The following is pieced together by Heavy Blog is Heavy editor Kyle Gaddo from a series of messages exchanged between him and ex-Scale the Summit drummer J.C. Bryant on Thursday, October 27th, 2016 and Friday, October 28th, 2016, as well as messages posted publicly by Chris Letchford via the Scale the Summit Facebook page, ex-Scale the Summit bassist Mark Michell, Bryant himself, and former affiliates of Scale the Summit. The first part will focus entirely on information available to the public, while the second will focus on the messages exchanged between Kyle Gaddo and J.C. Bryant.
UPDATE [2:18 PM CST, October 31st, 2016]: Bryant’s statement has been updated with input from Travis LeVrier and Mark Michell.
On Wednesday, October 26th, 2016, bassist Mark Michell and drummer J.C. Bryant announced their departure from Houston-based instrumental progressive act Scale the Summit.
Michell posted the following on his page [link]:
Hey everyone. After much thought and personal deliberation, I regret to announce that I’ve parted ways with Scale the Summit. It’s been an awesome four years with the band, but I feel it’s time for me to move on and seek new opportunities. I’ve met so many amazing people and played in a lot of amazing places, and I want to thank Scale the Summit for making that possible. I wish them nothing but the absolute best in the future.
For now, I’ll be working harder than ever with Low End University and look forward to exploring new creative outlets. I’m very excited for the future and am forever in debt to all of you guys for the continued support!
Minutes later, Bryant posted a similar message on his own page [link]:
After much consideration, I’ve decided it’s time to part ways with Scale the Summit to pursue other projects and seek out other opportunities. I want to thank all the STS fans who welcomed me with open arms, and look forward to sharing my future projects with you!
I’m thankful for the opportunity to make music a full-time career. I love writing music and all aspects of touring, so I have no plans to slow down anytime soon. I’m only just getting started.
Less than an hour after these announcements, Chris Letchford, using Scale the Summit’s Facebook page, helped quell fears of a breakup by stating that Michell’s and Bryant’s leaving was merely a lineup change for the progressive act and welcomed drummer Charlie Engen to the band [link].
Line up change! Just wanted to clear up a few things about the lineup on the new record as I was hoping to announce with a new tune for you guys. At the end of the last tour, the guys decided to implement an employee model into the band’s structure. When we started making plans for the new record, the fees that they were requiring to play was more than I can afford. Scale The Summit is simply not in the position to guarantee a set pay for anything and everything we do. As most of you know with being a touring musician most of our income is based around chance, but Im still here doing what I love as I knew what I was getting into it when I started band.
From day one this band has been my life and will continue to be. I have written all the guitars for the last 3 albums. Its my baby and will continue to carry on as such and Im super stoked for the new STS record!
On a positive note, I would like to announce my new drummer Charlie Engen! He is an incredible drummer as you’ll see in this video that was inspired by the return of The Walking Dead…
I cant wait to announce the new bassist as well, coming soon.
Im confident that 2017 will be the best year for STS and I cant wait to share the new music with you guys and see you out of the road!
Soon after, an image deriding Letchford’s extravagant lifestyle made its rounds online, eventually being posted by former merch personnel Bill Oberrender on Instagram [link].
Catching wind of this, Letchford took to the Scale the Summit Facebook page to post another statement regarding this circulating image [link]:
Well, here it goes… its unfortunate that its come to this but I feel like I should explain my situation even though its truly just me and my wife’s business.
My recent lifestyle change has been brought up. This is thanks to my partner, best friend and wife, Mariana Zapata. If you google my wife’s name you will see things like “New York Times Bestselling author”, “Amazon #1 Overall bestseller”, “USA Today Bestseller”. I shouldn’t have to justify my position or explain, but my wife worked very hard to get where she is and Im fortunate enough that she is sharing that with me. Without her success we would have continued to struggle to pay the bills.
Im shocked that people feel like my wife should fund the band, the band is a business and needs to be able to support itself.
I appreciate the support of the sts fans that know me and how hard the entire band worked.
As you all know Mark was in the band for many years and was the one that actually handled our budget on the last tour, so he knows first hand how much of a struggle it was to stay in black. Mark Michell, if you don’t mind chiming in here dude, I would really appreciate it.
Despite Letchford’s call for Michell’s support, Michell has not responded.
The final piece of the conversation at large available to the public comes in the comments section of a fan named Garrett Miller. Miller’s post reads [link]:
So after a few days and comment reading of this StS fiasco, I have to say it could have been handled way better on Chris’ part, he didn’t need to mention what was going on behind the scenes as Mark, Jordan, Pat, Travis, and J.C. never did, and they thanked StS for their time in the band, I’ve yet to see a thanks to them or a good luck from Chris or the StS page, hopefully that changes soon. But on that note, I’m super excited to hear new music and hopefully see Tetrafusion. I can’t wait to see what Travis brings to ENTHEOS. We know how Jordan is doing in The Contortionist. So Pat, hurry and get a new band man!!
The Contortionist‘s Jordan Eberhardt, an 8-year member of Scale the Summit (2004-2012), responded to a commenter with the following [link]:
Charles, there is nothing transparent about his statements. He’s manipulated the situation to play the victim, like he’s done ever since this band has started. He conveniently leaves out certain details so it works to his advantage. Biggest con man in the industry? Absolutely. [link]
A follow-up comment by Eberhardt reads:
I’ve stayed [zipped lip emoji] for years, because 2 of my best friends were still in that band, along with 2 other guys that I’ve been friends with for a while. But it doesn’t matter anymore. I’m glad the rest of the guys have wised up, no one deserves to be in a situation that toxic. [link]
And that’s the public story as we have it.
