The Song Does Not Remain the Same
Fall 2011 Issue | By Andrew Taylor
Cancer interrupted Bart Hendrickson's journey to becoming a rock star drummer.
"I had Hodgkin's disease when I was 22," said Hendrickson, 45, a Pocatello native and winner of a 2011 ISU Professional Achievement Award. "It was epic in some kind of crazy way. I'm just glad to be alive to tell you the truth."
The cancer didn't stop his pursuit of a musical career, but it did change its direction for Hendrickson, who co-wrote the hit single "Ordinary" by the band Train for the movie Spiderman 2. He has worked as a sample and sound designer for Academy Award-winning producer Hans Zimmer on a variety of popular movies. Now he writes songs and produces music for well-known bands and musicians such as Train, Don Gilmore, Good Charlotte and Escape the Fate.
"It's kind of a crazy story," Hendrickson said. "I started out doing one thing, and I'm still doing music, but doing much more. There are these road blocks in life that you have to get around, and then you can end up on a whole other course."
After graduating from Pocatello's Highland High School in 1984, Hendrickson, an avid drummer, "wanted to do the rock-and-roll thing." He moved to Los Angeles in 1985 to attend the Percussion Institute of Technology. After finishing the institute, he played in rock bands in the Los Angeles area and Salt Lake City, when he became sick. He moved back to Pocatello, living with his mother, Judy Barton.
"I did two years of treatment - chemo, radiation, surgery, the whole thing," Hendrickson said. "It was a long haul, but my mother and grandparents nursed me back to health. We got a lot of support. I kind of had the whole town rooting for me."
After he recovered, he went back to Los Angeles to try to make it big.
"As fun as it is, there is about a one in a billion chance something is going to happen," Hendrickson said. "It's great when you're a young guy and you go out to become a rich and famous rock star, but if you get to the point it doesn't happen you better have a backup plan."
Hendrickson's backup plan morphed from his illness. While he was sick he couldn't drum and he started programming music. When rock stardom didn't pan out, he decided to pursue a career in music programming, and returned to Pocatello to attend Idaho State University, earning a bachelor's degree in university studies in 1996, 12 years after graduating from high school.
Bart Hendrickson, in the studio, was a Professional Achievement Award winner in 2011.
After graduating, he went to work for Steele, Stoltz and Associates (now Steele and Associates), an advertising agency in Pocatello.
"It was valuable experience, kind of what I am doing now, producing and hiring out stuff," Hendrickson said. "But there wasn't enough going on in Idaho, so I moved back down to Los Angeles."
Through a friend he got a job working with Hans Zimmer doing anything he could for the renowned composer. He also moved into three rooms at a Day's Inn, setting up a recording studio in one.
"Hans is a genius," Hendrickson said. "He's a composer, but he started sampling music and turned it into a legitimate art form. He is a pioneer of early synthesis."
Zimmer generously offered opportunities, however. He was in the process of moving from hardware-based music synthesis to software-based synthesis, and offered Hendrickson the opportunity to work with him on the endeavor. Zimmer also let Hendrickson move his studio from the Day's Inn to Zimmer Media Ventures.
"I knew the general concept. I more or less bluffed my way into it, but I figured it out," Hendrickson said. "If you want to do work like this you really have to want to do it, to work seven days a week and work for years. People like Hans still work seven days a week. It's not a glamour thing. You put your heart and soul into it."
He spent 11 years working for Zimmer, doing some music writing and producing. In the midst of his career taking off, he dealt with another challenge.
"The tides turned and my mother got colon cancer and we went through a long ordeal," Hendrickson said. "It was a crazy ride of roles reversing. It is devastating what cancer does to people."
His mother, Judy, survived and now is a spokesperson for a local cancer survivor group.
"It was very challenging to keep everything going, but I'm happy to say she's doing very well after several difficult years," Hendrickson said. "On this end of it, I'd rather be the one that is sick instead of the one that is doing the caring. That's really hard."
Dealing with his mother's illness slowed Hendrickson down. The success of co-writing the Train song "The Ordinary" for Spiderman 2 soundtrack coupled with the success of some of his other collaborations have also freed up Hendrickson, so he hasn't been working quite as hard.
He is now working on his own, and is primarily making a living writing and producing music.
"The revolution of the Internet killed the record industry and hurt music, so now I write music, design it, produce it and record it," Hendrickson said. "I've become kind of a one-man shop."
He is part of a new music library company "producing a bunch of music with no particular destination in mind." Entities as varied as MTV to the Discovery Channel have purchased music from the library.
"It seemed like I was working 24/7 for years," Hendrickson said. "Now, when I record, I'm real busy for months, but then it slows down and I can spend time hiking or spend time with my wife."
He said that he agrees with John Lennon: life is the stuff that happens in between your plans.
"I've just been doing my thing and flying by the seat of my pants since I got sick. It was weird coming up to the (ISU Alumni Association Professional) award thing because my grandmother had just passed away and I went to her funeral. Then I went to the awards ceremony later that day," Hendrickson said. "My life has always been that way, always intense and going in different directions."