The Selfish Altruist
I have a reputation. It’s a mixed reputation I dare say. Exacting, a perfectionist, demanding on colleagues, frank and truthful to a cringing degree, determined to succeed. I also have a reputation for doing stuff for other people. In particular I seem to have an obsession with sorting out others and enabling them to realise their potential.
So this makes me an altruist right? I’m not going to bother with an online dictionary; I’m going to guess: an altruist is someone who does things purely for the good of others with no selfish motivation or gain.
Well that’s not me for sure.
Going back to my earliest days as a musician, the first record I put out was a hit. In a minor way I became a celebrity in Paris. I hated it. For years after that I played guitar with various bands... I never wanted to be the front man, the lead singer, always to stand at the side. I found TV shows embarrassing; I found groupies very off-putting – shagging someone who knew nothing about me and vice versa was not for me. But I wanted my fellow band members to taste success and to play my part.
I started a recording studio – Power Plant – as a way of getting a foot in the door in the UK. I started training young people to become recording engineers and then producers. The first successes of those young people – Phil Legge with Terence Trent D’Arby; Dave Anderson with The Sundays; Pete Brown with Sam Brown – all these gave me a pleasure I had never experienced before... and when my own productions sent Everything But The Girl and Sade into the limelight I was able to enjoy their success completely.
The satisfaction was massive; the pleasure unadulterated; the pride infinite. But I did not go to the Brit Awards show when ‘Diamond Life’ won best album. I was round at a friend’s house watching the telly with a cup of tea while Sade collected the award.
Now Jim Abbiss is the best producer in the world (Adele). Jim trained for 5 years at Power Plant, straight from college. I couldn’t be happier for him and it feels much better to me than when I did it.
So enabling others is not altruism to me. It’s an utterly self-indulgent pleasure with no downside.