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The Quick Study

The Quick Study

Give Phil Taylor an accident, and he just might build a career out of it. Members of the University community know Taylor as Xavier’s manager of computer inventory and assets, or simply “the Mac guru.” His music-playing buddies, on the other hand, know him as the bass player for Flip Reality, a local rock band.

 

What most probably don’t know is that Taylor never intended to become involved in either field—in both cases, he was simply at the wrong place at the right time. In fact, it seems that Taylor flourishes under such pressure. For example, his computer expertise was born under circumstance that would have made many people simply throw up their hands. In the 1980s, he worked at Prudential Insurance doing payroll and clerical duties. One day, Prudential placed an IBM Model 70 with a laser printer on Taylor’s desk and instructed him not to touch it until training two weeks hence.

“Over the course of the next three days, I started playing with it, corrupted it and broke it. I was scared to tell my boss. I left work at the end of the day, went across the street to this little croissant/coffee shop, sat and waited for my boss to walk by. After he walked by, I went back into work—this was about 6:00 p.m. and was there until about 11:00 p.m.,” Taylor says. “I went through the manuals and figured out how to reload it, which is very basic now. But then I didn’t really know anything about it. After I got it working again, I was like ‘Wow, this is kind of cool.’”

Working through the kinks in computers sparked Taylor’s interest. “I became a hobbyist and worked on computers in my personal time,” he recalls. Soon, even though Prudential had its own support person, staff members began coming to Taylor for answers. So when the company moved west, Taylor took his severance package and began investigating options in the world of technology.

Taylor took a three-month gig at MicroCenter, and found that he could work on computers and knew as much as their trained techs, if not, more. After that, he applied for a job at EnTechs. “They wanted a bachelor’s degree in computer science, which I didn’t have. My philosophy was: they can only tell me no.”

Taylor then went in to take what he calls “one of the most difficult pre-employment tests” he’s ever taken, composed primarily of certification tests and exercises involving programs from A-Plus, to Nobel, to Unix, to MacIntosh. “I thought I did horrible on it,” he says.

When the recruiter talked to him about the test, he came to Taylor with good news and bad news. “He said ‘you didn’t qualify for the job that I have.’” I was bummed. And then he said, ‘the good news is, you qualify for a better job.’” It turns out that while most people scored roughly 15-17% on the test, Taylor practically aced it with a 32%, which is only a number next to his self-taught certification.

After EnTechs was bought by Siemen’s, Taylor heard about and applied for a job at the Help Desk here at Xavier. “Again, it didn’t require someone with a bachelor’s degree, but it wanted somebody with that. I came and interviewed, and they found me qualified, so it worked out really well,” Taylor says.

Most amazing of Taylor’s self-taught repertoire of interests is his bass playing and collaborative composition with his band of 10 years, Flip Reality. He played the trumpet in high school band, but hadn’t touched a bass guitar until—by accident—he had to learn.

“My buddy was going to be the lead guitarist for the jazz band. The director asked him if he knew anyone who could play bass. He said, ‘Phil can play bass.’ I just nodded my head and said, ‘Sure I can.’ I took the bass home that summer and taught myself how to play. Later, I joined a garage band and we played at dances and at bars in Clifton after high school.”

Flip Reality is planning the release of their third album in late December, enjoying the perks of a recording studio. “Seven years ago we stopped playing out. We enjoy writing music and recording, but we got burnt out on bars. I don’t have the same love affair anymore for stale beer and cigarettes and staying up to 3:00 a.m. on a work night.”

Flip Reality stuck to and still plays all original music, “which, in Cincinnati, doesn’t go over very well. I don’t mind playing covers, but it’s just not for me anymore. I respect bands that do that,” Taylor says. Covering the Beatles? Out of the question, as Taylor and other band members are self-confirmed Beatles’ freaks. “I have gotten to an age with Beatles’ music that I don’t like hearing other people do it. It’s like re-painting the Sistine Chapel ceiling. Why?” Ironically, Taylor confirms they sound far from the Beatles, “but they’re definitely our vent.

Writing music is something that comes easily to Taylor, but it’s communicating it with his fellow band members that requires his computer skills. “Music comes to my mind, lyrics do not. As a bass player, I tend to think rhythm first, but trying to explain a melody line to a guitarist or vocalist with that lingo is tough,” he says. An avid user of Garage Band, the Mac function that synchs and composes music, Taylor can incorporate his computer savvy with his aural approach to music. “I do a rough sketch, burn a disc, bring it to rehearsal and say, ‘This is what I’m hearing.’ That quickens things up,” Taylor says.

Since his early music-playing days, Taylor has accumulated an eclectic collection of instruments and equipment, from a G&L 1000 bass to a Pedulla and Carvin bass. “The instrument with the most significance is the Benge Trumpet my parents bought me in high school or the Epiphone acoustic guitar my dad bought me at Midwest Music when I was in the seventh grade. My parents were very supportive of anything I was involved in. I still have both of those.”

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