people’s experience is more magnified or anything. I think the thing that sucks is that the awareness of it makes it harder. You understand that you don’t operate the way that all of these other people do. And that was one of the great things about my diagnosis was I got to exhale, because I wasn’t legitimately crazy. 

I actually have a book that I can open. And if you have somebody in your life who is Asperger’s or you think you are, there’s an amazing book called “Pretending To Be Normal.” That is one of the greatest resources that I had as I “came out of the closet” from neuro-typical to whatever it is that I ended up as, but that book is great. So I urge anyone with anyone in their lives. I always recommend it to people. “Pretending To Be Normal” is a really beautiful, I think it’s Susan Lilly wrote it. It’s a really beautiful resource for knowing how that interior monologue works. I think the understanding of the loneliness of it is something that people can really start to get their heads around now. So I think that’s the biggest struggle.

Bryan Salesky

Well, thank you for sharing that. I don’t think I’ve heard it described in exactly that way.

Christian James Hand

Thanks, man. I mean, it’s like one of the things that… other people have asked if I wouldn’t mind talking about it, I don’t mind talking about it, because one of the things that I… I actually went to do, I wanted to do a… USC or UCLA did a study using the maps protocols for using MDMA and LSD to help people on the spectrum. Because really ultimately, unfortunately, what happens with extended experiences in the autistic or the Asperger’s world, especially undiagnosed. Cause I worked it out at 35 and then went and saw a couple of experts. And one guy was like, listen, man, the thing you’re gonna have to come to terms with is that a 35 year old man, who’s just discovered he has Asperger’s is basically just a trauma patient. Because you are. Because your entire life is traumatic because nothing works. My Trader Joe’s closed down and for two months, I didn’t know what to do, because I had to re-navigate a new Trader Joe’s to work out a new way to get my groceries. Where would it be inside that store? Where would the hummus be? Where would the carrots be? Right? I eat a lot of hummus and carrots. So that understanding of the trauma of it. And when I went to that, I went to do that study and, you know, they said, do you have any prior experience of MDMA? And I was like, yeah. I was in New York in 1990, we were banging it like fucking candy. And she was like, and of course I didn’t want to lie because had I lied, that would have been the anti Asperger’s thing. And I knew I could have blown an entire study. So I had to tell the truth. And she said, after we had a lengthy conversation, after finding out I couldn’t do the study, she was like, it’s really actually a bummer for me because one of the issues that we have with a lot of the people on the spectrum is they can’t talk about it because their languaging skills and their ability to navigate and narrate their own internal world is limited unfortunately. It’s like the snake eating its own tail, they can’t talk about it. So they can’t actually give us really functional information a lot of times coming out of it. And you would be great at that. 

And one of my counselors was like, the great sadness for me is like, I see neuro-typical and Asperger’s as like two fields and there’s a fence down the middle of it. And you literally stand at the fence. She’s like neuro-typical — you can reach out and touch it. Which means that the differences between me and somebody who can function completely okay in quotes are so subtle and nuanced, that they’re really hard to actually train out, because it’s not like “lift your arm.” You know, like I had to do conversation drills to work out how to try to have conversations with people instead of just dominating all conversations, which is what I do a lot of the time. And I turned it into a job.

Alex Roy

We have a lot in common. Except today?

Christian James Hand

It’s one of the things I love about you.

Bryan Salesky

Well, I think despite what everything that’s going on in your head, your shows are a place that I think is a safe haven for anybody to go to, to really forget their day-to-day worries, forget whatever their illnesses, hang-ups or other issues are. And it’s a place to just listen and learn and be entertained. And the shows that you do are, it’s like therapy for me, right?

Christian James Hand

Thank you.

Bryan Salesky

And so you have a huge impact through that. So just know that.

Christian James Hand

I’ve said it to a number of people in a number of different circumstances — to be able at 50 years old to finally find the thing that you’re supposed to do after, you know, music soothing the savage beast my entire life, and not being able to find a home in it because I didn’t want to be a record producer once I found out how much power the record labels had on the art that I was trying to make. I didn’t want to be in a band, because I wasn’t a good enough drummer. And I didn’t like being the lead singer of a band. I didn’t want to work at a record label anymore, because it was just different colored widgets. There was no care. There was no passion. Radio was the same thing. Can only talk for 12 seconds over the intro to a song. And I have to mention where the band was going to be that afternoon. Like this is not generating a relationship with people about music. And I couldn’t find a place where I could be passionate and love music and be able to share that passion with people and have them be open to it. So I literally had to do like the Asperger’s thing, which is Greta’s right about the superpowers, I had to invent something that nobody else had ever done simply to allow myself to be able to go, “My job is to just tell people how much I love music and why.”

Alex Roy

You know, when we started the episode we started by trying to…

Christian James Hand

Find a reason for me being here?

Alex Roy

Yes, but then trying to describe what it is Christian does. And for me, it’s music education for the era we live in.

Christian James Hand

Well, thanks. If I got halfway there, I would think that I had accomplished the goal. So thank you.

Alex Roy

Uh, where can we learn more about your shows?

Christian James Hand

The greatest nexus point or the best nexus point is go to thesessiononair.com and there’s a little eight minute EPK that shows what the show’s about. There’s a little link to radio shows that has all of the 20 minute segments that I do on KLOS here, nine o’clock in the morning on 95.5, Foundational classic rock radio station, which is a joy to be able to still be doing radio. Cause it’s my first love. So the session on air.com is the best place to find information about me.

Bryan Salesky

Christian Hand. Thank you for coming on No Parking podcast.

Christian James Hand

Thank you for having me so much, guys. Really thank you.

Alex Roy

Thanks Christian.

Alex Roy

You can find Christian on Instagram AT christianjameshand… and a ton of his live shows are up on SoundCloud. Again just search for his name — that’s Christian. James. Hand.

If you loved today’s episode, please hit us up on Twitter @NoParkingPod. Of course I’m everywhere on social media, but especially Twitter @AlexRoy144. Please share No Parking with a friend. Like us. Subscribe. Give us a good review wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts. This show is managed by the Civic Entertainment Group and our producer is the awesome Megan Harris. 

And of course my friend, Bryan Salesky is the CEO and founder of Argo AI. 

Until next time I’m Alex Roy, and this is the No Parking podcast.