The following is a composite statement by J.C. Bryant, edited by Heavy Blog is Heavy editor Kyle Gaddo for clarity and to remove repetition.
All of the headlines on news sites regarding Mark [Michell] and I leaving Scale the Summit are borderline disparaging. Chris [Letchford] made a more concrete statement, even though Mark and I didn’t provide much context, so I guess the fans are going with what they’re being given. I don’t really know what to say without making it too personal. That’s why Mark and I decided to take the high road to begin with. I’m also trying to avoid writing a novel. I really want to make it quick and to the point, but that’s not going to happen.
It’s annoying the way he’s painted the picture. The fact of the matter is that his budget for musicians is literally zero. Asking for anything more than that is “asking too much.” We started working on the new record and Chris asked us how much we would charge to write, record, transcribe, and make playthrough videos. We both gave him a more than reasonable number, which he said he couldn’t afford and told us not to be offended if he had to find people who are willing to do the record for free, leveraging our job security against another attempt to get us to work for no pay. It’s always like this. There’s always an excuse why he can’t pay us.
I came in and saved the day with V. I didn’t make a dime. This next album will sell at least as well as V. Now, as an independent band, 3,500 copies at $10 each is $35,000. That does not include merch bundles and accessories people buy when a record comes out. We’re feasibly looking at $45,000-$50,000 in first week sales alone, excluding overhead costs like shipping and printing. The assertion that he “can’t afford to pay us” is asinine.
He manipulates the band’s debt in such a way that he always comes out ahead. He uses the band to subsidize haphazard spending, then uses the debt he creates—which is money the band owes him personally—as reason why we can’t be paid. There’s always old debt Chris uses to hold over his band members’ heads.
The problem comes down to the fact that the debt is characterized as something that we were all collectively responsible for and was always the reason we couldn’t be paid. Chris constantly made haphazard financial decisions without conferring with his bandmates—who would later be responsible for these very decisions.
We all made it clear before the Intronaut tour that, while there was debt that needed to be paid off, none of us wanted to tour for free. The problem is the band’s business model. For 10 years, the band has operated under the “split what’s leftover at the end of the tour” model. All the money made from the online store sits in a bank account. On tour, the plan was for the members to split whatever was left over at the end of tour, but it never quite worked out this way. There was always an excuse about debt or about an upcoming expense that meant the band couldn’t pay out to its members. Mark and Travis [LeVrier] would be better candidates to speak out on this, since they were in the band longer than I.
It was from this that the “employee model” was born. It’s clear that Chris is the primary decision-maker for Scale the Summit. All we wanted was for him to take responsibility for his decisions, rather than making them on his own and expecting his bandmates to foot the bill by working for free so he could take home thousands in “personal income” at the end of a tour. It’s a well-oiled machine that he’s been honing for 10 years—it’s no surprise the “employee model” didn’t sit well with him. Myself, Mark, and Travis never asked for anything beyond the band’s means. We honestly never even asked for a set pay for touring. We just wanted to know we weren’t enduring all the stresses of being on the road to once again come home with nothing. Mark and Travis can attest to this same scenario on previous tours.
It sucks dealing with this just to have all these websites seemingly take his side. I guess that’s what me and Mark get for making vague, high-ground posts. All the industry people know what the deal is, but readers should know that a whole band doesn’t leave within the same album cycle for no reason. I just hate the way this is being spun. Just look at the headlines. Now there’s nothing myself or Mark can even do without it appearing as though we’re slinging shit. The headlines make us look like assholes.
Regarding the meme and Chris’ most recent statement via the Scale the Summit page, this unfairly paints a picture that myself and other former members expected his wife to foot the bill, without coming right out and saying it. I hope you guys aren’t buying Chris Letchford’s false narrative about his wife’s money, as if Scale the Summit doesn’t bring in well over six figures annually on its own. Mark Michell ran the budgets for his entire time in the band and could testify to this. Not one of us ever brought his wife’s income into consideration. The assertion that myself or any other former members expected Mariana [Zapata] to foot the bill is not only untrue, but downright offensive. We all made countless sacrifices to pull our weight with Scale the Summit and never asked for anything more than our fair share of the band’s income.
We sure as hell never brought his wife’s income into the fold. Scale the Summit brought in more than enough money. We just wanted a fair share of the money we were helping bring in. How can we have solid guarantees a night and not be entitled to any of that? That’s money we helped make. It’s unfair of Chris to always walk away with 100% of it, either to pay off band debt or put in his own pocket.
I was fine making my vague departure statement, but it felt wrong leaving the insinuation that we were expecting Chris to pay us with Mariana’s money unaddressed. That couldn’t be further from the truth. We all know exactly how much money Scale the Summit brought in and just wanted our fair share of the band’s income, which we all helped earn by touring and pouring our blood, sweat, and tears into it.
My intention isn’t to start a war. I just hate that people are getting the wrong idea. As of now, people only know what Chris is telling them. People should have the whole truth about why everyone left Scale the Summit.