CORNWALL, Ontario – They say if you follow your dreams good things will happen.
Mark Day is a walking, talking example of a man living the dream – and loving every minute of it.
This story probably won’t even do justice to the ride the Cornwall guitar player is enjoying these days. He has parlayed his love of music into a job producing videos and creating guitar rigs and amplifier modifications for world-class performers like Eddie Van Halen, George Lynch (Dokken) and The Offspring – to name a few.
And what’s more? He’s on a first-name basis with a lot of these guys, who are now asking him for input on new sounds and equipment.
You can even see his work for yourself. That amp you saw Richie Sambora (Bon Jovi) using on American Idol this week? It belongs to Day.
He sums it up with one word: “This is surreal.”
The transplanted Cornwall native now makes his home in the San Fernando Valley of California, in one of the many Los Angeles suburbs that dot the landscape. He works for Dave Friedman of Friedman Amplification – the centre of the universe for more than a few guitar and bass players you may have heard of before.
“Eddie Van Halen, George Lynch, Linkin Park, The Offspring,” Day says, while listing just a few of the names and people one could expect to bump into at the shop. “It’s a boutique music store that’s in North Hollywood – we specialize in building guitar rigs for guitar players and bass players.”
Day said nearly every time he walks into the office, there’s the potential for something “bizarre” or “surreal” to happen – if only because he’s from Cornwall, and rubbing shoulders with the musical elite of the world isn’t something that happens to most people from the Seaway City.
“A couple of months ago the personal assistant for Eddie Van Halen comes in,” Day says, recounting one of his favourite stories of late. “He says ‘Mark, my van broke down and I need to call a cab.’
“I told him I could give him a ride, where was he going?”
Day turned a friendly lift for a friend into a personal tour of “5150” – the recording studio for Van Halen.
“They’re a very private camp,” he said. “And here I am getting a personal tour, and hearing stories no one else would hear.”
Day was able to punch his ticket west thanks to the miracle of the Internet. His youtube channel (youtube.com/samhillband) is filled with videos of amp modifications and effects processors guitar players would find intriguing.
“My videos went viral and these companies approached me and I started getting job offers,” he said.
But Day is quick to point out, he feels more than just a bit lucky.
“I must have a horseshoe up my butt, or something…because who am i? I played in Sam Hill.
“There are a million, a zillion, better guitar players out there than me.”
But there he is, getting asked by guitar legend Joe Bonamassa about a new sound at a recent rehearsal and building guitar rigs for Steve Stevens, who has played for names like Billy Idol, Michael Jackson and Vince Neil.
“Out of the blue I’ll get a phone call from Steve Vai’s camp,” he says. “‘Can you loan us your amp? Steve wants to try it out.’ So I got to his house and let him borrow my personal amp.”
It’s not unheard of for Day to see, or run into the likes of bands like Kiss, Def Leppard and Alice ‘n’ Chains.
“I have to pinch myself all the time.,” he says. “I got to sit in George Lynch’s home studio, and do some work…never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be getting texts from George Lynch: ‘Mark I love the sound.’
“Most of these guys are just great big sweethearts. They’re normal people who do an extraordinary job.”
Turns out, so does Day.
He’s about a year into a three-year work visa in the U.S. His boss has already told him he won’t be living in Canada again for a very long time.